Battery life is rated the same as the Apple Watch Series 2, which Apple states is 18 hours. This applies for both the cellular and non-cellular options.
In my experience – and this was the case with the Series 2, too – I’ve actually found the 18-hour rating rather conservative. It isn’t atypical for me to go over two days on a single charge. That’s with some light use: replying to iMessages, reading a few notifications throughout the day, and having the activity tracking doing its thing in the background. I can take the Apple Watch 3 off the charge at 8am and by the same time the following morning it’s only at around 50%.
As always, the real battery drainers are GPS and LTE. On the day I ran a half marathon, I took the watch off charge at 6.30am, ran for two hours from 9am, all the while using LTE, GPS and connected to Bluetooth headphones. I made a brief LTE-based phone call at the end of the race, alongside sending a few iMessages. On glancing at my watch at 2pm, I noticed that the battery was down to 28% already. Apple officially rates GPS usage at around five hours, or four hours when also using LTE, which matched my observations.
In addition, you can expect only three hours of talk time when paired with an iPhone or just one hour when using LTE from the Apple Watch 3. The battery life is one reason the Watch isn’t designed as an iPhone replacement.
While more battery life would be welcome, especially when using GPS, I found longevity pretty respectable overall.
Charging is reasonably quick. It should take one and a half hours to get to 80% or two hours to reach a full charge. On the nights I don’t charge overnight, I found I could top it up just enough to get me through the working day by putting the device on its magnetic charger in the morning while I got ready.
As someone who travels a decent amount, having to carry an extra cable for the Apple Watch can be a minor annoyance. This is made more inconvenient as I have the Apple Watch charger in a bedside dock. I’ve recently picked up a Flagpower portable Apple Watch charger to get round the problem. It has a built-in 700mAh battery, which can charge the Apple Watch Series 3 twice. But actually, the best part is that it uses a Micro USB port to top up its own internal cell, which can also charge an Apple Watch simultaneously. As I always have a Micro USB cable on me for all of the other gadgets I’m always carrying, it means I just need to grab the small Flagpower charger for any trips where I know the Apple Watch 3’s battery won’t last. At £30 in the UK it also works out cheaper than buying a second Apple Watch charging cable from Apple.
If you’re after something that’s also capable of charging your companion iPhone, I’ve also been using a UGREEN Portable Charger. It has a 4400mAh capacity and integrated Apple Lightning cable for your iPhone that stows away underneath. It will charge your Apple Watch 3 up to eight times, or almost two charges of an iPhone. It’s a little bit chunky but it also makes for a decent stationary charging dock for your Apple Watch. You charge its internal battery with a Micro USB cable.
Should I buy the Apple Watch Series 3?
The Apple Watch 3 has been the most well-rounded smartwatch experience I’ve had to date. It’s really something you need to use for a few weeks to really appreciate the convenience it brings. With that said, I’m not entirely certain that LTE is a requirement for absolutely everyone. Sure, I’ve found it useful on occasion, but considering the extra charges associated with those conveniences, it isn’t an easy sell. I’m glad Apple has fixed the niggling LTE problems that seemed to plague other reviewers, though. It’s a good thing there’s the keenly-priced GPS-only model that’s better value than last year’s Apple Watch Series 2.
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Overall, the Apple Watch Series 3 has become a solid fitness tracker and the watchOS 4 update cements this. If you happen to have a gym that supports GymKit, you might find that Apple Watch becomes an even greater fitness companion.
This is paired with one of the best smartwatch implementations, even if there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this is the best Apple Watch to date, offering plenty of refinements and improvements, but also the best smartwatch available.