Apple Watch and watchOS: Everything you need to know about Apple’s most personal device

Apple Watch Series 3 has arrived, and it could be the model that finally pushes Apple’s wearable into the mainstream. After several software revisions, Apple Watch has evolved into one of Apple’s major project categories, and a constant cycle of new features and bands keep it feeling fresh and fashionable. Series 3 brings it all together, with health, fitness, and Siri enhancements, and, of course, iPhone independence with LTE. 

But after three generations, you might still be asking: What can I really do with it? The answer might surprise you. Find out and more in this ultimate guide to Apple Watch.

Apple Watch models

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Apple Watch comes in several models and colors.

Apple Watch Series 1

Body: Aluminum
Color: Silver, space gray, rose gold, gold
Band: Sport
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S1P
Water resistance: Only for minor liquid contact
GPS: No
Price: Starting at $249

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

Body: Aluminum, stainless steel
Color: Silver, space gray, space black, gold
Band: Sport, sport loop, milanese loop
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: No
Price: Starting at $329

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS+cellular)

Body: Aluminum, stainless steel
Color: Silver, space gray, space black, gold
Band: Sport, sport loop, milanese loop
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: Yes
Price: Starting at $329

Apple Watch Series 3 Nike+

Body: Aluminum
Color: Silver, space gray
Band: Nike sport, Nike sport loop
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: Available
Price: Starting at $329

Apple Watch Series 3 Hermes

Body: Stainless steel
Color: Silver
Band: Leather
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: Available
Price: Starting at $1,199

Apple Watch Series 3 Edition

Body: Ceramic
Color: White, gray
Band: Sport
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: Available
Price: Starting at $1,299

Apple Watch Bands

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Outfit your Apple Watch any way you want with interhcangeable bands.

How do I change bands on Apple Watch?

You can swap out the band that came with your watch with any Apple band, but make sure you get the right size (and a color that matches). Apple offers most of its watch bands in both 38mm and 42mm sizes, so you’ll need to buy the right one.

To swap out a band, flip the watch over and press the small band release buttons at the top and bottom. As you press the button, slowly slide out the band. Then slide in the new one. You don’t need to hold down the button to insert the new one, and you’ll hear a small click when it’s in place.

How many bands are available for Apple Watch?

Lots. The most popular are the sweat resistant elastomer Sport bands, which come in 16 different colors for $49 a pop. New with Series 3 are nylon Sports Loop band for $49 each, available in nine colors. There are also Nike Sport bands (also $49), which are made of the same material but have holes, er “compression-molded perforations for breathability.” They are available in five colors.

Then there are Woven Nylon bands, which come in 14 colors for $49. A series of leather bands are also available in a variety of styles of colors: the $149 Classic Buckle in six colors, Leather Loop (42mm only) in three colors for $149, and Modern Buckle (38mm only) in four colors for $249.

Fashionistas can opt for one of the Hermès Leather bands. The $489 Double Tour is available in five colors, but is limited to 38mm models. Bigger wrists can opt for the 42mm Single Tour, which comes in six colors for $339 (though the etoupe, bordeaux, and fauve colors are also available for the 38mm model).

Apple also makes a pair stainless steel bands in silver and space black: a Milanese Loop and a standard link bracelet. The Milanese Loop costs $149 for silver and $199 for black, and the Link Bracelet costs $449 for silver and $549 for black.

And there are third-party options too. Apple’s Made for Apple Watch program allows third-party accessory makers to apply for official approval to sell bands, and many manufacturers sell knock-offs as well. These options are practically as plentiful as iPhone cases and nearly all of them cost significantly less than the ones Apple sells.

Apple Watch Series 2 review

Apple Watch Series 2 solved nearly all the problems we had with the original model, with better navigation, built-in GPS, and incredible water resistance. Read our full review here and stay tuned for our review of Apple Watch Series 3.

Apple Watch Series 3 FAQ

What does cellular mean with the Apple Watch Series 3?

Apple Watch Series 3’s cellular chip means that you don’t need to keep it tethered to your phone just to do basic tasks. Now your Apple Watch will be able to make calls, send messages, talk to Siri, and stream music wherever you are, even if your phone is hundreds of miles away.

Is the cellular coverage on the Apple Watch Series 3 free?

Um, no. You’ll need to add your Apple Watch Series 3 to your wireless plan to share the data, and it will cost you $10 a month through Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint for the pleasure. All four carriers are offering a limited promotion of the first three months free, however.

Can I stream music on the Apple Watch Series 3?

Yup. You’ll need to subscribe to Apple Music, of course, but an update to the app will allow you to play any of the service’s 40 million songs, right on your wrist.

Doesn’t LTE affect battery life on the Apple Watch Series 3?

It all depends on how you use it, but according to Apple’s estimates, you should get the same 18-hour battery life as long as you don’t exceed 4 hours a day of LTE use.

What else is new in Apple Watch Series 3?

There’s a new barometric altimeter for tracking elevation while running, and Siri can now respond to your queries using the speaker. Additionally, Siri is more independent, thanks to the LTE chip.

Will apps open faster on the Apple Watch Series 3?

Apple Watch Series 3 is powered by Apple’s new S3 chip, which is 70 percent faster than the S2 chip. Furthermore, the new W2 chip will boost Wi-Fi connections by 85 percent, while also being 50 percent more power efficient. So everything will work a little quicker.

Is the Apple Watch Series 3 waterproof?

Just like Series 2, the new Apple Watch has a water resistance rating of 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010 for wristwatches.

Will my old bands work with the Apple Watch Series 3?

Yup. Apple Watch Series 3 is the same size as Series 2, so all of the old bands will work just fine. And of course, there are a whole bunch of new colors and designs to choose from.

Is there any other difference between the GPS and the GPS+cellular models?

The rear casing of the GPS version is made of a composite (plastic) material while the cellular model’s backing is ceramic. The GPS version has 8GB of storage while the cellular model has 16GB.

Apple Watch general FAQ

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Apple Watch may be small, but it can do a lot.

What phones does the Apple Watch work with?

Chances are, your iPhone will work just fine with Apple Watch. While the requirements might change with the presumed release of the Series 3 watch in the fall, any model released after the iPhone 4s will work with a new Series 1 (that is, iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6s, 6s Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, 8, and 8 Plus) are all compatible. For Series 3 watches, however, an iPhone 6 or later running iOS 11 is required.

What do I need to get started with Apple Watch?

You’ll need three things to set up your Apple Watch: a Bluetooth connection, a Wi-Fi connection, and the Watch app on your iPhone. To turn on Bluetooth, swipe up to the bottom of the screen and tap the Bluetooth icon to turn it blue. And if you deleted the Watch app, you can download it again in the App Store.

How do I turn Apple Watch on?

Press and hold the side button until you see the Apple logo appear on the screen.

How do I set up Apple Watch?

After your turn it on, you will see a language selection screen (it might take a moment for to to appear). Use the crown to scroll to your preferred language. Now open the Watch app on your iPhone. Tap Start Pairing and do the same on your watch. You’ll see a swirly cosmic animation appear on your watch’s screen. Hold the watch face in the viewfinder on your phone’s screen to begin the pairing process. Along the way you’ll be asked to sign in with your Apple ID and create a passcode, sync your apps, and enable Siri. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.

I’m left-handed. Can I use Apple Watch?

No worries. During set-up you’ll be asked to pick a wrist and an orientation for your watch. And since the bands are swappable, you won’t have to struggle to put it on either.

What kinds of sensors does Apple Watch have?

Apple Watch has a couple different sensors, but they vary by model. All models include a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and an ambient light sensor, as well as a heart-rate sensor and an NFC sensor for Apple Pay. Apple Watch Series 3 has built-in GPS, but Series 1 watches will need to use your iPhone’s location services to figure out where you are. Series 3 watches also have a barometric altimeter for tracking elevation, as well as an optional cellular connection. 

Can I wear Apple Watch in the shower?

Yes. All Apple Watches come with at least splash resistance, so showering with it won’t void your warranty.

Can I take Apple Watch swimming?

It depends. Series 1 watches only have an IPX7 rating, which means they can withstand immersion in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes, so you probably shouldn’t take it into a pool. Apple Watch Series 3 has a water resistance rating of 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010 for wristwatches, so it’s all good for a swim. However, Apple warns that the leather and stainless steel bands aren’t water resistant.

What does Apple Watch Digital Crown do?

The crown acts as a home button. If the screen is off you can press it to wake. If the screen is on it will either take you to the app screen (if you’re on a watch face) or back to the watch face (if you’re on the app screen or in an app). Additionally, you can double-click it to open the last app you used or press and hold to launch Siri, or hold it down to power your watch off. You an also spin the crown to scroll up or down. Series 3 watches also have a cool Wake Screen on Crown Up feature in the Watch app settings that gradually illuminates the display when you spin the crown when the screen is off.

What does Apple Watch side button do?

Before watchOS 3, the side button brought up a circular list of your favorite contacts, but pressing it now brings up the much-more-useful Dock, which contains your 10 favorite apps.

How do I charge Apple Watch?

The Apple Watch uses inductive charging, better known as wireless charging, meaning you don’t have to plug it in to charge. All Apple Watches come with a magnetic puck that easily attaches to the watch when it’s on a stand or lying flat on a table. Apple Watch Edition also comes with a Magnetic Charging Dock, which sells separately for $79.