Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular vs GPS-only: What’s the difference?
Besides a cellular antenna and a $70 upcharge, how do Apple’s two Series 3 watches differ?
While the new Series 3 Apple Watch looks nigh-identical to its older models, it packs a ton of added functionality into those 38mm and 42mm casings.
The 38mm and 42mm Series 3 feature the following:
- OLED 1000-nit Retina display with Force Touch
- An S3 dual-core processor for a 1.7x faster speed bump that puts the Series 2 to shame
- built-in GPS and GLONASS
- Barometric altimeter for tracking stair-climbing and elevation gains
- Water resistance (up to 50 meters)
- Siri voice response
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2
- Apple’s W2 wireless chip for easy pairing to your iPhone and wireless accessories
- Up to 18 hours battery life, depending on tasks
But for all their similarities, the Series 3 watches come in two configurations: GPS, and GPS + Cellular. Here’s how the two of them differ.
The GPS-only Series 3 will work with any iPhone made after the 5s, like the Series 0, 1, and 2; in contrast, the Series 3 requires an iPhone 6 or later (yes, iPhone SE fans, this includes you).
Apple Music streaming
While it won’t launch when the Series 3 ships, the GPS + Cellular watch will gain support for Apple Music streaming in October — and it looks like it will be the only watch in Apple’s lineup that can do so. We have a query in to Apple to confirm that this is a Series 3 GPS + Cellular exclusive, but I suspect it might have to do with the next bullet point on this list: storage size.
The GPS + Cellular Series 3 has double the storage capacity: 16GB to the GPS-only’s 8GB. While we don’t have an official answer from Apple as to why, I’m guessing it has to do with the watch’s impending Apple Music streaming feature: Apple Music needs a certain amount of cached storage to stream, and if the company additionally plans to allow users to locally download playlists from the streaming catalog, the extra space is necessary.
Front Casings and Style
Like the gap between Series 1 and Series 2, the GPS-only Series 3 is limited to just aluminum Sport and Nike+ casings (silver, gold, or space grey) with their Ion-X glass screen. In contrast, the GPS + Cellular Watch retains the higher-end casings formerly present with the Series 2 in addition to the aluminum Sport and Nike+ casings. This includes options like stainless steel, white and grey ceramic, and Hermès steel.
The pricing on these has risen $50 over their Series 2 counterparts: $599 for steel, $1149 for Hermès, and $1299 for ceramic. I know a lot of folks are disappointed not to have steel as an option — especially those who can’t yet get the Cellular Apple Watch in their country — but Apple likely doesn’t want to sell their higher-end watches at a discount or with subpar features.
Also worth noting when it comes to style: All Series 3 GPS + Cellular watches have a red dot on the Digital Crown. Why? Well, there’s always my theory…
This is a big change from Series 2, and one that honestly leaves me a bit befuddled: The Series 3 GPS + Cellular watch is once again the only watch to receive a ceramic back cover, with the GPS-only watch using a composite back. Apple’s original Series 0 Apple Watch only offered ceramic back covers for its steel and Edition watches, but the Series 2 moved so that all models — aluminum, steel, and ceramic — used ceramic backs.
Now, with the Series 3, there’s a distinct division: All GPS + Cellular models (aluminum, steel, or ceramic) will receive a ceramic back, but the Series 3 GPS-only aluminum watches are reduced to a composite covering — much like the Series 1, which also sports a composite back.
Both watches will be available for pre-order on the 15th and shipping on the 22nd, but the GPS + Cellular watch (and its various casing permutations) will only ship to 10 countries at launch.
- The U.S.: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon
- The U.K.: EE
- Canada: Bell (Telus later in 2017)
- Puerto Rico: AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile
- Australia: Optus and Telstra (Vodafone later in 2017)
- France: Orange
- Germany: Telekom
- Japan: NTT DOCOMO, au, SoftBank
- China: China Unicom only for Guangdong, Henan, Hunan, Shanghai, and Tianjin (China Mobile and China Telecom later this year)
- Switzerland: None at launch (Sunrise and Swisscom both later in 2017)