Apple might share iPhone X face data with developers

Despite Apple claiming it securely stores your encrypted face info on the iPhone X, Reuters is reporting that the company permits developers to access “certain facial data” with user permission. This includes a visual representation of your face, and over 50 facial expressions.

Face ID was always going to be the iPhone X’s most talked about feature. With it, the days of fingerprint authentication could be numbered, replaced by face biometrics. But, there’s something about your mugshot being stored with Apple that’s (understandably) got people shook up. Senator Al Franken already pressed the firm on the security concerns the tech raises — prompting a response. Now, it’s the turn of privacy advocates. In the report, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology warn that the info could fall into the hands of marketers.

We know Apple’s Face ID tech works by using a mixture of camera sensors and neural networks to grab a mathematical model of your face. And, like Touch ID before it, Apple is granting developers access to its Face ID API, enabling them to use the unlock mechanism on all your fave apps — including secure banking and payment apps. But, the latest revelations suggest Apple is allowing devs to make off with more data than it is letting on. The same data reportedly cannot unlock the phone, because that functionality is limited to the overarching mathematical model. Reuters adds that Apple’s developer agreement forbids app makers from sharing the info with marketers. And, that those who break the rules risk getting kicked from the App Store.

But, privacy groups fear the company won’t be able to adequately police how devs use the info, which could lead to it finding its way to marketers. That, in turn, would result in more targeted ads, but these would use the tech to track your facial reactions (like a smile, or a raise of an eyebrow). Naturally, that kind of tracking data would be a goldmine for advertisers. But, it’s also important to note that Apple’s app review policy makes it extremely difficult for bad actors to get away with violations. Yet, with more than 2 million apps in the App Store, privacy experts warn that some may slip through the cracks. We reached out to Apple for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Source: Reuters

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple watchOS 4.1 delivers phone-free music streaming

For many, the big allure of Apple Watch Series 3 has been the promise of phone-free music streaming on cellular data: you can listen to any song you like while you’re out for a run, not just whatever’s stored on the watch itself. And now you can see whether or not it lives up to the hype. Apple has released watchOS 4.1, which lets you stream either Apple Music or your iCloud Music Library directly from your wristwear. You’ll need a Series 3 watch, of course, but you’re no longer tethered to your iPhone if you demand fresh tunes at all times.

The upgrade also includes a dedicated Radio app to stream Apple Music’s stations, including Beats 1 (free for everyone) and custom/curated stations (for subscribers). As on iOS 11.1, Siri is smarter about finding and discovering music as well.

And yes, there are plenty of non-music improvements. This is the update that unlocks GymKit syncing — if you’re exercising with a compatible fitness machine, you can sync your watch with it to get the most accurate data set. Have a cellular Series 3 model? You can force the watch to disconnect from WiFi if you don’t want to join a network. You’ll find fixes for some annoying bugs, too, including missing stand reminders, missing vibrations for silent alarms, unwanted heart rate tracking and even an issue where some original Apple Watches wouldn’t always charge. In short: you want this, whether or not you have the latest smartwatch on your wrist.

Source: 9to5Mac

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple fires employee after daughter’s iPhone X video goes viral

Just because a tech company has announced a product doesn’t mean employees are free to share or talk about it before release — just ask Microsoft. And unfortunately, one Apple engineered has learned that the hard way. Apple has reportedly fired a iPhone team member after his daughter Brooke posted a hands-on video showing off his iPhone X before launch. Brooke took down the video as soon as Apple requested it, but the takedown came too late to prevent the clip from going viral, leading to seemingly endless reposts and commentary. We’ve asked Apple for comment on the firing.

In a follow-up video (below), Brooke said she and her father understood the decision and weren’t angry at Apple. And it’s important to stress that this wasn’t a garden variety iPhone X. As an employee device, it had sensitive information like codenames for unreleased products and staff-specific QR codes. Combine that with Apple’s general prohibition of recording video on campus (even at relatively open spaces like Caffè Macs) and this wasn’t so much about maintaining the surprise as making sure that corporate secrets didn’t get out. Apple certainly didn’t want to send the message that recording pre-release devices was acceptable.

All the same, it’s hard not to sympathize — the engineer had poured his heart into the iPhone X, only to be let go the week before the handset reaches customers. And while he’s likely to land on his feet (“we’re good,” Brooke said), his daughter is clearly distraught by the abuse hurled toward her and her father. The outcome isn’t going to change here, unfortunately. However, the incident might be helpful if it helps others avoid losing their jobs simply because they were a little too eager to share their work.

Via: Anthony Quintano (Twitter)

Source: Brooke Peterson (YouTube)

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple invents the leather laptop sleeve

Apple’s made iPhone cases and Apple’s made accessories to keep iPads cosy, but until today Apple’s never made a laptop sleeve. Apple stores IRL and online have ranged third-party products, but when the floodgates to iPhone X pre-orders opened this morning, the new “Leather Sleeve for 12-inch MacBook” also quietly appeared on the company’s site. Available in classic “Saddle Brown” or edgy “Midnight Blue,” it features an etched Apple logo so everyone knows, yes, that is a MacBook you’re carrying under your arm. It’s a bit on the pricey side at $ 149/£149 and it doesn’t give your laptop any additional, desperately needed ports. But hey, it’s the best MacBook sleeve Apple’s ever made.

Via: wccftech

Source: Apple

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple lists the cars that can wirelessly charge your iPhone

Sure, you know that most wireless charging pads will top up the iPhone 8 or iPhone X, but what about the pad in your car? That’s a little more complicated, but Apple is willing to help out. It just posted a list of manufacturers whose vehicles can charge the latest crop of iPhones, and it’s mostly good news… mostly. Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo and the PSA group (Citroen, DS, Peugeot, Opel and Vauxhall) all have cars that will charge at least the iPhone 8 (and likely X), and can charge the 8 Plus if there’s enough room. Be careful if you’re a GM fan, though, as you’ll have to be extra-picky about your driving machine.

Apple warns that only some 2018 GM cars can charge iPhones, including the Chevy Bolt and eight other rides (mostly trucks and SUVs) across Buick, Cadillac, Chevy and GMC. If it’s a 2017 or earlier car, you’re out of luck — these older vehicles don’t meet the Qi certification spec. That’s bound to be frustrating if you bought an incompatible car and were hoping you could wirelessly charge your iPhone one day, but you’ll at least know what to get if you’re ready to update your ride.

The situation is likely to get better. Although wireless phone charging is far from new, including in cars, adding the iPhone to the mix gives automakers a considerably wider potential audience. Your preferred badge may add it simply because they know you’re that much more likely to have a compatible device. And that’s helpful even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Android fan — you might not have to settle for a less-than-ideal car just to avoid plugging in a cable.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Apple

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple responds to Sen. Al Franken’s Face ID concerns in letter

Apple has responded to Senator Al Franken’s concerns over the privacy implications of its Face ID feature, which is set to debut on the iPhone X next month. In his letter to Tim Cook, Franken asked about customer security, third-party access to data (including requests by law enforcement), and whether the tech could recognize a diverse set of faces.

In its response, Apple indicates that it’s already detailed the tech in a white paper and Knowledge Base article — which provides answers to “all of the questions you raise”. But, it also offers a recap of the feature regardless (a TL:DR, if you will). Apple reiterates that the chance of a random person unlocking your phone is one in a million (in comparison to one in 500,000 for Touch ID). And, it claims that after five unsuccessful scans, a passcode is required to access your iPhone.

More significantly, Apple provides a summary on how it stores Face ID biometrics, which gets to the heart of the privacy concerns. “Face ID data, including mathematical representations of your face, is encrypted and only available to the Secure Enclave. This data never leaves the device. It is not sent to Apple, nor is it included in device backups. Face images captured during normal unlock operations aren’t saved, but are instead immediately discarded once the mathematical representation is calculated for comparison to the enrolled Face ID data.”

On the topic of data-sharing, it writes: “Third-party apps can use system provided APIs to ask the user to authenticate using Face ID or a passcode, and apps that support Touch ID automatically support Face ID without any changes.” It continues: “When using Face ID, the app is notified only as to whether the authentication was successful; it cannot access Face ID or the data associated with the enrolled face.”

Interestingly, the company dodges the Senator’s question about data requests from law enforcement. But, by indicating that data lives inside a “secure enclave” that it can’t access, it’s suggesting that it won’t be able to handover info that it doesn’t possess. It could also be holding back in light of its scrap with the Department of Justice last year, which saw it refuse to unlock an iPhone 5C owned by the San Bernardino shooters.

As Sen. Franken noted in his letter, Apple trained its Face ID neural network on a billion images. But, that’s not to say the photographs were of a billion different faces. For its part, Apple claims it looked at a “representative group of people” — although it’s still silent about exact numbers. It adds: “We worked with participants from around the world to include a representative group of people accounting for gender, age, ethnicity and other factors. We augmented the studies as needed to provide a high degree of accuracy for a diverse range of users.” Of course, we’ll get to see how accurate Apple’s tech is when the new iPhone makes its way into more hands next month.

For now, it seems the Senator is satisfied with the company’s initial response, which he plans to extend into a conversation about data protection. You can read his full statement below:

“As the top Democrat on the Privacy Subcommittee, I strongly believe that all Americans have a fundamental right to privacy. All the time, we learn about and actually experience new technologies and innovations that, just a few years back, were difficult to even imagine. While these developments are often great for families, businesses, and our economy, they also raise important questions about how we protect what I believe are among the most pressing issues facing consumers: privacy and security. I appreciate Apple’s willingness to engage with my office on these issues, and I’m glad to see the steps that the company has taken to address consumer privacy and security concerns. I plan to follow up with the Apple to find out more about how it plans to protect the data of customers who decide to use the latest generation of iPhone’s facial recognition technology.”

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple reportedly taps Spielberg for new ‘Amazing Stories’

Looks like Apple found someone to spend some of that billion dollars it earmarked for original TV and movies on: Steven Spielberg. Each episode of the revived Amazing Stories anthology series will cost about $ 5 million, according to Wall Street Journal‘s sources, and Spielberg will serve as executive producer for the show. Bryan Fuller (American Gods, Hannibal) is set to write according to Deadline, and the show has apparently been on ice for a few years. It’s a partnership between the filmmaker’s Amblin Television company, NBCUniversal and the iPhone maker.

Amazing Stories isn’t new. It ran on NBC during the ’80s, but given how popular anthology series are now, the Black Mirror effect, if you will, everyone seems to be getting in on the action. HBO has the excellent Room 104, Amazon Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams — it makes sense that Apple would want one to call its own as well. Cupertino’s just so happens to have one of the most revered filmmakers on the planet involved.

If you need more Spielberg in your life, HBO just debuted its documentary on the director and it’s streaming on HBO Go and Now.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Deadline

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple adds wizard, dinosaur and mermaid emoji in iOS 11.1

Hundreds more emoji are coming to your iPhone soon. Apple says it’s adding “more emotive smiley faces” as well as gender-neutral icons, more food and (importantly) mythical creatures — in time for Halloween, we hope. The series is coming to iPhone and iPad with iOS 11.1, which will launch next week, early, for developers and public beta testers. If the emoji additions sound familiar, that’s because Apple had teased these back in July. It appears the company is going beyond the 56 Unicode consortium-approved emoji, but that’s likely explained by skin color and hair variants — we haven’t glimpsed the entire set yet. But now that there’s a gyoza emoji, all is well.

Of course, for those waiting around for those animated emoji, you’ve still got some time on your hands: the iPhone X isn’t out until November.

Source: Apple

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple releases kernel source code tuned for mobile chips

Ever since the first version of OS X, Apple has regularly released the kernel source code for Macs. In theory, you could learn from it or even build your own projects from it. For iOS, though? Not so simple. Even if you had source code, it wouldn’t matter much unless it was optimized for the ARM-based chips that you see in most phones and mobile tablets. However, Apple is shaking things up a bit. The company has quietly posted ARM-friendly source code for the XNU kernels used in iOS and macOS. That’s particularly relevant if you’re interested in iOS, since you now have code that would theoretically run on an iPhone or iPad. However, it’s not quite the breakthrough move it seems at first blush.

To start: this is just the kernel, the low-level code that governs the most critical functions. It doesn’t cover the interface, developer frameworks or apps… that is, the parts that truly define iOS or macOS. Those elements are still closed off, so you would have to build most of the platform from scratch. You won’t see iOS on a Galaxy S8 any time soon. Apple also offers a relatively limited source code license that isn’t as flexible as, say, the GPL license used for Linux.

Moreover, while the presence of ARM-based Mac code is bound to raise eyebrows, this doesn’t mean that you’re about to see a MacBook with an A11 Bionic chip inside. Apple has a long history of writing code for other architectures “just in case” (the PowerPC-to-Intel transition happened quickly because Apple already had code waiting in the wings), so it might never make the switch. You certainly aren’t about to install macOS on your ARM-based Chromebook. And besides, there are rumors of Apple developing ARM-based companion chips for Macs. It may need ARM code even if it has no intention of ditching Intel for CPUs.

All the same, it’s a welcome move. This gives app and OS developers a better sense of how Apple tackles basic system tasks, particularly on iOS. And yes, anyone ambitious enough to write a full operating system could use XNU as a starting point. It’s just not going to change the status quo for Apple.

Via: Reddit

Source: GitHub, Apple Open Source

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple Watch Series 3 review: A good watch, a so-so phone replacement

With each generation, the Apple Watch’s purpose has seemed to shift. The first one demonstrated what Apple thought a wearable should be, and the second tried to be the perfect workout companion. When it came time to build the Series 3, though, Apple took everything it got right with the fitness-friendly Series 2, polished it up, and threw an LTE radio inside.

And lo, the $ 399 Apple Watch Series 3 became the first of a new breed of Apple devices — it straddles the line between smartwatch and phone, with a dash of iPod thrown in for good measure. For those who’d rather play it safe, Apple also built a $ 329 Series 3 with just GPS and no cellular connection. In fact, that safe bet will probably pay off for most people — the cellular Series 3 is a little too inconsistent for my taste.

Hardware and design

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Despite what some redesign rumors suggested ahead of the big event, this year’s Apple Watch looks… just like an Apple Watch. Shocking, I know. As ever, the Series 3 comes in 38mm and 42mm sizes, so earlier bands will continue to fit just fine. And, as with the Series 2, all versions feature a built-in GPS radio and 50-meter water resistance. Don’t let that classification fool you, though — you can take the Watch for a swim, but you almost certainly shouldn’t take it 50 meters underwater. (Why the watch industry continues to use such counterintuitive terminology is beyond me.)

Not much has changed with the display either — we’re still working with a tiny OLED screen running at 390 x 312, covered by a plate of Ion-X glass. (The stainless-steel and ceramic models instead use tougher sapphire crystal, but this Watch’s glass face was very good at resisting nicks as I accidentally banged my hands into walls and fixtures.) Max brightness still tops out at 1,000 nits, which is more than enough to keep notifications and apps readable under bright sunlight. More interesting is the way the screen doubles as the Watch’s wireless antenna; it’s a nifty feat of engineering that seems to get the job done well.

In any case, I’ve been wearing a 42mm Apple Watch on and off since the first version launched in 2015, and the fit and finish of my 42mm cellular review unit is first-rate, as always. It’s impossible to tell that the Series 3 is slightly thicker than the models that came before it, and thankfully, it’s just as hard to feel the difference when it’s strapped to your wrist. That’s because the Watch’s aluminum squircle of a body hasn’t changed — the ceramic hump around back housing the heart rate sensor is, according to Apple, two sheets of paper thicker than it was before. The 42mm body’s weight hasn’t changed either, which is pretty impressive considering the extra stuff needed to turn this wearable into a tiny, functional phone. Throw in an improved, dual-core S3 chipset and a slightly bigger battery, and we’ve got a remarkably snappy little package.

Until you start talking into your wrist, there’s only one way to tell if a Watch is LTE-enabled or not: You need to spot the red dot. This red highlight serves no technical purpose; it’s purely for looks, and if you’re the type who likes visual metaphors, you’ll notice a certain symmetry with the Watch’s red notification dot. I get the need for some sort of visual signifier, but fashionistas, beware: That red flourish clashes with a lot of Apple Watch bands out there.

As a traditional smartwatch

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The original Apple Watch gave shape to the company’s vision for wearable computing, but, man, it was frustratingly slow sometimes. Fast-forward two years, and we finally have an Apple Watch that feels as fast as it should. Swiping between watch faces is smoother than before, and launching apps seems to take considerably less time, all thanks to Apple’s updated S3 chipset. Series 1 and 2 owners might not find the difference that pronounced, since both devices have dual-core processors of their own, but the fractions of a second I’m saving every time an action works more smoothly becomes time I get to spend doing something else that matters to me.

One of the best ways to see all this power in action is by talking to Siri — and, for once, the experience won’t make you want to tear your hair out. Siri can finally speak to you on the Series 3, and it uses the same natural-sounding voice you’d hear it use on an iOS device running iOS 11. I never really used Siri on the Series 2, because it required me to glance down at my wrist all the time. This year, Siri’s audible responses and generally spot-on voice transcription meant I could ask it to send a message or email for me and not worry too much about what happened next. Yes, this eventually bit me in the ass, but never too badly. Beyond handling messages and tasks, Siri has also been helpful for navigating to hole-in-the-wall restaurants and answering various random questions.

As useful as Siri is now, it still has its limits. For one, you need to be careful with how you ask for things — “open News” does what you’d expect it to, but “show me the news” kicked me out to external search results. Oh, and don’t forget that the Watch’s screen has to be on to get Siri’s attention with a voice command. A version of Siri that constantly listens for commands would be ideal, but that’d probably wreak as much havoc on battery life as, well, a cellular radio would.

The Series 3’s new watch faces sure are… interesting.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Beyond just Siri, Apple’s new watchOS 4 offers a few other new features as well. There are new customizable kaleidoscope watch faces, along with a handful of faces starring characters from Toy Story. The music app has been updated with a new look and slightly more seamless syncing — some playlists, like “New Music” and “Favorites,” are transferred over by default while the Watch charges for the first time. Individual tracks and playlists can be moved over easily enough too, but literally any support for podcasts would’ve been nice. To make the most of the Watch’s music player, though, you need to be an Apple Music subscriber; the Watch still offers media controls for whatever audio is playing on the iPhone, but you’re out of luck if you’d prefer to interact with Spotify’s superior playlists.

The Series 3 technically works as a standalone device, but let’s be real: We’re so attached to our phones that the Watch will spend most of its time connected to an iPhone anyway. I’m not complaining either, mostly because the Watch has very good battery life as a result. I usually pull my Watch off its charger at around 8AM, and I’ve routinely seen it chug along until midafternoon the next day if I didn’t make many voice calls on it. Over the weekend, when my phone was gloriously quiet, I got nearly two full days of screen-on time before needing to charge the Watch again. Apple bumped up the Series 3’s battery capacity to maximize cellular usage time, so while I’m pleased that tethered battery life has improved, I’m not surprised.

As a standalone device

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The connection between the Apple Watch and an iPhone is the core of Apple’s wearable experience, and for the first time, the company gave the Watch the tools to function independently. Seeing the Watch hop onto an LTE network and use your same phone number is undeniably neat, but honestly, it’s not something I’d want to do very often.

First off, yes, you’re going to have to pay your carrier $ 10 a month for the privilege, not to mention an activation fee once this first wave of promotions dies down. Setting up the Watch with my AT&T phone plan was mostly a breeze, but some reviewers have experienced issues getting everything squared away, especially when older rate plans were involved. Your mileage may vary, but I suspect most of you won’t need to worry much.

Actually using the phone is easier than expected — you can either punch in a number or select one of your contacts — and call quality was generally very good. In a majority of conversations I had, the people on the other end couldn’t even tell I was talking into a watch. That can change suddenly, though. Earlier this week, I parked myself outside the office to take a few phone calls, and the signal indicator bounced between two and four dots of coverage while I was just sitting there.

As a result, call quality got really strange — I could hear the other party just fine, but I sounded like a mess to them. This happened only one other time, in a completely different location, and I’m at a loss as to why. In any case, if you’re interested in taking calls on a Series 3, a Bluetooth headset is a must. It’ll also help in situations where the Watch’s speaker just isn’t loud enough, which is most of the time, frankly.

Messages rolled in quickly too, but here’s the thing: Not all messages are treated equally. As long as you have some kind of wireless signal, iMessages will be delivered just fine. Text messages are usually subject to a delay, since they’re routed through your iPhone, but this also means that SMSes won’t come through at all if your iPhone is dead. Emails running through Apple’s Mail app worked fine but took longer than usual to pop up on my wrist, so I wouldn’t advise going watch-only when urgent business is in the offing. And most of the Watch apps I installed worked normally, though a few — like Slack and Twitter — either did nothing or force-quit when I tried to use them.

Early review models also seemed prone to connectivity issues stemming from a Wi-Fi bug — in a bid to conserve battery life, the Series 3 tries to latch onto wireless networks your other Apple devices have flagged as being suitable for use. The problem was, not every network was flagged correctly, so captive portals (like those used at, say, Starbucks) would get the OK and the Watch would try to connect, with no way of getting past whatever interstitial screen popped up. It’s not that the Watch was going out of its way to jump onto unfamiliar networks — it’s that some of the networks it thinks are kosher actually aren’t.

This is a major goof, but I can see why it might have escaped detection — I have had precisely zero issues with my Series 3 attempting to latch onto bum networks. Then again, I’m one person, and I find it hard to believe that not a single engineer testing the Series 3 prior to launch ran into this. I’m fairly sure you won’t run into this very specific kind of trouble, but it remains a risk; Apple promised a fix after catching some well-deserved flak, but it still hadn’t materialized when we published this review.

Really, my biggest concern is much more mundane: Going completely iPhone-free means the Watch’s battery life will take a huge hit. After an early-morning run while listening to music and using the GPS, followed by a couple of test calls, the Series 3 was on its last legs by early afternoon. Apple has always been clear that the Series 3 is more of a temporary phone substitute than an actual replacement, so this probably won’t seem shocking to you. Still, if this morning routine sounds like your idea of a good time, remember to have a charger handy.

I don’t mean to make the Series 3 sound terrible at this stuff — when everything works properly, it makes for an adequate untethered companion. It’s just too bad that those moments weren’t as common as I expected.

As a fitness tracker

Chris Velazco/Engadget

With the Series 2, Apple decided the Watch should be a serious fitness wearable, and its focus on getting people out of their chairs clearly isn’t going away. Thankfully, the Series 3’s blend of capable hardware and thoughtful software make it a great choice for people who take their workouts seriously, but not that seriously.

The Series 3’s step counts were in line with other wearables I tested it against, though accuracy is a weird thing to look for in cases like these. Every fitness tracker I’ve ever worn seemed to interpret my steps a little differently, but the Series 3 was consistently within +/- 10 steps of my own counts (in my head, up to 250). Strangely, I guess I define “a flight of stairs” differently from how the Watch’s new barometer does, since it consistently underestimated me on days when I decided to avoid the office’s elevators. Meanwhile, the updated Workout app packs support for new workout types (perfect for you crazy high-intensity interval people) and easier controls for setting time or calorie burn goals for your swim, walk or run.

Speaking of running, I’ve had no issue with GPS accuracy either — I run the same route a few times a week, and the distance was basically bang-on every time. Granted, I don’t precisely know how long that makeshift course is, so hardcore runners (like Engadget marathoner-in-residence Dana Wollman) may be better served by more purpose-built wearables that can more accurately measure one’s pace. Now, once I get moving, I don’t have too much trouble powering through to the end; the real trouble comes in getting off my ass to start with. For better or worse, Apple’s three-ringed activity app now offers more proactive notifications, the most effective of which tells me roughly how much longer I’d need to walk to hit my goals at the end of the day. It’s just enough of a push to get me where I want to be, and I’m surprised Apple didn’t implement this sooner.

Your author really needs to chill out.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Even though I’m not the exercise nut I used to be, I appreciated Apple’s enhanced focus on your heart. The Watch tries to get more accurate readings of your resting heart rate by checking it when it knows you haven’t been moving, and it plots your heart rate readings on handy graphs to show you changes over time.

It’s especially helpful for tracking your recovery after intense exercises, but that’s one of the few areas where the Watch offers a little more data than casual users are probably interested in. All told, this a wearable best suited for generalists. Good thing for Apple, then, that there are a lot of them out there. Hardcore athletes may get more mileage out of a wearable that measures even more, like blood oxygenation. (Curiously, the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor works in such a way that it could also function as a pulse oximeter, but the feature has never been activated.) What’s more unfortunate is that two features that should be great for exercise buffs — Apple Music streaming over LTE and integration with gym equipment through GymKit — won’t be ready for a few more weeks.

The competition

Chris Velazco/Engadget

There haven’t been too many Android Wear 2.0 watches released this year, which leaves the LG Watch Sport at the top of the proverbial pack. Chatting with Google Assistant is mostly a pleasure, and it uses a rotating crown button for navigation, just like the Series 3. One of Android Wear’s biggest assets has always been its visual flexibility, and I’ve spent more time than I care to admit sifting through watch faces in the Play Store in hopes of finding the perfect look for my wrist. The Sport can also jump onto cellular networks, but LG’s approach is problematic: There’s an actual SIM card inside, so the watch’s body is huge, and the antennas extend into the watch’s unremovable bands. It’s a solid option if you’re a smartwatch shopper who doesn’t care for Apple, but beware of its compromises.

Samsung’s Gear S3 Frontier comes to mind too, since it also packs an eSIM and an LTE radio for truly phone-free use. It’s a bigger, more masculine-looking watch than the Series 3, and it’s a little less comfortable, but its rotating bezel remains one of the most inspired interaction methods I’ve ever used on a smartwatch. It’s effing excellent, and so is its Spotify streaming support. The Frontier can also tell when you’ve started to work out and will track your movements accordingly, an intelligent touch that (sadly) doesn’t always work as well as it should. The biggest knock against the S3 Frontier, however, is its Tizen OS. Who cares if you can install apps in the woods if they’re mostly apps no one cares about?

Wrap-up

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The Apple Watch Series 3 often feels like two devices in one. When it’s connected to a phone, it’s an improvement over its predecessors in just about every way that matters. More important, the tight integration of improved hardware and more thoughtful software give the Series 3 a very notable edge over its smartwatch competition. It’s that good. As a standalone device, though, the Series 3 can be maddeningly limited. Over time, I’m sure apps will grow to take advantage of persistent data connections, and still other kinks will be worked out entirely. For now, though, the kinks remain and the overall experience suffers as a result. Apple’s vision of a wearable that remains forever connected to the things that matter to you is an enticing one, and the Series 3 is an important first step down that path. Here’s hoping Apple’s next step is as consistently good on its own as it is when connected to a phone.

Engadget RSS Feed