Apple Watch 3: everything we know so far

UPDATE 11/09: Some big iOS 11 leaks are pointing to the arrival of an LTE-equipped Watch Series 3 tomorrow...

The Apple Watch 2 is easily our favourite smartwatch, but it’s still some way short of gadget perfection.

Demanding fans have requested everything from built-in LTE to sleep-tracking and a sharper screen.

Of course, this growing wish list doesn’t take into account the laws of physics. But it seems that at least some of these features will be arriving with the imminent launch of an Apple Watch 3.

Some apparent leaks from Apple and Vodafone on September 10 suggest that an LTE-equipped Apple Watch Series 3 will be arriving at the iPhone 8 on Tuesday September 12.

But what else can we expect from their third instalment of the Apple Watch trilogy? Here's what our Apple divining rod is suggesting...

When will it be out?

Updated 11/9: a big iOS 11 leak has confirmed some earlier rumours about its launch

It now looks almost certain that we'll see the Apple Watch Series 3 announced at the iPhone 8 event on Tuesday September 12.

Rumours from the Chinese business site Economic Daily had earlier suggested that the Watch 3 was in final testing and ready to begin mass production.

And now an iOS 11 leak picked up by 9to5Mac has seemingly confirmed the announcement plus a few features, including LTE connectivity.

Although there was a big gap between announcement and availability of the original Apple Watch, it seems likely that Apple will follow the more typical schedule of the Watch 2 and have it on shelves within one to two weeks of the event.

In other words, keep a space free in your Christmas stocking.

What new tricks will it have?

Updated 11/9: the iOS 11 leak has provided some more clues about the Watch Series 3's talents

The most heavily rumoured is built-in LTE, which would let the Apple Watch do a lot more without your iPhone. And that's been backed up by a leak of the 'golden master' version of iOS 11, which seems to provide some specifics on how it could work.

According to 9to5Mac's firmware discoveries, the Watch Series 3 (whose name seems to have been confirmed by a Vodafone page) will definitely have built-in LTE and will also use the same phone number as your phone.

This is interesting, because it'd be something of a first for mobile networks, and also because it suggests (contrary to earlier rumours) that the eSIM will let you make phone calls on the Watch Series 3. Very gawky, awkward phone calls, but calls nonetheless.

In case you're worried that no-one will be able to tell you have the new Apple Watch, this LTE will apparently be marked by a red digital crown. And there'll also apparently be two new case colours for the watch: 'blush gold' and a 'ceramic gray' model for the pricier Watch Edition. 

Still, not everything has been confirmed or leaked. For starters, we're still not sure if built-in LTE will be on all Watch Series 3 models or just a premium version.

And eartlier rumoured features included a front-facing FaceTime camera for making video calls and some built-in sleep-tracking powers.

The latter stems from Apple’s recent acquisition of Beddit, although some battery life improvements will need to be made before we consider using the Apple Watch overnight. Despite its impressive fast-charging, we still give ours an overnight charge every couple of days.

Fact or fiction?

The LTE rumour is strong and fits into the Apple Watch's increasing independence from the iPhone. But it seems more likely that Apple would offer an LTE model as an extra premium option, rather than the standard for the Watch 3.

For starters, there are the size and battery life issues it'd create. It'd also mean some complex negotiations with worldwide carriers. Either way, it seems more likely that most of the Watch 3's new functionality will come from watchOS 4 rather than any radical redesign.

What software will it run?

With watchOS 4 due to launch this autumn, it’s highly likely that the Watch 3 will be running this out of the box.

What new toys will it bring? You can read our hands-on preview of the best watchOS 4 features, but the main improvements include a new Siri watch face for contextual info, better navigation, improved fitness features like auto-counted swimming sets, personalised coaching and (eventually) compatibility with gym equipment.

In short, it’ll likely be the slickest smartwatch software around, and the perfect sidekick for novice or intermediate fans of running, cycling and swimming.

Fact or fiction?

If the Watch 3 is indeed announced at Apple's September event, it's a dead cert that it'll run watchOS 4.

We've seen watchOS 4 in action, and it's a subtle but big improvement in both functionality and usability.

With the Watch 3 rumoured to have a new S3 processor, the combination could make it the best smartwatch experience we've seen by some distance. 

What will it look like?

Earlier rumours were conflicted about this, but the recent iOS 11 leak shows a near-identical design for the Watch Series 3, aside from that red digital crown.

This is good news if you have some bands that you want to move onto your new watch. And it suggests that we'll get the same square display – so one that’s still 1.65in in size with a 390x312 resolution.

Nikkei Asian Review, though, seems pretty confident that Apple will go for micro-LED over OLED for the display. This is because micro-LED has advantages like being thinner, brighter and not needing a backlight like LCD panels.

Apple has also been looking into using Liquidmetal, which has so far only been used on its SIM ejector tool, on a major product for almost ten years. Could the Apple Watch 3 mark its big league debut? It doesn't seem so from the iOS 11 leaks, but perhaps Apple has a surprise in store.

Either way, it looks unlikely that rumours from Daring Fireball’s John Gruber will prove to be true this time. Unless Apple miraculously brings forward the Watch Series 4 as a riposte to the apparent leaks.

Fact or fiction?

Our money is on a a subtle refinement of the current Watch design, rather than the new form factor rumoured by some.

The Watch's square-faced design has proven popularity and Apple has already shown that it's happy to bring freshness with new materials like ceramic and straps, rather than a complete overhaul. 

A new micro-LED display is certainly possible, though, as is a new wireless charger that will happily juice up your Watch no matter what angle you leave it at.