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Reviewers discover that the Apple Watch Series 3 can't get online

David Pogue
Tech Critic

This just in, from the “You had one jobdepartment…

The headline feature of the new $400 Apple Watch 3 is that it’s got cellular. For $10 a month, your watch can take calls, get texts, and stream music over the LTE cellular network. And you don’t have to have your phone with you.

It’s an appealing idea. Unfortunately, in the first Apple Watches, it doesn’t work.

Apple’s hand-picked reviewers (which did not include me this time) included The Verge (Lauren Goode) and the Wall Street Journal (Joanna Stern). Both tried out the Apple Watch 3, and both found that the cellular thing simply doesn’t work. (“Untethered and Unreliable,” says Stern’s headline.) They left their homes without their phones and regretted it. They had no Internet connection at all.

Apple says that it has discovered a bug. The watch tries to hop onto WiFi networks whenever possible, to save you money and battery life; it uses the cellular connection only when necessary. Unfortunately, the current watch tries to hop onto what Apple calls unauthenticated WiFi networks—nearby networks that you haven’t actually logged onto. The watch therefore has no actual Internet connection all. No WiFi and no cellular, and therefore no phone calls, no texts, no Siri.

Those reviewers also discovered that the cellular feature rips through the watch’s already puny battery capacity. Goode reports that after three hours, the watch’s battery was down to 30 percent.

What this means, of course, is that you probably can’t get through a single day with it. Even if all you do is run, the watch would probably be dead by the end of a marathon.

Of course, the world is full of hot new products that launched with show-stopping bugs. GoPro’s drone was immediately recalled when it turned out that its battery would slip out in flight, causing the whole thing to crash. Nest discovered that its flagship smoke detector would sometimes delay alerting you to a fire. It does happen. But when it’s Apple? When it’s the one big feature? Yikes.

Apple will fix the cellular/WiFi bug in the Apple Watch 3, for sure. They won’t fix the battery life; they, and we, have reached the current limits of battery chemistry technology. And until there’s some kind of power breakthrough, smartwatches will remain specialty gifts for techies.

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David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes non-toxic comments in the Comments below. On the Web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can read all his articles here (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/david-pogue/), or you can sign up to get his columns by email (http://j.mp/2mCizxV).