Apple Watch goes solo, but don’t dump your phone yet

CALIFORNIA — A chief gripe with Apple Watch is that it requires you to keep an iPhone with you for most tasks. The inclusion of GPS last year helped on runs and bike rides, but you’re still missing calls and messages without the phone nearby.

A new model with its own cellular-network connection is Apple’s next step toward an untethered world. Now you can make and receive calls and messages on the watch while leaving your phone at home.

But the watch still needs regular contact with an iPhone, and for most tasks, the phone needs to be on and connected, even if it’s nowhere nearby. So you can’t get away with ditching the iPhone altogether.

(Android users have their own wristwear options, including Samsung Gear and Android Wear watches, some of which can already manage their own network connections.)

The new Apple Watch Series 3, distinguished by a red crown, came out last month starting at about $400. You can forgo cellular, and the red crown, for $70 less. Or get a first-generation model, without GPS, for about $250.

Where it helps

You might not want to bring your phone on a short jog; the watch can still keep you in touch. Or you can leave the phone home while walking the dog or performing a quick errand.

You need a data add-on from the same wireless provider as your phone.

Embracing the tether

It can be handy to untether the watch at times, but it’s not always necessary. Even when tied to the phone, Series 3 offers improvement such as tracking elevation, so you get credit for climbing stairs or jogging up a hill. And you can now hear Siri responses on the watch speaker, something enabled by the new version’s faster processor.

Software update

For owners of past models, a software update out this week, watchOS 4, will bring easier access to music playback controls when exercising — just swipe left. There are more prompts when reaching or nearing daily goals, and options for multiple sports in a single workout.

A new heart rate app now shows heart rate at rest and averages when walking or recovering from exercise. These can help you gauge your overall fitness.

And if your heart rate is high without any signs of exercise, you’ll get an alert. You enable this when you first open the heart rate app. (AP)

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