Apple Watch 3 teardown uncovers bigger battery, small changes

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Apple Watch 3 teardown
Everything that goes into an Apple Watch Series 3.
Photo: iFixit

Apple Watch Series 3 may look identical to its predecessors on the outside, but it’s a different beast under the hood, with powerful new hardware, new chips, and LTE connectivity.

A customary teardown by iFixit has also revealed a bigger battery, and one very minor design alteration to make room for new components.

Apple did an incredible job of packing new technologies into its latest Watch. It somehow managed to install an LTE modem, new antennas, an electronic SIM, an altimeter, and a bigger battery into a form factor that’s only two sheets of paper thicker.

iFixit has torn open a 38mm Series 3 with cellular connectivity so that we can all marvel at that engineering feat. And in doing so, it has discovered some interesting things about the new device that Apple didn’t tell us.

Firstly, we now know its model number, which is printed alongside the “secret” diagnostic port on the bottom of the device: A1889. We also know that Apple has removed one of its display controllers, which obviously wasn’t required, to free up some space.

This leaves an empty solder pad on the board on the back of the display, but one touch controller and one NFC module still remain. On the main board, iFixit found an ST Microelectronics ST33G1M2 chip that’s believed to be the new electronic SIM.

Apple Watch 3 teardown
Removing the screen gets you inside.
Photo: iFixit

Alongside it, there are other chips required for LTE connectivity, an Avago AFEM-8057 Wi-Fi module, and of course, Apple’s new S3 chipset. The company claims it’s up to 70 percent faster than the S2 processor found in Series 2 devices.

Apple has removed the air vent that previously sat alongside Apple Watch’s microphone this time around to make room for an altimeter, which is used to measure elevation. A new air vent is now located alongside the diagnostic port.

Despite all the new chips, Apple managed to squeeze a 1.07 Whr (279 mAh at 3.82 V) battery into its 38mm Series 3. That’s 4 percent bigger than the 1.03 Whr battery found in a 38mm Series 2, and a whopping 32 percent bigger than the original Apple Watch’s battery.

Apple says this will give you around 18 hours of use in between charges — the same battery life you can expect from last year’s model — but using LTE connectivity reduces this significantly. If you place a call on your Watch, that 18-hour estimate is reduced to just one.

Surprisingly, Apple Watch Series 3 gets an iFixit repairability score of 6/10. The device is praised for incredibly easy strap replacements, and components that are easy to replace once you’re inside its chassis.

  • fer

    Any information on the battery size of the 42mm S3?