The next generation of the Apple Watch, the Series 3, will target smartwatch shoppers with some major updates, including the addition of an LTE cellular connection to let users make calls without carrying their smartphone.

The introduction of the Apple Watch Series 3 came on the same day that Apple rolled out a trio of new iPhones, including the pricey iPhone X, along with a 4K version of the Apple TV streaming media player.

Integrating cellular capability into a watch is new for Apple, but the technology is already offered in other smartwatches, notably the Samsung G3. The new Apple Watch will share a number with the user’s smartphone. 

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The ability to get calls and text messages without carrying a phone could be welcome news for runners and other fitness buffs who like the Apple Watch’s exercise-tracking apps.

On the flip side, it’s going to cost extra to add the watch to your current data plan, though Apple officials say all of the major carriers plan to offer special package deals for the watch. 

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are each offering a three-month free trial with no activation fee for new or current cell customers. After that, your Apple Watch adds $10 a month to your bill, or $15 a month if you're a Sprint customer who doesn't use automatic payments.

The hardware is more expensive, too. With cellular connectivity, the watch will start at $399; a version without it starts at $329. Orders start Sept. 15, and the watch is due to become available to consumers Sept. 22. Looking for something cheaper? Apple also anounced that it's cutting the starting price of its Series 1 watches to $249.

Despite the addition of the new cellular components, the size of the watch remains the same as the previous generation, largely because of packaging innovations such as a display that also functions as an antenna. 

The addition of LTE could give Apple an edge in the war for domination of the smartwatch market. Interest from fitness enthusiasts is a big reason that sales of wearables, especially smartwatches, have grown recently, according to the tracking firm IDC.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, announced at the keynote introducing the watch that a recent sales bump made the Apple Watch “the No. 1 watch in the world,” as well as the world’s most widely used heart-rate monitor.

Overall sales of smartwatches jumped 61 percent during the second quarter of this year, IDC says. That’s compared with a 10 percent increase in overall sales of wearables. And sales of basic wearables, which are devices that don’t run third-party apps, ticked down 0.9 percent, marking their first year-over-year decline. 

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Photo: Apple

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Music on the go. The cellular connection will allow users to access Apple Music without their phone and stream from its 40 million song library. 

Watch OS updates.
 Apple says that Watch OS 4 will roll out Sept. 19 and be available to all Apple Watch customers. The new OS includes an improved Siri interface that allows users to hear responses rather than reading them off the display. 

Better heart-rate monitor. Apple says it has improved the functionality of its watch’s heart-rate monitor. For instance, the Series 3 will calculate resting heart rate and recovery heart rate every day, using accelerometer data to determine when the user is inactive. According to the company, the new watch has the potential to detect cardiac arrythmias, such as atrial fibrillation, which can sometimes trigger a stroke. The company stopped short of calling the Series 3 a diagnostic tool but said it was working with the Food and Drug Administration as it developed the technology. Apple says it is launching a related study in conjunction with Stanford Medicine.

Barometric altimeter. The latest Apple Watch includes a barometric altimeter, which should make it appealing to hikers, cyclists, skiers, and even stair-runners interested in keeping track of how much they have climbed—or descended. Barometric altimeters can be more reliable than GPS in judging changes in altitude.

Editor's Note: This article was updated to include the pricing for adding Apple Watch cellular service with the major wireless carriers.

Photo: Apple