If you're one of the early-adopting few with an Apple Watch Series 3 with built-in cellular, good news: you'll soon be able to stream Apple Music's 40 million songs directly to your AirPods. Or any other headphones, really, but if you have an Apple Watch Series 3 with built-in cellular then you probably have AirPods too.
When it was announced, streaming Apple Music directly from watch to wireless headphones sounded like a Very Cool Thing — the kind of thing you'd do if you decided you wanted to go for a run but hadn't had the presence of mind to load your Watch up with a couple of exercise playlists beforehand. To do that, you'd have to have had your Watch sitting on the charger while you synced playlists from your phone. The upcoming WatchOS 4.1 update adds Apple Music streaming to the Series 3 Apple Watch, and it's the solution.
The new Apple Watch Series 3's eSIM — integrated into the $559 GPS + Cellular model, not the $459 GPS-only one — currently works to share its paired iPhone's SIM details on Telstra and Optus, with Vodafone switching on support early next year. And when you're in coverage — which is everywhere Telstra or Optus or Vodafone has 4G, except the long-range 700MHz coverage of Telstra 4GX or Optus 4G Plus — your Apple Watch will talk to the mobile networks when it's not on Wi-Fi or connected by Bluetooth to your phone.
It already worked with most of the Apple Watch's standalone apps like Facebook Messenger or Uber or Apple Maps, so the Apple Watch had genuine utility when your phone was out of power or you'd forgotten it somewhere — but streaming directly from the Apple Music app gives you that proper promise of doing pretty much anything you could want from your watch rather than your phone. This is what you want — your Apple Watch to play you music, whatever music you want, while you're out on a run.
And it works! It works well. Hooking up your Apple Watch to a pair of Bluetooth headphones is simple, and the Apple Music experience has been just as carefully curated on your wrist as it is on the iPhone's screen. There's a Library list with all your playlists and albums and songs, but when you launch into the app you're instantly shown your favourites and new music mixes. Kick off a track — or ask Siri to build you a playlist or start a radio station — and you'll get a pop-up asking what Bluetooth device you want to connect to, et voila. Streaming, no phone required.
The integration when you're primarily using Siri to control things is interesting. Usage is split three ways — there's the Apple Music app, where all your existing playlists and albums and songs live, there's the Radio app where all your more esoteric ("play me country music for a road trip") requests end up, and there's the Now Playing app that lets you make any changes like skipping tracks or pumping the volume. I've been lost a couple of times, but it's early days still.
Apple Music streaming switches on in WatchOS 4.1, which is currently in beta testing — it'll be out in the mainstream soon enough. [Apple]