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Apple Watch Series 3 cuts the cord from your iPhone

Apple hopes to maintain its lead over rivals like Samsung and Fitbit with a new wearable.

Apple exec Jeff Williams introducing new features for the next Apple Watch.
Apple exec Jeff Williams introducing new features for the next Apple Watch. 
David Katzmaier/CNET

Apple has cut the strings on its smartwatch.

At the company's big product event Tuesday at its new headquarters in Cupertino, California, Apple Senior Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams unveiled the Apple Watch Series 3, the latest in the company's growing family of wearables.

The device will be able to tap into a cellular network, which means you won't have to lug your iPhone along when you go for a run. Previously, the watch had to be paired with the phone for connectivity, but the new wrist-worn gadget will be able to run its own apps, play music and take calls all by itself.

The watch will be available Sept. 22, with orders beginning Sept. 15.

The Apple Watch has dominated the smartwatch market, but though Apple fanboys, early adopters and fitness-focused consumers jumped onto the bandwagon, smartwatches in general are still a relatively rare sight. That could change, however. 

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Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the event that the Apple Watch is now the top-selling watch in the world, beating out products from companies like Rolex and Fossil. Sales of the smartwatch rose 50 percent year-over-year from 2016, Cook said. 

Williams talked up other new features coming with the Watch Series 3. It'll be able to play up to 40 million songs from Apple Music, he said, and you'll also be able to use the watch to interact with Apple's voice assistant, Siri. The gadget's display itself is an antenna, and its SIM card is electronic. 

"The biggest challenge was adding cellular," Williams said. 

The watch is expected to have 18 hours of battery life across a mix of LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. 

It's not the first watch with independent connectivity. Samsung pioneered the feature and recently told CNET that half the watches it sells in the US have LTE modems.

Despite Samsung's bullishness, there's some question about whether the addition of LTE is worth other trade-offs. The knock on LTE-enabled smartwatches is that they're even bulkier than regular smartwatches, and suffer from weaker battery life.

Google, for instance, said its Android Wear partners in the fashion world, from Tag Heuer to Michael Kors, are focusing on just Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled watches that connect to the phone. 

The Apple Watch Series 3 will have a sport loop band, and a new gold aluminum finish, along with silver and space gray.

In the device's last upgrade, the second-generation model gained a faster processor, a larger battery and GPS, as well as waterproofing.

CNET's Shara Tibken contributed to this report.