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Apple Watch 3 LTE Functionality Limited to Country of Purchase

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LTE

An Apple support representative has revealed to a customer that the cellular feature on all LTE-enabled Apple Watch Series 3 models will only work in the country of purchase due to hardware limitations, MacRumors is reporting. This means that LTE connectivity on an Apple Watch purchased in the Canadian Apple store will only work with Bell at launch, and later with Telus in Canada.

“If you purchased one (an Apple Watch S3 GPS + Cellular) through the US Apple Online Store, it’ll only work for the 4 US carriers. It wouldn’t work internationally unfortunately. I’m not entirely sure what type of error it would show if you took a US Watch to Germany, but it wouldn’t be compatible with Telekom”.

Currently, Apple Watch Series 3 LTE models are only available in a handful of countries. Also, these LTE models do not support roaming outside of a provider’s network coverage area, so roaming will not work when traveling to another country. Furthermore, the Apple Watch Series 3 only supports a limited number of LTE bands, unlike the iPhones.

With availability expected to expand to other countries in future, the LTE Apple Watch is currently only available in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, the UK, and the U.S.

We have also reached out to Apple for further clarification on Apple Watch LTE compatibility in Canada, stay tuned for updates.

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  • Bill___A

    This is a bit ridiculous. So if someone moves to another country, they lose the LTE functionality on their $500 watch. Since many countries use similar frequencies, I think there is more to the explanation than is given….

  • I find this very hard to believe.

  • Salvador

    Yes… it sounds ridiculous, but actually is due to how carriers are implementing VoLTE.

    I’m not expert on the matter, but for what I understand, VoLTE is only data, and not all carriers has the full implementation of it. One of the biggest issues is how calls to 911 are routed through VoLTE. There are many carriers in the world already supporting VoLTE but not all support routing to 911. For a cellphone device which supports 3G, LTE and VoLTE, there is no problem since 911 could be routed either LTE or 3G if required. For Apple Watch, which requires VoLTE, not supporting 911 routing as required by legislations, is an issue for the carriers. This may be the reason why surprisingly “some” carriers are not in the list of Apple Watch supported carriers.

    The technicalities of 911 call routing may be the cause of Watches only working on the country of sell.

    VoLTE is the new future, but carriers are still in the early stages of supporting it.

  • Parksy

    I think it would be better to relate it to roaming. If you are roaming then it won’t work.

  • Ned K.

    wow that’s disappointing. I’ll pass.

  • raslucas

    Ya. That’s interesting. I think I understand though. The watches are probably built with support for a single band on a per carrier basis. The lowest possible frequency that the carriers supports everywhere. Side they need to fit so much in such a small space, with a very limited battery life.

    Let’s say the Belus one supports the 700 MHz spectrum only. And then a T-mobile one support their 2100/1700 MHz spectrum only. First the Bell one would get better battery life, but that’s besides the point. There may be some carrier in Germany that also uses 700 MHz that it could work on… but like… it would be the most complicated compatibility chart EVER.

    We will probably see more secondary devices, such as watches and the like with the same limitations. Bell could very well only support number sharing on their lowest frequency (and therefore most battery efficient and longest range, but slowest maximum transfer rate).

    IF that is the case, it wouldn’t be the first time Apple has played ball with the cell carriers to get its products to market first. Remember when the iPhone couldn’t do Skype over 3G?

    At the end of the day, no cell carrier actually supports VoLTE when roaming. None. So take that fact, and add in limited frequency support and the idea that the idea of an e-sim and shareable numbers are such a new concept. I’m not surprised there’s a caveat.

    I do wonder if Apple risks getting into trouble with CRTC when locking “phones” becomes illegal in December.

  • Ned K.

    Wrong and wrong. VoLTE support can be manipulated on device-side. Android phones have options to turn off VoLTE. You sure have no idea how VoLTE works. As the article said it is due to the poor chip Apple implemented in Apple watch. Nothing to do with carriers. Even if it were to do with carriers’ implementation, Apple should have foreseen it and done something about it so we can use it oversees.

  • Salvador

    Turning ON/OFF VoLTE on a device is limited to the carrier supporting VoLTE. You cannot turn it ON if your carrier does not support it.

    Now, if you read the FAQ on Bell site, they states that Apple Watch Number Share is only available in Canadian regions where they have VoLTE coverage.

    I said I’m not expert, but I spoke with people “working” on that and they explained to me there is a carrier in Canada who supports VoLTE but not routing 911 calls over VoLTE yet, which is a requirement in Canada. All cellphones on their network uses 3G to route emergency calls.

    I don’t buy the “cheap implementation”excuse. Adding cellular connection into the same case size and keeping the same battery duration with a more performance processor, is not necessary “cheap”. There are always trade off.

  • BeaveVillage

    I see no reason why it can’t work on the same plan you get for your phone. We were told at the Apple Event that the cellular antennae is the actual display, so it’s not a size limitation.

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