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LTE Apple Watch Can Make Emergency Calls Without Carrier Plan

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A user on Reddit recently discovered that an LTE Apple Watch can make emergency calls without a connected phone or carrier plan.

In an interesting thread, the Redditor describes how he turned off his iPhone and router and attempted to call an Emergency Services number only to come up empty. Determined, he contacted an Apple Care rep who eventually reached out to Apple engineers for a definitive answer.

Apple engineers relayed back that the LTE Apple Watch “should be capable of making SOS calls even if cellular service has never been linked/activated, same as a phone.”

After updating the Apple Watch to watchOS 4.2, the Redditor tried calling an emergency services number again and still had no luck connecting. Subsequently, an Apple representative told him to give it 5 minutes.

“After almost three minutes of nothing, it started to ring, and 911 picked up.

I imagine this behavior is the same on older versions of watchOS also (like when I originally tested), I probably just didn’t wait long enough. I still submitted my diagnostics, because really 2+ minutes for a call to start connecting seems extremely excessive, but the ultimate takeaway here is if you are somewhere without your phone and have to call 911, it WILL WORK, it’s just slow. Hopefully it can be improved with a software update. I am told I will receive an update from the engineers once they check out my logs.”

If this feature works consistently, it may make for a very appealing reason for customer to get one instead of the GPS-only version.

[via AppleInsider]

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  • sukisszoze

    That’s cool..wonder if it works under unsupported carrier like Rogers.

  • I didn’t know the Watch could do this, but this has also been a thing with phones forever. If you have some 15 year old flip phone packed away, it can still call 911 as well without a SIM or anything. This applies to all phones.

  • Bill___A

    Makes sense since it is a “phone” with a SIM card in it. Most, if not all devices can make emergency calls even when they aren’t in service, as long as there is a mobile site on the right frequencies and protocols. That’s why you see “SOS Only” on a phone when it is not on a plan. Bear in mind, I wouldn’t count on this in an emergency, it is best to have the phone active., And 911 isn’t the emergency number worldwide.

  • Bill___A

    Probably, but where is there a Rogers site where there isn’t also a Telus and Bell site? I suppose in the tunnels of the Skytrain in Vancouver, but it is already publicized that emergency calls can be made from there if you are not on Rogers.

  • I think the delay may have to do with the fact that the ? Watch is LTE only and has an eSIM:
    The watch needs to find a network that will let it place the call through VoLTE, and a network that has support for eSIM.

  • MikeOxlong

    Well duh! Every single cellular device must be capable of dialing emergency services regardless of having a plan, a sim card, or anything. How is this news?

  • Bill___A

    Now, CDMA is shut down in much of Canada and Analog too, so this is not going to work unless the phone is capable of connecting to current frequencies and technologies. 2G will be shut down too in the coming months. it is true that these phones all would do this at one time, but there are not the same networks in place that there always were. And I am not sure if it can without a sim, but it can without an active sim…

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