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.