Apple tends to slow walk new technology into the growing ecosystem. By slow walk I mean Apple takes its time to get new features and functions just right before a launch. Samsung often launches new features a year or so before Apple but Apple tends to have more success with the slow walk approach.
2016’s Galaxy Note 7 flaming battery debacle is a good example of living on the bleeding edge.
All the talk in recent months points to Apple releasing a 4G LTE Watch later this year with Watch Series 3. It’s not what you think it is. Apple’s slow walk approach means Apple Watch with 4G LTE will be data only, not voice calls. For that, you’ll still need a nearby iPhone. The same holds true with iPads that have built-in 4G LTE. Data only. Voice calls require a nearby iPhone.
Additionally, Apple charges an extra $129 for 4G LTE in an iPad so expect a Watch with 4G LTE built in to have a similar bump in price. Thank Qualcomm’s onerous licensing fees for that.
Still, there are benefits to a Watch with 4G LTE.
- Exercise – GPS is built-in to Watch Series 2 already, and coupled with 4G LTE data means all kinds of information can be captured, stored, processed, and uploaded automatically.
- Apple Pay – I can’t image going to many places where a purchase can be made on Apple Pay and not having an iPhone in my pocket, but some Apple customers travel lighter.
- Siri – I like Siri in the iOS 11 beta, and with an improved microphone and speaker, Siri on Watch with 4G LTE data could be an improvement over the hand-holding intermediary required with iPhone.
- Maps – Thanks to the slow local connection between Watch and iPhone, Maps on Watch are almost worthless, but 4G LTE could make them useful again.
- Phone Calls – I don’t expect carrier phone calls to show up on Watch 4G LTE’s first generation. Think of Watch as a very tiny iPad. 4G LTE data, yes. Phone calls, no.
That list brings me to the crux of Apple Watch. It’s an accessory. Nothing more. As an accessory Watch excels at fitness tracking, alerts, alarms, and notifications. It can be handy to answer and make calls but that requires a nearby iPhone. Apple Pay works well, too, but it’s a lousy device to read news, manage email, browse the web, or anything else that is typical for iPhone and iPad. Screen real estate matters.
Watch with 4G LTE is no game changer. Yet. But the iPod Effect is clearly a thing. Apple Watch is showing up everywhere these days. Watch with 4G LTE fully standalone and not fully tethered to iPhone might have some legs.