Cellular Apple Watch Coming This Fall

5 August 2017

Bloomberg:

Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home.

Apple is already in talks with carriers in the U.S. and Europe about offering the cellular version, the people added.

I think pretty much everyone would see benefits from the Apple Watch gaining a cellular connection, and it would easily be the most popular model of Watch if there were no strings attached beyond the upfront sale price.

That isn’t the case, though. The carrier situation is the crux of this product. It is very unlikely that LTE service on Apple Watch would be free. An Apple Watch has the potential to eat up a lot of data: you can make FaceTime Audio calls, download videos and photos over iMessage, stream music and much more.

What monthly contract price is acceptable for this ancillary device? US carriers let customers add tablets to their phone plans for $10 per month. Could carriers charge $10 per watch? That seems exorbitantly high. Maybe $5 a month is low enough not to deter buyers.

I could maybe see Apple negotiate a special super cheap deal with an underdog carrier that is very inexpensive but functionally limited. T-Mobile is the kind of carrier that I can envision being open to something like this; a $1/month deal that allows Watch users to get email, send iMessages and sync reminders … but still requires a paired phone for data-hungry services like FaceTime Audio calls and Apple Music.

Unfortunately, that kind of arrangement requires tough negotiation and even if they get someone to say yes, only applies to a select region of the worldwide. Perhaps the cellular Apple Watch will kickstart a new subsidised smartwatch market with ‘unlimited’ data, lower initial costs, and two year contracts.

Speaking about oneself for a moment, I have no interest in a cellular Watch where I have to pay anything above a couple pounds for a data plan. My current SIM-only phone plan costs me £8 a month; I am doubtful the cellular Watch contracts will be inexpensive relative to that level.