Will You Spend the Cash for an Apple Watch With LTE?

BY Evan Selleck

Published 4 Aug 2017

An LTE-enabled Apple Watch always felt inevitable, but now that a new report has surfaced suggesting it could launch as early as this year, some questions have to be asked.

Earlier today, Bloomberg reported that Apple is planning on launching an Apple Watch variant, probably the Apple Watch Series 3, with built-in LTE connectivity. Apple wouldn’t be the first smartwatch manufacturer to do this (as I’m sure Samsung will be more than happy to remind people later this year), but one has to wonder if Apple has been waiting to launch its own smartwatch with cellular connectivity until it could get a few different things locked down.

Price and battery life, specifically.

Following the news today, I watched several different people on Twitter go back-and-forth on whether or not the Apple Watch with LTE was going to have this one thing, or lose this other thing, and, perhaps more than anything else, if Apple had figured out a way to convince wireless carriers to offer cellular connectivity without charging subscribers for it. Amazon has done it with its Kindle e-reader lineup, but, well, Apple is going to sell the LTE-connected Apple Watch as an Apple Music streaming device, so that last one seems pretty well answered. (Carriers love their data plans!)

Like I said above, a cellular-connected Apple Watch was inevitable, and Apple has been moving in that direction since the beginning. It doubled down on it with the Apple Watch Series 2, in fact. The focus on fitness and exercise for the wearable painted a pretty clear picture that Apple would create a wearable that wasn’t so flatly tied to the iPhone. After all, not everyone wants to carry their phone with them when they go to work out, or for a run. So this was (probably) always going to happen.

But the question of battery life is a pertinent one. The Apple Watch, for most, can probably get through a full day of usage, and for others it might not. Personally I never had a problem with the battery life on my Apple Watch, but I’ll be the first to admit that I basically turned off notifications, never used apps on it, and only ever really interacted with it to control music playback.

I honestly believe that Apple may have wanted to launch a cellular-connected Apple Watch right out of the gate, but it knew it couldn’t get good enough battery life. And we’ve heard rumors that Apple had wanted to sell an LTE-connected smartwatch last year, too. But, again, I think battery life played a big role in that “delay.” So, if Apple does plan on launching an Apple Watch with LTE this year, I have to believe it’s because they think it has good enough battery life.

Which means, more than likely, that it will get the same battery life as the Apple Watch Series 2, which doesn’t have an LTE connection. Some people will see that as a good thing, others might not.

Price is going to play a big role in this, too, probably. The Apple Watch Series 2 with a 42mm band is $399. It isn’t cheap. And as we’ve seen with other Apple products that have a cellular connection, that price will go up by some amount, which means the 42mm Apple Watch Series 3 could cost just over $500. For the model with a Sports band. I can’t help but think that’s a bit of a hard sell.

Maybe Apple doesn’t plan on charging that much. But I would be more surprised if they didn’t.

Here’s another option: Variants upon variants. Tiers, even. We sort of saw this with the OG Apple Watch/Series 1/Series 2, but obviously that OG Apple Watch wasn’t meant to be sold as a “new” device anymore after the Series 1 and Series 2 landed on the scene. Apple could offer an Apple Watch Series 3 without GPS/LTE, in a slightly thinner frame, that also offers up the best possible battery life. And then maybe there’s a GPS-only model, basically the Apple Watch Series 2 in its current state but with hardware upgrades. Finally, the top-tier Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS an LTE, which might get a bit worse battery life than the other variants, but it has “all the options.”

If anything, this is going to be another Apple product I’m looking forward to seeing how they sell it. I didn’t even get into the wireless carriers, who will charge to even have the privilege of putting the Apple Watch with LTE on your plan, plus also charge you for the data connection to make it worthwhile. I don’t see Apple convincing them to give that data access away for free, but this is Apple and stranger things have happened.

So I guess the only thing left to ask is this: Are you now planning on picking up an LTE-equipped Apple Watch if/when it launches? Or is this one model you’ll skip?