Apple Watch with LTE might not make phone calls on its own

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Apple Watch goal
Apple Watch Series 3 might add LTE (in addition to other cool features).
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The rumored Apple Watch with LTE may not work for phone calls, according to new research from a reliable Apple analyst. Instead, Apple will focus on improving the user experience with the untethered wearable.

That’s the main takeaway from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. However, his Wednesday research note offers other predictions about the upcoming hardware update.

“Technologically, while it’s feasible for LTE Apple Watch to support voice service & replace iPhones’ phone function, we think it must first improve the user experience of data transmission (not via iPhone),” wrote Kuo in a note obtained by Apple Insider.

Currently, the Apple Watch must be paired with an iPhone (or connected to a trusted Wi-Fi network) for its data functions to work. While the limitation hampers the smartwatch’s capabilities as a fitness tracker, the device’s overall sluggishness affects far more owners. A dedicated LTE connection would bring a welcome boost to Apple Watch functionality. It would allow owners to stream music and carry out other data-centric tasks without carrying an iPhone. However, it also presumably would add a new monthly fee to users bills.

What to expect from Apple Watch with LTE

Kuo, who Cult of Mac dubbed “the best Apple analyst on the planet,” says disabling support for calls would simplify negotiations with cellphone carriers and free up Apple to ditch 3G connectivity. Adding only an LTE antenna would decrease costs and make cramming new hardware into the Apple Watch easier.

In addition, Kuo predicts Apple will use eSIM technology (like the embedded Apple SIM used in newer iPad Pros) instead of a physical SIM card. That would save space inside the device, but could limit it to certain countries and carriers.

Kuo also predicted Apple will use Qualcomm baseband chips because Intel’s competitor isn’t as efficient. This contradicts earlier reporting by CNBC and Bloomberg that “Intel will supply the modems required for cellular capability on the Apple Watch.”

Counter to some predictions, Kuo says untethering Apple Watch from iPhone won’t lead to Android compatibility, at least not now.

New Apple Watch features and watchOS 4

The upcoming hardware upgrade is predicted to be called Apple Watch Series 3. While it supposedly will add LTE, the Apple Watch form factor reportedly will remain the same.

The next-gen Apple Watch should roll out next month alongside new iPhones. We expect a completely redesigned iPhone 8 as well as iPhone 7s and 7s Plus models. Those should roll out alongside final versions of Apple operating systems, including iOS 11 and watchOS 4.

watchOS 4 will bring new Activity functionality along with new watchfaces and other enhancements. For more information on all the new features coming in the next version of Apple Watch software, read our post (Hands on: Does watchOS 4 give Apple Watch what it needs?) or watch our video below.

  • watchOS 4 will bring new Activity functionality along with new watchfaces.

  • nnmns

    Apple needs to build in capability of warning us when we walk away from our phones! I understand it’s challenging and may never be perfect but certainly they could do a pretty good job and they should!