There was a lot of hype surrounding the Apple Watch upon its 2014 launch, but the excitement waned as experts questioned its usefulness and heavy reliance on a nearby iPhone.
Three years ago, many media outlets took the angle of the Apple Watch being the company’s first completely new product category under CEO Tim Cook, saying its success would validate his place at the head of the company. Some analysts believed the smartwatch would eventually surpass the success of the iPad, which had just reached 200 million units sold.
But at the same time, a friend of mine in the IT industry said something that I’ve never heard a good rebuttal for: “For $350, why don’t I just stick my hand in my pocket and pull out my phone?”
And for the last three years, he’s been right. Newer models of the Apple Watch have come down in price, but its reliance on the user’s iPhone — which must be in close proximity to the watch to get cellular connectivity — still hinders its practicality and convenience. Unless your Apple Watch is connected to Wi-Fi, you need your iPhone nearby for anything that requires an internet connection, including checking messages, emails and receiving other notifications. Why not just use your phone and save the money?
Apple plans to address this issue this fall when it gives the Apple Watch LTE connectivity by putting Intel LTE modems in the smartwatches, according to Bloomberg. By removing a reason for people not to buy the device, Apple Watch LTE connectivity could boost adoption.
“This will inspire another wave of people getting excited about smartwatches,” said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of research firm Moor Insights and Strategy in Austin, Texas.
Some competing smartwatches already have LTE connectivity, including the Samsung Gear S and the LG Watch Urbane Second Edition. These products haven’t taken over the smartwatch market, but Apple’s uncanny ability to draw users to capabilities that competitors already have should be no different here.
For IT departments, this means employees will bring in more internet-connected devices, which means more endpoints for data to get out of IT’s umbrella of control.
“IT people should be aware of it just like they should be aware of anything that has LTE today,” Moorhead said. “They don’t need to be on your network.”
There is still a good amount of questions that users need answered.
Aside from making calls, will the watch be able to do everything the phone can do completely on its own?
Will users have to pay for a separate data plan for the watch? That could sway people away from buying it, depending on the cost.
How much battery life will LTE connection guzzle up? Battery life is already a sensitive topic when it comes to the device, so this could be a big issue.
Will Apple make the watches larger to fit bigger batteries inside? There are people who wouldn’t mind larger watches, as long as they’re not too clunky.
Apple will need time to get the LTE experience right, Moorhead said.
“I don’t think the first implementation will be perfect,” he said. “But it’ll be an important move for down the road.”