Smartwatches can help you with a litany of tasks straight from the wrist, but until now they’ve depended on your smartphone for life support.
With LTE beginning to make its mark on devices such as the LG Watch Sport, Huawei Watch 2 and Samsung Gear S3, though, watches are finally cutting the tether and letting users go standalone.
And while this is a feature that has been available in smartwatches for some time, now that Apple has brought it to the Apple Watch Series 3, this is finally expected to go mainstream.
But just what does it all mean, and is it worth shelling out cash for the added feature? Well, read on to find out everything you need to know about LTE in smartwatches.
What is LTE?
Yeah, just what the hell is it? Well, essentially Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the latest, fastest standard for 4G wireless communication between devices.
In smartwatch terms, this allows you to connect to cellular networks and take calls, use apps, receive and send messages and take part in all the other usual smartphone frivolities – without your smartphone being nearby. If you go out on a run, you’ll no longer need to miss out on a call or text, while leaving a phone at home becomes a genuine option for those interested.
The Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE has an eSim inside the device. That means you can take phone calls (on the same number as your iPhone), use Siri, Apple Maps and third party apps when you’re away from your phone. Plus you can stream Apple Music tracks over 4G. And there’s a red accent on the crown to tell it apart from its non LTE sibling.
There are a couple of caveats, though. In order for your smartwatch to mimic your phone, it has to be able to connect to the same network carrier. And for those wanting to their phone behind, taking calls from the wrist requires you to link the same number as your smartphone.
Will I need to pay more?
As you might expect, this all depends on the carrier you decide to go with. Although LTE gives your watch the opportunity to go it alone, deals will often be bundled with a smartphone, since you need to be rocking the same network and the two go hand in hand.
But again, the answer is generally yes for those with a data plan. Let’s use the LG Watch Sport as an example. Despite being sold unlocked through the Google Store for those who aren’t interested in the device’s LTE tricks, tacking it onto a Verizon phone plan will cost users an extra $5 a month. Meanwhile, AT&T offer the same premise but for a further $10 per month.
An added complication of this is exclusivity. Using the LG Watch Sport as an example once more, different colour variations are only available through certain networks, meaning you could miss out on a specific finish if you’re already locked in to another provider via your smartphone.
In US, the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE will be offered with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Horizon contracts and in the UK it’s an EE exclusive. We don’t have any pricing yet but expect to see some bundles with the new iPhone 8 and iPhone X plans.
Does LTE affect battery?
Deciphering which sensors and what activity affects your battery is always a tough game, but the answer is, well, yes — using LTE will generally sap your battery faster than if you weren’t using it.
Apple’s new Series 3 is just 0.25mm thicker than the Series 2 and Apple is saying we should expect “all day battery life” which we’d estimate at 18 hours from previous models.
What we often see from devices harbouring LTE is a bigger battery (and unfortunately a bigger build) in order to offset the power it’s taking up. Also, if you’re looking to save battery and eke out a few more hours in the day, simply switching to a feature-slimmed down mode on your device should help you out.
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