With LTE connection, new Apple Watch ready to be free from iPhone’s gravity

Amid the buzz surrounding the 10th anniversary iPhone, which is expected to be unveiled Tuesday, the new Apple Watch has flown under the radar.

But if the rumors are true, the new Apple Watch will have an LTE cellular connection. The new feature means Watch users will no longer have to carry an iPhone nearby to receive notifications or use select apps.

The addition of LTE connection is likely to differentiate the Watch from its competition, including Fitbit’s upcoming Ionic smartwatch. But despite the improvement, it won’t be enough to eat into iPhone’s coffers and become a standalone smartphone replacement.

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“Apple Watch is not going to cannibalize iPhone sales,” said Boston-based IDC analyst John Jackson. “For the Watch, it’s an interesting tactic. But I would strongly suspect that they believe a standalone Watch is no way a threat to the world’s most sought smartphone.”

While iPhones remain the lifeblood of Apple’s success as the most profitable tech company in the world, Apple Watch has a strong following of its own. The Watch has cornered the high-end segment of the smartwatch market.

But Apple does face rising competition. It currently trails Chinese company Xiaomi — which makes inexpensive wearables — in worldwide wearable shipments, according to data from IDC. While Apple does not disclose its Watch sales, the market analytics firm Canalys estimated Apple sold 11.9 million Watches, or 49 percent of all smartwatches, in 2016.

In addition to the LTE connection, other speculation about Watch additions include a FaceTime camera, glucose monitoring, water resistance and sleep tracking.

At the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple promised a new WatchOS operating system, which will get a Siri-influenced interface, a new Music app and more workout trackers.

Analysts were mixed about the Watch’s progress. Some were encouraged that Apple is moving the Watch into becoming a more standalone product.

“It’s a natural next step for the Watch and it becomes far more a standalone point,” said CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber. “The timing is certainly right. I think to Apple aficionados, in some usages, will use more of the Watch on a daily basis.”

But others remained skeptical that it will have mass appeal. Even with the Watch becoming more independent with an LTE connection, the scenarios in which users will exclusively the Watch over an iPhone remained slim.

“Unless I’m doing sports or something active, I might use it, but I don’t feel as comfortable,” said Creative Strategies’ consumer tech analyst Carolina Milanesi. “Are there going to be scenarios that direct connectivity to cellular improve my experience? Do I really need another connection on my cellular plan for my Watch? I need to figure out what it does for me first. I’m happy to be proven wrong.”

Jackson mused that the new Watch may have utility in certain blue-collar occupations, such as construction or warehouse logistics. Rather than lugging around a smartphone to receive specific notifications, workers can peer down at their wrist for new information without breaking a stride at work.

“I could envision a number of cases of jobs where they don’t need a smartphone,” said Jackson. “I suspect an enterprise angle in the future.”

Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California. Apple announced the new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

 

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  • RF9

    “Unless I’m doing sports or something active, I might use it, but I don’t feel as comfortable,” said Creative Strategies’ consumer tech analyst Carolina Milanesi. “Are there going to be scenarios that direct connectivity to cellular improve my experience? Do I really need another connection on my cellular plan for my Watch? I need to figure out what it does for me first. I’m happy to be proven wrong.”

    This feature is almost specifically for people doing sports so they can leave their phone at home or in a locker and go do their workout or run without bringing the phone along. Apple Watch Series 2 addressed this with GPS, but not connectivity. LTE will address that missing feature>
    It’s not a phone replacement.
    As for another connection, the carriers have cellular watch plans. For example, Verizon has $5 line fee for a cellular watch (the ones they currently sell and support.)
    They also have phone number bonding features which allow your phone’s and watch to share the same phone number (event though they technically have separate ones.)
    https://www.verizonwireless.com/support/numbershare-faqs/

    I believe this will appeal to a niche. I for one am quite excited to be able to go running without lugging my phone and stay connected.
    I’m sure a lot of other athletes, as well as professionals that leave their phones aside while working (nurses, waitresses) might appreciate the LTE backup.

 
 
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