The first Apple Watch with built in cellular connectivity, the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE, could be a godsend for people tired of having to carry their phones around in every situation.
But the promise can’t be fulfilled if, when you leave your phone behind to head to the beach, the watch can’t turn on LTE and connect for data, calls, texts, and more. That’s the experience one reviewer, The Verge’s Lauren Goode, says she had. The LTE was so inconsistent, she got another test unit.
According to Goode, she “detached [herself] from the phone, traveled blocks away from my home or office, and watched the Watch struggle to connect to LTE. It would appear to pick up a single bar of some random Wi-Fi signal, and hang on that, rather than switching to LTE.”
Goode’s Apple Watch Series 3, apparently had trouble handing off the Wi-Fi connection from her iPhone 8 to the cellular LTE network.
Apple has pinpointed the problem and sent Mashable an official statement on the matter:
We have discovered that when Apple Watch Series 3 joins unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks without connectivity, it may, at times, prevent the watch from using cellular. We are investigating a fix for a future software release.
This is surprising on many levels. Apple rarely, if ever, makes a public comment relating to product issues prior to launch, especially if it’s something they can fix slip-stream in production.
In addition, the hand-off issue sounds intermittent at most. What would have compelled Apple to make a broad, public statement? Are they concerned that all Apple Watch Series 3 LTE watches already at Apple stores in anticipation of the Friday launch will have similar issues?
The problem is, apparently, isolated to only a few cases, and it only happens when you’re near an open Wi-Fi network you’ve previously used on your iPhone or Mac, like at a Starbucks or McDonald’s. Apple Watch Series 3 LTE owners should not expect that the watch will try to connect to every single Wi-Fi network.
If it does happen, the quickest fix is to forget the network on your Mac or iPhone. Like Goode, I also tested and reviewed the new Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE (tethered to an AT&T Apple iPhone 8). I also made numerous calls while connected to my phone and through the watch’s LTE (without the phone).
I did this repeatedly. I also accessed Siri while connected only to the phone’s LTE connection, Like Goode, my Siri connection initially failed for me. However, this was because Apple forgot to install it on the test phones. I downloaded an update on my phone and updated the watch overnight. It then worked perfectly.
I was never aware of exactly when the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE was switching from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi to LTE or when it was switching from one network to another. And, seriously, why should I be? I want that kind of plumbing to be invisible and seamless.
I made calls on the watch wherever I could. I checked my schedule, asked Siri questions and got verbal answers, checked emailsm, and sent and received texts.
When I read Goode’s report, I grew concerned that maybe I had missed something. So, I went in search of open Wi-Fi networks and thready AT&T LTE connections. Walking around the city without my iPhone 8, though, the watch stubbornly held onto my AT&T LTE, usually maintaining at least two bars.
This is how I expect the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE to work. Is there an issue? Yes. It’s also isolated enough that Apple clearly has no plans to change the Apple Watch Series 3 roll-out this Friday.
Instead, the company is apparently working as quickly as it can to fix the issue, one that, as of now, I do not consider a showstopper.
I’ll be interested to hear your experiences with the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE after it starts shipping on Friday.