#Trending: LTE smartwatches are about to hit the mainstream

Apple's latest move is set to send the connected feature into the stratosphere
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Hey, did you hear the news - the Apple Watch Series 3 will come packed with LTE, meaning the smartwatch has the potential to finally break free from the phone.

Although the feature is now housed within the flagship device of the world's most popular watchmaker, it's actually something that, believe it or not, has been available in rival devices for some time. As we all know, though, when Apple does something, it's usually to a higher standard or simply attracts more attention because of the name power.

Hands-on: Apple Watch Series 3 review

The LTE Series 3 also marks a potential tipping point for all devices that come after it, so let's explore what Apple's latest move means for the wider smartwatch scene.

Hold up, what is LTE and what does it do?

In its simplest terms, Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the newest fastest standard for 4G wireless communication. And in smartwatch terms, this means you can connect to cellular networks in order to take calls, use apps and receive/send messages - all without your smartphone being close by.

In the Apple Watch Series 3's case this mean making and taking calls, sending and getting messages, using Siri, Apple Maps and third party apps not to mention streaming Apple Music away from your phone. That all sounds pretty useful.

You said Apple aren't the first?

That's right - Apple isn't the first to jump on the LTE train. One of Android Wear's premier devices, the LG Watch Sport, offers the feature — although it is slightly bulky as a result — while the older LG Watch Urbane also packed in the connectivity.

And while the otherwise middling Huawei Watch 2 and Verizon Wear24 have also slotted into this pack, perhaps the most notable entry into the LTE watch bracket was the Samsung Gear S3. Of course, since Samsung only rolled out one edition of the device, the Frontier, in limited territories, it didn't catch on like Apple hopes its Series 3 will.

#Trending: LTE smartwatches are about to hit the mainstream

Why now for Apple?

When you survey the smartwatch field, nobody has really done LTE justice just yet. Sure it's in some devices, but none of the big vendors have prioritised making this for everyone. Fitbit have outright denounced the feature, and Samsung, as we mentioned, neglected the likes of the UK and Europe.

So, from that perspective, now's the perfect time for Apple to come in, convince people why this is big deal and make it something people want.

But what is it actually doing different?

One key thing: making it global. Apple has networks already lined up in the US, Canada, Australia, China, Japan, the UK, Germany and France, already making it the most available LTE smartwatch in the space.

Now, whether it's a genuine watch-seller right off the bat remains to be seen. Either way, making untethered wrist calls like Deidre, the paddleboat woman from Apple's Keynote, was a move that was always going to come to smartwatches. Now, it feels real.

So will it become the standard across the board?

Apple has raised the bar from what we can expect from a top-tier smartwatch with its LTE addition, whether the demand is there or not. The fact is, competitors will now likely feel compelled to keep in touching distance by adding it under the hood.

We should also see a considerable shift in how smartwatch app developers build apps. Depending on sales, which we imagine will be healthy, there will be a stronger case to build true standalone Apple Watch apps.

Where do smartwatches go after this?

Great question. Truth is, whatever the next 'it' feature is in the arms race, Apple probably won't be pioneering the technology. Instead, its next move is most likely a Watch redesign, after three iterations of essentially the same look.

As for everyone else, well, the battle continues to build a challenger to the crown. And you know what they say: if you take a shot at the champ, you best not miss.

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Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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