by Jim Lynch

Apple Watch 2: Who cares about cellular connectivity?

Aug 22, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsSmartwatchesWearables

The Apple Watch 2 probably isn’t going to have a cellular connection according to Bloomberg. But how many people actually care about their watch connecting to cellular networks?

If you’ve been following media coverage of the Apple Watch 2 you probably noticed quite a lot of blather about the possibility of the watch being able to connect to cellular networks. A cellular connection via the Apple Watch 2 has become the holy grail of some in the technology media.

Bloomberg is one of the latest media outlets to try to wring some page views out of the Apple Watch 2 cellular connection drama. I’ll share my thoughts below, but here’s some of what Bloomberg had to say about the Apple Watch 2:

Apple Inc. has hit roadblocks in making major changes that would connect its Watch to cellular networks and make it less dependent on the iPhone, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The company still plans to announce new watch models this fall boasting improvements to health tracking.

Ever since its inception, network carriers have been urging Apple to release a version of the watch that can connect to data networks independent of the iPhone, and the Cupertino, California-based company had been working to untether it from the handset, one of the people said. As it is now the watch must be synced with an iPhone to download most types of content and consistently track location.

Apple had been in talks this year with mobile phone carriers in the U.S. and Europe to add cellular connectivity to the watch, according to people familiar with the talks. A cellular chip would have theoretically allowed the product to download sports score alerts, e-mail and mapping information while out of an iPhone’s reach.

The source of the delay is that current cellular chips consume too much battery life, reducing the product’s effectiveness and limiting user appeal, according to three of the people. Apple has begun studying lower-power cellular data chips for future smartwatch generations.

More at Bloomberg

The Bloomberg article drew a cutting response from John Gruber at Daring Fireball:

Since when does Apple take advice from network carriers? And of course Apple is working to add cellular networking to Apple Watch. The question at hand is only whether they had actually hoped to add to this year’s new models. I highly doubt that.

The tone of Bloomberg’s report is that it’s a disappointment, even within Apple, that the new Apple Watches won’t have cellular networking. Consumers may well be disappointed, but within Apple I don’t think there was ever any serious hope that cellular networking would arrive before the third or even fourth generation models.

The whole thing feels to me like Bloomberg wanted to have a story on the new Apple Watch, but the one and only fact they had is the addition of GPS, which has been widely rumored all year. That’s it. So since they couldn’t make a story out of what the new Apple Watch is going to have, they instead spun a story about a feature it almost certainly was never going to have.

More at Daring Fireball

Gruber’s commentary is spot on about Bloomberg’s article. It’s clearly an attempt to turn a big nothing burger into some page views by suggesting that lack of cellular connectivity is somehow shocking or disappointing.

Apple Watch 2: Why I don’t care about cellular connectivity

I’ve been watching this obsession with separating the Apple Watch from the iPhone for a while now. But I think it’s a rather dumb idea, and there’s no way I’d want to sacrifice battery longevity on my watch to use it independently of my iPhone by adding a cellular connection.

It also makes me wonder if people who are barking about the need for cellular connectivity on the Apple Watch 2 have actually thought through the entire issue. For example, how many times are people out and about without their iPhones anyway?

Seriously, think of your own phone carrying habits. How often do you leave the house without your iPhone? I can’t even remember the last time I left my iPhone at home. So why is it so important for the Apple Watch to become independent of the iPhone when everybody is carrying their iPhones with them most of the time anyway?

Also, how many people are going to want to pay their mobile carrier yet another fee for a cellular watch connection? I certainly wouldn’t do it, it wouldn’t be worth the money for my needs. But the possibility of more fees certainly has the cellular carriers salivating and that explains why they are probably nagging Apple to add it to the Apple Watch.

No Apple Watch can completely replace the iPhone

Another reason why I roll my eyes at the media’s obsession with the Apple Watch getting a cellular connection is that no watch can ever replace my phone completely.

Yes, the Apple Watch can do some of the things my iPhone can do, and that’s part of why I use the watch. It saves me from having to take my phone out to answer a text message, take a call and do certain other things.

But there is no way any watch could ever completely replace my iPhone. There are some things that I need the larger iPhone screen to do, and that is not going to change if the Apple Watch gets a cellular connection.

I can’t imagine how much it would stink to be totally reliant on the small screen of my Apple Watch for everything. Anything beyond at-a-glance information and interaction would be frustrating or impossible to do, and that is why I would still carry my iPhone with me anyway.

The Apple Watch 2 will be great without a cellular connection

I’m very much looking forward to the Apple Watch 2, and I’m not worried in the least about it not having cellular connectivity. That function is so far down my list of Apple Watch priorities that I really couldn’t care less about it.

I’m looking forward to improved health sensors, a faster processor and whatever other tweaks Apple makes to the Apple Watch. Apple has learned a lot from the first generation Apple Watch, and I think the company will release an Apple Watch 2 that builds on all of that.

I fully understand that there are some folks out there who might want or need a cellular connection on their Apple Watches. But I think they are a small minority compared to those of us who don’t want or need it. Eventually I can see Apple adding cellular connectivity to the Apple Watch, but it probably won’t happen for another generation or two or three.

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