Sticking an LTE modem in Apple Watch is pointless

apple watch
Image credit: Lukas Gojda /

The problem with wearables that I described nearly four years ago – in essence, a solution looking for a problem – continues to plague wearables, with Fitbit struggling along and sector consolidation. Even Apple seems out of ideas with its Apple Watch.

If the rumor machine citing endless anonymous sources is to believed, Apple’s next version of the Apple Watch will feature a LTE modem. This will give the device independence from the iPhone, meaning that the user won’t have to have the iPhone in immediate proximity for the device to work.

But I think that putting a LTE modem is pointless, and could even harm what little appeal the product has.

This is for two reasons:

1. In the US (and I suspect Europe is similar), users are now glued to their smartphones for an average of 300 minutes per day (according to Flurry). This essentially means that users keep their smartphones in their immediate vicinity at all times and will go to great inconvenience to ensure that that remains the case. As a result, there is only a tiny period (if any) of time when the smartphone is out of Bluetooth range of the user and hence any wearable that he has on him.

Therefore, the inclusion of a cellular modem will be able to improve the functionality of the Apple Watch for only a tiny percentage of the user’s day. This renders it effectively useless, in my opinion.

2. A LTE modem (even with a soft SIM) is going to cost money, take up space that could be something used for something else, and will be a net drain on the battery. Battery life is a major issue for all wearables (including the Apple Watch) and the addition of a modem will place a further drain on already very limited resources. Hence, I think that a modem will cause deterioration of the user experience for no perceptible improvement.

What Apple should really be working on is a use case or function for this product that makes it a must-have, causing everyone to rush out and buy it. This is the genius for which Apple has been known in the past, but of which there has not been much sign over the last few years – certainly not with this product.

Consequently, I hope that like the large-screen TV and the vehicle, this product never sees the light of day. Instead, I am looking for a use case that can really kick start the wearable market. Without that spark of genius, it is likely to continue bumbling along with little real interest or volume.

This article was originally published on RadioFreeMobile

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