In reports published over the last few days, we’ve learned that the Apple Watch 3’s biggest change is going to be the addition of an LTE radio. It’s supposed to take the Apple Watch from a fancy iPhone accessory and turn it into a grown-up independent gadget. But Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at KGI Securities and one of the most respected Apple crystal-ball-gazers, claims that it will be lacking the rather important ability to make phone calls.
In a note, Kuo confirms previous reporting that the Watch 3 will have an LTE radio, but inserts a number of caveats. The chipset will be made by Qualcomm, not Intel; there won’t be a physical SIM, as it’ll use Apple’s eSIM tech; and it will only have an LTE radio with no ability to make phone calls.
It’s a slightly curious move, since right now, the Apple Watch can make phone calls, provided it’s linked to your iPhone. Providing the Watch 3 with standalone data capabilities, but still requiring tethering to a phone for phone calls, would represent an unacceptable compromise for Apple. Either you’d have an inconsistent experience that wouldn’t make sense to the users, or you’d have to go backwards and strip out the ability to make phone calls from the Watch altogether, upsetting users who are upgrading.
The use of an eSIM is an obvious move for Apple: it saves precious space in the wearable, and limits the design differences between the non-LTE and LTE versions of the Watch 3. Using a Qualcomm chip over Intel is also just a design decision, as Kuo claims that the Qualcomm chipset uses less power than Intel’s version.
KGI predicts that Apple will ship 18 million Apple Watch units this year, with around 9 million of those being the new Apple Watch 3 later this year. Not all of those will be LTE models, however.