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I don’t think T-Mobile understands how the new Apple Watch works

Apple Watch Cellular best plan

Apple has a shiny new Apple Watch, and this one has an LTE radio. Only an LTE radio, mind you, because anything slower than LTE is not worth using. Someone should probably have taken the time to explain this to T-Mobile.

You see, T-Mobile’s new $10/month wearables plan is permanently throttled to 512Kbps, or half a megabit per second. That’s 3G speeds, about the same as you get on airplane Wi-Fi. It’s fast enough to check emails and get texts or calls, but slow enough to make everything else a pain.

The throttled speed is shown in the terms and conditions of the T-Mobile One wearables plan, and is clearly disclosed when you go to sign up for the plan. A T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed the details to me, and gave a (bad) reason for it. “The default plan is limited to 512kbps, as it provides the data speed necessary to do everything on the watch. That said, if customers feel they need high-speed data, they can choose high-speed data with paired DIGITS for $20 with autopay.”

That destroys the usability of the watch, at least with the $10 plan. Something like a Siri query — probably the thing you want to do the most on your Watch — will take way longer, as data has to be uploaded to the server and the response returned. Streaming music without a phone will also be tediously slow. To be blunt, if Apple wanted the watch to be 3G, it would have put a (cheaper, more efficient) 3G radio inside.

Worse, none of the other big four carriers have suggested that they’ll slow speeds on the LTE Apple Watch. That makes T-Mobile the lone company taking a dedicated stand against LTE wearables, all while proclaiming loudly that its network is the best. Something doesn’t add up here.