Since the introduction of LTE (or cellular) capability to the Apple Watch back in Apple Watch Series 3, this model has been a nice way for users to not have to carry a phone. Sure, we all likely carry our phones most of the time but it can be freeing to go out for a run or just a walk around town while not needing the phone to be in touch.
The New Apple Watch Series 5 LTE Still Will Not Work for International Travel without the iPhone
Just like two years ago when the Series 3 was released and then last year with the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple has kept with restricting their LTE watches to their home network area. This means no roaming outside of that network area.
Instead of the previous 3 LTE variants with the Series 3 for various regions, the Apple Watch Series 5 comes in 2 separate models for various regions around the world. Essentially, North America will choose one mode while the rest of the world will choose the other model.
If you want to use your Apple Watch Series 5 LTE in the US and you are on a regular plan with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile, you are good to go for traveling in the US and getting coverage.
But, if you want to travel outside of the US and still have that same freedom with just using your watch for communication, you will be disappointed with this Apple Watch – again. I thought for sure that Apple would make this roaming-capable since it opens up for more people to get use out of it.
But, that would mean that their carriers they partner with may not be happy since they would lose that $10 per month (or so) add-on for using the Apple Watch LTE. Still, with Apple pushing the eSIM technology into their phones after already having it on their iPads, I am sure we will see roaming capability with the Apple Watch at some point (the Apple Watch does have the eSIM technology, but it is not for activating with any carrier).
From Apple About Roaming with Apple Watch
Here is what Apple has to say about the roaming ability (or lack thereof) of the Apple Watch Series 5. “Coverage dependent on carrier network. Roaming is not available outside your carrier network coverage area.” Also, they say this – “They have been optimized for use in the country of purchase, and not all models work in all countries or regions. There is no single model that supports roaming worldwide.”
This could be for several reasons – they want to make carriers happy, they want to keep battery life expectations higher, they aren’t ready to squeeze radios in with that many bands, or, in typical Apple fashion, they want to keep that for next year to make sure you upgrade!
This is important (the roaming capability) for several reasons. I mean, imagine going out for a nice run and pulling up a route on your watch, calling an Uber if need be, receiving a phone call from your travel partner, getting directions, handling messages – all while on your international travels and just using your watch.
To see the full list of providers and countries that the LTE watch will work in, check out this link.
The One Exception
However, there is one thing that Apple did this year – they made all the watches to be able to call emergency services worldwide without an iPhone being present. While definitely not as good as international roaming, this is definitely an improvement. It makes it easier now to go out for a run anywhere in the world without carrying an iPhone but still being able to get emergency help if something goes wrong. So, this is a step and hopefully next year will allow for actual worldwide roaming.