And, here we go again! In my post about things that I wanted the Apple Watch Series 6 to have, I said it really needed to have international data roaming – for me at least. Yet, here we are with another new Apple Watch, best yet (of course), and it still is not built for international travelers on cellular.
Apple Watch Series 6 LTE NOT Good for International Travel
I know – the year 2020 is not one for international travel. But, it is picking up, very slowly, and will be back to a somewhat new norm within the next 12 months. This means that it would have been a great time to introduce an Apple Watch that offered international roaming but, again, it does not.
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.
Still No International Roaming for Apple Watch LTE Models
Just like three years ago when the Series 3 was released and then two years ago with the Apple Watch Series 4 and last year with Apple Watch Series 5, Apple has kept with restricting their LTE watches to their home network area. This means no roaming outside of that network area.
In spite of the fact that there are just two LTE models for worldwide use (see which countries are using which models), Apple is still holding to the no roaming. Here it is in their words – “Wireless service plan required for cellular service. Contact your service provider for more details. International roaming is not supported.”
Like the Series 5 last year, the new Apple Watch models will support international SOS so at least we have that if we are without phones. But, do not think you can travel out of the US with Verizon and leave your phone at the hotel while out on a quick jog – and have your Apple Watch get data.
Why Is Apple Doing This?
The technology is definitely here to allow for international roaming – in fact, Apple could let it be added as a data device instead of essentially cloning the number of the phone it is tied to. This would mean you would not get phone calls to that phone number but you could send iMessages, make FaceTime audio calls, get directions, check on flight status, and more from your Apple Watch, sans phone.
The real reason that Apple must be doing this likely has something more to do with protecting the carriers. This is an uncharge service fee for carriers for really not all that much in what is being offered. I mean, you are not downloading 1GB of data to your Apple Watch in a month!
The good thing is that Apple has their own eSim for international/domestic data use in their iPads so maybe we are not too far away from the time that Apple themselves will offer plans for the Apple Watch. This would be something I would be interested in.
Allowing for International Roaming Would Be a Big Deal
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.
Sure, your watch battery would take a hit but I would absolutely trade that for the ability to leave the phone at home/hotel while heading out for a bit. Not only would that help me travel around a bit lighter but it would also keep a very expensive safe from pickpockets – but there is no way I am leaving my phone back if I cannot get data on my watch.
To see the full list of providers and countries that the LTE watch will work in, check out this link.
Sure, everything else on the Apple Watch will work abroad – but it would just be even better with global LTE capability!
The One Exception
However, there is one thing that Apple did last year and kept 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.
If the new Apple Watch offered international roaming capability, would that be a big enough reason to go cellular?