Apple Watch Loses Cellular Connectivity In China, Spooking Investors

Enlarge  You can now make calls from your Apple Watch without the phone nearby

The Apple Watch Series 3, which was introduced in September, comes with cellular connectivity, allowing users to make calls and access apps and online services without having to rely on an iPhone for internet access.

"We were informed by China Unicom that the new cellular feature on the Apple Watch Series 3 has been suspended", Apple said in a statement.

Customers who signed up for LTE prior to the termination are, so far, unaffected - but LTE is no longer an option for new subscribers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The new 3 Series Apple Watch uses an eSim, as any other type of SIM card - even a Nano-SIM - would be too large to fit inside the Watch.

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That was three whole weeks ago, mind you, and China Unicom, as well as the local government agency in charge of wireless regulation, are yet to offer a reasonable, plausible explanation for the feature-crippling move.

Series 3 devices are paired with a mobile device on an existing plan and use their embedded eSIM to connect to wireless service when the mobile phone isn't nearby or is turned off. Questions remain about how carriers and government officials will track an Apple Watch owner's identity.

"The eSIM (system) isn't mature enough yet in China", one analyst told the WSJ. And while the state previously approved trial certificates for Apple Watch LTE functionality in August, no formal certification was given. The eSIM is embedded in the watch by Apple, not by carriers. Since the eSIMs in Apple Watches aren't given out by the Chinese government, it likely doesn't know how to regulate the eSIMs yet, nor does it know how to validate the identity of the Apple Watch user. None of the three carriers commented on the suspension. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has been cracking down harder on the use of VPN services for almost a year in efforts to regulate the websites accessible by its citizens. According to analysts, that's a process that could take months.

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