An LTE-enabled watch goes beyond an ordinary smartwatch. It’s no longer simply an extension of the smartphone and can function totally independently.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
So what does this mean? It means you can make and receive phone calls from your wrist without your phone present, get and send notifications, go online, download music, upload watch data to the cloud and more.
It’s something akin to the famous Dick Tracy watch. Debuted in the comic strip in 1946, the detective wore the iconic two-way radio on his wrist. In case you were wondering, yes, someone even came up with the idea of creating a completely functional replica of the thing!
Some are fans of LTE enabled watches others not so much. They think they are unlikely to use the function often, the watches are pricier than their regular counterparts, there are monthly service provider fees, and LTE connectivity eats into battery life.
But the unstoppable progress of technology is resolving at least some of these issues. For example, at CES 2019 Garmin announced an LTE enabled version of its Vivoactive 3 watch that looks just like the regular iteration.
The list of LTE enabled watches is still small, but it’s growing. We’re convinced it’s only a matter of time before most new smartwatches come with an LTE chip.
Here’s our recap of what’s currently on offer.
Both the Series 3 and Series 4 version of the Apple Watch come with LTE connectivity. They use the same number as your smartphone. Although users still need a SIM, the watch features a small electronic SIM card. And when we say small we mean it – its one percent of the size of a traditional SIM.
When you are away from your phone, the watch automatically switches to the cellular signal. This means you are able to make and receive calls, as well as messages, while away from your smartphone. Third party apps are able to tap into this signal as well.
The Apple Watch Series 4 delivers solid improvements over its predecessor, including a bigger display, ECG sensor, fall detection, performance upgrades and more. Screen real estate is larger by 30%, there’s a revamped digital crown, 50% louder speakers, and a back that is made of black ceramic and sapphire crystal for better cellular reception.
Samsung’s latest smartwatch comes in the form of a bluetooth only variant and a version with LTE. Both are offered in two sizes – a 42mm variant and a 46mm one. The 46mm iteration sports a 1.3 inch screen versus 1.2 inches on the smaller version.
For listening to tunes on the go, there is 4GB of music storage with offline Spotify playlist support. The device also comes with slew of activity tracking sensors includes GPS, an accelerometer, heart rate, gyro and barometer. So expect the usual steps, distance, floors, calories, sleep, stress and activity stats. This includes keeping tabs on up to 40 different exercises – and swimming thanks to 5 ATM water-resistance.
Gear S3 is Samsung’s first watch with LTE connectivity. It comes in a variety of different designs all featuring the always on 1.3-inch Super AMOLED display. The bezel, the crown and the crystal, can be turned, pressed or tapped to navigate your way around the screens.
Gear S3 has a built-in GPS for more precise data and mapping your runs. The fact that it has built-in storage for music too, means you have freedom from your phone when you go for those runs. And with its 72 hour long-lasting battery, you only need to set it down for a charge every few days.
The 14.2mm thick and 51 millimeters LG Watch Sport is one of the most feature packed Wear OS devices around. Weighing 89 grams, the fairly chunky timepiece flaunts built in GPS and NFC, the latter of which makes Android Pay mobile payments possible. There is also 4G LTE connectivity, for calls, texts and browsing without a smartphone.
Under the hood you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 768MB of RAM, 4GB of storage and a 430 mAh battery. In terms of sensors, the watch sports a heart rate sensor (PPG), gyroscope, accelerometer and barometer. Naturally, you can also play music while on your runs using just a headset thanks to offline music storage.
Released a few years ago, this one is pretty ancient now. Nevertheless, LG’s LTE enabled watch looks pretty good, particularly if you’re a fan of chunky watches.
Urbane will keep tabs on your fitness 24/7 and has built-in GPS for tracking those runs. There are also smartphone notifications, on-board storage for music but no NFC for payments.
With its circular face, stainless steel body and hypoallergenic band, this one is for fashionistas looking a premium Wear OS watch. You may be able to pick it up at a discount, too, seeing that it’s probably due for an update soon.
Huawei Watch 2 comes in two variants – the Sports version and a stainless steel Classic version. There’s also a 2018 edition where the standard SIM slot is replaced with eSIM. This last one is only available in China for now.
Apart from design, the specs are pretty much identical. They all come with a 1.2” AMOLED touchscreen and 390 x 390 resolution. Under the hood is a Snapdragon 2100 processor, 4GB RAM and 768MB of built-in storage.
You get the whole gamut of sensors including an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, GPS, heart rate, ambient light, geomagnetic and capacitance. Battery life is pretty good – you should be able to squeeze between 2 and 3 days out of this one.
If you’re thinking about purchasing the watch, its worth knowing an updated version may be landing soon.
Vivoactive 3 is a Swiss knife of activity trackers. Plus it looks good. Announced at CES 2019, the LTE enabled device comes with support for messages, phone-free safety features and music downloads.
The specs are mostly unchanged from the normal version. This means it comes with built-in GPS, barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer, thermometer, heart rate, built-in music storage and NFC for contactless payments. There are 15 built-in sports profiles, including ones for snowboarding, cardio, yoga, eliptical and stair stepper.
Safety features include an all new incident detection during select activities, that is capable of notifying emergency contacts of your location in real-time. The other option is to trigger it manually or switch the Garmin LiveTrack feature on.
You won’t be able to make phone calls, but sending and receiving texts is supported. As its name implies, you’ll need a monthly Verizon service plan to access all of these new features.
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