back to article Falling apart at the seamless: Inside Apple's LTE Watch fiasco

Just as the Apple Watch was set to go mainstream, bugs and poor design choices have taken the shine off the latest version of the hardware. Apple Watch has been the only Apple product to get a price cut since Brexit, which saw some prices rise by over 20 per cent. The Series 2 42mm was £399 prior to the product launch last …

  1. djstardust

    Just proves the point

    That Apple are losing it.

    Their products are a botch up these days with cheap components and restricted ports to cut manufacturing costs and increase margin.

    iOS 11 seems a bit of a mess and don't even get me started on the animated emoji stuff.

    Soon only under 8's, pensioners and idiots will buy their overpriced tat .... and that will be the beginning of the end.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Just proves the point

      No need to bash them needlessly here. Just as with Apple TV the sales are relatively small but the margins are nice: lots of people like these products. Just possibly not enough to change the world.

      A lot of the features are sort of amateur but to be fair they've always been prepared to talk about these things as a sort of hobby. Just wish I had a hobby that brought as much cash in!

      There are definitely risks in focussing too much on the "5 % problems" of the people who go for this kind of thing. None of the "smart" watches I've seen has really intrigued me but the Withthings stuff is getting close: good battery life and incremental utility. Rather than pissing around with LTE I can see a market in a flexible OLED touch strap (definitely not always on!) but Apple has absolutely no IP in that area.

    2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: Just proves the point

      It's not only Apple though, the other manufacturers are cramming more crap into their wrist worn tat too. It baffles me, it should be obvious from the outset that anything with processing horsepower and powerful radio is going to need a battery too big for a watch or have laughable life.

      They should be listening to Colin Chapman. Just make it a dumb screen with a sensor or two and a couple of buttons. Link it over the lowest power Bluetooth that will work to the multiprocessor powerhouse in your pocket. Oh and add a speaker and microphone so that new owners can pretend to be Dick Tracy for the two minutes it takes to realise they look a total tool.

      1. James 51

        Re: Just proves the point

        If you added a speaker you'd have a good description of a pebble 2.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Just proves the point

        @Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        I'll stick with my FitBit, 7 day battery life and just the right level of functionality.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Just proves the point

          With the demise of Pebble Time imminent I've got my self a £15 thing from China. Functionally and form factor equivalent to a FitBit Alto, but better and with a 3-4 week battery life and completely amazing how well it works.

          An Apple watch is cheap by classic watch standards, but expensive as a throwaway guaranteed obsolete tech gadget. When a person pays a couple of grand for a nice Omega or Rolex etc they can be fairly safe that they will have a useful thing for the rest of their life. But in 10 years the Apple watch will be a lot less that it is new.

          Had Apple partnered up with one of the good Swiss watchmakers and produced an elegant strap and case, and separately built a replaceable module that went inside then it might have some life, and still be good for years.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Just proves the point

      My boss has 2 phones, a tablet and his PC on his mobile plan (1 number, 4 SIMs on one contract), that has been standard for years, I don't understand why Apple had to cripple the watch and tether it to the phone when it is on the move.

      Only SMS is a problem with multi-SIMs, you have to decide which device is the master device and will get the SMS messages. You can change it on the fly with *222# (T-Mobile) from your current device.

      It seems that Apple have made it unnecessarily complex.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      While I think Apple screwed up big time with the Watch (I guess they must only test in places with great LTE coverage) I think your criticism of animojis is totally off base.

      I have no interest in this feature, and I can safely assume neither do you. I'll bet you'd have had the same reaction if you'd heard Snapchat's initial announcement of filters that would let you add pig ears or a dog's face or whatever superimposed over your own for pictures. The 15-30 year olds (i.e. Snapchat's userbase) loves that though, and that same crowd will love animojis even more I'll wager.

      Just to point out how far those Snapchat 'animal face' filters have come, I went to a college (American) football game last weekend - on the big scoreboard during timeouts they were doing crowd shots that applied those filters. I'll bet the 70 year olds at the game were like WTF is going on lol!

  2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Thanks for the explanation

    That's because Apple and the network are trying to manage two devices or endpoints with one (IMSI) number.

    You can see the advantages of being able to tether the devices by the mobile network but this should be done by the watch being a dumb slave to the phone. Would the networks play along? Quite possibly if a special contract was required for say $5 a month. They would still own the customer's contract and tying up with Apple should bring them customers because of the USP. This is how the I-Phone worked initially.

    But the downsides are multiple: LTE is still far from ubiquitous and getting good cellular radio reception on something like a watch is a far cry tethering it to the phone via Bluetooth, and will no doubt be reflected in battery use. Then there are the multiple potential vectors: if both devices can send and receive calls, then this is begging to be used for eavesdropping.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Thanks for the explanation

      As I posted above, multi-SIM contracts with multiple devices have been common for years.

      My boss runs 2 iPhones, an iPad and a Windows notebook with LTE from one number with multiple SIMs on the contract. The 2 phones both ring simultaneously, you just have to decide which one will receive SMS and all devices can use data at the same time.

      There seems to be some missing detail in the story as to why this standard configuration (we have had T-Mobile contracts with multi-SIMs for over a decade) can't be used by Apple and they decided to break existing standards for multiple SIMs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thanks for the explanation

        I don't know, but I'd guess the clue is in your statement "2 phones ring simultaneously". It would be very annoying if your watch 'rang' every call you got if your phone was next to you. If I had a watch (which I'm not interested in) I'd only want it to ring if my phone was not near me (i.e. out of bluetooth range of the watch)

        The watch could pop up a notification you could click on if you wanted to answer the call with your watch instead of phone for some reason, but it shouldn't be ringing as far as I'm concerned.

        1. Steve the Cynic

          Re: Thanks for the explanation

          "It would be very annoying if your watch 'rang' every call you got if your phone was next to you."

          It does that anyway. And no, it isn't annoying, once you decide to treat the Watch as an extension of the phone that sits on your wrist and also tells you the time rather than a separate device in its own right.(1)

          That is, it's no more annoying than hearing the land-line phone in the bedroom ringing at the same time as the one in the living room because they are on the same line.

          The current (pre-iOS11) idea is that you can use the Watch to see who is calling (it shows that information on its display) and decide to answer or to reject or whatever and then if you answer, you take the call on your hands-free that you're already using. The hands-free sets I've used have all had no (obvious) way to *reject* a call, so without a wrist display you're left listening to it ringing and wondering who it is (because the caller doesn't have a per-contact ring-tone attached for whatever reason and the phone is stuck in your pocket).

          (1) A Series 2 has enough extra hardware (notably a GPS receiver) to have a limited independence(2), but it's still essentially an extension of the phone.

          (2) You can go open-air swimming with it without having to find a way to carry your phone in the water, and you can still get a GPS track from the swim time. As I said, *limited* independence.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " the iPhone has to be on even if you leave it behind, it appears, even though the Watch has LTE. And make sure the iPhone has the VoLTE (4G Voice and Data) turned on..."

    That's very interesting, and I hadn't realised that at all from the initial launch descriptions. Any idea why this is necessary, as it seems to go against the entire standalone nature of the watch. What is the watch actually using the phone for? And of course 1 hour talk time is laughable... I've heard conversations on my daily commute that haven't got past the 'Like, literally, O.M.G.!' stage within this time.

    I agree with djstardust - iOS 11 does seem a bit of a mess. It seems sloppy, worse than iOS 10, and I can't quite put my finger on why. But Apple software generally is getting worse and worse - for example the iPhone's music app suffers with noticeable screen redraw flicker. Not the end of the world for sure, but also not the sign of well polished and tested code. The new jumbo headings in iOS 11 just look wrong. The new animations seem amateur somehow, like Microsoft's. The new control panel looks like it was built for 3 year olds. Years old bugs still aren't fixed. iTunes is still the Mr Creosote of media management tools. And so on... and so on...

    The central QA seems to have gone - possibly because Cook is a glorified stock controller, so just sees numbers and profits everywhere, where as Jobs was a sociopath-visionary. I know it's sold well for its kind, but the Apple watch is a dull mess, and I still don't think Jobs would have sanctioned its release.

    1. BebopWeBop

      Well comment on the watch appear reasonable, however, having been running 11 for the last month or two (beta) on an iPad I think it is a great step up an would not like to go back to 10 (even if I could)

  4. Dave 126 Silver badge


    GSM devices must be able to contact emergency services - even without a SIM.

    Is the same true of virtual SIM devices such as this watch?

    1. Phil Endecott

      Re: Question:

      > GSM devices must be able to contact emergency services - even without a SIM.

      Not true in the U.K.

  5. frank ly

    Some pedantry:

    "Watches that don't tell the time have been normalised."

    A 'watch' that doesn't tell the time isn't actually a watch, no matter how much you may watch it.

    1. James 51

      Re: Some pedantry:

      I think it was Spy Kids 3 that made a joke out of that.

      1. Tikimon

        Re: Some pedantry:

        "Idiots that don't understand that words have specific meaning have been normalised in business.



    WHY a single IMSI ?

    Are you completely sure its a single IMSI number ?

    all the networks that launched with the LTE watch have VoLTE and voice over Wifi

    there really would be no need for a single IMSI simply SIP registration in two places...

    I know thats how networks tried before to have multiple SIM's and a single number

    (remember those fun german car phones)

    everyone bailed because they could not make it work



      Its IMS SIP

      from what I can see of providers preparations it looks like they allow multiple contact IP address's to register IMS SIP and only works on networks that allow VoLTE

      (multiple devices register as the same "user/phone" number with the SIP server)

      have a chat with your friendly telco people to confirm

  7. RockBurner

    no surprises here

    "It's a known issue with unauthenticated networks. If you've previously logged onto a Wi-Fi network that needs a browser login (common with public networks like those found in hotels) via your iPhone, then this is sought out by the Watch. But the Watch has no browser, so you can't get in. "

    Not a surprise at all. It's a typical mistake by Silicon Valley developers who are all automatically fully networked on a permanent basis, they automatically seem to assume that all other users of their gear are also automatically fully networked to the gills 24/7/366.

    Very similar to Google's assumptions with Pixel and Chromebooks that ALL data can be cloud-stored and by 100% accessible by the device at all times.

    I wonder when any hi-tech dev in California last had to open their wi-fi settings to login to a new network? The rest of us are having to deal with network black spots or shifting from 3G to 4G to wifi or nothing all the time.

    1. Scoured Frisbee

      Re: no surprises here

      Dunno, I opened the opposite bug on Android Wear 2 - you can set the watch to stick to a captive portal network (for example to use an aftermarket browser to login), but the setting is reset on boot. I bought an extra charger just so I could use ADB at work to tweak this setting - I usually leave my phone at my desk and just wear my watch around.

      Anyway someone in Silicon Valley is thinking about captive portals, just not someone at Apple.

  8. Tromos

    Dick Tracy style

    I don't quite see where Tracy comes into it.

  9. zbmwzm3

    haters gonna hate

    I'm glad that Apple put LTE in the watch and consider this version #1 with LTE, because it is. The watch isn't actually released yet so a patch may come out to fix SOME of the issues. I'm not buying a smart watch in general until I find that they are actually useful for ME, but adding LTE is a step in the right direction. Apple needs to invest more in developing the Apple watch and less on the margins for now until it really takes off.

    In order for smart watches to be successful they need to:

    1.) Improve battery life so they last as long as a smart phone. (see #3)

    2.)Work as a stand alone device, complete with a larger oled screens, with more apps, processing power. (apple, how bad they may be in some regards still makes the best chips for smart devices.)

    3.) Put tech in the watch band, perhaps the battery, or LTE chip in the band itself. It's very obvious this needs to be done in order to make the small footprint of the watch itself better. Apple COULD invest in the R&D since they have the money, but in any case hopefully someone will invest in it. Perhaps the watch band could have modules that are interchangeable and provide the watch even more functionality

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: haters gonna hate

      I'm glad that Apple put LTE in the watch and consider this version #1 with LTE, because it is.

      No, it isn't: it's version 3. And, have you seen the price?

      1. zbmwzm3

        Re: haters gonna hate

        To reiterate, it's the first version with LTE, think of it as 1.0 just in that regard. I have seen the price and its part of the reason I don't have one lol.

    2. LastBandit

      Re: haters gonna hate

      FitBit put part of the Surge tech in the strap, rendering the strap completely un-replaceable and so the kit is useless as soon as the rubber strap breaks. Not great for a £200 piece of kit. Fitbit boards are full of pissed off users. I ditched mine and went to Garmin.

      As for Apple, I can't see a reason to go there atm.

  10. Blotto Silver badge

    LTE is good for those of us that like to exercise outdoors

    I cycle offroad and take my iPhone & Garmin edge 1k wherever i go as i use the track my ride feature to send to my otherhalf and mum so they can come rescue me if i need help. Having an iWatch with LTE would mean i can leave the phone at home and still be tracked etc.

    Likewise she takes her iPhone when out for the same reasons. Many here do not see a use for a connected watch but many others in the real world do.

    I purchased a cheap (£35) kids smart watch the other day for my nephew, it had a camera and not much else, my sister asked if it had GPS and could receive calls, when i said no she said no thanks and asked me to take it back as she could get better elsewhere that could track her child when out playing. I was miffed and thinking how ungrateful etc and you can't get all that for less than £100 and a 6 year old boy would break it in less a week. Then i looked online at the usual Chinese importers and found watches with GPS and 3g for ~£30, then i checked Amazon and found GPS 2g smart watches for £20.

    there is a market for GSM connected watches.

    Apples method of connection is a bit short of the mark though, unless the watch is fully autonomous, there is little point having a mobile radio in it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: LTE is good for those of us that like to exercise outdoors

      But what's wrong with taking your phone on your ride? I go on long bike rides but I always have my phone with me, either in my saddlebag or in a cheap rubber mount on my handlebars. Having a watch that could make/receive calls wouldn't be of any use unless you want the leave the phone at home.

      Maybe when you say you ride "off road" you mean in a lot of mud or there's a good chance of the occasional spill that make break your phone? The watch being waterproof to 200 meters or whatever should protect it against mud, and I suppose it is probably more durable than phone if you fall...

  11. MAH

    It's strange that something so basic wasn't fixed up in months of testing, though.

    You can use that same statement for IOS in the hell does a company release a product that doesn't work with o365 out of the gate? Its not like Microsoft doesn't have any market share and therefore no one at apple really thought to test it.

    Jobs would roll over in his grave to see 2 products released at the same time with such obvious and documented and known issues. Like who the hell at Apple really thought they could release those without any noise?

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    If two witches watched watches, which witch would watch which watch?

  13. Colin Tree

    Surf rage

    Seen the add ???

    Want to get beaten up ???

    The watch will be unwelcome out in the surf.

    What fuckup, air head yuppie thought of that for the add doesn't surf

  14. denohew

    Your iPhone Has To Be On But..........

    If my iPhone is on airplane mode will I still get calls and texts on my Apple Watch? I'm curious!

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022