Why your new Apple Watch 3 LTE cellular model won't roam overseas

By David Flynn, October 6 2017
Why your new Apple Watch 3 LTE cellular model won't roam overseas

Your shiny new Apple Watch Series 3 may make and take phone calls via its own inbuilt 4G cellular smarts, but don't get too used to leaving your iPhone behind when you head overseas.

The unique nature of the Apple Watch LTE model means that it runs independent of your iPhone only within Australia (and, as we understand it, not even on all the mobile phone bands used around the country – something worth checking with your carrier of choice before plonking down your cash).

Once you set foot abroad and rely on global roaming to stay connected, the Apple Watch loses its stand-alone smarts and must rely on a Bluetooth link to your iPhone.

The story behind this: the Apple Watch doesn't use a conventional SIM card with its own number. Instead, it's built around 'eSIM' technology which you can think of as a virtual SIM card which your carrier links to your actual mobile phone number, so the watch and iPhone share the same number

(That link costs extra, by the way: Telstra's 'One Number' system and Optus' similar 'Number Share' each adds a $5/month surcharge to your current plan; Vodafone will launch its own Apple Watch eSIM plans in December but has yet to share the add-on pricing.)

The lack of international roaming might not be a deal-breaker: you'll still be able to piggyback onto your iPhone, just as a standard non-LTE Apple Watch can do.

It's just that the lack of international roaming will cruel the appeal of  temporarily leaving your iPhone behind while you hit the gym or go for a run, and relying on the Apple Watch's 4G capabilities to stream music, take phone calls or deal with text messages.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 14

Think you'll find Telstra actually charges $5 a month for One Number and the first 3 months are free currently. I think Optus has a introductory promo too.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 178

Telstra and Optus both give you several months free, Voda will certainly do the same, but that's just baiting the hook to get you in. I've looked at the new Apple Watch 3 and appreciate the vastly increased speed more than anything else including optional 4G connectivity. That speed actually makes it usable compared to previous models.

watchOS 4 allows the Apple Watch to work untethered, via WiFi. So no bluetooth connection needed overseas if in range of a WiFi network. Ideally, the iPhone would be on and connected to a network somewhere though.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 178

So I'd have to have my 4G Apple Watch connected to a nearby WiFi hotspot and also leave my iPhone back at the hotel room switched on? Sounds a bit clunky!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1379

Works in the hotel gym then, but that's about it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 551

The fanboys will find some way to paint this as a positive feature!

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