Carriers and the LTE Apple Watch

Yesterday, Juli Clover of MacRumors reported that the Apple Watch Series 3, when used on T-Mobile’s network, would be limited to 512 kbps, far below its maximum LTE speed. And there was more:

A T-Mobile representative told MacRumors reader Tony that its “High Speed Data with paired DIGITS” plan would provide 4G LTE data. DIGITS is priced at $25 per month without autopay, and $20 per month with Autopay.

For comparison, other American carriers are charging $10 per month to add an Apple Watch to a subscriber’s account. So, as a T-Mobile customer, you’d pay twice as much to get capped speeds. That’s asinine.

After an appropriate level of uproar, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said on Twitter that they would be adjusting Apple Watch plans to match the $10 per month pricing of other carriers and that speeds would no longer be capped. And, yet, it still feels like a bit of a ripoff to pay any money at all to add an Apple Watch to a cell plan.

Charles Arthur:

These are outrageous prices, on a par with the ludicrous data charges that carriers used to apply before the iPhone. In those days, up to mid-2007, to want data on the move marked you out as someone with money to burn, or else a raging desire for debt.

Why outrageous? Because Watch cellular data use is not additive; it’s substitutive. If you’re pulling in data on your cellular Watch, you must have left your phone behind. Ergo, you’re doing nothing with the phone, so it’s consuming (next to) no data. The data consumption has shifted to your Watch.

I’m not sure it’s entirely correct to assume that a person is only using data on one device at a time. Later this year, Series 3 users will be able to stream Apple Music tracks; they could conceivably be listening to music and using their iPhone at the same time. But, in the vast majority of cases, data use on the Watch is likely to be limited and infrequent. $10 per month isn’t an enormous amount of money for, I would guess, most Apple Watch customers, but it’s the kind of nickel-and-dime tactic that makes cellular carriers so frustrating to be in an ongoing financial relationship with.