UPDATE | Apple Watch 3 LTE only works in country of purchase, T-Mobile will throttle it to 512kbps
LTE only functions within the country of purchase
One of the headlining features for the new Apple Watch 3 was that it would support a direct LTE connection in selected countries, meaning that texting, calling, and applications could function without needing to be within range of an iPhone. However, with the LTE versions only available in ten countries — Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, the UK, and the United States — there would certainly have been people living elsewhere who were considering importing an LTE enabled device.
MacRumors have reported that a reader was told by Apple Support that the SmartWatch would only work within the country it was purchased in, presumably meaning it is preconfigured for the carriers in that country. This restriction has two implications. Firstly, it means that those who live in countries where the LTE version isn’t sold can’t just import an LTE model. Secondly, it means that if you go traveling your SmartWatch won’t connect to cellular towers at your destination, even if the country you are visiting is one which has a supported LTE model.
We aren’t sure what impact this will have in situations such as someone living near the border between two countries where they are living in one but working in the other. This arrangement is a common occurrence within the European Union (EU) and is a possibility with Germany and France both receiving the LTE model. This situation is further complicated by a recent European Union law change which meant that mobile operators had to offer free data roaming within the entire EU (i.e. roaming uses the standard data plan on the phone).
Both scenarios can be avoided by just using Bluetooth to share the iPhone’s data connection, but it does mean you aren’t able to use one of the features of your device.
T-Mobile to limit data speeds
Update: John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile USA, has responded via twitter to customer concerns about their speed throttling. His statement is "I heard your frustration about the Apple Watch plan. I sincerely believe in listening to our customers & have dug into this... The Apple Watch Series 3 plan on [T-Mobile] will be $10/m for unlimited 4G LTE. Thanks for your feedback. We always listen & act!" This means that all the major US network providers will allow the Apple Watch 3 to receive LTE speeds.
Original: In related news, T-Mobile has said they will limit the Apple Watch 3 to a maximum data speed of 512 Kbps using the 3G radio, with users being required to pay double the standard US$10 addon fee to unlock full speed on the LTE radio (i.e. US$20). T-Mobile claims that 512 Kbps is fast enough for any of the functions of the SmartWatch 3, leading to the question of why limit the data speeds at all if they anticipate each device to use such little bandwidth. The possibility we came up with was that if the Apple Watch 3 proves to be highly popular then T-Mobile might be worried about overloading LTE equipment, and they want to mitigate this by shifting the connections to the 3G equipment.