A week after launching the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE in China on China’s Unicom network, the LTE functionality of the watch was cut off in the region. The WSJ report claims that the feature was suspended by China Unicom due to pressure from the government.
Since September 28, no Apple Watch Series 3 owner in China has been able to subscribe to an LTE plan for the smartwatch, though subscriptions for users prior to that date continue to work.
The government raised concerns about not being able to track users of Apple Watch Series 3 LTE and thereby forced China Unicom to nix the functionality. An analyst claims that the eSIM technology is still extremely new and the government is still working on how they could track and control the eSIM. Whenever one buys a SIM in China, they have to register themselves with the operator with their real name. Since the eSIM technology allows users to switch carriers from their device itself, it becomes difficult to track them.
When the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE was launched in China, it only had a trial certificate to operate on Chinese LTE networks. This perhaps explains why ChinaUnicom says on its website that the LTE functionality on the Apple Watch was available on a trial basis. Another analyst claims that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology can take months to work with the government on how to handle eSIM devices and issue Apple with a formal certificate. Apple’s own listing for the Apple Watch 3 in China points to LTE functionality being restored to the device later in 2017.
If you own an Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE functionality in China or plan on buying one soon, you might want to reconsider your decision. After all, the inclusion of LTE connectivity was among the biggest highlights of Apple Watch Series 3.