As if Apple didn’t already have enough difficulty fending off the likes of Xiaomi in its essential battle for meaningful iPhone sales volume in the world’s single largest mobile market, the company’s latest smartwatch has hit a major and unexpected Chinese snag.
According to The Wall Street Journal, regional LTE access for the Apple Watch Series 3 with built-in cellular functionality has been indefinitely suspended less than a week after the wearable product’s China debut.
That was three whole weeks ago, mind you, and China Unicom, as well as the local government agency in charge of wireless regulation, are yet to offer a reasonable, plausible explanation for the feature-crippling move.
Only the second largest of three state-owned mobile network operators supported the new Apple Watch’s standalone voice calling capabilities at launch, now claiming it was merely a trial run.
On Cupertino’s website, “cellular services” are currently listed as “coming later this year” to the Series 3 on China Unicom, as well as the country’s industry-leading China Mobile carrier and bronze medalist China Telecom.
But analysts warn it may take a while until the device is granted LTE access again in the region due to “security concerns.” You see, the Chinese government likes to know exactly who owns what gadget on what network, and the eSIM technology of the Apple Watch Series 3 makes this universal tracking mission a little trickier than usual.
That’s because users don’t need to go to a carrier with proof of identity and whatnot in order to be issued their own personal SIM card. They get a smartwatch with a tiny, embedded SIM that they can freely activate without revealing their info.
Oddly enough, China Unicom subscribers who switched on their cellular service on the new Apple Watch between September 22 and 28 are reportedly still allowed to use the feature, but that’s it, at least for now.