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Apple Watch Series 3 LTE

China Abruptly Cuts Off Apple Watch Series 3 LTE Access

That iThingy You're Wearing
October 19, 2017

The Apple Watch Series 3 LTE feature has been turned off in the world’s largest consumer market. China has abruptly cut off LTE access, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Since the Apple Watch Series 3 launched on Sept. 22, China Unicom has provided LTE to customers. The state-owned company says new customers no longer have that option.

As the report explains:

Industry analysts say the suspension likely stemmed from Chinese government security concerns to do with tracking users of the device, which uses different technology than standard mobile phones.

China strictly regulates mobile phones and all three major telecom service providers are state-owned companies. To get a SIM—subscriber identity module—card to operate the phone, users must register under their real names with a network carrier.

The latest Apple Watch poses a challenge to the existing user identification system, industry analysts said. The watch contains a new and tiny version of the SIM card, called embedded SIM, or eSIM. The eSIM is embedded in the watch by Apple, not by carriers.

The benefit of a device carrying an eSIM is that, with software, users can choose a telecom operator and a communications plan. But in China, that new system raises the question of how carriers and regulators can track the device user’s identity.

It’s worth noting, at the time of this writing, Chinese customers can still order an Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + LTE) model. Current Apple Watch Series 3 customers have so far been unaffected by China’s move.

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