It’s no longer “news” that there is a cellular connectivity issue with the new Apple Watch Series 3 LTE. It’s also no longer news that it’s a software bug, and that Apple is going to fix it. But if you’re wondering how the wi-fi actually works, I am here to tell you. Much like your iPhone, your Apple Watch has a wi-fi antenna inside of it. This allows you to connect to wi-fi networks directly, or using your iPhone. This is so you don’t always have to use your cellular data. Where the LTE version differs from the non-cellular version is how they connect.
The Apple Watch doesn’t have an “auto-join” wi-fi screen to select the network you want to join. Nor does it have the option to dictate or scribble in passwords. Which means you can only connect to networks that your iPhone has already connected to. Essentially, when your iPhone connects to a Wi-Fi hotspot and enters in the password while you’re also connected to Apple Watch, your iPhone syncs that information over to your Watch. Apple Watch can then access that information and connect to a network. Even if you only visit that location in the future with your Watch only. Which is nice that you don’t have to use cellular data. But is this convenient for you?
Because the Apple Watch doesn’t have the wi-fi capabilities of your iPhone, it still struggles in a few areas. Specifically:
- You won’t be able to connect to a new Wi-Fi network unless your iPhone is present and can connect to it.
- Your iPhone needs to be paired with Apple Watch when it connects to the network — it doesn’t work over iCloud Keychain
- Apple Watch can only use 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz networks, not 5GHz networks.
- Apple Watch shouldn’t connect to any public network that has an interstitial captive, like a hotel login, Google Starbucks terms and conditions acceptance, or other subscription information
Again, is this convenient for you? I recently stayed in a hotel for work meetings. Once those meetings were over, I went to the gym to get in a workout. If I had an Apple Watch Series 3, though, I wouldn’t have been able to use the Watch on the hotel wi-fi network. Which is kind of disappointing, don’t you think? It was a bit cumbersome to use the rowing machine and carrying my phone along side. At least on the treadmill, there is a place to “hold” your phone. It’s maybe not ideal, but I was under the impression that the new Apple Watch would let you leave your phone in the hotel room? Well, you can, but you will need to use cellular data.
I guess my concern with this is the ability to disconnect. Or at least that’s why people are saying that the Series 3 is actually so good. Its the idea that you can be untethered from your device, and yet still be somewhat connected. I really like the idea of all of this, but to me, this is a bigger deal than the connectivity issue that we mentioned in a previous post. As someone who travels quite a bit, I would find this beneficial.