First, we need to clear up a little misconception about the new Apple Watch with cellular: It does nothing that the Watch without cellular doesn’t already do.
So what’s the difference?
The new Watch, which goes on sale in the UAE on Friday, can now do all those things you’ve seen advertised — receiving messages, tracking your workouts, or having a phone conversation by talking into your wrist like a secret agent from the 1960s — without being connected to an iPhone. The non-cellular Watch needed to access your iPhone’s Bluetooth connection so it could piggyback on its data and cellular connection.
You’ll still need to own an iPhone with the new Watch. Specifically, you’ll need to own an iPhone from Etisalat with a separate Dh25 a month data connection just for the Watch, but we’ll get to that shortly. For now, you know the new Watch can now do everything on its own.
The idea behind adding a cellular connection to the Watch is that sometimes your phone gets left behind, sometimes unintentionally. When you leave your phone at the restaurant, the Watch with cellular can still call you an Uber. You can also leave the iPhone behind when you go running, swimming and any other activity that goes easier without a metal brick bouncing around in your pocket. The ability to stream music over your cellular connection while in the gym is one of the best things about this Watch.
For those with a sense of irony, you’ll appreciate that Apple, a company that just last week was telling people how to spend more time away from the iPhone, had now made it possible for your colleagues to track you down wherever you go, even if you, erm, “forgot” to bring your phone along. Although it defeats the purpose of having it in the first place, you can turn the Watch’s cellular functions off.
Now, since this new Watch functions exactly like the old Watch, we’re going to skip the review and just link you what we wrote before, but there are a few other technical details you should be aware of. Despite its cellular functions, the Watch does not use a SIM card. Instead it has an eSim, which means that the internal hardware connects the watch to your cellular network. Currently, the only telecom operator in the UAE offering an eSim connection is etisalat.
If you have du, the Sim won’t work. Du so far has made no statement about when or if they will offer a Watch subscription plan.
You’d expect that battery life would also be an issue for the Watch. Apple estimates 16 hours of battery life, with the expectation that four of those hours will be spent using the cellular connection. However, Apple has done a good job of minimising the battery drain by making cellular the connection of last resort. The Watch will first try to use your iPhone’s cellular or wifi. If those aren’t available, the Watch will connect using its internal wifi connection. If all those connections are off, then the Watch will switch to cellular. I expect that you’ll be able to get much more than 16 hours of battery life from the Watch if you aren’t streaming videos and music.
Setting up the Watch can be a bit tricky. The first time we set up the Watch’s cellular connection, the folks from Apple were there to walk us through it. We’d doubt you’ll have the same luxury, so before you start, make sure you have your etisalat username and password for your data connection. If your phone is owned by your employers, you’ll need to get IT involved. Also be prepared for minor network issues. I had to restart the process once because of connectivity issues, and a friend faced some significant wait time when the network become non-responsive.
If you like the Watch the first time around, then you’ll certainly like this version, but you’ll probably struggling justifying a new Watch just for the cellular function. Anyone who’s into fitness will get more from the cellular connection; couch potatoes ... not so much.
However, if you just starting to think about getting a Watch, the extra Dh315 is worth it — keeping in mind that you’ll also be paying Dh25 a month for the duration of the Watch. It’s a fair price for leaving your iPhone behind. The starting price for the Watch with cellular is Dh1,679.