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Apple Watch 3 in the UK: What you need to know about using 4G LTE

The Apple Watch finally has 4G for taking calls. But what's it like to use in the UK? Read on to find out.

Apple Watch 3
James Martin/CNET

Apple's latest smartwatch has plenty to be excited about, but it's the addition of 4G connectivity that makes this version stand out above its predecessors. Here's what you need to know about using LTE on the watch. 

The 4G connectivity on the Apple Watch ($251 at eBay) works exclusively with the EE network. While you can pair the watch with a phone on any UK network just like previous models, you'll only be able to use the stand-alone LTE if you're on EE.

Apple has confirmed that the watch itself is not locked to EE, so it will play nicely with any network, once support has been added (that's the advantage of an eSIM). What that means is that if you're on Vodafone, for example, you can buy the watch now, use it over the Bluetooth connection and start using LTE if and when Vodafone supports it. 

Note that Vodafone hasn't confirmed when this might be, nor have any of the other UK networks. We will update this article as and when we hear more.

Adding the watch to your EE plan does come at a cost. You'll get your first six months use for free, but it'll add an extra £5 per month to your plan after that. Note that roaming isn't supported, so you won't be able to use your LTE on the watch if you pop over to Paris for a croissant.

Functionally, using the Apple Watch on 4G is a hassle-free experience. When you're with your phone, it simply connects via Bluetooth, with cellular connectivity only kicking in when you leave your phone behind. Leave your phone at your desk as you pop out for your lunchtime sandwich and calls to your number will still come through to your watch. If you answer a call on the watch, you'll either hear the voice through the watch's speaker, or the sound will be routed through any Bluetooth headphones you have connected.

I found signal strength on the watch to be decent across London and mostly comparable to the signal I get from my phone.

Like in the US, SMS messages aren't supported, but Apple's iMessages are. Similarly, you will eventually be able to stream songs directly from Apple Music soon, once that WatchOS update is made available later this fall.