Do You Need LTE Support on Your Smartwatch?

An In-Depth Look at the Specifics of This Recently Added Functionality.

Samsung

One of the most recently added Android Wear features was cellular support, which lets smartwatches with an embedded LTE radio stay connected in more places, even if Bluetooth and Wi-Fi aren't working well. 

The first Android Wear device to utilize this feature was set to be the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, but — in a strange turn of events — this device was canceled, apparently due to quality issues with one of the product's display components.

It remains unclear whether this scrapped smartwatch will be reincarnated in a later LG product, but at least it doesn't appear that the LTE radio in the wearable was the faulty component in question. 

Weird LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE problems aside, it's clear that LTE-enabled smartwatches will be a reality in the fairly near future. To help you get a better idea of whether this is a feature you'll need (or even want), I'll run through all the details and specifics below.

What It Means and How It Works

Android Wear smartwatches that include an LTE radio will be able to connect to cellular networks and let you use apps, receive and send messages and more, even if your phone is far away. In addition to needing an LTE radio, a smartwatch must be able to connect to the same carrier as your phone (so far it looks like AT&T and Verizon will be on board).

To accomplish the feat of taking calls on your wrist, Android Wear smartwatches will share the same phone number as your smartphone.

AT&T offers its free NumberSync service to assign one main phone number to all your compatible gadgets, and even though the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition is no longer in the cards for a release anytime soon, the Samsung Gear S2, with a 3G radio, can be used with NumberSync so all calls to your smartphone can be forwarded to your watch.

When It's Useful

In its announcement post explaining this new feature, Google mentions running errands and running marathons as two examples of when having cellular support might be useful for Android Wear users. Since cellular connectivity allows you to do everything you regularly would with your smartwatch, you can leave your phone at home and lighten your load. 

That said, I wouldn't recommend tossing your smartphone aside and taking a conference call on your wrist just yet. It's not clear whether or not functionality, not to mention audio quality, on these wearable devices is good enough to truly replace your phone for calls. 

Drawbacks

The biggest issue at this point is that most Android Wear smartwatches already on the market don't feature the necessary components for cellular support, so your options are extremely limited if this feature intrigues you. Especially considering that we're in the thick of the holiday season — when many technophiles are likely stocking up on wearables and other discounted gear — it's unfortunate that you don't have a ton of options if you want an Android Wear smartwatch that can share a number with your smartphone.

Whether or not the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE ever sees the light of day, the next batch of Android Wear devices from top manufacturers will almost certainly include some standout options with cellular support.

I don't think it's a dealbreaker feature at this point, but if you're underwhelmed with current smartwatch options, it could be worth holding out to see what's in store in the next few months — at the very least, the hardware will likely be better from a design standpoint.

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