Apple Watch hits cellular snag in China; users are no longer able to sign up for a cell service

“Apple Inc has another headache in China: this time with its latest watch,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “For the first time, the Apple Watch can have an independent cellular connection, allowing people to use it to make voice calls, send and receive text and data even if the watch isn’t wirelessly connected to an iPhone. But in China, the feature was abruptly cut off for new subscribers, without explanation, after a brief availability with one telecom company.”

“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 phone,” WSJ reports. “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,” WSJ reports. “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.
‘The eSIM (system) isn’t mature enough yet in China,” one analyst said. “The government still needs to figure out how they can control the eSIM.'”

“‘We were informed by China Unicom that the new cellular feature on the Apple Watch Series 3 has been suspended,’ Apple said in a statement,” WSJ reports. “Ministry officials are likely studying how to resolve the issue before allowing any broad cellular access to the Apple Watch, which could take months, said the analysts, who asked not to be identified.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Uh oh.

Expect Apple’s stock price to take a hit over this kerfuffle.

It seems very farfetched to assume that Apple did not anticipate this issue. Hopefully, this is a minor snag and will be rectified in short order.

Morgan Stanley: iPhone supercyle is for real, Apple Watch demand second to none – October 13, 2017
First week with Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular): Connectivity makes for a truly smart watch – October 9, 2017
Macworld reviews Apple Watch Series 3: The wearable leader runs out to an insurmountable lead – October 6, 2017
Ars Technica reviews Apple Watch Series 3: Despite some teething pains, it’s great to use – September 27, 2017
Some reviewers’ Apple Watch Series 3 ‘LTE issues’ due to easily-fixable Wi-Fi bug – September 20, 2017
Jim Dalrymple reviews Apple Watch Series 3: ‘Do yourself a favor and get one’ – September 20, 2017
Some reviewers’ Apple Watch Series 3 ‘LTE issues’ due to easily-fixable Wi-Fi bug – September 20, 2017
Wired reviews Apple Watch Series 3: ‘For the first time ever, I love the Apple Watch’ – September 20, 2017
9to5Mac reviews Apple Watch Series 3: Unlocks new potential with LTE, dramatically improved Siri – September 20, 2017
Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple Watch Series 3 LTE models selling much faster than expected – September 18, 2017
Why the carriers must drop the Apple Watch LTE connectivity tax – September 15, 2017
How much Apple Watch Series 3 data plans will cost on Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint – September 14, 2017
Apple Watch, the world’s best-selling watch, can now work without an iPhone – September 12, 2017
New Apple Watch Series 3 delivers built-in cellular with powerful new health and fitness enhancements – September 12, 2017

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[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]


  1. This issue is being widely discussed in online sites in China. The Chinese tech press is reporting the China Unicom (联通) is reassuring customers that the Apple Watch cellular capability will be likely be formally approved after another round of testing of the eSIM.

    My take: China now has staked in face nationally on being fully competitive in high tech. They are unlikely to ban use of an emerging technology such as eSIM.

  2. Very difficult to anticipate anything in China, even when you think you have a Deal it can be shut off, delayed or cancelled at will as and when a different or higher entity takes an interest especially the closer it gets to Government and ther watch dogs.

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