The Watch is a Phone

Since Apple announced that the Apple Watch Series 3 would be offered with an LTE option, a significant amount of collective energy has been spent scrutinizing the various pricing plans offered by telecom companies around the world.

Because I live in the United States I will focus on the de facto standard $10/month pricing that AT&T and Verizon have both announced. Depending on who you ask, this charge is either completely reasonable, or a complete rip-off. It may be a little of each.

Arguments for the rip-off point out that most US plans come with a fixed amount of data, and the extra $10/month doesn’t buy you any extra data. The charge is merely for the privilege of connecting directly to the provider’s wireless network from a Watch.

Arguments for reasonableness concede that there is an infrastructural cost to supporting another whole device on the network. Even if the data and phone number are shared, a new standalone device exists in the world, and it demands to be catered to by the network’s services.

I am not excited about LTE on my Watch, but I decided to buy an LTE edition anyway. Because Verizon is offering three months of free service as part of a sale promotion, I also decided I will give ubiquitous Watch connectivity a shot. Who knows? Maybe I’ll love it.

One thing that caught my eye during the checkout process was the fact that my Apple Watch has already been assigned a phone number of its own. Even though it will be configured in Verizon’s system to share my phone’s phone number, their process for activating and supporting devices on their network apparently requires assigning them a phone number. I don’t know if this is true of all carriers worldwide, or if this is a peculiarity of American systems, or of Verizon in particular.

In any case, I thought it was interesting that my Watch will have its own phone number, even if it goes unused. Longer term, I could see merit in configuring Watches to be the only device for a phone number. For example, a work phone at a company that communicates primarily by voice might be satisfied to equip their employees with a Watch and a pair of headphones.

I also think the fact my Watch will have its own phone number increases the justification for charging a nominal monthly fee. For as long as any Apple Watch is on Verizon’s network, a full-fledged US phone number will be “off the market,” so to speak. In most respects that matter to Verizon, the Apple Watch is not an add-on accessory to the iPhone that happens to want independent access to the network. The Watch is a phone.