The new Apple Watch will not be able to connect to mobile networks when abroad, it has emerged.
The key feature of Apple’s Series 3 smartwatch, which was unveiled last week, is an independent 4G modem that allows owners to receive phone calls and text messages, and stream music, when they do not have their phone with them.
The feature is likely to be a boost for runners who leave their phone at home, or when a battery dies. However, it has emerged it will only connect to networks in the country it was bought from.
This means owners in the UK and Europe, who ostensibly enjoy free mobile roaming, will not be able to connect when crossing borders.
Instead, they will have to use their Apple Watch in the same way that current models work, by using the iPhone’s data connection. The devices are also tuned to the networks in their own country, so buying the new Apple Watch in the US and trying to connect to a UK network will not work.
The Apple Watch Series 3, which will cost £399 for the cellular-equipped version, is only compatible with EE at launch, with the network charging an additional £5 a month to use the Apple Watch independently.
British consumers have been able to roam in the EU, as well as other countries depending on the operator, in the same way they can in the UK since June.
The limitation does not break EU roaming regulations. The “roam like home” initiative does not require operators to provide a service in every country; it simply says that if they do, they are not allowed to charge extra for it.
An Apple support representative confirmed the lack of roaming support to customers on the Macrumors forums and Reddit.
It is unclear why the device is unable to connect to foreign mobile networks. The company’s antenna is built into the screen, so perhaps has to be tuned to a particular frequency. Or it may be to do with deals between networks in each country. Apple has been asked for comment.