Wearables have become an established category over the past few years, but the subcategory of LTE wearables is still tiny and fragile. Unfortunately, cellular providers are treating LTE wearables like tablets, as if they’re similarly capable of gobbling data at phone-like rates. To encourage adoption, carriers should treat wearables as what they are — trivial additions to their networks — and stop charging unnecessarily high fees for data services.
In 2013, wearables were projected to hit $19 billion in annual sales by 2018, a milestone they crossed a year early. The category grows in popularity each year. Only a small fraction of these sales, however, are wearables with cellular capabilities — specifically, smartwatches that can make calls and use LTE data services on their own.
There are so few LTE wearables because the technology isn’t ready for prime time: The LTE Apple Watch only has enough power for one hour of cellular calls, while the larger Samsung Gear S3 promises only three hours. Small, low-resolution screens and simple input interfaces guarantee that even top smartwatches won’t demand heavy loads of LTE data anytime soon, and they can’t serve as hotspots for larger devices, either. So at best, LTE watches remain highly limited sidekicks to cell phones; no one buys one without a smartphone to use for most purposes.
All things considered, the various carrier service fees are simply hard to justify.
What do LTE wearables currently cost per month?
U.S. carriers currently charge at least $10 per month to add an LTE wearable onto your existing cellular plan, or $120 per…