Aug 31, 2017

LTE For IoT: Apple Watch Leads Market For LTE Wearables

Last modified on November 24, 2021

When I was growing up, there was a popular commercial on TV. It was an ad for financial services, and the tagline went, “When EF Hutton talks … people listen.”

I guess today, and especially given that the original EF Hutton is long gone, we’d say, “When Apple talks … people listen.”

Maybe that’s because Apple launched the original IoT device for the world at large, the iPhone in 2007. Nearly every consumer-focused Internet of Things application or IoT wearable works with a smart app. Not only did Apple invent the entire smartphone category with the iPhone, it keeps setting the gold standard for what the device can do. Apple’s seamless, effortless integration across their entire product line: iPhone, Apple Watch, MacBook, and iPad gives the company an advantage that is almost impossible to surmount. Over the years, Apple has inspired legions of entrepreneurs to launch connected products with novel business models, such as Uber.

We should remember that from PCs to MP3s, smartphones to tablets, Apple has not necessarily been the first to introduce new technologies. They were neither first nor second to the touchscreen cell phone game. But when Apple begins talking about (and developing) something new, everyone starts to take notice.

Such is the case with the recent announcement that the new Apple Watch will include LTE connectivity. This has naturally resulted in considerable speculation regarding potential price points, the feature benefits of a built-in cellular modem, and the expected impact on the smart wearables market.

However, the true significance of this announcement goes beyond just an LTE-enabled wearable device. Indeed, the concept of utilizing LTE for a range of IoT applications is something the market has been contemplating for some years now, with Altair at the forefront of LTE IoT chipset providers promoting the benefits of cellular IoT connectivity. Rather, this could be a tipping point for the industry. Apple’s apparent willingness to jump into the water with a cellular offering could catalyze the wearables market with other manufacturers following suit, pushing the uptake for more LTE-enabled devices.

Ultra-low power consumption, extended battery life and cost efficiency have become the accepted standard for cellular IoT chipsets. As the IoT market migrates to the new CAT-M1 and NB1 networks, feature-rich and ultra-small dual-band chipsets are providing for the entire gamut of IoT applications from smart metering and vehicle telematics, to connected homes and wearable devices.

While the concept may not be new, the significance of this announcement cannot be overstated. When Apple talks, the market is forced to listen. With Apple now appearing to throw its weight behind cellular IoT, a market transformation may truly be underway.