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Apple Admits to Apple Watch LTE Problems When Joining Unauthenticated Wi-Fi Networks

Lauren Goode, writing for The Verge:

While writing my review of the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE capabilities, I experienced notable connectivity issues. The new Watch appeared to try to connect to unknown WiFi networks instead of connecting to cellular, when I was out and about without my phone. (The issues are laid out in much more detail in the review.)

Within the first couple days of experiencing this, Apple replaced my first review unit with a second one, but that one proved to be problematic, too.

Eventually, the company issued an official statement, acknowledging the issue. “We have discovered that when Apple Watch Series 3 joins unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks without connectivity, it may at times prevent the watch from using cellular,” an Apple spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We are investigating a fix for a future software release.”

Joanna Stern (and her WSJ colleague Geoffrey Fowler) ran into LTE connectivity problems, too — hopefully caused by this same issue with the watch joining unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks. I didn’t run into any problems with LTE connectivity. Every single time I tried to do something via LTE — make a call, send messages, invoke Siri — it just worked. For what it’s worth, my review unit watch was paired with my review unit iPhone 8, on AT&T’s network.

I’m not the only reviewer who seemingly had no issue with LTE. BuzzFeed’s Nicole Nguyen made no mention of any such issues, and she placed a phone call via her watch after swimming 1,500 feet into the San Francisco Bay.

I suspect one reason I haven’t run into this is that I generally avoid using unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks. They’re a security risk, and at least in my experience they generally offer slower, less reliable connectivity than LTE. This might also explain how Apple shipped these watches with such a bug — I doubt Apple employees seeded with testing units were connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots.

I’m not trying to blame the victims here. This is a severe bug that Apple needs to fix as soon as possible. And it’s left Apple in the embarrassing position of having a slew of reviews today in which the tentpole new feature of Series 3 shit the bed.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017