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Bloomberg: Apple adding LTE to next Apple Watch [Update: New form factor this year]

[Update: John Gruber adds that a new form factor is coming this year too:

“It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal this could be. No mention in Businessweek’s report, though, of the all-new form factor that I’ve heard is coming for this year’s new watches.”

This would mark the first external change since the Apple Watch debuted.]

[Update 2: Gruber has backtracked that claim a bit: “That tidbit came from an unconfirmed little birdie, though, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it.”]

Bloomberg reports that Apple is planning to release an updated Apple Watch model by the end of this year with built-in cellular connectivity. Bringing cellular connectivity to the Apple Watch has been rumored before but didn’t ship with the last revision which instead focused on GPS.

The report says Intel will supply the LTE modem that will be used in cellular versions of the Apple Watch.

Apple Inc. is planning to release a version of its smartwatch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device’s reliance on the iPhone, people familiar with the matter said.

Apple Watch currently requires the iPhone for sending and receiving messages, making phone calls, and syncing music for offline playback. Adding cellular connectivity could allow new possibilities like streaming audio, sending messages, and making phone calls without having Wi-Fi or a nearby iPhone.

Blooomberg says Apple is actively working with carriers to support the cellular Apple Watch when it’s ready, but not all carriers that work with the iPhone are expected to support the LTE Apple Watch at launch. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile plan to sell the cellular Apple Watch (which may leave out Sprint) however.

The report also warns that the LTE-enabled version of the Apple Watch may not ship this year…

 The new device could still be delayed beyond 2017 — indeed, the company had already postponed a cellular-capable smartwatch last year. Apple declined to comment.

Analysts have recently predicted that Apple will ship an LTE-enabled version of the Apple Watch this year as well. watchOS 4, the upcoming software update for the Apple Watch, includes a few interesting features that could work with cellular connectivity like automatic Do Not Disturb for messages and phone calls during workouts and an overhauled Music app that no longer shows media from paired iPhones for remote playback.

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Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.