LTE Apple Watches may be able to make emergency calls without linked iPhone plan

Posted:
in Apple Watch
Although cellular versions of the Apple Watch Series 3 nominally need to be linked to an iPhone number to make calls, they may be able to dial emergency services even if their phone/data service isn't activated.




After a first unsuccessful attempt to test the "Emergency SOS" feature on an unactivated Watch running watchOS 4.1, a Reddit poster said they recently emailed Apple asking if it was a carrier issue and if support was ever planned. The person then received a reply from Apple Executive Relations, eventually getting a mediated explanation from engineers that a Watch should be capable of making SOS calls with or without activation.

On a second test after installing watchOS 4.2 beta 3, the poster managed to get in contact with 911 after waiting 3 minutes -- having been encouraged by an Apple representative to wait up to 5. It's not clear if the OS update had any impact.

Emergency SOS is triggered by holding down the side button on a Watch, which will eventually dial the emergency dispatch in a given region. Once that call ends, a Watch will attempt to fire off text messages to listed emergency contacts, including location information, even if Location Services are normally turned off.

AppleInsider has yet to independently verify the Reddit claim.

If true, though, it could make the cellular Series 3 appealing to people who would otherwise pick a GPS-only Watch. While the GPS Series 3 starts at $329, cellular models are at least $399 before any monthly data fees.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    Apple needs to confirm or deny this.  

    The last thing we need is millions of idiots trying to test this, and tying up the operators.
    JFC_PAcalijahbladeanantksundarammike1chiaGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 30
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 144member
    Logical: phone’s without plans are required by law to have access to emergency service numbers. 
    jahbladeMartin57
  • Reply 3 of 30
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    JFC_PA said:
    Logical: phone’s without plans are required by law to have access to emergency service numbers. 
    Right but the Watch is new tech.

    3-5 minutes? If Apple can get it connected to emergency services immediately, this is one more(BIG) reason to get a Watch with LTE.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 30
    I bought the non-LTE Watch 3 because I didn't want to pay 10 euros a month on top of a phone contract - and anyway, my deal here in France is with SFR, and only Orange are listed in this country with the cellular option. However, having had a major heart problem three years ago, and the occasional TIA, I would have certainly opted for the more expensive Watch 3 had I known at the time that this "emergency calling" by holding down a button was a possibility. Although living in the countryside has many advantages... there are disadvantages too when it comes needing the emergency services!
    Martin57watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 30
    More importantly, will you be able to listen to emergency FM radio broadcasts?  /s
    SpamSandwichSoundJudgmentMartin57GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 30
    Either it does, or it doesn't. On a matter such as this, "may (or may not)" is pointless reporting.

    And, as the first poster points out, Apple must confirm or deny this.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 30
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 1,916member
    cali said:
    JFC_PA said:
    Logical: phone’s without plans are required by law to have access to emergency service numbers. 
    Right but the Watch is new tech.

    3-5 minutes? If Apple can get it connected to emergency services immediately, this is one more(BIG) reason to get a Watch with LTE.
    It is still a phone. In the US, by law, it has to be able to connect to 911 services even if it has no plan. 
    randominternetpersonMartin57
  • Reply 8 of 30
    Surely the customer would have to establish some relationship with a carrier first, right?  If so, this doesn't seem like a technical challenge on Apple's side; it's a carrier issue.
  • Reply 9 of 30
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 1,916member
    Surely the customer would have to establish some relationship with a carrier first, right?  If so, this doesn't seem like a technical challenge on Apple's side; it's a carrier issue.
    To get FCC approval to sell these devices in the US, it has to be able to connect to 911 services without an activated plan. Its a legal issue.
    chiaMartin57
  • Reply 10 of 30
    Either way, please don’t tie up emergency services testing to see if this works.
  • Reply 11 of 30
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 1,916member
    Maybe this exists, but the LTE AW also has a GPS chip in it. Thats the perfect combination for a better emergency system than 911. An app, easily activated, that connects to a (paid?) service that receives data and summons help would be a winner. I can see a sales case for kids. Parents control how the service contacts them first (or not.) Lotta possibilities.

    Of course, it would be nice if the 911 services themselves came kicking and screaming into the 20th century too, but that's another thing.
  • Reply 12 of 30
    I think that the first issue for the watch would be to determine what number to call for Emergency. In the US it's 911, but what if I take a trip to France (love the countryside Fotoformat) where the number might be different. Then there is the issue of the Watch connecting and all that Jazz. Just as big a need would be the watch to identify a fall so they can respond to the wearer saying "Help!"
  • Reply 13 of 30
    dcgoodcgoo Posts: 193member
    I bought the non-LTE Watch 3 because I didn't want to pay 10 euros a month on top of a phone contract - 
    Even if you get the cellular watch, you do not have to activate the feature.  IMO, it is worth the difference just for the extra storage on the cellular models.   Here in .US, the feature is offered for free for 3 months by the carriers, to try it out. I fully expect to turn it off after the trial period is up.  I literally *never* leave my phone behind.  $10/mo is not that big of a deal, but I will NEVER use it. Makes no sense to me either. 
  • Reply 14 of 30
    kenaustus said:
    I think that the first issue for the watch would be to determine what number to call for Emergency. In the US it's 911, but what if I take a trip to France (love the countryside Fotoformat) where the number might be different. Then there is the issue of the Watch connecting and all that Jazz. Just as big a need would be the watch to identify a fall so they can respond to the wearer saying "Help!"

    911 works in France too...
  • Reply 15 of 30
    i wish carriers would look at fees for apple watch extension for only the times you use it instead of a flat out $10 per month subscription.
    libertyforallwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 30
    911 works in France too...
    Yes 911 works in many countries even when the native emergency number is different. Blame the corruption of American TV shows and movies. 
    entropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 30
    Either it does, or it doesn't. On a matter such as this, "may (or may not)" is pointless reporting.

    And, as the first poster points out, Apple must confirm or deny this.
    AI is simply reporting the facts -- all of them -- as they are known.   It's a rather new concept in media.   I hope it catches on.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 30
    Wouldn't this issue/question apply equally well to an iPad with cellular?   Or, can they only make FaceTime calls?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 30
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,353member
    Without cell plan, having unlocked LTE watch 3 able to make call and text using Wifi and LTE for emergency services. Other time, you have your phone with you so watch connected to phone uses phone's call/text/data functionality.
  • Reply 20 of 30
    More importantly, will you be able to listen to emergency FM radio broadcasts?  /s
    Well not yet, but be assured someone will create a lawsuit to try to force Apple to activate the hidden FM receiver in it.
    watto_cobra
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