LTE smartwatches such as the LG Watch Sport have remarkable performance with regard to RF signals. That is, under weak signal conditions, one commonly gets say 90% of the range/performance of a full high-end smartphone.
- Can also use certain models of LTE smartwatch with Project Fi
- Android Wear keeps most functions over LTE
LTE smartwatch in rural Southwest experience
On a recent trip to New Mexico for a conference in Santa Fe, I was surprised how well the Android Wear LTE smartwatch works in this weak coverage area for AT&T. AT&T admits they have few towers in the Santa Fe area, and the local store in Santa Fe says don’t expect your AT&T phone to work in Los Alamos, yet I found I could make calls near Los Alamos.
Note: with providers turning off 2G, in particular AT&T, be aware coverage may have changed since the last time you went to your vacation spot.
Since you can use a Bluetooth headset with the Android Wear LTE smartwatch, call quality is excellent under a wide variety of conditions. In very noisy environments, I hold my wrist next to my ear, or used a headset.
AT&T coverage map over exaggerates their new Mexico coverage
As always before going into remote areas, let someone know when & where you’re going in case of problem and no cell coverage. Consider renting a satellite phone or Spot device if on extended remote travel.
Understanding what 2G/3G/4G mode smartphone/watch is in
While VoLTE/HD Voice is being rapidly deployed, most carriers have still only enabled VoLTE for a select subset of user devices in typically urban areas. Your smartphone/watch will often drop back to “4G” to make a call. You can observe this on an Android device by that the signal icon changes from 4G-LTE to just 4G–which likely actually means a 3G CDMA or HSPA network.
If you see an
E next to your signal bars, that means 2G EDGE, the network mode turned off in 2017 for many North American carriers.
If you see an
H that means 3G HSPA/HSPA+.
If you see 4G, that might actually mean really good 3G.
You might notice the signal bars jumping up/down a few notches when going between 4G and 4G-LTE since LTE in the present times is often on a different band than 3G–e.g. 700 MHz vs. 1900 MHz
Remember, carriers like to call their upgraded 3G networks 4G.