Apple announced an updated version of its smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 3, on Tuesday, including models that can connect directly to wireless networks.
That allows the watch to do a lot more without needing an iPhone nearby for a connection. For example, runners can stream songs via the Apple Music service without the inconvenience of having to also carry a phone. And the watch can make and receive calls and text messages on its own by sharing the phone number of an associated iPhone that’s somewhere else. Apple CEO Tim Cook and other company executives unveiled the new watches at a press event in the new Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino.
But wireless carriers will charge for the privilege.
No sooner was Apple (AAPL) done unveiling the new watch when Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) announced that they would support the device on their networks. But customers will have to pay $10 extra a month to add the watch to their mobile plans. Verizon said it would give customers three months of free service and waive activation and upgrade fees for the watch.
T-Mobile (TMUS) said it would follow the pack and charge $10 per month for Apple Watch connections after three months of free service.
Sprint (S) said it would charge $10 per month after three free months for adding the cellular-capable Apple Watch to its network.
The $10 per month fee was double what Verizon charged to add the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch to its plans earlier this year and could deter some subscribers from connecting the Apple device to their mobile plans.
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The new Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular connectivity also costs more, starting at $399 while a new Apple Watch Series 3 without that feature starts at $349. The upgraded devices also have improved heart rate monitoring, an altimeter to track changes in altitude, and a faster processor, Apple said.
Most people still carry their phones most everywhere they go, so the always-connected watch might have limited appeal. “The cellular connection will mostly appeal to those who frequently exercise without their phones, as did the GPS feature Apple added last year,” Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, noted. “That’s likely a subset of users, but fixes a big issue for runners and others who feel the need to stay connected while exercising without their phones.”
(This story was updated on Sept. 13 to add Sprint’s pricing)