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I'm paying $10/month for LTE data for my Apple Watch series 4 on Verizon. That gives me 15GB of hotspot data on it and unlimited data for use from the watch.

However, my usage always shows 0 bytes. I'm always out of hotspot data so I would love to slurp that 15GB on my laptop, but I can't find any method of using my Apple Watch as a hotspot. For that matter, it looks like as long as my iPhone is around, I never actually use the LTE data on my watch, or it's such a tiny amount of data that it never reaches .01 GB.

How can I make use of my LTE data plan on my Apple Watch?

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    Don’t shoot the messenger, here. I know this isn’t the answer you want, but it’s how things are designed. Plus, if I’m wrong, experience shows nothing will bring out people on the internet better than someone else being wrong. : - )
    – bmike
    Dec 27, 2019 at 1:38

2 Answers 2

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+50

TLDR - Could Apple do this with a quick update - of course it’s technically possible. Will Apple do so? I expect this decision to ensure battery use is minimized to hold, but who knows what new hardware might do efficiently or if software in the future is allowed to spend more watch battery energy on this feature.


On a technical level, with the current iOS/iPadOS/watchOS throttling background data connections at 30 seconds in general when it used to be 10 minutes, there is no way you’ll be able to fit that much data through the watch hardware. My opinion is the carriers can easily offer unlimited “watch data” knowing it’s highly constrained by the hardware to short bursts of data. It would be a triumph to accumulate a GB of watch data with the hardware and software going into 2020.

You are correct that if the watch is on WiFi - it will tunnel all data over that and if that doesn’t work, then the watch will talk to your iPhone over bluetooth to avoid running the LTE on the watch.

WatchOS will only consume cellular as the last resort and certainly the tethering code is disabled on watchOS as well to save power and allow it to run as described above.

If cost savings is your desire, consider dropping LTE on the watch and seeing if you can manage without it and fund more phone data instead of the typical $10 monthly fee for the watch specific data connection.

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    Technically, it’s a fully capable LTE/UMTS cellular radio. With the 64-bit dual core processor, it should easily be able to handle 100mbit/sec, though the battery won’t last long. My point is that I’m paying for data I can’t use. If it’s LTEvoice only, they should say that. Dec 27, 2019 at 1:54
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    I agree you’re paying for data you might not be able to use. The power drain to consume that rate would be fun to get some empirical data @WilfredSmith Has the baseband code leaked out anywhere you’ve seen? I’d be surprised it’s voice only since texting and apps get data connections, but I haven’t seen packet captures so I can’t say for sure.
    – bmike
    Dec 27, 2019 at 2:10
  • No. but the standard NSNet stuff works over cellular. Though your app gets killed pretty quickly. I wish Verizon would pool the data instead of giving me 15GB that I can’t touch. I’m okay with sucking battery. I get almost an hour of LTE voice when I leave my phone at home. My dream is to do everything from my watch and AirPods. Dec 27, 2019 at 2:19
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    I’ve added some details on the NS connection timeouts being lowered from minutes to 30 seconds on iOS 13 and equivalent. Apple clearly can do this but isn’t. The carriers are complicit in selling you the idea there’s a lot of LTE data to be consumed, that I feel isn’t there yet. HTH @WilfredSmith
    – bmike
    Dec 27, 2019 at 16:43
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    Yes @WilfredSmith panic had to add location tracking to their ssh client prompt - it’s the only thing that keeps network connections alive now In the background. library.panic.com/prompt/prompt-connection-keeper and library.panic.com/general/ios-background
    – bmike
    Dec 27, 2019 at 17:00
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As per your intent to know about whether the watch can tether or not, here are two comments, by people on the internet, just like us:

  • I doubt it. I can't see the watch modem being able to push enough data to a device to be of use.

  • Doubt it and that would also murder your watch battery in a quick minute.

https://forums.imore.com/apple-watch-series-3/393615-can-apple-watch-3-used-hotspot-tether-other-devices.html


This one by person with ~23k points on Apple Forum:

No, your Apple Watch is not capable of acting as a hotspot to support other devices on cellular or WiFi. Your iPhone should be able to support the iPad using Personal Hotspot.

https://discussions.apple.com/thread/8627662


Turning on cellular for extended periods uses more battery power. Also, some apps might not update without a connection to your iPhone.

https://support.apple.com/en-in/HT207578


Adding my two cents: If there's no On/Off switch, then there's no feature.

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