LTE cellular smartwatch RF signal performance

LTE smartwatches such as the LG-W280A 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.

LTE smartwatch in rural Southwest

On a recent trip to New Mexico for a conference in Santa Fe, I was surprised how well the Wear OS 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 Wear OS 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

AT&T over exaggerates their new Mexico coverage map. 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.

Am I using 2G,3G,4G?

While VoLTE / HD Voice is being rapidly deployed, some carriers have still only enabled VoLTE for a select subset of user devices. 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.

2G EDGE, the oldest digital network mode still in use, very slow.
3G HSPA/HSPA+, good enough for basic web browsing and email.
really good 3G. Carriers like to call their upgraded 3G networks 4G.
actually using 4G LTE.

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.