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.