Orange France has begun accepting pre-orders for the LTE-enabled Apple Watch Series 3. According to the operator’s website, the device will be available exclusively on its network starting on 22 September 2017. Eligible customers—meaning those with unlimited calling plans with Orange or its budget brand Sosh—will have access to a voice and data add-on, called Multi-SIM, with which they can share their allowances with the watch.
This deal is being offered free of charge for the first six months, to customers who make their purchases between 22 September and 3 October. After that, the subscription for the add-on will cost €5.00 (US $5.97) per month. Customers must have a compatible handset (iPhone 6S or later model) in order to make use of the Apple Watch Series 3.
With all the fanfare surrounding Apple’s announcement last week of its iPhone X and iPhone 8 models, the new Apple Watch seems to have gotten a little less attention. However, while the improvements to the company’s flagship handsets are more or less incremental, the wrist-based unit comes with a quantum leap (albeit one already made by Samsung and LG)—cellular connectivity, and LTE at that.
Now that the Apple Watch no longer needs to be tethered to a nearby iPhone, users have greater freedom to access voice and data services at times when they may not have the ability or desire to have their handsets with them. And Orange is well positioned to benefit from this situation by achieving (for the time being) market exclusivity in its home base, France. While we of course cannot be sure at the moment what the level of demand and uptake there will be for the LTE-enabled watch, Orange’s first-mover status will allow it to garner all the revenue in this sector for a while and possibly to keep ahead of its competitors even after they enter.
According to a report, Orange’s exclusivity is due to technical reasons rather than to a privileged deal inked with Apple: Currently in France, only Orange’s network is capable of supporting e-SIMS, which is the system used by the Apple Watch Series 3. This circumstance could cause the period of exclusivity to last longer than it would otherwise.
Adding a free six-month promotional period to the offer is a savvy move, although the future cost of the Multi-SIM add-on is certainly not onerous. While the operator will make money from this surcharge, we expect that if the Apple Watch Series 3 catches on among French users, it will create a serious revenue opportunity in the form of increased data consumption.