When Apple released its Series 3 model this September, the cellular capabilities were the biggest selling point for the smart watch. It still is in most of the world–except China.

As furious early adopters are growing impatient after three months of waiting, Apple decided that Apple Watch Series 3 owners in China could return the product, unrestricted by the 14-day return policy.

After brief availability through telecom carrier China Unicom, owners of the new model found that cellular connectivity was cut off abruptly without a timeframe for comeback. The suspension of this feature last for a couple of months and there’s no sign that the ban will be lifted any time soon.

Chinese Carrier Information for Apple Watch Series 3

At the very beginning of Series 3’s release, Unicom specified the following: “Cellular service available only for mobile lines opened in Guangdong, Henan, Hunan, Shanghai, and Tianjin.” Apple updated the page with reference to support later in 2017 after the September 28 ban. Now, all Chinese carriers — China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom, show the support is coming in 2018, Apple Watch Series 3 cellular support site shows.

Now, Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE, which priced at RMB3188, is now no different to a more affordable Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS (RMB 2588).

The ban is essentially caused by the new technology that Apple uses in the Series 3 called an eSIM, a tiny chip that allows users to subscribe to any carrier they choose, and thus loosing the government’s ability in tracking the users.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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