Vodafone said its network will support British consumers wanting to use an Apple Watch as a 4G phone. File Photo: IOL
INTERNATIONAL – BT Group's EE is no longer the only option for British consumers wanting to use an Apple Watch as a 4G phone, as Vodafone Group said its network will support Apple’s latest flagship, announced Wednesday.

Customers will be able to use the Apple Watch to make calls using the same number as the iPhone it’s paired with, even if the phone is switched off or out of battery, a spokesman for Vodafone told Bloomberg.

It’s a significant change to the competitive landscape for the Apple timepieces in the UK. For the current 4G-equipped Apple Watch Series 3, carriers had to alter the way their networks are set up to support one phone number for multiple devices. EE was the only one to have done so in Britain, making it by default the exclusive provider of cellular-capable Apple Watches. Other European countries, including Germany and Spain, already have more than one network capable of offering these features.

Vodafone confirmed it will also support current Apple Watch models.

By following suit, Vodafone will now be able to inject competition into the 4G smartwatch market, which has helped draw customers to its larger rival. In November, EE Chief Executive Officer Marc Allera said that the current Apple Watch Series 3 had exceeded expectations. “It has been really strong, both for existing customers and those joining EE,” Allera told Bloomberg at the time.

Apple had 17 percent of the smartwatch market in the second quarter of 2018 with 4.7 million units shipped, and saw more than 38 percent year-over-year growth, according to data from IDC. A model with a larger screen, announced Wednesday, could boost the device’s prospects heading into the holiday season – and that’s something Vodafone can now go head-to-head with EE on.

The Apple Watch Series 4 will be available for pre-order on September 14. Vodafone hasn’t announced price plans, and a spokesman declined to comment on them.