China cuts off cellular access for Apple Watch Series 3 as Uniloc sues over GPS patent

China has cut off access to the Apple Watch Series 3’s cellular capability after a brief period of availability on one of the country’s phone providers, The Wall Street Journal reports. Analysts claim the country tightened restrictions because of the difficulty in tracking user identity through the watch’s eSIM, which is embedded in the device by Apple rather than the cellular carriers. China Unicom offered cellular service for the Apple Watch at launch, but new subscriptions were cut off a week later, on Sept. 28. So far users who already subscribed still have service, but China Unicom’s website now claims the feature had been offered on a “trial basis” and provides no timeline for when subscriptions will be available again. In a written statement, Apple coinfirmed, “We were informed by China Unicom that the new cellular feature on the Apple Watch Series 3 has been suspended,” but referred all other questions back to the provider.
In other Apple Watch news, Apple has been sued by patent troll Uniloc over the GPS system in its device. The lawsuit claims the watch infringes on a patent for “exercise monitoring system and methods” filed in 1999 by Paragon Solutions, including a “physiological monitor with GPS location capabilities and separate wearable display.” While the original Apple Watch required a tethered iPhone for GPS tracking, both the Apple Watch Series 2 and Series 3 include independent GPS technology that allows the watch to track workouts by itself. AppleInsider reports Uniloc has been filing multiple patent suits against Apple, over everything from Apple Maps and Apple ID to AirPlay and the Apple TV Remote app.

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