The good and bad news for Apple smartwatch fans in South Africa

While there is good news for Apple Watch Series 6 buyers on Vodacom, MTN customers will have to wait longer to get their hands on Apple’s latest eSIM-enabled smartwatches.

The iStore South Africa recently opened pre-orders and revealed pricing for the new flagship Apple Watch Series 6 and more affordable Apple Watch SE.

Both watches come in models which support cellular connectivity, allowing the user to make phone calls, receive and send text messages, and access a range of online services without having to be connected to a smartphone or Wi-Fi connection.

The Watch Series 6 Cellular starts at R11,499, while the Watch SE Cellular comes in at R7,499.

Their cellular connectivity is made possible by the inclusion of an eSIM, a programmable universal integrated circuit card which is embedded directly inside a device.

This functionality is particularly useful in machine-to-machine applications, which have no need for the SIM card to be swapped, but has also gained popularity in several countries for use in smartphones.

In South Africa, however, eSIM support is limited to several smartwatches available on Vodacom and MTN’s networks.

MyBroadband asked these operators whether they will be offering eSIM capability for the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE on their networks, and if other eSIM devices will receive support in future.


A Vodacom spokesperson confirmed that the cellular versions of the Apple Watch Series 6 and Watch SE will be supported on its network.

“Vodacom will offer the latest products from Apple, including Apple Watch Series 6, delivering breakthrough wellness and fitness capabilities, and Apple Watch SE, the ultimate combination of design, function, and value,” the spokesperson said.

The watches will support Vodacom’s OneNumber, which permits users to link the same phone number used on their phone to the watch.

The eSIM service is free for the first three months, and R25 per month thereafter.

The operator was the first to roll out eSIM support in South Africa, starting with Samsung smartwatches in 2019, and then added eSIM support for the Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 5 in 2020.

Vodacom said it was focused on eSIM wearables at the moment, but plans are underway to support more devices in the future.

The Apple Watch Series 6 and Watch SE will be available to order from Vodacom starting today.

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MTN noted it has been in discussions for months with Apple regarding eSIM support, but did not indicate whether the Apple Watch Series 6 Cellular or Watch SE Cellular would be supported on its network.

MTN’s Senior Manager for Public Relations Leigh-Anne Chetty said the network was also currently engaging various other smartphone manufacturers, and expects to upscale its eSIM support by the end of 2020.

“MTN currently offers the eSIM technology on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 42mm. These watches are only available to customers purchasing a 2-for-1 deal with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 or Note10+ on the MTN Made For Me or Sky Price plans,” Chetty said.

MTN’s eSIM service is subject to a R116 once-off connection fee and R29 monthly fee.

“One of the challenges of implementing eSIM is to find a way to obtain customer’s identity proof such as ID and passport for RICA purposes,” Chetty added.

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Now read: When to expect eSIM support on Telkom, Cell C, and Rain

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The good and bad news for Apple smartwatch fans in South Africa