Ever since the release of the Apple Watch Series 3 in late 2017, we have two different versions of Apple Watches: GPS-only and GPS+Cellular.
As you might have guessed, the main difference here is that the GPS+cellular Apple Watches can directly connect to the cellular network with their own SIMs even when not paired via Bluetooth with an iPhone. This enables most functionalities of the Apple Watch without needing to carry your iPhone, which can be useful in certain situations, for example when you are jogging or in the gym.
To make the most of a GPS+Cellular Apple Watch, however, you’ll need a proper Apple Watch cellular plan to use the LTE connectivity of the Watch.
Apple Watch GPS VS Cellular
Cellular connectivity is indeed the main difference between the GPS-only Apple Watch and Cellular Apple watch, but not the sole difference.
To summarize, here are some important differences between the two Apple Watch versions:
|Apple Watch GPS-Only||Apple Watch GPS+Cellular|
|More affordable||More expensive (Typically costs $100 more than a comparable GPS-only Apple Watch)|
|Must pair with an iPhone via Bluetooth to connect to the internet.||Doesn’t need an iPhone nearby to perform most core functions|
|Typically offers less storage space (depending on the model)||Typically offers more storage than a comparable GPS-only model|
|Better battery life||Shorter battery life|
|Need to consider carrier compatibility and other compatibility issues|
|Monthly Apple Watch data plan costs|
And below are the specification differences between the two versions
|Battery life (talk)||N/A||1.5 hours|
|Battery life (audio)||10 hours||7 hours
5 hours with Apple Music streaming
|Battery life (workout)||10 hours indoor
6 hours outdoor with GPS
|5 hours outdoor with GPS & LTE|
|Apple Music support||No||Yes|
|Minimum requirements||iPhone 6s with iOS 14||iPhone 6s with iOS 14 for Series 4 and newer|
|Family Setup support||No||Yes|
|Storage size||32GB for SE, Series 6||32GB for SE, Series 6|
|Monthly cost||$0||From $10 per month, depending on the Apple Watch data plan|
Apple Watch Cellular Benifits
No need to bring your iPhone with you
As discussed, the main advantage of a cellular-enabled Watch is that you can get most functionalities of the Apple Watch, even if you don’t have your iPhone around. This can be a really useful feature for those who don’t like to bring their iPhones when they are in the gym or running outdoors.
This is also a handy feature when you lose your iPhone or forget to bring your iPhone, as you can keep the internet connection on your Apple Watch. You can even use the Find My iPhone feature on the Watch to find your iPhone.
Streaming to Apple Music
If you want to listen to music with a GPS-only Apple Watch, you’ll need to store the music files to the Watch, and so they will take some storage space.
With a Cellular-enabled Apple Watch, however, you can stream music from Apple Music at all times, even when the Watch is not paired with your iPhone. With Series 5 and 6, you get around 7 hours of battery life when streaming music over an LTE connection.
Make phone calls/receive messages
With cellular connectivity on your Apple Watch, you can call others on your Apple Watch and listen to your voicemails even when the Watch is not paired with your iPhone over Bluetooth. This will allow you to take important calls and receive messages (SMS, emails, iMessages) when you don’t have your iPhone around.
If you can get the right Apple Watch data plan that allows number sharing, such as Truphone’s Apple Watch data plan for Family Setup, then you can use the same phone number on both your Apple Watch and your iPhone for this benefit.
You get full Maps functionality (including third-party apps like Google Maps) on a cellular-enabled Apple Watch. This can be a great feature when you are driving without your iPhone or working out outdoors.
What You Can and Can’t Do With Apple Watch Data Plan
Here is what you can do with an Apple Watch that is connected to a data plan but not tethered to your iPhone:
- Voice calls and VoIP calls
- iMessage and email
- Siri functionalities
- Audio streaming apps (Apple Music)
- Any third-party apps that need an internet connection (Maps, email apps, etc.)
To compare things, here are some important features you can do on your Watch when not connected to the internet at all:
- Use Apple Pay
- Clock features (alarm, stopwatch)
- Health-tracking apps (health rate tracking, activity/fitness tracking)
- View/listen to media stored on your Apple Watch
To summarize, you obviously get more freedom and versatility with the cellular-enabled Apple Watch, as you can access most of the Apple Watch’s core functionalities even when it’s not tethered to an iPhone.
After we’ve discussed all the key differences between the two Apple Watch versions, there are two main considerations when choosing between the two, and whether you’ll need an Apple Watch data plan.
- Whether you are willing to spend the $100 extra+monthly data plan fees.
- How often you expect to be without your iPhone during your daily activities
If you’d like the option of leaving your phone behind and still get Maps direction and other online activities, then you should get the Apple Watch cellular.