The Apple Watch was originally designed to pair with an existing iPhone via Bluetooth connectivity. The Watch would use the iPhone’s data plan (or Wi-Fi connection), so cellular connectivity wasn’t available with the first two models of the Apple Watch (series 1 and series 2). That has now changed, offering exciting opportunities for Apple Watch owners, as explained in this post.
Since the introduction of the Apple Watch Series 3 back in 2017, Apple now offers two different Apple Watch variants: GPS-only, and cellular+GPS.
A cellular+GPS Apple Watch model allows you to use almost the full functionalities of the Apple Watch without pairing it with an iPhone nearby, as long as there’s cellular coverage. However, this will also mean you’d need to get an eligible cellular data plan that supports Apple Watch cellular connectivity.
What Can You Get With Cellular Connectivity on Your Apple Watch?
It’s important to remember that even with no internet at all, there are some useful features you can still use from the Apple Watch:
- Play downloaded music/podcast that is stored on the Apple Watch
- View stored photos, videos, and other content synced from your phone
- Use Apple Pay
- Use alarms, timer, and stopwatch
- Benefit form health and fitness tracking apps
- Use third-party apps that can work offline
However, with a cellular-enabled Apple Watch, you can use the following features even when the Watch is not connected to an iPhone over Bluetooth:
- Most of the Siri functionalities
- Make and receive phone calls
- Send/receive iMessages and emails
- Stream audio content via apps like Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Audible, and others
- Use any viable third-party apps available on the App Store
Would I Need a Separate Data Plan for My Apple Watch?
Assuming you already have an iPhone with a functional data plan, would you need to get a separate data plan for your Apple Watch?
The good news is, the answer is no. In fact, Apple requires you to use the same cellular provider for your iPhone and the Apple Watch. Typically your cellular provider will charge a small extra fee (around $10/month) for the Apple Watch.
However, there’s another option to use the newly-introduced Family Setup, where you can set up several different Apple Watches with just one iPhone. This feature is intended so that family members like children and elderly parents can use an Apple Watch even if they don’t (yet) own an iPhone.
In this case, you can use plans like Truphone’s Apple Watch data plan, which is only $9.99/watch/month. This plan is designed specifically for the Family Setup feature, and you’ll get unlimited data, voice, and SMS for each watch every month.
Factors To Consider When Choosing an Apple Watch Data Plan
When choosing between different data plan options, here are the most important factors to consider:
Factor no. 1: Cost
It’s quite obvious that cost is going to be an important consideration, but it’s also important to remember that as with anything else, you get what you pay for. It’s best to set a maximum budget you’ll be willing to pay each month, and research to find the best possible option you can get with this limit.
Also, consider whether you’ll need a separate phone number (different than your iPhone) for your Apple Watch since it might cost you a little more per month.
Factor no. 2: Network Coverage
A very important consideration when choosing between different data plans is to ensure you can get reliable coverage in areas you are frequently in (your home, workspace, commute route, etc). You can visit the carrier’s website and check their coverage maps to see whether it is available in your area.
Also, if you plan to travel a lot with your Apple Watch, you might want to get a plan that covers international or global coverage to avoid those expensive roaming charges in the long run. Remember that since the Apple Watch has an eSIM, you can easily change between carriers as you move between countries without needing to change your physical SIM card. Use this feature to your advantage.
Factor no. 3: “Unlimited” Policy
It’s no secret that many network providers nowadays offer “unlimited” data/voice/text plans, but many (if not most) of them actually have some sort of restrictions to limit data usage. This is typically done in the form of throttling, which means your bandwidth speed will be (significantly) slowed down after you reach a certain bandwidth limit.
Make sure to check clearly with the network provider whether they have this type of fair use policy in place of their unlimited plan, so you can know exactly the amount of optimal data you can use each month.
Do the same with all the features offered by the network provider. For example, the provider might offer free-roaming, but turns out this will only give you very slow bandwidth, and you’d need to pay extra if you want faster speeds.
Factor no. 4: Included Phone Number
This is especially important if you want your Apple Watch to have different numbers than your iPhone, or if the Apple Watch is going to be used by other family members via Family Setup. Make sure the data plan offers an included, unique phone number for the Apple Watch, ideally with no/very low costs.
Factor No. 5: Travel Benefits
If you travel a lot, then travel benefits should be a major consideration when choosing between different data plans. If you often travel internationally, then you might want to get a data plan that includes international coverage to avoid those pesky roaming charges in the future. Some data plans might also offer unique travel perks, like in-flight testing and free Wi-Fi on certain flights. Do your research based on countries you frequently travel to, and find a data plan that offers the most valuable travel benefits to these countries.
If you are planning to get a cellular-enabled Apple Watch, then getting a suitable data plan that can cover your needs and preferences is a must if you want to make the most of this Apple Watch. A proper data plan can allow you to leave your iPhone behind while still getting directions, listening to Spotify, and even sending emails and placing calls with your Apple Watch all the time.
While cost is indeed an important consideration when choosing between different data plans for your Apple Watch, also consider the values and features you’ll get from this plan. There’s no use getting a very affordable plan if you don’t get any value from it at all.