The Apple Watch line is available in a variety of options and configurations, depending on case material, color, size, and more. However, one of the most important things to consider is whether or not to buy an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity.
With the Apple Watch with LTE, you can go out into the world without an iPhone and stay connected. This is a useful feature, but comes at a cost.
Which models of Apple Watch support cellular?
According to Apple:
Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch Ultra, and Apple Watch SE cellular models with an active data plan. allow you to make calls, send text messages and more – all without your iPhone. You can call emergency services while abroad by simply pressing and holding the side button. And now, with Family Setup, your family members who don't have an iPhone can use the Apple Watch.
Apple currently sells the Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 8, and Apple Watch Ultra. The Apple Watch SE starts at $249 with GPS connectivity and $299 with GPS and cellular. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch Series 8 starts at $399 for GPS and $499 for cellular and GPS.
However, be aware of the following: Apple Watch Series 8 stainless steel, Apple Watch Series 8 Hermès, and Apple Watch Ultra are only available with GPS and cellular. This means that your Apple Watch will have the necessary equipment to connect to the cellular network, but you will have to decide whether to pay a monthly fee.
Associated costs for cellular service
Most plans will set you back around $10/month, which is still a lot cheaper than many iPhone plans. You can get a discount on your cellular plan if you buy your watch directly from a carrier like Verizon or AT&T.
It's also important to remember that if you're buying a standard Apple Watch with GPS, you won't be able to add a cellular plan later. You must purchase an Apple Watch GPS + Cellular to access a data plan now or in the future.
iPhone at hand
For those people who want to get into the habit of ditching their iPhone for an Apple Watch, it makes sense to have a cellular data plan. Especially for those who run or walk, with the cellular model, you don't need to carry a bulky iPhone with you to access calls, text messages, music, and more. When paired with AirPods, you can take calls, listen to music, and do other things without your iPhone.
However, if you find that your iPhone is always with you, cellular service may be useless for you. When making your decision, take into account your current iPhone usage to see if an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity can be justified.
Emergency SOS on Apple Watch
If you want to call emergency services from your Apple Watch and don't want to, If you don't have a cellular plan, you can still do this, but only when connected to a known Wi-Fi network. Apple states:
In order to use emergency SOS on an Apple Watch that doesn't have cellular coverage, your iPhone must be nearby. If your iPhone is not nearby, your Apple Watch must be connected to a known Wi-Fi network, and you must set up Wi-Fi calling.
When you make a call With Emergency SOS, your Apple Watch automatically calls local emergency services and let them know your location.
This is one of the most important things to consider. If you're planning on going without your iPhone, an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity can give you peace of mind. The Apple Watch offers a lot of health features, and cellular is arguably a health feature as well.
Family Setup is popular with parents who want to be able to connect with their kids without them having an iPhone. With this feature, a parent can set up an Apple Watch for their child on their personal iPhone. The child can then use their Apple Watch to make calls, text messages, or use any other feature available, all with their own phone number and Apple ID. With Family Setup on iPhone, the parent doesn't have to be nearby.
Some reasons for choosing this option include the fact that it is more economical. Not only is the device cheaper than most iPhones, it's also cheaper to add a data plan and insure with Apple Care+. Also, since the Apple Watch is worn on the wrist, it's a bit harder to lose it.
Finally, by choosing an Apple Watch over an iPhone, your child spends less time in front of the screen, which is a lot parents want to do. There are parental controls to make Apple Watch work for you. For example, there is a Schooltime feature that disables access to apps and notifications while a child is at school.
For most people, Apple Watch with cellular connection is probably the right decision. While this comes at a higher cost, it unlocks some of the best features of the Apple Watch and helps it be truly independent of your iPhone.
Also, keep in mind that you can buy an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity rather than with activate it. This might be a good option if you plan on using your Apple Watch for a few years, as one day you may decide you need cellular service after all.
I hope one day we don't even have to have this debate and all Apple Watch models come with cellular as standard and everyone can turn it on or not. But for now, this is a decision you will have to make when buying an Apple Watch.