Do you need an Apple Watch data plan?

If you’ve just got an Apple Watch, you may wonder whether you need an Apple Watch data plan.

Staff Writer
Staff Writer
 min read
May 23, 2022

To say that the Apple Watch is much better when connected to an iPhone is a bit of an understatement – it’s (sadly) fairly tough to recommend one if you don’t have an Apple phone. That’s because the two are in constant sync via Bluetooth, with the Apple Watch piggybacking off your iPhone’s cellular connection.

And yet, the Apple Watch has a data plan option of its own, meaning it can connect to your provider on its own. What benefits does that offer? How does it differ from GPS? And how do you get a data plan?

Let’s take a look.

What’s the difference between GPS and GPS + Cellular?

Apple Watch is sold in two variants, whether you opt for the Series 7, the SE, or the Series 3. GPS offers a tracker in your watch, while GPS + Cellular means you can do much more.

Either one will track your running route in Strava, or send texts if your iPhone is nearby, but having a data plan on your Apple Watch means you can do much more with your phone at home.

The advantages of an Apple Watch data plan

By allowing your Apple Watch to connect to your data provider directly, you essentially make it into a mini iPhone you keep on your wrist.

This means you can send texts or make calls without having your phone handy, stream audio like a Spotify or Apple Music playlist, and you can set the device up for a family member that doesn’t have an iPhone.

It’s worth noting that while it may seem a small inconvenience to carry your phone with you while out for a run, using the Apple Watch’s cellular plan means you can stream audio from your Watch to your Bluetooth earphones without risking an expensive repair if you drop your phone (something this writer is painfully aware of).

That said, apps like Spotify, Apple Music, Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and more do allow you to store audio on any model of Apple Watch for offline playback.

What is Family Setup?

As noted above, if you buy an Apple Watch with a cellular connection, Apple will let you set up the Apple Watch to be used without being connected to an iPhone.

That’s ideal for older or younger family members, meaning they can use excellent health tracking features such as fall detection without needing to be near an iPhone for everyday usage.

How does Cellular affect battery life?

Apple Watch Cellular models are, as you can imagine, using more power when the data connection is in use.

That means you can expect to charge a little more often, but it’s not a huge change. In fact, you’re unlikely to notice any distance if you’re always close to your iPhone.

You can also turn off your data connection on your Apple Watch.

How to get an Apple Watch data plan

If your phone provider offers an Apple Watch plan, you’ll usually be able to add it to your existing plan for a monthly charge.

Once it’s been added to your account, you’ll be able to head into the Apple Watch app, and find the connection in the Mobile Data menu.

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