Does Apple Watches Need a Data Plan? (It Depends!)

An Apple Watch is a great way to stay connected, use a wide range of health features, and have a safety alert system at the touch of a finger. Convenient, lightweight, and easy to use, Apple Watches are growing in popularity. But does owning yet another smart device force you into an additional data plan to use the watch as intended?

You do not need a data plan to use an Apple Watch. The GPS+Cellular Apple Watch will give you the option of having a data plan independent of your iPhone or wireless internet signal. Some Apple Watch features and capabilities need a data plan to function fully.

Some people choose only to buy the significantly cheaper GPS-Only Apple Watch. These watches cannot support a data plan but rely on your iPhone’s signal or nearby WiFi.

Keep in mind that without a data plan or Internet connection, you may not be able to receive texts, or phone calls, use Apple Wallet, or stream music and podcasts from Apple Music.

Adding a data plan to your Apple Watch is usually a minimal cost, and most users report minimal data usage from their smartwatch.

What Benefits Does a Cellular Apple Watch Provide?

Having a cellular Apple Watch enables full functionality of the smartwatch. Designed to be different from an iPhone, an Apple Watch has functions that go above and beyond the capability of a complete mobile phone. 

With a cellular data plan enabled, you’ll enjoy every feature of your Apple Watch without having your iPhone nearby or being continuously connected to a WiFi network to get a signal to your Apple Watch.

What Apple Watch Features Need a Cellular Data Plan?

While it is possible to use some features on the Apple Watch without a data plan, several features won’t work. Suppose you are not near your iPhone, or you are not in range of a reliable WiFi network.

In that case, you’ll lack the ability to make phone calls, send messages, check the weather, and stocks, listen to live streaming podcasts and Apple Music and lose the ability to work in Home Control or Find Your Friends. 

Safari web browsing will be closed to you, and you won’t be able to use Walkie-Talkie functionality. If there is an app that needs a cellular connection to run, it will not work without a data plan.

If you don’t have a data plan connected to your Apple Watch, you’ll still be able to open and use these apps as long as you are connected to WiFi or have your cellular data plan enabled iPhone nearby and close enough to connect.

Can I Message People from my Apple Watch Without a Data Plan?

If you are connected to a WiFi signal or have your iPhone nearby, you’ll be able to use your Apple Watch to send and receive messages. Without your iPhone or internet connection, you will not be able to send and receive messages without a data plan.

How Are the GPS+Cellular and GPS-Only Apple Watches Different?

Apple Watch offers two different options; GPS+Cellular and GPS-only. The GPS-only smartwatch is significantly cheaper, so it may be tempting to purchase this Apple Watch option. But, buying the GPS-only watch may leave you unable to connect to several popular Apple Watch features.

Only the Apple Watch GPS+Cellular has an eSIM card. With this capability, the Apple Watch with GPS+Cellular can have its own data plan.

With its own data plan, you’ll be able to fully use each app and feature on your Apple Watch without having to connect to the WiFi signal or have your iPhone close by to share a connection. 

The GPS-only smartwatch option will be cheaper but continually rely on an internet connection from a local source or your iPhone transmitting a signal.

How Do I Know If My Apple Watch is GPS+Cellular?

Aside from the price point of your Apple Watch, there is a way to tell if you have a cellular option simply by looking at your smartwatch. Looking at the side of the watch, there should be a red ring around the digital crown. The GPS+Cellular model is the only Apple Watch that features the red ring.

You can also look at the underside of your Apple Watch. On the back of the watch, you should be able to locate an inscription detailing the model of the smartwatch. If you see the inscription “LTE” on the underside of the watch, your Apple Watch is capable of having its own data plan.

If you have a Fitbit, check out our guide on how to find out which Fitbit you have.

How Do I Set Up A Data Plan on my Apple Watch?

If you have determined your Apple Watch is cellular service enabled, you’ll need to set up your plan on your smartwatch. This process is easy and can be completed once you set up your data plan on your Apple Watch. To start your data plan on your Apple Watch, you’ll need to:

  1. iPhone – From your iPhone, you’ll want to open the app for your Apple Watch. Then select My Watch.
  2. Cellular – Select the Cellular menu and then choose the option to Set Up Cellular
  3. Follow – Continue with setting up your data plan by following the instructions and prompts. Each data network provider will have a slightly different set of instructions. Once completed, you’ll be able to use cellular data with your Apple Watch.

Can I Use Family Setup to Enable my Apple Watch?

If you have the Apple Watch 7 or newer, you’ll be able to activate your Apple Watch in a standalone mode. This mode allows you to use a Family Setup process that doesn’t require your Apple Watch to pair with your iPhone.

In these cases, your Apple Watch will have a different phone number since it is not paired directly to your iPhone. Your Apple Watch will not share the iPhone’s phone number in the family plan it is connected to.

Keep in mind that certain functions and features will not work in Family Setup mode. In Apple Watch Family Setup, also called Standalone Mode, you won’t be able to share health data, including ECG, Cycle Tracking, Sleep, irregular heart rhythm, respiratory rate, or Blood Oxygen levels. You also won’t be able to access the Wallet App to use Apple Pay.

Some Apple Watch features will still be able to function, just on a limited basis. In Standalone mode, users may have trouble using the walking steadiness and fall detection features. Those under the age of 13 will have trouble using the active calories counter, and they won’t be able to reach the Move goal found in the Activity app.

How Much Data Does My Apple Watch Use?

Your Apple Watch will undoubtedly use cellular data, but how much data depends on your usage. Most people report that the Apple Watch uses very little data for day-to-day use, but some apps on the Apple Watch may be data-heavy.

If you are concerned about using too much data, monitor your total data usage over the first few months of owning your smartwatch. You should be able to determine which apps are data heavy, causing your monthly bill or data consumption to increase.

How Much Does it Cost to Add a Data Plan?

Adding a data plan to your Apple Watch is usually a minimal cost, especially if you have an existing data plan for an iPhone. In most cases, a cellular data provider will only charge between $10 and $15 a month to add the Apple Watch as an additional device to your plan.

Keep in mind both your Apple Watch and your iPhone must use the same service provider. Having the same data provider for both your iPhone and your Apple Watch will ensure you can use apps, make phone calls, and use data messaging.

No posts