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Do you really need cellular on your Apple Watch?

The price hike may be worth it.
January 27, 2023
A user receives a phone call on their Apple Watch SE.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

At face value, the Apple Watch lineup is very simple, with multiple generations of the same device. However, Apple’s wearables come in a variety of sizes, materials, and even models (once you consider the Apple Watch Ultra and Apple Watch SE as well). If you’ve already nailed down all the basic details, the last choice you may be left with is whether or not your Apple Watch needs cellular connectivity.

Don’t miss: Everything you need to know about Apple’s watches

Who/What is Apple Watch cellular for?

A user makes a FaceTime Audio call on their Apple Watch SE 2.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Cellular service on an Apple Watch is for anyone who prefers to leave their iPhone behind. For runners or distance-training athletes, cellular service enables access to music streaming plus texts and phone calls. Essentially, it turns the Apple Watch into a standalone device rather than a tethered iPhone companion.

This is also a great option for parents who want to keep their children connected without introducing a smartphone. Using Family Setup, parents can purchase an Apple Watch for their child and set it up with their iPhone. Then, once the service is activated, the child can text or call home without a phone of their own.

Should you get the Apple Watch cellular?

An Apple Watch Ultra on a user's wrists displays the countdown for Siren.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

A cellular model is pricier than a Bluetooth-only one. Activating cellular service also requires a monthly fee to your cellular provider. If you are someone who nearly always has their iPhone on hand, you probably don’t need to make the investment. On the other hand, cellular service makes the watch a more powerful and independent wearable. For example, a runner may value the ability to make Emergency SOS calls from the road or trail regardless of leaving their phone behind.

You can also always purchase an Apple Watch with cellular capabilities but not activate cellular service. This keeps the option open if you plan to keep your device for a long time and aren’t sure if you may want cellular connectivity in the future. Keep in mind that some models, such as the Ultra and the Series 8 Hermes edition, are only available with cellular connectivity.

How much does it cost?

At checkout, a cellular model of the flagship Apple Watch is an extra $100. Starting prices for the Apple Watch Series 8 landed at $399 for the GPS model and $499 for the GPS + Cellular model. If you opt for the more affordable Apple Watch SE, prices differ less. A GPS model SE starts at $249 while a GPS + Cellular model ups the price to just $299.

As mentioned, once you have the watch on hand, you will also need to pay a monthly fee to activate the cellular service. Depending on your carrier, this typically averages around $10 per month.

Unfortunately, you cannot retroactively add cellular capabilities to a GPS model device. You can, however, purchase a cellular model and delay activating service.

Yes. If you activated cellular service and no longer want it, you can remove the plan. You may need to contact your provider to complete the cancellation.

Not necessarily. You can make emergency calls on your GPS model Apple Watch if your phone is nearby or if you are connected to a Wi-Fi network.