Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular: Which One Should You Choose?

by | May 1, 2023

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When it comes to choosing between an Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular, it can be difficult deciding which model is best for you.

This article will cover the key differences between the Apple Watch GPS and Cellular models, helping you decide which one is the best fit for your needs.

Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular Key Differences

Knowing the key differences between Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular models can help you make the right purchase to best fit your needs.

In a nutshell, the GPS model requires your iPhone for full functionality, while the Cellular version can operate independently of your iPhone, allowing you to make calls, send messages, and use data without having your phone nearby.

Here is a table showing the notable differences between the two:

GPS Only
GPS + Cellular
No monthly cellular fee
Can make calls without iPhone
Less battery usage compared to cellular models
Can send/receive texts without iPhone
Lower initial cost
Stay connected even without your phone nearby
Can stream music without iPhone
Emergency SOS even without iPhone
Cannot make calls without iPhone or Wi-Fi
Higher initial cost
Cannot send/receive texts without iPhone or Wi-Fi
Requires monthly cellular plan fee
No streaming music without iPhone or Wi-Fi
Increased battery usage
Must have iPhone nearby or Wi-Fi for all connectivity needs
Not all carriers support the Apple Watch cellular

Things You Can Do With Cellular That You Can’t With GPS

Here is a list of things that you can do with the cellular Apple Watch that can’t be done on the GPS only model:

  • Make and receive calls without your iPhone nearby.
  • Send and receive text messages independently from your iPhone.
  • Stream music directly from Spotify or other supported streaming services without your iPhone.
  • Use Siri without needing your iPhone for an internet connection (comes native on the Ultra 2).
  • Receive notifications and alerts from your iPhone, even when it’s not nearby.
  • Check email and respond to messages directly from your Apple Watch.
  • Access live weather updates, news headlines, and other real-time data without your iPhone.
  • Use Apple Pay for contactless payments without needing your iPhone.
  • Use the Find My app to locate your iPhone when it’s not nearby.

If these features sound appealing to you, then you should consider buying an Apple Watch Cellular model.

Apple Watch Cellular Models

Here is a list of all the Apple Watch models that support Cellular:

  1. Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)
  2. Series 4 (GPS + Cellular)
  3. Series 5 (GPS + Cellular)
  4. SE (GPS + Cellular)
  5. Series 6 (GPS + Cellular)
  6. Series 7 (GPS + Cellular)
  7. Series 8 (GPS + Cellular)
  8. Series 9 (GPS + Cellular)
  9. Ultra
  10. Ultra 2

Note! Apple Watches are not locked to any specific carriers.This grants users the flexibility to choose their preferred service provider without having to worry if the watch is compatible or not.

Compatible Cellular Providers

Before getting an Apple Watch with the main purpose of using it for cellular connection, you need to make sure your provider is compatible with Apple Watches.

Luckily, major cellular providers are compatible with Apple Watches, you can reference the full list here, or continue reading.

This list is sourced directly from Apple.

Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular Battery Life

It’s important to know that cellular models consume more power when using its LTE capabilities, which can lead to a shorter battery life if used extensively without an iPhone.

All Apple Watch models boast a battery life of up to 18 hours (except for the Ultra 1 and Ultra 2 which last up to 72 hours from my testing), this can be greatly reduced if you’re using your LTE often.

The 18 hours you can get from your Series 9 and older is estimated by Apple under the assumption of 4 hours of LTE use.

The Ultra 1 and 2 can use up to 8 hours of LTE while lasting 36 hours, per Apple.

Cost of GPS and Cellular Apple Watches

The Apple Watch GPS model is more affordable than the Cellular version, making it an attractive option for those on a budget.

Keep in mind that the Cellular model requires a separate data plan, which will incur a monthly fee starting at $10, depending on the carrier.

GPS Only
GPS + Cellular

Which to Buy?

When deciding between an Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular, consider your personal needs, lifestyle, and budget.

If you always carry your iPhone and don’t require the added convenience of standalone connectivity, the GPS model may be the better choice.

On the other hand, if you value the ability to stay connected without your iPhone or frequently engage in activities where carrying a phone is inconvenient, the Cellular model may be worth the extra investment.

Personally, I enjoy the peace of mind knowing that I can leave my cell phone at home while on a hike in the woods, knowing I can still contact someone for help if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Apple Watch GPS model work without an iPhone?

The GPS model requires an iPhone for most functions, such as calls and messages (unless you’re on wifi), but it can still track activities and store music for offline playback.

Do I need a separate data plan for the Cellular model?

Yes, you’ll need to add your Apple Watch to your existing phone plan or sign up for a separate data plan. This usually costs an additional $10/month

Can I switch from a GPS to a Cellular model later?

No, you cannot upgrade a GPS model to a Cellular one. You’ll need to purchase a new Apple Watch with Cellular capabilities.

Is the battery life different between the GPS and Cellular models?

Cellular models typically have slightly shorter battery life due to the added LTE functionality.

Can I use the same bands and accessories for both GPS and Cellular models?

Yes, Apple Watch bands and accessories are compatible with both GPS and Cellular models.

Can I still use GPS functions on a Cellular model without a data plan?

Yes, the Cellular model has built-in GPS capabilities that work without a data plan.

Can I use the Cellular model for emergency calls without a data plan?

Yes, the Cellular model can make emergency calls (like 911) without an active data plan.

Why can’t I make phone calls on my cellular watch?

This is likely an issue with your cellular carrier. Contact them first, and if they can’t fix it, you may have to contact Apple Support.

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Ken Lynch

by Ken

Ken is a Data Analyst in the Healthcare industry and the owner and sole contributor to The Wearable Guy.

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