Do You Need Cellular in Your Apple Watch?

Originally published at: Do You Need Cellular in Your Apple Watch? - TidBITS

On the Apple Buying Advice site, Josh Centers cautioned against cellular Apple Watches, but TidBITS readers were quick to point out that many people need cellular connectivity.

I’d add that another argument for the Apple Watch with cellular, even if you don’t subscribe to a plan, is that you can still use it–even without a cellular subscription–to make 911 calls.


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What about my vanity?: I just like stainless steel, and it’s not available on non-cellular models.

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In my family we are a two iPhone and two Apple Watch family. I have a Wi-Fi only Watch SE because I always have my iPhone with me. My wife has Watch 5 with cell - because she very rarely takes her iPhone with her (that iPhone mostly serves as the “house phone” and stays in the house). The watch works to send and receive phone calls - better than we both expected - so the cell functionality has value for us. It is a lot of extra money over the years, though…


On Verizon, the fees for the Watch took the monthly charge from 10 to 17, almost double. That makes cellular even more expensive – I eventually just turned the plan off for my Series 3 and haven’t missed it.

That must depend on where you live. In my state I pay Verizon $14.01 per month. Still not “ten dollars”, but better than $17.

I bought my Series 4 with cellular and I never activated it. When I upgrade I probably won’t bother getting one with cellular.

My wife has a ‘standard’ Apple Watch 7 and I have a cellular Apple Watch 6.

I’m bemused by the costs of plans in the US compared to Australia. Down here I’m paying $49 per month for a plan which includes an additional $5 for the watch use. My previous plan was $75. Is it an extra $10-17 a month for the watch access in the States or is that the total cost of the monthly plan?

I find cellular handy but not necessarily required. As a rock climber, there have been times I’ve taken a call whilst up a wall. I don’t carry my phone whilst climbing so the watch is a good option if you want to stay in touch. I also swim but haven’t worked out how to take calls without drowning…

It’s also useful around the house when I might be in the shed working and my phone’s in the house.

I’m glad I have it. If I was buying a new watch I’d probably pay the extra again. I only upgrade after 3 or 4 years so it’s not a major expense over the life of the watch.

I don’t think I really benefit from cellular functionality, but that’s mostly because of the atrocious prices and signal coverage 'round 'ere; on the few occasions I’ve actually used it, it’s been a surprise more often than not that it worked at all, while I just happened to be briefly out and away from my phone. It was an impulse buy that I am unlikely to repeat. It’s not for fitness; it’s a convenience, albeit, a very pleasant one.

The only thing I believe you can’t have with the Wi-Fi only models is remote notifications, i.e. notifications that are delivered to you whilst you’re connected to another network (including another Wi-Fi network), that originated from your phone. I’d love to be wrong about this, but that seems to be a cellular/mobile exclusive feature, and in the past with Wi-Fi-only models that never worked for me.

We both gave the cell model v7 aluminum. It often activates the have you fallen when I was surprised. But I am 77 and sometimes stumble when out and about.

When driving, i can tell Siri to text a message to my wife without taking my hands off the wheel. Driving instructions also are tactile on watch

I’ve never been able to justify the extra expense of the cellular watch. I accidentally locked my purse in my car, complete with keys and iPhone, but I could still contact road service using my watch. As long as my watch is not too far away from my phone, I can do that, but of course, my phone needs to be nearby. Also, emergency services are accessible on the non-cellular versions.

They are only if you have connectivity to the phone from the watch (or you have connection to WiFi and WiFi calling is turned on for your phone number.) The cellular version can contact emergency services in many countries even without activating a cellular plan if you are away from network connectivity and away from your phone, as noted previously.

Trips to the beach in Sydney are less stressful when I can take my cellular AW into the surf and leave the iPhone safely locked in the car. Fortunately my car also came with a “wet key” that I can wear around my neck so nothing precious is left on the beach.
The same applies to many water sports.
Of course I can also buy a coffee or breakfast/lunch with the AW after a surf, but so can non-cellular AW owners.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m focused on the question of need, at least in terms of raw functionality. With Apple Buying Advice, I want to help visitors save money by recommending products with the most “bang for the buck.”

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So no one in this forum obviously has kids. Unfortunately one’s current options for kid cellular watches are these cheap junkie watches that I am sure are connected directly to some PCR servers :joy:or a discounted Apple Watch. I chose the latter. Picked up a series 5 for under $300. I’m a cheapskate $15 pm for each of my my lines so my family is on prepaid. I got around this by signing up for some UK cellular plan for an Apple Watch under $10. It works great. And it’s odd that I can’t sign up for this here in the US, obviously Apple has agreements with all the major carriers and pre paid folks are SOL.

Of course this is an expensive option that’s why most people pay the $150 for the cheaper option. And the whole idea of kids having a device at age 10…… I can set up families mode and they’re not able to bug her around with it until after school. Of course the battery life isn’t very good and barely makes it through the day but the audio is good and the seller works unlike those cheap watches from what I’ve heard. Any cell phone use in school is verboten for for kids under certain age So the idea that I can turn it off for a set amount of time is great. Of course the little buggers have to remember to charge it and we only really need to use it once or twice a week.

I have three! Eight years, three years, and eight months.

Truphone | Connectivity meets technology seems to offer plans in the US.

I’ve had my Apple Watch without cellular offer to call for help when I’ve fallen hard while snowboarding, with my phone in my pocket. I think the part about needing a Apple Watch with cellular to have it call 911 for you when you fall is incorrect.

In December of 2020, I bought my wife as a birthday present an iPhone SE and an Apple Watch SE. I did this because she would leave her phone in her purse uncharged or with the ringer turned off. Her friends quickly realized if they couldn’t contact her, they could text me to tell her. I became her secretary.

This reached a head when her Israeli relatives started using my WhatsApp to call her. I don’t speak Hebrew, and few of them speak English, so you realize that fun.

I bought her the non-cellular version because I have a non-cellular version and I never needed the cellular service. I always have my iPhone on me. However, my wife keeps her phone in her purse, and she doesn’t always take her purse with her. She’ll leave her purse behind if we’re going out shopping together or going somewhere. She doesn’t take her purse when we go hiking or when she takes her morning walks. That means people still contact me to contact her when she doesn’t respond to texts or messages.

If I had to do it over again, I would definitely shell out for the cellular service for her. In fact, I’m thinking about buying another Apple Watch SE with cellular service for her, and taking over her old Apple Watch SE to replace my Model 3.

I’m in the “safety” camp on this one for my 87-year-old mom. She’s had a cellular Apple Watch for three+ years, even though she’s an Apple iPhone owner as well. The fall detection works (we know from experience) and she doesn’t always carry her phone close by when on her three-mile walks around her neighborhood. She’s delighted to pay the small (less than $15 in her area) Verizon fee because, as she points out, it’s significantly less than the $50+ monthly cost of one of those alarms marketed to seniors. Plus, as she points out, she can wear her watch in the shower and it is much more “stylish” (her word) than the “ugly” button necklaces her peers so often wear. :smiley:

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