How Apple Watch Cellular Works 2022

How Apple Watch Cellular Works

Being a gym trainer and athlete, I’ve always looked forward to the way I can keep a track of my personal training during my workout sessions with my clients. It wasn’t easy to use my iPhone to track my daily goals as it constricts my workout and doesn’t give me the exact info from my workouts. 

When Apple launched their own cellular network for their Apple Watch, it was obvious this was the device I’ve been waiting for and has been my workout companion ever since. 

I loved the fact I could leave my iPhone at home and focus on my workouts without being disturbed by calls and still be connected to reply to my notification if needed. This is the power of the Apple watches cellular network, which puts all the other smartwatches to shame with its reliability and convenience. 

In this article, I will be breaking down how exactly the Apple Watch Cellular network works and how it’s the right device for you to invest in.

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How Apple Watch Cellular Works

The name given to Apple Watches built-in eSim is Apple Watch Cellular which is different from its watches' normal GPS and WiFi. The first series of Apple watch to have the Apple Cellular was the series 3 from Apple which was released in 2017 and has been included in Apple Watches ever since. 

It works by accessing its own network when it’s not connected to your iPhone or around it, so you can leave your phone in the gym locker and have the convenience of handling calls and more without the need for your phone’s network or GPS.

This is made possible with the improved parts added to the apple watch which included.

  • UMTS Radio - is installed which is a Universal Telecommunication System that is activated when your cellular LTE is not connected. 
  • eSim - Which is mapped to your existing phone number which gives you the ability to answer calls and reply to messages without your iPhone around. The eSim can store international mobile subscriber identity (IMSO) and authentication keys that are given by your network provider allowing the watch to function independently.
  • A built-in antenna - To support the above for better network and tracking. 

With these upgrades to the new Apple Watch, it is easy to switch between networks through the apple watch to what suits you best. It offers way more possibilities and advantages that truly make the Apple cellular network worth buying on the new Apple Watch. 

Setting up Apple Watch Cellular Network

How Apple Watch Cellular Works

Even though the Apple Watch cellular variant has an eSim installed inside, the device cannot be pre-activated. follow the steps mentioned below to activate the features of the smartwatch.

  • Apple Watch and iPhone both need to be running the latest iOS software version to make sure both are sync correctly.
  • Download the latest carrier settings from your network provider, you can do this by going to the settings option on the apple watch, under settings you have to general and then click on “About” to find out the information if it is updated or not. 

Make sure your iPhone is connected to an active sim card, if there is no SIM card in the iPhone you will not be able to activate the cellular services of the Apple watch as the eSim card inside the Apple watch requires to be mapped to an existing cellular number.

If you have done all the above mentioned you can proceed to activate your cellular network on your apple watch, this can be done by opening the Watch app within the iPhone.

  • Tap on the Watch App in your iPhone once the application opens tap on the My Watch tab.
  • Tap on the Cellular option which will guide you to set up the cellular service on your Apple watch.
  • Make sure you follow the instructions promptly that are given by the network carrier.

If you do face any issues during the setup please get in touch with your network provider.

Switch Between GPS and Cellular on Apple Watch

Once you have configured the Apple watch to your local cellular network, you will be able to choose between the cellular network or GPS. This will be done automatically depending on whether it is in close proximity to your iPhone or Wi-Fi router.

How Apple Watch Cellular Works

Once you are successfully connected to the cellular network, you will be able to check the signal strength from the control center on the Apple watch.

Change Network Carriers on Apple Watch Cellular

Both the Apple Watch and the iPhone run on the same network carrier, as the eSim is mapped to the existing phone number in the iPhone.

The only exception is when you’re setting up the watch for one of your family members, you can change the carrier by deactivating your current service plan and signing up for a new apple watch plan.

How Apple Watch Cellular Works

You can do this by following the below steps. 

  • Open the Watch App on your iPhone
  • Tap on My Watch, Select "Cellular" from the options provided. 
  • Complete the network setup with the new carrier plan. 

Restrictions Set by the Carrier

One of the main restrictions with the cellular variant of the Apple Watch is that it does not have a SIM card slot making it impossible to run its own network, which means it requires the cellular network and data from your iPhone. Both the iPhone and the Apple watch need to be connected to the same network.

So if your iPhone is running on AT&T even your apple watch should have the same network carrier setup. 

If you have the cellular Apple Watch + GPS variant then you can access the LTE connectivity,  which will activate features like Siri and allows you to use the internet on the Apple Watch using the iPhone Carriers plan.

What can you do with the Apple Watch Cellular?

With the new series of Apple Cellular Network watches it is possible to access all the internet-based apps on your apple watch. If your Apple watch and iPhone are not in close proximity to each other and can't be connected through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The Apple Watch will automatically turn on and switch to its cellular mode giving you access to all the apps that require the internet on your apple watch. With the new capability of the apple cellular network, your apple watch will be able to. 

  • You will be able to use Siri on the go, use Siri to send and read messages, and can also allow Siri to give you directions to a particular destination.
  • Control Apple HomePod and other Smart Home devices from within the Apple Watch
  • Set daily reminders so you don't forget a thing. Alerts will notify you about each reminder.
  • Access to Apple music playlist, you can play, pause and increase your volume via the Apple Watch.
  • Make and receive phone calls only with the cellular variant of the Apple Watch. You can even switch between your Apple Watch and iPhone to handle the calls.
  • Send and receive iMessages via Apple Watch.
  • Accurate weather reports using the Apple Cellular Network. With GPS enabled, you will receive timely updates about the current weather forecast.

Apple Watch GPS vs Apple Watch Cellular

How Apple Watch Cellular Works

Apple Watch GPS works very differently from the Apple watch cellular network, this is mainly because of how their connectivity works. Below are a set of points that will help you understand better.

  • The GPS variant of the Apple Watch requires the iPhone to be connected to the watch or a strong Wi-Fi connection to use the applications that require the internet on the watch. Whereas the cellular variant of the Apple Watch allows you to connect directly to Apple’s cellular network that allows it to work as a stand-alone device without the requirement of a phone's network or Wi-Fi. 
  • One of the really cool features of the cellular variant is that you can share messages and make calls with your contact list without the need of looking into your iPhone. It also features a family setup for your immediate family to be contacted through the Apple watch cellular network which was not available in the GPS version.
  • The biggest differences between the both is battery life, the Apple Watch cellular variant provides a lower battery life when compared to the Apple GPS variant. It's because the watch needs to connect to the internet through LTE which requires a little bit of battery power. The GPS variant has a longer battery life because it uses Bluetooth to connect to the iPhone and gets all the info from the phone's network. 
  • The main advantage of the Apple cellular variant is that you can stream your Apple music, listen to your favorite podcast or access radio shows and check the weather without having to connect to your iPhone.
Apple Watch GPS + Cellular Apple Watch GPS
Minimum System Requirement iOS 14 on the iPhone 6s and later for Watch Series 4 onward. iOS 14 on the iPhone 6s and later for Watch Series 3 onward.
Battery Life – Talk Time Up to 90 minutes N/A
Battery Life – Audio Playback Up to 7 hours; 5 hours if live streaming on Apple Music Up to 10 hours
Family Setup Support Yes No
Siri Support Yes Yes
Available Storage Variants 32GB (Series 4, 5, 6) 8GB (Series 3); 32 GB (Series 4, 5, 6) 
Average Monthly Expenses Depends on individual network providers, approx £10 each month,  £0.00

Apple Watch Cellular Variants

Cellular connectivity has been around since the launch of the Apple Watch 3. Since then, Apple has released a cellular variant for each model of the Apple Watch that came out.

Apple Watch Series 4 - The Apple Watch Series 4 is the successor to the Series 3 and came with a larger display and louder built-in speaker. It has a proactive ECG monitor, updated fall detection system and since it is cellular enabled, you are able to make calls and use maps on your Watch Series 4.

Apple Watch Series 5 - One of the most sought after Apple Watches is the Series 5 because it's available in 2 sizes, comes with impressive features such as an always-on display, swim stroke tracker, Retina display and you're able to use internet based applications thanks to its GPS and Cellular capability.

Apple Watch Series 6 - This bad boy is the father of all Apple Watches. It's equipped with SPO2 tracker, sleep tracker, Always-on Retina display and comes in a wide variety of colors to choose from. This Watch even has Cellular + GPS capabilities allowing you to go anywhere without your iPhone.


Is Cellular worth it on Apple Watch?

Yes… it is worth the price.

Considering, it comes equipped with features like family support, access to Apple Music, a nice case, larger storage in the device and cellular service for when you’re away from your phone.

Can I add cellular to my Apple Watch later?


With the Apple Watch you can either choose to set up the cellular function at the time of purchasing the watch or if you have had the watch for some time now and have decided to utilize this feature, you can by accessing the Watch App on your iPhone and configuring the settings.

Should I get cellular or GPS Apple Watch?

I'll leave that up to you to decide.

If you’re looking to use the Apple Watch along with your iPhone at all times then spending that extra $100 on the cellular variant won’t be right. But if you think that there may be instances where you might have to make some calls when you’re not going to be using your iPhone, then the cellular variant would be an ideal choice for you.


The new Apple Watch cellular variant is one of the best as cellular connectivity brings out infinite possibilities with this smartwatch. Having the cellular option on a Smartwatch is definitely the right direction to go and it's always a better way to be connected to your iPhone when it's not close to you and especially when you are working out.

The only thing you can’t do with an apple watch is browsing the internet. we'll leave that for the iPhone but for smaller tasks, Siri is always there to get it done for you.

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