Do Apple Watches Require A Data Plan?

The Apple Watch offers a wide variety of useful features, like messaging, calling, and streaming music. Some of these features can only be used with a connected iPhone or a data plan. So, do you need a data plan for your Apple Watch?

Data plans for an Apple Watch are optional. Data plans allow you to make calls, send texts, and use other internet-based features without an iPhone. Without a data plan, you’ll need a connected iPhone. Data plans need to be from the same provider as your iPhone and cost about $10 per month.

There are a few considerations to keep in mind if you’re thinking of taking the leap and getting an Apple Watch data plan. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know, including how the data plan works, what it’ll cost you, and what benefits you’ll get from one.

How Does the Apple Watch Data Plan Work?

Woman choosing Smart Watch in Apple Store

Apple offers select watch models with GPS+Cellular features, including the Apple Watch Series 6, Series 7, and the Apple Watch SE (all on Amazon).

These models can have an active data plan, allowing you to make calls, send texts, and use other features without an iPhone present. The data plan typically costs around $10 per month and needs to be from the same service provider as your iPhone.

GPS+Cellular models have a UMTS radio, eSIM card, and a built-in antenna that allows them to work independently without a connected iPhone. The eSIM card acts as a virtual SIM card that provides the same features as a smartphone.

One of the main advantages of the cellular feature is that you don’t have to be in the range of your iPhone to use select features.

What Are the Differences Between Cellular and WiFi Only?

Cellular and WiFi Apple Watch models have different advantages, disadvantages, and best-use scenarios. Here are a few differences to keep in mind:

  • WiFi or GPS-only models require you to stay connected to an iPhone that has a stable internet connection and is in close proximity to the watch. You won’t have access to internet-based features if you aren’t connected and in close range.
  • Cellular¬†Apple Watch models don’t require an iPhone at all times. This allows you to respond to messages, stream music, listen to podcasts, and utilize more internet-based features, even when your phone isn’t nearby.
  • WiFi or GPS-only models typically have longer battery life. These Apple Watch models use less power because they don’t have an LTE connection and rely on Bluetooth technology.
  • Cellular Apple Watch variants have the advantage of Family Setup features. These features allow you to share messages and make calls to family members with only an Apple Watch. The GPS-only models don’t have access to the Family Setup feature.

Do You Need a Data Plan to Use the Apple Watch?

No, the Apple Watch data plan is completely optional. You can use a Cellular Apple Watch model without enabling the feature, but that will make it function the same as a GPS-only model. This means you’ll need to have your iPhone connected and nearby to use select features.

You’ll also need the cellular feature enabled if you want to use an Apple Watch as a standalone device or part of the Apple Family Setup. Without the feature enabled, you’ll need a connected iPhone and WiFI connection to make calls, reply to messages, and use other cellular features.

How Do I Set Up a Data Plan?

You can set up your Apple Watch with a data plan by following the steps below.

  1. Log into your iPhone and launch the Apple Watch app.
  2. Click on ‘My Watch.’
  3. Click on ‘Cellular‘ and then select ‘Set Up Cellular.’
  4. Follow the prompts and instructions for your specific network provider to finish.

Note: You can contact your network service provider if you encounter issues or need additional assistance.

How Much Does a Data Plan Cost?

Generally speaking, an Apple Watch data plan costs an additional $10-$15 per month, on top of your existing mobile service plan. You might pay around $120 annually, on average. However, some cellular services offer plans at $5 per month, making annual fees around $60.

You’ll need to use the same service provider that you use for your current iPhone, which can limit your options and affect your overall costs.

Which Data Plan Should I Pick?

As we mentioned above, you’ll need to use the same service provider that you use for your iPhone. But you can select from a few different service providers that have advantages, disadvantages, and useful features.

AT&T Apple Watch Plan

AT&T supports the Apple Watch Cellular plan and costs $10 a month to add any unlimited plan. AT&T might charge a one-time $30 activation fee for some data plans.

You’ll also need to select from AT&T Unlimited Elite, AT&T Unlimited Extra, and AT&T Unlimited Starter plans. If you don’t already have an AT&T plan, you’ll need to set up a phone line, which can be much more expensive.

T-Mobile Apple Watch Plan

T-Mobile charges users $10 a month to add an Apple Watch to their Cellular plan. Customers can select from Magenta, Magenta Max, or Essential subscriptions. T-Mobile also offers three months for free in some cases.

However, T-Mobile might charge users a one-time $20 activation fee. If you don’t already have a T-Mobile plan, you’ll need to set up a phone line, which can be much more expensive.

Verizon NumberShare Apple Watch Plan

Verizon is straightforward and charges customers $10 per month for Apple Watch Cellular services. Verizon might charge a one-time activation fee of $30, but they might offer three free months for some plans. These services can apply to any Verizon Unlimited subscription.

Sprint Apple Watch Plan

Sprint charges $15 per month for Apple Watch data plans. However, you might be eligible for a $5 discount if you’re up for auto-pay.

Autopay means you’ll have to automatically pay the entire bill. Sprint doesn’t have an activation fee, but you’ll need to have a previous data plan for your iPhone.

U.S. Cellular

U.S. Cellular used to provide users with free Apple Watch Cellular plans. Unfortunately, they have discontinued this service and now charge the standard $10 per month for Apple Watch services. These services are not available with prepaid plans.

Can You Cancel the Data Plan Anytime?

You can cancel a data plan on your Apple Watch at any time. However, you might have to pay additional fees and charges depending on your carrier. Apple Watch data plans typically cost around $10 a month, so you might have to pay an additional month depending on the time you cancel.

How to Turn Off the Cellular Feature on an Apple Watch

You can easily disable Cellular features on your Apple Watch by following the two steps below.

  1. Swipe upwards from the Control Center on your Apple Watch display.
  2. Locate the ‘Cellular Data‘ toggle button and turn it off.

Note: This will only disable cellular radio. Be sure to contact your carrier if you want to disable your cellular plan entirely.

How to Remove Your Cellular Plan on an iPhone

  1. From your iPhone, launch the Apple Watch app.
  2. Click the ‘My Watch‘ section and then select ‘Cellular.’
  3. Click the information button aside from the cellular plan at the top of the app.
  4. Click ‘Remove (carrier) Plan.’ Tap once more to confirm your choices.

Note: You might need to contact your carrier to cancel your cellular plan if you aren’t going to repair your device. You’ll also have the option to disable the plan from your Apple Watch. When prompted, select ‘Erase All‘ to disable the plan.

How to Use WiFi on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch data plan is entirely optional, and you can use only WiFi features instead. Follow the steps below to use WiFi on your Apple Watch.

  1. Launch the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Click ‘WiFi.’ Your Apple Watch will automatically search for nearby networks.
  3. Click the name of the network you want to connect to.
  4. Enter the password using Scribble or the Apple Watch keyboard if prompted.
  5. Finally, click ‘Join‘ to finish connecting to WiFi on your Apple Watch.

Note: You can connect to 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz WiFi networks if you have an Apple Watch Series 6. You can only connect to 2.4 GHz WiFi networks if you have an Apple Watch Series 5 or earlier.

Wrapping Up

3 Apple Watch 4 style smartwatches floating

The Apple Watch data plan allows users to call, text, and use internet-based features without a connected iPhone. The feature is completely optional and isn’t required to enjoy an Apple Watch device.

The cellular features do come at a cost and usually cost an additional $10 per month plus an activation fee, depending on your carrier. Cellular models typically cost more than GPS-only models, require monthly data plans, and have less battery life as well.

That being said, the cellular Apple Watch models are incredibly useful and efficient devices. Having access to internet-based features without the need for an iPhone can be a game changer for some users. You’ll need to consider your budget, preferences, and needs when deciding which model is right for you.