Does The Apple Watch Require A Data Plan? 

The Apple Watch’s innovative design is perhaps its most notable asset. It’s a versatile tool that appeals to several demographics, and it’s one of the most widely used gadgets in modern times. In spite of its popularity, there are still misconceptions surrounding how it works. One thing in particular that many prospective buyers wonder is whether the watch requires a data plan.

The Apple Watch can function without a data plan. With Wifi access, you can access many functions. A data plan, however, allows for connectivity virtually everywhere. Having cellular service on an Apple Watch also lets you send texts, make calls and use the watch as a walkie-talkie without a phone. 

Opting for an Apple Watch with cellular service doesn’t necessarily mean you’re paying more for premium service. Many users don’t even use the cellular features, so unless it’s going to make your life significantly more convenient, you might be better off buying the regular watch. Let’s take a look at the added benefits so that you can make the best possible decision.

Do You Need to Purchase a Data Plan With an Apple Watch?

Woman wearing digital watch on hand by the pool

Without getting too technical, a data plan is what allows you to connect to the internet on the go. It’s the alternative solution to a WiFi hotspot, and it’s geared towards mobile devices.

Data plans can be obtained from a wide variety of service providers or carriers, and they often come in packages offering a predetermined amount of data. Data plans generally cover all things internet-related, but others limit data usage to certain activities only like browsing but not social media. 

The Apple Watch (on Amazon) is heavily dependent on internet connectivity for several functions. As an extension of the iPhone, the Apple Watch usually mirrors everything happening on the iPhone, provided that the two devices are connected via Bluetooth or WiFi.

Certain functionalities on the watch can operate independently without an iPhone close by, as long as the watch is connected to the WiFi. The issue comes in when the iPhone isn’t nearby and there’s no WiFi access in range. 

The Apple Watch will work just fine without a data plan, but if you want to use it as a fully stand-alone device, where it can stream music online, make calls, and send texts from anywhere, then you’ll need to invest in a data plan.

Simply put, purchasing a data plan for your watch isn’t a pre-requisite but it does enhance your watch’s abilities. 

Do You Need an iPhone to Use an Apple Watch?

While newer versions of the Apple Watch can function without an iPhone nearby, the Apple Watch was initially meant to be a companion device for the iPhone, and, as such, most of its functionalities fully depended on the iPhone (on Amazon).

To get access to most apps and several other features, the watch needs to be paired to an iPhone and the two devices need to remain connected either via Bluetooth or a WiFi connection. 

Once your watch is paired with an iPhone, the possibilities are nearly endless, functionality-wise. You can stream music from the Apple music app or even Spotify, you can download playlists for offline access, stream podcasts on your watch, and even visit your social media accounts.

On the downside, without an iPhone, most of these features are either not available or significantly limited. The most you can do without an iPhone is access downloaded material and adjust certain settings.

Most people are content with settling for capped functionality when the iPhone isn’t close. For those who specifically want that wholesome smartphone experience for their watches, however, a cellular data plan is key.

Apple Watches equipped with cellular features can access mobile networks from virtually anywhere. This allows users to use their watch as a stand-alone device. However, it’s worth noting that this option isn’t available on all Apple Watches, and it comes with additional costs. 

Can My Apple Watch Have a Different Carrier Than My iPhone?

The short answer to that is no; your apple watch can’t have a different carrier than your iPhone. But let’s unpack how it works. The cellular option lets users purchase a data plan for the Apple Watch through their phone’s cellular service.

The good news is that you don’t need a SIM card; an e-SIM card is embedded in Apple Watch models with the cellular feature. Depending on your carrier, to activate the SIM card, you’ll need to download your carrier’s SIM card app, scan a QR code, or install an assigned cellular plan. 

It’s worth noting that the Apple Watches have been optimized to only be compatible with the cellular carriers in the region in which they’re officially purchased.

That means there isn’t a version that works worldwide. In most cases, you won’t be able to purchase an Apple Watch in the U.S. and use the cellular service in Africa, for instance.

The long answer to whether your Apple Watch can have a different carrier than your iPhone is that there’s an exception to the rule. The iPhone has a feature geared towards helping Apple Watch users who don’t own iPhones.

With this feature, they can connect to a friend or family member’s iPhone and unlock other functionalities like cellular service. This is the only time where an Apple Watch will have a different carrier than its paired iPhone. However, certain countries like South Korea and Italy don’t support this option. 

How Much Does It Cost to Have Cellular Service on an Apple Watch?

Not only are Apple Watches with built-in cellular service options pricier than their regular counterparts, but the additional data plan monthly cost inflates the price even more.

When it comes to service carriers, they all charge more or less the same price for a data plan. The price averages around $10 monthly, or $120 a year.

Other countries may deviate drastically from this price in their favor or in the customer’s favor; it all depends on the region.

As previously mentioned, there’s a feature that makes it possible to add a family member to your data plan. The downside to this is that since the other user will be added to your data plan, it’s virtually impossible for them to add their own payment methods.

That said, your data usage is consolidated and you will be liable for payment. If you run out of data halfway through the month, you as the primary account owner will need to purchase additional data. These are factors that further drive the cost of the Apple Watch cellular plan. 

Do All Apple Watches Support Cellular Service?

Not all Apple Watches support cellular service. But let’s take things back to why the Apple Watch was invented in the first place. According to Apple executives, the purpose of developing the Apple Watch was to create a device to track users’ health and fitness progress.

The Apple Watch was basically meant to be a fitness tracker with increased functionality conditioned with iPhone pairing. While many Apple Watch owners frowned upon the idea of only having full access to the watch’s features when the iPhone was in range, others agreed that the watch should remain as minimalistic as possible. 

Fast forward several years later, and Apple Watches with built-in cellular service are available on the market, but Apple continues to release simpler models. Picking between the two types of watches isn’t only a matter of opting for cellular service or not though.

Cost is also a huge determining factor. Watches that support cellular service tend to be pricier, and when you’ve purchased one, you still need to worry about the monthly cost of a data plan. 

So, is it worth getting a watch that offers cellular service? Again, it all boils down to lifestyle and personal preference. It’s undeniable that with a data plan on your watch, you can accomplish a lot more with your watch, but that’s only if want to accomplish more to begin with.

It’s a great choice if your lifestyle requires you to remain connected at all times but you also find that carrying a smartphone at all times is a hassle.

How Do You Know if Your Apple Watch Supports Cellular Service?

Man hand and smart watch with map in the screen

Despite their varying features and functionalities, Apple Watches look more or less identical, so determining which version you’ve got can be challenging.

An easy way to figure out if your watch is cellularly capable is to take a look at the Digital crown. If it’s red or it has a red circle or dot on it, then your watch supports cellular service.

Alternatively, you can check the watch’s manual or you can visit your watch’s information center through the Settings app. 

Once you’ve determined that your watch can connect to mobile data, you may want to set up cellular. Here’s a quick guide on how to get it done:

  1. To start off, you’ll need to activate your e-SIM card as we outlined above.
  2. Open the Apple Watch app on your phone, then tap the ‘My Watch‘ tab and select ‘Cellular.’
  3. Follow the instructions on your screen to complete the set up. 

If you’ve set up cellular service on your watch and it’s not working, there are several troubleshooting techniques you can try. Firstly, try restarting the device, then make sure you’re in your carrier’s network range and that Airplane mode is turned off.

If none of that works, your software may be outdated, and updating it might fix the issue. Here are additional troubleshooting tips to try:

  • Delete then re-add your cellular plan
  • Make sure you haven’t run out of data
  • Check that your carrier supports data plans for Apple Watches 


We’ve established that not all Apple Watches can connect to cellular service, and those that can are evidently invaluable. That said, it’s also important to consider the cost factor.

Cellularly capable watches are generally pricier and they feature higher recurring costs for data usage. For many users, the cost may not be worth the perks.