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Do Apple Watches Need A Data Plan? (Read This!)

If you’re wondering whether Apple Watches need a data plan to function – and how these service plans are set up and used – we’ll break down everything you should know! 

Are Data Plans Necessary For Apple Watches? 

Regardless of which Apple Watch model or generation you have, a data plan is never required! With the first two generations of the Apple Watch, the device functioned as an accessory to the iPhone. However, the third generation allowed buyers to choose between GPS or Cellular model. 

Of course, the GPS models resemble the watches from the first and second generations. From the third generation onwards, cellular models boasted increased functionality that relied less on the connection to your iPhone. 

With GPS Apple Watches, your watch needs to be within range of your iPhone to receive calls and messages. The device uses the iPhone’s cellular connection or the same Wi-Fi connection the phone is connected to with these GPS models. 

However, with a cellular model equipped with a data plan, it’s now possible to leave your iPhone at home without sacrificing your Apple Watch’s functionality or connectivity. You’ll be able to ask Siri questions, make phone calls, and keep in touch with people directly from your Apple Watch.

A data plan allows you to use your Apple Watch without always relying on your iPhone. Apple Watches can now be set up for family members who don’t have their own iPhones by using a cellular model with a service plan! 

Nonetheless, even with cellular models, a data plan isn’t necessary to utilize the watch’s features. Essentially, a cellular Apple Watch without a data plan will function like a GPS model. Although data plans are not necessary to use the watch, it’s important to note that these service plans can only be used with cellular Apple Watches. 

If you’re looking to purchase an Apple Watch, you’ll notice a significant price difference between GPS and cellular models. When deciding which Apple Watch is best for you, you’ll need to consider two core aspects: functionality and price. 

If you want to maximize your Apple Watch’s capabilities, you might like the cellular model’s advantages. Of course, this will allow you to use any app on your Apple Watch, even when out of your phone’s reach. Furthermore, cellular models can be used by those without an iPhone! 

If you’re leaning towards a cellular model, you should also consider the long-term costs of a data plan. Not only do cellular models cost more, but the data plan will be a recurring expense. Of course, it’s possible to use the Apple Watch without a data plan. You could always get one in the future! 

However, if you’re fine with losing some functionality when your phone is dead or out of reach, the GPS model is fine! With a GPS model, you’ll still have access to all your iPhone’s core features. If you know your iPhone will always be with you, you might not want to spend the extra cash for a cellular model. 

Given that you won’t be able to use a data plan with a GPS model, it’s important to carefully consider the model you purchase if you wish to use it with a service plan. If you opt for a cellular model, you should know a few things before setting up a data plan on your Apple Watch! 

What To Know Before Setting Up An Apple Watch Data Plan 

Before you choose a data plan for your Apple Watch, there are three important factors to consider: ensuring your Apple devices are updated, checking your carrier settings, and choosing an eligible cellular plan. Let’s take a look at these considerations!  

Ensure Your Apple Devices Are Updated 

In order to set up and use a data plan with your Apple Watch, you need to ensure your iPhone and Apple Watch are both running updated software. To update the software on an iPhone and Apple Watch, your iPhone needs to be connected to a Wi-Fi network. Apple Watches utilize the same connection as the iPhone it’s connected to. 

To update your iPhone’s software, you need to go to the Settings App. In the General section, you’ll find an option to check for software updates. If there are any available updates, they will be listed in Software Update. In order to update an Apple Watch, your iPhone needs to be running the latest iOS version and be connected to a Wi-Fi network. 

Your watch needs to be at least 50% charged to update your Apple Watch. In the Apple Watch app, there’s a My Watch tab. By clicking on this tab, you’ll be able to check for and install any software updates. While your watch updates, there will be a progress wheel on its screen. 

Update Your Cellular Carrier Settings 

In addition to checking for software updates, it’s important to ensure your iPhone’s carrier settings are updated. This is a necessary step to set up a data plan on your Apple Watch successfully. In order to update your carrier settings on an iPhone, you need to open the Settings app and navigate to the General section. 

Choose An Eligible Cellular Plan 

To use a data plan with your Apple Watch, you need to choose an eligible service plan. Ultimately, your iPhone and Apple Watch need to use the same carrier to set up cellular service on your watch. If you have a corporate or enterprise cellular plan, you should ensure your data plan is eligible for your Apple Watch by contacting your carrier. 

Setting Up A Data Plan On Your Apple Watch

To activate a data plan on your Apple Watch, there are a few steps that should be followed. Once you’ve set up your data plan, you’ll be able to utilize your Apple Watch’s cellular features. These same steps can be followed to set up a data plan on a family member’s Apple Watch when the family member does not have an iPhone. 

Step One: Open The Apple Watch App On Your iPhone 

Firstly, open the Apple Watch app. Setting up your watch’s data plan is done from this app. 

Step Two: Tap The My Watch Tab 

In the Apple Watch app, select the My Watch tab. 

Step Three: Navigate To Cellular Settings 

In the My Watch tab, you’ll see Cellular listed in the options.  

Step Four: Select ‘Set Up Cellular’ 

Once you’ve selected Cellular in the My Watch tab, you’ll see an option to Set Up Cellular on your Apple Watch. 

Step Five: Follow Your Carrier’s Setup Instructions 

Once you’ve selected ‘Set Up Cellular’ from the Apple Watch app, you’ll be prompted with instructions to set up your watch. Ultimately, these directions will vary depending on the carrier you are using. Should you run into any setup issues, you should contact your specific mobile carrier for assistance. 

The Pros And Cons Of Cellular Apple Watches 

For all Apple Watches that are series three and later – including the current Series 7 – there are two distinct models to choose from, namely GPS and cellular models. When choosing between these two models, it’s important to consider the pros and cons! 

The Advantages Of Cellular Apple Watches 

  • Cellular Apple Watches with a data plan can make calls and send messages without being near your iPhone 
  • A data plan allows you to stream music from your Apple Watch, wherever you are 
  • Cellular Apple Watches can utilize Apple Pay without being near your iPhone 
  • Cellular models can be used without a data plan, functioning like a GPS model 

The Disadvantages Of Cellular Apple Watches 

  • Cellular models are more expensive than GPS Apple Watches 
  • To use the cellular functionality, a data plan is required, which is a recurring expense 
  • Not all cellular carriers support Apple Watches 
  • With a data plan, your cellular Apple Watch will use an LTE internet connection, which can drain your watch’s battery faster

Do Cellular Apple Watches Need A Sim Card? 

As we discussed earlier, Apple Watches are available as both GPS and cellular devices. While both models can be used without a data plan, many Apple Watch enthusiasts have wondered how GPS and cellular models differ physically. 

With iPhones, sim cards are used with the antennas on the iPhone’s chassis to connect you to cellular networks. Due to this, many people have wondered whether cellular Apple Watches feature similar design changes to accommodate cellular connectivity. 

Due to a revolutionary design, the display of an Apple Watch is used to transmit and receive cellular signals. Furthermore, cellular models utilize eSim technology, which is a virtual sim card. Of course, this means Apple Watches do not require a physical sim card. 

Ultimately, this design means there are no physical differences between GPS and cellular models. To set up a data plan on a cellular Apple Watch, your carrier will connect your watch to a virtual eSim. Read on if you’re wondering whether this virtual sim uses your iPhone’s number or a new one! 

Do Cellular Apple Watches Use Your iPhone’s Phone Number? 

One of the main benefits of an Apple Watch with a data plan is that it allows users to make and receive calls and text messages. However, many people have wondered whether the eSim registered to a cellular Apple Watch uses their existing phone number or a new number. 

Essentially, the virtual sim registered to the chip inside your Apple Watch is a clone of your phone’s sim. Although your carrier will assign a unique accounting number to your watch’s data plan for billing purposes, it’s essentially a virtual extension of your existing sim card. 

Due to this, your Apple Watch will use the same phone number as your iPhone. Of course, this means it’s easy to get contacts to reach you and continue your conversations when out of your iPhone’s reach! 


Regardless of whether you purchase a GPS or cellular Apple Watch, a data plan is never required to utilize the watch. A cellular model without a data plan will function in the same way as a GPS model. However, with an eligible data plan, the Apple Watch can be fully utilized without your iPhone being nearby!