Apple watches have created a lot of buzz in the wearable market, with new versions popping out every year. Each watch is packed with new features making it an integral part of the Apple ecosystem. We currently have seven released generations of this wearable gadget.
But a lot of users get confused when asked which version to buy? Do we get the GPS-only version or the GPS + Cellular version?
Do not worry; once you understand the core difference between the two, selecting a version is easy. It all depends on your lifestyle and what you want from the watch.
Apple Watch Cellular Vs GPS – What’s the Difference?
We will jump straight into the core difference and discuss a few of its differences in variation. By the time you finish this article, you will know all that there is to know about GPS and cellular.
The core difference between these two variants is “CONNECTIVITY.”
- Can connect to a network when the iPhone is in proximity.
- Can connect to the internet via Wi-Fi.
- Can connect to the internet via a Bluetooth connection to your iPhone.
- Can connect to a network without having an iPhone nearby through its independent cellular feature.
- Can connect to the internet via Wi-Fi.
- Can connect to the internet via Bluetooth to your phone.
So, what does this mean? With a cellular version, you could leave your iPhone at your home and still receive calls, texts, SMS, notifications, stream apple music, podcasts, etc.
This action is possible through e-sim. The e-sim is not a physical Simcard, so please do not get confused. It is a functionality activated by the carrier service that allows a mobile data plan without a physical sim.
The cellular feature comes in handy for people who constantly forget their phones. It is also beneficial for people who like to jog and exercise without a chunk of hardware in their pockets.
We don’t know about you guys, but we hate when the phone tugs on our shorts when we jog. It is also a great benefit when surfing.
Most of the same features are possible in the GPS versions but only when your iPhone is near. The GPS watch must be connected to the iPhone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to send & receive text messages, receive notifications, etc.
So, it’s all about the watch able to use its functions with or without an iPhone nearby.
The built-in GPS of the GPS-only version will still work for distance, pace, and route mapping during workouts.
Still confused? Think of Cellular as having a separate small phone. You can use its features by using the data when not connected to the phone or Wi-Fi.
Now that we know how these two watches differ fundamentally, we can delve into other features that set these versions apart.
Please remember that the features of these watches are available according to the country. Apple may not support all features in your particular country. Check apple’s list before purchasing the watches.
Family setup lets you set up apple watches for family members that do not have their own iPhone but still want to use an apple watch. They can make calls, send messages, and share location with the parent iPhone used to set up their apple watches.
Other features include more toward health & fitness, apple cash family, school time restrictions, etc.
The Apple watches also get a separate phone number through a separate cellular plan. The family setup feature is only available on Apple watch cellular versions.
Apple provides family setup features under the following conditions:
- The watches should be apple watch four or later versions with Cellular
- The watches need an Operating system of seven or higher.
- The iPhone should be the 6s or later versions with IOS 14 or later. (OS 15 or later for series 7)
- The watches need to be in a family sharing group where the person with the iPhone will be the organizer in that group.
However, the following apps and features may not be available for family members who do not have their own iPhones.
- Respiratory rate
- Irregular heart rhythm notifications
- Cycle Tracking
- Blood Oxygen
- Home & Shortcuts
Lastly, this family setup feature is not available in all countries or regions. Remember to check with the apple website if this feature is the sole reason you plan to buy the Cellular version.
Carriers such as AT &T, Sprint, Verizon, Xfinity, and T-Mobile currently support cellular versions in the USA. Be sure to check with your carrier before purchasing the cellular version.
Since the cellular version provided an extra benefit, it’s normal for that version to be more expensive. Currently, you will find the GPS + Cellular version to be $100 more costly during purchase. Consider this price difference just for the watches.
The prices may change according to the type of case you want to buy. You will also have to factor in the network subscription that allows the cellular feature. The network prices will depend on the carrier and its subscription plans.
The carrier prices generally average around $5-$15 per month. Remember to check if your carrier supports apple watches before buying the device.
If you buy cellular watches from dealers, they will probably give you a contract. Remember to read the fine print. The agreement will have the carrier charges listed.
These charges also renew automatically after the stated time, meaning it will keep deducting money until you cancel the service.
They do not tell you that these services do come with an early termination fee written in the fine print. Do not skim read the contract.
In terms of the case, apple provides the following options:
- Stainless Steel
We are currently at series 7 of the apple watch generation. If you plan to buy a GPS version, you are limited to aluminum in case materials. If you want the GPS + Cellular version, you get options for all three types of case materials.
All current cellular apple watch versions have a red crown. That means the circular dial at the side of the watch has either a full red circle or a border of a red circle. This design is a key difference in how you identify the cellular capabilities of the watch.
If you are playing audio from your apple watch, there is a slight difference between the two versions. Both GPS only and cellular versions provide around 11 hours of audio playback when using internal apple watch storage.
But, with Cellular, you get an option of playing up to 8 hours of audio playback by streaming playlists when using an independent cellular network of the watch.
Apple watches have workout mode features in the device. In terms of battery life when using indoor workout, it’s the same 11 hours on both versions of apple watches. This estimate applies when the watch is connected to the iPhone via Bluetooth.
You will find roughly an hour’s difference when using this on outdoor workouts. The newest series seven gets about 7 hours on the GPS only version and 6 hours on the cellular version. The difference isn’t that noticeable.
If you ask us, both battery life estimates in workout modes are very low and wouldn’t be practical in the case of long-distance marathons, cross-country rides, etc.
With the newest series 7 version, the GPS-only watch includes a connection to an iPhone via Bluetooth for 18 hours. This estimate is the same for the cellular version except when used purely as a cellular device. It includes 4 hours of LTE connection and 14 hours over Bluetooth connection.
However, battery life will also depend on usability. The device running a lot of apps might drain the battery life quicker.
Key Distinction Overview
|Needs iPhone in proximity||Independent from iPhone|
|Cheaper in price||Roughly $100 more expensive+ carrier costs|
|More battery life||Less battery life|
|No red crown or border in the dial area||Red crown or border in the dial area|
|No family setup||Family setup features|
|Aluminum options in case materials||More options in case materials etc.|
Should We Get the GPS or Cellular Version?
Now that we know what differences these two versions have, which one should you buy? Ask yourself the following questions.
- Do I always carry my iPhone with me?
- Am I okay to pay extra carrier charges every month?
- Am I Okay with paying an additional $100 just for the independent network feature?
- Am I planning to set up apple watches for the whole family?
If you always have your phone with you and plan to use an apple watch only for yourself, we recommend the GPS version.
If you like leaving your phone but still want the ability to call someone independently, SMS, listen to podcast/apple music, etc., then Cellular is the way to go.
Also, remember if you are a family person and want to hook up everyone with one irrespective of them owning iPhone, the cellular version might be the only option.
Lastly, a $100 plus carrier and termination fees are a choice you will have to make.