Now that we have discussed how all of Apples watches are equipped with WiFi, it is technically time to cover the limitations for different generations of the Apple Watch, so that we can figure out which models are equipped with the type of WiFi that is usable on a regular basis, for the most part.
When you do not have your iPhone nearby, there are three ways to use your Watch; on your cellular network, or on your nearby WiFi connection, or without any of those. While Apple Watches are connected gadgets and cannot be used entirely on their own, a cellular-capable Apple Watch model with an active cellular data plan is really the most standalone version of the Apple Watch available. With this, we can see that the Apple Watch is quite the handy gadget, whether connected to your iPhone, a Wi-Fi network, or your companys cellular data plan. Do not forget, you can plug an AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones right into an Apple Watch, so a cellular model could become an awesome standalone streaming device when you are on the go and cannot bring a phone.
The primary difference between the cellular and non-cellular Apple Watch is that with the GPS+Cellular Apple Watch, you can make calls, send texts, and access data without an iPhone or WiFi connection around. Of course, the GPS-only, WiFi-only model can do those things too, provided you have Wi-Fi access, but the GPS+Cellular model gives you as much freedom as you would get from any cellular device. The only difference is that you can add a data plan to a GPS+Cellular Apple Watch, and you do not have to keep an iPhone nearby in order to use certain apps and services. While we did not connect our smartphone to the Apple Watch, we could use it as a remote control for an Apple TV, provided that we set up an Apple TV, and there is a nearby WiFi network.
The usual way with other devices is they download reminders into iCloud, so that they are available across all of our devices, but The Apple Watch will save reminders locally so they are synced to our smartphone when connected. We can create reminders without having to have an iPhone connected, just using a WiFi network, but it is handled differently. Just like we can create reminders, we can create calendar events.
If you have a watch with cellular capability, you can save the new songs coming as you are streaming Apple Music. If you are connected to Wi-Fi or cellular, you can stream Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and audiobooks, even when you are away from your iPhone. If your carrier offers WiFi calling, you can make calls right from the WiFi your iPhone was previously connected to. With the cellular version, you can leave the iPhone in the house, but you will still get calls, texts, texts, notifications, streaming Apple Music, Podcasts, and more.
GPS+Cellular would allow you to leave your iPhone at home, but still make and receive calls, send texts, and remain connected just by using the watch. Especially for anyone running or walking — with a Cellular model, you will not have to carry around your bulky iPhone for call, text, music, etc. If you find that you are always carrying an iPhone around, then cellular might not be a good fit for you. If you are looking to get a watch for someone in your household that does not own an iPhone, buying the older cellular watch Series (or the SE model) is still cheaper than buying the WiFi-only watch and having it dock with your iPhone.
You can probably get a better deal on your cell phone plan if you purchase your watch direct from the carrier, such as Verizon or AT&T. If you purchase your cellular watch from a retailer, you are likely to get a contract.
If you take this route, you will have to set the watch with another Apple ID, like if it were for someone on your Apple Family Plan who does not own an iPhone. To use an Apple Watch GPS+cellular without the paired iPhone, a family member (an organizer or parent) who has the iPhone needs to set up the Apple Watch first as an independent device using his/her iPhone. Starting in iOS 14 and watchOS 7, you can also set up Apple Watch GPS+Cellular devices in a stand-alone mode using Family Setup — this does not require an iPhone.
If you are using the GPS-and-Wi-Fi-only models without your phone, you need to plan ahead for downloading apps to make sure that what you need works. You will run out of battery faster without a phone: When using the Apple Watch without an iPhone, you are using WiFi or direct cell networks rather than depending on access from a phone. Of course, you can still use the Watch offline when working out, without your iPhone around or on WiFi, to keep track of exercise statistics, or to listen to any music or podcasts downloaded to the Watch.
With cellular, you have got an option of playing back up to eight hours of sound from streaming playlists while using the watches separate cellular network. With the new Series 7 release, GPS-only watches incorporate an 18-hour connection with an iPhone over Bluetooth. The GPS watch needs to connect to an iPhone through either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi in order to send and receive text messages, get notifications, etc. The GPS+cellular models are equipped with LTE connectivity, which allows it to piggyback on a current carriers plans (for an extra monthly charge, typically about $10) and receive Internet and phone connections, even when your iPhone is away.
This is incredibly disappointing, as the GPS + Cellular model could function as an entirely standalone device, so deciding to make your iPhone the core piece of the bundle is a way that Apple locks you into the Apple ecosystem. Frankly, staying with the same carrier is a better choice, as you log into the same Apple ID on both devices, and any phone calls, notifications, and text messages appear on your watch, too. If you are going to be using the watch as an individual device in the context of the Apple Family Setup, then you will need to have a cell phone plan in order to take advantage of most watch functions and features.