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Apple Watch Cellular vs GPS: What’s the difference?

Do you often confuse Apple Watch Cellular with the GPS version? This article highlights the key differences

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At a glance, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the Apple Watch Cellular vs GPS. There is a red ring around the Digital Crown on the Cellular model, but they’re otherwise identical-looking on the outside. It’s the insides that make all the difference.

Well, one of the main differences between the Apple Watch Cellular GPS vs GPS + Cellular, in the connectivity category. For GPS + Cellular option, this allows you to leave your iPhone at home and answer calls, send text messages, and stay connected with your Apple Watch only. If you’re going out for a quick jog with your Apple Watch GPS + Cellular, you can freely leave your iPhone behind.

On the other hand, the GPS-only model can send texts and answer calls only if your iPhone is nearby. If you don’t tend to leave your iPhone behind when you go out, at least for this, you’ll be good with the GPS-only model. It supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and so does the Apple Watch GPS + Cellular model.

What’s the difference between GPS + Cellular and GPS?

GPS + Cellular

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) has all the same features, as well as built-in cellular. It gives you the freedom to send and receive text messages, answer phone calls, receive notifications, and stream Apple Music and Apple Podcasts — even when you don’t have your iPhone with you.

GPS

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) lets you send and receive text messages, answer phone calls, and also receive notifications when it’s connected to your iPhone via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The built-in GPS works independently of your iPhone for distance, pace, and route mapping in workouts.

Apple Watch Series 3

As for Series 3 version, Apple has stop selling the GPS + Cellular as of September 2020. The specifications is no longer included in this comparison guide. However, the Series 3 GPS + Cellular does exist in the world for those considering upgrading from this model.

Also read: Apple Watch Stainless Steel Vs Titanium: Which should you buy

Cellular Carrier Support

To create a connection via Apple Watch to a cellular network requires the same carrier as your iPhone, and carriers are added all the time. If your current carrier does not support Apple Watch, cellular functionality won’t work until support is provided.

All Apple Watch models feature Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) also delivers cellular connectivity independently of your iPhone but must share the same carrier. The following companies are part of a growing number that support Apple Watch.

For all Cellular and GPS versions of Apple Watch Series 4, Apple Watch Series 5, Apple Watch Series 6, and Apple Watch SE require at least an iPhone 6s that run iOS 14. If you are on Family Setup with a GPS + Cellular Apple Watch, the iPhone is only required for the initial setup. After that, the person set as a family member does not also need an iPhone.

Carrier restrictions

The GPS + Cellular Apple Watch comes with LTE connectivity, which allows you to piggyback off your current carrier plan (for an additional monthly fee, usually around $10) and get internet and phone connectivity even when your iPhone is far away.

Apple Watch LTE coverage lets you do anything solo on the Apple Watch that you can do when tied to your iPhone’s data. That includes placing calls, receiving messages, using Siri, navigating via Maps, playing with third-party apps, and just about anything else.

You can’t sign up for a separate Apple Watch cellular plan from your iPhone. If you’re on AT&T, your Apple Watch has to be, too. You’ll have a separately assigned number for your Apple Watch, but it’s not your usable phone number. It’s just the account assignment number.

Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular + GPS: which Apple Watch option is the best for you?

Obviously, there will be diffrence in Apple Watch GPS and GPS + Cellular battery life. The Apple Watch GPS uses Bluetooth to connect to your iPhone and the GPS is used when you’re out and about for navigational purposes. The Cellular model connects to the internet by LTE if you’re not at home, so it’s quite understandable that it might have lesser battery life.

The GPS-only model doesn’t support Streaming Apple Music, but you can download tunes onto it for direct listening offline. Your storage capacity only limits you.

The GPS + Cellular Watch supports Apple Music and Podcasts app streaming. If you have an Apple Music subscription, you can rock your socks off anywhere you want without needing your iPhone or Wi-Fi.

Let’s dive in a little bit more. We can see specifics on Apple’s battery test. Apple has tested the newly-released Apple Watch Series 6 battery life like that: all the usage for the Watch Series 6 GPS was done with the Watch paired to an iPhone via Bluetooth during the entire 18-hour test. The Series 6 GPS + Cellular was paired via Bluetooth for 14 out of 18 hour-long test and for 4 hours it was on its own with its LTE connection. Same test was performed on the Apple Watch SE too.

Family Setup

If you are planning to buy or hand down an Apple Watch to a family member that doesn’t already own an iPhone, you don’t have to invest in both devices. Instead, you can use Family Setup to set up the Apple Watch initially and then they can use it untethered.

The Apple Watch Cellular + GPS is the only model of Apple Watch that supports Family planning, so this is an important factor when considering your purchase. You may not need cellular right now, but you may want to pass along your old Apple Watch to a friend or family someday in the future.

Family Setup works with the following Apple Watch versions:

  • Apple Watch Series 4
  • Apple Watch Series 5
  • Apple Watch Series 6
  • Apple Watch SE

Also read: Apple Watch 38mm Vs 42mm (2020): Which Size Should You Get

Storage size

Comparing Apple Watch Cellular vs GPS, the Apple Watch SE, Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6 come with 32GB of storage. It’s the same across the board, so there’s no reason to consider it in this case.

Case and screen material

The GPS-only Apple SE, Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6 are limited to aluminum Sport and Nike+ cases. In contrast, the GPS + Cellular Watch retains the stainless steel and titanium, in addition to the aluminum Sport and Nike+ cases.

Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular + GPS: which Apple Watch option is the best for you?
Family Setup is a new feature, introduced with the new Apple Watch Series 6 and the Watch SE model, that allows you to set up Apple Watches for your kids or elderly relatives without them needing an iPhone to pair the Watch with. Therefore, you can only use this feature if you have the GPS + Cellular model.


There is a price difference of about $50-$100 between the GPS and the Cellular + GPS models, depending on the specific series of Apple Watch. For example, the Apple Watch Series 6 40mm GPS model is priced at $399, while the same size with GPS + Cellular costs $499. Between the Apple Watch SE GPS and Cellular + GPS variant, the price difference is $50 in favor of the cellular model.

Also, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for the LTE connection to your carrier if you go for the Apple Watch GPS + Cellular. Although the monthly fee depends on your carrier, prices are usually around $10 a month.

Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular + GPS: which Apple Watch option is the best for you?

We also find some differences in the options available for the Apple Watch in terms of case materials, depending on whether you go for the GPS only or for GPS + Cellular.

Unfortunately, if want the GPS-only model, you’re limited to only aluminum as an option for case material. Although it looks nice with its matte finish and is very lightweight, some might want the durability or the glossy looks of the stainless steel. If you want your Apple Watch to have a stainless steel case or a titanium one, you can only go for the GPS + Cellular model.

Apple Music and Podcasts Streaming

Here we find another difference between the Apple Watch GPS-only and Apple Watch GPS + Cellular. The built-in cellular on the latter allows you to stream Apple Music and Podcasts even without your iPhone around.

On the other hand, the Apple Watch GPS model necessitates the iPhone to be around to stream Apple Music and Podcasts, so it’s a thing to consider before going for this option.

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