We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.


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

By Nadeem Sarwar September 18, 2020, 5:00 am

Apple has been offering its eponymous smartwatches in two variants – GPS and GPS + Cellular – for a while now. The GPS-only model will need to be paired with your iPhone over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The GPS + Cellular version, on the other hand, can also latch on to cellular networks (LTE or UMTS) and can be used as a standalone device.

What this means is you can leave your iPhone at home and go out for a walk wearing just your Apple Watch, and you will still be able to receive calls, messages, and notifications from other useful apps. Pretty convenient, right?

Well, there are more differences between the GPS and GPS + Cellular variants of an Apple Watch than just what is mentioned above, as we’ll detail below.


What can the GPS + Cellular Apple Watch do?

Before we get into other differences, let’s first discuss what are the things that only an Apple Watch’s GPS + Cellular variant can do. Fundamentals first, you can send and receive messages and also make and answer phone calls. Plus, you can ask Siri to get directions, access messages, perform a quick web search, and do a lot more. 

An Apple Watch with cellular connectivity onboard will also let you check the weather, track the performance of stocks, control your connected home devices, view a friend’s location, listen to podcasts, stream music, enjoy a radio show, use the walkie talkie feature, and also find your way back home using Maps. You can do all this without having to carry your iPhone if you have a cellular Apple Watch model strapped to your wrist.

Family Setup is a crucial consideration

Another advantage that comes with the GPS + Cellular variant of an Apple Watch is that you can use Family Setup. Arriving as part of the watchOS 7 update, Family Setup allows you to set up an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity for a family member without them requiring a phone.

This means your family members can go out and will still be able to receive calls and messages without having to carry an iPhone. But do keep in mind that this feature only works on the GPS + Cellular variants of the Apple Watch Series 4 (as well as its successors) and the Apple Watch SE. You can check the whole procedure of starting with Family Setup here

Cellular connectivity comes at a cost

With the GPS + Cellular model of an Apple Watch, you get a huge convenience and also the freedom from always carrying your iPhone. But as the saying goes, nothing good comes in life for free, especially when you are a part of Apple’s ecosystem. So naturally, you’ll have to pay a premium of around $100 for the GPS + Cellular variant of an Apple Watch compared to the GPS-only model.

The price gap might vary depending upon the case type, its size, and the Apple Watch generation you pick. For example, if you pick up the cheapest Apple Watch Series 6 model with a 40mm watch case, the GPS-only model will cost you $399. On the other hand, you pay $499 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model with the same case size and choice of strap. 

Carrier conundrums

But that’s not all. Once you’ve enabled cellular functionality on your Apple Watch, your carrier will charge you a monthly fee for that convenience on top of your iPhone’s bill. Another limitation is that your Apple  Watch needs to be on the same carrier network as your iPhone. So, if your carrier doesn’t support cellular connectivity on Apple Watch, you’ll have to wait for them to adapt or switch carriers. 

Thankfully, if you live in the US, almost all major carriers such as T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and even Xfinity Wireless support cellular connectivity on Apple Watch. But not all of them support Family Setup, with only T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and C Spire supporting the feature as of now. If you are a non-US citizen, you can check the complete list of carriers that support cellular connectivity and Family Setup on the Apple Watch here.

Limited design choices

You can pick up an Apple Watch in two sizes, an equal number of connectivity options, multiple case material choices as well colors, and then configure them with the band of your choice. But it doesn’t apply universally to all models. For example, if you pick up the Apple Watch Series 6 with the Gold Stainless Steel Case and Milanese Loop (pictured above), you can only get a GPS + Cellular variant, and not a cheaper non-cellular model. Likewise, the choice of watch bands at your disposal might also be limited depending upon the variant you pick. And in case you can’t get the desired combination, you might have to splurge extra cash to buy the strap of your choice separately. 

Apple Watch Series 6

Available in both GPS & Cellular models, in either 40mm or 44m size, the Apple Watch Series 6 features sleep tracking, notifications, fitness tracking, fall tracking, sleep tracking and far more. With the Cellular version, you can also use Family Setup to give your child an Apple Watch without needing to give them an iPhone as well!


Latest Articles


Here's how the Apple iPod changed the world in 21 years

iPod was an industry-changing device at its time, and it had a massive impact on modern smartphones, and the way we listen to music. We take a last look at the now-discontinued Apple iPod and the history it leaves behind.

By Roland Udvarlaki May 11, 2022, 10:00 am

How to use Mic Modes in VOIP and FaceTime Calls

This guide will go over the steps you need to follow to activate one of the available Mic Mode settings on Apple Devices to begin using the feature and improve your calling experience.

By Aryan Suren May 10, 2022, 10:00 am

This iPhone 14 feature might urge users to upgrade

Until now, it appeared that iPhone 14 would only be a minor upgrade over the iPhone 13 series. However, a new leak suggests that the iPhone 14 will come with one feature that might urge users to upgrade.

By Sanuj Bhatia May 9, 2022, 5:00 am