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Apple Watch Cellular vs GPS | Ultimate 2021 Guide

Apple Watches are some of the best if not the best smartwatches you can buy right now. They have everything from a vibrant display to excellent activity tracking along with tons of other features and top-notch build quality.

There’s not much you can ask for more from a watch but Apple Watches still question you on which version you want to choose from, Cellular or GPS only.

apple watch se gps cellular

In short, an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity can make calls, receive messages, and more without being tethered to an iPhone. While a GPS-only version requires you to be tethered to an iPhone to unlock its full potential.

Yet it is not so simple either, other factors come into play making the decision a complicated one. But worry not, by the end of this article, you will be sure on which version of Apple Watch you should choose, Cellular or GPS.

Apple Watch Cellular vs GPS

Features

On the outside, the two models, the Apple Watch Cellular and the Apple Watch GPS versions don’t differ much. More on the outer differences later, but on the inside, the two watches differ a bit and this translates to different real-world experiences as well.

So below is a table listing the differences that you experience when using either version of the Apple Watch Series 6.

 

GPS-Only

GPS + Cellular

Battery life (talk)

Battery life (audio)

Battery life (workout)

N/A

10 hours

6 hours outdoor with GPS

1.5 hours

7 hours

5 hours with Apple Music streaming

5 hours outdoor with GPS & LTE

Apple Music support

No

Yes

Minimum requirements

iPhone 6s with iOS 14 for Series 3 and newer

iPhone 6s with iOS 14 for Series 4 and newer

Siri support

Yes

Yes

Family Setup support

No

Yes

Storage size

8GB for Series 3

16GB for Series 4

32GB for SE, Series 5, 6

16GB for Series 4

32GB for SE, Series 5, 6

Monthly cost

$0

From $10 per month, depending on the carrier

Case and Screen Material

When it comes to the design there isn’t much of a difference between the GPS and Cellular model of an Apple Watch, what this doesn’t mean there is no difference at all. The only design difference is that there is a red ring around the Digital Crown on the cellular model.

GPS-Only Version on the left, Cellular Version on the right (Notice Red Ring)

The GPS-only versions of Apple Watch SE, Series 4, Series 5, and Series 6 are only limited to aluminum Sport and Nike+ cases. Cellular versions of the same are also available in steel and titanium builds, along with the aluminum Sport and Nike+ cases.

This means there is a difference in the type of screen glass as well. The GPS models only get Ion-X glass displays while the Cellular models have the option to choose between Ion-X and Sapphire Crystal glass displays. Ion-X glass can withstand more impact but is prone to scratching, while Sapphire glass can resist scratches more but can shatter easily, so pick your poison.

So overall, when it comes to design and build quality, even though there is not much difference when it comes to design, the Cellular version is the better choice, thanks to the options available.

Minimum iPhone requirements

Both Cellular and GPS versions of all Apple Watches since the Series 4 require at least an iPhone 6s with iOS 14 for them to function as intended. The Apple Watch Series 3 has been discontinued since September 2020. So in this regard, there is no difference between the GPS and Cellular versions of the Apple Watch. You will need at least iOS 14 running on an iPhone 6s or later to use them.

Band options

Apple shares the same band connection technology across all its smartwatches which makes it easy for customers to choose different bands without worrying about compatibility. So, Apple Watch compatible bands will work for both the GPS and the Cellular versions.

apple watch bands

Calling and Other Functions

The Apple Watch Cellular versions come with LTE connectivity (through an eSim) which allows you to share your primary carrier plan with your Watch as well for a small additional fee. This allows the Cellular version of Apple Watches to make calls and have internet connectivity even when your phone is away.

This allows the Apple Watch Cellular versions to do all the functions that you could do when tethered to your phone, but without being tethered. You can make calls, receive messages, use Siri, navigate via Maps, use third-party apps, and more. You can also make payments using your Apple Watch if it has cellular connectivity.

One thing to keep in mind is that you can only use the same carrier as your iPhone on your Apple Watch as well. Your Apple Watch will be assigned a number but it won’t be the phone number but rather an account assignment number for it.

So this is the biggest advantage of using an Apple Watch Cellular over the GPS version as you can use it to its full potential without being tethered to your iPhone. This means you won’t have to take your iPhone to workouts anymore.

Apple Music and Podcasts Streaming Support

Apple Watches with Cellular support Apple Music and Podcasts app streaming. If you have an Apple Music subscription, then you can enjoy music from anywhere even without your iPhone.

apple watch music streaming

On the other hand, the GPS-only version of Apple Watches doesn’t support Apple Music streaming, but you can still download songs to the Watch and listen to songs off it. The only limitation would be the storage size of the Watch itself.

So, in this segment too, the Apple Watch Cellular is better than the GPS version as it supports both music streaming and offline music play.

Family Setup

Apple’s Family Setup is for members of a family who don’t own an iPhone yet. So if you are planning to get an Apple Watch for a family member who doesn’t have an iPhone, get them an Apple Watch Cellular version as you can set it up using and Family Setup and they can use the watch untethered.

This feature doesn’t work with the GPS-only version of the Apple Watch. And it is limited to Cellular versions of the Apple Watch Series 4, 5, 6, and Apple Watch SE. This makes cellular versions of the Apple Watch great for hand-me-downs in the future as well if the family member doesn’t have an iPhone.

Storage size

Both versions of Apple Watches have the same storage sizes. The Apple Watch Series 5,6 and the Apple Watch SE all have 32 GB of inbuilt storage while the Apple Watch Series 4 has only 16 GBs of storage. So it’s a draw between the GPS and Cellular models when it comes to storage capacity.

Battery Life

Until now, the Apple Watch Cellular version has been the same if not better in every segment we have compared it against the GPS version. So you might be wondering if there is any reason to buy the GPS version if there is any advantage for it at all apart from costing less.

There is a huge advantage for the GPS-only version of an Apple Watch over the Cellular version and that is battery life.

The Apple Watches with Cellular support offers a max of 1.5 hours of talk time while the GPS-only version can’t make calls.

The Cellular version can play audio for up to 7 hours but only 5 hours if you are streaming through Apple Music. In comparison, the GPS-only version can play music for up to 10 hours but can’t stream from Apple Music.

When it comes to workout tracking the Apple Watch Cellular version can stay alive for 5 hours with both GPS and LTE on, while the GPS-only version can do 6 hours with GPS on. Both watches offer up to 10 hours of battery life for indoor workouts without GPS or LTE connectivity.

Overall, when it comes to general usage Apple Watches with GPS only version offer better battery life compared to Cellular versions. And the difference can be up to 4 hours of daily usage making the GPS only version if you want the best battery life.

Price and Conclusion

In conclusion, Apple Watches with Cellular connectivity is clearly the better product but are they really worth their asking price? The only correct answer for this is if you need cellular connectivity and if you can afford it.

The Cellular version of an Apple Watch can cost anywhere from 50 to 100 dollars more than the GPS-only version. The Apple Watch SE only commands 50 dollars more for the cellular version making it an excellent deal, so I would recommend it to anyone. But in the case of the Watch Series 5 or 6 it costs 100 dollars more, which makes it harder to recommend them unless you absolutely need cellular connectivity.

Get the Cellular version if you don’t want to carry your iPhone everywhere or if you are gifting the watch to someone without an iPhone. Or you can get the GPS-only version for better battery life and similar features for a more affordable price.

Regardless of which version you choose, Apple Watches are excellent products and you will be happy with them. With excellent build quality, gorgeous screen, and tons of features, they are just awesome.

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