Apple Watch cellular guide: How to get LTE on your smartwatch

Everything you need to know about staying connected from the wrist
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The Apple Watch is a bonafide cellular smartwatch, letting you cut the cord and receive calls, texts and other notifications when you're away from your iPhone.

And though this may not be a feature for everyone, it's proved mightily successful since being introduced with the Series 3. Now, with the arrival of the Apple Watch Series 4, cellular connectivity on the device is more refined and useful.

Read this: Apple Watch tips and tricks

But there are still plenty of limitations, and lots to learn about what you can actually do with an Apple Watch with cellular. That's why we're here to help - below, we'll round up everything you need to know, whether your carrier is Verizon, Sprint or AT&T in the US, or EE or Vodafone in the UK.

Which Apple Watch supports cellular?

Apple Watch cellular guide: How to get LTE on your smartwatch

You'll be able to spot whether an Apple Watch supports cellular simply by looking at the Digital Crown. On the Series 3, it's a full red dot on the side, whereas it's just a red outline of a circle on the Series 4. If your Apple smartwatch has a plain Digital Crown, it will be the base, GPS-only version of the device.

Apple also uses eSim technology for the Watch, which means there's no physical Sim card to worry about. However, even so, if you don't get the right model from the start, you won't be able to just add a cellular plan later on.

Compared: Apple Watch Series 4 vs. Series 3

You're also going to need to make sure you have at least an iPhone 6 running the latest version of iOS, and that your Apple Watch and iPhone are working from the same network.

How to set up Apple Watch cellular

Apple Watch cellular guide: How to get LTE on your smartwatch

So, if your Apple Watch does indeed have cellular powers stored inside, it's time to get it set up. Thankfully, Apple has made this fairly straightforward with plenty of prompts to help you along. If you're looking to set up cellular straight away, simply follow the on-screen instructions.

Read next: The best Apple Watch apps for you to download

If not, don't panic, you can also activate cellular from within the Watch app on your phone at any time by following these steps:

  • Go to the My Watch tab in the Watch app.
  • Tap through on the Cellular tab.
  • Tap 'Set Up Cellular'.
  • Follow the instructions for your carrier from the web page that pops up
  • You'll then be directed back to the Cellular page, where you should see your plan added by your carrier.

How to change carriers on Apple Watch

Apple Watch cellular guide: How to get LTE on your smartwatch

Breakups with carriers are inevitable, and you'll want to know how to switch for your Apple Watch if you do have to jump over to another network. The first step you need to take is to remove the service plan already set up on your Apple Watch and add a new one. Follow these steps to do so:

  • Open up the Watch app on your iPhone.
  • Tap the My Watch tab, then tap 'Cellular'.
  • Your Apple Watch should automatically switch to the carrier that your iPhone is using. However, if you need to add a new plan, tap 'Add New Plan' and follow the on-screen steps.
  • Remove your old plan if it still remains in the tab - do this by tapping the information icon on the Cellular tab and 'Remove [Carrier] Plan'.

How to transfer your plan to a new Apple Watch

Maybe you don't change carriers, but have instead upgraded your Apple Watch - perhaps from the Series 3 to the delights of the Series 4. With the change, you'll also need to transfer your plan - here's how:

  • First, remove the cellular plan from your old Apple Watch - do this from the Watch app or by erasing your old device.
  • Pair your new Apple Watch with your iPhone, then continue through the cellular setup as normal by adding your plan.
  • Some carriers will allow you to transfer an existing plan directly from the Watch app, but you'll need to contact your carrier if you don't see the option.

How to use Apple Watch cellular

Apple Watch cellular guide: How to get LTE on your smartwatch

Once you're all done and paired, it's time to test it out. On the Watch, bringing up the control center with a swipe will reveal a cellular button. When your phone is disconnected, the Watch will automatically default to its own cellular connection, at which point that little button should turn green and some green dots will appear above to show signal strength (there's also a special watch face that puts those dots in the center of the clock).

At this point, you're on LTE. If your Watch can't find an LTE network, the Watch will instead try for a 3G connection. Also, when you're connected to your iPhone but a cellular plan is active, the network button will be white, and when the icons are transparent - as shown in the image above (right) - it means you either haven't set this up, or it hasn't worked.

Note that you can also go here at any time, tap on the green icon and toggle the cellular off. Everything else will still work as normal, you just won't have that connection if your phone goes out of range.

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Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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