Best 4G/LTE smartwatch: cellular picks from Apple, Samsung and more

Ditch your phone for these cellular smartwatches
Top connected smartwatches with LTE
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Gone are the days when smartwatches relied on a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone to make the most of its best features. There are watches with 4G/LTE connectivity to help you live that untethered life.

Cellular smartwatches are still small in number, but the options are growing as more companies embrace offering that extra connectivity support. The Apple Watch isn't your only option.

Below, we've rounded up our picks of the bunch that you can buy now, as well as some more information on what exactly you get with an LTE smartwatch.

Update: We first published this article in August 2017 and continue to update it regularly. In March 2021 we refreshed our selection based on our testing

Standalone smartwatches: Things to consider

If you're in a muddle about just what a cellular smartwatch actually is, we've got the key details you need below to quickly get you up to speed.

What can a cellular smartwatch do?

In smartwatch terms, having one with a 4G/LTE cellular connection allows you to link to your carrier's data plan without the connection of your phone.

This means you can take calls, listen to music, use apps, send messages and take part in all the other usual smartphone frivolities, just, you know, without your phone being present.

In order for a smartwatch to mimic your phone, it has to be able to connect to the same network carrier. And if you want to take calls, you're also required to link the same number as your smartphone.

Do I need to switch my SIM card over?

No. Instead of having to carry a SIM ejector around with you and deal with a physical card, some watches use eSIM technology, which is essentially an embedded variant that can't be moved from the hood.

The benefit of this tech over regular SIM cards is the smaller size – companies are already trying to reduce size, so this is a natural step – and the efficiency of sharing your number between phone and watch through software.

Do you have to pay a monthly fee?

This all depends on the carrier you decide to go with, but, usually, yes.

However, deals will often be bundled with a smartphone, since you need to be rocking the same network and the two go hand in hand.

Does using LTE affect battery?

Deciphering which sensors and what activities affect your battery is always a tough game, but the answer is, well, yes – using LTE will generally sap your battery faster than if you weren't using it.

What we often see from devices with LTE is a bigger battery (and a bigger build) in order to offset the power it's taking up.

If you're looking to save battery and get a few more hours in the day, simply switching to a feature-slimmed mode on your device should help you out on that front.

Apple Watch Series 6 and SE (GPS + Cellular model)

Series 6 LTE: $499

Watch SE LTE: $329.

Apple Watch Series 6

The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch you can buy in 2021 - and part of the appeal comes with its excellent standalone support.

Not only can you make calls, take calls and receive notifications, thanks to that built-in eSIM, but streaming tunes via Apple Music is also available right from the wrist. Since the feature was first introduced in the Series 3, we've found the LTE coverage to be both consistent and reliable.

Set it up: How to use LTE on Apple Watch

Aside from the cellular support, the Series 6 itself represents more of an incremental update to the Apple Watch line, with the most substantial upgrade coming in the form of the ability to measure blood oxygen levels.

LTE smartwatch update

Apple Watch SE

ECG is still available to track your heart rhythm and potentially spot atrial fibrillation, and the design, aside from the new display, is the same as the previous generation.

If you can live without that ECG and blood oxygen app support, you can also pick up the Apple Watch SE, which offers pretty much everything else the Series 6 offers and is available with 4G/LTE support from $329.

Naturally, you can buy the device without the LTE package, but this undoubtedly gives you the fullest experience and can free you from your phone during runs, when your phone battery dies and whatever else.

Have a read of our in-depth Apple Watch Series 6 review and Apple Watch SE review.



Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (4G LTE model)

Price when reviewed: From $449.99

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

The Apple Watch may be the top option for those on the hunt for an LTE smartwatch, but, particularly for those with an Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy Watch is the next best pick.

With LTE available for both the 41mm and the 45mm model (shown above), the flagship Samsung smartwatch is one of the few that can stack up in pretty much every area with the Apple Watch. It's also one that works with Android and iOS devices, though LTE support is for Android users only.

For the most part, we found LTE performance on Samsung's Galaxy Watches to be fairly consistent, but there is potentially a bit of a battery draining issue - more than you might find on the Apple Watch, say.

However, streaming music from Spotify and calling is smooth through the Tizen-based watch, and it has beautiful design, elite-level display and all the smartwatch basics you could want for, such as notifications, contactless payment support, rich messaging support, GPS activity tracking and waterproofing.

It also offers an ECG sensor like the Apple Watch Series 6 and additionally offers blood pressure monitoring once it has been calibrated with a traditional cuff monitor. So it's a feature-packed watch with plenty of features that can take advantage of its extra cellular powers.

Read more in our Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (4G LTE model)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

After initially launching without an LTE edition, you can now buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 with full cellular support - even if it does cost a whopping $150 more than the Bluetooth version.

In terms of standalone support, there's no difference between this and the Galaxy Watch above - you get all the same coverage and, in the US, it's available through Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Verizon. We just gave the Galaxy Watch 3 a slight edge due to the wild jump in price between Bluetooth and LTE editions.

Really, if money is no concern, the choice between Samsung's smartwatches is about whether you prefer the design of the sportier Active 2, which comes in either a 40mm or 44mm case size.

It's certainly an upgrade over the now-cheaper original (which only came out a few months before), with the digital rotating bezel making its debut, but you may prefer the Galaxy Watch's more 'classic' smartwatch look.

If you do opt for the Active 2, you can also make use of the ECG sensor, which has been turned on in more countries. It also has the same blood pressure monitoring support as the Watch 3 and has inherited software features from the larger watch including the new advanced running metrics.

Read more in our extensive Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review.

Price when reviewed: $449.99



Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular model)

Apple Watch Series 3

The first Apple smartwatch to receive cellular support is also still a very viable option - and is one of the cheapest on this list.

Coverage works in the same way as it does on the newer models - meaning you can make calls, receive notifications and stream from Apple Music - and the upgrade to the cellular model starts at $100 over the Bluetooth equivalent.

What does the Series 3 lack that the Series 6 and SE has? Well, it features the older, boxier design without the perk of an always-on screen and it can't provide health tracking highlights like ECG readings or the new blood oxygen measurements.

That said, for those who are most interested in the prospect of cellular connectivity from the wrist, this is a great smartwatch. It runs on the same watchOS 7 software as the latest models, and you still get all the core features, such as GPS activity tracking, standalone apps and notification support.

Read all about the LTE performance in our Apple Watch Series 3 review.

Price when reviewed: From $299.99



Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music (Connected by Verizon)

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music

Garmin has largely stayed out of the LTE crowd, with the Vivoactive Music 3 the only device in its wide arsenal to offer cellular support.

There's now the Vivoactive 4 to consider, but, as of writing, it doesn't have an LTE version for you to buy. For the time being, this doesn't look likely to change, so this is Garmin fans' only option for now.

There's a fairly big caveat with this device, though, other than the fact it may soon be superseded. Firstly, the LTE features are exclusively available through Verizon.

If that suits you, you'll be able to receive texts and download music from Spotify and Deezer without your phone. The more interesting use, however, is that Garmin is using cellular for its safety features as well.

There's both assistance and incident detection, both of which could be useful in a pinch if you're out hiking as many Garmin wearers are likely to be.

Otherwise, your regular Garmin features are present, from Garmin Pay to detailed fitness tracking. And this is a really solid pick, despite having a bit more to consider before buying.

Check out more on this smartwatch with our full Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music review.

Price when reviewed: $299


TicWatch Pro 3 LTE

Price when reviewed: $299

TicWatch Pro 3 LTE

The TicWatch Pro 3 LTE is Mobvoi's latest entry into the world of LTE smartwatches and it's available in the UK, Spain and Germany through Vodafone with a US carrier yet to be tied up.

With those extra connected powers, the Pro will let you take VoLTE calls and send and receive messages straight from the watch. You'll get notifications from other apps, too, thanks to the watch's cloud syncing. You'll also be able to use Google Assistant without being tethered to your phone

Aside from the LTE, you can expect a pretty standard Wear OS experience here. The experience doesn't quite compete with what Samsung and Apple can offer, but it's definitely an option for those with an Android phone that prefers Google's Wear OS to Tizen.

Mobvoi has also included Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor to keep performance snappy and a host of its own software including its sleep, guided breathing and SpO2 apps. It's by far the best TicWatch we've tested and one to consider if you're not a fan of the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch.

Have a read of our TicWatch Pro 3 review to find out what to expect from the slick Wear OS watch.


Oppo Watch LTE

Price when reviewed: $484

Oppo Watch LTE

If you're looking for a Wear OS alternative to the TicWatch Pro 3 and prefer a square watch look to a round one, you can also consider putting the Oppo Watch LTE on your wrist instead.

It's available in the UK through Vodafone and Celron and Orange networks in the US, though like the TicWatch, you'll need to have it paired with an Android phone to enjoy that tethered experience. You can share your phone number and watch number as the support is based on using an eSIM

When you're all set up, you'll be able to leave your phone behind and view notifications, deal with calls and access the Google Play Store to download apps. With Google having killed off Google Play Music, you do miss out on a desirable ability of being able to stream music.

You do though get a smartwatch experience that on the whole is very good merging Google's Wear OS with Oppo's Color OS software in a really pleasing way. Battery life with LTE support enabled is roughly a day, which is what you can expect to get with the extra connectivity support.

It's got a high quality screen, strong fitness features and is a smartwatch we enjoyed using, so it's definitely one to consider if you're an Android phone owner.

You can check out our Oppo Watch LTE review to see how we got on with the Wear OS smartwatch.