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Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular: Which Watch To Buy

- By Ticks Of Time 10/13/20

The Dance workout, the Chronograph Pro watch face, and sleep tracking are each displayed on separate Apple Watch Series 5

This article is brought to you by Masum Billah, owner of Visit Ticks of Time for more in-depth features on all aspects of wristwatches. Please note: this article was written before the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, which is not examined in this article.

For the last decade Apple Watches have been the most popular watches all over the world. Their popularity is mostly due to its practical and utilitarian features that help people to lighten their boatload of burdens. The fact is that Apple and other brands in smartwatch space are still coping with some backlashes in their technological tactics.

Yet the vast array of useful features outweigh what it lacks. Apple Watches offer a plethora of choices for price, design, and functionality that appeal to people from all walks of life. Here are the details of the Apple Watch GPS and Cellular versions so you can choose the right model for you.

Here we’re going to share with you the key differences between Apple Watch GPS-only and the Apple Watch GPS+Cellular. And we’ll also picture the needs from an individual perspective. Then it’ll be easy for you to decide if you can be totally happy with the GPS-only version or if the LTE model will be better for you. Let's look at the details of the Apple Watch GPS versus the Apple Watch Cellular to see if spending the extra money is worth it.

If you have trouble while pairing your Apple Watch to iPhone, this article will help you, detailing every step.

Table of Contents
I. Bird’s Eye View: Apple Watch GPS vs Apple Watch Cellular
II. What’s the difference: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular
III. Design & Hardware: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular
IV. Cellular Connectivity: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular
V. Compatibility: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular
VI. Streaming Support: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular
VII. Battery: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular
VIII. Storage: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular
IX. Price: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular
X. Common Q & A about Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular
XI. Which Is Better Apple Watch GPS or Cellular
Bird’s Eye View: Apple Watch GPS vs Apple Watch Cellular
Image description Image description
Apple Watch 5 GPS Apple Watch GPS + Cellular
Attractions Attractions

It’s the least expensive of all models

It’s the lightest of all due to its aluminum body

You’ll get a longer battery life as it doesn’t feature any cellular chip

Can make calls and send texts independently of iPhone

Allows access to Apple Music Library

Offers plethora of choice for bands, materials and design

Subtractions Subtractions

Doesn’t allow Apple Music streaming

Few options for customization

Costs $100 more than the GPS-only version

Consumes battery more rapidly

Need to pay extra money for cellular connection

What are the GPS and Cellular functions actually? Why did Apple need to design both the Apple Watch Cellular and Apple Watch GPS? Well, smartwatches are growing popular mainly for their health and fitness tracking features. And their power to bypass the smartphone has become a pivotal point to consider. It seems that smartwatches can be better alternatives to smartphones in the near future. They are easy to use and have replicating functions as smartphones. With the development of voice control, there will be a reinvention of smartwatches. And the steps toward the possibility are the GPS-only version and the Cellular version of smartwatches.


The elaborative form of “GPS” is the Global Positioning System that’s used for location tracking. It works by constant-ly connecting with the satellite. The Apple Watch GPS is a perfect piece for those who want to hike, trek, run, or bike in the wild and rough terrain. By wearing it on your wrist, you can keep a tab on time and fitness activities as well as eliminate the need for a GPS tracker. With the long-lasting battery, Apple Watch GPS-only will serve you long enough outside of your house.

The Apple Watch Cellular is connected independently of your iPhone. The LTE function of the Apple Watch can work without your iPhone and minimize the need to keep it nearby. With the compatible carrier services, your watch will import the data from your iPhone and use it to function independently. Unlike the Apple Watch GPS-only, the Cellular version connects directly with the server and hence you can say it is a smaller version of your iPhone.

The gross difference between Apple Watch Cellular and GPS is the service provided. But there are also other dif-ferences that will help you to pick the favorable one for you. It includes the price, battery, and the options for per-sonalized customization.

Design & Hardware:

GPS Only GPS + Cellular

Offers a few options for colors, straps and materials

Lightest of all models

Available in only aluminum sports and Nike cases

Lots of customization options for colors, straps, and materials

Though the main differences lie between the software, the price gap makes little difference in other alluring op-tions. Both of them look almost the same from the outside. The only physical distinction of the Cellular models is a red marking on the digital crown. The brighter marking may look odd or cheaper to someone with different tastes.

And in the case of Apple Watch Cellular, you’ll find plenty of ways to customize the watches with the materials, straps, or colors. The GPS-only version of Apple Watch Series 3 and 5 comes with only an aluminum body with a sport band. You can choose from a silver, space gray, or rose gold-toned watch case with the aluminum bands avail-able in black, fog, gray, or pink sand colors. Apart from these sports bands, you can also pick the Nike Sport band and cases in silver, gold, or space gray colors. The Apple Watch GPS and Cellular come with 9 color schemes of ex-quisite variations and design.

If you want to go for the high-end ceramic edition of Apple Watch 5, the only option is Cellular only. The titanium edition or the watches with the Hermes straps all are Cellular-only. Even the tarnish-resistant stainless steel models feature the Cellular version of watches if you come by it from Apple.

It's clear that a GPS-only model is hard to personalize. But for the Apple Watch Cellular edition, you can choose the best materials with lots of eye-catching customizations.

Cellular Connectivity:

Image description Image description
GPS Only GPS + Cellular

Network functions need connectivity to your iPhone

Texting needs proximity of iPhone

Can make calls, use Siri and Apple Pay independently of iPhone

It features the same carrier as the iPhone

The main contrasting point between the two editions is their cellular connectivity. The difference defines the capac-ity of a watch to provide fruitful features. You can weigh the importance of LTE setup in a watch by assessing the price tags.

Apple Watch GPS + Cellular

Cellular connection means you won’t need any iPhone nearby to connect to the Internet. You can call or text from anywhere (of course within the network of your carrier!) at any time whether you’re on a trail or in a sweat-breaking workout. Just tap on the device on your wrist and respond to someone on social media. You can also check your emails and iMessages and respond to them. The weather app will provide you with real-time data. And you can even stream songs while running or doing workouts. The cellular function allows you to search from your wrist with just a few taps.

The Apple Watch GPS+Cellular minimizes the need to carry your iPhone all the time. You can call or text someone just using your watch even if you’ve accidentally put your iPhone away at home. You can also use Siri for a quick voice reply. Whenever you’re away from the Bluetooth range of iPhone, the built-in LTE and UMTS radio automati-cally switch back to the cellular mode.

Though the Cellular edition will cost you almost $100 more than the GPS-only version, each penny is worth spend-ing for the untethered functionality it provides. If you’re an extremely busy person who needs to chat every now and then, the cellular function will come handy to you. You’ll have fun while streaming tons of songs to motivate your daily workout. The Apple Watch Cellular can send an SOS while roaming. It’ll connect to the local emergency number and send an SOS.

The Cellular version will come as a blessing for the absentminded people. When you’re away from your iPhone, the automatically switched LTE mode will bypass your iPhone and direct all calls to your watch when it’s appropriate. And it’s also uncomfortable to carry an iPhone in your pocket while running or jogging. Apple Watch Cellular pro-vides many functionalities to enjoy.

Apple Watch GPS only

However, a GPS version is not to be ignored, because it can be a great watch if you consider its affordable price and practical features. The GPS-only Apple Watch means that you need to be connected with your iPhone in order to make calls or use the Internet. The fitness and health tracking features are still available offline mostly. But if you want to respond to calls or messages, you need to keep an iPhone within its Bluetooth range. You can respond to the emails or iMessages with customized replies. You can still enjoy the same features as the GPS + Cellular version, you just need to carry your iPhone wherever you go. The customization choice for GPS-only version is not abun-dant.

However, the Apple Watch GPS-only version will need less battery consumption as it doesn’t always connect to cel-lular networks. The Bluetooth pairing needs less battery comparatively. The built-in GPS works independently of your iPhone. With this, you can measure distance, steps, and map routes while jogging or hiking. Without the iPh-one, you can enjoy a few features only. So to squeeze every utilitarian feature, you need to carry your phone.

Two Apple Watch Series 5 watches
Apple Watch Series 5.

Compatibility: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular

GPS Only GPS + Cellular

Doesn’t need any carrier services

Requires iPhone 6S or later with iOS 13

Series 3 requires iPhone 5S and newer

Requires same carrier services as iPhone

Requires iPhone 6S or newer with minimum iOS 13

Compatibility is a key thing you need to consider while picking out your Apple Watch. It needs to work seamlessly with the hardware of the phone as well as the software. As the development of hardware and software is pacing so quickly these days, the devices need to remain at an optimum level to work together.

If the hardware of both Apple Watch and iPhone are not compatible, it’s not sure if they can perfectly pair with each other. The version of the operating system is very important to consider. The GPS-only version needs iPhone 5S or the later models to adopt it. And the Cellular edition of Apple Watch needs iPhone 6 or a newer model to run.

While your watch may work with your iPhone's hardware, the watch's operating system may not be compatible with the iOS running on your phone. So you need to remember the minimum compatibility of pairing the iOS systems of Apple Watch and iPhone. If your watch is running on watchOS 6, then your iPhone requires at least iOS 13 to work together. The systematic development of software has outpaced the requirements compared with the first Apple Watch.

If you have an Apple Watch Series 5 or Series 3, then you require an iPhone 6s or later with iOS 13 or later ver-sions. The useful ECG app is compatible with the latest version of watchOS and iOS. It can run on Apple Watch Series 4 or later releases. So before choosing any version, check if the setup of your watch is ok with your iPhone.

Carrier Restrictions:

The Apple Watch GPS-only doesn’t need any cellular connection as it works by pairing with the iPhone. But in the case of Apple Watch Cellular, you need to be aware of choosing your carrier services. You can’t use a carrier in your Apple Watch that is different other than the one used in your iPhone. The microchip in your watch will assign a new account number and pair it with the carrier service on your phone. If your watch is away from the Bluetooth range of your iPhone, your calls will be redirected to your Apple Watch if appropriate.

Apple has a number of carrier services by country that are supported in Apple Watch. If you’re using any of them on your iPhone, you need to pay around $10 or more for your services and enjoy the cellular connection on your watch. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, etc., are part of the growing number that supports Apple Watch. You can’t use separate cellular plans for your Apple Watch. If you’re using the service of AT&T on your iPhone, your Apple Watch has to use the same carrier service.

Two Apple Watch Series 5 watches
The screen intelligently dims and brightens with the motion of the wrist.

Streaming Support: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular

GPS Only GPS + Cellular

Doesn’t support Apple Music streaming

Doesn’t support audiobooks and podcasts GPS + Cellular

Allows access to Apple Music Library

The Apple Watch GPS+Cellular version allows you to stream music during your workout or while running. If you’re a subscriber of Apple Music service, you can rock the floor with the high-volume speaker. You can also enjoy the podcasts and audiobooks without tethering your watch to an iPhone or Wi-Fi. You’ll gain access to the entire Apple Music library that’ll allow you to listen to 60 million songs.

If you’re using the GPS-only version, you can still enjoy music. The Apple Watch GPS-only doesn’t support Apple Music streaming. So you need to download the playlists and then you can listen to them offline. It’s better as stream-ing online will consume a lot of your battery and cut your budget for tracking fitness or health. The only hindrance can be the shortage of storage.

The Apple Watch GPS+Cellular version allows you to stream music during your workout or running. If you’re a subscriber of Apple Music service, you can rock the floor with the high-volume speaker. You can also enjoy the podcasts and audiobooks without tethering your watch with iPhone or Wi-Fi. You’ll gain access to the entire Apple Music library that’ll allow you to listen to 60 million songs.

Battery: Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular

GPS Only GPS + Cellular

10 hours audio playback from internal storage

Battery runs for 10 hours with indoor workouts and 6 hours with outdoor workouts

7 hours audio streaming with the LTE connection

5 hours outdoor workouts with the GPS and LTE

Apple has conducted a test on the battery life for the GPS-only model and GPS+Cellular version. The test is signifi-cant and Apple demanded that the two work almost the same with the battery. They ran an 18-hour test and it’s obvious that the LTE connectivity consumes more battery than the GPS-only connection. Apple takes into account that people don’t always use cellular connection and hence the small portion of cellular usage doesn’t significantly affect the battery life.

The battery life depends mainly on the usage from the individual’s perspective. If you avoid LTE connectivity in Ap-ple Watch most of the time, then your battery consumption will be low. The nature of using online and offline fea-tures is the main factor for battery usage.

The 18-hour test was conducted all day covering the following usage of 90 time checks, tapping 90 notifications, using an app for 45 minutes, 60-minute workout, and offline streaming of music playback. The Apple Watch GPS-only was connected to the iPhone all the time during the test period. The Cellular version used the LTE connectivity for 4 hours and Bluetooth connectivity for another 14 hours.

The Apple Watch GPS-only can play audio playback for almost 10 hours using internal storage. But the music stream-ing with cellular connection lasts for only 7 hours of playback. It’s clear that the LTE connectivity consumes more battery than the GPS-only playback and here the GPS edition is the clear winner. You can go for an indoor workout for 10 hours and a 6-hour outdoor workout using the GPS-only Apple Watch. But the Apple Watch Cellular version can only track 5-hour outdoor workouts with a cellular connection. You can continuously talk for 1.5 hours over cellular networks with your Apple Watch.


GPS Only GPS + Cellular

Apple Watch Series 3 has 8 GB storage

Apple Watch Series 3 has 16 GB capacity

The Apple Watch 5 and Series 4 comes with the same storage for GPS and Cellular models. The Apple Watch GPS-only and the Apple Watch GPS+Cellular have the same capacity of 32 GB storage.

However, Apple Watch 3 has a different storage capacity to provide more affordable user experiences. The GPS-only version comes with 8 gigabytes of capacity that stores the built-in apps and other built-in functions. But the Apple Watch Cellular has double capacity than the GPS measuring 16 gigabytes of storage.


GPS Only GPS + Cellular

Apple Watch GPS-only costs half the price of the Cellular edition

Apple Watch GPS + Cellular costs double than the premium price

The cellular connectivity was first available for the Apple Watch Series 3 released in September 2017. Since then the later versions always come with GPS-only and Cellular editions with split price tags. The previous Apple Watches were always introduced with GPS-only.

No matter which model or variation you’re buying, you need to pay extra for the cellular upgrade. It’ll cost another $100 to the already premium price of the Apple Watch. You need to pay more for the additional carrier services you’re using on your smartwatch. If you want to upgrade to cellular connectivity, know that it’ll come at a financial cost. But those smart features will be worth it if you need them in your daily life.

A person holding the new Apple Watch Series 5
Customers can now pick their preferred case and band combination.

Common Q & A about Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular

Can you still text on Apple Watch without cellular?

If your Apple Watch is connected to your iPhone or any other Wi-Fi networks, you’ll be able to send texts or iMes-sages to anyone. But the iPhone should be nearby and within the Bluetooth range of your watch.

Do you have to pay monthly for Apple Watch Cellular?

You need to pay monthly only if you want to use the cellular features while away from your iPhone. Otherwise, you don’t need to pay while enjoying the features in your Apple Watch paired with your iPhone. You can send text mes-sages and iMessages, make and receive calls, and all the useful functions independent of your iPhone. And the car-rier service may charge you usually $10 or more monthly for LTE connection to your watch.

Can I stream Apple Music without Cellular connection?

No, you can’t stream 60 million songs in the Apple Music Library with your Apple Watch GPS-only. You need to up-grade to cellular connection to enjoy the online streaming of the Apple Music. However, you can still listen to music while running or doing workouts. You can download the playlists with your iPhone. Then install it in the watch files and enjoy the offline playbacks.

Which Is Better?

So Apple Watch GPS or Cellular? After going through the differences between Apple Watch GPS and Cellular, hope-fully, you got the answers after assessing your needs and wallet. The main thing you need to consider is the availa-ble features and the price tag.

If you can afford the extra $100, why not choose the Apple Watch for a better life! Don’t worry about the battery. If you keep the cellular activity to a minimum, then the watch will last for a long time. Those who are indifferent to keeping their iPhone with them, the Cellular function will be a great help for them. It will minimize the need to peri-odically check your phone and you’ll be tension-free having your mini version of your smartphone strapped to your wrist. If you’re ultra-busy while working or a blogger who needs to always focus on communicating with others, then just a few taps on your wrist will do that for you easily.

However, the Apple Watch GPS-only is also a great buy. It costs $100 less than any of the Apple Watch GPS and Cel-lular models. And you can still enjoy the amazing features from Apple Watch. The only restraint here is that you need your iPhone to stay nearby within the range. The cellular function sometimes seems extravagant for many of us. Almost everybody keeps their smartphone with them nowadays. So there’s no need to use cellular connection if your square-face watch does always accompany you. The GPS-only Apple Watch will run longer compared to the Cellular model. So it’ll be great for your outdoor adventures. But both of the versions aren’t suitable for the long-distance runners.

However, if you want to squeeze and enjoy every feature out of your Apple Watch, then I recommend you use a cellular connection. If the iPhone seems a burden to you in the workouts or the busy business day, then the Apple Watch Cellular is a perfect timepiece for you. But if you’re aware of your battery, then the Apple Watch GPS-only is all yours to buy. Practically, the Apple Watch GPS is no less useful than the Cellular models.

However, Apple is the pioneer of modern-day smartwatches. Apple always prioritizes the customer’s comfort and hence they always try to keep their watches under $500. That’s the thing Apple realized and it's how they reached people from all walks of life.

Hopefully, the information in this article about the differences between Apple Watch GPS and Apple Watch Cellular helps you to pick the right one for you.

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