Apple Watch GPS vs Cellular: what's the difference, and which one should you choose?

Do you need to pay extra for GPS + Cellular on your Apple Watch? We take a look at the advantages and disadvantages.

Man holding Apple Watch above open box on navy blue background
(Image credit: fancycrave1; Pixabay)

Have you been eyeing an Apple Watch but, faced with the various different models and brands, been unable to seal the deal? Purchasing an Apple Watch is not as easy as getting a new throw pillow, having much more in common with the nervous window shopping and negotiations of switching phone contracts. 

As with the best fitness trackers around, smartwatches can offer pretty much everything your phone does, just from a convenient place on your wrist. However, how much you get out of your Apple Watch will depend on whether you go for GPS or GPS + Cellular.

Keep reading to find out the difference between the two, as well as whether an Apple Watch is right for you in the first place.

Apple Watch Series 7 being used by man on hike

(Image credit: Apple)

Should you get the Apple Watch?

The Apple Watch is a wearable that works best with the iPhone and other Apple devices, serving as a health and fitness tracker as well as a way to monitor calls, messages, and more without needing to look at your phone or PC. It is on the more expensive end of what you would pay for a fitness tracker or smartwatch, but it is also an incredibly popular choice.

When we reviewed the Apple Watch Series 8, we were impressed with how well it served as an extension to our phone, as well as the 18-hour battery life and insight it provided into our health, fitness, and sleep. Apple is always updating its software, so you can be sure you won't miss out on the latest and greatest features, and Apple users will enjoy complete integration. 

Apple Watch Series 8 on wrist of woman showing incoming call

(Image credit: Apple)

What do GPS and cellular mean?

Apple Watch (and many other wearables) come in two varieties - GPS and GPS + Cellular. The former offers what it says on the tin, allowing you to send and receive texts and phone calls and get notifications only when you're connected to your iPhone, but tracking workout data like distance on its own. Apple Watch GPS without Cellular doesn't come with an extra charge for data.

Apple Watch GPS + Cellular lets you use your smartwatch independently of your iPhone for functions such as receiving messages and emails, listening to music and podcasts, and finding your way using Siri and Maps. Basically, adding Cellular means you can use your Watch just as you would your phone. This usually involves paying an extra fee that can often be bundled with your current mobile plan.

Apple Watch Series 8 showing wallpaper on writer's wrist

(Image credit: Future)

What is the advantage of having cellular on Apple Watch?

Adding LTE connectivity to your Apple Watch means that you're no longer tied to your Wi-Fi or phone's data, meaning you can access the internet on your wearable without any other device nearby. This is perfect for jogging or other workouts when you don't want to miss an important call or message but also don't want to carry your phone around with you.

It also allows you to listen to music via your Watch, as well as access Siri and use Maps without first trying to tether it to your phone. All in all, it's just more convenient and can be a complete game-changer for those who want the freedom to walk around without their phone on them at all times. If your phone runs out of battery at a critical moment, it also provides a backup.

What are the disadvantages of having cellular on Apple Watch?

Looking at the downsides of adding a cellular plan to your Apple Watch, it completely comes down to cost. If you're looking at investing several $100 into a wearable, do you really want to add an extra charge on top? You should consider carefully whether you really need what GPS + Cellular could offer that GPS alone couldn't.

We will note, however, that the overall cost will depend on a few different things. If you purchase your Watch through your current mobile provider, for example, there's a chance that you could get a good deal on the extra data plan, bolting it onto an existing or renegotiated contract. 

Caroline Preece
Smart Homes Ecommerce Editor

Caroline is the smart home ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.