The Apple Watch Series 3 marks the debut of cellular connectivity on an Apple smartwatch, letting you cut the invisible cord and still receive calls, text and other notifications when far away from your smartphone.
This isn’t a must-have feature for everyone, and for those of you who don’t see the need for LTE on the wrist, Apple is still offering the Series 3 without the cellular connection starting at $329. Otherwise, the cheapest Series 3 with LTE costs $399.
Bear in mind that you’ll be paying an additional cost to your carrier to have the second line on your wrist, though the price will vary. In the US right now the big networks are charging an additional $10 a month for LTE, but you’ll need to check who’s supporting it in your country. In the UK it’s just EE, on a £5-a-month plan with the first six months free.
Getting and setting up LTE on the Apple Watch is pretty easy, and you even get to use the same number. Here’s how.
First, make sure it actually supports cellular
That red accent on the crown is the giveaway. All of the LTE Apple Watches have the red circle to signify their cellular connection, while Series 3 models without it will only have GPS. Apple’s using a new eSim technology, so there’s no physical Sim card to worry about, but even so, if you don’t get the right model you won’t be able to just add a cellular plan later on.
Speaking of, get on the right cellular plan
If you don’t have a plan that currently supports an additional line on the Watch, you’ll have to change it. Not every plan supports eSim, and you may need to change plans with your carrier to be able to use the Apple Watch LTE. This doesn’t necessarily mean an additional base cost, but you’ll need to check with your network provider.
Pair your Apple Watch to your plan
Once you’re prepared and know your new Apple Watch will play nice with your cellular plan, you need to set it up to do so. There are two ways to do this. First, you’ll be prompted during the setup process when you actually pair the Watch with your phone, but if you didn’t do so for whatever reason, that’s Ok.
To do so, head into the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. in the ‘My Watch’ menu you should an option for Cellular if your watch is paired. Tap on this and then tap on ‘Set up cellular’. It will then load a web page (ugh, yes) within the app directing you to your carrier so you can log in with your details. This should be pretty fast, and once it’s done you’ll be directed back to the Cellular page where you should now see your carrier added as a plan.
You can also go in here to manage your account at any time.
How to use cellular once it’s set up
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 up should reveal a cellular button. When your phone is disconnected the Watch will 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, and if it can’t find an LTE network then it’ll try for a 3G strength connection instead.
When you’re connected to your iPhone but a cellular plan is active, the network button will be white, otherwise it’s transparent, which means either you 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.
On that LTE bug
You might have heard that the Series 3 initially had a bug where the Watch would get “stuck” on public Wi-Fi networks and cutting off the cellular connection. Apple has now rolled out an update that fixes this, so make sure your software is up to date.