Complete Guide to Apple Watches & Carriers

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What makes Apple Watches so special is the ability to stay connected even when you don’t have your iPhone nearby.

Although having a mobile network connection to your watch brings many questions, I created this in-depth guide to answer all inquiries you might have.

This guide will explain if Apple watches are tied to a network, if Apple Watches need to be unlocked, if they can be used with any carrier, if you can switch your watch to any carrier, and how you can open your watch to any carrier.

The Apple Watch is an amazing device, but it can be even better with the right accessories. Amazon has many add-ons, from chargers to cases, new bands, and more. So whether you’re looking for protection, style, or functionality, click here to find something perfect.

Is an Apple Watch Tied to a Network?

Apple Watches are not carrier-locked. The Wi-Fi & GPS-enabled Apple Watch models aren’t regional, but the cellular-enabled Apple Watch models are. So if you have a cellular Apple Watch, you’ll automatically have the same carrier plan as your iPhone.

Apple Watches aren’t tied to any network. However, they are regional devices, meaning they’ll only work with the locations where you purchased the Apple Watch. Also, the only time they are carrier locked is when you receive them from carriers at a discounted price.

When your paired iPhone isn’t nearby, the Apple Watches can connect to a Wi-Fi network just like how your phone could connect to Wi-Fi networks. You need watchOS 5 or later to choose the Wi-Fi network to connect to.

Choosing a Wi-Fi Network

  1. Open the Settings app of your Apple Watch.
  2. Tap Wi-Fi. The watch will automatically search for available networks.
  3. Tap on the name of the network you want to join. If you have Apple Watch Series 6, you can connect to either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks. Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch SE can only connect to 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi Networks.
  4. If asked, enter the password using Scribble or the Apple Watch Keyboard.
  5. Tap “Join,” and your Apple Watch is connected to a network.

There are also Apple Watch models that have a cellular feature. It means you can connect to LTE connections when available and can do numerous features even when your iPhone is not nearby.

Certain Apple Watches can be tied and connected to a carrier if they have cellular. For example, the watches below can be connected to a carrier if they have cellular.

  • Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)
  • Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular)
  • Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular)
  • Apple Watch SE (GPS + Cellular)
  • Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS + Cellular)
  • Apple Watch Series 7 (GPS + Cellular)

According to Apple, you can activate cellular with the first set up of your Apple Watch or when you set up a watch for a family member. Cellular models like the Apple Watch Series 7 and SE allow you to make calls, texts, and much more.

Many Apple Watch users charge their watch overnight, but could this damage the battery? Discover the whole picture in my helpful article.

Does an Apple Watch Have to Be Unlocked?

Apple Watches are not locked to a specific carrier, but they are regional devices. Therefore, you should not link the watch to a cellular/carrier plan to connect an Apple Watch and a carrier.

Apple Watches are not locked to any carrier except watches with an existing cellular plan or watches that have been carrier locked by a company, such as this Apple Watch from Verizon.

If you buy an Apple Watch in the US, you will not be able to connect it to a carrier in the UK, as it is a regional device. If you buy a Wi-Fi-only Apple Watch, it isn’t region-locked.

Looking for a great deal for Apple Watches? Buying a used or refurbished one on eBay is a great option; however, the watch needs to be removed from the previous owner’s iCloud to prevent the activation lock from locking you out of the Watch.

Click on Apple’s Support Link to contact their support team to remove the Activation Lock.

Note: The erase all feature can also work, but it would only be possible if the Apple Watch is unpaired. To unpair your Apple Watch, follow the steps below:

How To Unpair Apple Watch

  1. To unpair, keep your iPhone and your Watch together.
  2. Go to the Apple Watch app, click My Watch, and tap the All Watches option.
  3. Click Info to unpair.
  4. If you don’t want to pair again, then click on the Erase All option to remove the cellular plan.
  5. To complete the process, click on Confirm.

Can An Apple Watch Be Used With Any Carrier?

Apple Watches can be used with any carrier, but your iPhone and Apple Watch must use the same carrier unless the watch is set up for someone who doesn’t have an iPhone. If you change carriers on your iPhone, you must remove the previous service plan on your Watch and sign up for a new one.

Apple Watches can be used with any carrier as long as it fits the region of the place you’re using it. It will always work with whatever carrier you choose, so you don’t have to worry about choosing one carrier over the other to see if they are compatible with your watch or not.

The carrier you have on your iPhone should also be the carrier of your Apple Watch since the embedded SIM (eSIM) of your Apple Watch is a clone of the one in your iPhone.

The cellular button turns green when you have a connection, and the dots represent the signal strength. The cellular button turns white when you have an active cellular plan but is connected to your iPhone through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

According to Apple, you can do many things with your Apple Watch when your iPhone isn’t nearby, and you’re connected to Wi-Fi or cellular.

You can do these things with your Apple Watch when it’s away from your iPhone but connected to Wi-Fi and cellular.

  • Use Siri
  • Send and Receive Messages
  • Make and Answer Phone Calls
  • Check the Weather
  • Track Stocks
  • Control Your Home
  • Find Your Friends
  • Set Reminders
  • Listen to Podcasts
  • Use Walkie-Talkie
  • Stream Music
  • Listen to the Radio
  • Find your way with Maps

One issue Apple Watches have is running out of battery too quickly. To maximize your watch’s battery health to make it last all day, you can read my helpful battery-saving article.

How Do I Unlock My Apple Watch to Any Carrier?

  1. Open the Apple Watch App.
  2. Select My Watch and tap Cellular.
  3. Please find the information button and click on it.
  4. Between the two options, choose the “Remove Carrier” option.

Some Apple Watches are locked to specific carriers as they have current cellular plans linked to the device. Unfortunately, some previous owners forgot to remove the cellular plan connected to the Apple Watch in second-hand Apple Watches.

If you want to unpair, you should contact your carrier, which will assist you in removing the cellular subscription to your Apple Watch.

Can You Switch Apple Watch Between Carriers?

You can switch between carriers with the Apple Watch as your Watch carrier is the same as your iPhone. To switch on your iPhone, open the Apple Watch app. Tap the My Watch tab, then tap Cellular. Your Apple Watch should automatically switch to your iPhone’s carrier. If you need to add a new plan, tap Add a New Plan, then follow the onscreen steps.

An embedded sim (eSim) in your Apple Watch copies your iPhone’s plan. It is easy to switch carriers since you don’t have to purchase, replace, or change your Apple Watch SIM.

Things You Need To Prepare Before Switching Carriers:

  • A compatible iPhone, iPhone 6, and newer models. It also has to be on iOS version 11.2.5 or later. To check software updates, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Read more about my Can You Use an Apple Watch With an iPhone 6 article to learn more about using iPhone 6 with Apple Watches.

While in the Settings app, make sure that you also update the carrier settings.

  • Your Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) needs to be on WatchOS 4.2.2 or later. You can read my article on Why WatchOS Updates Takes Is Taking So Long if you have updating issues.
  • An eligible service/carrier plan from your carrier of choice.

According to Apple, you can switch between different carriers if your iPhone is a dual-SIM model. In addition, if you set up multiple cellular plans using Dual SIM on your compatible iPhone, you can add both plans to your Apple Watch.

If you are using Dual SIM on your iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or iPhone XR or later, you can use both of the cellular plans on your Apple Watch Series 4 or later, as long as each plan is eligible and from a supported carrier.

You can set up your Apple Watch with one carrier and then set up the second carrier later in the Apple Watch app with the following steps:

  1. On your iPhone, open the Apple Watch application.
  2. After clicking the My Watch tab, tap Cellular.
  3. Tap Set Up a Cellular or Add a New Plan. If you haven’t added any carrier plans during the setup, then you can do so by adding them here.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to set up a carrier plan. Each cellular plan will be billed separately, and if you need help regarding your cellular programs, contact your carrier for support.

You can add up to 5 cellular plans to your Apple Watch but can only use one at a time. If you are using an enterprise or corporate cellular plan, check with your company or carrier to see if they support this feature. Prepaid accounts don’t support this feature so contact your carrier to check if it’s eligible.

How Do Apple Watches Receive Calls and Messages With Two Carriers?

Since Apple Watch is connected to your iPhone, you’ll receive notifications from both carriers. Also, if you respond to a call or text message, your watch will automatically respond from the line that you received the message.

Your watch can also get calls and messages when cellular is on, even if your iPhone is not around. To switch between plans, follow the steps below:

  1. On your iPhone, click on the Apple Watch app.
  2. Tap My Watch, then tap Cellular.
  3. Your plan should automatically switch. If it doesn’t automatically switch, tap the plan you want to use.

As an Apple Watch user, you have the flexibility to choose the cellular plan that best suits your needs. You can switch plans directly from your watch by going to Settings > Cellular or Settings > Mobile Data. It gives you the freedom to change plans easily without having to go through your iPhone. 

Can Apple Watches Be Unlocked?

You can unlock an Apple Watch, but it depends on the type of Apple Watch. If you have an original Apple Watch, it can’t be opened because it does not have a SIM card. However, if you have an Apple Watch Series 3 or later, it can be unlocked because it has a SIM card. 

If you want to unlock your Apple Watch Series 3 or later, there are two ways to do so. The first way is to use the “Unlock with iPhone” setting in the watch’s settings menu. It will allow your watch to use the same cellular plan as your iPhone. The second method is by contacting your carrier if it is carrier-locked.

There are some benefits of unlocking your Apple Watch Series 3 or later. First, if you travel overseas often and want to use cellular data while you’re away from home, being able to unlock your watch will allow you to do that without having to pay expensive roaming fees.

Second, unlocking your watch can save money on cell phone bills since you’ll no longer need two plans (one for your phone and one for your watch).

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