Do Smartwatches Use Data?
With all of the monthly fees and inevitable overage charges associated with owning a mobile device, especially when they all seem to run through data like there’s no tomorrow, adding another data-hungry device is perhaps the last thing that consumers want to do. Or is it? As smartwatches move into the mainstream, more and more consumers are intrigued and perhaps thinking about getting one. But there’s a big question that many of them want answered: do smartwatches use data?
The answer is multifaceted. It’s mostly a no, but it’s also a partial yes, and of course, it requires a little in the way of explanation.
It’ll Cost You
A data plan for your mobile device is at once a way to connect with friends and family and a source of tremendous anxiety. The upfront cost of most data plans is reasonable enough — you don’t expect that sort of convenient connectivity for free, do you? — but if you run out of data before you run out of month, the overage charges can be significant. Prepaid data customers don’t have it much better, as running out of data seems to happen at the most inconvenient times, leaving you with no mobile connection whatsoever. Add on the fact that it’s never easy to tell exactly when you’re going to run out of data, and chances are good that you’ll either incur extra fees or drop off the grid altogether.
It’s a common problem, too; depending on the carrier, as many as 28% of customers recently surveyed by Cowen & Co have been penalised with overage charges for exceeding their smartphone data plan. Users of tablets with data plans don’t have it much better: 24% of them got stuck with charges for going over their data limits.
Do Smartwatches Use Data?
So here’s the good news: the majority of smartphones on the market today do not require a data plan. It’s not that they don’t have any connectivity — it’s just that they rely on your smartphone to do it.
The Apple Watch, Pebble, most fitness watches, and products from Motorola, Samsung, and LG all sync with your phone. You can get notifications when someone calls or texts you, and many will provide social media alerts on your wrist. Health data is collected and ported over to your phone, and, depending on the smartwatch you choose, other apps sync with it as well.
Smartwatch-smartphone syncing makes a lot of sense, and it’s not much of an inconvenience for most people: you’re already used to having your smartphone with you 24/7, so why pay for an extra data plan?
However, consumers who want to be completely free of their smartphone may be interested in one of the few devices on the market that do require data.
The Case for Smartwatch Data
Using a smartwatch that requires a data plan can be a huge convenience. You’re never fumbling for your phone when you hear it because it’s always on your wrist. If you like to travel light, or if you’re prone to losing or breaking smartphones, or if you just like the Dick Tracy aesthetic of talking into a device on your wrist, a smartwatch with data may be right for you.
Both the Samsung Gear S2 and the LG Watch Urbane 2 are examples of excellent smartwatches that utilise data plans rather than continual smartphone syncing.
Beyond smartwatches designed for adults, though, there’s a whole other category of kids smartwatches and watch phones that also require data plans. These are designed for boys and girls as young as three years old: easy to use, able to contact parents with voice activation, and featuring two-way communication.
They’re like extremely limited mobile phones, and as such, require either a data plan or a prepaid 2G or 3G SIM card, depending on the model. Devices like these are meant for children who are too young to need or be trusted with a smartphone, and are a mobile phone replacement rather than a second device.
The LG GizmoPal2 and Tinitell are just two examples of wearables in this category.
Are We Ready to Go Phoneless?
Within the last decade, many of us decided to cut the proverbial cord and give up our landline phones in favour of mobile phones and smartphones. Now, many tech enthusiasts are wondering if we’ll one day leave behind our smartphones in favour of smartwatches with data.
It’s hard to say if or when this will happen, as both types of devices have key roles in our lives and offer distinct advantages and disadvantages.
For now, though, many consumers will be glad to know that yes, you can use a smartwatch without buying an extra data plan.
For those consumers who want to ditch their smartphones entirely, though, there are a few good smartwatch options to help them do so.
See recommended smartwatches on Amazon
Sony SmartWatch 3
Apple Watch Series 2