Most smartwatches are now well equipped to help you cut ties with your smartphone, but in most cases, you still need to keep the two close together to get the very best out of those wristy companions.
Right now, LTE smartwatches (or smartwatches with cellular), are still very much in their infancy. But there are more companies starting to get on board.
If you don’t know what an LTE smartwatch is or why you might need it, we’ve broken it all down below and picked the best LTE-enabled smartwatches available right now.
LTE smartwatches explained
If you’re in a muddle about just what LTE actually is, we’ve got the key details you need below to quickly get you up to speed.
What is LTE? What does it do?
Essentially, Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the fastest standard for 4G wireless communication between devices (5G will likely be another kettle of fish).
In smartwatch terms, this allows you to connect to cellular networks and take calls, use apps, receive and send messages and take part in all the other usual smartphone frivolities â without your smartphone being nearby.
There are a couple of caveats, though. In order for your smartwatch to mimic your phone, it has to be able to connect to the same network carrier. And for those wanting to leave their phone behind, taking calls from the wrist requires you to link the same number as your smartphone.
Do I need to switch my SIM card over?
Instead of having to carry a SIM ejector around with you and deal with a physical card, some watches use eSIM technology, which is essentially an embedded variant that can’t be moved from the hood.
The benefit of this tech over regular SIM cards is the smaller size â companies are already trying to reduce size, so this is a natural step â and the efficiency of sharing your number between phone and watch through software.
Will I need to pay more?
As you might expect, this all depends on the carrier you decide to go with. Although LTE gives your watch the opportunity to go it alone, deals will often be bundled with a smartphone, since you need to be rocking the same network and the two go hand in hand.
Does LTE affect battery?
Deciphering which sensors and what activities affects your battery is always a tough game, but the answer is, well, yes â using LTE will generally sap your battery faster than if you weren’t using it.
What we often see from devices harbouring LTE is a bigger battery (and unfortunately a bigger build) in order to offset the power it’s taking up. Also, if you’re looking to save battery and eke out a few more hours in the day, simply switching to a feature-slimmed mode on your device should help you out.
Best smartwatches with LTE
With the technical details out of way, here’s our rundown of the best smartwatches available for you to pick from at the moment, if LTE is one of your priorities.
Apple Watch Series 4
Buy now: Amazon | Â£499
Apple embraced LTE with Apple Watch Series 3 and continued with the Series 4, making a potentially standalone Watch experience. Not only can you take calls and get notifications, thanks to that built-in eSIM, but streaming tunes via Apple Music is also available right from the wrist.
The Watch builds on the Series 3, adding an ECG to track your heart rate in ever more detail, but also revamped the design of the Apple Watch, enlarging the screen and smoothing the watch’s corners.
We think that the LTE-enabled version of Series 4 is, ultimately, its best version, freeing you as it does from your smartphone for whatever your plans might be. It would be hugely surprising if Apple’s future models didn’t also include an LTE option.
For a more extended look at how the standalone capabilities work in practice, check out our full Apple Watch Series 4 review.
Samsung Galaxy Watch
Buy now: Amazon | Â£336
Samsung’s flagship smartwatch is a bit of a powerhouse, so it makes sense that it has an LTE option for those who prefer to leave their phones behind every so often.
On the downside, our testing showed a bit of a battery-draining issue with the LTE on the Galaxy Watch. That aside, we found streaming and calling smooth through the watch, and the smartwatch as a whole is one of our very favourites. It runs on Tizen, has great waterproofing and a stunning display, paired with a really useful and intuitive rotating bezel.
Check out the full Samsung Galaxy Watch review for more, and be aware that Samsung has announced the Galaxy Watch Active 2, which will also include LTE and is launching soon. There’s also an older (and cheaper) option if you prefer with the still solid Samsung Gear S3 also available with LTE.
TicWatch Pro LTE
Buy now: Amazon | Â£229
The TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE is Mobvoi’s entry into the world of LTE smartwatches, in partnership with Verizon in the US.
Despite the support not being available launch, the 4G switch has been flicked and now the Pro has those extra connected powers.
Now that is turned on, it will let you take VoLTE calls and send and receive messages straight from the watch. You’ll get notifications from other apps too thanks to the watch’s cloud syncing.
Aside from its LTE, you can expect a pretty standard Wear experience here. You can check out our initial hands-on with the TicWatch Pro 4G/LTE for more details on the Wear watch.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music – Connected by Verizon
Buy now: Garmin | $299
Garmin clearly didn’t fancy being left out of the LTE party, so has updated its Vivoactive Music 3 watch with support from Verizon, as you may have noticed from its absolute mouthful of a name.
That means that the LTE features are exclusively available through Verizon, but if you plump for them you’ll be able to receive texts and download music (not stream it seems) from Spotify and Deezer without your phone. The more interesting use, however, is that Garmin is using cellular for safety features.
There’s both assistance and incident detection, both of which could be useful in a pinch if you’re out hiking as many Garmin hikers are likely to be. Otherwise, your regular Garmin features are present, from Garmin Pay to detailed fitness tracking.
Huawei Watch 2
Buy now: Amazon | Â£223
Another Wear smartwatch with that LTE support is the Huawei Watch 2. In our review, we found battery life on the Watch 2 to be among the best in the Wear world.
There’s also a neat Watch Mode that’ll extend battery life even further should you need it. And of course, you have all the connectivity you need: NFC and GPS are fully on board and ready to go. One problem: the LTE version is not available in the US.
Something to keep in mind is the current issues Huawei is facing with Google and having access in the long term to Android (and subsequently Wear) updates. Huawei may well pivot to its own new HarmonyOS, so that’s something to keep an eye on.