What it’s like to use an Apple Watch with cellular in Canada

It's great as long as you don't mind spending a lot of money

While reviewing the Apple Watch Ultra 2, I finally started testing what it’s like to live with an always-online smartwatch. The month had its ups and downs, but like a lot of things in Canada, the carriers sour the experience.

How it feels if you don’t worry about the price

It’s awesome to leave home without my phone and know that I’ll still be able to get messages. Taking phone calls through the watch is fantastic, and if you’re someone who always needs to be connected, having a data connection on your watch is convenient while offering fewer distractions than your phone.

I’ll admit that being more connected doesn’t mean I respond to texts or emails from the watch, as even the Apple Watch Ultra 2 features a pretty small screen, but being able to monitor messages at all times is useful.

For music, the always-connected cellular experience is seamless. It’s difficult to understate how nice it is to be running, remember an artist I haven’t heard in a while, and just ask Siri to play it. On top of this, downloading music and podcasts to any Apple Watch always takes a little more time than expected, so being able to stream it removed that pain point from my life.

Using Siri to its fullest when out and about is also handy for looking up random facts or remembering to turn off the lights back home. I also had one instance when I was running, and Alex was able to contact me via the watch’s Walkie-Talkie app, and it was really cool. That said, very few people I know have an Apple Watch, and none really use the Walkie-Talkie function. I think if you and your partner both had cellular and knew it would be an always-open channel, it might get used more, but most people just seem to text me instead.

How it feels when you have to start paying for it

The real issue with cellular is how much I use it compared to its cost:

  • 45mm aluminum Apple Watch Wi-Fi/GPS – $589
  • 45mm aluminum Apple Watch Cellular/GPS – $719

First, you need to buy a cellular Apple Watch, which is $130 more than the Wi-Fi option. Then, if you’re like me and use Rogers, the signup fee to get cellular will be $60. It doesn’t stop there, and it’s $15 per month on top of my existing $60 data plan. This lets my watch use my existing data pool and nothing additional.

When you add all this up, you’re paying your carrier $240 for the first year to connect the watch, and that doesn’t even include the extra cost of buying the more expensive Apple Watch.

It just doesn’t feel like a fair tradeoff. Even the connection fee felt absurdly high, considering I had to do all the setup myself in the Apple Watch app (it was very easy). Maybe I’d get over the connection fee if the monthly rate was fairer, but at $15, it’s easily twice as much as it should be. I feel that since it’s using my existing data pool, the connection fee should be all I pay.

It’s worth noting that Bell, Rogers and Telus all charge $15 per month for Apple Watch Plans (the monthly fee has increased in recent months). Virgin Plus and Freedom Mobile have $10 options. Koodo and Fido offer nothing.

How I use it

I also only use cellular when I’m running since I spend an hour or so without my phone and away from my home Wi-Fi.

That said, I only do this around four or five times per week, and as someone not looking after kids or anyone else, it’s actually nice to disconnect for an hour and just focus on my stride. About halfway through my cellular experiment, I ended up making an automatic fitness Focus mode that blocks out all notifications except for calls since I’d rather not be bothered during that time anyway.

I love streaming music and podcasts on the go, but for the price, I just can’t justify it. I’m hoping to find a good deal to bring my monthly plan down on Black Friday so I can keep the watch connected for a reasonable price, but at the current rate from Rogers, I’m out.\

“A cellular smartwatch is awesome if money is no object and you want to spend less time with your phone.”

Beyond that, I’m a nerd. I always have my phone around, especially when I leave the house since it’s also my main camera. There are very few instances where the watch gets to shine on its own. That being said, as a phone reviewer, being able to put my SIM card into an Android phone and still get my main iPhone’s notifications and access to my Apple Reminders lists was pretty cool, but not something I expect most people to utilize since they’ll likely only have one smartphone.

A cellular smartwatch is awesome if money is no object and you want to spend less time with your phone. But due to the high cost of using it, I really think you’d want to use it a lot to justify paying that much extra.