Smartwatches, like most other wireless modern device today, process data as it communicates instructions, updates, notifications, and all other information tidbits. Depending on how it is used, some wearers might even be concerned that it is draining the data allowance of the ISP (indirectly) linked to it. So, how much data does a smartwatch use?
The typical data usage of a smartwatch runs only a few hundred MBs (megabytes) per month. This is based on the basic functions of smartwatches, such as notifications and tracking, with the heaviest type of consumed data leaning more practically to music and phone calls, NOT videos.
Can smartwatches go beyond this data usage then? If so, would I need a plan specifically for my smartwatch? What about other types of data used? We’ll answer all of that and more below.
Do Smartwatches Need Data Plans?
Most typical smartwatches do not need data plans, because almost all of them are connected to your phone. So it is your phone’s data (plan) instead that is being used. In fact, if only for the functions of handy notifications or remote functions, the smartwatch technically will not require any paid mobile data at all. Similar to how your network devices can freely communicate with each other on the same WiFi network.
On the other hand, standalone smartwatches do require data plans. Without any other alternative connectivity option such as WiFi, the only other thing that these devices could use would be mobile ISPs, thus the need for data plans. Especially if the user travels a lot and is not limited to certain WiFi networks over some time.
Do Smartwatches Have a Monthly Fee?
Standalone smartwatches can have monthly fees, in much the same way how smartphones can have via subscription. The amount to be paid, of course, depends on the model of the smartwatch and the structure of the data plan. You may also have to pay for the mobile data consumption separately should other data features are availed.
Then there is also the consideration of equating the amount to be paid with the data you are actually using for the smartwatch. While there are many different variations and categories, these can be boiled down into ten (10) major types, as shown in the next question.
How Do Smartwatches Consume Data?
According to a survey by Statista, notifications (54%) are the type of data most accessed or used on smartwatches.  Within the same overlapping groups, owners also use smartwatches for the following purposes:
- Activity tracking (45%)
- News updates (31%)
- Phone calls (26%)
- Alarm clock (25%)
- Email (25%)
- Photos/videos (21%)
- GPS/navigation (19%)
- Music remote (18%)
- Home automation (17%)
While videos share the same usage popularity as photos on smartwatches, viewing such content on a tiny screen may not be worth the experience of just pulling out a smartphone. Even then, the number of users willing to spend significantly long hours streaming videos on smartwatches should be significantly small given its physical limitations.
As such, music and phone calls remain the more practical contributors to heavy data use for smartwatches. This also means that our original estimate of a few hundred MBs (megabytes) is still largely valid for a wide majority of smartwatches.
If not used for even music or phone calls, this figure goes down to just about a hundred MB or so. For the most basic and most popular features of notifications and activity tracking, the consumed data becomes completely negligible.
Do Smartwatches Work Without a Phone?
Regular smartwatches still work without a phone for very basic tasks, such as tracking distance, and of course, telling time. But most of their extended features require communicating with a smartphone to process and save data for other applications.
For example, while a heart rate monitor might be built into the smartwatch independently (and thus could work without a phone), it still needs to be connected to a smartphone to relay the data for processing by various other related apps or cloud services. This goes the same with other conveniences such as email notifications. The phone would be the one directly logged into the account, with the smartwatch only relaying the information.
But for the more expensive standalone smartwatches (like the Apple Watch Series and Samsung Galaxy Watch), most of these features could work even without a phone. After all, in terms of being a mobile device, these devices are already “smartphones” by themselves, only in a different form factor.
As for their effective signal distance, standard smartwatches are the same as any typical Bluetooth-connected device, with a practical limit of 10 meters or so. Standalone smartwatches are then as effective as any smartphone within the coverage distance of most modern wireless network services.
Do Smartwatches Work Without WiFi?
Smartwatches definitely work even without WiFi. In fact, most of their built-in instruments do not require such connectivity. GPS, for instance, can communicate with the satellite GPS network all on its own. Pedometers can provide distance information without any online tracking services, and sometimes even independently of the GPS installed in the same device.
That being said, connectivity to WiFi networks is a universal feature of many smartwatches simply because of its convenient use. When connected to a WiFi network, your smartwatch can still relay information from your phone regardless of whether it meets the minimum 10-meter distance or not. Certain cloud-based tracking applications can also communicate better with a WiFi-connected smartwatch.
For standalone smartwatches, in particular, Wifi also provides the added benefit of not having to rely on mobile ISPs for internet access. As some users might ask the question of…
Is it Worth it to Get a Smartwatch?
It depends on what you are ultimately aiming for with a smartwatch. If not having to pull out your smartphone for the purposes listed above are convenient or effective for your everyday use, then smartwatches could be worth it. If not, reconsider your options.
Either way, smartwatches that require a phone connection nowadays may already be affordable enough that the investment becomes well worth the convenience it could potentially offer.