Do You Need a Smartwatch?

And are they worth the extra cash?

Wearables with built-in cellular connectivity allow you to place calls from your wrist, making Dick Tracy's "wrist radio" watch somewhat of a reality. Only a handful of smartwatches offer this functionality. Some might argue that it's not worth narrowing your options or for the monthly data subscription for the ability to call friends and family without your smartphone.

Do You Need a Connected Smartwatch?

If you have the budget and the convenience appeals to you, it could be worth looking for a smartwatch that offers this feature. With a smartwatch that provides cellular connectivity, you don't need to carry your phone around with you to make a call.

For example, if you're jogging or forgot your phone at home, this feature could come in handy. You might not want to weigh yourself down by carrying your handset. You can set reminders on smartwatches, receive texts, make calls, and more. Name something you can do on a smartphone, and you can likely do it on your smartwatch, too.

Third-party leather Apple Watch band
Amazon 

Smartwatches that don't feature built-in cellular connectivity can't make calls. Most of the "smart" functionality, such as receiving notifications on your wrist, requires being connected to your mobile device via Bluetooth. Exceptions to this rule include the ability to remotely connect to your phone to receive notifications with the Samsung Gear S2.

There are some situations when it might be more than just convenient to choose a watch with built-in connectivity, though. For instance, Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) has some excellent apps for people who are into fitness

There are other reasons to have this kind of watch. If you want to track your young child's location, you might consider a wearable that offers GPS tracking. In the same vein of keeping tabs on your child's safety, it could be worth making sure that wearable includes cellular connectivity as well.

The HereO watch is one such device, and it could make sense if you're searching for a gadget to help you stay informed of your little one's safety. The same logic applies to smartwatches and other wearable devices for seniors or anyone you want to keep a close eye on.

Keep in mind that there is some gray area between Bluetooth-only smartwatches and those with built-in connectivity. Wearables running Google's wearable operating system that have a speaker can make and take calls when you connect to your smartphone over Bluetooth.

Wear OS smartwatches with speakers include the Huawei Watch and the ASUS ZenWatch 2. On the Apple front, you can make and accept calls with the Apple Watch and Apple Watch 2. However, Apple has yet to add cellular connectivity to any of its wearables.

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What Is a Smartwatch and What Do They Do?

The Extra Cost

If you think this feature could be useful, remember that there's a price to pay for that convenience.

Let's use the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 as an example. With this wearable, you can need to set up a data plan through AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint, or Verizon.

Here's an example of what you could pay, both upfront and monthly, with each carrier (pricing subject to change at any time):

  • AT&T: $479.99 or 30 monthly payments of $16.00/mo, plus $10 per month for service.
  • T-Mobile: $479.99 or 24 monthly payments of $20.00/mo, plus $10 per month for unlimited talk, text, & data (up to 512 kbps) with auto-pay.
  • Verizon Wireless: $479.99 or 24 monthly payments of $19.99/mo, plus $15 (for 1GB) to $80 (for unlimited data) per month.

Compared to smartwatches without connectivity, these gadgets represent a more substantial investment. Especially if you plan to get some serious use out of the ability to make calls from your wrist, you could be paying quite a bit each month.

Smartwatches With Built-In Connectivity

Now that you have a bit more background on the subject let's dive into the top connected smartwatch options. Your choices are relatively limited, but luckily they include some very well-received wearables.

Samsung Gear S2 3G

This device features a round watch face – appealing to those who favor a classic design – and you can navigate the 1.2-inch S-AMOLED display by rotating the bezel (there's also a touchscreen). Features include S Health for tracking daily activity levels and other more specific metrics such as water intake vs. caffeine intake. Note that the Gear S2 runs on the Tizen software platform rather than on Google's Wear OS, so you won't have the same selection of apps you'd get with, say, the Moto 360. That said, the choice isn't necessarily disappointing. It includes Alipay (mobile payments), ESPN, Uber, Voxer (a walkie-talkie-style app), and Yelp.

The Gear S2 comes with a wireless charging dock, and the 3G model includes a GPS sensor to support navigation. Note that the more premium-looking Gear S2 Classic is also available with 3G connectivity — worth a look if you want a more upscale design since the standard Gear S2 has a sporty, rubberized band. Classic models are also available with leather straps and platinum or rose gold plating.

Also, note that this device's predecessor, the Samsung Gear S, is also a connected smartwatch. However, this earlier model has a clunkier design and doesn't offer the innovative bezel-based navigation option, among other features.

LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition

LG's first Wear OS smartwatch with cellular connectivity is available through AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

As a Wear OS device, the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition lets you ask voice questions starting with "OK Google" and displays smart notifications based on your activity. It also includes turn-by-turn navigation through Google Maps. Like the Gear S2 3G, this wearable features a round display, although the stainless-steel design is decidedly more refined than the entry-level Gear S2 (non-Gear S2 Classic) model.

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