Bought a new smartwatch and noticed it allows you to use a SIM card on the box? Or, you saw that eSIM (embedded SIM) is mentioned among its features? That’s great – you will either have to insert a SIM card or simply activate one when you turn the watch on if it’s an eSIM. It also means that, besides modified Android or iOS apps, you can now do the same things that a SIM card does on a smartphone or tablet. So, let’s go into SIM card for smart watch features, and ultimately, do you really need it?
What are my SIM card options?
In the majority of cases, you need to buy a SIM card or get one as part of a contract with a carrier. To clarify, all 3 common types of SIM cards will work with your smartwatch – prepaid SIM card, postpaid SIM card, and pay as you go SIM card. You don’t need a special version of the card, and you can get access to the same features. Read more about what is stored in a SIM card as a refresher.
Which sizes of SIM cards are compatible?
The current generation of smartwatches (in late 2020 and early 2021) mainly support either nano-SIM cards or embedded SIM cards, as mentioned above. If you catch a slightly older model at a severe second-hand discount, it using a micro-SIM card is not unheard of. However, we would advise against that purchase.
How do I activate my SIM card?
In the majority of cases, you enable a SIM card the same way as you would unlock a SIM card on a smartphone or tablet. Enter a PIN, make a call, or register online (such as activating a Verizon SIM card), and you’re in. Smart watch manufacturers often warn you that enabling GPS and location features might take up to 24 hours. Unfortunately, you often run into the same problem as on a locked smartphone. If you buy the smartwatch from a carrier, the device is often tied to its mobile network. That means you can’t simply remove a SIM card and swap SIM cards for that of another carrier.
SIM Carriers that support smart watches
Obviously, we cannot cover the entire world. We’ll give you an example for the United States. From our research and experience, carriers AT&T, C Spire, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Xfinity4 support using a SIM card inside a smart watch. Which is to say – the majority of carriers in your country should too.
Tethered vs. Standalone watches
We need to help you not make a mistake, so here’s a difference.
- Tethered smartwatches require you to use a smartphone with Bluetooth to make them work. These rarely have a SIM card and you shouldn’t get them.
- Standalone smartwatches, also known as cellular-enabled smartwatches, come in two categories. The first category requires you to have your smartphone nearby only the first time around, such as to share a payment plan and activate it. This is often the case with Apple Watch Series. The second is completely independent. You either open the SIM card slot and slide a card to activate it, enable an eSIM inside right off the bat. Then, you can use it as a regular smartphone, only much easier to carry.
Do I need to insert a SIM card?
The short answer is – no, you don’t. The smartwatch can work without a SIM card just as your smartphone can too. You can use Wi-Fi, play games, and open certain apps as normal, including those for a heartbeat, blood oxygen, speed, pace, and access GPS and location feature, although on some models they’re tied to a SIM card. However, you cannot call, text, register for messaging apps, use mobile data, and everything else a SIM card is used for. At that point, you’re better off getting a tethered smartwatch right off the bat.
Popular smartwatches that use SIM card
- Samsung Gear S3
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
- Apple Watch Series 5 and 6
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
- Ticwatch Pro
- Pradory Smart Watch
- WJPILIS Smart Watch
If you need a SIM-powered smartwatch for your kids, look for models such as:
- TickTalk 3
- Verizon GizmoWatch
- Find My Kids GPS Watch