Smartwatches have rocketed from a fringe piece of technology with limited uses back in the early 2010s to a very important component of any discerning technophile’s arsenal.
A recent development has seen the rise in popularity of standalone smartwatches.
A standalone smartwatch with SIM can make and receive calls without a phone being at hand. This offers complete independence from bulky smartphones that sometimes just get in the way.
In today’s guide, we uncover the top 5 smartwatches that function as standalone devices.
We’ll be including the top android smartphone watches as well as iOS based devices.
They’re each equipped to work with their own SIM card (or eSIM) and don’t need to be tethered to a phone to work.
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Check out our top 3 compared in this table. Read on to find out about each watch in more detail below.
5 Recommended Standalone Smartwatches (With SIM)
In our opinion, these are the only smartwatches with SIM capability that are worth knowing about.
Read on to see why we think they’re worth taking a close look at.
Apple Watch Series 5 – Our Top Pick
The Apple Watch Series 5 isn’t just one model but covers a few different options with different casings and sizes.
Some models are smaller 40mm watches and two are larger at 44mm, but both can feature GPS and 4G connectivity.
Here, we’ll be checking out the Apple Watch 5 Series models that are cellular-enabled.
There is also an LTE-enabled (4G) version. These are available on all major US carriers:
These Apple watches are cellular-enabled, though you must own an iPhone which shares a plan with the smartwatch. Your carrier will offer a plan which supports this.
Cellular-enabled smartwatches like this allow you to make calls, texts, receive data, e.g. social media and weather updates, access maps, and use Apple Music, all without your phone.
This is commonly rated as the best LTE smartwatch around for many reasons. Let’s find out why.
This watch just looks great! It’s not exactly quintessentially Apple – it’s hard to brand a smartwatch in many ways – but the round-edged screen and smooth case are a giveaway.
It’s not large, heavy, or cumbersome, but it has a good weight to it and feels good on the wrist like a solid piece of technology should.
The watch is dustproof and waterproof to a depth of 50m, which every good watch should be, to be honest. You can wear it while swimming with no issues at all.
The metal wrist strap is solid and feels comfortable. The build quality is overall exceptional, even for the entry-level cellular-enabled Apple Watch 5 Series watches. By paying more, you can even get your hands on titanium versions or ceramic versions from fashion houses like Hermes.
The big issue with Apple Watches in the past has been battery life. Advanced features like 4G connectivity and GPS tracking just drain energy like nothing else.
So how does the 5 Series do?
Well, its better but it’s not the huge improvement many were looking for. The battery life is about a day and a half tops.
Turning off the new always-on display gets a bit more life out of it, but the difference isn’t huge.
The Series 5 is a smartwatch with SIM card that comes with shed loads of apps. Most of these revolve around practical day-to-day problems, e.g. calculating bills, payments of even tips using the calculator app as well as Apple Pay, a quality compass, and maps.
The health diagnostics tools are advanced including an ECG function, heart rate, and exercise tracker.
The 16m HD display is crystal clear and you can always see the time, even in bright sunlight. It features an ‘always on’ display that makes it feel more like a traditional watch. This can be toggled on and off should you wish to save a bit of extra battery life though.
The Apple Watch 5 has access to compatible iOS apps which gives users quite the choice when it comes to third-party apps, though this is perhaps still limited compared to Google Wear apps.
In many ways, the Apple Watch 5 does what it needs to do with perfection, though, and there is no need to go flicking through 3rd party apps to get the most of the watch.
It has everything you need to track health and fitness in excellent detail and some very useful extras, like ‘fall detection’ which has saved people’s lives.
- 4G and LTE cellular-enabled
- Heart rate monitor and ECG
- Waterproof to 50m
- 16m color 448 x 368 pixels OLED screen
- ‘Always On’ display
- Awesome build quality
- 4G LTE-enabled
- Health apps are highly useful
- Apple user interface is amazing
- Amongst the pricier smartwatches
- Need an iPhone to share a cellular plan with
Samsung Gear S3
The original Samsung Gear S2 was initially only available as a tethered smartwatch that couldn’t function independently of a paired Samsung smartphone.
In 2016, it was reintroduced as an Android cellular watch that is 3G/4G enabled and can indeed be used independently from a tethered phone.
It was initially a smartwatch with SIM card slot but it now uses an eSIM like all other smartwatches in this review.
It’s worth mentioning that this version also features GPS which was sorely missed from the original.
The Samsung Gear S3 is available for the following US carriers as a supported standalone device:
- T-Mobile USA
Like other cellular-enabled smartwatches, the Samsung Gear S3 can function independently of a paired Samsung phone.
This allows you to access maps, travel info, weather and social media, etc, as well as calls and messages, all without your phone.
It is only compatible with Samsung devices released after the Galaxy 6 as well as other Android devices of sufficient spec.
The Samsung Gear S3 is a sport-style watch with a distinctly circular dial. It’s worth noting that there is a classic version available too which is also cellular-enabled.
The classic version of the watch adds a different style bezel and leather straps giving it a far more traditional look.
The Samsung Gear is fairly chunky but not overly so. It’s comfy and snug – vital for its purpose as a fitness and sports watch.
Overall, it has a futuristic look with its circular design and this also provides a rotating bezel feature that allows you to navigate the watch very easily, allowing you to scroll apps using a rotational movement.
This reminds me of the old iPod scrolling system sometimes and works really well as an additional form of input.
The AMOLED screen itself looks great and is exceptionally easy to view at all angles even in high sunlight.
The always-on style screen allows it to display a dimmed but still easily viewable version of the time – much like a classic LCD Casio watch. This keeps the watch inconspicuous and inoffensive when it isn’t in use.
The watch will then detect when you’re looking at it, increasing the screen brightness. This saves battery and means your watch isn’t always running in an overly brightened state.
One of the key feature-sets of this watch is its pairing with the S-Health apps, allowing you to track exercise, heart rates, HRV, etc.
S-Health offers an impressive array of diagnostic tools and coaching plans. It’s safe to say that health and fitness tracking have become some of the primary benefits of owning a smartwatch and the Samsung Gear S3 doesn’t disappoint in this area.
- 3G/4G cellular-enabled
- Bezel navigation feature
- Extensive sports tracking
- Always-on screen
- Modern styling
- AMOLED screen
- Rotating bezel for quality navigation
- S-Health integration
- GPS and 3G/4G
- The operating system Tizen is slightly limited by available apps
- The modern look isn’t for everyone
The Ticwatch Pro is an awesome high-spec smartwatch built by Chinese company Mobvoi.
Formerly just a tethered smartwatch for Android devices that didn’t work independently, this watch now functions as a standalone piece of tech and can be used as a phone and communications device without a paired smartphone nearby.
This smartwatch uses the Google Wear OS and so it’s compatible with a wider range of apps than most smartwatches. It is available in 4G LTE versions too.
The Ticwatch Pro is available only on Verizon in the US.
This smartwatch looks great with a top-mounted bezel available in silver or black. It’s fairly sporty overall but will please traditionalists also with a faux-leather strap with soft silicone underside.
There are 23 preloaded clock faces that give users a huge choice from digital to analog-style displays with or without extra info (e.g. weather, emails).
Overall, it’s pretty mature and inconspicuous and looks neither too boring and corporate or too sporty.
You would have to say that it is more masculine and less unisex than some other smartwatches, though.
This smartwatch is feature-packed and benefits from the strengths of Google’s own wearables OS named Google Wear.
That means users can access many more apps than they would through Samsung’s own OS Tizen. This smartwatch is integrated with Google Maps and works wonderfully for navigation.
The Ticwatch Pro has its own fitness app, though you can use Google Fit. The custom fitness app named Fitness Pro is very detailed with automated workout detection, heart rate, and HRV calculators and route mapping.
Like other standalone smartwatches, health functionality is often the main selling point and the Ticwatch Pro excels in this area.
Another area this watch excels is in its battery life which can extend up to 30 days when running in ‘essential mode’. It can withstand up to 5 days with moderate use, much better than most other smartwatches.
A Snapdragon processor generally keeps things quick, though the watch does suffer from some lag when using its particularly complex or strenuous features.
- 1.39 inch OLED screen – 400 x 400 pixels
- 4G and LTE connectivity
- Runs Google Wear OS for flexibility and choice
- Up to 30 days battery life
- Quality metal design
- Waterproof to 1.5m for 30 minutes
- Cheap for spec
- Exceptional battery life
- Runs Google Wear OS – big choice of apps
- Somewhat laggy on occasion
- Thicker built than some smartwatches
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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
Samsung’s second major recent entrant into the smartwatch market, the Galaxy Watch Active2 builds upon the original Galaxy Watch to add a sophisticated and refined feature-set that is fully cellular-enabled.
A powerful smartwatch with extensive fitness and health features, this is the biggest challenger to the Apple Series 5 smartwatch.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 is currently available with the following US carriers:
- T-Mobile USA
- US Cellular
As a cellular-enabled device that runs 4G and LTE, this smartwatch can be used independently of a connected Samsung phone.
It uses an updated version of Samsung’s wearables OS named Tizen and this runs precisely and smoothly.
Key to Samsung branding, this smartwatch features a round display available in 40mm or 44mm sizes. It’s minimalist, sleek, and far more unisex in design than the Samsung Gear S2.
The fluoroelastomer band is very comfortable, chafe-free, and easily sized to any wrist. It’s perfect for wearing during intense physical activity.
Overall, this watch does look sporty and sleek but it’s quite mature in looks and as mentioned, it will appeal to both men and women, which is crucial compared to the overly masculine Samsung Gear S2 and potentially feminine Apple Watch Series 5.
The rotary bezel navigation feature is superb and allows users to browse the watch’s apps and menus with fluidity.
First and foremost, this lightning-fast dual-core smartwatch is impressively fast and breezes through any task.
This couples with a Super-AMOLED screen that is near unparalleled in viewability. The colors are deep and rich, the interface precise and even intricate apps are easily controllable using its superbly responsive touchscreen.
Like other smartwatches, many of the headline features of the Samsung Galaxy Active2 are health-related. The Samsung S-Health app is well integrated and allows for automated workout tracking.
It has an ECG function and advanced heart rate tracking including HRV tracking. Battery life is also superb, lasting for 2 days with moderate to heavy use.
- 4G and LTE enabled
- Excellent Tizen OS
- Powerful processor and RAM
- 340 x 340 pixel AMOLED screen
- 2 to 3-day battery life
- Digital navigation bezel
- Unisex design
- Good selection of apps
- Superb battery life
- 3rd party apps limited by Tizen
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
Garmin has been through a process of reassessing their products since smartphones took over satnavs and other navigation devices.
Naturally then, they’ve entered the smartwatch market with some impressive contenders that are angled towards health, fitness, and outdoor activity. The newer Vivoactive 3 Music is 4G and LTE enabled.
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is available on Verizon in the US.
As a 4G-enabled cellular device, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music can function independently of a phone. It uses Garmin Connect to connect with apps installed on either iOS or Android devices.
This is great as it helps users relay health and fitness data to their phone or even their PC for more detailed analysis.
This smartwatch is stylish but quite utilitarian. It isn’t designed for high-street fashionistas but outdoorsy types. It’s fairly unisex despite being quite bulky with a metal bezel.
The strap is comfortable and overall, you can certainly say this watch seems a great companion for physical exercise.
Instead of the bezel acting as a nav system like with Samsung smartwatches, the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music features a side-swipe nav function where users can brush the sides of the watch to flick through menus. It works well and allows for fluid navigation.
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is geared up well for fitness and health usage. A great quality optical heart sensor helps give accurate measurements on HRV as well as VO2 max and other fitness readings.
It can detect stress throughout the day and features a de-stress function to help users calm down when it detects high stress.
The screen is slightly larger than others at 1.2 inches but it’s 240 x 240 pixels which is lower definition than other smartwatches here. Nevertheless, it offers great colors and is viewable in high sunlight.
Battery life is impressive at upwards of 5 days. It’s also waterproof to 50m which is great news for outdoorsy types and swimmers. It tops it all off with an impressive fall detection software named ‘incident detection’.
- 4G and GPS
- Waterproof to 50m
- Excellent battery life
- Garmin Sports and fitness coaching features
- Side-swipe navigation
- Incident detection
- Exceptional as a fitness device
- Pairs with iOS and Android
- Higher-than-average battery life
- Limited apps
- Display resolution
There are 5 awesome standalone smartwatches on display here. It’s hard to split them in many ways and each will likely appeal to a different type of user.
Overall, the Apple Series 5 is very hard to beat, and at the moment, it’s in Apple’s hands and Apple’s hands only to better it.
Of the Android devices, Samsung, as ever, has a strong hand. The Ticwatch Pro will appeal to value hunters who don’t like the idea of using Samsung’s own wearables OS, though.
The Garmin Vivoactive no doubt boasts very strong credentials for those primarily interested in the practical use of a smartwatch as an exercise and adventure companion.
Whichever way you go, you won’t be disappointed!
Recommended: We recommend the toughest smartwatches in our latest guide.
Smartwatches are still pretty new on the technology scene but are starting to build a solid user base as new models bring more and more useful features to our wrists.
The watch has always been a natural area of innovation and as screen sizes and batteries shrunk, manufacturers and brands have been able to create powerful gadgets that fit in the same space as a traditional watch.
Today, smartwatches are powerful devices in their own right, some with dual-core processors and over 1GB of RAM. They can run increasingly technical tasks and are faster than ever.
Standalone or Tethered?
Smartwatches that offer the core functions of smartphones can be divided into two broad types:
- Tethered smartwatches
- Standalone smartwatches
Tethered smartwatches work only as a smartphone accessory and rely on Bluetooth to connect to a phone and share functions.
This is sufficient for those looking to receive messaging alerts and calls but ultimately, it means you have to keep your smartwatch within Bluetooth range of your phone to get any decent level of functionality.
Standalone watches instead use their own SIM card or eSIM to function independently of a phone.
You used to be able to buy a standalone watch with a SIM card slot but eSIMs have taken over. A standalone watch with a SIM card is the same as one with an eSIM, it just doesn’t feature a physical SIM.
Standalone eSIM technology allows the cellular smartwatch to receive messages and calls when you don’t have your phone to hand and they can connect to wireless services like maps and music.
Essentially, you get a 4G LTE smartwatch that can make calls without a phone.
Standalone watch phones have become excellent tools for life on the go, helping us keep in touch with others whilst reducing our reliance on smartphones.
Another term for these types of smartwatches is ‘cellular-enabled’. You still tether them to a phone in order to share information but they feature WiFi and/or wireless 3G, 4G, or LTE technology so they can connect to wireless networks.
The LTE smartwatch is quite a recent thing so check any models you’re interested in if you need this feature. For some smartwatches, like the Apple Watch Series 5, you may need to pay more for a model that supports LTE technology.
The best LTE smartwatch available right now is probably the Apple Series 5 watch but there are many more coming onto the market for Android.
What can a Cellular Smartwatch Do?
A cellular smartwatch is best described as a smartwatch that functions also as its own phone and wireless device.
You can leave the house without your phone and remain in contact with wireless services like maps, calls, and messaging.
Smartwatches have really come into their own as health and fitness devices that enabled users to run, swim, cycle, and go to the gym without worrying about having their phone in their pocket or locker.
Cellular smartwatches usually integrate with Apple Pay, Google Pay, or equivalent services and are perfect for life on the go.
Many feature extra apps that allow users to track everything from spending to routes and journeys, calories, sleep, and steps.
They can connect to Bluetooth headsets for handsfree calling when driving and are compatible with Bluetooth head and earphones for music and audio playback.
Do you need to switch your SIM card over?
Some smartwatches accept their own physical SIM card, allowing you to add your smartwatch to an existing carrier plan or run it off its own plan but increasingly, smartwatches use eSIM cards, or embedded SIMs, which mean you don’t need to add another physical SIM card to your smartwatch.
eSIMs can be registered to the same carrier as your phone, thus combining your calls, texts and data plans and limits. Your smartwatch essentially ‘bolts on’ to your plan and shares its features.
What about Fees?
Fees do depend on the carrier but for AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, the free structure is similar.
A compatible smartwatch available on that carrier must be synced to the number of the phone in an existing plan.
This means the smartwatch and phone will share the same number, even when used independently of each other.
There is generally an additional monthly cost of at least $10 (for AT&T and Verizon), depending on the plan, and also a one-off activation fee of around $30.
Your smartwatch may have a data use limit of its own depending on how it’s added to the plan, but usually, your watch and the phone will share the same plan.
Standard watches last on the same batteries for years, so how do smartwatches compare?
As you might expect, smartwatches need to be charged regularly – they are powerful devices with processors and screens after all.
Smartwatches can be expected to last for around 2 days without a recharge. Some watches, like the Ticwatch Pro, can last for 30 days in power-saving mode.
It just depends on how often you’re using your watch and what features you use.
A light user may only need to recharge once a week whereas someone who goes for 1 – 2 hour runs daily with their watch monitoring their heart rate whilst playing music and making phone calls will need daily charges.
Are They Easy to Use?
Smartwatches haven’t always been easy to use largely due to their small screens.
However, they’ve now become user-friendly with bright, hi-def screens that are highly responsive to touch and gestures.
Some smartwatches, like the Samsung Gear S2 and S3, feature a rotary bezel that can be used to easily browse menus.
Others like the Garmin Vivoactive 3 feature a side-swipe feature that allows you to flick through menus with ease.
There is a fiddly element to smartwatches but they’re gadgets after all. With a bit of practice, there’s no reason why anyone wouldn’t be able to get used to one.
Ease of use also depends on what operating system you enjoy. An Android cellular watch will use Google software whereas an Apple watch will use an iOS-based system.
If you’ve used an Apple device before you’ll be aware of how good they are at making intuitive user interfaces.
Are they Built to Last?
Normal watches usually feature IP ratings that measure whether they are dustproof and waterproof and smartwatches are the same.
At least, most modern smartwatches are dustproof and splashproof. Some, like the Garmin Vivoactive 3 and Apple Watch Series 5 are waterproof to depths of 50m.
Scratch-proof screens made from Gorilla Glass or equivalents help make smartwatches durable despite their fragile electrical contents.
The answer is to buy a smartwatch that suits your lifestyle and expected uses. If you want to go hiking, swimming and climbing then invest in a smartwatch that is sufficiently waterproof and features a metal casing with a strong IP rating.
Smartwatches are becoming an increasingly popular member of our tech and gadget arsenals and with good reason.
They’re useful, convenient, cool, and help motivate us to make positive changes with our health.
It’s fair to say this has become a chief selling point of the smartwatch. They help us keep track of our lifestyle and can help coach us to exercise more and eat better.
Health diagnostic tools further help us keep in touch with ourselves and some models even extend this to sleep tracking and mental health, which is awesome.
If you have any questions about any of the watches we’ve covered today then make sure and leave us a message down below!