It’s been an eternity since the release of the world’s pioneer smartwatch, the LG G model developed in a collaboration of the electronics mogul LG and Google, in 2014. Time certainly does fly.
Since that debut model, the market has been flooded with tens of thousands of new releases, each striving to deliver more and more functions to make going through our everyday chores a smooth sail.
Although it would be premature to say that smartwatches are likely to overtake regular timepieces in the near future, you’d have to agree that such a scenario is more of a matter of when, and not if. The fact that in 2020 there’s been a global rise in the shipment of smartwatches despite the enormous economical impact the pandemic had on people worldwide, illustrates how big of a pull these devices are.
Nowadays, so advanced are some of the smartwatches that they can easily detect pre-existing heart conditions. But did you know that many of them also allow you to make and answer calls without your mobile? A smartwatch that can call and text, also known as a standalone smartwatch without phone, is a model that comes with support for LTE and/or a sim card slot, allowing you to leave your mobile at home and still enjoy most of its functions from your wrist.
In this article, we will have a close look at three such models that deliver the best value for money in 2021.
Apple Watch 6
We open up the list with Apple’s newest release, Apple Watch 6.
Series 6 is arguably the most advanced and feature-rich smartwatch on the market. The watch is available in two versions – the standard GPS version and the GPS + Cellular version. Since you’re after a smartwatch that you can use as a standalone device, you need the latter. And that’s the one we will discuss now.
With the cellular version of Apple Watch 6, you will be able to leave your iPhone at home and still make or receive phone calls and text messages. Currently, the cellular version of the watch supports the following carriers:
- Carolina West Wireless
- C Spire
- US Cellular
If you reside in the United States, you most definitely see your carrier on the list so you’re good to go. If you live in another country, you can check the geo-specific list of supported carriers by clicking here.
The cellular function setup is easy and quick. A step-by-step guide is available in the FAQ section of this article.
Design & Durability
On top of the two variations mentioned above, Apple Watch comes with many other customization options. For starters, you can choose between a 40mm or a 44mm case size. If you’re a female or a man with a slender wrist, go for the smaller version. Consider the big one if you have a medium-to-large wrist.
Depending on your style and needs, you can pick from endless band options. From silicone sports version to stainless steel to elegant leather strap, the choice is huge.
The same applies to cases – all Apple releases offer many variations that include aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium materials. Furthermore, if you work in a damage-risk profession such as EMT, firefighter or construction worker, you can further boost the durability levels of your Apple Watch by buying any of the near-unbreakable cases available for peanuts on marketplaces like Amazon.
And since we’ve touched on the subject of durability, it’s the perfect time to mention that the Apple Watch 6 uses top-quality glass to minimize the risk of cracks and scratches. The cheaper version of the model with aluminum case uses Ion-X glass whereas the stainless steel and titanium models use sapphire crystal glass. The material is considered the toughest on the market and is used in all top-end watch brands such as Rolex or Omega.
Finally, to round off the Apple Watch looks, it’s worth mentioning that the smartwatch comes with tens of free watch faces – so you can make the display suit different occasions. Since Series 5, Apple has introduced the so-called Always-On-Display, allowing you to check the time as you would do with a normal wristwatch. No more weird wrist movements needed.
As already mentioned, it’s quite a challenge to find a smartwatch equipped with more useful functions than Series 6. And it’s not all just about the quantity – Apple Watch 6 comes with some of the most advanced health & wellness apps we could imagine. If you’re into a healthy lifestyle and sports, you’re going to love most of these.
Compared to the previous series, probably the most standout new addition is the Blood Oxygen sensor. The newly-developed application is able to correctly measure the oxygen saturation of your blood. In other words, the percentage of oxygen that’s carried by red blood cells from your lungs to the remaining parts of your body.
Apple Watch is also one of just three smartwatches on the market to be equipped with an FDA-approved ECG monitor (see also: Best ECG Watch). The app has proved to be incredibly accurate in detecting various heart conditions, with some outstanding, research-backed results related to conditions such as Atrial Fibrillation or other forms of heart arrhythmia.
Other useful apps that deserve a mention are the heart rate monitor, sleep quality tracker, calories counter, and a pedometer. There’s also an endless list of workout apps, from yoga to jogging to weight lifting.
If you hate carrying cash or credit cards with you, you will love the Apple Pay app. If activated and synchronized with your credit or debit card, it allows you to make contactless payments with your wrist.
Perhaps the only field in which I can think Apple Watches can do better is the battery life. With an 18h-24h lifespan (depending on how you exploit it), it’s necessary to charge the watch daily. On the bright side, plugging the watch for 90 minutes is enough for a full charge. It’s about 30% quicker than in the Series 5.
Finally, the smartwatch comes with a 5ATM/50m water resistance. In practice, that means it’s suitable for shallow-water activities such as swimming in a pool or ocean.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 3
Even if we want to use a standalone smartwatch without a phone, to set up the LTE/cellular support we will first need to connect it with the right type of smartphone.
Also, the support for cellular is an outstanding option to have but even the biggest wrist-tech geeks will have to agree that sometimes we will just want to connect the smartwatch with our phone.
Hence, compatibility with your mobile is an absolute must. If you can’t get any of the Apple Watch series recommended above due to currently owning an Android smartphone, the newest Samsung release, Galaxy Watch Active 3, is by far the most advanced Wear OS (Android) model currently available.
Samsung Galaxy Active 3 is a smartwatch that can answer calls and text messages (as well as make them) without the need of being connected to your mobile phone. That is after you activate the cellular service for the watch using the same carrier as your mobile phone.
At the moment, the list of the supporting carriers is the following:
Please note: to activate the LTE support for your smartwatch, your phone needs to run on the Android operating system.
You can read a brief step-by-step guide on how to set up the LTE function for your Galaxy Active watch in the FAQ section of this article.
Design & Durability
Samsung Galaxy Active 3 watch is also available in two case sizes – 41mm and 45mm. Again, pick one that fits the size of your wrist better.
Just like the Apple Watch 6, Samsung offers a plethora of choices when it comes to the bands. Those include nylon and silicone bands, as well as genuine leather straps in different colors. Style-wise, Samsung Galaxy Active 3 is probably a bit more elegant smartwatch than the rectangular-shaped Apple model.
On the case front, the Galaxy Active 3 watch is available in just two variations – the standard stainless steel version and the Premium variation made from titanium. Most of the time, the premium tag is associated with a smaller weight of titanium watch parts. Again, if you want to boost the sturdiness of the watch, popular online marketplaces will have plenty of options to choose from such as additional glass cover or shock-absorbing case covers.
When it comes to this model, the dial window is made from Corning Gorilla Glass 3. It’s a pretty tough material oftentimes compared to mineral crystal. It’s probably not as durable as the sapphire crystal available in the more expensive versions of the Apple Watch 6 – but it should still be able to do the job.
As far as watch faces go, the ways to customize your display are pretty much endless. Unlike the Apple Watch 6, which limits the choice of display design to their in-house made faces, all Android-supporting smartwatches allow for the installation of styles made by contributing designers. Most of these are available for free download from the Google Play Store.
In terms of the number and quality of features, Samsung Galaxy Active 3 smartwatch isn’t far behind the newest Apple release. With small exceptions, the vast majority of high-end features offered by Apple Watch 6 are on board with the Galaxy model as well.
Just a few months ago, the Galaxy Active watch joined the small list of smartwatches that offer an FDA-approved ECG application. Another of the so-called premium features, the Blood OX sensor, is also available. The Fall Detection app also makes the smartwatch a great choice for the elderly.
Other apps that definitely deserve a mention are the heart rate monitor, sleep quality tracker, and pedometer. Naturally, the watch is equipped with a fully functioning GPS. Similar to the Apple Watch 6, the model offers a lengthy list of fitness-related and workout apps/plans.
Samsung Galaxy Active 3 also allows for contactless payments. It uses the equivalent of the Apple Pay named, you guessed it, Samsung Pay. All you need to do is connect your credit or debit card with the app and you’re good to go.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Galaxy Active 3 holds an advantage over the Apple model in terms of battery life.
Whereas Series 6 by Apple is unlikely to get past the 24-hour mark on a single charge, Samsung’s smartwatch can easily go for 2 days even with most of the apps enabled (including the Always-On-Display). It’s nearly double the lifespan of the predecessor, Galaxy Active 2. On the other hand, there’s not much if any difference between battery life capabilities between Apple Watch 6 and the previous release, Series 5. Naughty, naughty Apple.
Galaxy Active 3 comes with a fairly standard for smartwatches water-resistance rating of 50m.
Ticwatch Pro 4G
Both Apple Watch 6 and Samsung Galaxy Active 3 are excellent smartwatches that are currently leading the way in the industry. There’s no denying, though, that they aren’t the cheapest.
If your current budget can’t allow you to get any of the two, Ticwatch Pro 4G is a cheaper option that can also function as a standalone smartwatch without a phone. Depending on where you do your online shopping, the model can be snatched at $230-$300. It’s considerably less than both watches discussed above.
Whereas everyone and their dog have heard about Apple and Samsung, the brand responsible for the development of the TicWatch series might need a short introduction.
The smartwatch series is produced by Mobvoi, a Beijing company with a relatively short presence on the market. It was founded in 2012 by brothers Zhifei and Yuanyuan Li. Since then, it has enjoyed year-over-year growth and is now considered one of the leading tech & wearable brands in Asia.
After the massive success of the Ticwatch series in China and other massive e-commerce markets on the continent, the smartwatch was introduced to customers in the United States and Europe where, based on the excellent reviews you can find online, it has managed similar success.
All Ticwatch models are compatible with both Android and iOS mobile phones. At the time of writing, Ticwatch Pro 4G is by far Mobvoi’s most advanced release that can function as a standalone device.
Let’s now dive into the details of this excellent Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Active alternative.
Whereas both the Apple Watch 6 and Samsun Galaxy Active 3 support many carriers, unfortunately, Ticwatch Pro 4G is restricted to just one – Verizon.
An easy-to-grasp guide on how to set up the support for your Verizon plan is available here.
Design & Durability
Whereas there are different dimensions of the Apple and Samsung models available, Ticwatch Pro 4G comes in a unified size. The case measures 45mm in diameter and is made from a combination of stainless steel (front) and aluminum (back). The watch is equipped with an interchangeable silicone strap.
Ticwatch Pro 4G uses the exact same glass material as the Samsung model in the form of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. With its scratch-resistant properties, it should be tough enough to prevent any major cracks.
When it comes to the watch faces, the model comes with tens of pre-installed display designs. Similar to the Samsung model, which is also run on Wear OS by Google, you can download additional faces from the Google Play Store.
Although the smartwatch doesn’t come with as many premium functions such as the Blood Sensor or the ECG app available, let’s remember that it does offer one that is the most important: it is able to function as a standalone cellular device.
At the same time, the number of useful health & wellness apps is still impressive. Amongst many, TicWatch Pro 4G offers:
- 24h/7 heart rate monitor with a 7-day heart rate history and an abnormal heart rate warning
- sleep quality tracker
- calories counter
- a long list of fitness-related apps and workouts
- precise navigation based on data from multiple satellites: GPS + GLONASS + Beidou + Galileo
Crucially, contactless payments from your wrist are allowed with the Ticwatch model, too. The smartwatch uses the Google Pay app, which works in the exact same way as the other two NFC applications present in the Samsung and Apple models.
From all three standalone smartwatches reviewed in this article, Ticwatch Pro 4G has the most impressive battery life.
In the smartwatch mode, with the vast majority of functions running and an enabled AOD (Always-On-Display), the watch will easily run for 2 days on a full charge.
In the additional program, called the Essential Mode, the watch can last from 5 to as many as 30 days depending on how many apps you enable. It’s one of the longest lifespans offered by any smartwatch currently on the market.
The watch has slightly poorer water-resistance capabilities than the two previously discussed models. At the same time, the IP68 rating offered by the Ticwatch model is still safe to use during short swimming sessions in shallow water or while showering.
Standalone Smartwatch Without Phone: FAQ
To round off today’s guide to the best standalone smartwatch without phone, below you will find a lot of additional information that will hopefully clear up remaining doubts – if there are any. I have collected the most Frequently Asked Questions on the subject and tried to answer them in an as easy way as possible.
Also in this section, I have prepared easy step-by-step tutorials on how to set up the cellular function of all the three smartwatches discussed above. In case of any additional questions, hit me up in the comment section at the bottom of the website.
Without further ado, let’s go.
Can smartwatches be used without a phone?
Yes, as proved with all three smartwatches included in the article, it’s possible to use a smartwatch as a standalone device. At the same time, the list of models offering this useful function is still quite slim.
And just because the watch advertises as having support for cellular/LTE/4G, it’s not guaranteed to work with your provider. As you have learned in the article, each of the standalone smartwatches collaborates with different carriers. Whether the model you want to buy supports your carrier should be the first thing you tick off the list.
Furthermore, to activate the function, some smartwatches might require a specific version of the operating system on your phone.
Does a smartwatch have its own phone number?
No, all smartwatches – whether with or without the cellular functionality – use the same phone number as your smartwatch.
For the Bluetooth-only versions of smartwatches, you just need to connect the smartwatch with your mobile phone. If you own a cellular smartwatch, let it be any of the models from the list or a different one, you will have to additionally set up the connection with your carrier.
Does a smartwatch need a sim card?
It will depend on the smartwatch, really.
Smartwatches without a cellular option only require a Bluetooth connection with your smartphone in order to work fully. None of these require a sim card.
On the other hand, cellular versions of smartwatches like all three discussed in this article, do require a sim card – although the card is not physical. Apple Watch 6, Samsung Galaxy Active 3, and Ticwatch Pro 4G all use built-in e-sims that, after the right setup, connect with the card in your mobile phone.
Does an enabled cellular function impact the battery life?
This will differ between smartwatch brands and models. Most of the time, the impact will be relatively small – if any.
The longevity of the battery mostly depends on how many apps and notifications you constantly have running in the background. Probably the biggest consumer of the battery in any smartwatch is the GPS feature.
Is there a smartwatch that doesn’t need a phone at all?
Even though all three smartwatches on the list are able to function as standalone devices, they do require a compatible phone to set up the cellular support in the first place.
So, if your question is whether you can just ditch your smartphone and move all the operations to your wrist without any connection between the two, the answer is NO.
What’s the best standalone smartwatch for a teenager?
Any of the three models included on the list should do the job.
If you feel like your kid doesn’t need that much-advanced device yet, consider getting previous cellular-supporting models from Apple or Samsung. Some of the older releases that come with the function can be found even for $150 on Amazon or eBay.
What’s the best standalone smartwatch with a sim card?
Again, no smartwatch – even one with cellular support – uses a physical sim card.
All the models on the list, as well as those you come across on your own, use the so-called e-sims which are kinds of virtual copies of GSM cards installed in smartphones.
How to set up the cellular function for Apple Watch 6?
Before we move on to the exact steps of setting up the cellular support for your Apple Watch, make sure that both the smartwatch and your iPhone have the latest software installed.
Equally important is that you check for any updates to your carrier settings. Naturally, the carrier you’re using for your iPhone needs to be supported by the cellular on your Apple Watch. The list of US-based carriers was already mentioned in the Apple Watch 6 review. If you live outside of the United States, you can check the supported carriers on Apple’s official website.
Provided that the above conditions are met, we can now move on to the actual process.
- Unlock your iPhone and search for the Apple Watch application
- After opening the application, tap the “My Watch” tab
- Now, tap “Cellular”
- Next, tap “Set up Cellular”
- Finally, all you need to do is follow the displayed instructions for your carrier. In case of any troubles, you might contact the carrier for help
- Voila! Your device can now function as a standalone smartwatch without the phone!
How to set up the cellular function for Samsung Galaxy Active 3?
As already mentioned in the Samsung Galaxy Active 3 review section, in order to activate the cellular function, your mobile needs to be running on the Android operating system. Samsung’s official website also states that the phone needs to have at least 1.5GB of RAM.
If that is met, we can move on to the setup process.
- After pairing the Galaxy smartwatch with your phone for the first time, you’ll see prompts to activate your carrier’s service on the watch. Do it.
- Next, open the Galaxy Wearable app on your smartphone
- Now, tap “Mobile Networks”. This will begin the process of scanning for an eligible LTE network
- If the network is found, all you need to do is follow the instructions to complete the activation
- Voila! Your Samsung Galaxy smartwatch can now make and receive calls & messages even without your mobile nearby
How to set up the cellular function for Ticwatch Pro 4G?
Since Ticwatch Pro 4G supports just one carrier, Verizon, the setup process is a bit different. With that said, it still shouldn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes. Let’s go.
- Visit the Verizon website and search for their “single device plans”
- Now, click the “BYOD” or “Bring Your Own Device” button
- Next, select “smartwatches” and enter your IMEI number
- The Verizon site should recognize your Ticwatch Pro model and ask you to continue
- Next, you will have the choice of picking “port” or “new number”. Pick “new number”
- Now, choose the preferred plan
- Next, follow all the instructions by filling in your personal information
- You can now confirm the activation
- Voila! Ticwatch Pro 4G can now run as a standalone device without a phone!