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Today, I carry my iPhone and GPS-only Apple Watch everywhere I go. I've realized that I don't really need my phone for 99% of tasks. My Watch is enough to complete those. These tasks are:

  • Receive iMessages & send short replies
  • Receive email notifications (built-in Mail app) and reply
  • View & manage lists (e.g. shopping lists) in Reminders
  • Occasionally view the locations of loved ones in Find My

For a variety of reasons, I'd love to leave my iPhone at home on most outings. I'm considering getting an LTE Apple Watch, but the documentation I can find is oddly vague about what I could do without carrying my phone:

Overall, this not encouraging towards a cellular Apple Watch as a basic connectivity replacement for a phone, but reports are mixed and some are pretty old.

Is anyone here able to give first-hand reports of how well connectivity - especially email, as that seems to be the pain point - works on a cellular Apple Watch with its paired phone left at home?

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  • So you have an Apple watch? What happens on the day you left your phone at home?
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 26 at 14:29
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    @SolarMike My Apple Watch is GPS-only, so I can't properly test this (unless someone says functionality on WiFi sans-phone is identical to cellular, but that's not the vibe I get from docs).
    – Undo
    Jun 26 at 14:35
  • I choose cellular on my watch and dropped it on my iPad about 4 years ago (one was well worth the cost, the other not so much for me). I’ve had both devices without cellular and with cellular, so this is a good question to have.
    – bmike
    Jun 27 at 2:49

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I’ve never had a case where the watch has let me down yet. I rarely carry my phone for trips around my neighborhood and almost always leave my wallet home as well.

On some backcountry trips, I’ve had my watch connect before the phone which is not something I would have guessed based on antenna size and power of the battery and CPU.

The only reason I need a iPhone or iPad is:

  • a physical keyboard
  • app I can’t manage with Siri and airpods
  • a larger screen

Nothing substantial has changed negatively in this regard since series 3 so my presumption is people just have software / server issues or coverage issues. There is no arguing that the smaller screen is limiting as the fewer troubleshooting or logs you can access only from the watch, but Apple support should be able to help anyone with these issues get the logs later when you are home or on wifi to diagnose issues that will crop up with any networked computer.

On the plus side, battery life, screen brightness, additional sensors, speed and quality of apps are all substantially better than 5 years ago.

The things you mention are things cellular and Apple Watch do very well - I prefer my watch over an iPhone or iPad for many tasks, especially reminders and prompt messaging and status checks.

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