Last week Bloomberg reported that Apple is planning to release a new Apple Watch with cellular connectivity sometime later this year. All four major U.S. carriers are said to be on board, but pricing details for both the hardware and service are currently unknown.
It seems reasonable to expect the cellular Apple Watch to carry both a hardware premium over current models as well as a monthly service charge for network access. If that’s the case, how much would you be willing to pay for cellular connectivity?
One possibility is Apple could take the same approach to cellular Apple Watches that they take with cellular iPads. Each Wi-Fi only iPad has a base price, and adding built-in cellular connectivity adds $130 to that. For example, the 9.7-inch iPad costs $329 without cellular and $459 with cellular. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 and jumps to $929 for the same storage but with cellular.
Apple Watch Series 2 currently starts at $369 for 38mm and $399 for 42mm models. If Apple added the $130 cost for cellular using the iPad approach, the cellular Apple Watch starting price could be $499 for 38mm and $529 for 42mm.
That would drive up the price for aluminum models near what stainless steel models cost today: $549 for 38mm and $599 for 42mm. Add $130 to those prices and you get $679 for 38mm and $729 for stainless steel and cellular.
Another possibility is Apple could offer cellular at the current Apple Watch Series 2 prices and offer a non-cellular version at the current Apple Watch Series 1 price. Apple Watch Series 1 starts at $269 and jumps up $100 for the GPS-equipped Series 2 with a brighter display. While the prices would be more appealing and cellular adoption would take off quicker, this scenario seems less likely to me.
The other cost to consider with a cellular Apple Watch is monthly access charges. I currently pay for a 15GB/month data pool that my family shares between four iPhones. Sharing that data pool with a cellular iPad would cost $10-15/month which seems reasonable given what a tablet can do on the web, but an Apple Watch would be much more limited.
Placing and receiving phone calls, messaging, and hopefully streaming music without a nearby iPhone is appealing to me, but I’m not sure it’s worth $10-15/month especially without podcast and audiobook streaming or video calling.
Carriers currently charge $5-10/month for cellular wearables from other companies so we’ll have to see how they approach the Apple Watch, but $60/year feels better than $120/year to me especially if you pay a premium for cellular hardware.
If Apple follows tradition, we may see new Apple Watch hardware with LTE introduced sometime next month alongside new iPhones so stay tuned!
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