Help Me, Tom's Guide: Can I Replace My Phone With a Smartwatch?

Updated

Smartwatches are now sophisticated enough to send text messages, track workouts, make phone calls and download emails. But can a smartwatch actually replace your smartphone?

Tom's Guide Forum user eldad.alber wants to know if it's possible:

"I wish to leave my phone at work or in the car and still be able to receive/send phone calls, emails, notifications, reminders and alarms," Alber asked. "What would be your advice for a smartwatch that could perform the above without having the phone connected via Bluetooth?"

It is possible to use a smartwatch without a phone. A handful of watches, including the Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4 and Samsung's Galaxy Watch, offer cellular connectivity for a premium and can function on their own. With a separate data plan that adds an extra $10 to your monthly cellphone bill, a cellular smartwatch can handle basic tasks — the aforementioned texting, emailing and workout-tracking — without a phone in Bluetooth range. You can even make phone calls.

But cellular smartwatches don't last long on a charge, especially if you're using one to replace your smartphone. You'll be lucky to get through an 8-hour workday if you stay connected to a cellular network the entire time. You may also find that your smartwatch drops its connection more frequently than your smartphone does.

There is a workaround if you'd rather not plunk down hundreds of dollars for a cellular smartwatch and pay extra for your phone bill. Most smartwatches — including new Wear OS watches, as well as Samsung's and Apple's watches — can connect to a Wi-Fi network. That means your watch doesn't have to be within Bluetooth range of your phone to use apps.

The device won't be able to send SMS messages, but if you use iMessage on iOS or, in Eldad's case, an Android messaging app, you can still keep in touch with friends and family over Wi-Fi.

Cellular smartwatches are pricey, and until they can last a full day on a charge while connected to an LTE network, you won't be able to completely replace your smartphone. But if you want to reduce your screen time while remaining reachable if necessary, a Wi-Fi-enabled watch will get the job done.

Check out our picks for the best smartwatches on every platform here.

Credit: Tom's Guide