Digiswitch | Smartwatches & Wearable Tech

Best Standalone Smartwatch To Replace Your Phone in 2019

image of black & white samsung gear S2 watches

Have you ever felt that twitch as you scroll down your Facebook feed? And that phone-snubbing friend who can’t stop texting while talking? We’ve all been there. Phone addiction is a real thing, according to health experts. As every mobile app designed to keep us “hooked”, the pocket device that used to be helpful is increasingly depriving us of focused attention and quality social time.

Thanks to smartwatch technology, we don’t need to go on therapies to “break up” with cell-phones. If you ever wish to stay connected without being tethered to the phone, standalone watches with sim card can be your lifesaver. Simply put, it’s like having a basic feature phone on your wrist that frees you from social media addiction.

Before you ditch your cell phone, some proper investigation is needed to choose the best smartwatch that can replace your smartphone. Below are our well-researched insights to help you make an informed decision.

 

What is a Standalone Smartwatch & Why You Need One in 2019

 

A stand-alone smartwatch works independently over various cellular networks without having to connect to a smartphone. Instead of being an extension of your smartphone, these watches are independent devices with cellular connectivity, and capable of phone functions.

The earliest known module of watch phone with a dial was Samsung 9110 from 2009. LG followed suit in the same year with a 3G watch phone, making LG GD910 the first ever cellular wristwatch. The technology became sleepy for almost a decade, but in recent year mainstream watchmakers such as Apple and Samsung have made a strong push towards smart wrist devices with cellular connectivity.

image of LG G910 featuring a phone dial on its watch face
LG G910 is the first ever 3G watch phone

The success of smart watchmaker Omate’s Kickstarter campaign reminds us of what consumers truly desire:  the convenience of mobile phones packed in the discreet design of wristwatches. Despite its small size, the Omate smartwatch has powerful features: touchscreen, HD camera, smart OS, GPS, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, dual-core processor…everything you fancy in a phone.

The success of smart watchmaker Omate’s Kickstarter campaign reminds us of what consumers truly desire:  the convenience of mobile phones packed in the discreet design of wristwatches.

The success of smart watchmaker Omate’s Kickstarter campaign reminds us of what consumers truly desire: the convenience of mobile phones packed in the discreet design of wristwatches. [/penci_blockquote]

The main benefit of having a smart watch without phone is instant mobile network access without digging into your pocket. Imagine making calls without having to carry your phone with you – a truly liberating experience! Plus, you will be able to check social updates, track your activities and even stream Youtube videos right from your wrist.

Some have voiced concerns about radiation hazard from wearing smartwatches, but the potential harm is negligible compared to smartphones. The pros of having a standalone watch phone significantly outweighs the cons. Here let’s take a look at the top rated cellular watches worth trying.

00 apple watch
Staying connected while disconnect from your phone

If you are an early adopter who loves the idea of a wearable cellphone, below are our top picks for the best simcard enabled smartwatches of all price levels. We hope with this guide, you will be able to purchase the best smartwatch that works like your phone.

 
 

Top rated smartwatches with cellular connectivity

Image Name Price Range Cellular Connectivity Rating
Apple Watch Series 4 $$$$ 4G LTE 9.8/10
Apple Watch Series 3 $$$ 4G LTE 9.5/10
Samsung Galaxy Watch $$$ 4G LTE 9.5/10
Samsung Gear S3 Frontier $$$ 4G LTE 9.2/10
Huawei Watch 2 $$$ 4G LTE 9.0/10
Samsung Gear S2 $$ 3G & 4G 9.0/10
LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE $$$ 4G LTE 8.5/10
LG Watch Sport $$$ 4G LTE 8.5/10
NEPTUNE Pine $ 4G 8.2/10
ZTE Quartz $ 3G 8.0/10
LEMFO LEM7 $ 4G LTE 7.5/10

Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular)

A glorious design update from Apple Watch series 3 with more powerful features, Apple Watch 4 is exceeds our expectations of what a wrist device can deliver. Although nearly doubling the price of its predecessor, Apple Watch 4 is still the best smartwatch today that comes with cellular connectivity.

The design of Apple Watch Series 4 is breathtakingly sleek and futuristic. Building on top of the familiar Apple Watch 3 form, Watch 4 managed to innovate beyond screen size. With a 30% larger display than the previous model, the case of Watch 4 seems even slimmer and more lightweight.

The display size now comes at 40mm and 44mm, with a vivid, crisp full-color display thanks to the LTPO technology. The watch is now able to fit in much more information in a tiny watch screen, making it easier to view detailed infographs and navigate app interface. Clicking the digital crown is a very pleasing experience as the haptic feedback is super fast and responsive.

 

rich details in apple watch series 4 watch UI
Rich details displayed in this UI includes: UV Index, Air Quality Index, Weather, World Clock, Solar, Earth, Sunrise/Sunset, Moon

 

Health is the key focus for Apple Watch Series 4. It now automatically detects and tracks all your workouts including Yoga and Hiking. Heart rate tracking is also enhanced with the two-in-one eletrical and optical heart sensors, and instantly alerts you when your heart rate is too low or too high. It is water resistant up to 50m so you can take it to swim and surf.

The highlight of it all is the fall detection & emergency SOS feature, which is said to save lives. The watch will ask if you are OK after detecting a (potentially fatal) fall, and if left unanswered after 1 minutes, it will reach out to emergency services and share your live location. It can be a very useful feature for looking after seniors and loved ones.

Of course as a cellular smartwatch, Apple Watch Series 4 can perform a long list of smartphone functions such as taking phone calls, music streaming and notifications. The biggest complaint we have about Series 4 is its battery life. Although you can last a whole day with a single charge, it’s still not a device you can take into the wilderness for days.

PROS

  • Reliable cellular connectivity with GPS tracking
  • 30% larrger (44mm and 40mm) LTPO display
  • Digital crown with precise haptic feedback
  • All-new S4 Chip offers even faster OS performance
  • Advanced health tracking and fitness coaching
  • Life-saving fall detection & SOS emergency features

CONS

  • High price point
  • 18-hour Battery life less than ideal
  • Sleep tracking is seriously lacking

 

Check Price on Amazon

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)

 

image of apple watch series 3 cellular
apple watch series 3 cellularpple Watch 3 is without a doubt the best-in-class iPhone replacement. While an iPhone is needed for initial pairing, once setup the watch can offer a seamless standalone experience that runs on fast LTE cellular network.

Building on its previous models, the Watch 3 isn’t any bulkier even with a slightly bigger battery. It’s able to deliver an outstanding battery life when used as a traditional smartwatch, and the OS has been improved from earlier models that feels as fast as it should.

The wearable is loaded with all the features you want in a smart wearable including fitness tracking, GPS, Apple Pay, and a myriad of apps to chose from. Music streaming is smooth on cellular network, and heart rate tracking is pretty accurate. In short, a watch made for fitness buffs and outdoor enthusiast.

There are some complaints about the watch face too small to use social media, but hey, that’s exactly why we use it – to get away from our addiction to smartphone apps.

PROS

  • Fast operating system
  • Fitness features
  • Music streaming
  • Siri can be very useful
  • Stylish & slim design

CONS

  • Pricey
  • Tiny OLED screen
  • Battery drains fast on LTE
  • Only compatible with iOS
  • Call quality not consistent

 

Check Price on Amazon

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Apple might be dominating over half of the smartwatch market right now, but Samsung’s Galaxy Watch is filling the gap for alternative choices – and a very attractive one too.

Galaxy Watch comes in two sizes and three cases

 

Armed with LTE connectivity, the brand-new Galaxy wear is certainly a strong challenger watch for Apple Watch 4. It comes in two sizes and three colors: 46mm (silver) and 42mm (midnight black & rose gold), so there is an option for everyone. With a stainless steel case and Corning Gorilla Glass protection, the Galaxy Watch is a very sturdy watch that denotes durability.

With its round face and watchhand design, Galaxy watch is pushing hard for a sophisticated “real watch” look. The always-on, full-color display makes it function like a real wrist watch too: you don’t need to flip your wrist or press a button to check time. Compared to Apple Watch Series 4, its 4-day battery life is very impressive, thanks to the energy-efficient super AMOLED technology.

The device kept Samsung’s signature rotating bezel design, which makes navigating the app galleries and interfaces much easier on a small screen. Samsung has also upped its fashion game: The strap is interchangeable and comes with a variety of options on Samsung’s website, which is essential to match the wrist device with different outfits.

In terms of features, the wrist device runs on the latest Tizen OS with improved performance robust fitness tracking. Compared to Gear S3, it has added more sensors and now tracks 39+ activities. It’s also waterproof up to about 50m, making it suitable for swim tracking. With its GPS tracking and built-in altimeter and barometer, this is a truly a watch for the outdoors.

Although Galaxy Watch runs on Tizen OS, it’s absolutely compatible with most Android phones (5.0 and higher) and iPhones (iPhone 5 and above). As a truly independently connected smartwatch that runs on 3G/4G/LTE, you can take phone calls, receive messages, and stream music etc while phone free.

PROS

  • Classy analog watch design
  • Bluetooth or LTE connectivity
  • Stainless-steel case with Corning® Gorilla® Glass
  • Always-on 1.3 Inch sAMOLED display with 360x 360 resolution
  • 4-day battery life on a single charge
  • Fast Tizen OS performance
  • Robust fitness and sleep tracking

CONS

  • Its size could be challenging for small wrists
  • Built-in AI assistant Bixby not usable
  • No Google maps or Messenger app
  • Limited apps in Tizen app store
Check Price on Amazon

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

image of samsung gear S3 smartwatch
samsung gear S3 smartwatch

Samsung Gear S3 is another high-end watch that comes in LTE models. It’s made for the modern connected lifestyle: whether you are out for a grocery run, a business meeting or a hike up the mountain, you can use the watch to pay for purchases, take phone calls, and track your activities.

The watch design features a rotating bezel that lets you easily navigate between apps. The 1.3” display is always on, reducing the need to wake the device to check time. You can also change straps to go from sleek business-casual style to a rugged outdoor adventure look.

Apart from being able to taking phone calls and receive SMS on cellular network, the S3 watch boasts advanced GPS and health tracking. What’s noteworthy is that it’s compatible with both iPhones and a huge selection of Android devices. It’s pricey though – retailed at $349.99 from AT&T –  but reviews are pretty positive.

Pros

  • Useful rotating bezel
  • High-resolution display
  • Built in NFC feature
  • Advanced fitness tracking
  • Wide-ranging smartphone compatibility

Cons

  • Fewer apps to choose from
  • Limited storage (4GB)
  • Big and heavy watch body
  • Always on display drains battery
  • Expensive

 

Check Price on Amazon

Huawei Watch 2

image of Huawei Watch 2
Huawei Watch 2 looks sporty and is feature-rich

Huawei Watch 2 is another strong contender for Apple Watch alternative with 4G connectivity, although the 4G connection only come in select countries (China, Australia, etc). Listed on Amazon for $350, its price point comes close to Apple Watch 3 and Samsung Gear S3.

The appearance of it reminds us of a sports watch and for good reasons. Packed with fitness and health tracking features, this watch is clearly designed for the active lifestyle. The 1.2” display is smaller than most, with a scratch-proof ceramic bezel that claims to be harder than steel.

Although there is not a single killer app that makes this watch a must-buy, it is a feature-rich timepiece and one of the few 4G LTE smartwatches.

Pros

  • Fast performance on 4G network
  • Long battery life
  • Lightweight, suitable for small wrist
  • Strong fitness features
  • Various color choices

Cons

  • LTE model not available in the U.S.
  • Small screen
  • Bulky design
  • Limited apps
  • Pricey

 

Check Price on Amazon

Samsung Gear S2

 

image of black & white samsung gear S2 watches
Samsung Gear S2 comes in many designs

The Gear S2 watch offers a standalone phone experience with a slightly cheaper price than S3, and less robust features as well.

Armed with a speakerphone and cellular connection, it works like a phone for calling and checking messages. It has built-in GPS which means you can use it for navigation. Powered by Samsung’s own Tizen OS, it can access limited apps such and is not as widely compatible with smartphones like S3 does.

Although pretty powerful as a standalone “watch phone” for its own sake, the Gear S2 watch still doesn’t feel like a fully smart device to replace your phone yet. But if you are just looking to place calls and check messages, it does the job.

Pros

  • Sleek round design
  • Intuitive bezel to navigate apps
  • Fitness and health tracking
  • Crisp display with vivid colors
  • Wireless charging

Cons

  • Limited app selection for Tizen OS
  • Battery life not great
  • No web browser
  • No memory card slot
  • Screen is a bit tiny

 

Check Price on Amazon

LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE

 

image of LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE watch
LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE

This LG cellular watch features a large, round watch face that has 480×480 pixel P0OLED display – more crisp than most smartwatches. It does make the watch bigger than most though, but its top-end specs makes up for its bulky size.

With an improved display and battery from the original, this LTE watch runs on a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor and delivers a reliable performance on Android Wear OS. There is a button to launch Ok Google, but the service is said to be crashing often. Another button launched the ambient mode, which is helps to extend battery life.

With its native LG health app, you can track your health data, fitness goals even stress level. LG Health data is limited, but you can integrate 3rd party apps such as myFitnessPal to track more detailed data. All in all, a pretty robust smart watch phone with a hefty price tag.

Pros

  • Large display with high-resolution
  • Long battery life
  • Simple & sturdy design
  • LTE connectivity
  • Stellar OS performance

Cons

  • Big and bulky
  • Unchangeable strap
  • Limited system memory
  • UI not customizable
  • Very expensive

 

Check Price on Amazon

LG Watch Sport

image of LG Watch Sport watch
LG Watch Sport

LG Watch Sport is the go-to phone is you want top-notch fitness features while phone-free. Strength training and personal coaching is its selling point, but the smart wearable also comes with additional features like GPS navigation, OK Google and NFC.

What’s most notable about this watch design is the bulkiness, but it is a wearable designed for the outdoor and feels durable. 1.38” display with a 480×480 resolution makes the UI very easy on your eyes, and the 430 mAh battery lasts up to 35hrs.

With many built-in sensors, the sport watch is capable of some heavy-duty fitness tracking, and lets you set up customizable goals. The selling point is the watch’s ability to record a myriad of exercises including aerobics and upper body workout, which is a rare feature in smartwatches. Priced at $350 on Bestbuy, it’s worth a try for the athletic types.

Pros

  • Large display optimized for bright conditions
  • 4G LTE connectivity
  • Wireless charging
  • Personal coaching
  • Easy side button navigation

Cons

  • Big, bulky and thick to wear
  • Straps are not changeable
  • Always-on display drains battery fast
  • Not swim proof
  • No health reminders

 

Check Price on Amazon

NEPTUNE Pine

image of NEPTUNE Pine standalone watch phone dial
NEPTUNE Pine

Pine by Neptune started out on a kickstarter campaign that claims to create the “most connected independent smartwatch”. The problem Neptune tries to solve is the inconvenience of having to carry two devices just to use a smart wrist device. The result was one of the most successful Canadian kickstarter campaign that reach 800% of its funding goal.

The boxy watch face design is a bit unusual in the smartwatch world, but the 2.4” screen is big enough for a full QWERTY keyboard – no more squinting your eyes to make out the type letters as you type. It comes with a micro sim card slot and is compatible with 2G/3G/4G network.

What’s more, the powerful wristwatch features two cameras: a front-facing VGA camera and a 5MP rear-facing camera. And that is not all – it’s also packed with all the high-end smartwatch features such as fitness tracking and GPS. At the time of writing, Neptune is working on a new wrist computer called Hub but there is no way to buy it yet.

Pros

  • All the Android phone features
  • Configurable OS
  • Huge 2.4” screen
  • Full QWERTY keyboard
  • Front & back camera

Cons

  • Too big on the wrist
  • Outdated OS
  • Need to manually set everything up
  • Short battery life

 

Check Price on Amazon

ZTE Quartz

image of ZTE Quartz watch
ZTE Quartz

ZTE Quartz is one of the most affordable standalone watches without sacrificing performance. Running on the Snapdragon Wear 2100 platform, the wrist device is touted to be super-responsive with a long battery life up to 36hours.

The watch features a sharp 1.4inch display with glass protection that is water and dust proof. It also offers interchangeable wristbands and customizable watch face, so that you can make it fit every occasion. In terms of software, the watch runs on Android Wear 2.0 with a 1.1GHz quad-core processor, so have no worries about sluggish performance.

Other features include built-in GPS and sensors as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connection, which makes it a great companion for outdoor activity. One downside though is the lack of heart rate and sleep tracking. But with all essential features packed in a 3.14 ounce watch at $199, what more can you ask?

Pros

  • Low cost with robust features
  • Classy Design that doesn’t feel cheap
  • Great call quality
  • Long battery life even with always-on display enabled
  • Fast and reliable 3G connectivity

Cons

  • Bulky for most people
  • No NFC payment
  • No Hear trate monitor
  • Limited apps

 

Check Price on Amazon

LEMFO LEM7

image of LEMFO LEM7 smartwatch provided by manufacture
LEMFO LEM7

If you are looking for a 4G LTE standalone for under $200, LEMFO LEM7 is your best bet. The round watch face mimics the design of a traditional watch, but the internal specs match that of a smartphone.

At 1.39 inch with 400×400 pixels, the display is optimal for image viewing and using apps without squinting your eyes. It has a 2MP camera that can come in handy for photo enthusiasts. The device runs on Android 7.0 and support fitness tracking, GPS and Bluetooth music streaming.

The watch works on 4G/3G/LTE network for making & receiving phone calls, sending & receiving SMS etc independent of your phone. It comes with various sensors such as step counter & heart rate monitor to track your health, and can be charged on its own powerbank.

Pros

  • Big & vibrant display
  • Multi-language support
  • Durable TPU strap
  • Customizable watch faces
  • 4G LTE connectivity

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Low battery life
  • Strap not changeable
  • Does not support Android Wear app
  • No NFC

 

Check Price on Amazon

What to look for in a standalone cellular smartwatch

Product Design

Smartwatches come in many shapes and sizes: some are boxy while others have round watch faces. Ss a buyer you would want to consider if the touch screen is big enough for navigating apps and text input, given that you will do more than just checking time. Display resolution matters too: higher pixels count means the watch face will be more legible in bright conditions.

And for wearers with smaller wrists, you’d want to go for slimmer design and smaller watch faces. Customizable watch face UI and interchangeable straps are definitely a plus, if you want to change up your style to suit different occasions.

image of person using smartwatch app on his/her wrist
Make sure the display is big enough for using apps on your wrist

Functionalities

High end connected watches tend to offer a myriad of fancy features that set the bar very high for the average consumer, but carefully evaluate your needs and situation before buying. When it comes to watch functionalities, there is no one-size-fit-all solution.

If you are a fitness buff, a cellular watch with robust health tracking and coaching features will definitely help. But if you are only in need of making occasional phone calls and checking emails from your watch, these fancy features are not necessary. But if you are outdoorsy, GPS tracking and emergency SOS features might be very helpful for you.

using smartwatch to track activities
Tracking your fitness data is easy with smart technologies

Performance

If you wish to replace your phone with a connected watch, performance should be a big factor. Can the cellular watch reliably make/receive calls? How is the call quality without pairing with a phone? Do apps launch and run smoothly on 3G/4G/LTE connection?

Although a faster process often leads to better performance, you also need to pay attention to what OS (operating system) your desired watch is built upon, and whether it’s compatible with your iPhone/Android devices. Each OS connects to a different wearable app ecosystem, and it’s best to make sure the apps you want to use frequently are offered by these OS.

paying for coffee with smartwatch NFC feature

 

Battery Life

Although smartwatches have overcome many technical hurdles, battery life is still a work in progress. It’s quite annoying to run out of battery while you’re out and about with your cellular watch phone, so make sure the battery can last up to at least a full day while on data network.

For the athletic types, it’s even more critical to pick up a watch with long battery life. Imagine when you are hiking up a mountain for days on end, or cycling while streaming music and relying on the watch GPS navigation – battery tend to run out faster when using cellular connection, and your 4G/3G watch is not useful if always offline.

cycling with smartwatch GPS navigation
Cycling with smartwatch GPS navigation

 

Simcard support

Not every independent smart watch comes with a built-in sim card slot. In fact, more recent high-end models such as Apple Watch 3 and Huawei 2 use eSIM (short for embedded sim).

The good news for eSim is that it reduces the need for a simcard slot, makes for a slimmer watch body & reducing consumer pain for installing the sim. The bad news is that changing your carrier/number can be quite a hassle since it’s pre-programmed into your watch.

Many standalone watches are still using simcard slots (nano or micro sim card). Depends on where you buy your watch from, you might need to purchase a data plan for your watch separately.

image of various kinds of simcards

 

Bottom line

Standalone watch phones are going to change the way we live the connected life. Development in this space is still underway, but the past few years of progress has shown us endless possibilities.

Very soon, we could be performing not just phone capacities but also personal computer tasks right from our wrist. Wearable wristwatches are definitely becoming slimmer, smarter and sexier. Personally, I’m very excited to see what’s to come when AI/AR/IoT technology is more integrated into smart wristphones.

Are you excited as well? Let me know in comments below.

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4 comments

Jim May 2, 2019 at 5:22 am

Thanks for all the information in the smartwatches. I’ve been looking at trying to replace my phone with a watch for a while now. I’m thinking that, for my purposes, the Samsung Galaxy watch would be my best bet.

That said, the big issue I’m running into is trying to find a carrier that will actually allow me to use a smartwatch as a phone replacement. All the info I’ve been able to find so far is stuff like this. Info on the watches, but nothing on finding a carrier to support said watch. Useful info, but not everything I need to replace my smartphone with a smartwatch. Any articles that could help me with that?

Reply
Digiswitch Editors May 2, 2019 at 11:20 am

Hi Jim, depends on which country you live in, the carriers that support LTE connectivity for your standalone watch might have different requirements/limitations. In the U.S. for example, all the major carriers – T Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint – supports the LTE version of Samsung Galaxy watch. On the Samsung official product page, there is fine print stating that “AT&T Customer will need to go to AT&T store or contact AT&T customer care to get the QR code card for activation”. Similar story for Sprint. You might need to talk to a customer rep of your current phone carrier or visit the store about what sort of data plan are they able to support for standalone watches. Hope this helps!

Reply
Jim May 4, 2019 at 7:51 pm

I haven’t talked to a rep in a store, but I have been researching this online. The major carriers I’ve researched here in the U.S. won’t support a Samsung Galaxy watch as a true standalone device. They all require you to also have a compatible Android phone through them as well. Verizon specifically requires you to use their number sharing feature.

Reply
Digiswitch Editors May 7, 2019 at 3:05 pm

Hi Jim, indeed Samsung Galaxy Watch uses eSim (briefly talked about in the post as well) similar to Apple Watch, which essentially means it doesn’t come with a simcard slot and will need to work alongside a smartphone (does not have to be Android phone, it works with iOS or later iPhones). See a full list of compatible mobile devices here https://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/galaxy-watch/device-compatibility/. If you get one of those “unlocked” Galaxy watches, there is no guarantee that you can get it to connect to a mobile network. In short, you will need to pay some extra fees to your local carrier to set up a secondary LTE device (the watch) that works in conjunction with your primary LTE device (your phone).

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