Buying GPS + Cellular Apple Watch Series 5 in the US - using it in Europe (Switzerland, Swisscom)

nygiants242

macrumors member
Original poster
Oct 11, 2007
96
1
If you buy a US GPS + Cellular Apple Watch, is it possible to activate and use in Europe with a supported European carrier? In short, I am hoping to buy the Watch here, explain how to use it to a family member, and have them set up the cell service when they return to Switzerland.

We asked Swisscom what LTE/GSM bands they use, and they overlap with the US model here: https://www.apple.com/watch/cellular/. Apple store employees aren't well equipped to answer this question (some say flat out NO - which I don't believe based on my research). Has anyone bought a recent watch, moved to Europe, and activated it with a European supported carrier? Many thanks!

Note: I understand that some of the US carriers (e.g. AT&T) don't support roaming - that is not the question here. It would be activated with a Swiss-Apple-Watch supported carrier. Thank you in advance!
 

nygiants242

macrumors member
Original poster
Oct 11, 2007
96
1
What else am I missing other than (1) checking out if the Swiss carrier is e-sim supported on that list and (2) if that Swiss carrier’s frequency bands are also supported by the US model = which is also true.

Apple Store manager in Miami is adamant without explanation that this wouldn’t work. Anyone have real experiences to share? E.g. moved to Europe with a cellular watch?

Also noticed that as the generations go on (Series 3 to 5) that the band frequency overlap between regions is much greater
 

dave006

Contributor
Jul 3, 2008
3,358
671
Just West of East
Note: I understand that some of the US carriers (e.g. AT&T) don't support roaming - that is not the question here. It would be activated with a Swiss-Apple-Watch supported carrier. Thank you in advance!
First, not all cellular carriers support the Apple Watch (GPS + Cellular) on their networks due to the cost and complexity to setup the needed back-end capability. So while EU countries support roaming of phones, watches don't fall in to that capability. The watch must be on the same carrier as the paired iPhone and the carrier must support the eSIM capability of the watch.

Just a note that no cellular carrier supports roaming for the Apple Watch (GPS + Cellular). While the paired iPhone can roam in EU and in the USA it's paired watch can't roam. This limitation in part of the design of how the carrier systems support the LTE capability of the Apple watch. The iPhone and the LTE watch have individual phone numbers but the carrier back-end systems allow them to appear to share the phone number of the paired iPhone.

Also roaming within a country or while traveling international is not supported for the Apple Watch (GPS + LTE).

Dave
 

Lyn2012

macrumors 6502a
Dec 26, 2007
603
209
My first watch will be arriving the day before I travel internationally. I already knew I couldn’t use the watch roaming (cellular) option, but are you saying that the GPS option, while connected to my phone that will be happily roaming, won’t work either? If so it will mean that there’s no point in even taking my new watch with me. Apologies if this is a stupid question but I’ve never had a smart watch before.
 

dave006

Contributor
Jul 3, 2008
3,358
671
Just West of East
No GPS will work just fine. You misunderstood my explanation of the Apple Watch function. The GPS function of your Apple Watch will work just fine while traveling, take your new Apple Watch on your trip and enjoy. Only the Cellular function if active can't roam outside of your home region.

As a reminder to save battery, just disable the Cellular toggle in the watch's Control Panel before you trip and enjoy the rest of the integration of your watch & iPhone.

Dave
 
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Lyn2012

macrumors 6502a
Dec 26, 2007
603
209
No GPS will work just fine. You misunderstood my explanation of the Apple Watch function. The GPS function of your Apple Watch will work just fine while traveling, take your new Apple Watch on your trip and enjoy. Only the Cellular function if active can't roam outside of your home region.

As a reminder to save battery, just disable the Cellular toggle in the watch's Control Panel before you trip and enjoy the rest of the integration of your watch & iPhone.

Dave
Many thanks for the clarification. I’m looking forward to trying the watch out.