Travel Tech

Yes! Apple Watches Finally Have International Roaming – Maybe Even the One You Have Now!

Written by Charlie

Great news for the international traveler! Apple Watches will finally have international roaming – and that includes a watch you may already have!

Finally! This is something I hammer Apple on every year and they have finally delivered it – the Apple Watch that is actually suited for the international traveler! And, you may already have one!

The Apple Watches Will Now Have International Roaming

This is a problem I have seen with Apple Watches ever since they got cellular capability – the inability to use them with cellular connectivity outside of their home coverage area. That means that if you bought a watch in the US, if you were traveling in Europe, you could not use the watch on cellular networks.

That is terrible! First of all, I and many others sometimes would like to leave our phone back in our hotel room, especially if going out for a workout or something. But, if you are in a strange city, you may need to check for directions or make a call in an emergency. Can’t do that with the Apple Watch unless you are tied to your phone!

But, that has all changed! This is something that was a headliner at the Apple Event today so it is something you can bet they are going to make sure works well. They say by the end of the year, it will work with the carriers you see below and you can just add international roaming to your plan.

Even better news – this will work on all Apple Watch cellular models from Series 5 and up, as long as they are running on Apple WatchOS 9.

This is great news and also shows that they always had that capability but chose not to enable the software on it until now. This will be available by the end of the year with the carriers above.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

15 Comments

  • Hey Charlie, aren’t that fantastic news!

    What really would interest me is the fact why, despite the announcement of international roaming, two different models for the US and the wider EU market are being offered and the Apple site again explicitly states that, for example, the EU version as a standalone (cellular) is not working with the bands/frequencies in the USA and vice versa.
    I travel a lot between Germany and the US and have mobile phone plans in both countries that I could use for the AW.
    However, I don’t quite understand the problem or I just don’t have the technical knowledge of the difference between whether I can use a European watch with a German contract in the USA under the local networks/bands, but not a European model with a US plan!?
    I understand that there are different Bands and frequencies but shouldn’t this all be not a problem anymore after the announcement?
    Hope my question makes any sense.

    • Good points. My guess is that it may be due to either partnerships/regulation that maybe only activate certain bands? Or, maybe those bands can only work when being used through a carrier service agreement from the home country? It is odd but given that they are going all the way back to Series 5 on this, I understand why they kept Series 8 separate still – why make new radios for this watch when all the previous 3 series watches will work with new software/firmware?

  • Charlie, thank you for confirming the Apple Watch roaming update. To be clear, I have ordered a Series 8 in London for delivery next week. I will be relocating to the USA next year and yesterday the guys in the Regent Street Apple store confirmed that when I eventually move I will be able to replace my current O2 contract with a US carrier contract and the cellular functions on the Series 8 Watch would work as if the Watch had been bought in the US. Is this your understanding?

  • Hi, Dino – I honestly cannot say for sure. Here is what Apple says about the Apple Watch Series 8 (which has been pretty standard so far):
    To cover the LTE and UMTS bands used around the world, there are two separate cellular models for Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE, and Apple Watch Ultra. They have been optimized for use in the country of purchase, and not all models work in all countries or regions. There is no single model that supports cellular service worldwide. To see which carriers in your country or region offer cellular service for Apple Watch, refer to the chart below
    Here’s the link – https://www.apple.com/watch/cellular/#table-apple-watch
    So, while they work for roaming, I am not sure if the foreign carriers are actually able to activate a watch purchased in the US on their own networks. I may try it out in Greece with my soon-coming Apple Watch Ultra. If I do and it works, I’ll update this post with that info! Thanks!

    • So far, I have been unable to get a US purchased Apple Watch Ultra to activate with local carriers in Cyprus and when using the US carrier eSim on the iPhone I get the message that roaming is not supported on the watch.

  • Thanks Charlie. Having read the Apple note I went into the Apple store this morning and spoke separately to three of the assistants all of whom were adamant that I could buy a series 8 watch in the UK and use an O2 iPhone contract for roaming in the US (which we know) but they also confirmed that when I move permanently to the US the watch could be de-linked from O2 and linked as normal to a new US phone and contract without any issue. They did also say that wasn’t possible for all countries eg China. I will collect the new watch on Friday and I suppose time will tell whether they’re right when I relocate next summer!

    • Hey Dino,
      that’s what I was hoping to hear. But frankly speaking I got some information back in the days from guys from the Apple Store to very specific questions and in the end it wasn’t right what they said.

      As I wrote in my question with for example an german Vodafone plan including (german) AW use on the same number/plan it wasn’t possible in the past to roam even when you just travel in Eurowings and now with the international roaming I was hoping that at least the german AW can connect to AT&T, Visible (which is Verizon I believe) or whatever plan I want to use over roaming.
      But what’s very confusing to me is the fact that Apple still offers two different models of f.e. the Ultra or 8 and state that it could be that it’s not working. Or maybe that’s just the disclaimer because they didn’t enroll the option yet!?
      I know that if you would use T Mobile in the US, which is actually a german Company, you could use the AW before with roaming in both countries.
      I’m just hoping that I don’t overspend on the Ultra just because I have to buy it twice when I move back to the US.

      However thanks for showing that’s not just me having the same problem. I would really appreciate it if you would share your experience.
      Also thank you Charlie to response to my question. Maybe there are more out there who can use this information.
      Stay safe guys

      • I think you are right to be concerned but I’m not sure what else I can do to confirm. Perhaps I should get Apple store to write to confirm so if it doesn’t work I can return the watch!

        if you find out any more please don’t forget to post as I’m sure we are not alone with the question.

  • Alright guys, I guess I got a bit of an more detailed answer from a friend of mine who’s working for Apple.
    He said that there will be always two different models because of the different coverages and that there will not be only one model in future which can cover the whole world. So good so far.
    But he also said that they already working on getting wider ranges prepared for both models (and older models starting from S5 like announced at the keynote)
    And when I checked the support page today I’ve seen indeed changes to the listed band support compared to last week’s listings.

    If you check out the link below you’ll see a lot of matching bands and frequencies on both models (US and wider EU).
    So with this and the information you Dino got from the guys at the Apple Store and my source from Apple I’m (almost) confident that at least for you with an UK watch (O2 carrier) and me with an German watch (Vodafone carrier) (which both using almost the same bands and frequencies) are able to use them with an US plan after we relocate to the US.
    I’ve learned that most carriers in Europe using Band 1 (2100 Mhz), 3 (1800 Mhz), 7 (2600 Mhz), 20 (800 Mhz) and 66.
    Most of them are now listed for both models and I’m sure it’s similar to the other models from Series 5 to 8.
    I hope that helps.
    Keep me posted if you have any more news.
    Take care guys.

    https://www.apple.com/watch/cellular/

    • Hey Gents – I read the thread but I’m still unclear on a specific scenario: I have a Sunrise (switzerland) and a Verizon (US) contract, and like you guys I travel back and forth quite a bit so would like to buy an apple watch Ultra that I can use with both contracts. Questions: (pardon my lack of technical expertise)

      1. With the updated list from Apple (https://www.apple.com/watch/cellular/) , can I buy an AWU from Sunrise and use it with my Verizon contract when in the US?
      2. If the two networks are compatible, is it better to buy it with the Verizon plan or the Sunrise plan, or does it not matter?

      Thanks a million for anyone’s support on this.

      • Hi, Christopher – I think it may depend on where you are spending the most time. With Verizon, for instance, you will need to pay for international roaming on your phone which can get expensive. It should work in Switzerland roaming without a major problem (could be some holes in coverage, depending on the local network covering that area and their agreement with Verizon).
        Also, the main issue seems to be that the European model is missing some bands that US carriers MAY use in certain locations/scenarios. So, the US model should have more frequency bands available to it (though maybe those bands are blocked in Europe?).
        I was hoping to figure it out a bit more as I just got mine but turns out that Greece doesn’t have a carrier that offers support for an Apple Watch add-on yet (at least Vodafone doesn’t). Big bummer but I will try it out on Verizon on my next trip between the US and Europe to see and then update.

        • Also, everyone, I was reminded that the international roaming is supposed to come sometime later this year. So, not here yet! Also, the early partners in the US are Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Let’s see who else jumps on that wagon as well.

  • I’m trying to locate the video for your first image that has “International Roaming” indicated. Which event was this? I can’t locate it. Thanks!

  • Hello everybody. Has anyone successfully activated an international version of their apple watch with the US cellular carriers? I’m currently in Japan and purchased one a few weeks ago. I was also told that it shouldn’t be an issue by Apple chat support and an Apple Store employee (prior to purchase) as long as the majority of cellular bands are compatible. I realize service may not be as optimal as a US version since the proprietary US cellular bands are not supported on the world version of the watch.

    However, I’m getting mixed advice from my home carrier, Verizon. One chat support agent said it wasn’t compatible another said it should work. For what it’s worth T-Mobile’s online IMIE check says it is compatible. I may end up switching carriers when I’m back in the States primarily because T-Mobile has free international roaming with some plans. I live in a somewhat rural area in the States so Verizon has always been king, but with recent t-mobile coverage expansion this maybe the straw that breaks that camels back if I can not get it activated with Verizon. I feel like I’m overpaying for the quality of service already. Anyways, I digress.

    I’ll be back in the USA next month and will give an update if I can successfully activate the international version, but if anybody has any update of their own, please let me know.

    Thank you and safe travels.