Apple Watch 8 does not support 5G networks for GSM connectivity as we write this piece in January 2023.
Interestingly, the chip in Apple Watch 8 is compatible with the frequency bands used for 5G networks. It may be pertinent to mention that the 5G global network connectivity is provided through the UMTS chip on the Apple Watch 8 cellular series models.
UMTS chip allows an Apple Watch 8 to connect to a network provider. The network provider could be using a 4G network to provide network integration on the Apple Watch.
Check out the various bands offered for UMTS connectivity on the Apple Watch 8 on the Apple Watch’s specifications sheet. You will see the following frequency bands being used on the Apple Watch 8 UMTS chip for GSM connectivity.
Frequency bands supported on UMTS chip in Apple Watch 8 cellular model
- 2100 MHz
- 1900 MHz
- 1700/2100 MHz
- 850 MHz
Now, check the 5G compatible bands of Verizon and AT&T.
Verizon offers the following network bands for 5G network connectivity:
We can see that Verizon is compatible with the frequency bands supported by the UMTS chip on Apple Watch 8. Frequency bands 1900 MHz and 1700-2100 MHz overlap between Verizon and Apple Watch 8.
AT&T supports the following 5G frequency bands in the United States:
On a similar note, you will see that AT&T supports 5G on the 850 MHz band. And, this frequency band is also compatible with the Apple Watch 8 frequency band.
This implies that the Apple Watch 8 cellular series chip does carry some sort of compatibility with the 5G networks. But, it is quite possible that the 5G network connectivity may have not been enabled through Apple Watch 8 software and operating system.
XDA does mention that the reason to block 5G network connectivity on the Apple Watch 8 could be on account of battery concerns. Apple Watch 8 offers 18 to 24 hours of battery life. 5G network connectivity is battery intensive. The small size of the Apple Watch 8 battery may be ill-suited to providing 5G network connectivity.
And, XDA’s reasoning seems to be spot on. UMTS chip compatibility, notwithstanding, Apple Watch 8 may take a few iterations before being compatible with 5G networks in practice. Until that time, an Apple Watch 8 will continue to work with 4G capable devices and networks.