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Will this Vodafone service for smartwatches free us from our mobiles?

The freedom Vodafone OneNumber offers is worth paying for

Vodafone OneNumber
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Price: €5
Where To Buy: Vodafone

Smartwatches were supposed to free us from our phones, cutting the cord a little and giving us a bit of freedom from the screen. But to continue getting calls and messages, and stream music through your chosen service, you would still need your phone within Bluetooth range.

All that changed a few years ago, when smartwatch makers started offering watches with long-term evolution (LTE) capabilities built in. Goodbye smartphone, hello freedom, right? Well, not if you are in Ireland, where mobile networks weren’t exactly rushing to sign people up with watch-focused add-ons to their mobile plans.

Vodafone OneNumber is the first add-on to take advantage of that link, opening up the possibility of finally being able to ditch the smartphone while you pop out for a quick run or to the shops for 10 minutes.

The bad news? It’s only for Samsung Watch owners for now – and only certain watch models. If you have a cellular-enabled Watch 4 or 5, you can sign up for OneNumber; other brands are – for now at least – out in the cold.


So how do you get it? You have to be a Vodafone customer, either on a contract or SIM-only plan, as a personal or business customer; there is no access for pay-as-you-go customers.

The add-on itself can be added through your My Vodafone account – and also cancelled there too. You don’t have to sign up to a contract for OneNumber, so if you decide you no longer need it, you can just get rid of it, and be charged pro rata for the days you have used.

Activation takes a couple of minutes, and you’ll need to have mobile data active on your phone before you can add the service to your watch. But once it’s done, your watch will function as an independent extension of your phone, with the same number. A call to your phone will go to your watch too and you choose where to answer. Messages will appear on both devices too.

The plan takes everything from your existing Vodafone contract – data limits, call charges and so on. In fact the only thing it won’t do is combine your call history on the one device, so if you make a call on your watch, the record of it will stay on the watch rather than appear on your phone.

The service was tested with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, the company’s latest addition to its wearable line-up. This one is purely for Android users – no iOS support for it – and works best with Samsung’s own Galaxy smartphones. For more information on the ups and downs of the new wearable, see our review here.

Once the OneNumber service is active, you have access to the essential mobile services independent of your phone – calls, text messages, maps and streaming music. It was nice to leave the house without a smartphone in my pocket and know that if needed, I could still stay in touch. Getting used to tapping out a message on a small screen didn’t take long either.

If you plan on using your watch to make calls rather than simply send text messages, I’d recommend connecting a set of Bluetooth earbuds to your watch. It has its own microphone and speaker built in, but if you want a bit of privacy, or to hear your music as you walk or run you’ll need something extra.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. I had issues sending text messages at times, with the watch refusing to send the message despite having access to the mobile network and accepting calls without issue. It also refused to accept text messages, a situation that required some working through.

Other apps, such as as Maps, required initial activation through the phone before I could access them through the watch and OneNumber. So take some time to work through the watch and its functions before merrily dumping the phone at home and setting off and finding out a little too late that you can’t access a crucial function.

Overall, though, the experience was relatively trouble free. The watch kept a strong mobile connection, reflected by the usual signal bars and 4G indicator on the screen.

One thing it won’t do though? OneNumber can’t be used while roaming. So if you are away, you’ll need to keep your smartphone in Bluetooth range.


The OneNumber add-on is easy to add to your Vodafone account and activate the service. And once you have set up apps initially, they work relatively trouble free even once you lose connection to your smartphone.


This service would be welcomed by smartwatch users across the board, but at the moment it is only an option for Samsung Watch owners. That leaves Apple Watch users in the cold – for now at least.

There were one or two issues with activating services initially, but that was mainly a limitation of the watch rather than Vodafone’s service. But there is no roaming with OneNumber, so bear that in mind while travelling.

Everything else

When you sign up to OneNumber, it is an add-on rather than a contract service, so you can get rid of it as easily as you sign up – you aren’t committing to a 12-month or 24-month deal. You can only have one OneNumber add-on associated with your account, so if you change watch, you’ll need to transfer the plan.


It may not be essential to have your smartwatch independent of your phone’s internet connection, but the freedom is worth paying for – as long as you have a compatible device.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist