Skip to main content

What you can (and can’t) do on your Apple Watch without your iPhone

The Apple Watch has seen enormous success. In fact, it’s the most popular item in Apple’s quickly expanding Wearables, Home, and Accessories division, which also includes Apple AirPods.

Since the Apple Watch was released in 2015, the smartwatch has gone through a number of makeovers and gained several new features. People love the Apple Watch for its durability, water resistance, and fitness-tracking abilities. Early versions of the watch could measure your activity levels, heart rate, and several other health metrics. Later versions even come with tools like ECGs (electrocardiograms) that can tell you when your heartbeat is abnormal and oximeters that can measure your blood oxygen levels.

But the Apple Watch isn’t just for fitness enthusiasts. It has a variety of features that make it a hit with a wide range of demographics. The most recent addition to the Apple Watch family is the Series 7. In addition to the new Apple Watch Series 7, Apple still sells the Apple Watch SE and the Series 3.

But is the Apple Watch a good standalone device? What good is having an Apple Watch if you need to lug your iPhone around all the time for it to work?

In this article, we’ll talk about the watch features you can and can’t use on your Apple Watch without your phone.

Can you use your Apple Watch without your iPhone?

You’ll definitely need an iPhone to setup and pair your watch; you can’t even activate the watch using another Apple product, like a Mac, Apple TV, or iPad. The Apple Watch app only works with the iPhone.

Apple’s choice to make its smartwatch a companion device to the iPhone has been controversial. An iPhone isn’t cheap, and not everyone wants to shell out the cash to use the watch. Also, companies like Google have been more lenient. Android watches are compatible with other operating systems, including iOS.

However, there’s some indication that Apple is working to make things more convenient for its customers and could relax some restrictions in the future.

In the meantime, though, you’ll need access to an iPhone with an Apple ID for your watch to work. But that doesn’t mean you need to carry your iPhone around all the time. Once you’ve activated your Apple Watch, there’s plenty that the watch can do without your phone nearby.

Nine things you can do on your Apple Watch without your iPhone

One of the main appeals of the Apple Watch is that it’s lightweight and fits comfortably on your wrist. It’s designed for users on the go.

If the Apple Watch only worked in the vicinity of an iPhone, it wouldn’t be nearly as attractive to active users. In the next few sections, we’ll explain some of the functions your Apple Watch can perform all by itself.

Note: All Apple Watches are compatible with Wi-Fi networks, but to do some tasks on your watch, you’ll need to connect it to a cellular network. Apple Watches with cellular capabilities usually run around $100 more than their strictly Wi-Fi counterparts, and require an additional cellular plan through your carrier.

Listen to music

If you have favorite tunes from your Apple Music playlists downloaded on your watch, you can listen to them on Bluetooth headphones from anywhere without your phone.

You’ll also be able to stream music from services like Apple Music or Spotify if you’re near a Wi-Fi network or if your watch has cellular connectivity.

Listen to podcasts

While the first few Apple Watch models had 8GB of storage, newer versions — like the SE and Series 7 — have 32 GB of storage. That’s plenty of space to download hours of podcasts, which you can listen to on your watch phone-free.

Just like music, however, you’ll need a cellular network connection or you’ll need to be near a Wi-Fi network to stream new podcasts that weren’t previously downloaded.

Make purchases through Apple Pay

Apple Pay is an extremely convenient application that works with every Apple Watch. Your Apple Wallet stores your credit card or debit card information and uses it to pay for items digitally.

After setting up the app, you can make contactless payments for things in the real world by simply tapping your watch to an NFC enabled payment terminal. Just make sure you’ve added your cards to your watch before leaving your phone behind.

You can use Apple Pay without your phone nearby and without a cellular or wireless connection. However, Apple Pay isn’t accepted everywhere because not all businesses and banks have the special terminals or credit card readers necessary to accept it.

Track activity

Even away from your iPhone, your Apple Watch can keep track of several important fitness metrics. It uses movement sensors to record things like how far you travel, how many calories you burn, and how much time you spend standing up.

It also knows when you’re working out and can sense when you’re doing various exercises, like riding a bike. Your watch can track your activity metrics without an internet or cellular connection.

Track health metrics

In addition to your activity, the Apple Watch can track several other health metrics without your phone, like your heart rate and blood oxygen level. The watch will notify you if it senses any serious abnormalities in your vitals so you can get to a doctor.

The Apple device even works while you’re sleeping and can tell you how long you sleep and the number of breaths you take per minute.

These functions don’t require a wireless or cellular connection to work, either.

Call and text

Your Apple Watch can make phone calls and send texts even when you’re away from your phone. To use this feature, though, you do need to be connected to a cellular or Wi-Fi network.

The Apple Watch Series 7 has a 20% bigger screen than the Series 6 and is the first Apple Watch that features a QWERTY keyboard. Still, it can be difficult to type messages using the small screen. Many users find it more convenient to send texts on the Apple Watch using speech-to-text with Siri.

Fall detection

If you have an Apple Watch Series 4 or later, you can use fall detection. The safety feature senses whenever you experience a hard impact. It then gives you the option to swipe to let the watch know you’re OK.

If you don’t swipe, the app will automatically contact 911. Fall detection is a great tool for older people who might have health issues.

While your watch can detect hard falls by itself, it will still need a Wi-Fi connection, a cellular connection, or an iPhone nearby to call emergency services.

Noise detection

With the Noise app, your Apple Watch can sense exactly how loud your environment is. The app will notify you if your space is loud enough to harm your hearing.

Noise makes use of your Apple Watch’s built-in microphone and doesn’t require an internet connection or a nearby phone.

Timers

Using the Timers app, your Apple Watch can set up several timers at once. This can come in handy if you’re preparing a meal, for instance, and need to pay attention to cooking times for several dishes simultaneously.

The Timers app will work without internet or cellular service.

Family Setup: How family members can use their own Apple Watches

Apple’s Family Setup plan gives people who have a family member with an iPhone, but don’t have one themselves, the opportunity to use an Apple Watch. This can be great for children who aren’t old enough to use smartphones responsibly and older people who might benefit from the safety and health apps the Apple Watch offers.

iPhone owners with Family Setup can also use Apple Cash Family for kids under 18. It lets a user receive and send money and make purchases with an Apple Watch using Apple Pay.

If you get Family Setup with Apple Cash Family, consider activating Ask to Buy to manage your children’s spending. It’ll notify you when purchases are made at the App Store or anywhere else. You can then quickly approve or deny those purchases.

Schooltime is another great feature of Family Setup that you can enable for your young students. It turns off notifications, updates, and features on an Apple Watch for a set period so your child can focus on their schoolwork.

However, watch users on a Family Setup plan who don’t have their own iPhone will need to be added to a cellular network to perform certain tasks, like texting.

FAQs

Can I set up my Apple Watch without an iPhone?

While the only way you can set up an Apple Watch is by using an iPhone, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your phone. With Apple’s Family Setup plan, several Apple Watches can operate from a single iPhone.

When you get a Family Setup plan, the iPhone owner can control which functions Apple Watch users can access. However, Apple Watch users on a family plan who don’t own iPhones will have to be on a cellular plan if they want to do things like make calls or send texts.

Can I connect my Apple Watch to Wi-Fi without an iPhone?

As long as you’ve already paired your Apple Watch to an iPhone, you can connect it to a Wi-Fi network without the phone present. Simply go to the settings on your watch and press “Wi-Fi.” Select the network you want to connect to and type in the password.

With your Apple Watch connected to Wi-Fi, you can make calls, send text messages, stream music and podcasts, keep up with weather and stock updates, use the Walkie-Talkie feature, and enjoy a variety of other functions — all without your phone present.

Can I use Apple Pay on Apple Watch without my iPhone?

You can set up Apple Pay on your Apple Watch using your paired iPhone. Choose “My Watch” on your iPhone and press “Wallet and Apple Pay.” Add your credit or debit card information.

Depending on your bank, you might have to follow a few extra steps to confirm your identity. Be sure to set up a default card if you have multiple cards.

Once you’ve set up Apple Pay on your watch, you can use it without your phone present. To make purchases with Apple Pay, move your Apple Watch near the payment terminal. You’ll see an image of your credit card.

Press the bottom side button twice and bring your watch face right next to the terminal. You’ll hear a beep when your payment goes through. Your watch will also notify you that you’ve made a transaction.

Can I use my Apple Watch with an Android?

As of now, Apple Watches are only compatible with iPhones. They don’t work with Android phones or even other Apple products, like the iPad Pro.

Editors' Recommendations