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Apple Watch can now be used without an iPhone

Apple Watches can now be set up with a parent’s device, which means kids and older family members can have an Apple Watch without needing a paired iPhone.



At Apple’s online-only event last night, it announced Family Setup for watchOS 7. This takes the communication, health, fitness, and safety features of the Apple Watch to kids and older family members of the household who do not have an iPhone. Apple Watches can now be set up through a parent’s iPhone, so kids can connect with family and friends through phone calls and Messages via Wi-Fi or eSIM, stay motivated with personalized Activity goals, and make avatars on their wrist with Memoji.

Family Setup makes it possible for the entire family to benefit from the health and safety features of Apple Watch, like fall detection and Emergency SOS, while Maps, Siri, Alarms, and the App Store provide greater independence without needing an iPhone. In addition, parents will have peace of mind knowing they can reach their child and identify their location, and that all personal data stays securely encrypted.

“For family members who do not have an iPhone, Apple Watch offers a remarkable set of features that can help them keep in touch with loved ones, be more active, and stay safe,” says Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “With Family Setup, we’re thrilled to extend these features to the entire family, so everyone can gain more independence and live a healthier life.”

To mark this, Apple released the Apple Watch SE, which is an affordable version of Apple Watch Series 5 with a few features added and removed. The Watch SE also features a new speaker and microphone, which are optimized for better sound quality for phone calls, Siri, and Walkie-Talkie, along with Bluetooth 5.0. It doesn’t, however, have the Always-On display technology.

Six variations of Apple Watch SE.
The Apple Watch SE

Staying Connected

With Family Setup, family members without iPhone can take advantage of the many features and apps on Apple Watch, from making and receiving phone and FaceTime audio calls, to sending and receiving messages and emails, and connecting with other Apple Watch wearers over Walkie-Talkie. The new Memoji app on Apple Watch allows users to customise a Memoji that can be shared while messaging friends or displayed as a watch face. Parents have the ability to approve all contacts, so kids can safely use the communication features of Apple Watch.

Kids and older family members of the household using Family Setup with an LTE Apple Watch will have their own phone number through a separate cellular plan. By using their own Apple ID, they can follow their schedule and family events using Calendar, learn to manage tasks with Reminders, and view photo albums synced from a guardian’s iPhone.

In the US with the new Apple Cash Family, parents can securely send their kids money to spend on their watch using Apple Pay. Parents can choose to receive notifications when their kids pay, and view their child’s purchases right in Wallet app on their iPhone.

A family member’s location can be shared with their guardian through the Find People app on the Apple Watch, and location notifications are more customisable, allowing the guardian to receive an update on their family member’s location for one occasion, or on a recurring or time-based schedule.


The Activity rings experience has been optimised for kids to track Move minutes instead of calories burned and provide customizable goals for the Exercise and Stand rings. Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Run, and Outdoor Cycle workouts have been specifically tuned for kids, giving appropriate credit for Move minutes, exercise, distance, and other metrics, while coaching notifications are tailored to relevant reading levels and made fun with emoji. Kids can also send and receive Activity Sharing invitations directly on Apple Watch, challenge friends with Activity Competitions, and see a new Awards page so milestones can be celebrated on their wrist.

Health and Safety

With Emergency SOS, family members using Family Setup can easily access emergency services using the side button, and guardians will be automatically notified if they are listed as an emergency contact. Kids can also reference their Medical ID, which documents critical information such as medical conditions, allergies, and medications. With permission, guardians can see a full view of their family member’s health and activity through the Health app on iPhone, and kids and older adults can view their shared information through Settings on their Apple Watch.


Using the App Store on Apple Watch, kids can download third-party apps directly on device. Apps such as ClassDojo, Coloring Watch, and LookUp: English Dictionary can educate and encourage good habits, while Calm features kid-specific mindfulness experiences. With Family Setup, parents can manage what is available for download through Content Restrictions and Ask to Buy support.

Schooltime and Downtime

Family Setup brings a new mode called Schooltime, which will help ensure kids stay focused and attentive while learning at home or in the classroom. During Schooltime, a distinctive yellow circle is displayed on the watch face for teachers and parents to easily recognize, signifying that access to apps is restricted and Do Not Disturb is turned on. For convenience, parents can also set the schedule on their iPhone so the Apple Watch automatically goes into Schooltime during certain hours, or turn it on from Control Center on the child’s watch. To support responsible usage of the device, the Downtime feature of Screen Time extends to the Apple Watch, with the child receiving a reminder five minutes before it begins.

Optimisations for Older Adults

watchOS 7 also offers optimized features for older adults, adding to the powerful set of health and safety tools currently available, including fall detection and irregular heart rhythm notifications. The latest software makes Apple Watch easier to use and set up, starting with a refreshed X-Large face that shows the time and a rich widget at a glance. Activity goals can be customised to help users stay motivated, while the new Health Checklist in the Health app on iPhone offers the ability to track whether health features like fall detection have been enabled in one centralised view.

Availability and Activation

  • Family Setup will be available on Wednesday, September 16, as a free software update and requires cellular models of Apple Watch Series 4 or later or Apple Watch SE running watchOS 7, paired with iPhone 6s or later running iOS 14.