Apple WatchOS 10 May Open Up Pairing Options for the Watch

No iPhone required

  • Apple will soon let you pair your Apple Watch with multiple devices, including iPad and Mac.
  • You may no longer be tethered to an iPhone for software updates, etc.
  • iPad mini+Apple Watch makes a killer portable combo.
Closeup on someone with their arm raised as they look at information on an Apple Watch.

Luke Chesser / Unsplash

Soon, your Apple Watch may finally be free of that pesky iPhone—free to hook up with the partner of its choice, like an iPad or even a Mac. 

Right now, you must pair an Apple Watch with an iPhone. Even the cellular Apple Watch has to have a parent iPhone for setup and ongoing support. Now, though, Watch Independence Day is getting closer, as Apple supposedly works on a software update to let users pair their watch with multiple devices.

"Apple is definitely trying to make the Apple Watch more independent from the iPhone—much like it did with the iPad and the Mac. By expanding the device's compatibility with other Apple devices, users will have more options for how they can use the watch and won't be as reliant on their iPhone to access its features," Kyle MacDonald, VP of mobile device deployment company Mojio, told Lifewire via email. "This also opens up new use cases for the device—like using it as a remote control for music playback or as a fitness tracker during a workout when you don't have your iPhone handy."

Control Your Apple Watch Your Way

iPhone and Apple Watch pairing goes two ways. The Watch relies on the iPhone for its internet connection, to receive alerts, and for the data required to show app data, like the weather forecast. But the Apple Watch can also control the iPhone, for example, with its media playback controls, which let you skip tracks, navigate podcasts, change volume, etc. 

Closeup on someone looking at the Activity Rings on their Apple Watch.

Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

The problem is, some folks might prefer to pair their Apple Watch with an iPad or a Mac. Or with all of their devices. For example, if you have a cellular iPad mini, why can't you take that out with you and leave the iPhone at home? Or just not buy an iPhone at all? 

And then there's the fact that the iPhone is already very portable, probably in your pocket, and doesn't really need a remote control at all. 

"I can somewhat control media playing on my iPhone, which is nice (when it works), but really, my iPhone is far more portable than my Mac. It would be tremendously more useful to control media playing on a Mac, which I mostly don't carry in my pocket," Watch user Reggaenald said in a Macrumors forum thread participated in by Lifewire. 

I stream music from my iPhone to my AirPlay speakers, even while working on my Mac or reading on the iPad. I would much prefer to stream that music from the iPad or Mac, but I like to be able to skip tracks and control the volume from my wrist. In fact, because of the Watch, I rarely use my iPhone at home. And I am also one of those people who would prefer not to have a phone at all and use an iPad with a watch instead. 

WatchOS 10 Could Mean Device Independence

This has happened before. The first iPhone had to be 'activated' by plugging it into iTunes on your computer via a USB cable. You also needed a computer to apply software updates. Over the years, the iPhone became independent, and now it can do everything, including software updates, itself. Well, almost everything. You still need the Apple Music app on your Mac to add music to your iPhone's music library.

An Apple watch sitting atop an iPhone with AirPods and an iPad displaying Apple Music nearby.

Thomas Kolnowski / Unsplash

The Apple Watch is already paired with your iPad in limited ways. Apple Fitness+ displays metrics from your Apple Watch—heart rate, etc.—on the screen of the iPad while you do a workout, and you can play or pause the workout from your Watch.

We are seeing the development of the Apple Watch as its own platform. First, it was just an accessory, then—with the cellular option—it started to break away. One day, it might make sense for your Apple Watch to be fully independent, your primary device, although at that point, you'll probably be using it to control Apple's AR/VR headset and using that as a big screen for the Watch. And one wonders if the AR headset will become an independent platform that can be used standalone.

Until then, let us choose which device we want to pair with the Apple Watch. For many people, a cellular iPad plus Apple Watch might be all they need. At the very least, let us choose which device to pair for music playback. That would be an excellent start. 

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