Can Apple Watch Work Without iPhone?

Are you really stuck with your iPhone when you have an Apple Watch?

Apple Watch is designed to go hand-in-hand with iPhone. You use the Watch app on your iPhone to set up Apple Watch, and then customize your wearable by downloading apps, choosing new watch faces, and selecting complications. The latest operating system for Apple Watch, watchOS 6, requires an iPhone 6s or later running iOS 13 or later to complete the setup process.

The Watch app is not available for iPadOS.

You can, however, do a lot with your Apple Watch even when you don't have your iPhone with you. Take a look!

Illustration of Apple Watch near an iPhone (yes) and an iPad (no)
Lifewire / Alex Dos Diaz

What Can Apple Watch Do Without an iPhone?

To use your Apple Watch without having to bring along your iPhone, you need a watch model with the GPS + Cellular connectivity option. Then, you can accept phone calls, receive text messages, and stream music on your watch without using your iPhone. Note, however, that doing so drains the watch's battery faster and isn't recommended for all-day use.

But Apple Watch can do a lot without being connected to your iPhone, even without a cellular connection:

  • Track your steps.
  • Measure your heartbeat.
  • Analyze your sleep.
  • Give you calorie burn estimates for some activities.
  • Monitor your heart with an electrical heart sensor and ECG app (Apple Watch Series 3 and later).
  • Listen to music. (Apple Watch can store 2 gigabytes or more of music that you can stream to Bluetooth headphones.)
  • Use Apple Pay and Passport.
  • Set an alarm or timer.
  • Use the watch as a stopwatch.
  • Connect to the internet without the iPhone as long as you have connected to the particular Wi-Fi network before when you had both your iPhone and Apple Watch with you.

Many third-party (that is, non-Apple) apps will work without the iPhone, but some still require an iPhone to do the heavy lifting.

Will Apple Watch Ever Work With iPadOS?

Apple Watch is designed as a companion technology to the iPhone. An iPad isn't quite as portable as an iPhone, but there's no technical reason why Apple Watch can't work with iPadOS as it does with iOS. The current limitations of Apple Watch simply make pairing it with an iPhone a better experience — always top of mind for Apple.

In the future, Apple Watch could work as well with the iPad as it does with the iPhone, but not until Apple Watch with GPS + Cellular connectivity can achieve all-day performance while using a 4G or cellular network. Only then will Apple Watch be independent of the iPhone while still handling phone calls, text messaging, and all the other functionality for which an iPhone is currently required.