Does Apple Watch Work Without an iPhone?

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

The Apple Watch is designed to go hand-in-hand with the iPhone. Apple's smart watch uses the Watch app on the iPhone to set up the watch and customize it by downloading apps and choosing new watch faces. The Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5s or newer in order to go through the set up process, and an Apple Watch equipped with 4G connectivity will require at least an iPhone 6.

Unfortunately, the Watch app is not available for the iPad, so you will definitely need an iPhone in order to properly use the Apple Watch.

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

What Can the Apple Watch Do Without an iPhone?

If you want to get the most out of your Apple Watch without the need to bring along your iPhone, you can purchase a watch with Cellular connectivity. This will allow you to accept phone calls, receive text messages and stream music without using your iPhone. However, this will drain the Apple Watch's battery faster and is not recommended for all-day use.

But there are a number of things the Apple Watch can do without being connected to the iPhone even without a cellular connection. It can track your steps, measure heartbeat, analyze your sleep and give you calorie burn estimates for some activities. The newest watch can even perform an EKG.

You can listen to music with your Apple Watch with no need for an iPhone. The Watch can store 2 GB or more of music that can be streamed to Bluetooth headphones. Apple Pay and Passport are also available without connecting to an iPhone. 

And you can also do some of the basics you would expect in any digital watch, such as set an alarm, count down a timer, get a world clock, use it as a stopwatch, etc. Apple Watch can even connect to the Internet without the iPhone so long as you have connected to that particular Wi-Fi network before when you had both your iPhone and Apple Watch with you.  

Many third-party apps will work without the iPhone, although some still require the iPhone to do the heavy lifting.

Will the Apple Watch Ever Work With the iPad?

There's no doubt Apple Watch is designed to be a companion to the iPhone. Both can easily be taken with you wherever you go, whether that be to the coffee shop or to the gym. On the other hand, the iPad isn't quite so portable.

However, there is no technical reason why the Apple Watch cannot work with the iPad. The current limitations of the Apple Watch simply make pairing it with an iPhone a better experience, and because Apple wants to ensure customers have the optimal experience with the Apple Watch, an iPhone is required.

In the future, the Apple Watch will likely work as well with an iPad as it will with an iPhone. But this is unlikely to happen until the Apple Watch with Cellular can achieve close to all-day performance while using the 4G or cellular network. This will grant the Apple Watch independence from the iPhone for accepting phone calls and making text messages. Until then, you'll need an iPhone to enjoy an Apple Watch.

What Is the Difference Between Apple Watch Models?

The original Apple Watch was splash proof, but not swim-proof. The biggest difference between it and newer watches is a slower processor, but it can still run the same apps. The newest model also has the ability to perform an EKG.

  • Original Apple Watch. No longer available for sale, this model was splash proof but not swim proof.
  • Series 1. The first upgrade to the Apple Watch included a faster processor. This watch is no longer for sale.
  • Series 2. The Series 2 is the same watch as the Series 1 except that it adds a GPS chip for tracking your location and is swim proof. This watch is no longer for sale.
  • Series 3. The biggest feature of the Series 3 is the support for Cellular networks, which means you can place calls and send text messages without your iPhone. The Series 3 also detects elevation and supports Siri response, which makes interacting with the watch easier.
  • Series 4. A big splash was made with the Series 4 by including the ability to take an EKG. The Series 4 also has more sensitive motion controls allowing it to offer fall detection, which interacts with the S.O.S. feature by making it easy to place emergency calls and sending an automatic message if the watch doesn't receive a response after detecting a fall.