How Your Apple Watch Could Ditch the iPhone

More power on your wrist

Key Takeaways

  • Apple announced watchOS 8 during the Worldwide Developers Conference.
  • The updated operating system will bring new standalone features and support to the Apple Watch.
  • Experts say smartwatches that don’t require a connection to a phone could provide more user privacy and make them even more accessible to different types of users.
Three Apple Watches displaying watchOS8.

Apple

Smartwatches can be powerful tools, but at the moment, many require some kind of connection to your phone to operate completely. That could soon change as companies like Apple work to put more user control directly on your wrist.

WatchOS 8, announced Monday during the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), introduces several new features that will remove the need to pull out your smartphone in many instances, including support for Ultra Wideband (UWB)—the tech used to set up things like digital keys for your car and smart home systems. Experts say we could see an Apple Watch that doesn’t need to be connected to your iPhone if this trend continues.

"Right now, most people who buy a smartwatch already keep their phone on them at all times. Obviously, this is a necessity, but creating an Apple watch that can work independently of a smartphone would be a valuable business move for Apple," Christen da Costa, a tech expert and CEO at GadgetReview, told Lifewire in an email.

"But the people who want an Apple watch for its many great features but don't want to add another $600 or more on top of that for an iPhone, will now have options. Even people who own iPhones can decide if they want to just wear their watch."

Building Out

Despite already offering some sense of independence, Apple Watches still very much rely on the connection to your phone to make the most of all of its apps. Even Apple apps like Health can only be utilized fully on your iPhone, offering relatively limited experiences on the watch, itself.

"The people who want an Apple watch for its many great features but don't want to add another $600 or more on top of that for an iPhone, will now have options."

This is obviously something that we’ve seen changing of late, especially as companies like Spotify and Tidal have brought standalone applications to the watch. With watchOS 8, Apple appears to be following in their footsteps and will start offering more advanced features on the watch that don’t require you to interact with your phone.

Some of the most notable options here include the addition of UWB support, which will allow you to start your car using your Apple Watch or even unlock the doors of your house if you have a smart lock setup.

Apple also is adding new features to the Wallet app on the watch, including saving your driver’s license or state ID to Wallet. An update to messages also will make it simpler to compose and respond to texts on the Apple Watch, which means you can reply to messages you get without having to pull your phone out.

While these aren’t features that everyone will use, they are a step towards an even more independent Apple Watch. As more developers continue to offer full-featured applications directly on the watch, we could see Apple following suit once more and expanding the features included on the watch when it ships.

Building on Its Promises

You already can install a sim card in your Apple Watch to make it easier to connect with others, but until Apple completely embraces the idea of a standalone Apple Watch, there always will be some need for you to have your phone nearby—just in case you need it.

Closeup of someone wearing an Apple Watch on their wrist.

Luke Chesser / Unsplash

With some of the features that Apple is introducing in watchOS 8, though, the need for that constant phone connection does slim down some. It’s also possible that we could see more applications taking the Spotify and Tidal approach by delivering standalone experiences for the Apple Watch, designed wholly around interacting with them from your wrist.

Health always has been a big part of Apple’s push with the Apple Watch, too, and experts like Michael Fischer, a healthcare expert and the founder of Elite HRT, say that a standalone smartwatch could open new doors for healthcare possibilities.

"Smartwatches like these could also have a health-based emphasis and continue to grow in that market, particularly with elderly and other at-risk populations who maybe do not have everything connected to their other devices, " Fischer said.

"It can make usability much easier for those markets and allow for at-risk populations to still read their health statistics, get reminders, and other features to adhere to their needs."

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