You can now use an Apple Watch without a connected iPhone. Here’s how the Family Setup feature works.

Apple Watch Side

Before watchOS 7, anyone who wanted to use an Apple Watch needed a companion iPhone to set up and interact with the wearable device. But Apple’s Family Setup feature makes that requirement a concern of the past.

It’s designed for younger children or older adults without an iPhone. We’ll take a look at how Apple Watch Family Setup works and what you’ll need to get started.

What Is Family Setup?

With Family Setup, you can turn a cellular-enabled Apple Watch into a full-featured communication device without the need for an iPhone.

A family member will receive their own phone number and be able to place and receive phone calls, send and receive messages, share their location, and use many other features of the Watch. Just note that the additional watch will require its own cellular service plan.

The other family member will have their own separate Apple ID, so they can download apps, follow a family schedule, add reminders, and view photos from their parent’s iPhone.

One of the most popular features of the Apple Watch—fitness tracking—has also been improved for children. Instead of calories burned, the watch will track Move minutes. Many of the workouts, like an outdoor walk and outdoor run, are designed to track kids more accurately.

As a great safety precaution, parents can approve all of their kid’s contacts on the Apple Watch. The Watch using Family Setup is easy to find using the Find My app on an iPhone. Parents can better customize location alerts for one time, on a recurring basis, or a specific schedule.

Apple Watch Family Setup Find My

In the case of an emergency, Watch wearers can contact emergency services with the Emergency SOS feature. Parents will automatically be notified if they are listed as an emergency contact.

During the school day, parents don’t have to worry about the Apple Watch being a distraction. Parents can set a schedule for Schooltime mode. During that time, there is a specific simple watch face with the time, plus the Do Not Disturb functionality is turned on.

Apple Watch Schooltime Mode

Another tool to go along with the new family-friendly feature is Apple Cash Family. That will allow you to send money for children to make purchases with Apple Pay on the Watch. Parents can see notifications when a child makes a purchase and view the information in their Wallet app.

How to Use Family Setup

To begin, you’ll need to have a few items in place. Most importantly, you’ll need an Apple Watch for the family member. It must be a Series 4 model or later, or an Apple Watch SE, with cellular and watchOS 7 installed.

You’ll also need an iPhone 6s or later with iOS 14 or later installed. Both you and the other family member will need to have Apple IDs.

The family member’s ID also needs to be part of your Family Sharing setup. Take a look at our Apple Family Sharing explained primer to better understand how that feature works.

When you’re ready, put on the Apple Watch and turn it on using the side button. If the Watch isn’t new, you must erase and reset it.

You’ll then need to place the Apple Watch and iPhone near each other. Wait until a dialog box appears on the iPhone that says Use your iPhone to set up this Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Pairing Family Setup

After a few more steps, including selecting a passcode, assigning the Watch to a family member, and selecting cellular service, setup is complete and the Watch is ready to use.

Anyone Can Enjoy the Apple Watch With Family Setup

Thanks to Apple Watch Family Setup, you can give your kids or an older adult a great smartwatch without having to worry about the hassle of providing an iPhone as well.

If you’re looking to better protect the wearable device, there are many great cases and covers for Apple Watch.


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