Apple is finally untethering the Apple Watch from the iPhone… sort of.
While you’ve always been able to pair multiple Apple Watches with a single iPhone, these all had to be associated with a single user, and in the case of cellular Apple Watches, a single phone number. Now, however, it will be possible for multiple people to use Apple Watches all paired with a single iPhone.
The primary objective here seems to be to allow kids to have an Apple Watch of their own without necessarily having an iPhone. This would allow for them to enjoy the fitness features, but they’ll also get their own phone number for making calls and sending and receiving texts, basically giving parents a way to stay in touch with their kids and also keep track of them through the standard iOS and watchOS location services features like Find My.
A full set of parental control features will be included as well, including the ability to restrict kids’ contacts, similar to how the iOS Screen Time feature currently works, as well as a “School Time” mode to limit distractions during class time by doing things such as enforcing Do Not Disturb and restricting other interactions. A distinct Watch face will also be displayed in this mode so teachers and parents can easily know when it’s enabled.
Kids will also be able to create Memojis directly on their watch and share them via stickers and Messages, and there’s also a new Memoji watch face too.
Unfortunately, this feature will be limited to cellular Apple Watch models, and the need for the watch to have a separate phone number also means it’s launching only on select carriers in a few regions. Right now that list includes AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile in the U.S., along with carriers in mainland China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and the U.K., although of course Apple promises that more will be coming.