Normally, Apple Watch owners need to pair their device with an iPhone during the setup process. However, thanks to the iOS 14 and watchOS 7 releases, there’s now a way around that requirement via a new feature called Family Setup.
Through Family Setup, one family member can set up an Apple Watch for a child or another family member who doesn’t own an iPhone. There is no limit to the number of family members you can add here. For school-age children, you can also enable an option called Schooltime to set limits on how long and when a child can use their watch.
Any Apple Watch set up through this process can make and receive calls, send and receive messages, and use a variety of watch features, including Health, Activity, App Store, Emergency SOS, Fall Detection, and Noise Notifications.
Even though an iPhone isn’t necessary for everyone involved, there are still certain conditions everyone must meet. You will need an iPhone 6s or later with iOS 14 or later for the initial setup process. Each person will need an Apple Watch Series 4 or later with cellular or an Apple Watch SE with cellular and watchOS 7 or later.
A cellular plan isn’t required to set up the watch for a family member but is necessary for certain features. Everyone will need an Apple ID with Family Sharing enabled.
Update to iOS 14 and watchOS 7
First, you’ll need to update your iPhone to iOS 14 or higher if you haven’t already done so. On your phone, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Your phone will indicate that your software is up to date or prompt you to download and install the latest update.
Next, you’ll have to update your Apple Watch to watchOS 7 or higher. Open the Watch app on your iPhone and go to General > Software Update. Your iPhone will either indicate that you have the latest update for your watch or it will prompt you to download and install it.
Pair iPhone to Apple Watch
Power up the watch you want to set up and place it near your iPhone. Wait until you see Use your iPhone to set up this Apple Watch on your iPhone and then tap Continue. If this message doesn’t appear, open the Watch app on your phone, tap the All Watches link at the top, then tap the Add Watch link. Tap Set Up for a Family Member. At the next screen, tap Continue.
Read the Data & Privacy screen. You can tap Learn More to read additional information about Apple’s data and privacy. If you’re comfortable continuing, tap Continue and read the screen on “How Family Setup Works,” then tap Continue.
On the Apple Watch, select the options for language and region and tap the Start Pairing button if necessary. Move your phone above the watch until the swirling circle is captured through the camera. You should then receive a message that the Apple Watch is paired. Tap the Set Up Apple Watch button.
Set Up Apple Watch
You then choose the orientation of the Digital Crown and whether the watch will be on the left or right wrist. Tap Continue and agree to the Terms and Conditions.
Move the slider to select the size of the text and decide if you want to turn on the switch for Bold Text. Tap Continue, then tap Create a Passcode and type a passcode on the watch.
You must then choose the family member for whom you’re setting up this watch. Here, you can also opt to add a new family member. At the next screen, have the family member sign in with their Apple ID password, then tap Next.
If the family member is already using an Apple device such as an iPad, a temporary verification code is sent to that device. Type that code to continue. If the person has set up iCloud, another screen pops up titled Continue Setup on Apple Watch to deal with backups and encryption. Click the Learn More link to find out more about restoring personal data in iCloud.
Continue the setup on the watch by entering the passcode the person uses for their Apple device. This action will sign into their Apple account and restore all of the saved passwords and other encrypted data stored in iCloud.
The screen for Cellular Setup explains that if the watch is not connected to a Wi-Fi network, the user can still make and receive calls and use cellular data for apps such as Siri, Messages, and Mail. To skip the cellular setup, tap Not Now. Otherwise, tap Set Up Cellular. Sign into the person’s cellular account with their carrier.
Next, tap the Share button to share the Wi-Fi password for your local network with the watch. You can then enable or disable location services and opt to use Siri.
You can also choose to share analytics with Apple and enable or disable Messages in iCloud. At the next screen, tap the Request Health Data button to let the family member view their health information on the watch. Tap Continue at the Emergency SOS screen.
Tap Choose Photo Album to set up a photo album to use as a watch face. Tap Continue to allow the person to add and manage contacts via iCloud. Finally, click OK at the Welcome to Apple Watch screen. The watch is now ready and accessible for the family member.
After the setup, you can customize, control, and manage the watch through the Watch app on your iPhone. To do this, open the Watch app. The All Watches screen may automatically pop up. If not, tap All Watches.
You should see both your own watch and your family member’s watch. Tap the one for your family member, then tap Done.
You’ll now see the full screen for managing your family member’s watch. The General screen takes you to the About screen with info about the watch and to the Software Update screen to update the watch.
From the settings screen, you can also tweak the options for Activity, App Store, Contacts, Handwashing, Health, Messages, Workout, and other apps and features.
Back at the settings screen, tap the option for Schooltime. This feature eliminates distractions on the person’s watch by enabling Do Not Disturb mode and displaying a watch face that can’t be changed. Turn on the switch and tap the entry for Edit Schedule.
Here, you can enable the Schooltime schedule for every day, every weekday, or on a customized basis. Then choose the From and To times to set when Schooltime takes effect.
Unpair Apple Watch
Finally, if the family member ever does get an iPhone and wants to use their own phone with their watch, you can unpair it from your own iPhone. To do this from the Watch app on your phone, go to All Watches and tap the Info icon next to the other person’s phone. Tap the entry for Unpair Apple Watch.
Enter the person’s Apple ID password. Wait for the watch to be unpaired, and the other person can then set up the watch with their own iPhone.