Using a Cellular Apple Watch as Your Kid’s Cell Phone

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going Apple Watch only with your child
It is feasible to just send your child off to school with only an Apple Watch (Photo by Skip Owens)

When my 13-year-old told me she really didn’t want a smart phone but my wife and I needed to be able to reach her (since we both work) I immediately thought about the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular as an option instead of getting her a cell phone. Contrary to popular belief, going Apple Watch–only with your child REALLY can work as a replacement for carrying around a cell phone. It works even better for a younger person who has yet to be become addicted to the full power of a smart phone. This is a rather long article that hits the following major aspects of sending your child off with only a cellular enabled Apple Watch:

  • iPhone Requirements
  • iPhone & Apple Watch Cell Phone Numbers
  • Benefits of Going Apple Watch Only With Your Child
  • How to Manage Apple Watch Battery Life
  • Tips for Getting Around “Apple Watch Only” Pain Points

iPhone Requirements

But wait… don’t you also have to have an iPhone? Yes, going Apple Watch–only with your child still requires an iPhone in order to setup an Apple Watch (and you can’t just use your iPhone; it needs to be an iPhone with a phone number that is not currently in use by anyone else). So if you think getting your child an Apple Watch gets you out of having to also get them an iPhone… guess again. But that doesn’t mean it has to be super expensive. Most families these days hand down older generation iPhones as they upgrade phones, so ask around to see if any of your family members are itching for a new iPhone. If they aren’t, then getting a refurbished or a used iPhone is also an option. The Apple Refurbished online store is an excellent way to get an essentially new iPhone at a pretty good discount. Amazon and Gazelle are also good options to get a used iPhone at an even more discounted price. But as of right now you will need at least an iPhone 6 or newer iPhone in order to set it up and pair it with a cellular Series 3 Apple Watch.

Once you have an iPhone you will also need to have a cell phone plan for that iPhone. But what if you never intend to let your child even have access to that iPhone, much less carry it around? You still have to have cell service for that iPhone and here’s why. The cellular version of the Series 3 Apple Watch has what is called an eSIM and not a normal SIM card like most cell phones have. The eSIM is permanently soldered to the watch’s main board. In order to use the eSIM card the eSIM must be provisioned by the Apple Watch itself and that can only be done when it is paired with an iPhone that already has cellular service. Since the Apple Watch is designed to be used WITH an iPhone and not INSTEAD of an iPhone, the pairing and setup process and the cellular plans worked out with the carriers is all built around having both an iPhone and a Cellular Apple Watch data plan. Maybe if enough of us start using the cellular Apple Watch as a standalone device Apple will adapt, but for now we are stuck with paying for cellular service on both an iPhone and an Apple Watch.

So, for example, I am on the AT&T network and have a family share plan. So it costs me $15 per month (before taxes) for a new line of service for an iPhone and then an additional $10 per month (before taxes) to add an Apple Watch to my plan. Both the iPhone and the Apple Watch are then using the allocation of data we share as a family each month. So assuming the addition of another iPhone and Apple Watch doesn’t break your current shared data usage, it will cost you a minimum of $25 a month (plus taxes) to add you child’s iPhone and cellular Apple Watch to your cellular plan (actual price will vary depending on your situation and cell carrier).

iPhone & Apple Watch Cell Phone Numbers

going Apple Watch only with your child
Phone numbers, especially with the cellular enabled Apple Watch, can be a bit confusing (Image by Skip Owens)

So does the Apple Watch have its own phone number? Yes and no. Sorry to be so confusing with this one but you can thank our wonderful cell carriers for this mess. Technically, the cellular Apple Watch has its own phone number assigned to it but in practice it takes on the identity of the phone number of the iPhone you set it up with. Each carrier calls it something different. With AT&T the service is called NumberSync®. Basically what this service does is it allows you to make and receive phone calls and text messages from your Apple Watch (even when your iPhone is not nearby). I guess the simplest way to describe it is that it treats your Apple Watch like it is a 2nd iPhone that has the same phone number as your iPhone. So if you leave your iPhone at home and only have your Apple Watch and you call or text someone (or they you) they see the phone call as coming from you (your normal iPhone cell number or text number). It truly “syncs” the phone number associated with your iPhone with your Apple Watch. The only reason I said “yes and no” earlier is that on your cell phone bill you will see your Apple Watch listed as a separate phone number (one that is unique to your Apple Watch). As far as I can tell the phone number associated with your cellular Apple Watch has no purpose other than as a billing identifier.

Benefits of Going Apple Watch–Only With Your child

I know, this seems like a waste of a perfectly good iPhone. After all, if you have to physically have an iPhone and pay for the service to the iPhone in order to activate and use the cellular Series 3 Apple Watch, why not just use the iPhone too? There are several benefits associated with going Apple Watch only with your child:

  1. Safety. Look at it this way. When you hand your young child something as powerful as an iPhone you have just given them the ability to hop on a plane and instantly fly anywhere in the world and meet with anyone on the planet without you even knowing it. Are you ok with that? You can lock the iPhone down, but it takes a lot of effort and, trust me, your child’s friends will show them how to get around almost anything you do to lock down their iPhone.
  2. Cost. I’m not talking about the cost of setting up the device but rather the replacement cost. It is very easy to drop or lose or have your iPhone stolen, but with the Apple Watch strapped to your child’s wrist the odds of those events go WAY down and it’s a lot cheaper to replace an Apple Watch than it is an iPhone.
  3. Reachability. If you just give your child an iPhone and you try to call them, they may or may not have their iPhone near them when you call. With the Apple Watch it is physically attached to them so they really can’t use the excuse of “my iPhone was in the other room.”
  4. Social Simplicity. The number of messaging apps and games and social media activities associated with the iPhone are extensive. By going Apple Watch–only with your child they are able to communicate with their friends via text message, iMessage, and other messaging apps (check for compatibility with the Apple Watch) but without having to fully engage with pictures and videos (because the Apple Watch doesn’t have a camera). For older kids this can be a real drawback but for younger kids it’s actually a safety feature (remember, there are creeps out there). Plus, not all kids are ready to create an Instagram account and send photos back and forth via Snapchat. This allows your child to still interact with friends but in a much simpler way. Remember, they still have an iPhone but you can keep that iPhone plugged in in your bedroom and slowly give them more freedom with it as they mature and can better handle the responsibility.

How to Manage Apple Watch Battery Life

If you do an internet search on Apple Watch battery life you will get all kinds of horror stories about how bad the battery life is. Remember, this is the internet and people like to whine. My daughter has been using the cellular Series 3 Apple Watch for the last 6 months and has only run the watch battery down a couple of times (and that was because she forgot to charge it before heading off to school). It is true that the Apple Watch battery will drain much faster when it is constantly using cellular service instead of just using Bluetooth to connect to an iPhone. But the real battery drain with the Apple Watch is using it to make phone calls. It only has about an hour of battery life for phone calls. But kids really don’t call each other. Honestly, the only time your child will use the call feature on the watch is if you call them. Texting is the main mode of communication and that doesn’t take a lot of battery or data. The easiest way to ensure your child always has an Apple Watch with power is to send them to school with a battery clipped on to their backpack. I recently did a review of the Griffin Travel Power Bank right here on GeekDad.

going Apple Watch only with your child
The Griffin Travel Power Bank is small enough to clip to a child’s backpack but has enough power to more than get you through a heavy use day with the Apple Watch (Image from Griffin)

The Griffin Travel Power Bank works great as a compact battery charger for your Apple Watch. Because it can be clipped directly to a backpack it is perfect to send to school with your child so they always have a way to charge up their Apple Watch. The other key ingredient was getting my daughter on a regular schedule for charging her Apple Watch daily. Either have your child charge it at night while they sleep or if they wear it for sleep monitoring like I do have them charge it for an hour or so while they get ready for school each morning.

Tips for Getting Around “Apple Watch–Only” Pain Points

There are some drawback associated with going Apple Watch–only with your child. After all, Apple designed the Apple Watch to be an accessory to the iPhone so if you push those boundaries you will encounter some pain points. Here are a few tips that are key for helping your child use their new Apple Watch like a pro:

  1. Contacts. Since most of the time your child will just have his or her Apple Watch and no iPhone it is critical that you set up the contacts in the iPhone before they start using the Apple Watch without the iPhone. Make sure you have all of your family members, friends and neighbors as contacts… anyone you are comfortable with them contacting in case of emergency. Also make sure to fill out the field in all of the contacts that defines the family relation or relationship. For example, “Father,” “Mother,” “Brother,” and “Sister.” There is even a “Custom Label” field here so if your child has a nickname for their grandma or grandpa or a family friend this is a way to assign that nickname to their contact. The relationship field is important because once you fill that out your child can simply use their voice and ask Siri to “call Mom,” or “call Dad,” which is a lot easier to remember to say than the contact’s full name. Also make sure you set up a list of favorites in the phone app on the iPhone and set the phone app as one of the apps in the dock of the Apple Watch. This will allow them with just a few clicks on the Apple Watch to call anyone from that favorites list.
  2. Siri Commands. Going Apple Watch–only means your child will need to depend on using Siri commands almost exclusively. At a minimum make sure your child knows how to use Siri to dictate a text message and make a phone call (including how to call 911). CNET has a great article that lists out quite a few of the commands you can give Siri so make sure your child learns texting and calling immediately and slowly teach them others as they get more comfortable with the watch.
  3. Emergency SOS calling. This is a feature I highly recommend you enable on your child’s Apple Watch, but you do need to think about it before you do. When enabled, this feature will automatically call emergency services (like “911” in the US) when you press and hold the side button of the Apple Watch. The risk in enabling this feature is if your child accidentally presses the side button too long and doesn’t realize they just did it. Even adults have been known to make this mistake. The good news is that even after you press and hold the side button and then continue to hold it down the watch will tap your wrist notifying you that an emergency phone call is about to be made. If you train your child how to use this feature I think the potential safety benefits far outweigh the risk of accidentally calling emergency services. You set up this feature on the iPhone and can specify which emergency service is called. After the phone call is placed and ended, this feature also send a text message to the emergency contact(s) you specify notifying them that this emergency call just took place. Then after the initial text if your location changes the Apple Watch will automatically send the emergency contact(s) the updated location and will continue doing so. The reason I recommend this feature so strongly is because your child can call the police without anyone even knowing it. There are a lot of situations where it may not be safe for them to be seen making a phone call and this gets around that problem. Emergency responders are trained to listen to the background audio of calls that come in when no one answers on the other end for situations like I just described. Apple has a support article that explains the Emergency SOS calling feature and how to set it up.
  4. Parental Controls. As I mentioned earlier, the more limited functionality of the watch will already help in this department but there are still a few parental control features you may want to enable, especially if you allow your child access to their iPhone. The parental control setting on the iPhone (for the most part) will mirror themselves on to the Apple Watch. So depending on the age of your child and your strategy on monitoring your child’s internet access and electronics, you may want to enable parental controls on the iPhone (and by proxy the Apple Watch). Read Apple’s support page about parental controls and make your own decisions about what makes sense for you and your family.
  5. Default Replies. When you only have an Apple Watch you really only have two main options to respond to a text message: you either dictate a response using Siri or you configure some default replies. Default replies are a set of pre-configured text message responses you can choose from in a list that shows up on the Apple Watch below the text message you just received. Simply scroll down the screen by either using the Digital Crown or by swiping on the screen with your finger and there they are. Apple provides a default list of these but you can customize them for your specific needs. If you think through all the things you get text messages about you can come up with pre-written replies so that most of the time all you need to do is select the reply appropriate for that particular text message. See Apple’s article about this feature and how to configure it and make sure your child is involved with writing these pre-configured replies.

I wish I could tell you that equipping your child with only a cellular enabled Apple Watch was easy, but it isn’t (as you can tell from this rather lengthy article). The main reason it is a bit complicated is because this was NOT a use case that Apple had in mind when they designed the Apple Watch, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Honestly, if you are looking at getting your child an iPhone, then you are going to go through much of this pain already as properly locking down an iPhone for a child is quite a challenging task all by itself. The benefit of going Apple Watch–only with your child is that it greatly simplifies the parental controls you have to worry about just due to the reduced capability of the Apple Watch. So if you have a need to always be in contact with your child, you aren’t crazy about them carrying around a smart phone just yet, and don’t mind spending a bit of extra money and effort, then this is certainly an option you should think about. Apple has a 14-day return policy on their hardware so you can try it out for a couple of weeks, and if it isn’t working for you, return the Apple Watch and go another route. Six months into this experiment with my daughter and we are both happy with results so I wanted to share this as an option for other parents out there that wanted try out going Apple Watch–only with their child. Good Luck!

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56 thoughts on “Using a Cellular Apple Watch as Your Kid’s Cell Phone

  1. Thanks for this great article! I have been debating to activate the cellular feature because I have read so many negative reviews about the battery issue. I know you mentioned that making a phone call is what caused the big impact, but I would like to know how much battery you have left at the end of the day if it is mostly use for just text.

    Best regards,

    Nelson

    1. My daughter after being at school all day and having her Apple Watch on cellular only because her iPhone was at home would normally have about 40% charge when she got home.

  2. I am about to launch a new type of smart watch for kids, which is basically an android based smart watch with SIM card. Kids can call and message from the watch itself, and also have some other features like alarm, stopwatch, weather, calendar event, etc. Features are very limited, which was by purpose to keep it less addictive.
    Also it has a GPS chipset, so parent can check kids location on the companion app.

    I came across your article through search, and I think you are very thoughtful. Let me know if you are interested in the watch I am making, I would like to hear some advice from you.

  3. Our son just started middle school and has sports practices and school activities that go well into the evening, and we don’t like being unable to reach him. But we aren’t comfortable getting him a phone for fear of him losing it, and don’t want to expose him to social media and all the dangers of a phone before he is mature and responsible enough to manage it all. I’m so grateful for the thoughtful and thorough research you included in this article, including the many links you supplied. Looks like the Apple Watch will be the perfect solution for him — thanks again!

  4. Amen. Wish Apple would eliminate the iPhone requirement. Hate paying for two mobile plans, and would be nice to setup via iPad, but they’re getting there. Sort of.

    On a Gear S3 standalone but it’s really only good for phone calls; really screwing up how my family communicates. Tempted to bite the bullet and pay for an iPhone line I’ll never use.

  5. I also don’t want to give my kid smartphone at such a small age but I want to be able to contact him whenever he is away. Purchasing apple watch for him would be a right choice. Thanks!

  6. Opinion about lower or higher series watch for location and text services? Series 2 good enough? Added benefits of series 4? Thanks for this info, great resource as I consider for my 12 year old.

    1. Only the Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 have the option for cellular connectivity. So unless your child ALWAYS has access to WiFi you will need at least a Series 3 Apple Watch with Cellular to make this work. In theory you could make a non-cellular Apple Watch (a Series 0, 1 or 2) work with jus WiFi if you want to rely on Apple’s messages only for texts and on Audio FaceTime for calls but that will only work when they are connected to WiFi. Also be aware that even if your child’s school has WiFi they may not be able to join it with their Apple Watch and even if they can they will need to bring their iPhone to school at least for the first day to use the iPhone to connect to the Wifi (the Apple Watch uses the Wifi settings from the iPhone to connect).

  7. What about a comparable non Apple Watch for a preteen? I’m a huge apple fan just looking for a lower price point but not so little kid-ish such as vtech. Thank you!!

    1. I go to CES every year and every year I see at least 2 or 3 NEW kids smart watches that get touted as the next big thing and then never make it to market. I have yet to find a kid friendly smartwatch that was worth buying. Now maybe I have missed some that are out there and actually work so maybe others can comment about watches they have some experience with but I would advise you to proceed with caution. So unfortunately the Apple Watch Series 3 or 4 are the only smart watches I can recommend for use with your child. Apple did not design and market the Apple Watch to be used like I am using it with my daughter so that means it costs more money than it really should to use it this way. But this was a trade I was willing to make. Not everyone will be willing to part with that much money to make this work though and I realize that. Wish I had better news for you…

    1. Apple does not but 3rd party retailer have bands that will adjust down to a smaller wrist than the Apple S/M size goes down to. My daughter also has extremely small wrists and we were able to find her a 3rd party adjustable band that would adjust down small enough for her.

  8. Does the “host” iPhone need to be turned on and connected to the carrier for the iWatch to continue making and receiving calls? I understand that the iPhone can be left at home while the kid is away from home with the iWatch.

  9. Yes, the host iPhone must be turned on and connected to either a cellular network or WiFi in order for you to send/recieve SMS text messages (non-iMessage text messages) or phone calls. However, the iPhone doesn’t need to be nearby. Your best bet is to just keep the iPhone plugged in and charging someone at home at all times so it doesn’t run out of battery.

  10. I just purchased for my kids, both have had Iphones with the 3rd party parental app ‘Our Pact’ to control/monitor use as well as allowable apps. Is there a parental app I can use that will cover the watch as well? I know iphone has parental controls/screen time but I am looking for additional monitoring. Thanks!

  11. There isn’t much to monitor with the Apple Watch. There is no significant web browsing and if you maintain the ability to get into their iPhones you will see text and call history. 3rd party apps on the Apple Watch are also fairly minimal in their feature sets so there isn’t a ton of things you could lock down if there was an Apple Watch monitoring app. 3rd party messaging apps is probably the biggest hole you would have with the Apple Watch and again I would monitor that activity via their iPhone as much as possible. I know all of this talk of monitoring seems a bit overreaching to some, but when I get my kids iPhones I tell them as long as I am paying for the phones and the service they need to allow me access. We talk openly about how to responsibly use the devices slowly shift from monitoring to trusting. I also used parental controls with my older kids years ago but I found that the combination of monitoring shifting to trusting still worked the best. You can’t monitor them forever. If I hear of a good 3rd party Apple Watch parental controls app I will write about it here.

  12. Thanks for the great article. I am debating connecting an Apple Watch 3 plus cellular up to my iphone for my son. I don’t have my own Apple Watch so his watch would be the only one connected to my phone. I don’t really want him calling and texting from my number as I think people will find this confusing. Do you know of a texting/calling app that is compatible with Apple Watch. I found some that would allow him to send Morse code messages, but he will want a more traditional texting/calling app. Thanks,
    Shannon

  13. Hello everyone. I have read all the discussions in this thread. Please allow me to introduce a new kind of smartwatch for kids, it requires a separate SIM card to work, and it must be paired with parents smartphone. The smartwatch itself only has limited functions such calls, messaging and camera. Parents can check child’s location through the companion mobile App. If you are interested, check out at http://www.mykidowatch.com.

    1. I did a little digging on this smart watch. This is the 2nd kid’s smart watch from OJOY. Their first smart watch was called the Octopus and sold for about $69 and the review I could find were fairly poor with the most often cited complaint that the watch wasn’t durable enough to stand up to living on a child’s wrist (and for only $69 I could see why). The latest smart watch from OJOY is the A1 which is an LTE based watch. On the surface the specs and features for this watch look very promising for someone with younger kids (younger than 10), but I can find almost no reviews on this watch as it was only released in the last few weeks. The price on the OJOY A1 is $149. If this product had potential we should have seen a whole slew of legitimate tech sites reviewing this watch but that just isn’t the case. At this point buying the OJOY A1 is just a $149 gamble, so proceed at your own risk.

      1. Hello. OJOY watch A1 just launched on Amazon very recently, and it is made by OJOY, not Octopus. They are different companies. OJOY A1 is a smartwatch works with T-Mobile SIM card and 4G LTE enabled, with its own network and GPS connectivity. Octopus is more of a pre-programmed band without connectivity.
        Yes. I am representing OJOY, we are a startup based in Singapore, and we haven’t paid for any technology media to review our product yet.

  14. I tried the tick talk watch for my son but battery and watch getting hot was an issue. Finally convinced my with an apple watched made sense with him likely getting an iPhone in a couple years.

    So here is what I did.

    Added a line to my T-Mobile account only getting a SIM card. I backed up my iPhone then put his sim in and used his Apple ID to log in with contacts and settings needed for his watch. Synced his watch and setup cellular plan. Popped sim out an put in an old Android I have that I’ll leave on connected behind my pc. Used a sim adapter since it couldn’t take a nano. Restored my iPhone and he is happy as can be.

    1. That is very interesting, thanks for sharing! The cell carries don’t openly share how they manage the call and text syncing services so about the only way to know what you can get away with as far a keep a cell phone line active and maintaining a Cellular Apple Watch is to do what you did and try. Looks like it works on T-Mobile. I would suspect if it works on T-Mobile it would most likely work on other carries as well (but that’s no guarantee). I really hope in 2019 Apple makes it so the Apple Watch can be stand alone so we don’t have to activate a cell phone too.

        1. Thanks for reaching out to us about reviewing the OJOY. One of our other GeekDad writers is planning to review the OJOY A1 and I’m looking forward to hearing they have to say so stay tuned. When that review is published I will add the link to this article as another option for parents.

          1. Any news on the A1? I bought a Doki but am not happy with the quality of the voice/video calls on it, and I’m wondering if a 4G/LTE one like the A1 will do better.

        2. Sorry…. I would buy the OJOY watch but it looks so childish and “uncool” for a tween. It would be a good idea if they made a basic black option that would not invite ridicule from nasty little middle school creatures. Yes, kids are going to be ridiculed about something anyway, but I try not to give my kid extra reasons to be picked on.

  15. THANK YOU for this incredibly helpful article!!!! You answered every question I have been madly Googling and then some. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  16. Could you use the host phone, just with wifi, but use google voice as its number?

    You can set up a number free on voice and potentially avoid the monthly charge for service to the phone.

    1. I don’t think you can. My understanding of the technology that the cell carriers use to ensure both the watch and the phone receive texts and phone calls requires the cell phone to be talking with the cell network at all times.

  17. I have been looking at the GIZMO from Verizon for this very issue, my child is homeschooled but between, 2 different types of dance classes, cheer practice, archery and homeschool co-op activities that are drop and go it’s getting scary. LOL. Right now she is using my old iPhone 5 and already has a text and cell only plan, no data, I have been looking at the Apple watch 3 vs the GIZMO from Verizon.

    Anyone have any opinion on what is better? I *think* with GIZMO you don’t need a cell plan and it’s only $15 a month, but I have a series 4 apple watch and kinda like the walkie talkie feature.

    1. It probably depends on the age of your child. For younger kids there are cheaper options out there like the GIZMO but their feature set tends to be pretty limited compared to an Apple Watch and they tend to be very “kid” looking that an older child would not be too crazy about wearing (teenagers can be pretty fashion conscience). It really comes down to your exact need and your child. Inexpensive younger kid’s smartwatches are a real challenge to review because they either NEVER end up making it to market or if they do they don’t stick around for long or are rebranded into something else. That is why you don’t see a lot of really good in-depth reviews of younger kid’s smartwatches.

  18. Check out Ojoy Watch in Amazon, it offers more features than gizmo watch but at a much lower price. We used it with speedtalk SIM card, only $5 a month. We were thinking of Apple Watch first but decided it was too much expensive item for a child.

  19. No, it doesn’t do video calls, only normal calls with phone, voice quality is ok in house, but kinda difficult to hear in shopping mall. My son liked it as he can send voice msg to us. We didn’t get t-mobile plan, we were on at&t family plan, but we get the kid a SpeedTalk SIM as they suggested.

  20. Really enjoyed your article and it answered a number of questions for me! I just couldn’t find any other options for my kiddo that had the build quality and features of the apple watch and at current prices for the series 3, it’s available for about $30 more than the Verizon Gizmowatch. I have one lingering question: How effective is the watch at providing an on-demand GPS location? Thank you.

    1. The “Find My Friends” app on the iPhone works really well as it has the ability to use WiFi, Cellular and GPS to find location. It especially works well in that you can specify that you want the location of your Apple Watch to be the prime source of location so that when using it with your child in a “watch only” mode it won’t show your child as being at home when they leave their phone at home.

      1. Hi Skip, I am trying to set up my daughters apple watch like you said but I’m having trouble with the setting of using the watch as prime source. Can you help me? I think maybe in my screen limits restrictions I may have something that could be preventing me from doing this.

  21. What is the trick to preserve battery life on the Apple Watch 3 being used by a child? Brand new watch. Not a refurb. With virtually no usage of the watch whatsoever, our child leaves at 7:00 am with 100% battery life and by 2:30 pm the same day it is dead. No texting, only the standard apps installed, they don’t have any iPhone with them (it stays at home), no calls, no texts, the activity monitoring not setup, a basic watch complication, etc.

    I even tried to unpair and reset the watch to repair it.

    1. My daughter has a Series 3 watch and uses it just like your child does and she is able to get through the day without running out of battery. I also use my Apple Watch stand alone from my iPhone all day and I have at least a 1 hour workout everyday with the watch and have no issues getting through a day. In fact, I also wear my Apple Watch at night while I sleep. So it is only off my wrist for about 90 minutes a day while it charges. It sounds like you have tried a reset so you may just have a bad battery.

  22. Thank you for the article. Couldn’t you just Pair an Apple Watch with your own phone, give the Apple Watch to your kid, and text your own number to reach out to them?

    1. In theory, yes. But a text to yourself won’t work so you would need to use a 3rd party messaging service instead of Messages on iOS. Also Find My Friends won’t work and phone calls won’t work. I’m a pinch there are ways around these issues but in my opinion it is too much trouble to attempt.

      1. Can you mention these workarounds? I have an old iPhone. I want to take the SIM card from my phone and transfer it to the old iPhone which is set up with my kid’s Apple ID, set up the Apple Watch, and switch back the SIM card to my phone. I wonder if I could text/call my daughter’s Apple ID from my iPhone even though it is linked to the same phone number

  23. Set up my 5th grader which an apple watch and I think it was the best thing. He doesn’t even know where the actual phone is. It doesn’t matter. All he really wants to do is text anyway. We went river rafting, and he got stuck between some rocks and we lost site of each other. About 5 min later, he sent me a text from his apple watch, “mom, I’m stuck. I’m fine. Don’t worry.” Worth it right there!!!

  24. Great article, Apple despite its infinite wisdom is really missing out on a viable market segment here of parents wanting to get their kids setup with an Apple Watch.
    So here’s what I want to do and I think it’ll work but if anyone can help confirm that would be great.
    I want to get a cheap, used iPhone 6s (lowest model that’ll run iOS 13) and have NO carrier enabled. Using only WiFi I want to set it up with my son’s Apple ID then pair it to a Series 3 non-cellular Apple Watch. I know that’s a bit strange to want zero cellular but I have my reasons, anyway in theory that should work ok right?

    1. I’m thinking just connect a cellular watch to my husbands phone (he doesnt want a watch) and give it to my daughter.Even cheaper! And yes it may look like texts are coming from him but it at least gives her a way to reach me.

    1. Not really because all of your texts and phone calls would be pushed to their Apple Watch. When you activate a cellular Apple Watch the iPhone the iPhone and the Apple Watch get all the same phone calls and cellular text messages (the essentially have the same cell number). The only way I could see that working is if you only used a 3rd party texting app to communicate and disabled incoming cell calls and cellular-based texts to the Apple Watch (and I really don’t recommend that).

      1. My thought here is to set up the Apple Watch with Mom’s phone. My kids would only take the Apple Watch on occasion, when they are on a field trip or at a friend’s house overnight. If they need anything, then they can contact Dad who is on a separate phone plan. True, all of Mom’s texts and notifications would pop up on the Apple Watch while the kid has it, but for us that is not a big deal. Does this have any other big issues that I am missing?
        Thanks for the EXCELLENT article, you are a very thoughtful and helpful author!

  25. Fantastic article Skip! I wish I had seen it two days earlier. I just bought the series 3 with cellular for my 10 year old son hoping it could serve as my kid’s cell phone. An hour of online chat support with an AT&T rep convinced me that it could work. Per AT&T support guidance I bought a second line and an eSIM thinking that would allow the watch to work independently. I was disappointed last night when I set it all up and learned that it had to be paired with my phone and that all calls from the watch appeared as calls from me. And all messages to my iPhone 11 also went to my son’s new watch – the watch was basically a mirror of my phone. Not what I wanted. With your help I now see a path to what I wanted and it’s just what I was wondering about – I can reactivate service on my old iPhone 6 as my son’s “base” then pair the watch to it. He leaves the phone at home and voila! off he goes with his Apple Watch and an ability to send and receive calls and texts. Yea…it’s more costly..but it’s worth it as we ease him into the mobile world. The other kids watches just don’t do it for me…with their SIM cards that need to be refilled anyway.

    Super helpful!! Thanks!

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