The Apple Watch will provide users with the full experience even if an iPhone it’s paired with is outside Bluetooth range, as long as both the wearable device and the smartphone are connected through Wi-Fi. Tim Cook made a passing note of it during yesterday’s “Spring Forward” media event.
Nonetheless, it’s a pretty big deal and here’s why.
This nifty little feature will permit Watch wearers to continue experiencing the full functionality of the device even if their iPhone isn’t sitting nearby with Bluetooth switched on.
Again, both devices must be on the same Wi-Fi network in order to maintain connectivity when Bluetooth isn’t available.
I can imagine this becoming indispensable.
For instance, if I leave my iPhone in the living room when I get home I can roam around the rooms, go fix something in the back yard or just have a barbecue in the front yard without having to worry about losing Watch functionality.
It’s even more relevant to user experience given third-party Watch apps actually do the heavy lifting on a paired iPhone, which then beams the results and a storyboard back to the Watch.
For those wondering, Bluetooth has a maximal theoretical range of thirty meters, or about a hundred feet, but performance decreases sharply if solid objects like walls get in the way of radio waves.
By comparison, Wi-Fi typically exhibits at least two or three times the Bluetooth range, depending on the favor of the 802.11 protocol being used, signal strength, performance of your Wi-Fi router and other things.
As Apple’s Watch has both short-range Bluetooth and longer-range Wi-Fi technology, it’s able to maintain its connection to a paired iPhone via Wi-Fi should the phone fall outside Bluetooth range.
This feature is actually one of the advantages of the Apple Watch over Android Wear, the search giant’s open-source software platform for wearable devices.
Following Apple’s presentation yesterday, The Verge is reporting Tuesday that Android Wear is now reportedly getting Wi-Fi support and gestures like the Apple Watch, citing people who claim to have knowledge of Google’s plans.
As you know, the Apple Watch requires an iPhone to function.
The bigger problem over the longer arch of time could be that Android users are unable to use the Watch, and iPhone users can’t use Android Wear devices.
This may change soon, too: a sketchy rumor claims Google is working on an iOS app that will make Android Wear gear compatible with the iPhone.
What do you think of the fact that the Apple Watch can remain tethered to an iPhone via Wi-Fi when the phone is outside Bluetooth range?