Apple’s new Family Setup in watchOS 7 lets multiple Apple Watches pair to a single iPhone

One of the drawbacks to the Apple Watch, for some, is its reliance on a paired iPhone. Which makes giving an Apple Watch to someone who doesn’t have an iPhone, even if they’re in the same family, a bit difficult.

To help with that problem, Apple has introduced what it calls Family Setup in watchOS 7. With this feature, it allows for several different Apple Watches to be paired to a single iPhone. This means that if a parent wants to give their child an Apple Watch, they can do so without having to get them their own iPhone, too. This broadens the availability of the Apple Watch, at least for families who might not all be using iPhones (for whatever reason).

For family members who do not have an iPhone, Apple Watch offers a remarkable set of features that can help them keep in touch with loved ones, be more active, and stay safe,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “With Family Setup, we’re thrilled to extend these features to the entire family, so everyone can gain more independence and live a healthier life.

While there are some aspects that still rely on an iPhone, that’s not the case for all elements. Apple points out that the App Store on the Apple Watch marks for some extra independence. As does Siri, Maps, and Alarms.

Family members that use Family Setup will be able to use Messages, make phone calls, set up their Activity goals, and much more thanks to a dedicated phone number. Parents will be able to approve all contacts before their child is able to communicate with them.

According to Apple, each Apple Watch wearer that sets up using Family Setup will get their own phone number, which is associated with a separate cellular plan. With their own Apple ID they will be able to follow family events in Calendar, look at synced photo albums, and much more. There’s even a new Apple Cash Family, making it quick and easy to send money to their child so they can pay with their Apple Watch.

As mentioned above, Siri will work on the Apple Watch as expected. And the child or other user can also listen to Apple Music by connecting Bluetooth headphones or speakers to the Apple Watch. And with Apple Maps, each user can setup navigation to the place they are going, whether it’s to a friend’s house or the park, while the guardian can keep tabs in real time.

According to Apple’s fine print, Apple Watch will support 14 hours of daily usage with Family Setup.


Apple tweaked the experience for the Activity feature specifically for kids. Now, instead of tracking calories burned, the Activity rings will track Move minutes. Users will be able to build customizable goals for each Apple Watch user, including Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Run, Outdoor Cycle, which have been tuned for kids. The experience has been tuned to feature more emoji, too. Users can share their Activity Challenges, and accept Activity Competitions as well.

Safety and health

The Emergency SOS feature is available with Family Setup, and guardians will be made aware automatically when it’s activated. This includes fall detection on supported Apple Watch models. Kids will be able to reference their Medical ID as well. And when permission is granted, users will be able to see their full shared data.

Schooltime and Downtime

No matter where the student is learning, it’s important to stay focused. So, Schooltime will help with that. It’s a new feature meant to make it so kids can’t access the additional features baked into their Apple Watch while they are studying. When Schooltime is activated, a distinct yellow circle is displayed on the Apple Watch’s face. This is meant to show that Do Not Disturb is switched on, and access to other features is disabled. Parents will be able to set specific hours for Schooltime, which means the Apple Watch will automatically activate the feature when the time comes.

It can also be turned on in Control Center from the child’s Apple Watch.

Downtime also works on the Apple Watch as well, as part of the Screen Time feature. Kids will be notified Downtime is starting five minutes before it’s activated.

For the older crowd

And, finally, Apple says it has made specific optimizations for older adults:

watchOS 7 also offers optimized features for older adults, adding to the powerful set of health and safety tools currently available, including fall detection and irregular rhythm notification.2 The latest software makes Apple Watch even easier to use and set up, starting with a refreshed X-Large face that shows the time and a rich complication at a glance, as well as an onboarding and configuration process designed with connection and accessibility features in mind. Activity goals can be customized to help users stay motivated, while the new Health Checklist in the Health app on iPhone offers the ability to track whether health features like fall detection have been enabled in one centralized view.

Family Setup for the Apple Watch will become available when watchOS 7 launches on Wednesday, September 16, 2020.