Apple Watch Series 6
In the five years since the Apple Watch first went on sale, it’s always been an iPhone accessory. But on Tuesday, at an event highlighting several new products, Apple took a big step toward cutting the tether.
Until now, every Apple Watch needed to be paired with an iPhone. Older versions of the watch work only when an iPhone is connected at close range via Bluetooth. Some newer versions with wireless connectivity can stray farther, but still need to be paired up with a single iPhone.
But now, some Apple Watches will get a feature called Family Setup, meant for young kids or older adults who don’t have an iPhone but want an easy way to make calls, text, and share GPS location with family members. It requires an administrator in the household with an iPhone, but once it’s set up, the watch will get its own phone number, and be able to send and receive texts and calls with no iPhone connected.
It’s the first time the device will fulfill the Dick Tracy vision of a standalone phone on your wrist.
In Apple’s announcement, COO Jeff Williams described the feature as a way to “make Apple Watch available to even more people.” But Family Setup also gives new buyers a less expensive first Apple device to get them hooked into Apple’s ecosystem — if they like it, Apple could continue to sell those users additional hardware and services.
Apple’s Watch is biggest product in Apple’s wearables and accessories division, which reported revenue of $24.5 billion in 2019. Apple ships more wearables than any other company and had a 34.2% share of the entire market in the second quarter of 2020, according to an estimate from IDC. It’s growing, too, with 25.3% year-over-year growth in terms of number of units, according to the estimate.