Here’s what you can do with the Apple Watch without an iPhone

BY Kelly Hodgkins

Published 22 May 2015

Apple Watch
The Apple Watch relies on the iPhone for a majority of its functions, but there are a handful of activities that the Watch can perform if you are away from your iPhone for a short time. Read on to find out what you can do with the Watch if you find yourself temporarily out and about without your iPhone.



The Apple Watch is a watch and will retain its timekeeping functions even without an iPhone nearby. Besides telling the local and world time, you also can use the Watch for its alarm, timer, and its stopwatch functions.

Apple Pay

Once you configure Apple Pay on the Watch, you can use it without an iPhone to make a purchase. The device includes a Secure Element to store your device ID number, allowing you to initiate and complete a transaction using only your Watch. When you need to make a mobile payment, simply tap the Apple Watch button twice to open Apple Pay, select your card and complete the transaction.

Activity Tracking


Even without an iPhone, the Apple Watch is capable of basic movement and workout tracking thanks to its onboard motion sensors and heart rate monitor. Without an iPhone, you no longer have GPS and its accurate distance tracking, but you still can log a workout using the Watch’s other sensor readings. You may lose some accuracy without GPS, but it may be a worthwhile compromise as you can leave your bulky phone at home when head out for a run or ride.

Listening to Music


The Apple Watch ships with a limited amount of onboard storage that can be used to store media such as music and photos. You can easily add songs to your Watch and listen to them even when your phone is not around. Just open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and select Music. Tap on Synced Playlist and choose the playlist you wish to download to your Watch wearable. You can limit the number of songs (15, 50, 125, or 250) or the capacity (100MB, 500MB, 1GB, or 2GB) of the songs that are synced to the device. You also will need external Bluetooth headphones as you cannot listen to music using the Apple Watch speakers

Viewing Photos


Similar to music, the Watch allows you to sync photos to the Apple Watch for “away from iPhone” viewing. By default, the Watch will sync photos that you have marked as “Favorites” on your iPhone and will store up to 15MB (100 photos) on the Watch. You can change the default photo album and storage options as needed. Available capacities include 5MB (25 photos); 15MB (100 photos); 40MB (100 photos); or 75MB (500 photos).


The boarding passes, movie tickets, gift cards, loyalty cards and more stored in the Passbook app on your iPhone are automatically synced with the Apple Watch (if you’ve turned on Mirror iPhone in the Apple Watch app). You can access them on your Apple Watch even without the iPhone.

Cached Data

Even though you are not connected to your iPhone, you still can view messages, emails, calendar events and other third-party app data that has been cached on your Watch. You can also access offline voicemail. This information may not be current, but at least it is still accessible if you need it.

What the Watch Can’t Do


The Apple Watch cannot connect to the internet or pull down a GPS signal without a companion iPhone. You will need an iPhone if you want to use internet or location-based services such as Mail, Maps, Weather or Stocks. Siri also won’t work as it requires a data connection to interpret and process commands. Third-party apps will continue to be accessible on your Watch, but they will not be updated and will only display data from the last time the app connected to its iPhone counterpart.

Do you plan to use the Apple Watch without your iPhone? Are you disappointed that you can’t do more without an iPhone nearby? Share your thoughts about the Watch’s reliance on the iPhone in the comments.

If you want to learn more about the Apple Watch, you can view additional tutorials on our Apple Watch Tips and Tricks page and our Apple Watch Guide page. If you have an area you would like to see covered in this ongoing series of Watch tutorials or have discovered your own handy tips or tricks, please share them in the comments.

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