Apple recently announced Family Setup in watchOS 7, bringing the communication, health, fitness, and safety features of Apple Watch to kids and older family members of the household who do not have an iPhone. For the first time, Apple Watch can be set up through a parent’s iPhone, so kids can connect with family and friends through phone calls and Messages, stay motivated with personalised Activity goals, and express their creativity through custom Memoji.
Family Setup makes it possible for the entire family to benefit from the important health and safety features of Apple Watch, like Emergency SOS, while Maps, Siri, Alarms, and the App Store provide greater independence without needing an iPhone. In addition, parents will have peace of mind knowing they can reach their child and identify their location, and that all personal data stays securely encrypted. With watchOS 7, the whole family can also take advantage of optimised features that enhance the overall Apple Watch experience.“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.”
With Family Setup, family members without iPhone can take advantage of the many features and apps on Apple Watch, from making and receiving phone and FaceTime audio calls, to sending and receiving messages and emails, and even connecting with other Apple Watch wearers over Walkie-Talkie. The new Memoji app on Apple Watch allows users to customise a Memoji that can be shared while messaging friends or displayed as a watch face. Parents have the ability to approve all contacts, so kids can safely use the communication features of Apple Watch.
Kids and older family members of the household using Family Setup will have their own phone number through a separate cellular plan, and by using their own Apple ID, they can follow their schedule and family events using Calendar, learn to manage tasks with Reminders, view photo albums synced from a guardian’s iPhone, and more. With the new Apple Cash Family, parents can securely send their kids money to spend on their watch using Apple Pay. Parents can choose to receive notifications when their kids pay, and view their child’s purchases right in Wallet on their own iPhone. Family members using Family Setup on Apple Watch can play their favourite songs on Apple Music through Bluetooth headphones and speakers, and ask Siri for answers to questions or language translations. With Maps, family members can learn to navigate safely and independently, whether heading to another family member’s house or to a park with friends. A family member’s location can be shared with their guardian through the Find People app on Apple Watch, and location notifications are more customisable, allowing the guardian to receive an update on their family member’s location for one occasion, or on a recurring or time-based schedule.
The Activity rings experience has been optimised for kids to track Move minutes instead of calories burned and provide customisable goals for the Exercise and Stand rings. Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Run, and Outdoor Cycle workouts have been specifically tuned for kids, giving appropriate credit for Move minutes, exercise, distance, and other metrics, while coaching notifications are tailored to relevant reading levels and made more fun with emoji. Kids can also send and receive Activity Sharing invitations directly on Apple Watch, challenge friends with Activity Competitions, and see a new Awards page so milestones can be celebrated right on their wrist.
Health and Safety
With Emergency SOS, family members using Family Setup can easily access emergency services using the side button, and guardians will be automatically notified if they are listed as an emergency contact. Kids can also reference their Medical ID, which documents critical information such as medical conditions, allergies, and medications. With permission, guardians can see a full view of their family member’s health and activity through the Health app on iPhone, and kids and older adults can view their shared information through Settings on their Apple Watch.
Using the App Store on Apple Watch, kids can download third-party apps directly on device. Apps such as ClassDojo, Coloring Watch, and LookUp: English Dictionary can educate and encourage good habits, while Calm features kid-specific mindfulness experiences. With Family Setup, parents can manage what is available for download through Content Restrictions and Ask to Buy support.
Schooltime and Downtime
Family Setup brings a new mode called Schooltime, which will help ensure kids stay focused and attentive while learning at home or in the classroom. During Schooltime, a distinctive yellow circle is displayed on the watch face for teachers and parents to easily recognise, signifying that access to apps is restricted and Do Not Disturb is turned on. For convenience, parents can also set the schedule on their iPhone so Apple Watch automatically goes into Schooltime during certain hours, or turn it on from Control Center on the child’s watch. To support responsible usage of the device, the Downtime feature of Screen Time extends to Apple Watch, with the child receiving a reminder five minutes before it begins.
Privacy is a fundamental human right and one of Apple’s core values. Apple believes all personal data including location, communication, fitness, and health should be securely encrypted on the devices and in iCloud. Family Setup has been carefully designed to ensure parents and users control access to personal data.
Optimisation for Older Adults
watchOS 7 also offers optimised features for older adults, adding to the powerful set of health and safety tools currently available, including fall detection and irregular rhythm notification. 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 customised 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 centralised view.
Availability and Activation
- Family Setup will be available on Wednesday, September 16, as a free software update and requires cellular models of Apple Watch Series 4 or later or Apple Watch SE running watchOS 7, paired with iPhone 6s or later running iOS 14.
- Not all features will be available if Apple Watch is set up through Family Setup. A wireless service plan is required for cellular service. Contact your service provider for more details. Check apple.com/watch/cellular for participating wireless carriers and eligibility.
- To set up an Apple Watch with Family Setup, a new assistant guides users through the configuration steps on iPhone. Family Setup requires Family Sharing and an Apple ID for the child or older family member of the household, and cellular service enables all of its features.
- Family Setup is subject to local carrier support and will be available at 18 carriers in 12 countries and regions around the world at launch.
- Apple Watch will support 14 hours of daily usage with Family Setup.