No smartphone, no problem: these Apple Watch apps work without an iPhone nearby

The Apple Watch is a great companion to an iPhone, but it doesn’t just have to be a companion. Plenty of Apple Watch apps work without an iPhone — meaning you can get a lot done with just your wearable.

There are many reasons why you might want to leave your iPhone at home, and the Apple Watch provides the perfect tool for you to stay connected sans a smartphone.

However, it’s currently difficult to determine what you can and can’t do on an Apple Watch without its trusty iPhone companion. To help you, we put together this guide on Apple Watch apps that work without an iPhone.

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Why would you want to use an Apple Watch without an iPhone nearby

Why would you even want to use Apple Watch apps without an iPhone? For most of us, there are several common use cases.

apple watch gym
Leave your iPhone at home and just strap on your Apple Watch when you hit the gym.

For example, going on a run or hitting the gym with an iPhone can be a pain, depending on your clothes and accessories. With a cellular Apple Watch, you can still listen to music, navigate city streets, and even contact loved ones in an emergency — hands-free.

There’s also a convenience aspect to this. Say you head to the grocery store, but you happen to forget your iPhone in your car. Worse still, you didn’t even realize it until you were in the checkout line with a ton of groceries. If you have an Apple Watch with Apple Pay set up, you can still make your purchase right from your wrist.

Another unique way to use an Apple Watch is to reduce your smartphone screen time. The Apple Watch can provide most of the core functionality of an iPhone, but it’s difficult or even impossible to access social media apps and other time wasters. So, you can leave your iPhone in a bag on some days and give your eyes a much-needed break.

The connectivity of a cellular Apple Watch is also useful for safety. Even though no one anticipates losing their iPhone, it can still happen occasionally. If you have an Apple Watch available, you can still make important calls or at least navigate home — even if your iPhone is damaged or lost when you’re out and about.

Apple Watch apps that work without an iPhone nearby on cellular models

Apple Watch no iPhone symbol

If you have an Apple Watch equipped with cellular capabilities, many different apps work completely fine without your connected iPhone nearby. This includes communication apps, some productivity apps, and music or podcast apps.

A few Reddit users put together a list of apps that they tested. MyHealthyApple also independently verified that most of these apps work on a cellular Apple Watch without a paired iPhone in proximity.

Lens app
Lens lets you check Instagram from your wrist without an iPhone.

Apple apps that work without an iPhone

  • Messages
  • Phone
  • Mail
  • Calendar
  • Reminders
  • Podcasts
  • Apple Music
  • Apple Home
  • Maps

With this list, you can mimic your iPhone’s core functionality without your device near you. You can make calls, send emails, text people, listen to music and podcasts, and navigate — all from your wrist.

Third-party apps that work without an iPhone

There are also various third-party Apple Watch apps that work on cellular Apple Watches without an iPhone nearby.

Things app
Things is a great productivity tool that doesn’t need an iPhone.

Although many of these apps work fine on a cellular watch, some can be spotty without a paired iPhone, so your mileage may vary.

  • Nanogram (Telegram for Apple Watch)
  • Things
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Overcast
  • Outcasts
  • Audible
  • Amazon Music
  • Spotify
  • Pandora
  • Google Maps
  • Lens (for Instagram)
  • Chirp (for Twitter)
  • Nano (for Reddit)

If you don’t see your favorite apps here, the reason is that many third-party apps require either data from your iPhone or need to use the more advanced hardware on the iPhone and, consequently, cannot work independently on the watch.

Apple Watch apps that work without an iPhone nearby on GPS/WiFi-only models

Audiobooks that are preloaded work without Wi-Fi or a cell connection.

The apps mentioned above provide a lot of functionality on cellular-equipped Apple Watch models, but not everyone has an Apple Watch with a cellular plan. Luckily, there are still some Apple Watch apps that work without an iPhone, even if you only have a GPS/WiFi model.

For example, according to Apple, you can do all the following without an iPhone — or a stable Wi-Fi connection.

  • Play music, audiobooks, or podcasts that are preloaded on your Apple Watch
  • Record and play back voice memos
  • Use transit cards or student ID cards
  • Use the Find My app to locate people, items, and devices
  • Use all of the watch functions, including the world clock, alarms, timers, and stopwatches
  • Track your activity and workouts
  • Pay for items using Apple Pay

The Apple Watch is able to do most of these things because of its internal sensors and other hardware. For example, all Apple Watch models have a built-in GPS that can provide accurate distance and speed information without an iPhone.

Walkie Talkie
You can use Walkie-Talkie with just a Wi-Fi connection.

Even if you don’t have a cellular-equipped Apple Watch, you can still use some communication apps on Wi-Fi alone.

If your Apple Watch has a Wi-Fi connection, you can:

  • Send messages and make phone calls
  • Use the Walkie-Talkie feature to talk to other Apple Watch users
  • Listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks
  • Check the weather
  • Control smart home devices using Apple Home
  • Use any third-party app that supports Wi-Fi connectivity

Another reason to buy the cellular Apple Watch model

Apple Watch Emergency
In an emergency, cellular Apple Watch models can call 911 without a cell plan.

As you probably gleaned from this article, a cellular-equipped Apple Watch with a working cell plan can basically mimic a lot of the core functions of your iPhone. Because of that, many people can benefit from opting for the cellular model.

Cellular Apple Watch models are more expensive, however. And, of course, you’ll also need to pay for a separate cellular plan for most of your internet-connected Apple Watch apps to work without an iPhone.

Even if you don’t want to pay for a cellular plan for your wearable, there’s still one key reason to buy a cellular model: contacting emergency services.

In the U.S., there’s a federal law that requires all cellular devices to have the ability to dial 911 — even without an active cellular plan. Other countries have similar mandates.

What this means, essentially, is that a cellular Apple Watch can contact the authorities in an emergency or when it detects you’re in a vehicle crash, even if you don’t have a cellular plan equipped on that device.

So, you can basically think of your cellular Apple Watch as an emergency contact device that could get you out of a pinch. When you’re in an emergency, that may be the most important functionality that your wearable can provide.

The Apple Watch can be an incredibly useful device — even without an iPhone

Apple Watch apps that work without an iPhone

There are many Apple Watch apps that work without an iPhone, including both first- and third-party apps that cover a range of different functions.

All these iPhone-less capabilities make the Apple Watch an even more useful tool for your day-to-day life, particularly for the busy fitness enthusiast on the go.

And even if you don’t go anywhere without your trusty iPhone in your pocket, you can rest assured that your Apple Watch is there to help you out with some key features in a bind.


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