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How to set up an Apple Watch for someone else with Family Setup

Published Nov 24th, 2023 12:44PM EST
Apple Watch Series 9
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Ever since the Apple Watch Series 4 or Apple Watch SE with cellular, you can set up an Apple smartwatch for a family member without an iPhone. This is perfect for older relatives or children, so they can make phone calls, send messages, and share their location with you only by using the Watch.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to set up an Apple Watch with Family Setup and tell you the perks and downsides of using a smartwatch like this.

Before setting up the new Apple Watch

Apple Watch SE Main
Apple Watch SE smartwatch. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR
  • Ensure you have an Apple Watch Series 4, SE, or later with cellular connectivity;
  • This smartwatch must be running at least watchOS 7
  • The initial setup requires an iPhone 6s or later running at least iOS 14
  • Ensure you and your family member have an Apple ID. The person setting up the watch must have two-factor authentication turned on on their Apple ID.
  • The person who’ll use the Apple Watch must be part of your Family Sharing group on iCloud (Go to iPhone settings, tap your name, Family Sharing, and set up.)

Although an Apple Watch with cellular isn’t necessary, it’s recommended since it’s required for some features, such as making phone calls.

How to set up an Apple Watch for someone else

  1. If the Watch isn’t new, you must erase it first
  2. Then, put on the watch or have your family member put it on. Press and hold the side button until you see the Apple logo
  3. Hold the watch near your iPhone
  4. Hold the Apple Watch close to your iPhone. Wait until “Use your iPhone to set up this Apple Watch” appears on your iPhone, then tap Continue. If you don’t see this message, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap All Watches, and then tap Add Watch
  5. Tap Set Up for a Family Member, then tap Continue on the next screen
  6. Hold your iPhone over the animation that appears on the watch. Center the watch face in the viewfinder on your iPhone, then wait for a message to say that your Apple Watch is paired. If you can’t use the camera, tap Pair Apple Watch Manually, then follow the steps that appear
  7. Tap Agree on the Terms and Conditions screen, then choose a text size for the Apple Watch
  8. Set a passcode to keep the watch secure
  9. Choose the family member who will use the Apple Watch. If they don’t appear, tap Add Family Member
  10. Enter the family member’s Apple ID password, then tap Next
  11. Turn on Ask to Buy if you want to give approval for any downloads or purchases made on the Apple Watch
  12. If your iPhone cellular provider supports Family Setup, you can add the watch to your plan during this step
  13. Next, choose whether to share your current Wi-Fi network with the Apple Watch.
  14. In the screens that follow, choose whether to turn on and set up additional Apple Watch features. These include Location Services for the Find My app, Siri, Apple Cash Family, Messages in iCloud, Health Data, Emergency Contacts, Medical ID, Activity, Time in Daylight, Workout Route Tracking, and Photos

How to set up shared contacts and Schooltime

watchOS 10.2 beta / Apple Watch Ultra 2 Now Playing section appears close to pair of HomePod miniImage source: José Adorno for BGR

When you’re about to finish setting up the Apple Watch for someone else, you’ll be asked to set up the contacts that will be available on the Apple Watch.

To allow this, you need to have Contacts in iCloud enabled. Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud on your iPhone and make sure that Contacts is turned on. Then, you can choose trusted people from your own Contacts app to share on the Apple Watch. You can manage these shared contacts later and set up restrictions in Screen Time on your iPhone.

If this Apple Watch is for your kid, you can set a Screen Time passcode for the watch and turn on Schooltime.

Available features and apps

These are the features available when you set up an Apple Watch for a family member:

  • High and low heart rate notifications are available for users 13 and older.
  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is available for users 18 and older. 
  • Fall Detection is available for users 18 and older.
  • Users under the age of 13 can use move minutes, rather than active calories, for their Move goal in the Activity app.
  • Users can also measure time in daylight. Parents can view the amount of time their children spend in daylight using the Health Sharing feature in the Health app.

Apple Pay features:

  • Apple Cash Family is available to users under the age of 18, allowing them to make purchases and send and receive money in Messages with Apple Pay (the United States only).
  • Apple Pay using a credit or debit card in the Wallet app is not available with Family Setup.

Unfortunately, a few features are not available when you set up an Apple Watch with someone else, such as Medications, respiratory rate, irregular heart rhythm notifications, ECG, AFib History, Cycle Tracking, Sleep, Wrist Temperature, Blood Oxygen, Walking Steadiness, Audiobooks, Remote, News, Shortcuts, and the double tap gesture.

Is it worth setting up an Apple Watch for someone who doesn’t own an iPhone?

Apple Watch Series 9 On Table
Apple Watch Series 9 on a table. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

At the end of the day, it all depends on your needs. Since many of the features are unavailable without an iPhone, I think it’s worth pairing it with an older device or an iPhone SE, which will give the person peace of mind and more features available.

But if you have parents who dislike tech or you don’t want your kid to have an iPhone just now, I think an Apple Watch might be enough for most tasks, especially if it has a cellular connection.

It’s only important to note that when the Watch relies on cellular connectivity, its battery drains way faster than regular usage with an iPhone nearby.

José Adorno Tech News Reporter

José is a Tech News Reporter at BGR. He has previously covered Apple and iPhone news for 9to5Mac, and was a producer and web editor for Latin America broadcaster TV Globo. He is based out of Brazil.

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