My LTE Apple Watch is a Glimpse Into a Possible Near Future

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

One of the challenges I have run across in the past when I switched to Android for a few weeks or months was how I would manage the Apple Watch during that time. See, even when I’m not using my iPhone at all, I would still have to carry it around with me so that my Apple Watch worked correctly. When that phone is a Plus model iPhone, that’s no small ask.

But what I’ve realized over the past week of using Android P full time1 is that I no longer need to keep my iPhone with me anymore. While the Apple Watch of old was tied directly to the iPhone it was paired with, the new LTE models do quite fine just on their own.

Activity and workout tracking works perfectly with or without a connected iPhone. This is the second year with GPS in the Watch, but the addition of LTE means this watch can also stream Apple Music while I’m on a workout directly to my AirPods. Here’s hoping for more audio apps to support LTE streaming in watchOS 5, but this is a great start.

Notifications work totally fine too. No matter where I am and whether my iPhone is nearby or not, I get the same notification on my Android phone and Apple Watch at the same time. I generally have my Pixel 2 on silent so that I get buzzed on my wrist for all notifications, I reply from the notification directly on the watch, or I pick up my phone and answer from there. It’s a manual process to make sure I have the same apps on my Pixel and Apple Watch, but 90% of the time it’s a near exact replication of my Watch + iPhone experience.

Now the Apple Watch is not totally independent yet. I can’t set it up without also owning an iPhone and the experience is good for me because I’ve done some work up front to make sure it and my Pixel phone are in close sync in terms of notification settings, but it’s a liberating experience to feel like the Apple Watch is doing its own thing. The LTE Apple Watch feels like a teenager living away from home for the first time. It’s challenging and you have to solve problems you previously had handled for you, but it’s exciting when things work out.

iOS 5 was the first version of iOS that let us use an iPhone completely independently from a Mac or PC. The Apple Watch currently needs an iPhone to get set up but runs pretty independently after that. It doesn’t seem that crazy that the 5th version of this operating system could also allow users to own and operate an Apple Watch without involving an iPhone at all. The business case for that isn’t as strong as it was for the iPhone back in 2011, but it’s a little crazy to me that we’ve gotten this close so quickly.

  1. Which I plan to use full time until June 4 when I recklessly install the iOS 12 beta on my iPhone.