I’ve been thinking a lot about my kids, and how we will approach technology as they get older. I recently wrote about our approach to social media, and that led me to thinking about how I will approach cell phone usage in their lives. My oldest son will turn nine this year, so it’s something I know is going to come up sooner rather than later. After thinking about the role of a cell phone in a child’s life, I’ve realized that an Apple Watch with a LTE connection will eventually become the perfect kid cell phone. We’re not quite there yet technology-wise, but I can see a day when all the stars will align.
Why can’t the current Apple Watch work by itself?
The Apple Watch is still very tied to an iPhone. Although it can work away from it on Wi-Fi or LTE, it’s not meant to last all day in this state. I frequently run with only my Apple Watch, and I can easily burn through double-digit % of my battery on a six-mile+ run. In fact, I ran seven miles last week, and my battery was at 40% by the end of it. A lot of the drain is related to running the developer beta of watchOS 6, though. Even apart from the battery life, there is still a lot about Apple Watch that requires an iPhone to operate. Similar to how the iPhone required an initial connect to a Mac or PC prior to iOS 5, the Apple Watch still has to be connected to an iPhone out of the box to set it up. Plenty of apps still want to be connected to their iPhone counterpart to download data (Apple Podcasts is an example).
So we’ve got two main problems: the battery life when away from iPhone for long periods is not great, and then watchOS 6 isn’t meant to live apart from iOS. We are seeing the groundwork being laid, though. One of the new features of watchOS 6 is a built-in App Store. This new feature will allow apps to be watchOS only vs having to have an iPhone counterpart.
Why is the Apple Watch with cellular a perfect kid cell phone?
Many parents give their children cell phones in order to allow them to be reached (or reach you) in case of an emergency. When I was in middle school, we used to call our parents on a payphone when it was time to be picked up from football practice. Now, parents can reach their kids via iMessage, phone calls, or FaceTime any time of the day.
When I think about why I might give my kids a cell phone, it’ll be so I can know where they are (GPS via the Find My app), to send them quick text messages, and call them. If Apple can continue to expand the capabilities of watchOS and expand the battery life to last all day on LTE, then I really believe that the Apple Watch with a cellular connection will become the de facto first cell phone for kids. With Apple Watch, there is no camera, there is limited ability to access the internet, and no social media (yet). I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, Apple Watch is the product that excites me most about the future of Apple. There are so many places that LTE connected technology on our wrist can take our society.
What are your thoughts on the future of Apple Watch as a standalone device? Do you think we will get to a place where battery life will last all day, and it could become the new “dumb phone” for people who want communication without everything else? Let’s discuss in the comments.