Smartwatches have come a long way in the last decade, from being a novelty tech item with limited features to being as close to a standalone product as they have ever been. While these feature-rich pieces of consumer technology can replace or enhance many of the features we rely on in our smartphones, not all smartwatches are created equal.
Some smartwatches can be used in the absence of a smartphone. These are typically higher-end models that require a micro-SIM for operation, implying that the smartwatch will communicate over a cellular network without the need to tether to a device.
While you can use our guide to operate some smartwatches without a phone nearby, you will frequently need a phone to set up and instal apps on your watch. This translates to a product that can function without a smartphone but still requires one on occasion. Other products, such as specialty watches with smart features (such as dedicated GPS/running watches), are an exception. However, if you have a smartwatch that accepts a micro-SIM, you can still do a lot without your phone.
Smartwatches have added a plethora of features for users, and if you’re wondering which ones will work without a phone, you’re in luck, because essentials like fitness tracking, music playing/streaming, voice commands, calling, and texting can all be done without a phone connected.
Keep in mind that some of these features will still require the use of a listening device, such as a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort Bluetooth Headphones (available on Amazon) or Apple Airpods Pro (on Amazon). These will ensure that you can still listen to music (see our guide for more information) or use voice commands with a microphone attachment.
Which features you may have access to will be determined by the smartwatch brand and model. The Apple Watch Series (available on Amazon) will pack a lot of stand-alone features into your wrist. When it comes to smartwatches, Apple has been the most innovative. However, if fitness is a major motivator for your smartwatch purchase, you might want to consider a dedicated fitness tracker smartwatch. The Fitbit Sense Advanced Smartwatch (available on Amazon) is an excellent addition to any runner’s arsenal.
Smartwatch Calling and Texting
To use your smartwatch to make calls and send texts without a smartphone, you’ll need three things: 1) network access, 2) a speaker and/or headphones, and 3) a microphone. Some smartwatches will include all three, so you may be able to avoid purchasing an additional item such as a Bluetooth headset.
Others will only support network functions, necessitating the use of headphones. In terms of texting, the voice to text feature will be used the majority of the time.
However, you will need access to a cellular network to do so. Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on the network access provided by your phone. Apple watches with iMessage may be able to send and receive texts when connected to a Wi-Fi network; in fact, we’ve covered this in detail in our other guide.