Can You Have a Smartwatch Without a Phone?

Last Updated: May 10, 2022By

Black smartwatch on hand

People who have kept themselves up to speed with the up and latest news in the smartwatch world know just how versatile these compact little devices have become.

In the past decade, we have seen so many of the traditional (and distinguishing) features of smartphones be integrated into smartwatches. It is not surprising that many people today ponder the question of can they own a smartwatch without a smartphone.

Smartwatches & Smartphones

A good way to go about answering the question above is first to understand what smartphones and smartwatches are and how these devices are related to each other.


A smartphone is a mobile device that enables users to make phone calls, send text messages, surf the Internet, and execute software applications in the same way that a computer does. Users interact with their smartphones through a touch screen.

There are hundreds of smartphone applications available today, including countless game apps, social media apps, organizational apps, business tools apps, and more. 


On the other hand, smartwatches are wearable computer devices that mimic wristwatches or different kinds of timekeeping devices.

Smartwatches allow users to extend the functionality of their mobile devices to smartwatches through a Bluetooth connection.

The watch’s interface enables the user to send and receive phone calls and text messages from their cell phone, check email and other notifications, get weather forecasts, play music, compose emails, and use the digital assistant.

Other smartwatches are purpose-built gadgets that can stand their own ground without being connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

For example, some smartwatches capture the wearer’s health data, such as the wearer’s heart rate. Others give GPS data, which provides driving or walking instructions to the user.

Most smartwatches, though, operate at their optimum functionality when they’re connected to smartphones via Bluetooth.

For example, some smartwatches need to be connected to smartphones to be able to send and receive calls and text messages through these watches. So this way, many of their smartphone-like features depend on their connection to a smartphone.

On the other hand, smartphones do not need to be connected to smartwatches to function optimally, i.e., smartphones can perform all of their functions without being connected to them.

This one-way dependency relation will be an important thing to bear in mind while we answer the central question of this discussion.

What Smartwatches Can Do Without Smartphones

Black smartwatch on mac

Now that we understand what smartphones and smartwatches are and how they are related to each other in terms of their functions, it is time to look at just how well the gap between their distinct uses has closed.

In this section, we will look at the different features available on today’s smartwatches that don’t require them to be connected to a smartphone.

For this discussion, bear in mind that different kinds of smartwatches are available at different price ranges. There are cheap smartwatches that can do little more than telling the time and counting your daily steps, and then there are more expensive smartwatches that can do all of these things and so much more.

The most expensive smartwatches today come with an interactive touch screen, integrated, voice-activated virtual assistants, a GPS tracker, SIM slot, calling/ texting features, and much more.

Since we want to see whether today’s latest smartwatches can stand alone without being connected to smartphones, we will only consider the most advanced smartwatches for this discussion and leave out the cheaper ones (which obviously can’t replace smartphones) from the question.

Smartwatches have introduced a slew of new capabilities for users. Things like fitness monitoring, playing music, voice control, calling, and messaging are all possible without a phone.

Bear in mind that some of these capabilities will require a listening device, such as a set of Apple’s Air pods. These will ensure that you can continue to listen to music or use voice commands through a microphone attachment.

Which functions you may have access to may vary significantly depending on the smartwatch manufacturer and model. The latest (and obviously the most expensive) smartwatches will include plenty of stand-alone functions.

Currently, Apple leads the smartwatch market by a landslide and is leaps and bounds ahead of other manufacturers in smartwatch innovation. You will be able to play music while traveling, make calls, and monitor your activity without requiring a constant connection to your phone.

However, if fitness is a major factor in your decision to acquire a wristwatch, you may want to consider a specialized fitness tracker smartwatch. These specialized gadgets will collect a variety of biometric data in order to provide you with insights into your behavior.

It’s worth mentioning that although some of these watches will require a fast connection to a smartphone to retrieve this data, the device itself includes all sensors and GPS, allowing you to forget your phone in your bedroom.

Listening to music on the move without having to reach for your phone is now possible, too, since many of the latest smartwatches today (i.e., The Galaxy Smartwatch 3) come with the necessary internal storage for your tunes and playlists.

Listening to music on the move without having to reach for your phone, many of the latest smartwatches (i.e., The Galaxy Smartwatch 3) have the necessary internal storage for your tunes and playlists.

Additionally, you may utilize streaming services such as Spotify without encountering any complications.

To initiate calls and send messages without a smartphone, you’ll need access to all three of these: 1) network connectivity, 2) headphones, and 3) a mic. Some smartwatches have all three, so you’d be able to avoid purchasing extra items like Bluetooth headsets.

Messaging will be performed mainly via the speech-to-text capability. However, the latest smartwatches (such as the Apple watch series 7) come with. Regardless, you will want the connection to a mobile network to achieve this. Or else, users would have to depend on the network connectivity provided by their phone to do this. 

Luckily, micro-SIM tech can provide connectivity to mobile networks for your smartwatch. This feature is not available in all smartwatches, but those with it will usually come with a little space on the side that accepts this particular SIM type.

Generally, you’ll need to connect your mobile network’s plan to your smartwatch. 

Why It’s Unlikely That Smartwatches Will Ever Replace Smartphones

Close up of white smartwatch

It is not difficult to see why people would ponder whether smartwatches could, in the future, fully replace smartphones. After all, we see technology get more and more advanced every day.

Three decades ago, if you told someone that a mobile phone no bigger than the size of their hand could perform computing functions that even the most advanced computers of that time weren’t capable of handling, no one would believe you. Yet here we are today with smartphones that can do so much more than that.

The point is that there is no question that the smartwatches that are expected to come to us in the future will pack in more features than we can possibly imagine, but this doesn’t guarantee that smartwatches will replace smartphones.

After all, smartphones didn’t replace laptops or tablets. A much more realistic view of the future, in our opinion, is that the future’s smartwatches will possess more and more features that are exclusive to smartphones today.

However, smartwatches will always be positioned as a separate product from smartphones (like how smartphones, laptops, and tablets are positioned uniquely even though there is a lot of overlap between their functions).

There is simply something about a palm-sized computer that you can easily fit in your pocket that (much smaller) smartwatches can never be expected to replace.

Smartphones have their unique position among our personal computing devices, and we believe smartwatches will never be able to take that away from them- no matter how advanced they get.


Now that we’ve taken a good look at how much smartwatches can accomplish without smartphones, it is time to return to the original question of this discussion.

While there are a lot of variables to consider while answering this question, and while the correct answer to this question will vary from individual to individual depending on what they use their smartphones for and which smartwatch they are thinking of getting, we think the majority will agree that smartwatches (at least currently) cannot replace smartphones for long term use.

In the short term, i.e., for a day or two, maybe you’ll be able to make do with a smartwatch without feeling the need for a smartphone, but, over the long run, you will realize that there are quite a few indispensable perks that come from owning a smartphone- the most obvious of which are having access to high-quality cameras and gaining a larger screen real estate.

This latter quality of smartphones gives rise to a cascade of further benefits that smartwatches can perhaps never provide. This includes things like a functioning touch-keyboard, the ability to multitask, run, and access social media apps and other apps, the ability to run games, and other power-intensive apps a lot more.

Additionally, smartwatches are limited in terms of how much power they can pack within them due to their restricted size. No matter how advanced smartwatches get in the upcoming years, this is one area in which they’ll never have the edge over smartphones since smartphones will always have more space inside them to pack in greater power.

This, combined with the fact that, unlike smartphones, smartwatches can’t run many power-intensive apps, means that if you try to replace your smartphone with a smartwatch fully, you will become very restricted in how much you can accomplish with your technology.  

Regardless of how self-contained a smartwatch is, it will need a smartphone to install applications and songs or get workout and fitness analytics.

Even though Apple offers direct app downloads to the latest version of the Apple Watch OS, this option is often unavailable without first downloading a linked application to your phone.

So, while smartwatches have done a pretty good job in taking over many of smartphones’ most commonly used features, we think it would be a stretch (at least in today’s time) to say that they can act as a complete substitute for smartphones.