Features, how it works, more


(Cybertech) – Apple has introduced a new software feature for the Apple Watch called Family Setup. The new feature is designed to help you set up and manage an Apple Watch for either your child or grandparent even if they don’t own an iPhone whereby you control what apps they can use and how it’s used.

We’ve taken a deep dive into the new feature to see how it works and what it can do. Here’s everything you need to know about Family Setup.

What is Family Setup for Apple Watch?

  • New WatchOS 7 feature
  • Allows kids and older adults to use Apple Watch without iPhone

Family Setup is a new feature, introduced in the WatchOS 7 software update that allows an Apple Watch to be set up through a parent or guardian’s iPhone without the need to use the iPhone thereafter. Previously to use an Apple Watch you have to pair it with that user’s iPhone. Going forward that won’t be the case. 

Now you can use your own iPhone to pair multiple watches for children or elderly family members, and they’ll get their own phone number and account, which you can then help control from your device.

Apple Watch users who do not have an iPhone can still use features like Emergency SOS, Medical ID, FaceTime, Health app, and the App Store, as the Watch has its own number. 

Family Setup also introduces parental control-like features (think ScreenTime but for your Watch), like location tracking for children, a Do-Not-Disturb-like Schooltime mode to help kids stay focused, and more.

Which devices support Family Setup?

  • Only works with the cellular models of Apple Watch Series 4 or later
  • Parent or guardians will need iPhone 6s or later

Family Setup requires cellular models of Apple Watch Series 4 or later running watchOS 7, paired with a parent or guardian’s iPhone 6s or later running iOS 14.

In the UK it is currently only being offered by EE but Truphone is also offering it in Germany, France, Poland, Hong Kong, Spain, the UK and the USA. 

It will not work on the Apple Watch 3


What can you do with Family Setup?

Kids and older adults must be members of the same household to use Family Setup. They will each get their own phone number through a separate cellular plan, and by using their own Apple ID, they can use services like Calendar, Reminders, Messages, and more. You, as the parent, can approve all contacts, so kids can safely use any communication features. 

Location tracking

There’s the ability to set up automation location notifications, so you can be notified of your child’s whereabouts.

Various locations can be added, and are all searchable via Apple Maps – you simply type in your kid’s school for example, and then once you’ve set up a location you can get notifications of when the arrive, leave, or is merely “not at” that location. Beyond that you can also get regular alerts either “once” or “every time”. And of course you can see where they are via the Find my app, so you know if they’re on the way home or still hanging out at the local shops. 


One of the concerns you might have giving your child an Apple Watch is that they’ll get in trouble at school. Apple says they’ve thought about that too and so have created “Schooltime mode” that effectively blocks the user from doing a bunch of stuff like playing with apps or loading up the calculator to help in their maths lesson. The watch can be set up to have multiple schedules and can include breaks. Schooltime blocks apps and complications and turns on the Do Not Disturb feature. Only Emergency calls and notifications will breakthrough. That means you can text them something important, but they can’t text you back. 

When on the watch face changes to feature a big yellow circle, and the idea, presumably, is that teachers will eventually become wise to the fact that a yellow circle means the watch is locked and not get your child in trouble. Good luck with that. 

In a further step to encourage children not to tinker, you also be able to see how many times your child has tried to unlock the Apple Watch while schooltime is turned on. 

Communication limits 

Beyond Schooltime, there are general communication limits and controls that can be set. You can apply limits to Phone, FaceTime, Messages and iCloud contacts, including whether to or not to enact that while Screen Time and Downtme is on, no skirting around the edges etc. You’ll also be able to manage and edit your child’s contacts. 

If they use the Emergency SOS feature, you’ll be automatically notified if they are listed as an emergency contact. You can set yourself up as an ICE contact, however it won’t work in the same way as long-pressing the side button to call emergency services. 


Apple Family Setup users (ie your kids) will be able to access the Watch App Store to download third-party apps directly on their devices, but you’ll be able to manage what is available for them to download. They’ll also be able to use the new Memoji app on Apple Watch to create custom Memojis that can be shared while messaging friends or displayed as a watch face.

Health and Fitness features

Apple has also tweaked the Activity rings experience for children with a move away from Move calories to Move minutes. Additionally Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Run, and Outdoor Cycle workouts have been specifically tuned for kids. Apple says it’s also changed the motivational messages to be tailored to relevant reading levels, especially given that users as young as six could now be wearing an Apple Watch. 

Perhaps more useful for those planning on giving an Apple Watch to an older adult is that you’ll be notified if the Apple Watch detects the wearer has had a fall or reports irregular rhythm supported on newer Apple Watch models. The user will have to give permission first. 

Apple Cash Family

In the US parents will be able to use a new feature called Apple Cash Family to send kids money to spend via Apple Pay. You can also view your child’s purchases right in Wallet on your own iPhone. 

How to set up Family Setup

  • New assistant guides you through the setup
  • Must set up Family Sharing and Apple IDs first

Apple said, when you get started with an Apple Watch, a “new assistant will guide you through the configuration steps on iPhone”.

Just keep in mind Family Setup requires you to first enable Family Sharing and to get an Apple ID for the child or elderly family member of the household. Cellular service is also required to use all Family Setup features. Once Cybertech gets a chance to thoroughly test Family Setup, we will update this guide with more details on how to set it up.


When will Family Setup be available?

  • Launches 16 September 2020
  • Will work in 12 countries, including the US

Family Setup goes live from Wednesday 17 September 2020 as a free software update apart of WatchOS 7 and iOS 14. Apple said it will work with 18 carriers in 12 countries and regions around the globe at launch. In the UK it’s currently exclusive to EE. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but the carrier has said that it will be supporting the new feature from the 17 September 2020. 

Apple Watch is available on a personal paired plan or on EE’s new Family Member Plans with Family Setup which comes with separate unlimited calls, texts and data allowance.

In the UK EE’s Family Member plan will give users 10Gb of data per month for £7, which is the same price as adding an Apple Watch to their standard contract. Customers do require an EE iPhone plan to activate a EE personal paired or EE Family Member Plan. Apple’s Family Setup, which is based on its Family Sharing service, is limited to 5 Apple Watches using Family Setup. 

Want to know more?

Check out Apple’s Newsroom announcement on Family Setup for more details. We also have these Apple Watch guides here at Cybertech:

Writing by Stuart Miles and Maggie Tillman.


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