Let’s face it, an Apple Watch that doesn’t require any sort of phone capability would be fantastic. To be able to connect using a cellular connection from anywhere, right off your wrist, is obviously the end goal for any technology that should be considered autonomous. The first iteration of the Apple Watch is foregoing a completely autonomous device dream because of obvious technical complexities, largely based around size of chips and battery usage. For that reason, the Apple Watch requires a “tethered” connection to an iPhone. By doing it this way, Apple is taking advantage of its mature iPhone platform. Because of all of its connectivity and sensors, they augment the watch’s capabilities without requiring the first version of the device to be crammed with duplicate sensors, chips, and a requirement to double or triple the battery capacity.
What’s important to understand is that tethering may potentially be accommodated in two flavors. The most obvious is Bluetooth. When you imagine the typical watch usage scenario, most people envision the watch on their wrist and the phone in their purse or pocket. For scenarios like these where the watch and the phone are within very close proximity to each other, a Bluetooth connection is more than adequate. Bluetooth, by the way, can reach further than just a foot or two, which makes it useful for scenarios like when your phone is sitting on a desk in front of you. What might not be as obvious, however, is good old Wi-Fi. What a Wi-Fi tether could afford is the ability to tether the device to a phone over the same Wi-Fi connection. The most common scenarios that this addresses are when you’re at home or in the office. I don’t know about you, but those two scenarios cover about 95% of my typical day. What that means is that, even though my Apple Watch requires an iPhone in order to connect to the outside world, as long as I’m on the same Wi-Fi network, my phone can be downstairs in my bedroom while I’m upstairs, and down the hall, getting notifications on my watch. I can also leave my phone on my desk and head out to a meeting on a different floor in our building, knowing the Wi-Fi connection will take care of the intercommunication between my watch and phone.
While we wait for a new iteration of the watch to essentially become a mini iPhone on our wrist, a tethered watch will have to do. If, as some information out there seems to suggest, a watch can indeed tether over WIFI, that will make the tethering even more manageable.