Is Apple Watch Ultra Capable of Replacing Your iPhone? An In-Depth Analysis

The Apple Watch Ultra is a great piece of technology, even more so with the release of the Ultra 2. It has many valuable features not included in the standard Apple Watch, and it also supports cellular technology so that you can use it on the go. At a price close to that of an iPhone, some people have asked me if it’s possible to replace their iPhone with an Apple Watch Ultra.

Can Apple Watch Ultra Replace Iphone?

Key Takeaways

  • An Apple Watch Ultra can temporarily work as an iPhone replacement but requires a cellular service plan.
  • Configuring and setting up an Apple Watch Ultra or Ultra 2 without an iPhone is impossible.
  • The Watch Ultra and Ultra 2 have features that work well without an iPhone, including phone calls and navigation.
  • App support is limited on the Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2.
  • The Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2’s batteries can’t keep up with all-day use as a phone replacement.
  • Precision Finding on the Apple Watch Ultra 2 requires an iPhone 15 to work correctly.

Setting Up The Apple Watch Ultra or Ultra 2

It’s impossible to set up any Apple Watch, including the Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2 if you don’t have an iPhone. Everything in the setup and configuration process is managed by the Watch app on the iPhone, so without it, the Watch Ultra is virtually useless.

It is possible to have someone else set up the Watch Ultra for you on their iPhone. This will link you to their family group on their Apple account, and you can then use the Watch Ultra as a basic iPhone replacement if you wish, though there are still a few limitations.

For this to work correctly, you have to enable a cellular plan for the Apple Watch Ultra or Ultra 2, even if you’re mainly using Wi-Fi. The problem is that you will have to occasionally link the Watch with the same iPhone again, as this is the only way to tweak specific settings and install updates.

What Works When Replacing An iPhone With A Watch Ultra

Apart from the initial setup, there are several things that an Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2 can do that could effectively replace your iPhone.

Make And Receive Calls

It’s possible to make and receive phone calls on any Apple Watch Ultra model without using an iPhone. This requires the activation of a cellular plan on the watch.

The call quality is quite decent. The Watch Ultra has good speakers that can get quite loud to hear the person on the other end. The microphones aren’t great for phone calls, though. They are better at canceling background noise than those on other Apple Watch models, but your voice likely won’t be as clear as it would be when using an iPhone.

Phone calls are a bit easier on the Ultra 2 because of the simple double-tap functionality. Since the Watch Ultra was designed for sports, it’s normal to want to use it with gloves, but that can be a bit of a struggle. With the Ultra 2, you can now answer and end calls using the new double-tap gesture.

Send And Receive Text Messages

iMessage works perfectly on the Apple Watch Ultra and Ultra 2, so you can easily send text messages to other Apple users. You can even message Android users through regular SMS. The Watch Ultra’s on-screen keyboard works surprisingly well despite the tiny keys.

Use Apple’s Maps App

You can navigate using the Maps app on the Apple Watch Ultra, and it works very well thanks to the Ultra’s excellent GPS tracking. It’s even better on the Ultra 2 because Siri can now do on-device processing instead of cloud processing like the original Ultra. Even though navigation still requires an internet connection, the on-device processing makes it feel much faster and more responsive.

Speaking of internet connection, it’s also important to remember that the Watch Ultra’s cellular receiver is much smaller than the iPhone’s. This means you could have a weaker cellular signal, which could interfere with your navigation.

Use Apple Pay

You can use Apple Pay and all its associated features with the Apple Watch Ultra. Any bank cards that you have linked with Apple Pay will work by tapping the Apple Watch, and you can also transfer money to other Apple Pay users.

Listen To Music, Audiobooks, And Podcasts

You can stream music, audiobooks, and podcasts on your Apple Watch Ultra through the Apple Music, Books, and Podcasts apps. The built-in speakers aren’t great for this, so you might want to use Bluetooth earphones like AirPods for better sound quality. Of course, streaming requires an active Wi-Fi or cellular internet connection.

It’s possible to download all these media to your Apple Watch Ultra to listen without streaming, even more so with the Watch Ultra 2’s 64GB of storage, but you need access to an iPhone to do that.

News And Stocks

The Watch Ultra will give you access to the latest news and the Stocks app if you have an active internet connection.

What You Can’t Do On The Apple Watch Without An iPhone

So far, we’ve seen that you can perform many of your day-to-day activities without an iPhone, using just an Apple Watch Ultra or Ultra 2. This might make it seem realistic to get rid of your iPhone entirely. However, you should also keep the negative aspects in mind.

Setup Of The Apple Watch Ultra

We’ve already mentioned that you need an iPhone to set up, configure, and update the Apple Watch Ultra, but it’s worth saying again.

App Support

The Apple Watch Ultra doesn’t have excellent app support; at least, not nearly on the same level as the iPhone. Though you can load most of Apple’s apps on the Watch, third-party app developers don’t really support the Apple Watch too much apart from syncing notifications from the iPhone.

This is slowly changing, especially with the commitment Apple showed by releasing the Ultra 2 with more storage. More and more app developers are releasing full apps for the Watch Ultra, but there will always be some that just won’t be practical to use on a watch.

Social Media

Social media platforms, including apps like Instagram, X (Twitter), and TikTok, don’t support the Apple Watch at all. You cannot scroll through them and watch videos or browse photos. The apps are simply not supported on the Apple Watch Ultra or Ultra 2. This might change in the future, but it’s not there yet.

That might not seem too big of a deal, especially for someone who doesn’t use social media much. But this extends to text messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. You cannot use these on the Apple Watch Ultra, apart from receiving notifications synced from an iPhone, which limits your text messaging to only iMessage and SMS.


One of the first things most people miss is the camera. Many of us don’t even realize how often we use the cameras built into our iPhones until we don’t have them with us.

When you see that beautiful sunset or have an experience you want to record, you will suddenly remember that you can’t do that without a camera.

Battery Life

The Apple Watch Ultra has excellent battery life (up to 30 hours with power saving turned on). But it was never designed to replace your phone, so people who try to use the Watch as their full-time device quickly find that the battery doesn’t last as long as they’d hoped.

In an experiment performed by Tom’s Guide, where the researcher tried to replace the iPhone with an Apple Watch Ultra for 24 hours, she found that the battery ran down to 7% in only a few hours. That’s after she had to use Watch to send messages, make payments, make phone calls, and navigate around town using Maps.

Battery life is a bit better on the Watch Ultra 2, though. It has up to 36 hours of battery life with normal use or 72 hours in low power mode. However, YouTuber Shervin Shares did a similar experiment using the Ultra 2. He took the watch off the charger around 6:40 A.M., and by 3:30 P.M., it was on 9%. So, the battery is still not good enough to replace an iPhone.

The iPhone has a large, high-capacity battery designed for this kind of use, and the Apple Watch Ultra doesn’t. The fact that it can perform all these functions doesn’t mean it can perform them optimally, and the battery life will suffer when you try.

Precision Finding

The Precision Finding feature is one of the new features built into the Apple Watch Ultra 2 that only works with an iPhone. It uses ultra-wideband chips included in the Watch Ultra 2 and iPhone 15 series to locate your iPhone more precisely than previously. The Ultra 2 can guide you to the precise location where you left or lost your iPhone instead of just giving you a vague idea.

Of course, this feature will not work without an iPhone 15, so it’s worth mentioning.

In Summary

The Apple Watch Ultra can be used as a temporary iPhone replacement, and the Ultra 2 even more so. However, it’s not practical to replace your iPhone entirely, and impossible in some cases. It can help with a digital detox, but you will be disappointed if you plan to buy an Apple Watch Ultra or Ultra 2 instead of an iPhone.

Before you go…

We’ve mentioned how the Apple Watch Ultra’s battery isn’t quite good enough to replace an iPhone entirely, but there are some ways around this. The logical solution is to charge the Watch Ultra at some point during the day, but what can you do if you don’t have a charger handy? Read on for some solutions!

How to Charge Apple Watch Ultra Without Charger

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