The Apple Watch Is the New Starter Phone

Apple’s new features bring a new generation of kids into its ecosystem

Apple doesn’t want to just sell you one product.

The company’s entire gambit is that its phone works better when paired with its watch, and each additional computer, tablet, or streaming device adds more to the experience. Any one of these products can stand on their own, but they all work better in concert together. It’s an effective sales strategy: A 2017 CNBC survey that found the average American owned more than two Apple devices.

The first gadget, whether that be a phone, a laptop, or a tablet, is the cornerstone to the whole enterprise. Now Apple is trying to get that first device into younger hands.

Previously, getting your child or a grandparent connected in the Apple ecosystem, meant buying them an iPhone, and doing your best to safeguard that device from being misused. On Tuesday, the company announced a feature called Family Setup, which is specifically catered toward younger and older people who do not yet have iPhones. The new feature allows a user to sync multiple Apple Watches to their iPhone. That means grandma and the kids can all connect to a single iPhone, making it a hub for the entire family.

The iPhone owner now has the ability to track the GPS signal of the watches, approve contacts allowed to text and call, and send money to be used via Apple Pay. These Family Setup watches can also have their own separate Apple IDs and cell service. Family Setup even has a mode called Schooltime, which restricts app usage and silences notifications.

If Apple users were looking for a highly-managed device for their kids that can track location, give the capability to make calls to specified numbers, as well as a few fun extras, that’s now the Apple Watch. The iPhone is no longer the first step toward life in an Apple ecosystem.

It’s a small step, but an important one. When that kid gets a year or two older, and might be ready to have a phone, the iPhone is the only device that actually works well with the watch. Or maybe they get a first computer, and an iPad complements the device that they already have with iMessage and FaceTime.

That first Apple device then sets up a lifetime in the company’s product line, which is constantly and cyclically being reinvented to replace itself.

Any Apple device you buy your kid makes it more likely that they’ll get (or want) more Apple products. But an iPhone or any phone is a scary first step where parents have little control over what their children do on the device. Buying an Apple Watch locks them into the ecosystem just the same, but offers parents more control than nearly any other offering.

At least, until it’s time to buy them the real deal.


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