Using Apple Watch as a standalone phone and tracking device for kids in Australia - my experience

Being a parent with young kids, I wanted to be able to contact them when necessary, but not want to give them a smartphone until they are old enough.

My eldest has been using a Moochie smart watch for the past couple of years - basically an Android based device that uses a custom app, that allows phone calls, video calls, messaging and tracking, that uses the Vodafone network. It works, but the hardware is flimsy (had to be replaced once), battery life is not great, and the software not reliable (may be due to the Vodafone network). Cost me $15/month.

I found out that Apple has recently expanded Family Sharing to Apple Watches, that allow parents to set up an Apple Watch to have its own phone number, without the need for another iPhone. This sounded quite attractive. The downside in Australia is that none of the providers like Telstra or Optus support this function. There is only 1 carrier that allows it here - Truphone, which uses the Vodafone network (again).

I decided this was the way to go - so I did some research, and initially bought a new Apple Watch SE cellular. After more research, I realised the Apple Watch SE is basically a downgraded Apple Watch Series 5 (same processor, but without always on screen or ECG, although it does have other newer sensors). So I returned the SE, and got a refurbished Series 5 cellular for the same price from the Apple Store.

Setting it up was easy. You choose to add an Apple Watch to your iPhone, but select the Family Members option. You pair it as per usual. Update the WatchOS.

You then go to the Truphone website and sign up for an account and choose the country as Australia. Sign up to their $10/month plan. Find the Watch EID in your Watch app settings, and copy and paste it (it’s very long). Enter your credit card details (although it said Amex is accepted, mine didn’t work, had to use Mastercard). And then you wait a few minutes for the plan to activate. Your phone should get a text message, but what I did was go back to the Watch App, to Mobile, and activate the plan. This step took less than 10 minutes.

The Apple Watch is then up and running with its own phone number!

The great thing about this setup is that Family Screen Time works, and you can also set School Time so that the Apple Watch goes to sleep mode during school hours. You can manage the contacts on the phone, and track it as well.

Anyway, the eldest kid now has the Apple Watch, my second child has the Moochie for now. Just sharing my experience with this here. :slight_smile:

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Thanks for sharing. Definitely something I am interested in myself.

Brilliant, thanks for sharing Erwin!

I have a family member trying to do exactly this for his pre-teen at the moment. So is it just the watch that’s on Truphone? Or does the phone it’s paired to need to be as well?

Only the Apple Watch.

My iPhone is on Telstra. Nothing would make me have to use the Vodafone network for myself!

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Hah!

Very helpful again, thank you.

Interesting that this new article provides a list of smartwatches with phone and GPS capabilities, but neglects to mention the Apple Watch option, which is far superior.

I’ve thought about this for years, but curious why you didn’t go the Spacetalk route which seems to get a lot better feedback than the moochies. I ended up just giving my younger daughter who is in her last yr of primary school an old iphone 6 but before that the newer spacetalk was the plan for her and her sister before her. With covid and working from home we never ended up needing one for the older and she went straight to an iPhone when she started school. Also curious why you didn’t want the SE for them as its not like a kids going to use the ECG etc. I like the always on aspect but its a tonne more money to get the applewatch 5 and I find that always on is best for when you have meetings etc. My oldest daughter kept asking for a applewatch but I know she will break it by accident, shes careful with her phone but thats the other good thing with teh spacetalks that they are fairly robust.

I decided to stick with the Apple ecosystem and trusted the Apple Watch hardware since I’m very familiar with it. I’m not confident with the hardware and software of other providers.

I found that a refurbished Series 5 was only $20 more expensive compared to a brand new SE on the Apple Store. So decided to get the Series 5 instead.

I’ve got a full case attached to the watch for protection.

Hey Erwin,

My family member is is trying this out with his pre-teen on Truphone and having a bad run. When the sim is active, the battery is only lasting 10-12 hours. Originally thought to be a defective watch (brand new SE), now a replacement unit is having the same issue.

Did you have a noticeable battery decrease with yours once the sim was active?

Ok, same thing happened to me initially too. It’s mainly to do with the Vodafone network which has poorer coverage in some areas so the watch keeps having to try to connect. On weekend when the watch is at home on wifi or in a good Vodafone area the battery lasts all day.

This is what I did to fix my daughter’s Series 5 so it lasts all day and have 20% still at bedtime. Prior to these changes it would last half a day only.

Go to the Watch settings in the Watch itself:

  1. Switch off always on (this is already the case with the SE).

  2. Turn off background app refresh on all apps except Mail and Messages. Make Mail only fetch every hour.

  3. Turn brightness down a bit.

  4. Have school time on during school hours (8.30 to 3 pm for us). This shuts the Watch down during those times which should be the case anyway. The watch can still be used by turning the crown.

That’s it. Try the above and let me know how it goes.

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Awesome.

Thanks very much for that.
I’ll pass it along and let you know how it goes.
Much appreciated.

Would Optus number sharing be the same thing, but with the apple watch sharing the same phone number and data as your iPhone (costs $5/month)?

Hi Celts,

Welcome to the forum. The Optus number sharing actually shares the number as the name suggests. So it would be useable, but it would not have its own unique number. So you couldn’t call or message it directly. Rather the calls/messages do to all devices using that number, or only specified ones. Either way, no way to contact that number directly. For kids, you may want to option to send a message “running 10 minutes late to pick you up, meet at front gate”.

This is my understanding of it anyway. Perhaps someone can confirm or deny that’s dug a little deeper.