Too young for an iPhone? Apple says its watch is ‘a great call for kids’ in new promotion


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A shopper holds an Apple Watch Series 8 on sale at the company’s Fifth Avenue store in New York, Sept. 16, 2022.
Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple is trying a new tactic to get its products in the hands of younger users.

The iPhone maker on Wednesday launched a new marketing website as part of a rebranding effort for its suite of Apple Watch features aimed at children. The site, which calls the Apple Watch “a great call for kids,” shows how parents can use the device to stay in touch with their children, who may be too young for a smartphone.

“Easy to call and text. Know where they are. Great ways to keep them active. It’s independence for them. And peace of mind for you,” the message on the website says.

The software that lets parents track their child’s location and manage the device is called “Apple Watch For Your Kids.” It was previously called “Family Setup.”

Apple’s pitch is that a cellular-connected watch will give parents peace of mind when their kids are out and about by enabling them to call or text home. What Apple isn’t explicitly saying is that a watch offers safety and connectivity features minus all the distracting social media apps and games that come with a smartphone.

The rebranding coincides with an effort in some parts of the country to restrict or ban smartphones in schools, as concerns mount about the harms and distractions associated with social media use by kids.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Younkin issued an executive order on Tuesday directing the state to establish rules for cell phone-free schools. And public schools in New York City and Los Angeles are moving to limit cell phones. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of high school teachers and 33% of all teachers say cell phones are a major problem in the classroom.

Apple introduced Family Setup in 2020, allowing parents to set up a kid’s Apple Watch from their phone and to control messaging options. The company has added features that parents can use to turn off notifications and distractions during school hours, and introduced a low-cost and colorful model called the Apple Watch SE.

An Apple Watch that doesn’t need a paired phone will require cellular connectivity, which usually costs extra, as well as a monthly subscription with a carrier.

Young audiences are critical for Apple’s watch device, which hit the market almost a decade ago. According to a May survey from Piper Sandler, 34% of U.S. teens own an Apple Watch. Apple is also simultaneously marketing the device to older Americans with safety features that can detect a fall or car crash, or monitor heart health.

Watch sales are reported alongside headphones and other accessories. Apple reported $39.85 billion in wearables sales in 2023, down 3% from 2022. They accounted for about 10% of total revenue.

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