There are two things I do with my iPhone on-the-go that my Apple Watch hasn’t been able to do: play podcasts and take photos and video. The upcoming watchOS 5 software update solves the podcast problem, and I have a dedicated camera for shooting without my iPhone. But the inability to pair the Apple Watch with Bluetooth car audio remains a sticking point.
My Apple Watch can stream Apple Music and Radio over LTE. It can stream podcasts over LTE. It even pairs to Bluetooth headphones and speakers for music and podcast output.
Using this mix of features, I regularly go for outdoor workouts or just trips about without carrying my iPhone. I’m still hesitant about leaving the house without my iPhone if I’m driving more than a few minutes away, however, simply because I can’t pair my Apple Watch with my car stereo.
Bluetooth car audio has been incompatible with Apple Watch since the very first version. Some car stereos may be an exception, but most car stereos are classified as Bluetooth car systems so they won’t appear on the Bluetooth pairing screen.
iPhones can do it. iPads can do it. Even the now-discontinued iPod nano that Apple made (the one that looks like a mini iPod touch, not the one that looked like a prototype Apple Watch) advertised Bluetooth pairing — including cars — as a feature. The same is just not true for the Apple Watch yet.
I don’t expect to have my Apple Watch project CarPlay or anything on my car’s built-in screen; I still need the iPhone for that. But I do think it is reasonable to expect the Apple Watch to be able to send audio to car stereos.
Battery life is really good these days, the watch can play all types of audio locally and over LTE, and the watch already works with Bluetooth speakers (not just headphones).
While I miss the perks of CarPlay when I go for a drive without my iPhone, I also enjoy not feeling anchored to my iPhone by literally leaving it at home.
Local radio doesn’t appeal to me, so my short-term solution has been to sync purchased music to an old iPod nano that I leave in the car. In the future, I might dedicate an old iPhone to the car so Apple Music and podcasts can download when my car is parked at home on Wi-Fi — but I really don’t want to spend money on this problem since the watch should be able to solve it.