Tech experts: Is there any way in which the Apple Watch could be used by shomrei Shabbat with limited functionality?

Note: this question does not seek to ascertain whether the full gamut of features could be used on Shabbat (they can't as far as I'm aware), it seeks to ascertain whether it is at all possible to use this device, pending its release, on days when electricity is proscribed.

  • 2
    This may be easier to answer if you could briefly describe the key functional aspects of the watch. For example, does it have a display that turns off when not in use (like a smartphone) and, if so, how is it activated? Does it respond to its environment (being moved, etc), like a motion-sensor light? What functions are available without human intervention (e.g. can it be set to display the time continuously)? Nov 7, 2014 at 14:54
  • @MonicaCellio, From watching Apple's videos, I am unsure. Nov 7, 2014 at 18:16
  • If you want to buy a smart watch, you might want to post a more-general question. Something like: "I own an iPhone, and would like to buy a compatible smart watch which I can wear seven days a week. Which is the best choice for a Sabbath-observant Jew, and why?" If you do, please provide me with a link to the question. Dec 19, 2014 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


Apple’s default alarm behavior on iOS is to have the alarm go off indefinitely, so if one wants to use the iPhone or iPad alarm on Shabbat, one has to use a third-party app like this one that shuts the alarm off by itself. The only other thing I can think of to do with an iOS device on Shabbat is play media (like music) on a playlist, which would of course have to start before Shabbat.

You could theoretically also play media that way from the watch. We don’t know what third-party developers will be able to do yet, but it may be possible to make a Shabbat timer that works the same way. (Update: It looks as though full-fledged apps like the ones you’d need to write to make a Shabbat timer won’t be possible until the second version of WatchKit.)

You wouldn’t be able to wear the watch on Shabbat under normal circumstances because the screen sleeps until you lift the watch to look at it, which causes it to light up. Since the device is unreleased, we don't actually know if it's possible to keep the display from sleeping. Assuming it’s possible, though, the first-generation watch is almost certainly not going to make it through Shabbat with the screen on. Apple has indicated that the battery life will only last through one day of normal use, and that’s with the screen off at all times except when the user is looking at it.

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    +1; thank you for the information, and for doing the research into WatchKit's abilities. Is it permissible to leave music playing during Shabbat? I know that (for Ashkenazim) it's not allowed to leave a washing machine running during Shabbat, and IIRC this is because of the noise that the machine makes. Dec 19, 2014 at 2:00
  • Oh, I don't know, actually. I was just going by the extrapolation from the idea that it's permissible to use an alarm clock app as long as you don't touch the controls on Shabbat. Dec 19, 2014 at 2:02

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