The Apple Watch does utilize WiFi to some extent, though you wouldn't know it. When it comes to the everyday experience of using the smartwatch, it, like its Android Wear counterparts (the LG Watch Urbane LTE Second Edition being one of the notable exceptions), must depend on Bluetooth in order to function. Many consumers have said this is one of the major reasons why they won't purchase an Apple Watch or any other Bluetooth-dependent smartwatch, but Apple is waking up to the idea that future Apple Watch apps won't rely on Bluetooth -- or that they shouldn't need to, anyway.
The company sat down a new law about a week ago that forces developers to make apps that run on WiFi -- native apps that work like the old Bluetooth apps but don't mandate Bluetooth at all. In other words, if your Apple Watch has a WiFi connection, you should be able to complete your run outdoors without having to carry your iPhone with you.
In a company blog post, Apple said as much to developers about the new WiFi native apps for the Apple Watch: "Starting June 1, 2016, all new watchOS apps submitted to the App Store must be native apps built with the watchOS 2 SDK or later." Apple didn't specify WiFi here, but the new watchOS 2 SDK does make greater room for WiFi than the initial watchOS did. Under the old rule, your Apple Watch would make use of the iPhone's WiFi signal to support smartwatch apps, but now, your Apple Watch will have to have a WiFi signal to run native apps. Running app Runkeeper has allowed Apple Watch owners to ditch their iPhones for six months now.
This seems to be the motivation or influence that will push Apple into building a truly standalone smartwatch that doesn't rely on the iPhone at all. Sources say that Apple's decision to bring WiFi native apps to WatchOS 2 shows that the company has plans to introduce the Apple Watch 2 later this year with standalone cellular capabilities.