If you’re the owner of an Apple Watch – or you’re wondering what exactly Apple’s so-called iWatch actually does – you have the best smartwatch in the world at your disposal.
However, there’s a steep learning curve, and getting the most from your Apple Watch and its array of fitness, workout and time-saving features is key.
That’s what this complete guide to the Apple Watch sets out to achieve. We’ve covered the basic questions and can help graduate you to a power user – covering top tips, essential apps and stylish ways to make your smartwatch even better.
What does the Apple Watch do?
It’s one of the common questions among people looking to buy for the first time – what can the Apple Watch actually do?
Well, a lot more than just offering you the chance to read text messages and answer calls on your wrist, rather than your phone, which are the main features everybody knows.
Here are they key features of the Apple Watch:
- Get messages and notifications on the wrist
- Fitness tracking
- Workout tracking
- Heart rate monitoring
- ECG monitoring (on Watch Series 4 and Series 5 only)
- GPS tracking of workouts (on GPS versions)
- Make calls and receive messages away from your phone (LTE versions with data plan)
- Turn-by-turn navigation
- Siri commands – alarms, timers, reminders
- Display tickets and boarding passes
- Tell the time
Which Apple Watch is best?
Apple has simplified its line-up – although you can find all generations of its smartwatch available for a variety of price tags. If you’re choosing an Apple Watch, make sure you’re buying the right size and style.
Apple Watch Series 5
Buy now: Amazon | £399
The Apple Watch Series 5 is the latest and greatest version of the Apple smartwatch, though it does only represent an incremental upgrade on the last generation.
Like before, there’s LTE/4G for cellular connection, GPS for location tracking and NFC for contactless payments, with the headline addition coming in the form of an always-on display.
Apple Watch Series 4 [officially discontinued]
Buy now: Amazon | £399
The Apple Watch Series 4 is the previous version and comes in two size options – 40mm and 44mm. There’s a cellular/GPS and GPS standalone option, as well as special edition versions in the shape of the Apple Watch Nike+ and the Apple Watch Hermès. It’s officially discontinued, but still widely available at retailers – and at some enticing prices.
Apple Watch Series 3
Buy now: Amazon | £199
The Apple Watch Series 3 is still available and it’s been given a very generous price cut. It comes in two flavors, using the older 38mm and 42mm casings, again with a GPS standalone or a GPS/LTE version. If you’re looking for the smallest Apple Watch, this is the place to go.
It’s swim-proof and now represents the most cost effective way to buy an Apple Watch. The downsides are that it features the old shape, the screen’s not as good, and the fancy new ECG features are missing.
Apple Watch Series 2 [officially discontinued]
Buy now: Amazon | £229
You can still also pick up bargain Apple Watch Series 2 smartwatches. However, this is no longer officially sold by Apple. There’s plenty on Amazon, however, and you still get GPS tracking for a low price.
Apple Watch Series 1 [officially discontinued]
Buy now: Amazon | £199
The Apple Watch Series 1 comes without GPS or LTE, making it the choice for users that aren’t too bothered with accurate outdoor sports tracking. It’s no longer sold by Apple, but can still be picked up from other retailers – and it’s still treated to the latest watchOS 5 software so you’re not being left behind in terms of functionality.
Apple Watch setup
When you take your Apple Watch out of the box, it’s the same as everyone else’s. What makes your smartwatch personal is the style and the apps, which mean your Apple Watch will be unique to your needs.
1. Add your Apple ID.
2. Create a passcode.
3. Install your apps.
4. Calibrate your activity settings.
5. Manage your notifications.
6. Back up your settings.
Check out our full guide on how to set up your Apple Watch.
How to use the Apple Watch
The Apple Watch can be tough to crack, and the first 24 hours can be a little frustrating for the uninitiated. Navigating menus and finding the information you’re looking for can take some getting used to.
Before you know it, though, you’ll be using the digital crown, adding and using complications, changing watch faces and using Apple Pay.
Check out our guide on how to use the Apple Watch, including all the new features and interface tweaks from watchOS 6.
Reset the Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is super secure, so if it’s lost or stolen, it can’t be used without your permission. However, that means it needs to be properly reset and unpaired from your iPhone before it can be added to a new one.
To do that, you need to head to your Watch companion app on your iPhone and go through the unpairing process. Check out our guide to unpairing your Apple Watch, where we also cover how to reset your data and also set the device back up on a brand new iPhone.
The best Apple Watch apps
If there’s one major differentiator between the Apple Watch and the competition, it’s the wide breadth of apps. Just as with the iPhone, Apple has left the killer features of the Apple Watch up to its army of developers.
Top Apple Watch app picks
- CARROT Fit
- Just Press Record
If you’re looking for more ways to trick out your smartwatch, check out our guide to the best Apple Watch apps – and also check out some of our other round-ups.
Working out with Apple Watch
One of the key features of the Apple Watch is as a fitness tracker and sports watch. The beauty of a smartwatch is adding this kind of functionality into one single device – and while it’s taken some time, the Apple Watch is a hugely powerful device.
Apple Watch: Fitness and activity explained
It’s a very good fitness tracker and can also track workouts – and if you have a Series 5 with GPS, it can replace your standard fitness watch. Most of the features will be found in the Workout app and Activity app.
The Activity app keeps tabs on movement, calories burned and standing time, and you’re encouraged to ‘close the rings’ in order to make your daily goals.
There’s also a Breathe app, which encourages mindfulness, and taking time out of your day. All stats are viewable on the watch, are tracked within the Activity app on your iPhone, and populate the Apple Health app, too.
Apple Watch: Workout app
The Workout app is a different beast, and enables you to track a bunch of different activities, from running and cycling to indoor workouts (which essentially just keep tabs on your heart rate, calories and time spent).
The Workout app new features:
- Indoor Walk
- Outdoor Walk
- Indoor Run
- Outdoor Run
- Indoor Cycle
- Outdoor Cycle
- Pool Swim
- Open Water Swim
Outdoor workouts are tracked with GPS, while the rest feature duration, heart rate, calories burned and a lap feature. These are stored in the Activity app on your iPhone to view back after, with all of the maps and stats you’d expect.
The Workout app was treated to another overhaul in watchO5, with automatic run detection added along with running specific additions such as Pace Alerts and cadence tracking – which unlike many sports watches is actually displayed live on the watch face.
Heart rate tracking has been part of the Apple Watch since the original, but it’s only since watchOS 4 that it’s turned into a powerful tool. And the Apple Watch is able to make use of your heart rate in the following ways:
- Tracking resting heart rate
- Taking live heart rate readings
- Tracking heart rate during workouts and using it to offer more accurate calorie burn
- Alert user to irregular or elevated heart rate
- ECG readings (Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5 only)
Heart rate activity is now tracked throughout the day, and you’re able to keep tabs on resting heart rate, which is a big indicator of improving fitness, and also tiredness and stress.
What’s more, the heart rate monitor can keep tabs on your ticker and alert you to an elevated bpm, which could be dangerous.
Arguably the biggest addition brought to the Apple Watch Series 4 (and also available in the Series 5) was the ECG monitor. It will track the rhythm of your heart, looking for signs of Afib – a condition that’s a leading cause of strokes in the US.
Essentially, it’s capable of taking medical grade readings of your heartbeat, checking for irregular activity and even allowing you to take a PDF to your doctor.
Whether it’s controlling downloaded music more easily or streaming tunes directly from Apple Music and your wrist, the Apple Watch allows it. Don’t forget, there’s also now also an official Spotify app for Apple Watch that you can dive into.
If you’re wearing your Apple Watch, how about unlocking your Mac without entering your password? Using Auto Unlock, if you’ve entered your PIN on your watch (and you’re wearing it) your Mac will open without a password.
The main criticism of the Apple Watch is that it won’t last a week, but you can easily get a couple of days, which could mean leaving the charger at home. Follow our guide to increasing the Apple Watch battery life.
While Google Maps has been cut from the platform, Apple Maps is a good experience on Apple Watch – with turn-by-turn directions and local points of interest.
Yes, you can use Alexa with the Apple Watch as a separate voice assistant. Follow our guide to find out how.
The Apple Watch is all about notifications, but the whole point is not letting yourself get overwhelmed. Here’s how to trim them down.
The Apple Watch is, after all, a watch – so timekeeping is pretty high on the agenda. Setting timers and alarms is easy, especially if you use Siri.
Keeping your Apple Watch up-to-date means you’ll get the latest features – such as the ECG app which launched as an over-the-air update in December 2018.
How to add music to the Apple Watch
Apple Music enables users to stream and listen to a library of nearly 30 million songs, and now it’s available directly on Apple Watch.
If you’ve got an LTE-enabled Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4 or Series 5, you’ll be able to stream music to your heart’s content. You’ll just need a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
If you’re not rocking the cellular Apple Watch, you can also sync over albums and playlists and control music on your iPhone. To get the full details on how to do that, check out our guide to adding music to your Apple Watch.
While Apple hasn’t opened up the Apple Watch to the ravages of the third-party watch face market, the number of options has soared with every new iteration. Check out our full guide to getting the best Apple Watch faces and improving them with slick complications.
For the data obsessed, the Infograph supports eight complications, including the new corner placements. This really makes use of the wider screen on the Series 4 and Series 5.
With six complication spots, the three icons at the bottom can be changed to common contacts, to enable you to make calls straight from the Watch. It will also take calendar appointments and display your next engagement in the middle. A firm favourite.
MCORS Milanese Loop
Buy now: Amazon | £11.59
The Milanese Loop is possibly the most enduringly popular Apple Watch band – and you can bag one in pretty much any color.
We love our gold bands, and this is a low-cost way to get a seriously stylish loop. This Amazon bestseller comes in all four Apple Watch sizes, and costs a fraction of the official price.
Amazon: MCORS Milanese Loop
Biaoge Metal Band
Buy now: Amazon | £26.99
Not every third-party Apple Watch band is a copy of official Apple Watch styles – and this one certainly ticks the box of being unique. Clearly a feminine design, it mixes dainty chains with a link bracelet and comes in all Apple Watch sizes.
Amazon: Biaoge Metal Band
MIFA leather band
Buy now: Amazon | £21
If you’re looking to add a touch of class to your Apple smartwatch but don’t want to pay big bucks, this leather strap should do the business. It’s available in 42mm and 44mm flavors, making it Series 4 focused, and comes with steel adaptors and a buckle fastener.
Amazon: MIFA Leather Band
Forget Alexa – you can have Siri on your wrist wherever you go. OK, sure, Siri needs a lot of work, but use our tips and you can take advantage of everything it has to offer.
The simplest way to wake Siri is to hold down the Digital Crown – once you do so for a couple of seconds, the listening indicator will pop up and you can release.
You can also now simply raise your wrist to your mouth – and the listening indicator should appear. Ensure it’s enabled in Settings > General > Siri > Raise To Speak.
Apple Watch Siri commands
- “Hey Siri, what time is it in San Francisco?”
- “Hey Siri, start a 25-minute running workout for me”
- “Hey Siri, turn down the volume by 20%”
- “Hey Siri, what’s the weather in London?”
- “Hey Siri, what’s my day looking like?”
Apple Watch FAQs
Answering your questions on the Apple Watch:
Is the Apple Watch waterproof?
The Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4 and Series 5 are waterproof up to 50 metres, meaning they can survive a dip in the pool and you don’t have to take it off in the shower.
Is the Apple Watch compatible with my Android?
Android phones are not compatible with any Apple Watch. The minimum requirements for an iPhone user are that you have an iPhone 5 or later running at least iOS 8.2.
Can the Apple Watch charge wirelessly?
The Apple Watch cannot charge wirelessly – all Apple Watch models charge through Apple’s proprietary magnetic charging dock system.
This is kind of wireless charging, but the Apple Watch doesn’t officially conform to the Qi Wireless Charging standard, as the latest iPhones do, for example.
What’s an Apple Watch complication?
In the watch world, a complication is an added feature on the watch face, like a dial that displays the date. Apple, in an effort to honor watch history, has adopted the terminology for its smartwatches’ widgets, which can be placed on a watch face.
They can be used to display the weather, give you news, show your battery percentage, launch apps and more.
How do I add complications to the Apple Watch?
1. Select a watch face that already has complications for you to edit.
2. From there, simply hold down the screen on your Watch, tap which green box you want to edit and use the Digital Crown to scroll through which options you want on your face.
3. Press the Digital Crown again to save the complications and your watch face.
How can I add watch faces to the Apple Watch?
You can add faces to the Apple Watch by heading to the Watch app on your iPhone and hitting the Face Gallery tab at the bottom of the screen.
Here, you can pick from a range of faces, which you can then personalise with complications (such as your battery percentage, or a shortcut to Strava) through the Watch itself. You can also edit which watch faces appear through the My Faces section of the app.
If you want to add something from your Photos, simply add it to the Favourites album. Once done, it will appear for syncing in the Face Gallery section of the app.
Will the Apple Watch connect to wireless headphones?
The Apple Watch can use Bluetooth to connect to wireless headphones.
To do so, head into the ‘Settings’ section of the Watch, before selecting ‘Bluetooth’ and the device you’re looking to pair. We’ve found some issues with the Watch pairing to headphones that are already known to the iPhone, but this has varied depending on which headphones we’ve been using.
Will Apple Watch track my sleep?
The Apple Watch can’t natively track sleep. Likely due to the Watch’s limited battery life, Apple is yet to launch an official sleep tracking app. However, there are a host of third-party Apple Watch sleep tracking apps available on the App Store.
Check out our list of the best Apple Watch sleep tracking apps.
Can I use Apple Pay on the Apple Watch?
No matter which Apple Watch model you have, double-tapping the side button will bring up your card and a tap of the reader will let you use Apple Pay on the device.
For more, read our guide on how to pay using an Apple Watch.
How does Apple Watch’s Fall Detection work?
The Series 4 and Series 5 are both outfitted with fall detection. If it detects a hard fall, it’ll buzz your wrist and sound an alarm. It’ll list quick access to Emergency SOS via a swipe gesture, which will contact emergency services. It’ll also offer a button that says “I’m OK” if you don’t need help.
If your Apple Watch detects a fall and then detects that you’ve been immobile for a minute, it begins a 15-second countdown while tapping you on the wrist and sounding an alarm. The alarm will get louder and louder to try to alert someone else to your needs. It’ll also automatically contact emergency services, providing your location.
Where is the Apple Watch battery indicator?
Similar to how you can swipe up and down through iOS, watchOS also allows you to do this to access certain settings of the Apple Watch. If you swipe up, you’ll notice a percentage icon on the left side, below the Wi-Fi tab and next to the Ping iPhone tab.
If you don’t fancy swiping every time you want to check your battery, you can install the battery widget on customisable watch faces.