What You Can Do With Apple Watch When Your Paired iPhone is Out of Range

by

Apple Watch uses both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to transfer data to the iPhone. It defaults to a Bluetooth connection whenever possible because it conserves power, but if your iPhone is not in Bluetooth range, Apple Watch will switch over to compatible Wi-Fi if it is available.

For Wi-Fi to work on Apple Watch, it needs to be 802.11b/g/n on a 2.4GHz band. It will not connect to the faster speed 5GHz Wi-Fi, nor will it connect to public networks requiring logins, subscriptions, or profiles. It will also not work if your paired iPhone has never connected to the local Wi-Fi network before. This is because Apple Watch cannot configure new Wi-Fi networks on its own. It can connect to networks that you have set up on the paired phone.

Apple Watch Out of Bluethooth Range
When your paired iPhone is out of range, and it is not connected to the same Wi-Fi network, there are a number of features that are still available:

  • You can play music from a synced playlist. Add music via the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and sync Apple Watch by placing it on the charger. You can store up to 2GB of music.
  • You can use the clock, alarm, timer, and stopwatch. All functions for each of those apps are available when your iPhone is out of range.
  • You can track stand, move, and exercise actions through the Activity app. This information will sync with your iPhone when you are back in range.
  • You can track workouts in the Workout app. It is a good idea to calibrate your Apple Watch first in order to get the most accurate reading.
  • You can display photos from a synced photo album. Add albums via the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Photos sync immediately.
  • Use Apple Pay at participating retail stores to make purchases. When the payment kiosk is in range, open the Apple Pay app to make a transaction.

There are also a few additional things you can do if your paired iPhone is out of range but you are still on the same Wi-Fi network. For example, if your phone was at your desk, but you are five flights up in the same office building on the same network, or if you were on campus and you left your phone in your locker (assuming the Wi-Fi is compatible and doesn't require logins, subscriptions, or profiles).

  • You can send and receive texts via iMessage.
  • If you know someone else with an Apple Watch, you can send and receive Digital Touch messages.
  • You can use Siri to check your calendar, set reminders, and more.
  • You can check Weather, Email, Reminders, the Calendar app, and all native apps.
  • Check your current location using Apple Maps.
  • You can also access most third-party apps.

Apple Watch Ping 1If you forget where you left your iPhone while wandering the halls, you can ping it using Apple Watch. Swipe up from the watch face and swipe to the first Glances screen. Then, tap the Ping button. This will activate a loud audio signal on your iPhone, even if the ringer is set to silent. If you use a long tap, it'll also cause the flash on the iPhone to trigger. This feature is great for times when you’ve lost your iPhone. Keep in mind that Apple Watch must be connected to your iPhone either via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi for this feature to work.

If, for some reason, your Apple Watch disconnects from your paired iPhone, follow our how-to guide to fix the problem.

Apple Watch works best when paired to your iPhone via Bluetooth. Data transfers between both devices are smoother, faster, and take up less energy. However, you can still work when your paired iPhone is not in Bluetooth range, as long as they are both on the same Wi-Fi network. An added bonus is that Apple Watch has about a half-dozen useful features that work, even when it is not connected to your iPhone at all.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
71 months ago
If only I could still get important notifications when my paired iPhone is out of range of my Apple Watch.

Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
71 months ago

How does the Apple Watch communicate for Apple Pay without an iPhone? I thought Apple Pay relied on NFC and the watch doesn't have built-in NFC?

(I'm sure there's an answer... I just don't know it.)

The Apple Watch has the same NFC chip as the iPhone 6 and 6+, so it is capable of NFC payments on its own.

This enables people who have the iPhone 5 (like me) and above to use Apple Pay.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
71 months ago

How does the Apple Watch communicate for Apple Pay without an iPhone? I thought Apple Pay relied on NFC and the watch doesn't have built-in NFC?

(I'm sure there's an answer... I just don't know it.)

Answer - the watch has built in NFC
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
71 months ago

So if my home network is 5ghz, it won't work? Even if I have a 2.4ghz network with the same name and password on the same router?

Yes, it works. This is my setup at home.

People are wrong about logins. The Watch can login to any network that your iPhone automatically logs in on... even without your iPhone. I've done quite a lot of testing of this.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
71 months ago

This device shouldn't even need the iPhone paired to do any of these wifi tasks, you log in with your Apple ID and you're golden.

If I'm a masochist I should be able to run about with a bluetooth 3G dongle and just use the watch independently, as my sole communications device.

Apple will never do this though.

This actually will work. As long as your iPhone has connected to the dongle once and has stored the Wifi credentials... those credentials will get passed to your Watch and your Watch will connect on its own to the dongle and use it.

EDIT: It depends on what you mean by "sole communications device". You won't be able to make cellular phone calls. But you will be able to use iMessage and receive emails.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

Google Reportedly Pays Apple $8-12 Billion Per Year to be Default iOS Search Engine

Sunday October 25, 2020 2:59 pm PDT by
The United States Justice Department is targeting a lucrative deal between Apple and Google as part of one of the U.S. government's largest antitrust cases, reports The New York Times. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the Mountain View-based company used anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and advertising markets to ...

iPhone 12 Pro Allows You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly Using LiDAR Scanner

Saturday October 24, 2020 11:12 am PDT by
iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new LiDAR Scanner for enhanced augmented reality experiences, but the sensor also enables another unique feature: the ability to measure a person's height instantly using the Measure app. You can even measure the seated height of a person in a chair, according to Apple. When the Measure app detects a person in the viewfinder, it automatically measures their...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Early iPhone 12 Tests Show Ceramic Shield is Stronger and More Scratch Resistant Than iPhone 11 Glass

Friday October 23, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 models are protected by a Ceramic Shield cover glass that has nano-ceramic crystals infused right into the glass to improve durability. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield offers four times better drop protection than the glass used for the iPhone 11 models. YouTube channel MobileReviewsEh conducted some tests on the iPhone 12 using a force meter to compare its performance ...

iPhone 12 Six-Foot Drop Test Results: Ceramic Shield More Durable But Not Damage Proof

Monday October 26, 2020 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro feature a new Ceramic Shield screen that Apple says offers 4x better drop performance. To test that claim, Allstate Protection Plans put the two models through a range of breakability tests and recorded the results. In a face down sidewalk drop test at six feet, the iPhone 12 suffered small cracks and scuffed corners and edges, leaving sharp grooves in ...

Bloomberg: New AirPods and AirPods Pro Coming in 2021, AirPods Studio Delayed, Third HomePod Model Also Possible

Monday October 26, 2020 3:34 am PDT by
Apple plans to update its AirPods line next year with two new models including third-generation AirPods and second-generation AirPods Pro, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on two new models: third-generation entry-level AirPods and the second version of the AirPods Pro earbuds, according to people familiar with the plans. ...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 11 Pro Outlasts iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Extensive Battery Life Test

Friday October 23, 2020 8:36 am PDT by
Arun Maini today shared a new side-by-side iPhone battery life video test on his YouTube channel Mrwhosetheboss, timing how long the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models last on a single charge compared to older models, with equal brightness, settings, battery health, and usage. All of the devices are running iOS 14 without a SIM card inserted. In the test, the iPhone 11 Pro outlasted both ...

Apple Warns MagSafe Charger Can Leave Circular Imprints on Leather Cases

Friday October 23, 2020 3:23 pm PDT by
If you keep your iPhone in a leather case while charging with Apple's new MagSafe Charger, the case might show circular imprints from contact with the accessory, according to a new Apple support document published today. Apple's leather cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are not available until November 6, but a MacRumors reader has already shared a photo of a circular imprint on...