What You Can Do With the Apple Watch Without a Paired Phone

Listen to music, view photos, and more

If you have an Apple Watch, you know that much of its functionality depends on pairing it with a smartphone via Bluetooth. While it's true that you'll need your phone nearby to enjoy features such as receiving notifications and incoming messages, there are still quite a few things you can do when your phone isn't handy.

Information in this article applies broadly to all Apple Watches. What you can do with your Apple Watch without an iPhone depends on your model.

Play Music From a Synced Playlist

You can pair your Apple Watch with Bluetooth headphones to stream music from Spotify without needing to have your iPhone on hand. To do this, you'll need to go to the Music app and select Apple Watch as the source. Then, scroll down and select Now Playing, My Music, or Playlists.

You can keep one playlist on your Apple Watch at a time. To sync a playlist, the smartwatch must be connected to its charger. Go to your iPhone and make sure Bluetooth is on, then go to the Watch app and select the My Watch tab. Choose Music > Synced Playlist, then select the playlist you want to sync.

If you're a Spotify Premium user, you're now able to download playlists, albums, and podcasts directly to your Apple Watch for offline use. When downloading your Spotify content, select More (three dots) and then select Download to Apple Watch. Once downloaded, listen to your content without needing an iPhone nearby. Use your Apple Watch to control playback on other devices, such as wireless speakers, as well.

Apple Watch 38mm Stainless Steel White Sport
LeoPatrizi / Getty Images

Use the Alarm and Other Time Features

You don't need to have your Apple Watch connected to the iPhone to set alarms and use the timer and stopwatch. Of course, the device still functions as a watch without needing any assistance from your smartphone.

Track Your Daily Movement

The Apple Watch can still display your up-to-date activity stats without being connected to your iPhone. As a refresher, the Activity app on the smartwatch displays your progress toward daily movement and exercise goals. The app also tracks calories and can suggest daily goals, and it breaks your activity down into movement and exercise, the latter of which is an activity performed at a brisk level. Of course, paired with your iPhone, this app has the ability to display much more information, such as an overview of your daily stats for the month.

You can also use the Apple Watch's app independently of the iPhone. This app shows real-time stats such as elapsed time, calories, pace, speed and more for a variety of different exercise activities. It's a pretty good feature set, and may be enough for some people to question whether they even need a standalone activity tracker.

Display Photos

Provided you've synced a given photo album via the Photos app, you can view it on your watch even when your phone isn't connected.

Connect to Select Wi-Fi Networks

It's important to note there's a caveat here: Your Apple Watch can connect to a Wi-Fi network if it's one you've connected to previously using the paired iPhone. So basically, if you've used Wi-Fi with your watch and phone paired previously, that network should be accessible if in the future you don't have the two devices paired.

If you can connect with just the Apple Watch, you can enjoy a few more features. You can use Siri, send and receive Messages, and make and receive phone calls, among other tasks.

Cellular-Enabled Apple Watches

Series 3 Apple Watches and later support a cellular connection along with Wi-Fi. You must have a compatible mobile data plan for your iPhone to use this feature. Here's a quick rundown of what cellular-enabled Apple Watches can do:

  • Receive notifications
  • Make calls
  • Reply to messages
  • Use Walkie-Talkie
  • Stream music and podcasts
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