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

Listen to music, view photos, and more

Much of an Apple Watch's functionality depends on pairing it with a smartphone via Bluetooth. Still, you can do many things on your watch even when your phone's not handy. This article describes a few of them.

Information in this article applies broadly to all Apple Watches, but the specifics depend on your model.

Play Music From a Synced Playlist

To pair your Apple Watch with Bluetooth headphones to stream music from Spotify without your iPhone, 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. You must connect the smartwatch to its charger to sync a playlist. Make sure your iPhone's Bluetooth is on, then go to the Watch app and select My Watch > Music > Synced Playlist. Select the playlist you want to sync.

With a Spotify Premium account, you can download playlists, albums, and podcasts directly to your Apple Watch for offline use. Select More (three dots) > Download to Apple Watch. Once it's downloaded, you can listen to your content without needing your iPhone nearby. You can also use your Apple Watch to control playback on other devices, such as wireless speakers.

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 use the alarm, timer, and stopwatch. The device still functions as a watch without any assistance from your smartphone.

Track Your Daily Movement

The Apple Watch can display your up-to-date activity stats without being connected to your iPhone. The Activity app on the smartwatch displays your progress toward daily movement and exercise goals. The app also tracks calories, suggests daily goals, and breaks your activity into movement and exercise. When paired with your iPhone, this app can display 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 exercise activities. It's a pretty good feature set, enough for some people to question whether they even need a standalone activity tracker.

Display Photos

Provided you 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

Your Apple Watch can connect to a Wi-Fi network if you connected to it previously using the paired iPhone. So if you 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 only 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. Cellular-enabled Apple Watches can:

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