How to Connect Apple Watch to Wi-Fi

Make sure you're connected and use your watch with ease

A man looking at his Apple Watch

 Public Domain

Apple's WatchOS 5 opens up the Wi-Fi settings for the Apple Watch by allowing you to manually join Wi-Fi networks. This is fantastic if you accidentally left your iPhone at home. It's also a great way to save battery life if your phone's battery is running low. However, you cannot be paired with your iPhone when you connect Apple Watch to a Wi-Fi network, so you will lose some functionality on your smartwatch.

While the ability to manually join a Wi-Fi network is new to WatchOS 5, there is a trick that allows previous versions of the watch's operating system to connect to Wi-Fi networks. In order for this trick to work, you may need your iPhone with you, so it is mainly useful for saving battery life.

If you haven't already upgraded to WatchOS 5, this is a great opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, the original Apple Watch is not supported by WatchOS 5.

Apple Watch can only connect to 2.4 Ghz Wi-Fi networks. It cannot connect to 5.0 Ghz networks or public networks that require a login, subscription or permission page. This may rule out your neighborhood coffee shop.

How to Connect Apple Watch to Wi-Fi Using WatchOS 5.0 or Newer

In order to manually connect to Wi-Fi with Apple Watch, the watch cannot be paired to your iPhone. If you've left your iPhone at home or in the car, this isn't a problem, but if you are connecting to save battery life, you will need to turn off Bluetooth on your iPhone to unpair the devices. (We'll go over how to do this in the next section on how to connect to Wi-Fi on previous versions of WatchOS.)

An Apple Watch with Wi-Fi settings open
 Apple, Inc.

Before we start, verify that you are not already connect to the Wi-Fi network by swiping from bottom to top while on the Apple Watch's lock screen. If you are connected to a Wi-Fi network, the blue Wi-Fi icon will be showing in the top-left corner of the display with the network name next to it. Apple Watch will automatically join any network that has been previously connected using the Apple Watch or the iPhone while paired with the Apple Watch.

  1. To manually connect to the Wi-Fi network, open the Settings app on your Apple Watch.

  2. Tap Wi-Fi.

  3. Scroll down the list and choose the network to which you want to connect.

  4. Use the Scribble input to draw the Wi-Fi password. If Scribble doesn't recognize the character, you can use the watch's crown to choose between similar characters or shift from lower case to upper case.

  5. When finished, tap Join.

  6. If you receive a message stating the network cannot be joined, it may be a public network using a login or permission screen. Apple Watch cannot log in to these networks. If you've mistyped the password, Apple Watch will specifically note that the password was incorrect.

How to Join a Network using Apple Watch and WatchOS 4.x or later

If you are using the original Apple Watch or haven't yet upgraded to the newest version of WatchOS, you can still join a Wi-Fi network. However, it must be a network that your iPhone is connected to or has connected to in the past. The good news is that this trick is a rather straight forward process. And you don't even need to fiddle with your Apple Watch. These instructions are done on your iPhone.

A screenshot of the iPhone bluetooth settings
  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.

  2. Tap Bluetooth.

  3. Switch Bluetooth off by tapping the button at the top of the screen.

You can also turn off Bluetooth using the iPhone's control panel, but you will need to recognize the Bluetooth icon. Swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone's screen to open the control panel and tap the Bluetooth symbol to turn it on or off.

What Can You Do With Your Apple Watch While Connected to Wi-Fi?

Now that you are connected to Wi-Fi, what can you do with the connection? Obviously, any app or complication that requires the iPhone to be paired will not run when the Apple Watch is connected directly to the Wi-Fi network, and you will not be able to place phone calls that are routed through your iPhone, but that doesn't mean you can't talk on your Apple Watch.

An Apple watch with Siri sending a text message.
Apple, Inc.
  • FaceTime. You can still place audio FaceTime calls using Wi-Fi.
  • iMessage. While you cannot send SMS messages, you can still message people using iMessage.
  • Siri. Check the weather, get directions, set a timer, etc.
  • Mail. You can both read emails and reply to them using either the Scribble input or voice dictation.
  • Home. You can interact with many of your smart home devices.
  • Walkie-Talkie. A new feature, Walkie-Talkie works over Wi-Fi.
  • Apps. While some apps require the iPhone, many work on their own, which means you can stream music, track stocks, check the news, listen to podcasts, etc.

Don't see browse web on the list? While Apple Watch doesn't directly support a web browser, it does support webkit, which can open a web page that is sent via an email message or a text message. If you email yourself a link to Google, you can tap that link on your Apple Watch and you will have a limited but useful browser on your watch.