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

WatchOS, the operating system of the Apple Watch, allows you to manually join Wi-Fi networks. This is fantastic if you don't have your iPhone handy. 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 was added with 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.

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

To manually connect your Apple Watch to a Wi-Fi network, first make sure the Watch is not paired with 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.

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

Verify that you are not already connect to the Wi-Fi network by swiping from bottom to top on the Apple Watch 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. Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch and select Wi-Fi.

  2. Choose the network to which you would like to connect.

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

  4. When finished, tap Join.

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 is 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. These instructions can be completed on your iPhone.

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

  2. Switch Bluetooth off by toggling the Bluetooth button to off position (white).

You can also turn off Bluetooth using the iPhone's control panel. 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?

When your Apple Watch is connected to Wi-Fi, any app or complication that requires the iPhone to be paired to it will not run. You will also not be able to place phone calls that are routed through your iPhone, but that does not mean you cannot 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.
  • Messages: While you cannot send SMS messages, you can still message people using Messages.
  • 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: 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, and more.

While Apple Watch does not support a dedicated web browser, it does support webkit, which can open a web page that is sent via an email message or 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.