How do I set up a new Apple Watch, and how to I pair an Apple Watch with an iPhone? I've got a brand-new Apple Watch Series 2, and I don't know where to start.
Looking to set up a new Apple Watch? You've come to the right place. Let's get you up and running with our quick-start guide for the Apple Watch, Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch Series 2. Our Apple Watch setup guide shows how to set up an Apple Watch, how to charge up an Apple Watch and turn it on, how to set the right language and other preferences, pair it with an iPhone, download some Apple Watch apps and get started.
This is a simple guide to setting up a new Apple Watch, intended to cover all the queries that newcomers to this device may have. In other words, there is likely to be information here that you know already, particularly if you're an experienced Apple user. Hopefully the subheads will help you to skip to the bits you don't know about.
The video above walks through the basic setup steps for an Apple Watch - in this case, we set up an Apple Watch Series 2 and pair it with an iPhone 7, but the steps are the same for the original Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Series 1. Inevitably, however, there is a great deal that cannot be covered on camera. For a more detailed explanation of the process, read on.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: Unbox the Apple Watch and fit the right strap
Open the box and take out all the components: the Apple Watch itself, the spare strap piece (if you went for an Apple Watch with a Sport Band strap), the charger and the basic documentation.
How to fit the Sport Band
The Sport Band comes with a spare piece, as we said. Try the Watch on as it comes, and see if it fits properly. If your wrist is too small or large, swap in the other piece that also comes in the box.
(There are two sizes of Sport Band: small/medium, labelled as S/M, and medium/large - the idea being, presumably, that people with medium-sized wrists will be okay with either. Our 38mm Apple Watch came with the small/medium strap section attached by default, and the medium/large one in the box; the 42mm watch comes with the medium/large attached, which makes sense.)
Remove the section of strap with holes on it by pressing the button on the Apple Watch body, then slide the new piece in.
The other sides of the strap - the one with the nubbin that goes in the holes - is also removable in the same way, which enables you to swap in third-party straps or Apple alternatives. But when adjusting for wrist size it's only the hole strap that is swapped out.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: Power on
The button on the side of the Apple Watch - below the rotatable Digital Crown dial if you're wearing it on your left wrist and above it on the right wrist - is officially known, I kid you not, as the Side Button. On the watch made by Apple called the Apple Watch. Call a spade a spade, that's my motto.
Anyway, the Side Button is primarily there (as of the launch of watchOS 3) to give you access to the app dock - press the Side Button and you'll able to swipe through the apps that are open or frequently used, or move through by rotating the Digital Crown. This is a convenient way to switch apps (much better than the fiddly screen icons, in our view), and the frequently used apps should open quicker too, because the watch will know to have them running the background.
In watchOS 2 and earlier, the Side Button was programmed to provide a shortcut to your favourite contacts. If you've still got a first-gen Apple Watch with an older version of the watch OS (the Series 1 and Series 2 both come with watchOS 3 pre-installed), press it once and you'll see their initials arranged around the dial: rotate the Digital Crown to move the cursor on to your choice, and their photo, if available, will appear in the centre. Tap their face, or the enlarged initials in the centre of the watch face if no photo is available, and it will expand and offer buttons to call, message or 'Digital Touch' them, depending on what contact details are saved, whether they have Apple Watches and so on.
But we'll return to the app dock and the contacts later. For the time being, we'll use the Side Button's secondary function: if you press and hold it you can power the Apple Watch on or off. Do this now to wake the watch up. As when waking up an iPhone, you'll see the Apple logo for a moment or two, before the interface starts up.
Your brand-new Apple Watch should arrive at least partially charged up. But on the off chance that it doesn't, and so you know how to recharge your wearable in the future, we'll briefly discuss how to charge up your Apple Watch in the next section.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: Charge up
Apple Watch charging works via wireless induction. You don't need to physically plug a charging cable into the device, but the induction has a tiny wireless range so it still needs to be in contact with the charging unit.
The charger is the small white or metallic circular unit; plug it into the mains and then place the Apple Watch on top of the charging unit - it will snap on to the unit magnetically if you've positioned it correctly. You can either lay the watch on top of the charger or, as in the photo above, snap the charger on to the back of the watch.
The watch needs to be placed on the slightly curved side of the charger, which hugs its convex underside, while the flat side of the charger goes on the floor or bedside table. If you try to snap the watch on to the flat side of the charger it won't charge, but you should be able to tell you've got this wrong because there's no magnetic attraction between the two.
You'll also be able to tell that things are working correctly because there's a small beep; an icon appears saying 'charging', and then disappears; after this there will be a lightning bolt icon (sometimes red, sometimes green, depending on whether the watch has switched to nightstand mode) to indicate that charging has begun.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: Pair the Apple Watch with an iPhone
The rest of the setup requires the iPhone you plan to use with the Apple Watch. (Even though watchOS 2 and watchOS 3 make it more independent, the watch still relies on its companion iPhone for cellular connection and various other functions, but it continues to operate, and can run many apps, when out of Bluetooth range of its partner.)
Start up the Apple Watch app on your iPhone (this app is installed as part of the iOS 8.2 update, so if you're still running an earlier version of iOS you'll need to update) and you'll be prompted to switch on Bluetooth if you haven't done so already. The app will talk you through the next few steps.
First of all it will prompt you to line up the screen of the Apple Watch in the crosshairs of the iPhone's camera as directed. You'll have noticed that the Apple Watch has automatically detected the presence of a nearby iPhone ready for pairing, and is now showing an attractive abstract image that acts as a sort of QR code for the iPhone camera to pick up.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: Apple Watch options and preferences
First of all you need to tell the app whether you're going to be wearing the Apple Watch on your left or right wrist. Then you'll be shown Apple's terms and conditions, which you'll need to agree to. Read the document first. No, really! Then you'll be asked to enter the password for the Apple ID used on your iPhone.
Now we need to run through a few optional features and services for your Apple Watch. It's up to you how you respond to each of these, but we'd agree to most of them.
Do you want to use Location Services on your Apple Watch? This can use up battery life, but enables apps to adjust their behaviour or offer different options based on your location.
Do you want to use Siri? Apple's voice assistant may not be your cup of tea but it's constantly evolving, and we can't see any down sides to at least having it as an option.
Do you want to automatically send diagnostics back to Apple when there's a problem? This is the public-spirited thing to do, and will in a small way help Apple to find solutions to bugs and flaws, but you're not under any obligation to do so.
Set a passcode for the Apple Watch - we found this a disappointingly fiddly process on our 38mm model, but do your best - and confirm it. You can choose between a short passcode - i.e. 4 digits - or a longer passcode that will have to be input on the iPhone every time you want it unlock the watch. If the watch doesn't think your passcode is very secure (if you pick 1234, for instance) then it'll warn you of this, but you'll still be allowed to use 1234 if you insist.
Bear in mind, if a passcode sounds like a faff, that you don't need to unlock the Apple Watch every time you use it. You unlock it the first time you use it after putting it on, and then as long as it remains on your wrist it's still unlocked. Generally speaking you will unlock your Apple Watch just once each day, or maybe twice if you go swimming at lunchtime.
Making the unlocking process even less of a hassle, your next choice is whether to have the watch unlock when you unlock your iPhone (which can be achieved via a single tap of Touch ID, remember). What this means is that, if both your Apple Watch and your iPhone are locked and you unlock the iPhone, the Apple Watch - provided it's on your wrist - will unlock too automatically.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: Install Apple Watch apps that are on your iPhone
The last option you get is whether or not to install all the apps that are on your iPhone on your Apple Watch. (I say all the apps: in fact it's only the apps on your iPhone that have Apple Watch-compatible versions.) If you agree to this, expect to wait a little while this is all synced.
We did ask the iPhone to install all the relevant apps - and waited a few minutes for it to sync - but oddly enough the apps weren't ready and waiting for us at the end of the process. We found that we had to open the Apple Watch app on the iPhone, scroll down to the individual app we wanted on the watch, tap on it and then select 'Show on Apple Watch'.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: Install new Apple Watch apps
In future, if there are any apps you want to use on the Apple Watch you'll need to install them on the iPhone first (when browsing the App Store, check the descriptions to see if they have a corresponding version for the Apple Watch). Then you can go into the Apple Watch app on the iPhone, scroll down to the app you've just installed, and choose 'Show on Apple Watch'. You can also decide whether it should show up in your glances.
Here are some lists of apps you might like to try:
How to set up a new Apple Watch: You're ready to go!
That's pretty much it. The iPhone will 'warn' you, as per Apple's custom, that a new device is using your Apple ID - of course. Acknowledge this warning, and the app will tell you that the setup process is complete.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: How to unpair the iPhone
If you decide you want to unpair the iPhone in future, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and (making sure you're in the lefthand tab, My Watch) tap the Apple Watch you want to unpair at the top (make sure you pick the right one - you can have more than one watch paired with a single iPhone). On the next screen you'll be given options to unpair the watch, or use Find My Apple Watch.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: Set up Activity
You're good to go now, but there are a few functions that your Apple Watch won't be able to perform until we do a little more work. Lets start with Activity.
Activity is a pre-installed app on the Apple Watch and a very popular one at that: plenty of Apple Watch owners, including the author of this article, use it more than any other app. It tracks how much exercise you get each day, counts your steps and how often you stand up, and generally sets you targets to improve your overall health.
If you want to use the Apple Watch as a fitness tracker, this is a great place to start, but you'll need to set some targets, inform the app of your height and weight, and choose a few other options. We explain how to get started with Activity in a separate article:
How to set up a new Apple Watch: How to train Activity to know your stride length
It's also worth 'training' the Apple Watch so that it learns your stride length, which helps it to track runs and other activities in the related Workout app - this is used to track your performance in specific bursts of activity rather than throughout the day.
The Apple Watch first gen and Apple Watch Series 1 haven't got GPS, so by itself they can't tell how far you're travelling, instead having to guess based on the frequency of your footfalls. But if you spend a little time - about 20 minutes is a huge help - using the Workout app while carrying both iPhone and Apple Watch, the watch can piggyback on the iPhone's GPS, enabling the app to gather data that will improve its accuracy in future, even when separated from the phone.
The Apple Watch Series 2 has GPS so this process won't be necessary.
We explain the stride training process in yet another tutorial:
How to set up an Apple Watch: Set up Photos
The Apple Watch can display your photos, but it's not a feature many people consider: after all, the screen is so small that you can't see the photos particularly clearly, and the interface doesn't lend itself to scrolling through the sorts of extensive photo libraries most of us maintain on our iPhones.
Yet we don't think you should neglect this feature. There's something appealingly futuristic about being able to access a few of your favourite pictures on your watch, and while the screen is small, it's also sharp.
If you want to set this up, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and scroll down to Photos (near the bottom of the alphabetically ordered third bank of options). Tap Photos and you'll see an option for PHOTO SYNCING at the top of the subsequent screen. Tap Synced Album and select the album you want to sync with your Apple Watch.
As we said, the Apple Watch isn't ideal for navigating large libraries of images, so it may be worth creating a small album specifically for this purpose. And remember that these images will be synced to the Apple Watch and stored in its onboard memory so that you can access them even when out of range of the iPhone. So it makes sense to impose a limit on the number of photos that can be synced, just in case your album later gets out of hand.
Open the Photos app on the Apple Watch and you'll see that it's started syncing - you'll need to be in Bluetooth range of the iPhone for this to happen. You can swipe between photos or use the Digital Crown to zoom in and out.
How to set up a new Apple Watch: Set favourite contacts
Last of all, let's talk about that quick-access list of favourite contacts that watch owners running watchOS 2 or earlier can access via the Side Button. (Most of us, sensibly running watchOS 3 and benefitting from its new features and overlal interface improvements, don't get the contacts list and therefore won't need to worry about this section.) This list is easiest to set up on the companion iPhone.
Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and (in the lefthand tab, My Watch) scroll down to and select Friends (it's the fifth one down in the third bank of options). You'll see the circular dial which will display up to 12 of your favourite people. Tap the plus sign on one of the empty slots and then select a contact from the list which pops up.
If you change your mind, you can remove a contact by tapping the red X on their face (or initials) in the centre of the screen.
Read more Apple Watch tutorials
There's lots more to learn about the Apple Watch: far too much to cover here. Delve into our range of Apple Watch tutorials to discover some of the possibilities:
How to use Maps on Apple Watch | How to use Siri on Apple Watch | How to use Activity app on Apple Watch | How to reply to a text on Apple Watch | How to answer a phone call on Apple Watch | How to take a screenshot on Apple Watch | How to use Digital Touch on Apple Watch | How to use the Music app on the Apple Watch | How to use the Apple Watch workout app | How to force-quit an Apple Watch app | How to save battery on Apple Watch
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