How to Use Apple Watch Without Pairing: The Essential Guide

The Apple Watch is a really useful tool that has many more capabilities than just being used for telling time. It’s designed to be paired with an iPhone, allowing you to track applications used on your watch. Although you will need to pair it with an iPhone for initial set up, you can use your Watch in a wide variety of ways without consistent pairing. 

How can you use an Apple Watch without pairing? Here are seven ways you can use an Apple Watch without it being paired: 

  1. Track your physical activity and workouts 
  2. Set a stopwatch, timer, and alarms
  3. Monitor your heart rate 
  4. Music and podcast syncing
  5. Practice your breathing 
  6. Store and show off photos 
  7. Use Apple Pay and wallet

Let’s dive into all the things you can use your Apple Watch for without an iPhone being paired. In addition to those mentioned above, there are even more features you can access if you set up your watch with a cellular connection or Wi-Fi source. This article will detail these as well to allow you to get the most out of your watch when you aren’t paired to your phone.

How to Use an Apple Watch When Not Paired (Without Internet Range)

Because the Apple Watch is meant to be an iPhone companion, you will need to initially pair it for any functionality. The more applications you set up as you sync your iPhone, the more you’ll be able to do with the watch even when it’s not paired or connected for extended periods of time. It is important to note that more capabilities are offered with newer watch series. 

There is a wide range of things you can do with an Apple Watch when it is not paired, making it a fun and useful tool when you are both near and far from an iPhone. 

1. Track Physical Activity

activity tracker Apple Watch without pairing iPhone gizbuyer guide

One of the coolest features of the Apple Watch with or without an iPhone is the Activity and Workout applications. These apps work together to track your fitness, workouts, and physical activity throughout the day. You do not need to be paired with a phone to take advantage of them, either. 

The Activity app challenges you to close three rings every day, with each ring representing a different fitness accomplishment: 

  1. Move Goal: You set the number of calories you want to burn each day. This goal measures the number of calories you burn while doing some form of exercise rather than the calories you burn while resting each day. 
  2. Exercise Goal: Spending 30 minutes exercising or moving around each day will allow you to hit this goal. 
  3. Stand Goal: Hitting this goal will require you to walk around for at least 1 minute in 12 separate hours throughout the day. This means that getting in a good workout in part of the day is not enough; you’ll have to be moving all day long. For wheelchair users, this is measured with a Roll ring! 

You can set your watch to notify you when you close your rings and push yourself to keep the ring moving beyond its goal. This not only keeps you moving with a target to hit each day but also gives you weekly and monthly challenges to partake in. 

The Workouts App

The Workouts app helps you close your rings with more specific workouts and provide the watch with more data about your athletic capabilities. This app will give you over 60 workouts to log, which will directly appear in your Activity app. Recording more workouts will help to calibrate your watch to understand your strides and body movement measurements. 

During the workout, your screen will provide you with the following information: 

  • Duration of workout: You can easily turn the face to see how long you have been exercising. 
  • Calories: The watch will show you both the active calories you have burnt and the total calories burned for the duration of the workout. 
  • Heartbeats per minute: Your heart rate is monitored and visible during workouts, changing with the intensity of your work. This metric is helpful after a rigorous exercise to see how high your heart rate raises and time for the decline during recovery. 
  • Running pace: When doing a running workout, the watch will give you your rolling mile pace as well as the individual mile so you can keep to a desired speed. 
  • Distance: Workouts that value distance completed, such as running, walking, and cycling, will keep track of your mileage for you. This is closely tied to the pedometer that will count towards your daily step goal. 
  • Music control: If you swipe right on the workout face, you’ll have access to music or podcasts that are playing. This allows you to control volume, change content, and pause if needed. 

The watch will reset itself each day so you can look forward to closing all three rings and beating the previous day’s work! The watch won’t let you look at your progress or data over multiple days, for which you will need the paired iPhone to access this data. 

2. Set Stopwatches and Alarms 

stopwatch timer and clock function Apple Watch without pairing

Beyond telling time, the watch is equipped with other time-related functions. These applications are ready to use at any time and do not need to be added to your watch face when you start using it for the first time. All your time-related applications on the watch are the same color orange so you can easily find them!

Check out these time-related features that can be applied to numerous areas of your life: 

  • Stopwatch: Anything you need to track time of can be done with the Stopwatch app. There is also a lap feature so you can record various splits. 
  • Timer: The Timer application has preset times to select from as well as the ability to customize. It will notify you with a sound or vibration, depending on how your watch is set up! 
  • Alarm: Instead of being woken up by an alarm clock, you can use your watch! You can set customized alarms with options for noise, repeat, and snooze. 
  • World Clock: If you have a family who lives in a different time zone or is really interested in what time it is around the world, you can use the World Clock app. 

These offer more features and customization than your typical digital sports watch, making it more accessible and functional for fitness metrics as well as everyday timing needs. Setting a timer for cooking something on the stove can be easily done without your phone. 

3. Monitor Your Heart Rate 

Heart rate monitoring ties into your fitness tracking as well as your overall health. The Heart Rate app allows you to check your current, resting, and walking heart rate throughout the day. You can see changes that occur on the watch face graph and gauge your rate during hard workouts. 

You can set your watch to notify you when your heart rate gets too high or too low based on a number you choose. This can be a great health tool if you experience large fluctuations in speed. You can also track irregular heartbeats if you set this notification up on your phone. The Apple Watch can identify these irregular rhythms and notify you. 

Apple Watches (especially newer models) do a great job of tracking your heart rate but should not be relied on solely as a heart monitoring tool. The watches are quite accurate, but they are not designed to be medical devices!  

4. Music and Podcast Syncing 

syncing music and podcasts with Apple Watch without pairing gizbuyer guide

While you will need to configure the songs and podcasts that get sent to the Apple Watch from your phone, you can enjoy all of these media options without having your iPhone on you. This is an excellent tool if you like going for runs and don’t want to worry about bringing your phone along. You will need Bluetooth headphones to take advantage of this feature! 

To send podcasts to your watch, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Under ‘My Watch,’ you’ll find the Podcast app where you can customize which shows and episodes to download when out of iPhone range. 

The same process can be completed to sync your music to the watch. You will need to have music available on the Apple Music application to use this feature. Apps like Spotify and other music services do not currently allow for offline listening on the watch. The Apple Watch will only allow for 2 GB of storage to be allocated to music, meaning you’ll have to pick songs! 

Specific playlists and music must be uploaded ahead of time to enjoy them on the watch. Any music additions or changes will need to be done from the compatible iPhone. After this is configured, you will not need to use the iPhone with the watch unless you want to change music. 

5. Practice Your Breathing 

checking Apple Watch on wrist without pairing gizbuyer guide

During a busy day running from commitment to commitment, taking a minute to breathe can help to calm and center you. The Breathe application reminds you to take some time out of your day to relax and be mindful. You can set the watch up to remind you of these sessions (up to 10 times a day) or mute them if it isn’t a good time! 

The watch can be configured to different breathing rates based on your ideal speed. The session will encourage you to breathe in and out slowly and give you a light vibration on the exhale to help you time your breaths. 

During this session, you will also benefit from these watch features: 

  • Heart rate: See how your body reacts in a relaxed, breathing state. 
  • Watch face options: You can select a Breathe watch face, so you have easy access to breathing.
  • Duration: You can select the amount of time you want to breathe if one minute is too little! 

This is just another feature that Apple has included on the watch to promote a healthy lifestyle, both in monitoring your breathing patterns and as a stress reliever. 

6. Photo Displays 

Similar to music and podcasts, you can store photo albums on your phone to show off to friends or keep looking back on! There is a Photos app (looks just like the iPhone app) where Favorite photos from your phone get added to the watch, and you can select specific albums to add. You can add up to 500 photos to the Apple Watch, depending on space availability. 

From the watch photos, you can set desired ones as your watch face, so it appears as a background wallpaper whenever you check the time or go to do something on the watch. 

You may need to clear some music and podcasts if you are not able to upload the desired 500 photos (75 MB). The opposite can be said if you aren’t able to store as much audible media as you’d like. 

7. Use Apple Pay and Wallet

wallet Apple Pay on Watch without pairing iPhone gizbuyer guide

Something that is even cooler than being able to pay for something from your phone is being able to do so with only your Apple Watch. Once you set up Apple Pay to mirror your watch by adding credit cards and enabling a passcode (for security), you can use the feature when you run into a store with or without an iPhone. 

You simply hold up your watch to the automated machine you would use for tapping your iPhone at a register. Your entire wallet will show up with other important cards, gift cards, and passes you may need easy access to. Consider scanning your boarding pass at an airport or transit cards for your commute to work with this wallet feature. 

You do not need your phone to execute these features from day to day. Just make sure you set up Apple Pay and configure the necessary items in your wallet, so the watch is ready to use.  

How to Use an Apple Watch with a Wi-Fi Connection

Without being paired to your iPhone, there are even more ways you can use your Apple Watch when connected to a Wi-Fi network. Just as you would on an iPhone, you can connect to a Wi-Fi network under the settings icon on the watch. You can type in Wi-Fi network passwords with the Scribble feature. Networks previously joined on your phone will be automatically joined. 

Beyond all the features mentioned above that can be used without your phone nearby, there are additional features that Wi-Fi connection provides for your watch: 

  • iMessage: Just as you would be able to with Wi-Fi on a phone, you can still send and receive iMessages (which only rely on the Internet). This allows you to receive important texts from other iPhone users. 
  • Facetime: Keep in touch with friends by Facetime Audio (no camera on your watch) with Wi-Fi. This is limited to calling others who have iPhones. 
  • Wi-Fi Calling: If you have Wi-Fi calling set up, you can make a phone call to any phone number from your watch on a Wi-Fi network. You will need to set this feature up on your phone beforehand. 
  • Siri: You can use Siri to look things up for you even if you are not connected to your iPhone. 
  • Music: Connected to a reliable Wi-Fi network, you can stream music from your watch! You don’t need to store or download music to your phone as you would when no phone or internet access are nearby. 
  • Maps: Gaining accurate maps and GPS services are beneficial when on a Wi-Fi network. You can even set up direction and continue to follow its instructions to your destination if you stay on the right path.
  • Weather: Apps such as weather are fully functional when connected to a Wi-Fi network. 
  • Email: Stay updated on emails and draft them from the watch with Scribble or voice dictation. 
  • Internet: Use the Internet to look things up right from the watch. 
  • Other Internet-based apps: Any other Internet-based applications you have put on your Apple Watch that are functional on Wi-Fi can be used. This could be social media such as Facebook Messenger or sports updates. Any notifications you receive to your iPhone will also be sent to your watch on Wi-Fi. 
  • Update watch: As long as you are connected to W-Fi, you will be able to update the watch from your settings app. The watch will need to have ample battery life (over 50%) to complete this. 

Your Apple Watch performs nearly all the same functions while connected to Wi-Fi as it would when near your phone. The only caveat is you must remain within the range of the Wi-Fi network. Going for a run or moving around will not allow you to maintain this consistent connection, and you will only have access to apps mentioned in the previous section. 

How to Use an Apple Watch with a Cellular Connection 

Apple Watch cellular connection without pairing with iPhone gizbuyer guide

The Apple Watch can also be equipped with a cellular connection if you purchase the models that are specifically designed to do so. This costs more upfront and will also include an additional charge of around $10 per month, depending on your service provider. For some users, the extra capabilities of the cellular watch make it worth it. 

With cellular service, the Apple Watch is fully functional even if your phone is not nearby, and you are not near a Wi-Fi connection. These are some of the key features people take advantage of this watch for: 

  • Making and answering phone calls and Facetimes 
  • Responding to and drafting messages 
  • Email capability 
  • Internet access 
  • Accurate maps and GPS use
  • Setting and receiving reminders 

While you will still need an iPhone to set up the Apple Watch and update it, purchasing the cellular model allows you to leave your phone at home or be out of Bluetooth range and still benefit from all its features. If you find yourself not wanting to carry your phone with you, this may be the best Apple Watch model. 

There are multiple situations you may find yourself not wanting to carry a phone, but still wanting to stay updated: 

  • Hiking or running: Keeping your hands free makes these activities much more comfortable and enjoyable. With music on the watch, there’s no need to run with your phone. 
  • Beach and water activities: With most models being water-resistant or waterproof, you can swim and be near water with your watch. Keeping your phone at home or in the car helps to avoid water-related accidents. 
  • Concerts and events: With the potential for dropping or losing your phone in a crowded setting, having everything on your watch (including Apple Pay and wallet) can make it easy to enjoy your event without a phone or a wallet! 
  • Leaving the office: If you need to venture from your phone at work, whether that be for lunch or another part of the building, you can leave your phone and still stay updated. 

Using a cellular connection on your Apple Watch is not necessary to give you enough features to make the Apple Watch worth using without an iPhone nearby, but it dramatically enhances its capabilities. If you are someone who would benefit from the features mentioned above, then the extra dollars spent may be worthwhile. 

Cellular usage on your Apple Watch will drain its battery more quickly than using Wi-Fi or being connected to the iPhone. Your iPhone and Apple Watch will need to use the same cellular carrier to function together. Setting up these plans will be completed through your service provider rather than Apple.  

Initial Apple Watch Configuration with iPhone 

Apple Watch initial setup with iPhone how to gizbuyer guide

As mentioned throughout the article, you will need to set up the Apple Watch with an iPhone before you can take advantage of any of the features that are accessible without pairing. Let’s go through this setup process so you can get right to using your watch with or without the iPhone! 

Here are the steps to follow when setting up your Apple Watch:  

  1. Update iPhone: You will want to make sure your phone is updated, so it operates on the newest version of the Apple software for compatibility. 
  2. Enable Bluetooth: Turning Bluetooth on will allow your phone to identify the Apple Watch once it is turned on. When prompted to set up the watch with your iPhone, follow instructions on the phone. You will want to keep both devices near each other during this process. You can also use the camera and animation to pair the two. 
  3. Set up watch: You can either set this up as a new watch, or you can enable the backup feature, which will coordinate all of the previous data to both the phone and watch. 
  4. Apple ID: Configuring Apple ID will also be prompted at this step, for full accessibility, you can input this information. 
  5. Change settings: You will see what settings are set up on both your iPhone and Apple Watch and have the ability to share and change access options. If you are going to be using Apple Pay on your watch, you will need to set up a passcode for additional security. 
  6. Installing apps: Any additional applications you want to add will need to be done from the iPhone. This can be found on your Watch application and managed from here as well. 
  7. Wait for syncing: If you uploaded a lot of data or applications, you will need to wait longer for these features to sync. After this process is complete, you will be able to use your Apple Watch without a phone connected. Any changes will still need to be resynced from the phone. 

If you want to make updates to the Apple Watch, you can either update it from your phone or without it. If not connected to the watch, you will need to be on a Wi-Fi network. In either case, make sure your phone is charged so it can successfully complete an update. Leaving it on the charger is often recommended so that the watch does not die during the process. 

Using an Apple Watch Without Pairing 

how to use Apple Watch without pairing gizbuyer guide essential

The Apple Watch is designed to be a companion to the iPhone, meaning that it cannot be fully functional without the iPhone. You should not purchase an Apple Watch unless you have an iPhone that you can configure and pair it with. Once you have the watch set up to a phone, there are so many things you can do with it even when your phone is not nearby. 

Full accessibility with or without the phone is achieved by purchasing a cellular plan, giving you every feature all the time. If you don’t want to pay the monthly fee, you can still a ton of cool things with your watch on Wi-Fi or connected to no network at all! These features are especially useful for fitness, tracking your heart rate, and paying for things with Apple Pay. 

The Apple Watch is an excellent tool to take advantage of without being around an iPhone. It provides you with many more features than any digital watch will, and when you are paired, it’s like having a mini-phone on your wrist! 

John Hammer

Hi i'm John Hammer, Founder and Author of Gizbuyer Guide. Ever since the original Xbox, PlayStation, and iPhone I've purchased and worked on all kinds of consumer tech products, gaming gadgets and operating system softwares. To this day my curiosity has never left, and my aim is to guide and share my knowledge on technology as I continue to experience the latest of the consumer electronics industry.

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