How to set up your Apple Watch

Missing manual: We explain how to get the Apple Watch working your way
How to set up your Apple Watch

Once you have your shiny new Apple Watch, it's time to get it set up. Just like a smartphone, the Apple Watch is a highly personal piece of kit, and getting it working your way is essential.

It's actually quite a complicated bit of kit, and when you scratch the surface there are tonnes of tiny features to get your head around.

Essential reading: Essential Apple Watch tips and tricks

Get everything you need from our next instalment of the Apple Watch's missing manual.

Getting started

Getting started with Apple Watch is simple. Ensure your iPhone's running iOS 8.2 or later, and that Bluetooth's on. Open the Apple Watch app.

Your Apple Watch must be on (hold the side button if it isn't), and you'll be prompted to hold your iPhone so the Apple Watch is visible in the camera's viewfinder. Follow the prompts to complete set-up, such as choosing a language and watch orientation (it can be worn 'upside-down' if you're left-handed), and defining a passcode.

Should you later wish to unpair the Apple Watch, do so by selecting Unpair Apple Watch in My Watch > Apple Watch on the iPhone app. Note: pairing/unpairing and other aspects of set-up aren't particularly quick, and therefore aren't a means of sharing one Apple Watch between several people. Everyone needs their own, because Jony and Tim need another yacht.

Installing Apple Watch apps

Native apps will come to Apple Watch in 2015. For now, you need iPhone apps with Apple Watch extensions. During set-up, you'll get the chance to install all available Apple Watch extensions, and have new ones added automatically. The snag is this can take ages if you've many apps, and may not work anyway, resulting in grey icons that don't respond.

The first fix: just wait. If that doesn't work, you'll need in the iPhone Apple Watch app to scroll down to the apps list, select each relevant app in turn, and switch 'Show App on Apple Watch' off and on again. Yes, just like what they recommend in the IT Crowd. When reinstalling, only do one app at a time, and check the Apple Watch Home screen to see whether it's actually installing.

Alternatively, go to My Watch > General > Automatic Downloads, and turn automatic downloads off. You then install/uninstall individual apps by using the aforementioned switches.

Managing Apple Watch notifications

In the iPhone Apple Watch app, go to My Watch > Notifications. Within, you fine-tune notification settings. When active, the Notifications Indicator shows a red dot at the top of the watch face when you've unread notifications. A privacy option exists for only showing notification details when you tap on an alert.

Beneath these switches is a list of built-in apps, followed by third-party apps. Third-party apps each have a switch for mirroring alerts to your Apple Watch. (Said alerts are managed in the iPhone's own Settings app.) Most Apple apps are set to 'Mirror my iPhone' (as in, mirror alert settings from your iPhone) but can have custom options defined, such as turning on haptic alerts but disabling sound for Messages.

Maps and Activity are exceptions, the former's sole switch being for toggling alerts for upcoming turns, and the latter having granular options for stand reminders, progress updates, goal completions, achievements, and your weekly summary.

Managing Apple Watch glances

Glances are managed in My Watch > Glances. Active ones are at the top of the list and are deleted by tapping the '-' button and then Delete. New glances are added by scrolling to the 'Do not include' list, and tapping the relevant '+' button. The sort order of glances is adjusted by dragging the drag bars.

Since glances are browsed in linear fashion (via left/right swipes), starting with the most recently viewed, the system scales poorly. We therefore recommend you activate a load of them, figure out which ones you consider essential, and then disable everything else (bar Settings, which is mandatory). Changes made should be immediately reflected on your Apple Watch.

Defining Apple Watch settings

On your iPhone, a range of settings can be defined for Apple Watch, a sub-set of which can be adjusted on the wearable itself (in its own Settings app):

  • General – Houses software updates, watch orientation, accessibility, language/region, Handoff, wrist detection, whether the watch face or previous activity are displayed on raising your wrist, usage data and data reset options.
  • Brightness & Text Size – Enables you to adjust the display's brightness, the user interface's text size, and make the text bolder.
  • Sounds & Haptics – provides settings for adjusting the alert volume (or muting it) and haptic strength, and switches for 'Cover to Mute' (shuts the watch up after three seconds of darkness) and 'Prominent Haptic' (nudges you to pre-announce common alerts).
  • Passcode – Lets you define a passcode for unlocking your Apple Watch, and set whether the watch unlocks when your iPhone does. There's also an erase option if someone pilfers your watch and gets the passcode wrong ten times.
  • Health – Lists some of your basic physical details and enables them to be edited.
  • Privacy – Enables you to stop Apple Watch using your heart rate to calculate calories burned and using body movement to determine step count.

Following these general settings are those for individual apps — Apple's and then third-party products. Information regarding these will be found in our guide's app pages.

Backing up your Apple Watch

When an iPhone is backed-up to iCloud or iTunes, Apple Watch settings and data are included. Health and fitness data only comes along for the ride when using iCloud or an encrypted iTunes back-up. A restore from back-up can be done using the iPhone Apple Watch app, during a re-pairing process.

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