How to set up and connect a Wear OS smartwatch

A guide to get your new Wear OS smartwatch up and running
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You've bought yourself a shiny new Wear OS watch, and a world of wrist notifications, smart gestures and mini apps awaits. But first you need to get your watch hooked up to an internet connection and your phone.

Since Wear OS 2.0 arrived, watches like the Ticwatch E2 and the Fossil Q Explorist HR can do much more on their own, but you'll still need to tether them to your phone to get the most out of them. We've penned this guide to get you up and running in no time at all.

Essential reading: Wear OS tips and tricks

If you're using Wear OS with an iPhone, check our dedicated guide – the instructions below are for Android users. We've also used a Wear smartwatch running the latest version of Wear OS. The setup process is largely the same for older versions of the software too.

1. Charging and connecting

How to set up and connect a Wear OS smartwatch

To get ready to connect, you need your new smartwatch fully charged up, your phone nearby, and the official Wear OS app installed on your phone. It's possible to link several smartwatches with a single phone, though you can only have one connected at any one time.

Power up your watch if you need to (usually with a long push on the power button) and it will automatically take you through the setup process, so just follow the instructions on the watch screen.

You'll need to choose your language (on the watch), then launch the Wear OS app (on your phone) — if Bluetooth is enabled on both devices, you should see a prompt inside the app to get connected straight away, but if not, choose Add a new watch from the menu at the top. When you see the watch name appear, select it and confirm the connection.

That's all there is to it. The Wear OS app checks for updates, which might take some time to download, and you'll also be asked which of the Google accounts registered on your phone you want to use with your watch (this syncs contacts, messages, music and so on over).

Occasionally we've had a problem where it can't sync the account during setup. If that happens, don't worry, just skip this step and you'll be able to do it again (with more likelihood of success) later.

2. Getting started with Wear OS

How to set up and connect a Wear OS smartwatch

After a few more minutes of waiting you'll see a message confirming everything is connected, and then it's time to start playing around with your new smartwatch and exploring all the features it's got to offer.

You can, for instance, change around the watch face either through the Wear OS app on your phone or by pressing and holding on the existing watch face itself. Browsing faces is probably easier on your phone, so tap the More button next to Watch faces in the phone app to see a selection. You can also browse the Google Play Store on the web to look for watch faces to match your style.

Tapping and holding on the watch face on the wearable itself not only lets you swipe between recent faces, but also lets you set which information is displayed, and customize the themes/colours if these options are available.

How to set up and connect a Wear OS smartwatch

There are also some settings you're going to want to play around with - on the watch, drag down from the front screen then tap the cog icon. You can adjust font size, screen brightness, and turn the "always on" mode on or off under the Display heading, for example, while under the Gestures menu you can turn certain gestures on or off, like tilting your wrist to "wake up" the watch face.

The Wear OS app on your phone has some settings of its own: just scroll down the front screen of the app to see them. The Advanced settings menu lets you check battery and storage levels, and configure the "always on" and "tilt-to-wake" features we just mentioned, while there are options for notifications and the Google Assistant too.

3. Installing apps

How to set up and connect a Wear OS smartwatch

On the latest Wear OS software, watch apps can do much more without the help of a connected phone. Tap the power button on your watch to see existing apps, and choose the Play Store entry from the list to find new ones — a lot of them you'll recognise from browsing the Google Play Store on your phone. Just tap on any app to install it.

Read this: Wear OS apps to download first

And as long as your smartwatch is running the latest Wear OS software, you should also check out the built-in Google Assistant. Hold down the exterior crown button, speak out your query, and the Assistant will get back to you: try asking what the weather's like, or telling Google Assistant to set an alarm.

4. Set up Google Pay (if it's available)

How to set up and connect a Wear OS smartwatch

If your new smartwatch comes with an NFC chip inside, you'll be able to setup and use Google Pay, which we reckon is one of the must-use features if it's available to you.

To set this up you'll need the Google Pay app on your phone first. Then go to the Google Pay app on your watch where you'll be prompted to set up a new card or add an existing one. Just follow the procedure on your phone from that point, which will include verifying your card with your bank and ensuring you have a security lock on your watch.

You can also set a shortcut to Pay, either one of the physical buttons or a complication on the screen. We're including Google Pay in our guide because we think it's a great feature, and one you should get running out the gate. There's a more comprehensive guide to Google Pay here.

5. Troubleshooting

Wear OS smartwatches continue to get more reliable and capable, but if you do run into trouble then check the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections on the watch are up and running – choose settings from the apps list and you'll find them under Connectivity.

A reset will often help iron out any bugs you might come across, and you can force one through the System menu in Settings. You should also make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your phone as well as your watch, and keep it away from other Bluetooth devices (such as headphones) while you're trying to connect.

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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