How to add and play music on the Apple Watch

Put any of Apple's 30 million tracks on your wrist

The Apple Watch has the power to play music straight from your wrist to a pair of Bluetooth headphones, which is a fantastic experience, especially for those working out without their iPhone.

Music on the Apple Watch works in a couple of ways. For those with a burgeoning collection of iTunes tracks you can sync playlists across with ease. But things get much better with Apple Music. Subscribers can sync any of the 30 million strong library across in a couple of minutes.

Do everything: The complete Apple Watch guide

The process has been massively simplified since the first incarnation of the Apple Watch, but it's certainly not obvious to newbies. But let us guide you through everything you need to know.

Fire up Apple Music

To get started, fire up the Apple Music app on your iPhone. We won't go through the ins and outs of the app here, but you can search the library of 30 million tracks and curated playlists. If you don't have a subscription to Apple Music, you can still use good old MP3s, but make sure they appear in the Apple Music app through iTunes.

Head to the Apple Watch app

Head over to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and then go to the Music tab. Tap Add music and you'll be whisked off to Apple Music – and from here you can choose to browse by artists, albums, genres or playlists. Music used to have to be part of a playlist, but now you can add what you want. Just browse, and tap to add.

Sync it up

The music will only be transferred when the Apple Watch is on its charging cradle. Why? We have no idea. The playlist will be marked 'updating' until it's completed, after which it will say 'synced'. You can add multiple playlists if you want, but when you run out of space, they'll stop being added.

Connect up your Bluetooth headset

Now when you set out of the door for your run, you can listen to music straight from the wrist. Go to the Music app on your Apple Watch and fire it up. You can cycle through albums and playlists with the crown and tap to play. At this point you'll be asked to choose a pair of headphones to pair with – make sure your set is in pairing mode and the rest is simple.

If the music starts pumping out of your iPhone then you'll need to force the issue by pressing and holding on the screen and choosing Bluetooth playback.

Change music

When music is playing on your watch, you can tap the icon to the lower left to browse music within that album or playlist. You can then switch between tracks by tapping. The arrow in the top left will take you back to the main screen so you can change music altogether. It's kind of fiddly, especially mid-workout, but it works.

More Apple Watch guides

Set up your Apple Watch

Apple Watch tips and tricks

Extend your battery life

The best Apple Watch apps

Set up Apple Pay on Apple Watch

Apple Watch untethered guide

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  • ZSD·

    Thanks for the article, but i'm having issues with it actually playing back on my Watch.  I have even restored the watch and tried several times.  It shows the music on there but then skips though all of the tracks like there isn't anything to actually play.  Is this an Apple Music issue?  Can't seem to figure it out....

    • j.stables·

      That's extremely odd. Has it synced properly? It doesn't say pending in the phone app?

  • spenceast·

    Great guide--my only problem with listening to music stored on my Apple Watch is that it plays the playlist in order...I synced my Running Music playlist and I want to be able to have it on shuffle when I am out on a morning run, so I can get a different order of songs played. Is there any way to "shuffle" all the music in that playlist on the Apple Watch?

    • cblwolf·

      In case you haven't figured this out or if anyone else reading this might want to know, you long press the screen (just as you did to choose the source) and hit the shuffle button.