Apple Watch Wi-Fi: How to choose a network, connect and turn it on and off

Everything you need to know about linking up to an internet connection
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Connecting the Apple Watch to Wi-Fi is certainly nothing new, but the process has gone through some changes with more recent software updates.

The basic rule is still the same: if your iPhone is in range, the Apple Watch will piggyback off either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi in order to communicate. However, this gets complicated with a cellular connection and the new ability to choose your own network through watchOS 5.

Want to learn how to connect the Apple Watch to Wi-Fi? Below, we run through how to find, choose and control your options on the watch.

How to connect Apple Watch to Wi-Fi

Apple Watch Wi-Fi: How to choose a network, connect and turn it on and off

Is your Apple Watch ready to connect?

You don't really need to do anything for your Apple Watch to connect to Wi-Fi, as long as it's in range of your iPhone. If it is, it'll switch between using the Bluetooth connection and Wi-Fi to communicate, depending on which is the more power-efficient at that moment. Clever, right?

However, while there's no input needed on your end for the Watch to simply communicate, you're going to have to make sure Wi-Fi is turned on in the Control Center on the iPhone. If you do go out of range and the Watch is connected over Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth (more on that below), a Wi-Fi icon will appear in the Control Center – that also needs to be turned on.

To ensure your Apple Watch is ready to connect to Wi-Fi, make sure the following is met:

  • The connected iPhone is in range of the Apple Watch.
  • The connected iPhone has Wi-Fi enabled in the Control Center.
  • The Apple Watch has Wi-Fi enabled in the Control Center.

Choose a Wi-Fi network on the Apple Watch

That's how the Apple Watch handles Wi-Fi when connected to the iPhone – but what if the phone isn't in range? Well, even when your iPhone isn't nearby, your Apple Watch can still connect to Wi-Fi. However, in order to choose a Wi-Fi network for your Apple Watch connects to, you'll need watchOS 5 or later installed.

Here's how to pick a Wi-Fi network for the Apple Watch, when you're away from your iPhone and don't want to use the Apple Watch cellular capabilities:

1. Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch and tap 'Wi-Fi'.
2. Your device will then begin searching for networks.
3. Tap the name of the network that you want to join. Note, your Apple Watch can only connect to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks.
4. If asked, enter the password with the Scribble tool, then tap 'Join'.

Apple Watch won't connect to Wi-Fi?

  • Your iPhone, while connected to your Watch over Bluetooth, needs to have connected to the network at a previous date before the Watch can connect over the Wi-Fi independently.
  • Again, the Wi-Fi network needs to be 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz, since the Apple Watch can't connect to 5GHz Wi-Fi or public Wi-Fi that requires a login or profile.

Turn Apple Watch Wi-Fi on and off

Apple Watch Wi-Fi: How to choose a network, connect and turn it on and off

Maybe your cellular connection is better than the network your Watch keeps joining automatically, or maybe you just want to find out how to turn it back on after going off the grid – either way, follow the below.

How to turn Apple Watch Wi-Fi on and off:

1. On the Apple Watch, swipe up to bring the Control Center up and check the status of the Wi-Fi icon.
2. Tap the Wi-Fi icon to turn off/on. The icon will dim if the device is disconnecting from networks, and turn light blue when connected.

Note that you'll need a cellular version of the Apple Watch Series 3 or Series 4 in order to disconnect from Wi-Fi networks and still receive a connection. However, providing you're still in the range of your phone, even disconnecting from Wi-Fi won't stop the iPhone from pinging notifications to your Apple Watch.

Read instead: How to get LTE on the Apple Watch

If you do disconnect, Wi-Fi won't automatically turn itself back on until you repeat the step above manually, enter a new location, restart your device or hit 5am in your current location.

TAGGED Apple Watch

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Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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