Apple Watch accuracy tips: How to improve your tracking by calibrating the smartwatch

Tune the Apple smartwatch to your level
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The Apple Watch may be ready to log your activity right out of the box, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's recording as accurately as it can.

Unless the smartwatch is given the right cues, you may find that runs, calorie measurements and more are out of sync with reality. And, let's face it, there's few things more frustrating than inaccurate activity reporting from your tracker.

More: Apple Watch tips and hidden features

With this guide, learn how to improve the accuracy of your Apple Watch with six handy tips, as well as how the watch calibrates itself based on your activity.

How the Apple Watch calibrates

Apple Watch accuracy tips: How to improve your tracking by calibrating the smartwatch

The Apple Watch is always calibrating the built-in accelerometer based on your activity, from your first steps with the device to your latest sprint in the park.

By doing this, it's able to learn your stride length at different speeds, and therefore track your activity automatically - without you manually inputting anything.

However, although it routinely updates itself, there are steps to help this along:

1. When wearing the Apple Watch, go to a flat outdoor area that offers good GPS signal - typically a space with clear skies and little interference, such as a park.

2. Open the Apple Watch Workout app.

3. Begin an Outdoor Walk or Outdoor Run for 20 minutes or longer.

4. Complete the walk or run and end the workout on the Watch.

The more activity you get through, the more accurate - in theory - the Apple Watch should record it. The readings on your distances, calorie measurements and pace can all be improved, and having your stride length automatically worked out can even help the watch remain accurate when GPS connection is weak or not present.

Apple Watch accuracy tips

Apple Watch accuracy tips: How to improve your tracking by calibrating the smartwatch

Update your personal information

Within the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, you will have a section dedicated to your personal information, which includes your weight, height, gender and age. Apple uses this to calculate activity measurements, such as calorie burn.

However, you may wish to change this to help the Watch track more accurately:

1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.

2. Tap the My Watch tab and go to Health.

3. Tap edit, then change the information.

Check your Apple Watch fits correctly

This is often an overlooked aspect of accuracy, but making sure the Apple Watch is correctly placed on your wrist is vital to ensuring it can track properly. Wearing the device too tight, too loose or on the underside of your wrist can spoil the work of the heart rate sensor, so make sure it's at a comfortable level of tightness before a workout.

Related: Best Apple Watch bands

Also, keep in mind that some bands are more fit for activity than others. Since the wrist often expands during exercise, wear a band that can remain comfortable no matter the occasion.

Turn on Wrist Detection

If you're all-in on closing your rings, it's vital to ensure Wrist Detection is turned on. If it isn't, you won't get Stand notifications and your blue ring will suffer. Background heart readings, too, will also be turned off, meaning you won't get a look at your resting or walking heart rate.

You can check this through the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. Go to My Watch > Passcode > Wrist Detection and turn it on.

Pick the right workout

This may sound like an obvious tip, but it's, again, crucial to ensuring to pointing your Apple Watch in the right direction. For example, the device will record very differently if you select an indoor run, as opposed to an outdoor one.

And for those who want to log an exercise that isn't on the list, like strength training, you're covered by the new sports mode sweeping the globe - 'Other'.

Understand how activity is recorded

As we mentioned up top, it can be frustrating when you're not rewarded for performing an activity - why get up from your desk to get that Stand token if the Apple Watch isn't going to recognise it, after all?

However, this is where a bit of understanding about the Watch's inner workings come into play. For example, if you're wondering how your Exercise and Move goals are calculated, Apple only takes every full minute of movement that equals or exceeds the intensity of a brisk walk. If it's below this level, the activity will only count towards the Move goal.

And, of course, you have to actually help the Apple Watch out a little, when it's trying to track. So, if you're running, keeping you arm still or in your pocket is naturally going to result in under-reported stats. Meanwhile, flailing your arms excessively will likely trick the Watch into over-reporting stats. The Apple Watch relies on its accelerometer to track your movements accurately, so try to keep this in mind.

Reset your calibration data

If you're finding that the Apple Watch is really struggling to report accurate activity, you might want to start from scratch and reset your calibration data. This won't delete previous data, but it will set the accelerometer back to factory settings, essentially.

1. On your iPhone, open the Apple Watch app.

2. Tap on My Watch > Privacy > Reset Fitness Calibration Data.

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How to update Apple Watch

How to use Siri on Apple Watch

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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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