1. How to set up your Apple Watch
  2. Quick settings check:
  3. Install apps – and be selective
  4. Trim notifications
  5. Set up fitness goals and health features
  6. Create a personalized watch face

Set up your Apple Watch: The first five things you should do

Start your Apple Watch career right with this guide
Wareable Set Up Apple Watch
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If you just unwrapped a new Apple Watch, then congratulations. You’ve now the proud owner of one of top pick smartwatches.

Regardless of whether you’ve got a new Series 8, an older Series 7 – or the brand new Watch SE (2nd Gen), or Apple Watch Ultra – the setup process is the same.

The Apple Watch setup process is a cinch, but we’ve outlined our unofficial setup guide – based on years of Apple Watch ownership. Our guide covers five quick steps that will make your Apple Watch a pleasure to use, and start you off on a sound footing.

Here are our top tips. And if you want to learn more, make sure you check out our 66 Apple Watch tips and tricks feature.

How to set up your Apple Watch

Setting up a brand new Apple Watch for the first time is a pretty simple process. When your new Apple Watch is powered on, your iPhone should start the process for you. If for some reason this doesn’t happen, head to the Watch app on your iPhone, and add the new device.

If you’re setting up a second-hand Apple Watch, the same should apply. However, make sure that the device has been properly unpaired from the previous owner’s iCloud first. We have a guide for that too.

If you had an Apple Watch before, you can choose to restore your Apple Watch from a backup. Make sure that the backup is up to date before you start.

We’re not going to walk you through the process step by step, the iPhone does a fantastic job of that itself. But there are some things to be aware of.

Quick settings check:

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Watch orientation and left-handers

You can specify which wrist you wear your Apple Watch on, and opt to wear it upside down, so the Digital Crown moves to the correct side. In the Watch app > General > Watch Orientation.


You can toggle on/off Siri, and also adjust how it's enacted. Go to Watch app > Siri and you can toggle raise to speak on/off.

Apple Pay

If you didn't add your bank card during the setup process, you can do that in the Watch app > Wallet & Apple Pay > Add Card. You can also change the default card there too. It's also worth turning on Express Travel Card here too, so you can just tap your watch on transit.

Emergency detection and contacts

Make sure emergency contacts are set, they're needed to turn on Fall Detection and Car Crash detection too. Head to the Watch app > Emergency Contacts.

Install apps – and be selective

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During the setup process, you can choose whether you want all the available apps from your iPhone to be installed on your Apple Watch.

Now, everything we outline below is a personal preference – you might want the maximum amount of apps available on your wrist. But we prefer a more minimal experience. 

We’d suggest declining Apple’s invitation to install the contents of your iPhone en masse and go through the Watch app and the ones you want later. This makes the menu systems much easier to navigate.

To add apps later you just go to the Watch app on your iPhone and scroll down. You can see a list of installed apps, and those waiting to be added. You can quickly uninstall and install apps from here.

You can also find new Apple Watch apps to add here – and there’s a Watch-specific storefront to browse. We’ve tested hundreds of apps – and you can read our best Apple Watch apps guide here

Finally, there’s the apps screen. By default, Apple uses the honeycomb. But (this is just a friendly recommendation) you can make the change. Force press on the app screen and switch between list and honeycomb. Check out our guide.

Trim notifications

Again, if you want to be notified of every happening and notifications on your Apple Watch, then the standard setup is fine.

But we find constant buzzes annoying – especially with the propensity for some apps to check in every 2 seconds.

So we recommend a good hard cull of notification privileges. Head to the Watch app and go to Notifications

The first set of apps are Apple core apps – and we’d say most of these you’ll want to keep.

The second list is third-party apps that “Mirror” your iPhone. That means that if Instagram pings you to say that a semi-stranger has just uploaded a picture of their lunch, that will also be mirrored to the Watch.

You can toggle these on/off quickly – so your wrist can become a quieter place. Check out a step-by-step guide.

Set up fitness goals and health features

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If this is your first Apple Watch, then you’ll need to make sure all the health features are turned on, and that your personal information is correct.

After setup, head to the Watch app > Health > Health Details. Make sure your data is correct, as information such as height/weight/age affects the accuracy of your stats.

Now you need to go to the Apple Watch. Go to the Activity app, scroll to the bottom, and choose Change Goals. This is where you’ll decide how easy it is to close your rings.

Changing this isn’t essential. The Apple Watch will adjust your calorie goal to suit your activity level as you go. But 700cal is about average (closest to the 10,000 steps you’ll see on Fitbit), and active people might want to up to 900 calories.

Then you’ll want to activate the health features of your watch. Go to Watch app > Heart and make sure ECG is turned on (for Series 7/8 and Ultra) you can have your Apple Watch scan for irregular rhythms. You can also adjust high/low heart rate settings if you need.

Create a personalized watch face

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One of the more fun parts of setting up your Apple Watch is creating a personalized watch face.

There are loads to choose from – and we have a huge Apple Watch watch faces guide to help you choose.

But there are two elements. The first are apps such as Photos and Portraits, that use shots from your iPhone. They look great but are simple in terms of the information they convey.

If you're looking for more hardcore data for your Apple Watch's home screen, you can add faces that support Complications.

Complications are nuggets of information, that are displayed on the face, and drawn from apps on the Apple Watch. The best watch faces for complications are options such as Modular or Infograph, which can support up to six.

Force press a watch face and cycle across to New. You can then browse watch faces, and use the Digital Crown to add complications, and change colors. You can also go to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and go to the Face Gallery tab at the bottom. This is a bit more of a user-friendly way of setting up your watch faces.

TAGGED Apple Watch

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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