Apple Watch and watchOS: Everything you need to know about Apple's most personal device
IT & Systems Management

Apple Watch and watchOS: Everything you need to know about Apple's most personal device

Apple Watch Series 3 has arrived, and it could be the model that finally pushes Apple's wearable into the mainstream. After several software revisions, Apple Watch has evolved into one of Apple's major project categories, and a constant cycle of new features and bands keep it feeling fresh and fashionable. Series 3 brings it all together, with health, fitness, and Siri enhancements, and, of course, iPhone independence with LTE. 

But after three generations, you might still be asking: What can I really do with it? The answer might surprise you. Find out and more in this ultimate guide to Apple Watch.

Apple Watch models

apple watch watchos3 trio Apple

Apple Watch comes in several models and colors.

Apple Watch Series 1

Body: Aluminum
Color: Silver, space gray, rose gold, gold
Band: Sport
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S1P
Water resistance: Only for minor liquid contact
GPS: No
Price: Starting at $249

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS)

Body: Aluminum, stainless steel
Color: Silver, space gray, space black, gold
Band: Sport, sport loop, milanese loop
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: No
Price: Starting at $329

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS+cellular)

Body: Aluminum, stainless steel
Color: Silver, space gray, space black, gold
Band: Sport, sport loop, milanese loop
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: Yes
Price: Starting at $329

Apple Watch Series 3 Nike+

Body: Aluminum
Color: Silver, space gray
Band: Nike sport, Nike sport loop
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: Available
Price: Starting at $329

Apple Watch Series 3 Hermes

Body: Stainless steel
Color: Silver
Band: Leather
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: Available
Price: Starting at $1,199

Apple Watch Series 3 Edition

Body: Ceramic
Color: White, gray
Band: Sport
Size: 38mm (272 by 340) and 42mm (312 by 390)
Chip: S3 
Water resistance: Up to 50 meters
GPS: Yes
Cellular: Available
Price: Starting at $1,299

Apple Watch Bands

apple watch bands spring2017 group Apple

Outfit your Apple Watch any way you want with interhcangeable bands.\

How do I change bands on Apple Watch?

You can swap out the band that came with your watch with any Apple band, but make sure you get the right size (and a color that matches). Apple offers most of its watch bands in both 38mm and 42mm sizes, so you’ll need to buy the right one.

To swap out a band, flip the watch over and press the small band release buttons at the top and bottom. As you press the button, slowly slide out the band. Then slide in the new one. You don’t need to hold down the button to insert the new one, and you’ll hear a small click when it’s in place.

How many bands are available for Apple Watch?

Lots. The most popular are the sweat resistant elastomer Sport bands, which come in 16 different colors for $49 a pop. New with Series 3 are nylon Sports Loop band for $49 each, available in nine colors. There are also Nike Sport bands (also $49), which are made of the same material but have holes, er “compression-molded perforations for breathability.” They are available in five colors.

Then there are Woven Nylon bands, which come in 14 colors for $49. A series of leather bands are also available in a variety of styles of colors: the $149 Classic Buckle in six colors, Leather Loop (42mm only) in three colors for $149, and Modern Buckle (38mm only) in four colors for $249.

Fashionistas can opt for one of the Hermès Leather bands. The $489 Double Tour is available in five colors, but is limited to 38mm models. Bigger wrists can opt for the 42mm Single Tour, which comes in six colors for $339 (though the etoupe, bordeaux, and fauve colors are also available for the 38mm model).

Apple also makes a pair stainless steel bands in silver and space black: a Milanese Loop and a standard link bracelet. The Milanese Loop costs $149 for silver and $199 for black, and the Link Bracelet costs $449 for silver and $549 for black.

And there are third-party options too. Apple’s Made for Apple Watch program allows third-party accessory makers to apply for official approval to sell bands, and many manufacturers sell knock-offs as well. These options are practically as plentiful as iPhone cases and nearly all of them cost significantly less than the ones Apple sells.

Apple Watch Series 2 review

Apple Watch Series 2 solved nearly all the problems we had with the original model, with better navigation, built-in GPS, and incredible water resistance. Read our full review here and stay tuned for our review of Apple Watch Series 3.

Apple Watch Series 3 FAQ

What does cellular mean with the Apple Watch Series 3?

Apple Watch Series 3's cellular chip means that you don't need to keep it tethered to your phone just to do basic tasks. Now your Apple Watch will be able to make calls, send messages, talk to Siri, and stream music wherever you are, even if your phone is hundreds of miles away.

Is the cellular coverage on the Apple Watch Series 3 free?

Um, no. You'll need to add your Apple Watch Series 3 to your wireless plan to share the data, and it will cost you $10 a month through Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint for the pleasure. All four carriers are offering a limited promotion of the first three months free, however.

Can I stream music on the Apple Watch Series 3?

Yup. You'll need to subscribe to Apple Music, of course, but an update to the app will allow you to play any of the service's 40 million songs, right on your wrist.

Doesn't LTE affect battery life on the Apple Watch Series 3?

It all depends on how you use it, but according to Apple's estimates, you should get the same 18-hour battery life as long as you don't exceed 4 hours a day of LTE use.

What else is new in Apple Watch Series 3?

There's a new barometric altimeter for tracking elevation while running, and Siri can now respond to your queries using the speaker. Additionally, Siri is more independent, thanks to the LTE chip.

Will apps open faster on the Apple Watch Series 3?

Apple Watch Series 3 is powered by Apple's new S3 chip, which is 70 percent faster than the S2 chip. Furthermore, the new W2 chip will boost Wi-Fi connections by 85 percent, while also being 50 percent more power efficient. So everything will work a little quicker.

Is the Apple Watch Series 3 waterproof?

Just like Series 2, the new Apple Watch has a water resistance rating of 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010 for wristwatches.

Will my old bands work with the Apple Watch Series 3?

Yup. Apple Watch Series 3 is the same size as Series 2, so all of the old bands will work just fine. And of course, there are a whole bunch of new colors and designs to choose from.

Is there any other difference between the GPS and the GPS+cellular models?

The rear casing of the GPS version is made of a composite (plastic) material while the cellular model's backing is ceramic. The GPS version has 8GB of storage while the cellular model has 16GB.

Apple Watch general FAQ

apple watch series 2 Rob Schultz/IDG

Apple Watch may be small, but it can do a lot.

What phones does the Apple Watch work with?

Chances are, your iPhone will work just fine with Apple Watch. While the requirements might change with the presumed release of the Series 3 watch in the fall, any model released after the iPhone 4s will work with a new Series 1 (that is, iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, 6s, 6s Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, 8, and 8 Plus) are all compatible. For Series 3 watches, however, an iPhone 6 or later running iOS 11 is required.

What do I need to get started with Apple Watch?

You’ll need three things to set up your Apple Watch: a Bluetooth connection, a Wi-Fi connection, and the Watch app on your iPhone. To turn on Bluetooth, swipe up to the bottom of the screen and tap the Bluetooth icon to turn it blue. And if you deleted the Watch app, you can download it again in the App Store.

How do I turn Apple Watch on?

Press and hold the side button until you see the Apple logo appear on the screen.

How do I set up Apple Watch?

After your turn it on, you will see a language selection screen (it might take a moment for to to appear). Use the crown to scroll to your preferred language. Now open the Watch app on your iPhone. Tap Start Pairing and do the same on your watch. You’ll see a swirly cosmic animation appear on your watch’s screen. Hold the watch face in the viewfinder on your phone’s screen to begin the pairing process. Along the way you’ll be asked to sign in with your Apple ID and create a passcode, sync your apps, and enable Siri. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.

I’m left-handed. Can I use Apple Watch?

No worries. During set-up you’ll be asked to pick a wrist and an orientation for your watch. And since the bands are swappable, you won’t have to struggle to put it on either.

What kinds of sensors does Apple Watch have?

Apple Watch has a couple different sensors, but they vary by model. All models include a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and an ambient light sensor, as well as a heart-rate sensor and an NFC sensor for Apple Pay. Apple Watch Series 3 has built-in GPS, but Series 1 watches will need to use your iPhone’s location services to figure out where you are. Series 3 watches also have a barometric altimeter for tracking elevation, as well as an optional cellular connection. 

Can I wear Apple Watch in the shower?

Yes. All Apple Watches come with at least splash resistance, so showering with it won’t void your warranty.

Can I take Apple Watch swimming?

It depends. Series 1 watches only have an IPX7 rating, which means they can withstand immersion in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes, so you probably shouldn’t take it into a pool. Apple Watch Series 3 has a water resistance rating of 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010 for wristwatches, so it’s all good for a swim. However, Apple warns that the leather and stainless steel bands aren’t water resistant.

What does Apple Watch Digital Crown do?

The crown acts as a home button. If the screen is off you can press it to wake. If the screen is on it will either take you to the app screen (if you’re on a watch face) or back to the watch face (if you’re on the app screen or in an app). Additionally, you can double-click it to open the last app you used or press and hold to launch Siri, or hold it down to power your watch off. You an also spin the crown to scroll up or down. Series 3 watches also have a cool Wake Screen on Crown Up feature in the Watch app settings that gradually illuminates the display when you spin the crown when the screen is off.

What does Apple Watch side button do?

Before watchOS 3, the side button brought up a circular list of your favorite contacts, but pressing it now brings up the much-more-useful Dock, which contains your 10 favorite apps.

How do I charge Apple Watch?

The Apple Watch uses inductive charging, better known as wireless charging, meaning you don’t have to plug it in to charge. All Apple Watches come with a magnetic puck that easily attaches to the watch when it’s on a stand or lying flat on a table. Apple Watch Edition also comes with a Magnetic Charging Dock, which sells separately for $79.

watchOS FAQ

How do I update the watchOS software?

To update Apple Watch you’ll need your phone and your Apple Watch charger (since you can’t update your watch if it’s not connected to the charger or has less than a 50 percent charge). If both of those criteria are met, head to the Watch app on your phone and tap General in the My Watch tab. Then select Software Update, tap Download and install, and follow the prompts.

What’s new in watchOS 4?

watchos4 faces Apple

WatchOS 4 puts Buzz Lightyear on your wrist.

watchOS 4 isn’t as major of an update as version 3, but there are a few noteworthy features. A new Siri face will keep you connected to your most important and relevant info all throughout the day, while a kaleidoscope face adds a random color patterns throughout the day. Also, Buzz, Woody, and Jesse join Mickey and Minnie with their own faces. Additionally, there are new fitness features, a revamped Music app, and peer-to-peer Apple Pay payments. And the heart rate sensor now tracks your resting and recovery BPMs and will alert you to any abnormalities. For all of the new changes, check out our watchOS 4 FAQ.

What apps are included in watchOS?

There are 21 apps pre-installed on Apple Watch:

  • Activity
  • Alarm
  • Breathe
  • Camera Remote
  • Calendar
  • Mail
  • Maps
  • Messages
  • Music
  • Passbook
  • Phone
  • Photos
  • Remote (Apple TV and iTunes)
  • Settings
  • Siri
  • Stocks
  • Stopwatch
  • Timer
  • Weather
  • Workout
  • World Clock

Can I delete the built-in apps in watchOS?

Nope.

How do I install more apps in watchOS?

There isn’t an App Store on watchOS yet, so apps need to be installed using your phone. Open the Watch app on your iPhone and tap the Featured tab to browse for apps. Download and install the ones you want and then head over to the My Watch tab. Scroll down to the list of compatible apps to the ones you want and flip the Show on Apple Watch toggles to green. It’ll take a minute or two for it to appear on your watch. If you’re not seeming them, try powering off and restarting.

These apps include games, too. Check out our list of favorite games for the Apple Watch.

How do I rearrange the apps on the watchOS home screen?

In the Watch app there’s an App Layout option in the My Watch section that lets you drag icons around the screen. Alternatively, you can tap and hold an app icon on your watch to enter “wiggle” mode. Then you’ll be able to move apps around.

How do I delete apps in watchOS?

On your phone, you can flip the Show on Apple Watch toggle off to remove an app from your phone. You can also delete apps directly on your watch by pressing and holding an app icon until it starts to wiggle. Then tap the small “X” to remove it.

How many apps can fit in the watchOS Dock?

You can keep up to 10 apps in the Dock.

How do I add and remove apps from the watchOS Dock?

There are two ways to add apps to your Dock. The easiest is by using the Watch app on your phone. Just select Dock in the My Watch tab, and then tap the Edit button. Then you can add or remove apps by pressing the plus or minus signs to the left of your apps list.

You can also add and remove apps on the watch itself. To add an app to the Dock, press the side button when in an app. The Dock will open and you’ll see a preview of the app you were just using, along with with a “Keep in Dock” button. (If you don’t have enough space for it, the button will be greyed out.) To remove an app from the Dock, simply swipe up on one of the preview screens and tap the “Remove” button that appears in the center of the screen.

How do I navigate apps in watchOS?

Navigation is pretty easy on the Apple Watch. Most apps use a single screen to display information, so you can either swipe up on the screen to see more information or spin the Digital Crown to scroll. If you get lost, pressing the Digital Crown will always bring you back to the watch face.

How do I get to the watchOS Notification Center?

When you’re on a watch face, swipe down from the top of the screen just like you would on your iPhone.

How do I get to the watchOS Control Center?

When you’re on a watch face, swipe up from the bottom of the screen just like you would on your iPhone.

How do I set up Apple Pay in watchOS?

apple watch apple pay Susie Ochs/IDG

Using Apple Watch to buy things is super simple.

Even if you have credit cards stored in Apple Wallet, you’ll still need to add them to your watch. That means going through the whole verification process all over again. Open the Watch app on your phone, select the My Watch tab, then Wallet & Apple Pay, and finally Add Credit or Debit Card. Follow the steps provided by your bank issuer and tap Next when finished. Repeat the process to add multiple cards.

How do I buy stuff with Apple Pay?

First, make sure the store accepts Apple Pay. If they do, just double-click the side button to bring up your cards. Swipe to the one you want and hold your watch screen side down about an inch from the card reader. When you feel a tap, the payment is complete.

Do I always need my iPhone nearby?

Technically no. Like other fitness trackers, Apple Watch will continue to monitor your movements when your phone is out of range. You also be able to play any music that’s stored on the watch using a pair of Bluetooth buds. And you can make purchases using Apple Pay, too, provided you’ve set up a card to work on your watch. However, you won’t be able to receive phone calls or notifications without your phone nearby.

However, if the rumor that Apple will be releasing an LTE-enabled watch is true, then that would change things. With a cellular chip, you’d be able to do just about anything you can do on your phone, including make calls, download apps, and stream music, even you leave your phone at home.

How do I change the watch face in watchOS?

apple watch change face Apple

To change or customize a watch face, press down firmly on the screen.

To switch to a new watch face, swipe from the left side of the screen. When you find one you like, press the Digital Crown to set it as your default face. To find new faces, press firmly on the screen and swipe until you see the New button.

What are complications?

A watch complication refers to any feature beyond the hours and minutes. Similarly, Apple uses the term to refer to the small elements that populate watch faces. In watchOS 2, Apple opened them up to developers, so there are numerous options.

How do I customize a watch face in watchOS?

Press the display firmly when you’re on a watch face to bring up the watch face carousel, and then tap the customize button under the face you want to edit. Depending on the face selected, there will be several options to chose from. Tap a complication to select it and then use the Digital Crown to change what it displays. On some faces you can change the color, too. When you’re done, press the Digital Crown to save your changes.

You can also customize watch faces using the Watch app on your phone. Select the My Watch tab and tap the Edit button next to My Faces.

How do I access Siri in watchOS?

Like your iPhone, you can access Siri two ways. Either long-press the Digital Crown, or turn on Hey Siri support. You can find the toggle in the Settings app on your watch inside the Siri tab under General.

What can I ask Siri to do?

apple watch siri Apple

Siri on your watch isn’t as smart as it is on your phone, but it can still do lots of things.

Lots of things, actually. You can control settings on your watch (like turning on Airplane Mode or raising the volume), and set alarms and timers. You can also get directions, start workouts, create events, send messages, and make calls, as well as play songs through the Music app. And you can control your smart home items through HomeKit too. Just remember: If your phone isn’t within range, it won’t be able to do most of these things.

If you have watchOS 3.2 installed, Siri will also work with third-party fitness, payments, ride-hailing, and messaging apps, such as Lyft, Streaks Workout, and Zones.

What’s Digital Touch in watchOS?

Digital Touch is Apple Watch’s unique message system, letting you send taps, pictures, and even your heartbeat to Apple Watch-wearing friends.

How do I send a Digital Touch message?

Open the Messages app and press firmly on the screen. Tap new message and find the name of the person you want to send a Digital Touch message to. Now tap the heart with two fingers icon. You’ll get a black screen with a Done button in the left corner and a dot the right corner. You can either:

  • Draw and send a picture (tapping the dot will let you change colors).
  • Tap a pattern of vibration and colors (tapping the dot will let you change colors).
  • Tap two fingers on the screen to send a kiss.
  • Press two fingers until you see and feel your heartbeat. Lift your fingers to send.

How does the Apple Watch Series 3 water resistance work?

apple watch water resistance Apple

Your Apple Watch will expel any water trapped inside it after your swim.

When you go swimming with your Apple Watch, it automatically turns Water Lock and shuts down the screen to avoid accidental touches. When you’re done, a quick twist of the Digital Crown will unlock the screen and clear any water from your Apple Watch’s speaker. To manually clear water from your Apple Watch, swipe up on the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center, tap the water droplet icon, and then twist the Digital Crown to expel any water from the speaker.

watchOS tips

Unlock your Mac

When you’re wearing your Apple Watch, you can skip the password (or Touch ID) on your Mac. You’ll need an Apple Watch with watchOS 3 and a mid-2013 or newer Mac running macOS Sierra 10.12 or later. (To see if your Mac is supported, click the Apple symbol in the menu bar, then About this Mac. Tap the System Report button, select Wi-Fi in the sidebar, and look for “Auto Unlock.” If your Mac is supported it’ll say supported). You’ll have to have two-factor authentication turned on as well and your watch will need to be passcode-protected. If you’ve done all that, head over to System Preferences on your Mac, click on the Security & Privacy tab, and check the Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac box.

Find your phone

If you’re like us, you’re constantly misplacing your phone. But with an Apple Watch on your wrist, you’ll able to quickly find it. Swipe up to access the Control Center and tap the phone icon. A tone will play on your phone (if it’s within range) to help track it down.

Clear all notifications

Notifications can pile up on your watch just like on your phone, but thankfully Apple has built an easy way to clear them out. When you’re in the Notification Center, press firmly on the screen until you see a Clear All button appear. Tap it and all of your notifications will disappear.

Keep your watch unlocked

It can be a pain to constantly type your passcode whenever you want to use your watch, but Apple has built in a couple settings that keep it secure and unlocked without struggling to hit those tiny buttons. In the Watch app, head to the General tab in My Watch and turn on the Wrist Detection toggle. Then go back a screen and find the Passcode settings and enable Unlock with iPhone. Now, when you strap on your Apple Watch each day it will recognize that you’ve unlock your iPhone and stay unlocked as long as it remains on your wrist.

Take a screenshot

Like every other Apple device with a screen, you can easily snap a screenshot of what you see on your Apple Watch’s display: Just press the Digital Crown and the side button at the same time. To see or share your pic, go to the Screenshots album in the Photos app.

Use it as a camera remote

While you can’t take photos with your Apple Watch, you can use it to take better ones with your iPhone. First, open the Camera app on your phone and then launch the Camera Remote app on your watch (it’s the one with an arrow pointing to the shutter button on a point-and-shoot camera). You’ll see a viewfinder that mirrors what your iPhone sees, so if your phone is on a tripod or a stand you’ll be able to frame the perfect shot remotely. When you’re ready to shoot, tap your watch screen to take a quick photo or start a three-second timer.

Quickly mute alert sounds

If you’re in a quiet room and forget to turn on silent mode on your Apple Watch, you can quickly end your embarrassment without even touching your watch. If an audible alert comes in, simply cover your Apple Watch’s screen with the palm of your hand for three seconds and it will put your watch into silent mode.

Share your location

If you need to send out your location to a friend or family member who’s looking for you, you can do it with the Messages app. Open it, find the person you want to send your location to, and start a new message within that conversation. Then long press on the screen to bring up additional options. Tap Send Location and your recipient will receive your current coordinates.

For more Apple Watch tips and tricks...

IDG Insider

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