apple watch

The Apple Watch will provide users with the full experience even if an iPhone it’s paired with is outside Bluetooth range, as long as both the wearable device and the smartphone are connected through Wi-Fi. Tim Cook made a passing note of it during yesterday’s “Spring Forward” media event.

Nonetheless, it’s a pretty big deal and here’s why.

This nifty little feature will permit Watch wearers to continue experiencing the full functionality of the device even if their iPhone isn’t sitting nearby with Bluetooth switched on.

Again, both devices must be on the same Wi-Fi network in order to maintain connectivity when Bluetooth isn’t available.

I can imagine this becoming indispensable.

For instance, if I leave my iPhone in the living room when I get home I can roam around the rooms, go fix something in the back yard or just have a barbecue in the front yard without having to worry about losing Watch functionality.

It’s even more relevant to user experience given third-party Watch apps actually do the heavy lifting on a paired iPhone, which then beams the results and a storyboard back to the Watch.

For those wondering, Bluetooth has a maximal theoretical range of thirty meters, or about a hundred feet, but performance decreases sharply if solid objects like walls get in the way of radio waves.

Apple Watch Greeting

By comparison, Wi-Fi typically exhibits at least two or three times the Bluetooth range, depending on the favor of the 802.11 protocol being used, signal strength, performance of your Wi-Fi router and other things.

As Apple’s Watch has both short-range Bluetooth and longer-range Wi-Fi technology, it’s able to maintain its connection to a paired iPhone via Wi-Fi should the phone fall outside Bluetooth range.

This feature is actually one of the advantages of the Apple Watch over Android Wear, the search giant’s open-source software platform for wearable devices.

Apple Watch Pairing

Following Apple’s presentation yesterday, The Verge is reporting Tuesday that Android Wear is now reportedly getting Wi-Fi support and gestures like the Apple Watch, citing people who claim to have knowledge of Google’s plans.

As you know, the Apple Watch requires an iPhone to function.

The bigger problem over the longer arch of time could be that Android users are unable to use the Watch, and iPhone users can’t use Android Wear devices.

This may change soon, too: a sketchy rumor claims Google is working on an iOS app that will make Android Wear gear compatible with the iPhone.

What do you think of the fact that the Apple Watch can remain tethered to an iPhone via Wi-Fi when the phone is outside Bluetooth range?

  • john myth

    why does it have to be the SAME wi-fi network, even after you pair it? stupid requirement. not even AirPlay requires that

    • Chris

      What other wireless technology do you suggest they use instead?

      • john myth

        whatever wireless tech they use on AppleTV or wi-fi direct

      • Chris

        That would be a wireless and/or wired network, you can’t connect to an Apple TV without one of those.

        Airplay uses peer-to-peer which still requires a network connection.

      • john myth

        You don’t need a wifi network (or a router) to AirPlay from iPhone to AppleTV, using wi-fi direct

      • ab

        WiFi direct is creating an ad-hoc network for you.

      • CollegiateLad

        Facepalm.

      • I think the technolog he’s referring to is what’s known in the industry as ‘magic’…

      • darwiniandude

        He’s definitely referring to the functionality offered by the Rev A model A1469 Apple TV. There are two different 3rd gen Apple TVs. The Rev A model allows direct peer to peer wifi. iPhone can be on Wi-Fi, and Apple TV on no wifi or Ethernet. You can AirPlay. Both devices can be on no wifi networks. You can AirPlay. Or the Apple TV and iPhone can each be on separate networks. You can AirPlay.

        I know because I sold my A1429 Apple TV to buy the A1469 model for installation in my car. I can AirPlay to the display in my dash without having to stuff around with personal hotspot rubbish.

      • ab

        Your AppleTV is most definitely using WiFi to connect (it is just automatic). By what theoretical process do you suppose your AppleTV is connecting to your phone if it has *no* network connectivity?

    • KeyboardCoward

      I think what apple means is that if your phone and watch is out of range, wifi will be able to compensate the short-coming. Even if you pair your phone with watch via Bluetooth doesn’t mean it will still stay paired when the devices are out of range.

    • matt

      Since watch os 2 came out, this requirement is no longer true. But you do lose dictation

  • T_Will

    This makes me think the Watch won’t necessarily depend on an iPhone for data connectivity once the native Watch apps SDK is available.

    • George

      I wonder if battery life will get worse.

  • Eikast

    That sounds great. One more reason to get an Apple Watch.

  • Joonyaboy

    I think people should be wary of Wifi constantly emitting from their wrist. Bluetooth is much safer. I predict some wrist pain complaints after a few years

    • Carlos Gomes

      I guess a tinfoil hat won’t be enough anymore.
      Now you need a tinfoil glove as well 🙁

  • VRSmiffSteen

    BAD, REAL BAD idea for us that travel past our living rooms everyday….

    • Carlos Gomes

      That’s what the Bluetooth is for, isn’t it?
      Assuming that you’re carrying your phone as well, you should be fine.

      • VRSmiffSteen

        MY WiFi on a plane?? As you nuts?? Public WiFi ?? WTF??

      • smtp25

        Blue tooth or wifi .. its not magic it needs to connect somehow.

  • Guest

    What about “Wi-Fi Direct” technology???

  • matt

    Since this article came out, watch os 2 was released. Now your Apple Watch contains the same wifi keychain as your iPhone. So if your iPhone is turned off, on a different network, or miles away, your watch can still connect to other known wifi networks. Some features like dictation will not be available, but you can still make phone calls on the watch.

    You can’t tell the watch to connect, but if the iPhone connected to that network sometime in the past, your watch will try to connect if the iPhone is not available