Joining a bunch of status indicator icons at the top of the Apple Watch screen is a handy new icon displayed when the device is on a known Wi-Fi network without the paired iPhone present.
Before watchOS 2, the wearable used to indicate that it’s lost connection with its paired iPhone but would not distinguish whether it’s remained connected to a known Wi-Fi network on its own.
As shown top of post, a brand new cloud icon in the top right corner of the status bar now indicates that the device is connected to a known Wi-Fi network.
When you see the cloud icon, it means two things:
- Your Apple Watch has lost connection to its paired iPhone
- Your Apple Watch is connected to a Wi-Fi network on its own so you can continue using it, albeit with reduced functionality
A known Wi-Fi network is one that your iPhone has previously connected to.
Wi-Fi credentials are shared between the iPhone and its connected watch, allowing your Apple Watch to connect to known Wi-Fi networks without its paired iPhone present.
Related article: Getting to know the Apple Watch status icons
The Apple Watch typically loses the connection with its paired iPhone when it’s isn’t close enough to the handset, or when Airplane Mode is enabled on the iPhone or the watch itself.
Due to hardware limitations, the watch can’t connect to 5Ghz Wi-Fi networks, unlike your iPhone, but there’ a workaround for that. Some of the things your Apple Watch could do without its paired iPhone prior to watchOS 2 include the following items:
- Tell time and use alarms, timers and stopwatch
- Track your activity and workouts
- Play music
- Enjoy your photos
- Make purchases with Apple Pay
- Send and receive messages
- Create reminders
- And much, much more
Due to enhanced Wi-Fi support in watchOS 2, and the fact that native apps now run directly on the watch hardware rather than on your iPhone, your Apple Watch allows for greater independence after losing network connectivity through its paired iPhone.
This new watchOS 2 feature is called Tetherless Wi-Fi and it allows the Apple Watch and native apps to communicate directly with known Wi-Fi hotspots to retrieve network resources and more.
Check out our Apple Watch how-to tutorials for more tips and tricks.