Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a small commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you. For more information, please visit our Disclaimer Page.
The Apple Watch is the company’s foray into the world of smartwatches. It can run similarly to other Apple devices you may own, such as an iPhone or tablet. Users can program Apple watches to do many things, but their primary uses seem to be as fitness trackers, wireless communication devices, calendars, and portable units that can help you take care of various health-related goals.
You can also record memos, use it as a flashlight, or make it into a secondary digital car key. Like many proprietary things coming out of Apple, the smartwatches use the company’s own watchOS, a modified version of the typical iOS that you’ll find on other devices.
Some wearers of Apple watches know that they might need to update it periodically, and they wonder if this can be done even without Wi-Fi coverage. We will go over this possibility in our article below. Additionally, we will also check on whether you can update the device while it is charging or with a computer.
For troubleshooting, we will address what can happen if you remove the watch from the charger while it is in the process of updating, and we can provide some possible fixes if the device gets stuck during the update process.
Table of Contents
Technically, you need to have an active Wi-Fi connection in order to update your Apple watch properly. Part of this is because of how it relies on the iPhone in order to update itself. The other part has more to do with the early days of Apple.
When the company and its products started becoming popular, it made a deal with the larger cellular network providers to require Wi-Fi access in order to download updates.
Even to this day, it is something that is still in effect. Although there might be workarounds, just finding an active Wi-Fi connection is usually the much easier and simpler solution to this problem.
Cellular networks realized early on that potentially millions of users would want to download iOS and related updates almost as soon as they were available. Because these updates were essentially redownloading entire operating systems with new features or security measures, it meant that they could be relatively large files.
With so many people wanting these large updates at once, there was some concern over overwhelming traffic on the various networks. To help manage this, Apple created a system whereby users would need to be connected to an active Wi-Fi network in order to download the updates.
This could help cellular networks make sure that things continued to go smoothly for all customers, but it meant that Apple updates would be restricted to this method.
Once you do have the update downloaded over a Wi-Fi connection, you’ll use the iPhone in order to get the update to your watch. To do this, you just need to go to the ‘General’ tab in the phone’s settings and look for ‘Software Update’.
It is here that you’ll find the update for your watch. If you’re ready to initiate it, you should keep your phone near your watch while the update is happening to ensure a smooth transition.
Yes, you can do the update while the watch is charging. In fact, this may be the ideal scenario. Some users may wish to leave their phones and watches both charging overnight to ensure that the whole update process goes smoothly.
The watch needs at least half of its battery charge in order to update, and it may need more than that. If your current battery charge is below half, you will probably get an error message about battery life when you attempt to make the update happen.
To mitigate this issue, make sure that your watch has the appropriate amount of battery life left in it. It is a good idea to make sure that your iPhone is charged sufficiently, too.
The iPhone is the primary way in which you will update the watchOS. This is because, for now, there isn’t a way for the watch’s system to update itself. It relies on the iPhone downloading and sending the update to the watch for it to function.
To do this, both devices should have sufficient charges in place. As we touched on, Apple updates can be several gigabytes in size, and performing a complete update can take a lot of battery power. The company wants to ensure that there is no interruption of the update due to battery power loss, so it stipulates this minimum charge before you can begin.
It is not recommended to remove the Apple watch from its charger while an update is in progress. This is particularly true if you are dealing with a watch that doesn’t yet have at least half of its charge on the battery yet.
However, it is a good idea to leave it on the charger even with a battery that is over halfway full. You need the watch to be on the charger as a matter of redundancy. This is because watch updates can take a long time, and you will probably notice that the watch gets very warm during this process.
As you might expect, this is because the update process is quite involved and needs a lot of energy to complete successfully. Apple requires this redundancy because any kind of interruption to the update process could spell disaster for the device.
If you take the watch off the charger, it could cause an interruption. Again, this may be more likely if the battery power is not yet at a minimum of half its total. Should an interruption occur, there are two possibilities that are the most likely.
First, nothing may happen at all. Here, the user is quite fortunate, and the only thing to occur is that the whole update process stops. When this kind of interruption happens, the update process should roll back to the beginning. This would mean that, at best, the user would need to restart the update process from the beginning.
Because this can take lots of time and energy from the watch, it is a good idea to put it back on the charger, leave it there, and make sure the battery has enough juice before trying to do the update again.
After this, it is best to check the watch and make sure it functions properly. In this scenario, the user is fortunate, but we do not advise that you take the watch off the charger again.
The other thing that could happen is a total bricking of the watch. Bricking occurs when there is a problem with a device’s hardware or software that renders it inoperable.
This is most common if there is an interruption to important processes like updates, but it can happen if physical damage to the hardware occurs, too. Water and other liquids could also brick a device, for example.
Although there are some possible troubleshooting methods you can try when a watch is bricked, it is possible that there is no way to get it working again without professional help. Even a dedicated Apple store technician may not be able to fix the device.
Whether they can replace it for you can depend on the specific circumstances of its issues. Because the company lays out clear guidelines on how to set the watch and get it ready for an update, we do not recommend relying on any kind of warranty support for replacing it if you take it off the charger during this process.
iTunes and its related apps would probably be the main way that you would update the Apple watch on your computer. Currently, you can’t use your computer to update the Apple watch.
However, there is still a way to do so without needing the iPhone. This new method of updating the watch requires you to be running a particular version of the watchOS, however. If your version is late enough, you won’t necessarily need the iPhone to make the update happen.
With the release of the sixth iteration of the watchOS, Apple has made it possible for updates to happen entirely on the watch itself. You will need to be running at least watchOS version 6 for this to happen.
If you are not, you’ll have to use the iPhone to get the watch to at least this version of the operating system. Once you do, you can handle subsequent updates on the device itself, and you’ll need neither the phone nor a computer in order to do it.
However, you should still follow the best practices for charging the battery that we mentioned earlier. The watch still needs a minimum amount of charge, and it still needs to be on its charger.
Failure to follow these rules can mean that you brick the device accidentally, even though it no longer needs to rely on a separate device for its update process.
When you begin the update process for your Apple watch, it will start by getting the device ready to accept the new software download. When it does this, it will have to prepare the unit before the actual update starts, and it lets you know this by telling you it is getting things ready.
Most updates should go smoothly, and you should notice a progress bar that begins to fill up after the initial process is complete. However, there are cases where it might seem stuck in this mode. This may be because of current iOS versions, proximity, or modes that your watch might be in that prevent the process from moving ahead.
There are a few ways you might troubleshoot this issue, and we recommend trying the steps below.
- If you are not running at least watchOS 6, make sure your iPhone is in close proximity to the watch. Even if you are running a later version, you may wish to continue using the iPhone for updates.
- Make sure that neither the watch nor phone are in Airplane Mode.
- The iPhone should be running a later version of the operating system than the watch.
- Check the battery power levels.
- Restart the watch.
Apple watch updates can take a long time, but they are worth it to take advantage of the new features you might have. Additionally, the watch is like any connected computer, and bugs or security updates may be necessary for it as well. If you are having any trouble getting updates out of preparation mode, you can try some of our fixes above.