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How to set up a smartwatch

By Hannah Walsh

Setting up your new smartwatch proving to be a challenge? Our expert advice and top tips can help you get started and get the most from your device.

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A smartwatch can help you stay connected at all times - whether you want to keep in touch with friends or catch up with your emails. The best devices from our testing pair smart features with fitness functions. But with so many features, it's difficult to know where to begin. If you're new to the world of smartwatches, our guide can help.

Follow the process in this guide for a seamless and stress-free smartwatch set up. The guide covers how to set up Apple Watches, Tizen and Wear OS smartwatches, but the set-up process for other smartwatch platforms will be similar. The process may vary slight depending on the exact device and smartphone you own, but we can help you get started.

If you're already set up your smartwatch, then take a look at our five easy tips for getting the most from your device - from how to wear and clean it, which apps to install, and how to improve the fitness-tracking accuracy. Or if you haven't found the perfect smartwatch, see our best smartwatches.

How to get started with your smartwatch

Charge it up Some activity trackers come with a USB charging cable and an AC adaptor plug to connect it to the mains for charging. Others are supplied with just a USB charging cable, which can be used with an AC adaptor plug that you already own - such as the one for charging your smartphone or tablet - or by plugging directly in to a USB port on your PC or laptop. 

There are three main types of connection between the USB cable and your device. Some smartwatches have a micro USB slot, so it's simply a case of plugging it in. Others come with a magnetic charger that connects to magnets on the back of the device, or a clip that holds the watch or tracker in place while charging. 

A battery symbol will appear to show it's connected and charging. We test the battery life and rate the charger for every smartwatch, so you'll know how often you'll need to charge and how easy it is to do.

Bluetooth Now it's time to pair your smartwatch with your smartphone. Before you begin, ensure the Bluetooth on your smartphone is switched on. You'll find this in the settings menu.

How to set up an Apple Watch 

To turn on your Apple Watch, press and hold the larger button on the side of the bezel until the Apple logo appears.

Install the app Apple Watches, such as the Apple Watch Series 4, are designed to be paired with an iPhone. The Apple Watch app will already be installed on all iPhones. 

Pairing Pairing should begin automatically, but if it doesn't then navigate to the app and click to open. A graphic will be displayed on the the screen of your Apple Watch, which is then scanned using the camera on your iPhone. You'll then need to sign in using your Apple ID, which all iPhone users have.

Personalising your watch You can now begin to adjust the settings on your Apple Watch to suit you. Some settings, including screen brightness, text size, watch faces and app layout can be controlled from the device itself. Others, such as setting up location services, controlling the notifications you receive, and switching on Siri must be done via the app. You should also set a passcode for your watch, particularly if you plan to use features such as Apple Pay contactless payment. This is done using the app.

You can now start learning how to use your Apple Watch. Follow the set-up wizard on the app, or check out the manual for guidance on the gestures needed to navigate to different menus. Alternatively, scroll down for our tips and tricks for getting the most from your smartwatch.

How to set up a Tizen smartwatch 

Tizen is the operating system for Samsung smartwatches, and can be used with both Android smartphones and iPhones. 

Install the app There are two companion apps for Samsung smartwatches that need to be installed on your smartphone - the Samsung Gear and Health apps. Those with a Samsung smartphone will find these pre-installed, but others will need to locate them on the App Store or Google Play. 

Pairing You'll need to use the Samsung Gear app to start the pairing process. If you don't have an account then you will need to create one, and then follow the guidance on the app. Once the Gear app is paired, you are prompted to go through a similar process for the Health app.

Personalising your smartwatch There is a dedicated settings menu on Samsung smartwatches that lets you adjust a whole host of settings. You can also add biometric data, install and uninstall apps, and search the internet. 

You can now start learning how to use your Tizen smartwatch. Follow the wizard on the watch for the basic gestures for navigation around, or see the guidance in the manual to find out more about other functions. Alternatively, scroll down for our tips and tricks for getting the most from your smartwatch.

How to set up a Wear OS smartwatch 

When it comes to Wear OS smartwatches, there are plenty of devices from multiple manufacturers on the market - including Fossil, Kate Spade, LG and Misfit. You can find out more about Google's smartwatch platform by reading our how to buy the best Wear OS smartwatch guide.

Install the app You may need to pair your Wear OS smartwatch with multiple apps on your smartphone. As standard, you'll need at least the Wear OS app, which can be installed from the Google Play store. Details for any other apps can be found in the quick-start manual that comes with your device - for example, the Ticwatch range of smartwatches require the Ticwatch app for presenting health data, or the Kate Spade app, which unlocks additional watch faces. 

Pairing To start the pairing process, simply open up the Wear OS app and then follow the onscreen instructions. You may need to go through a similar process with any additional apps, too.

Personalising your smartwatch The Wear OS app doesn't have many options for changing settings on the smartwatch. Wear OS smartwatches come with a standard selection of apps pre-installed, such as Google Maps.

Customising your device For example, installing or uninstalling additional apps, changing watch faces, or managing brightness and text size settings may be done from the watch itself, or from another companion app. This will depend on the smartwatch you have, so you'll need to check your manual or follow guidance on the app.

You can now start learning how to use your Wear OS smartwatch. Check out the manual for guidance on the gestures needed to navigate to different menus, and how to use the different functions. Alternatively, scroll down for our tips and tricks for getting the most from your smartwatch.

Five tips for getting the most from your smartwatch

1. Wear it correctly It's important to position your smartwatch correctly, particularly if it has a heart-rate monitor built in. Follow the guidance in the manual or during the set-up on your smartphone for positioning your device, including choosing whether you plan to wear it on your right or left wrist if you are given this option. Generally a smartwatch should be worn just above the wrist bone, and tight enough to stop it slipping around.

2. Run updates Running any updates on your smartwatch, and on the companion app, is important. Updates will fix bugs and introduce new features, as well as ensuring you get any privacy or data updates.

3. Set up your quick replies It's true that a good smartwatch can help you stay connected, but even the best have small screens that make typing on them tricky. Personalising the quick replies, which are pre-set options for responding to texts, Whatsapp messages, calls and emails, will make this process easier.

4. Contactless payment Paying with a quick tap of your smartwatch will make transactions quicker and easier, and is an added bonus for smartwatch users that's worth a try if you haven't used it before. Whether it's Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay or Garmin Pay, follow the instructions in your manual or on your device for pairing your credit or debit card.

5. Fitness features Some smartwatches come with built-in fitness tracking that could rival even the best fitness watches from our testing. We know that accuracy is important when it comes to monitoring health and fitness, so we put every smartwatch through a barrage of fitness testing. You can also give your device a helping hand by adding any biometric data via the companion app. Adding your weight can help with calories-burned calculations, and height or stride length will improve the accuracy of step count or distance calculated using steps.

46%The amount one smartwatch understated distance by

If your smartwatch is a little light on fitness tracking features, then install your favourite apps to help. Most smartwatches are compatible with popular apps such as Runkeeper, the cycling app Strava and MyFitness Pal for food tracking. But don't limit yourself to the most well-known apps. Open the app store on your device and search for your favourite to see if it's available - some smartwatches will let you install apps for tracking golf, swimming and even skiing. 

Keeping your smartwatch clean

Chances are you plan to wear your shiny new smartwatch every day, but spending all that time on your wrist can leave it a little grubby and smelly. It could possibly result in a rash on your wrist, too, which will soon take the excitement out of your device.

Some smartwatches come with a rubber or plastic strap. To clean these, simply wipe with a damp cloth and use a mild soap to remove any oil or dirt. 

For those with a chain link or material strap, the same process may work. However, it's best to check your manual for guidance from the manufacturer on how to clean your device to avoid any mishaps.

Whatever material your smartwatch strap is made from, it's important to make sure that you dry the band and your skin properly if you wear your device in the shower or swimming pool, or while sweating, and to leave it off to give your skin a break every so often.

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