How to add and play music on the Apple Watch


The Apple Watch has the power to play music directly from the wrist to a pair of Bluetooth headphones, no matter whether your library comes from Apple Music or Spotify.

Depending on how you want to access your music, though, putting it on your smartwatch and playing it can be done in a couple of different ways. For those with a burgeoning collection of iTunes tracks, you can sync playlists across with ease. But things get much better with Apple Music and other streaming services, with subscribers able to sync or access playlists in just a couple of minutes.

Essential reading: Apple Watch tips and tricks

The process has been simplified since the first incarnation of the Apple Watch, but it’s certainly not obvious to newbies. Instead of trying to figure it out on your own, here’s all the details on how to put music on your Apple Watch, including details on adding music, connecting headphones and which Apple Watch models let you stream without your phone.

How to use Apple Music on Apple Watch

Open Apple Music

To get started, fire up the Apple Music app on your iPhone. We won’t go through the ins and outs of the app here, but you can search the library of more than 30 million tracks and curated playlists. If you don’t have a subscription to Apple Music, you can still use good old MP3s, but make sure they appear in the Music app through iTunes.

Head to the Watch app

Go to the Watch app on your iPhone and then scroll down to the Music tab. Tap Add music and you’ll be whisked off to Apple Music – and from here you can choose to browse by artists, albums, genres or playlists. Music used to have to be part of a playlist, but now you can add what you want. Just browse, and tap to add.

Sync music to Apple Watch

The music will only be transferred when the Apple Watch is on its charging cradle. Why? We have no idea. The playlist will be marked ‘updating’ until it’s completed, after which it will say ‘synced’. You can add multiple playlists if you want, but when you run out of space, they’ll stop being added.

How to play music from Apple Watch

After years of workarounds and hassle, the first iteration of the Apple Watch Spotify app is now here. It’s by no means perfect, and features like offline playback and streaming over a cellular connection are absent (for now), but you can still get the basics on your wrist by following the steps below.

Install the Apple Watch Spotify app

Working for both free and Spotify Premium users, you’ll need to first make sure that you have the Spotify smartphone app installed and that you’re signed in. To do so on the wrist, go to the Watch app on your iPhone, search the App Store tab for ‘Spotify’, install it and open it on your Apple Watch.

Adding and playing music from Apple Watch Spotify app

You can add music to your library straight from the app itself. The prominently placed heart can be tapped, and the track will be added to your music library. To retrieve it, just go to the Songs list in your Spotify library.

A swipe to the left also shows you recently played music across your entire Spotify account. From here, you can scroll with your finger or the digital crown and swap albums or playlists. You only get to choose recent items, and you can’t select songs within those items – although you can skip – and set to shuffle using the toggle at the top of the screen.

Connecting a Bluetooth headset to Apple Watch

Now, when you set out of the door, you can listen to music straight from the wrist. Go to the Music app on your Apple Watch and fire it up. You can cycle through albums and playlists with the crown and tap to play. At this point, you’ll be asked to choose a pair of headphones to pair with – make sure your set is in pairing mode and then head to Settings > Bluetooth in order to double check this.

If the music starts pumping out of your iPhone, you’ll need to force the issue by pressing and holding on the screen and choosing Bluetooth playback. When music is playing on your watch, you can tap the icon to the lower left to browse music within that album or playlist. You can then switch between tracks by tapping. The arrow in the top left will take you back to the main screen so you can change music altogether.

Play music on Apple Watch without a phone

As we mentioned in the Spotify section, you’re unfortunately unable to play music through the service if you’re offline or relying on the Watch’s cellular connection. However, it’s a different story if you have Apple Music and the correct Apple Watch model.

When syncing to any version of the Watch through Apple Music, it will use the device’s internal storage in order to allow you to play tracks without the help of your phone. If you’re offline, though, you obviously can’t start searching for new tracks or playlists – you’re stuck with what’s downloaded on the Watch.

Naturally, always making sure everything is synced over can be a bit of a hassle, which is why cellular connectivity is great for when you want to search and play music not already downloaded onto the Watch. Providing you have an Apple Watch Series 3 or Apple Watch Series 4 with LTE (the red dot or red circle on the Digital Crown) and you’re paying that monthly cellular fee, you can do so.

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