Does Your Apple Watch Still Function When It’s Off Your Wrist? Here’s What You Need to Know

To a great extent, the Apple Watch has become the de facto standard for tech to wear on your wrist. It has incredible capabilities, and each generation improves in leaps and bounds, so much that many of us can’t imagine life without it. But with so many features designed to work while you’re wearing it, it’s easy to wonder if your Apple Watch will still work when it’s not on your wrist.

Your Apple Watch will work when it’s not on your wrist. Location, the clock, and notifications will all work, for example. Some features, like its sensors, will not be active, and other features, like connectivity, will switch to different modes. So, the Watch will work with limited capabilities.

Though the Apple Watch is much more than just a watch, it is still a wristwatch. Apple designed it with your wrist in mind. But sometimes we may not want to wear it, like when we’re comfortable at home, and we’re actively using our phones, or if we forget the watch somewhere. Let’s look at what will and won’t work when you’re not wearing your Apple Watch.

Does Apple Watch Work When Not On Wrist?

Will Apple Watch Work When It’s Not On Your Wrist?

The Apple Watch has a feature called “Wrist Detection.” This feature helps the Watch to notice when you’re wearing it and when you’re not. Wrist Detection allows the Apple Watch to enable or disable certain other features depending on whether you’re wearing it. For example, notifications will only go to your iPhone if the Apple Watch cannot detect your wrist.

The logic is that you don’t need notifications or other alerts sent to your Watch when you’re not wearing it, and it would only waste the battery without serving any purpose.

But you can turn off Wrist Detection by following these steps:

  1. On your iPhone, open the Watch app.
  2. Open My Watch.
  3. Select Passcode from the list of options.
  4. Flip the toggle next to “Wrist Detection” to turn it off.

When Wrist Detection is switched off, your Apple Watch will continue to deliver notifications as usual, even when it’s just sitting on your desk. But in that case, two other features will stop working:

  • You will not receive points for standing, even while wearing the Watch.
  • You won’t be able to use Single Unlock, a feature that most Watch users soon realize they miss since they have to manually unlock their iPhones and iPads.

Will The Display Work When The Watch Is Not On My Wrist?

Some people want to use the Apple Watch in “bedside mode” at night, and many phones have supported this feature for years. But will this work on the Apple Watch so you can see the time instantly, even when you’re not wearing it?

The Apple Watch has an Always On display option that can permanently show you the time and, optionally, your notifications. Of course, this uses more battery power, so keep that in mind before enabling the feature.

To enable Always On, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings on your Apple Watch.
  2. Choose “Display & Brightness.”
  3. Select “Always On” to activate it.
  4. Now you can choose what notifications and apps you want to see in Always On mode.

Also, remember that Always On is meant to work when you’re wearing your Watch. So, if you want to use Always On but take off your Watch, you must disable Wrist Detection.

Other Features That Won’t Work When Not Wearing The Watch

A few other features won’t work when you don’t have the Apple Watch on your wrist. These are pretty logical, but they are worth mentioning:

  1. The Apple Watch won’t count your steps. But your steps will still be recorded if your iPhone is in your pocket.
  2. The Apple Watch won’t capture any biometric data, like blood pressure, heart rate, or any other health data that the Watch collects.

Will Apple Watch Connect If It’s Not On Your Wrist?

One concern people have when not wearing their Apple Watch is that it might lose connection with the iPhone. And it’s true; the Apple Watch is designed to be a companion to the iPhone rather than a standalone device. So, what happens if your Apple Watch is not on your wrist, and you move out of range with your iPhone?

Your Apple Watch connects to your iPhone using Bluetooth. When it’s in range of your iPhone (about 330 feet or 100 meters), the Watch will use its connection to the iPhone to get its information and connect to the internet. But when you move out of that range, a few things happen.

  1. Your iPhone and Apple Watch will disconnect. They should reconnect when you move back into range, but this doesn’t always happen, causing some people to think the devices have unpaired. That’s not the case, however. You can simply go into your Bluetooth settings on the iPhone and tap on your Watch to reconnect it.
  2. Your Watch will try to find an alternative way to connect.

Apple Watch Connectivity Options

If your Apple Watch cannot connect to your iPhone anymore, it will do the following to stay connected:

  1. The Apple Watch will connect to any available WiFi network that it has access to. Suppose it finds a WiFi network you’ve connected to on any of your Apple devices. In that case, it will connect to that WiFi network and keep receiving notifications for as long as it has battery power.
  2. If the Apple Watch has mobile (cellular) data access, it will connect to the internet using that. This way, the Watch will also receive notifications, and you can locate it using the Find My app on your iPhone or any other Apple device.

Will The Apple Watch Still Work In Low Power Mode?

If you haven’t been wearing your Apple Watch for a while, it’s safe to assume you might have forgotten it somewhere, and there’s a good chance that you haven’t charged it, either. When the Watch reaches 10% battery life, it will go into “Low Power Mode” to save the last bit of battery for emergencies.

When this happens, your Watch will turn off WiFi and mobile data connections, which also deactivates the Find My feature. If your iPhone is within range (about 330 feet), it will still connect to your phone, but you won’t receive notifications on the Watch, and the Always On feature will also be disabled.

So, even though it technically still works, its functionality is so limited that it might just as well not work anymore.


Apple designed the Apple Watch to be worn on your wrist and be a companion to your iPhone. If you remove your wrist and iPhone from the equation, you are left with little more than an expensive watch. It will still work, but with such a severe lack of features, it will serve little to no purpose. For best results, you should always use the Apple Watch as Apple intended.