Why Apple Watch Updates and Transfers Are So Slow

The Apple Watch is notoriously slow when it comes to receiving data from your iPhone, whether it’s an update file, some tracks from Spotify, or an Audible audiobook. There’s a simple reason for this, and there’s a workaround.

Bluetooth Blues

Your Apple Watch and iPhone stay connected using both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks. Bluetooth, as it’s the more energy-efficient option, is prioritized in most situations.

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Unfortunately, Bluetooth has quite a low bandwidth when it comes to transferring data. Bluetooth 5, which is in any Apple Watch Series 4 and later, has a maximum data transfer speed of 2 Mbps. Bluetooth 4, which is in the Apple Watch Series 3 and earlier, has a maximum data transfer speed of just 1 Mbps.

For things like iMessages or push notifications that only have a small amount of data this isn’t a problem, but for larger files, like podcasts and audiobooks, Bluetooth can be incredibly slow. At 2 Mbps, for example, it takes around 7 minutes to transfer a 100 MB file. Really big files, like software updates that can be more than a Gigabyte, can require hours.


Why Apple Watch Updates and Transfers Are So Slow

Because Apple handles all these data transfers in the background, this can get pretty annoying as you don’t have a lot of control over what’s going on. I’m far from the only Apple Watch fan who’s started a podcast syncing only to come back half an hour later and find it still hasn’t transferred.

How to Get Faster Transfers With Your Apple Watch

Modern Wi-Fi networks have significantly faster data transfer speeds than Bluetooth. It all depends on your router, but it’s unlikely to be the bottleneck. The 802.11n protocol, which is supported by all Apple Watch models, offers a theoretical maximum speeds of 150 Mbps, for example. Even if you come nowhere near that, it’s still a lot quicker than the 2 Mbps you get with Bluetooth.

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The good news is you can force your iPhone to transfer data to your Apple Watch over Wi-Fi by turning Bluetooth off, although the process is a touch counter-intuitive. It doesn’t work if you toggle Bluetooth off in the Control Center—you have to use the Settings app.

To do so, open the Settings app on your iPhone and go to “Bluetooth.”

Toggle the switch off.

This will fully disable Bluetooth on your iPhone and disconnect it from all Bluetooth accessories.

Now, when you try to update your Apple Watch or sync anything else, it will use the much faster Wi-Fi connection. It still won’t be instant, but it will normally be a lot quicker.

Once you’ve done transferring things, remember to turn Bluetooth back on. You want that low-energy Bluetooth connection for day-to-day use!

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