There’s a secret way to browse the web from your Apple Watch
It is possible—barely.
Have a look through the apps on your Apple Watch and you won’t find the Safari web browser. This seems like a reasonable choice considering the small size of the screen and the limited input options.
But if you need to get a webpage up on your smartwatch, know that it is possible. There’s a hidden browser app already on the watch, and you’ll also find a couple of third-party options available to install.
A warning, though—You’ll definitely come up against limitations and the experience is nowhere as good as it is on a phone or a laptop.
Using the built-in Apple Watch browser
You can’t launch the web browser built into the Apple Watch from the standard grid or list of apps. Instead, you’ll have to access it by opening up a link from another smartwatch app. You can use the Mail and Messages apps for this, and all you have to do is send yourself an email or message containing the URL that you want to visit.
[Related: Apple Watch Series 7 Review: Living Larger]
This might seem like a long-winded way of getting online—and it is, really. But just in case you ever need it, you can make things easier by emailing yourself a list with the websites you regularly need access to, for example.
Another way of getting to a website is by using Siri on your Apple Watch. Say “Siri, go to…” followed by the URL you want to visit. A list of web results will appear—just tap Open Page underneath the link you want to open it. This works well for sites with simple URLs that can be easily spoken out, like apple.com or google.com.
When it comes to entering text into websites, you can use the usual methods available on your watch, including voice dictation, the scribble handwriting feature, and the on-screen keyboard. It’s not ideal for entering large amounts of text, but it’ll do if you need to search for a few keywords, for example.
Bear in mind that not all websites will load properly (or even at all) on such a tiny screen, and it can be difficult navigating around menus and pop-up dialogs. In some cases, the built-in browser will switch to a simpler view, like the Reader View in Safari on the desktop, so you’ll just get the text and nothing else. Tap on the URL at the top to switch between these views.
You can also navigate backward and forward by tapping on the address bar. Other gestures you can take advantage of are using the Digital Crown or a finger on the screen to scroll, and double-tapping on the screen to zoom in and out. To clear all the collected browsing data, open Settings and choose General, Website Data, and Clear Website Data.
Using third-party programs
The built-in web browser on the Apple Watch is probably your best bet when it comes to loading up webpages, as Apple has access to parts of the smartwatch’s code that third-party apps can’t get to. Nevertheless, if you want a more fully-fledged experience, you’ve got options.
First up is the free Parrity app, which actually uses a connected iPhone to load and render pages before transferring the results over to your Apple Watch. You can still interact with pages on your wrist, enter new URLs, and even go back on your browsing history, but your iPhone will always need to be around for anything to happen.
Then there’s µBrowser, which will set you back $1. This works entirely independently on the watch and does a very decent job of rendering websites, albeit with some issues (support for multiple fonts is rather limited, for example). You can search the web, enter URLs, and go back to pages that you’ve recently visited.