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How to calibrate the Apple Watch for improved accuracy

Not satisfied with activity and workout results on the Apple Watch? Calibrate it for better accuracy.

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The Apple Watch is missing a key feature that many runners and cyclists rely on when working out, and that's GPS. A GPS-equipped watch can track your route on a run or bike ride. It can also measure your exact pace and distance. When the iPhone is left behind, the Apple Watch will attempt to measure pace and distance using the accelerometer and other sensors in the watch. This method of measuring can sometimes deliver results that aren't all that accurate.

There is a way to calibrate the watch, though. This will help improve the accuracy of your distance and pace measurements when running outdoors without your phone, or when GPS isn't available, such as when running or walking on a treadmill. Here's how it's done:

  • On a day with clear skies, head to an outdoor location that has good GPS reception (such as a park) with both your iPhone and Apple Watch.
  • Make sure that Location Services are enabled on the iPhone. To check this, head to Settings, click Privacy and select Location Services.
  • You will also want the Motion Calibration & Distance setting to be enabled. This can be done from your iPhone by heading to Settings, selecting Privacy, followed by Location Services and selecting System Services at the bottom of the page.
  • Calibration is performed automatically whenever you use the Apple Watch's Outdoor Walk or Outdoor Run features in the Workout app. So from your Apple Watch, tap the Digital Crown, select the Workout app and choose Outdoor Walk or Outdoor Run.
  • Select the Open, No Goal option and start your activity.
  • Apple recommends you walk or run at your "normal pace" for roughly 20 minutes. If you can't reach the 20-minute mark during a single activity, you can accumulate the time over multiple outdoor walks or runs with your iPhone. It's also recommend that people who frequently walk or run at different speeds calibrate the watch for each pace. In short, the more you calibrate the accelerometer to learn your stride length, the more accurate the watch will be.

Calibration data isn't backed up on your iPhone, but rather stored locally on the Apple Watch. The data will be erased if you ever unpair the watch from your iPhone, and you will be required to recalibrate it.


The Apple Watch is a complicated device. To learn how to do everything from setting it up to swapping the bands, be sure to check out CNET's complete guide to using the Apple Watch, and don't forget to read our full review .