Home Apple Compass app not working on Apple Watch? Check these tips

Compass app not working on Apple Watch? Check these tips

Compass app not working on Apple Watch

The Compass app has regained momentum, especially after the new Apple Watch Ultra launch. The beautifully designed watchOS 9 Compass app takes some time to get used to.

Many new Apple Watch users often forget the calibration process, so this article provides some useful tidbits if your compass app is not working properly on your Apple Watch.

Before examining some of the obvious settings that could interfere with the Compass functionality, the first and foremost thing to do is to check the watch band you are using.

Related reading:

How magnetic materials impact the Compass app on your Apple Watch

If you are using a third-party Apple Watch band, make sure that it does not have any magnetic materials, as that interferes with the functioning of the Compass app.

Apple provides this warning when you launch the app following the upgrade to watchOS 9.

Apple Watch Compass Not working how to fix

The Apple Watch Compass app uses magnetic north by default. If you use True north, you can change it easily.

  • To change it to true north, open the Settings app on your Apple Watch, tap Compass, then turn on Use True North.

According to Apple, hold your watch flat to align the crosshairs at the center of the Compass for the most accurate reading. 

As you move, the red cone surrounding the compass needle shows you the accuracy of the heading. A narrow cone indicates better accuracy than a wider cone.

Is the Compass App not loading after watchOS 9 update?

Following the update to watchOS 9, if the compass app is not loading, you can quickly fix it by fiddling with the True North settings.

Remove any apps running in the background, turn Use True North on, and turn it off. Relaunch the Compass app, and it should work fine.Compass app not loading after watchOS 9

I had to launch the compass app first on my iPhone.

Using the Compass app settings, I turned true north back off, force closed the app, opened the app again on my iPhone, and found that the subsequent launch of the compass app on the watch started working.

5 Common issues with the Compass app on Apple Watch and How to Fix them

1. Compass app Missing on Apple Watch?

Is the Compass app missing on your Apple Watch? If the Compass app is missing on your Apple Watch, but you can see it on your iPhone and use it, go ahead and delete the Compass app from your iPhone. Once you have deleted the app, reinstall it from the App store, and it should show up on your Apple Watch once the device syncs. 

Tip 1 – According to Apple, If you remove the Compass app from your iPhone, itʼs also removed from Apple Watch. Many users often remove apps to manage the storage on their iPhones. This may have caused your Compass app to disappear from your Apple Watch.

Tip 2 – Once you have installed the app, disable Bluetooth on your iPhone and Apple Watch and then re-enable it on your iPhone, followed by the Apple Watch. That should force a sync.

If the compass app on your iPhone was offloaded, you might not be able to see the app on your Apple Watch. Once you reinstall the app, it shows up on your Apple Watch.

Another method that works for many users is checking the app-store setting on your Apple Watch. Compass app missing on Apple Watch

    1. Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
    2. Scroll down and locate App Store in the Settings.
    3. Enable Automatic Downloads here.

You should be able to see the Compass app on your Apple Watch within minutes of making this change.

The Compass app is available on Apple Watch Series 5 and later, as well as the Apple Watch SE. Please make sure that you are using a watch that meets the criteria.

2. Compass app on iPhone shows correct results, but Apple Watch accuracy is off-mark?

Several readers have pointed out that their accuracy while using the Compass app on their iPhone is far superior to that of the Apple Watch.

Suppose you experience a difference in accuracy between the iPhone and the Apple Watch. In that case, especially if you are using a Series 6 or older Apple Watch, you may want to check out the GPS calibration for your Apple Watch. 

Apple guides how you can calibrate the GPS on your watch. This should improve your compass accuracy in degrees. Remember that the compass app works even if you do not have a Wi-Fi or Cellular connection.

Compass Calibration on Apple Watch

Your iPhone also has a setting that influences the compass calibration. 

Open the Settings app on your iPhone

Navigate to Privacy & Security > Location Services > System Services > Compass Calibration. Make sure that Compass calibration is ON here.

Improve Apple Watch Compass Accuracy

While here, you should also enable the Motion Calibration and Distance service.

If you still have challenges with the app’s accuracy on your Apple Watch, the best thing to do is to delete the app entirely from your iPhone and Apple Watch and then reinstall the app.

3. Unable to use Compass as it shows blank or missing information?

Chances are that your location permissions for the app are not set correctly. When you initially launch the Compass app, it does request permission to access your location.  

If the Compass app doesn’t see your location, follow the steps below to provide location access to the app directly on your Apple Watch.

Location Permissions for Compass app

  1. Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Tap Privacy > Location Services > Compass.
  3. Tap While Using the App.

If you have tried the steps and still struggling to get information from Compass, try downloading a free third-party app like Compass∞ and check if you are getting the readings.

If you get readings, it would suggest that your sensors (magnetometer) are working fine on the watch, which is an app problem. 

The best way would be to delete the Apple Compass app on your watch and iPhone and reinstall it from the App Store.

4. Compass does not work with True North on watchOS 9

Users who use True North on their Apple Watch instead of the default magnetic north may run into problems occasionally.

Follow the steps below to ensure that your Compass works with your True North setting.

watchOS 9 Compass not working

  • Disable True North. 
  • On your iPhone, navigate to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services, and ensure that Compass Calibration is enabled. 
  • Restart your Apple Watch and iPhone.
  • Enable True North.
  • Now test to see if the Compass works on your Apple Watch.

5. Compass Waypoints feature missing on Apple Watch running watchOS 9?

Starting with watchOS 9, Apple has added the Compass Waypoints feature.

The Waypoints feature is not available on Apple Watch Series 5. If you are using an older Apple Watch like Series 5, you see the screen below

watchOS 9 Compass app on older watch
Wayback and Backtracking features on Series 6 and above

The compass app looks a lot different on the newer watches and includes the Waypoints and Backtrack features. Here’s how it looks on Series 7.

Compass app watchOS 9 on Series 7

If you are on the newer Apple Watch models (Apple Watch Series 6 and above) and are missing the waypoints feature, you have not enabled “Precise Location.”

Precise Location Setting for Compass App on Apple Watch

On your Apple Watch, open the Settings app > Privacy and Security > Location Services > Compass. Make sure that “Precise Location” is enabled. Also, check out the setting on your iPhone.

Similarly, if you plan to use the new Backtrack feature on your Apple Watch, you need to enable significant locations on your iPhone.

In summary,

watchOS 9 is still new, and we are trying the various features. We’ll continue to update this post as we work with the new Waypoints and Backtracking feature.

Please let us know if you have any questions or want to share a tip or two using the comments below. 

I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products and have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. In my day job, I advise fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health&fitness-tech evolution and keep a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch or Fossil Gen 5 LTE and keep a close eye on my HRV and other recovery metrics.

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