Use the compass on Apple Watch

The Compass app shows you the direction your Apple Watch is pointing, your current location, and the elevation. You can also create Compass Waypoints as you go and retrace your steps with Backtrack.


The Compass app is available on Apple Watch Series 5 and later, and Apple Watch SE. The Compass Waypoints and Backtrack features, however, are available only with watchOS 9 on Apple Watch Series 6 and later, Apple Watch SE (1st generation) and later, and Apple Watch Ultra.

Magnets and compass accuracy

The presence of magnets can affect the accuracy of any compass sensor. Apple's Leather Link, Leather Loop, Milanese Loop, and earlier Sport Loop watch bands use magnets or magnetic material that might interfere with the Apple Watch compass. The compass isn't affected by Sport Loop bands introduced in September 2019 or later, or any version of the Sport Band.

Magnets in all Apple Watch models can also affect the accuracy of an external compass. If you're using another compass during activities such as diving, hiking, or navigating, keep it separated from Apple Watch when reading the external compass.

Apple Watch showing Compass app 

Find your direction, elevation, incline, and coordinates

When you open Compass, the app shows you the direction that the top of your watch is pointing and your bearing at the center of the compass dial. To see your direction at a glance and open the Compass app with a tap, you can add the Compass complication to your watch face.

The Compass app uses magnetic north by default. To change it to true north, open the Settings app on your Apple Watch, tap Compass, then turn on Use True North. True north requires access to Wi-Fi, cellular, or GPS to display properly.

Rotate the Digital Crown up to see your elevation, incline, and coordinates in the inner ring of the compass. You can also see this information by tapping the menu button .

Mapping coordinates are not supported in the Compass app in China mainland. 

How to set your bearing

  1. Open the Compass app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Tap the menu button  at the top left.
  3. Scroll down, then tap Bearing.
  4. Use the Digital Crown to adjust the bearing.
    Apple Watch showing bearing adjustment
  5. Tap Done.

After you set a bearing, the black marks on the outer edge of the compass turn red to show how far off your bearing you are.

To clear the bearing, tap the menu button , scroll down, then tap Clear Bearing.

Add Compass Waypoints to find your way back to important locations

You can save your current location as a waypoint, and then see the distance and direction to all the waypoints that you create.

Compass Waypoints aren't available on Family Setup devices.

To add a waypoint:

  1. Open the Compass app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Tap the waypoint button  to add your current location.
  3. Tap the date and time under Label if you want to customize the waypoint's name.
  4. Tap the map under Location if you want to adjust the waypoint's latitude and longitude.
    Apple Watch showing newly created waypoint
  5. Select a color and a symbol to make the waypoint easy to recognize.
  6. Turn off Show Waypoint if you want it to appear in your list of waypoints, but not in the compass dial.
  7. Tap Done.

If you have Apple Watch Ultra, you can create a Compass Waypoint quickly with the Action button:

  1. Open the Settings app on your Apple Watch Ultra.
  2. Tap Action Button.
  3. Tap Action, then select Waypoint. Now when you press the Action button, your Apple Watch Ultra creates a waypoint at your current location.

View your Compass Waypoints

Your Compass Waypoints appear as dots on the compass dial. Scroll the Digital Crown to see different compass views, and zoom out to see more waypoints. On the compass dial, you can only see waypoints that are within a 50-mile (80-kilometer) radius of your current location.

To view the details of a waypoint, tap a waypoint on the compass dial, then tap Select. The waypoint's distance and direction appear. Tap the edit button  at the bottom of the screen to change the waypoint's label, color, or symbol, or to edit its coordinates.

To see a full list of the waypoints that you've added over time, tap the menu button , then scroll down to Waypoints. 

How to delete Compass Waypoints

  1. Tap the menu button , then scroll down to Waypoints. 
  2. Tap a waypoint to select it.
  3. Scroll down, then tap Delete Waypoint.
  4. Tap Delete to confirm.

Add Compass Waypoints to your watch face

You can add Compass Waypoints complications to your watch face to get a quick view of your saved locations.

  1. With the watch face showing, touch and hold the display, then tap Edit.
  2. Swipe left to the Complications screen.
  3. Tap one of the available complications.
  4. Turn the Digital Crown to find Compass Waypoints, then select an option. You can choose one of the waypoints listed, or tap More to choose among more waypoints, Last Viewed Waypoint, or Parked Car Waypoint.
  5. Press the Digital Crown to save your changes, then tap the watch face to select it.

When you tap the complication on your watch face, the assigned waypoint opens in the Compass app. Compass Waypoint complications remain active until the end of the day and can be re-activated by tapping on the complication.

Use Backtrack to retrace your steps

Backtrack in the Compass app can track your route and help you retrace your steps if you get lost.

Backtrack isn't available on Family Setup devices.

Before you start a Backtrack session

Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services on your iPhone and check these settings:

  • Tap Compass, then make sure that Precise Location is turned on.
  • Tap System Services, then make sure that Significant Locations is turned on.

Retrace your steps

  1. Open the Compass app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Tap the Backtrack button . The Backtrack button becomes a pause button  and Compass begins tracking your route. You can continue using the other features of the Compass app, and Backtrack stays active even if you open a different app on your watch. If you lower your wrist, the Compass app returns to the forefront because your Backtrack session is still active.
  3. Tap the pause button  when you're ready to go back to where you started, then tap Retrace Steps. Your starting location appears on the compass.
  4. Start walking in the direction that you came from, indicated by the bouncing arrow, following the white line in the Compass app back to where you started.
    Apple Watch showing steps being retraced using Backtrack
  5. Tap the animated Backtrack button  when you're finished, then tap Delete Steps.

You can also start Backtrack from the safety screen. Press and hold the side button until Compass Backtrack appears. Drag the Compass Backtrack slider to the right to start Backtrack.

If you forgot to turn on Backtrack when you started and you get lost in an area where your other navigation tools aren’t working, Backtrack might be able to retrace your path back to its starting point. Tap the Backtrack icon to start the Backtrack session, then allow the Compass app to use your historical location data if a prompt appears. This feature is available only when you're away from significant locations such as your home or workplace, or you’re out of range of Wi-Fi.

Make sure that Compass can access your location

When you open Compass for the first time, it requests permission to access your location. Tap While Using the App to grant permission.

If Compass doesn't see your location, check its settings:

  1. Open the Settings app on the paired iPhone.
  2. Tap Privacy > Location Services > Compass.
  3. Tap While Using the App.

If you see a red spinning radar

If you see a red spinning radar instead of the compass when you open the Compass app, it means the Compass can't calibrate. Check these settings on the companion iPhone:

  • Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services > System Services and make sure that Compass Calibration is turned on. 
  • Go to Settings > Privacy & Security and make sure that Location Services is turned on.
  • Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services > Compass, then tap While Using the App.

If the Compass app still can't calibrate, it might be affected by magnetic interference found in certain scenarios. These could include dense urban areas, indoor spaces with limited connectivity, or while traveling in a car.

Coordinates may not be available in all regions.

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