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How to use the hidden web browser on your Apple Watch (and why you shouldn’t)

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The Apple Watch may not have Safari in its list of apps, but the browser is there, waiting to display web pages. While browsing your favorite websites from your wrist may seem convenient, there are still some obstacles.

To access the Apple Watch browser, you’ll need to tap on a link. There are three safe ways to get a link using stock apps within watchOS. There may be more if you use third-party apps, which you can install using the Watch app on your iPhone or directly on the watch.

RELATED: How to install apps directly on your Apple Watch

1. Use Siri

The easiest way to launch the browser is to ask Siri to do so. To do this, press and hold the Digital Crown button to activate Siri, then say “search for howtogeek.com” or whatever website you want to launch.

You can also use “Hey Siri” or just raise your wrist to speak if you have these options enabled in your Apple Watch settings.

Ask Siri to search the web on Apple Watch

From here, Siri will perform a web search and offer you a list of websites. Touch “Open Page” to open a website in a browser overlay.

Search engines like Google, DuckDuckGo, and Bing allow you to do deeper browsing sessions, but searching for what you need directly is often the easiest way to get where you want to go.

Open a link via Siri search

2. Use messages

While Siri is the most convenient method to launch the watchOS browser, you can also use Messages. All you need is a link to tap in a Messages conversation. If someone sends you a link, you can tap on it to launch the browser and take a look.

Tapable link in Messages for Apple Watch

To access a web page of your choice using this method, you will need to send yourself the link. This isn’t too bad if you have an Apple Watch Series 7 or later with a full wrist keyboard. Third party messaging apps may also support this feature.

3. Use mail

Finally, you can also tap on links within email messages. Like the Messages method, this requires the presence of a link in an incoming email.

You can type (or dictate) and send a link via email. Once received, you can touch the link to open the web page.

A tappable link in an email on Apple Watch

We found launching the browser through the Apple Watch imprecise and a bit inconvenient. And there are some reasons why.

The browser is not practical

For starters, we experienced issues with rendering on our Apple Watch Series 4. As you can see in the screenshot below from the How-To Geek home page, the images have not appeared and the alignment of some elements is off.

How-To Geek home page on an Apple Watch

While searching the web with Siri is the best method to use, it still requires patience and a few thoughtful search hints. For example, telling Siri to “search for wikipedia.com” opens an App Store link instead of Wikipedia.

Since Siri includes information from Wikipedia, saying “search Wikipedia for iPhone” doesn’t give you a link, but rather a summary of the topic.

You have to remember to say “search the web” for these queries, and even then you have to expect Bing (which uses Siri) to return the correct results.

Ask Siri to "search iphone on wikipedia"

The other methods are even less useful since you must use precise web addresses. If you’re using an Apple Watch without a keyboard, you’ll need to use Apple’s “scribble” text input method, which often mistakes the letter “o” for the number “0.” This can cause many “.com” links to fail.

The Mail and Messages methods can be made a bit more convenient by sending messages to yourself, but it’s still not the most pleasant way to browse the web. Dictating a web address is fine, but if you’re using your voice, you’re better off using Siri.

Switch between Reader and Web View on Apple Watch

Making more precise queries requires the use of a search engine as a starting point, such as Google, DuckDuckGo, or Bing.

Pages sometimes open in Reader view by default, making the reading experience more useful at the expense of web page functionality. If this happens, touch the address bar to switch to “Web view”.

Using a browser on your wrist is awkward

Using a browser on the wrist is not the most comfortable option. No watch was designed to be worn for an extended period of time. You may experience physical discomfort from holding your wrist in an extended position. While short browsing sessions are feasible, longer sessions may not be possible.

If you’re serious about browsing the web on your Apple Watch, a third-party browser might be worth it to overcome some of the hurdles we discussed above.

Of the free Apple Watch browsers we tested, Parrity is the only option we’d recommend. The browser renders a page separately, then sends a snapshot to your Apple Watch, so you don’t have as much trouble with rendering as the previous methods.

Parrity Web Browser for Apple Watch

The app works as you would expect, allowing you to search and enter web addresses just like in Safari.

The interface even makes some adaptations, such as providing shortcuts for common web address prefixes and suffixes like “www”. and “.com” to make things a little easier.

Parrity Web Browser for Apple Watch

It’s still a bit tedious to use it on a pre-Series 7 Apple Watch model due to the lack of a physical keyboard.

The “scribble” input method doesn’t work very well for precise web addresses, and speaking URLs out loud won’t suit everyone’s taste.

Parrity Web Browser for Apple Watch

There are other paid Apple Watch browsers to choose from, including µBrowser and Squint Browser, but we don’t recommend spending your money on these tools.

Your other devices, like your iPhone or iPad, are much better suited for browsing. However, there are still plenty of reasons to wear an Apple Watch, whether you love outdoor activities like hiking, seek motivation on your fitness journey, or want life-saving features like heart health notifications or fall detection.

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