Apple watch

How to Use Waypoints and Go Back on an Apple Watch


You can create waypoints and use the Backtrack feature using the Compass app on your Apple Watch. You can also add waypoints to your watch face as a complication. This feature is available for Apple Watch Series 6 and newer devices running at least watchOS 9.

Find your way to places, retrace your steps, or set a bearing and follow it with Apple’s redesigned Compass app in watchOS 9. Here’s how waypoints and backtracking work and what you need to use these features.

For Apple Watch Series 6 and later

Apple Watch Ultra

Apple has redesigned the Compass app to watchOS 9. The company added new compass views and two new features, Waypoints and Backtrack. Apple initially showed off these features on the high-end Apple Watch Ultra, but you can use them on the more basic models as well.

To access the full suite of features, you’ll need an Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE (first and second generation), or Apple Watch Ultra running watchOS 9. If you have an Apple Watch plus old, you’ll need to buy a new Apple Watch that supports those features.

Make sure you’re running the latest version of watchOS by opening the Watch app on your iPhone, then (on the “My Watch” tab) navigating to General > Software Update.

The Apple Watch Series 5 was the first Apple wearable device with a compass sensor inside, but Series 5 owners will miss Waypoint and Backtrack (although Series 5 is compatible with watchOS 9).

Apple warns that the compass sensor on all models can be affected by magnetic interference, especially when used with certain bands that rely on magnets. This includes Apple’s Leather Link, Leather Loop, Milanese Loop and pre-2019 Sport Loop. Be aware that third-party watch straps may also use magnets.

Set waypoints on your Apple Watch

To set a waypoint on your Apple Watch, launch the Compass app, then tap the “Waypoint” icon in the lower left corner of the screen.

Tap the “Label” field to give the location a name, then scroll down and choose a color and icon. At the very bottom of the screen, you can also toggle the “Show waypoint” option to hide or show the location on your Compass dial.

Mark Waypoint on Apple Watch compass app

If you have “Show Waypoint” enabled, the location will now appear on the compass dial. You can scroll the digital crown while displaying the compass to change the view and get a better view.

To note: Waypoints you create will be displayed on the compass dial while you are within 50 miles.

You will also find your waypoints listed in the Compass menu, accessible using the button in the upper left corner of the screen. Tap a waypoint to change its label, color, or icon. Swipe left on a waypoint, then press “X” to delete it.

Delete Waypoint on Apple Watch

If you have an Apple Watch Ultra, you can also use the action button (on the left side of the device) to set waypoints. To do this, go to Settings > Action Button on your Apple Watch and choose “Waypoint” from the list that appears.

Add waypoints to your watch face

Once you’ve created a waypoint, you can place it on an Apple Watch face as a complication. If you do, you’ll be guided to your Waypoint with a small pointer each time you look at your Apple Watch face. You can do it with the Auto-created waypoint for your parked car in Maps app as well.

RELATED: How to Add Complications to Your Watch Face on Apple Watch

You can add this complication just as you would add any other. Launch the Watch app on your iPhone, then (in the “My Watch” tab), tap on your current watch face. Scroll down to the “Complications” section and replace an existing complication (or blank space) with a “Compass – Waypoint” instead.

Customize Watch Complication Using iPhone

You can also do this on your watch by long-pressing your current watch face, tapping “Edit” next to the face you want to edit, then swiping left to access complications. Tap on a location and choose “Compass – Waypoint” to add it.

Change watch face complication on watch

The real utility here is no longer having to open the Compass app to be guided to a Waypoint. It’s also handy if you keep forgetting where you parked, because you just have to raise your wrist and look at your watch for a reminder.

Use Backtrack to retrace your steps

Backtrack is a feature that saves your route so you can easily find your way back to your place of origin. The feature is not active all the time, but Apple said in the feature reveal that Backtrack can automatically activate if you are off-grid (away from Wi-Fi and known locations).

To start tracing your route manually, open the Compass app, then tap the Backtrack icon (which looks like footprints) in the lower right corner of the screen. The button will change to a “pause” icon to indicate that Backtrack is running.

Tap that icon again, then choose between “Retrace steps” or “Delete steps” from the options that appear.

Start rewinding on Apple Watch

If you choose to retrace your steps, the compass face will show your route. You can also start Backtrack by pressing the side button on your Apple Watch and moving the “Compass Backtrack” slider to the right.

Your Apple Watch can automatically save route data when you’re off the grid. To attempt to access this data, tap the back icon to see if a prompt appears to use historical location data.

How to set your bearing in the Compass app

You can also set a compass bearing on your Apple Watch, measured in degrees. When you do this you will see additional information on the compass dial to guide you in a particular direction of your choosing. The bearing always points in the same direction until you clear or change it.

To do this, launch the Compass app and tap the menu button in the top left corner of the screen. Scroll down to the “Bearing” field and tap it, then use the digital crown to set your bearing in degrees.

Tap “Done” and your bearing will appear on the compass dial, highlighted in red.

Set Bearing on Apple Watch

To undo this, return to the “Bearing” field and press “Clear Bearing” to erase.

More neat compass features

In addition to waypoints, backtracking, and the ability to set a bearing, watchOS 9 introduced a few new compass views. Turn the digital crown to see different information, including a simplified angle view, detailed information about your elevation and coordinates, and different “radar” style views for tracking waypoints.

Apple Watch Compass Views

You can also tap the “menu” button in the upper left corner of the Compass app to view detailed information about your current location.

Fix “Red Spinning Radar” Error

If you see a red spinning radar animation rather than the compass dial when using the Compass app on your Apple Watch, magnetic interference is likely to blame. Try moving from your current location or removing the watch strap to see if this is the cause.

If you’re still unlucky, check the paired iPhone’s settings to make sure Location Services is turned on under Settings > Privacy & Security.

You should also check that compass calibration is enabled under Settings > Privacy and security > Location services > System services, and that “While using the app” is enabled under Settings > Privacy and security > Location services. location > Compass.

Ideal for outdoor activities

The Apple Watch can help encourage an active lifestyle. And the Compass app is great for hikers looking for a smartwatch. If you’re looking for a new wearable, you might want to consider the Apple Watch Ultra if you can stomach the size and price.