If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you’ve probably become accustomed to using it “fully online” with your paired iPhone within Bluetooth range, or by itself where you’re only tracking workouts and aren’t concerned about too much else. It’s easy for most of us to forget that the Apple Watch actually has its own Wi-Fi radio, and can actually connect directly to just about any Wi-Fi network — provided your iPhone has joined it before — and allow you to do quite a few things without your iPhone nearby. You can check if your Apple Watch is connected directly to a Wi-Fi network, rather than your iPhone, by swiping upward from the watch face and looking at the icon in the top right corner; you’ll see a green cloud here when you’re on a direct Wi-Fi connection.
While directly connected to a Wi-Fi network, you’ll still be able to send and receive iMessages and even make phone calls using FaceTime Audio, or even the cellular network if you’re on a carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile that supports Wi-Fi calling over iCloud connected devices. You can also control your HomeKit accessories, check weather and stocks, set and respond to reminders, and use Siri for anything that doesn’t require access to an app on your iPhone. The catch here is that your Apple Watch will only connect to networks that your iPhone has previously joined, and there’s no way to join captive networks from the Apple Watch, meaning this feature probably won’t be too useful when you’re stopping into a Starbucks on your run — although of course you’ll still be able to pay for your coffee using Apple Pay or a card in your Wallet app.