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How to Control a GoPro Camera Remotely with the Apple Watch

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The free GoPro app turns your Apple Watch into a remote control for your GoPro camera. Jason R. Rich, author of My GoPro Hero Camera, shows how to manage the GoPro photos and preview your shots without even touching the device.
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In this article, you'll discover how to use the GoPro app for the Apple Watch to control the camera and preview photos remotely. This app provides a wireless method for managing some of the camera's features and functions, and it gives you even more control options when shooting photos or video.

The GoPro Hero cameras are all small, lightweight, weatherproof, rugged, and able to be mounted to people, objects, or various types of equipment in ways that traditional point-and-shoot cameras can't handle. As a result, when used with the appropriate camera housing and mount, it's possible to capture stunning, professional-quality, high-resolution photos and/or HD video from a first- or third-person perspective.

Most of the GoPro Hero cameras have built-in wireless capabilities. Thus, in addition to controlling the camera's features and functions from the camera itself, you get the same capabilities remotely by using the optional GoPro Smart Remote accessory ($79), the GoPro mobile app (which runs on a smartphone or tablet), or the free GoPro Apple Watch app.

The benefit to controlling the camera remotely is that you can mount it wherever you like and then adjust camera settings, snap photos, or start and stop the video capture process, all without physically being near or touching the camera. In fact, you can be up to 50 feet away when using the iPhone or Apple Watch app to control the camera.

Get Started Using the GoPro App for Apple Watch

To use the GoPro Apple Watch app, you'll need an Apple Watch and a compatible iPhone. Your devices must establish a wireless connection, which is referred to as pairing the devices. After pairing the Apple Watch and iPhone, download and install the GoPro mobile app that's available free from the App Store.

The Apple Watch edition of the GoPro app will automatically install onto the watch at the same time the iPhone app is installed. However, if you previously had an older version of the GoPro mobile app installed on your iPhone, when you update the app via the App Store (to version 2.11 or later), the GoPro Apple Watch app will also install itself onto the watch.

The GoPro mobile app for the iPhone gives you direct access to more GoPro camera features and functions when the camera and smartphone are wirelessly paired, but the GoPro Apple Watch app offers convenient access to some of the most commonly used camera features and functions.

Your iPhone and GoPro camera must be paired to begin using the features and functions wirelessly. Make sure that the Wireless feature of your GoPro Hero camera is turned on; then, on the iPhone, select the wireless network being created by the camera (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 When the Wireless feature of a GoPro camera is turned on, it will generate its own password-protected wireless network that your iPhone can access. In this example, the network generated by the GoPro Hero 4 is called JasonRich.

Next, access the Home screen on the Apple Watch by pressing the digital crown button, and then tap on the GoPro app icon (see Figure 2) to launch the watch app.

Figure 2 After you install the GoPro Apple Watch app, the app's icon (center right) is displayed on the watch's Home screen.

A connection will be established between the GoPro Apple Watch app, the iPhone that's running the GoPro mobile app, and your GoPro Hero camera. The camera's Wireless mode is sometimes finicky, and you may need to toggle the Wireless mode of your camera (and/or the Wi-Fi feature of your iPhone) off and on before the pairing process is successful.

Discover What's Possible Using the GoPro Apple Watch App

Upon launching the GoPro Apple Watch app, the shooting mode that the camera is already set to is displayed. In Figure 3, the GoPro Hero 4's Photo shooting mode is selected.

Figure 3 It's possible to switch the GoPro Hero camera's shooting mode with the GoPro Apple Watch app.

To change the camera's shooting mode from the watch, turn the digital crown to scroll through the shooting options: Video, Photo, Burst, and Time-Lapse. Within a second after each mode is displayed, the camera will switch to that mode and display a Shutter button.

At this point, tap on the Shutter button to snap a photo, or begin shooting video using the selected shooting mode and the previously adjusted shooting mode settings. If you haven't manually adjusted a shooting mode's settings, the camera uses its default options. For each of the GoPro camera's shooting modes, you can manually adjust a handful of settings on the camera itself, or from the GoPro mobile app on the iPhone (once the camera and iPhone have been paired). Changing shooting mode settings directly from the Apple Watch is not yet possible at the time of writing.

To adjust the shooting mode settings from the GoPro mobile app, select the shooting mode (Video, Time-Lapse Video, Video+Photo, Looping, Single Photo, Continuous Photo, Night Photo, Burst Photo, Burst/Time-Lapse, or Burst Night Lapse). Then tap on the wrench-shaped Settings icon that's displayed at the lower-right corner of the screen (shown in Figure 4). From the Settings menu, adjust each shooting mode setting (shown in Figure 5).

Figure 4 From the GoPro mobile app running on an iPhone, first select a shooting mode, and then tap on the Settings icon to adjust that shooting mode's settings.

Figure 5 Adjust the settings for each of your GoPro Hero camera's shooting modes from this Settings menu (shown here on an iPhone 6s).

If you've selected the Photo shooting mode from the GoPro Apple Watch app, for example, you can adjust the shooting resolution and field of view, plus turn the camera's Spot Meter and/or ProTune feature on and off. When the Video shooting mode is selected, you can use the Settings menu in the mobile app to select the shooting resolution, frames per second, and field of view, as well as turn the Low Light, Spot Meter, and/or ProTune feature on and off.

When Photo shooting mode is selected, for example, if you tap on the Shutter button that's displayed on the Apple Watch's screen, the GoPro Hero camera will take a single photo. However, if you've opted to shoot video, the center of the watch's display will show a Tag icon (see Figure 6), allowing you to tag key moments in the video as you're shooting. If tags have been saved within your raw video footage, you can easily find and refer to those moments later when using compatible video-editing software, such as the GoPro Studio software on your PC or Mac.

Figure 6 The GoPro Apple Watch app displays a Tag icon in the Video shooting mode. Tap on it to tag a specific moment in the video, so you can quickly find it later during the editing process.

As you're shooting video, the shutter button is displayed in the lower-left corner of the Apple Watch screen. Tap on it to stop shooting.

When you're finished shooting a digital photo or video clip, swipe your finger from right to left across the watch's screen to switch to Preview mode (shown in Figure 7). Depending on the shooting mode, the Preview screen shows the last digital photo you shot, or a sample frame from the last video clip (along with abbreviated details about the shooting mode for the video clip.)

Figure 7 From the GoPro Apple Watch app, it's possible to preview the last digital photo shot, or see one frame from the last video clip.

Shoot Efficiently Using Your GoPro Hero Camera

Whether using the GoPro Apple Watch app will make you a more efficient photographer or videographer depends on several factors, including how and where the camera itself is mounted, the climate and conditions where you're shooting, and whether you want to shoot photos or video hands-free.

Think of the initially released version of the GoPro Apple Watch app simply as a remote shutter button, with the ability to preview single images or a video frame from a video clip on the watch's screen. All other functionality needs to be controlled from the GoPro mobile app on the iPhone, or from the camera itself.

Depending on which model of Apple Watch you're using, you may or may not be able to expose the watch (and its band) to the same harsh conditions as the camera in various shooting situations. The Apple Watch Sport is the most durable, although the watch is considered water resistant, not waterproof. This means the Apple Watch can be exposed to rain, for example, but shouldn't be submerged in water.

When shooting in and around water or snow, or in other extremely messy situations, you'll discover that the optional GoPro Smart Remote accessory is more rugged and durable than the Apple Watch, plus this accessory allows you to alter shooting mode settings—not just select a shooting mode.

The signal range of the Smart Remote is also up to 600 feet from the camera. When using the GoPro mobile app or Apple Watch app, the signal between the camera and the iPhone/Apple Watch reaches approximately 50 feet.

Another drawback to using the initially released version of the GoPro Apple Watch app is that your iPhone must simultaneously be running the GoPro mobile app, and the phone must remain nearby.

Other Apps for Controlling Your GoPro Camera Remotely

The Apple Watch App Store also offers a handful of other third-party apps that give you remote control of a compatible GoPro Hero camera by using the Apple Watch, as long as an iPhone is paired to the watch. Some of these apps include Netframes' Remote Control for GoPro Hero ($14.99), Antix - GoPro Auto Editor (free), Vizzywig ($99.99), and GoMote ($1.99).

To use any of these optional Apple Watch apps for the GoPro Hero camera, launch the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap on the Search icon, and enter the keyword GoPro in the Search field. Browse through the related search results, read each app's description, and then tap on the Get or Price button to acquire, download, and install the app onto the watch.

Even without using the Apple Watch, the latest version of the GoPro mobile app for the iPhone/iPad is more robust than ever in terms of features for setting up the camera, shooting, previewing images and video, clipping video, and ultimately sharing photos or video clips. Once photos or videos are stored within your camera's memory card, this content can be transferred wirelessly to the internal storage of the iPhone or iPad, and then imported directly into a photo- or video-editing app. For example, Apple's own iMovie app is an option for video editing, and the 10app video-editing app from BrightSky Labs is designed specifically for editing GoPro-shot video footage on an iOS mobile device. This app also has an Apple Watch component that allows users to use the watch as a remote shutter button.

Final Thoughts

Being able to control a compatible GoPro Hero camera remotely with an Apple Watch is certainly a cool feature, although it's not as practical in real-world shooting situations as using the GoPro Smart Remote or GoPro mobile app on an iPhone. However, if you're shooting in situations that don't involve harsh conditions, using the GoPro Apple Watch app as a remote shutter button is a viable and handy option, and new features will undoubtedly be incorporated into the Apple Watch app in the future.

Jason R. Rich (http://www.jasonrich.com) is the author of Que's iPad and iPhone Tips and Tricks, Fifth Edition, which covers how to use iOS 9 on all of the various iPhone and iPad models, including the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, and iPad Pro. He is also the author of many other Que books, including My Digital Photography for Seniors, My GoPro Hero Camera, My Digital Entertainment for Seniors, and Apple Watch and iPhone Fitness Tips and Tricks. Follow Jason R. Rich on Twitter or Instagram at @JasonRich7.

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