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tzm41

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 11, 2014
334
1,001
Sunnyvale
So I have spent the past month going back and forth with Apple trying to solve this weird issue on my Apple Watch Series 6 cellular model, which started happening since I moved from NYC to the Bay Area:

IMG_7785.jpeg
IMG_7786.jpeg

As the screenshots show, my watch puts me about 8000 ft higher than what my phone tells me. I tried resetting the watch, which would initially fix it. However it does go back to reporting the wrong elevation after I do an outdoor workout. Relative elevation gain is correct, but the absolute value goes absolutely crazy. This is what happens when I do the first outdoor workout after resetting the watch:

IMG_7787.jpeg


1. I started calling Apple about a month ago, and the support advisors promised that he would have someone on the health support team call me but that never happened.
2. A week later and the third time I called Apple, I finally got to a health support specialist who has been helping me since then. She first collected diagnostics and logs and sent my situation over to "Apple engineers", who then determined that it is a hardware issue.
3. I sent the watch in for service, but they claimed not being able to reproduce the issue, hence sent my watch back unfixed.
4. So I reproduced the issue, called the same specialist again, who told me to send it in again, and she will attach a special note to it. Yet, Apple sent my watch back unfixed stating the same reason.

This frustrating process has taken three weeks and counting. So it looks like a hardware issue, until I decided to do some experiments myself since Apple isn't competent enough to figure out what is wrong.

1. Let's say my original watch is watch A. I bought an Apple Watch SE GPS (B), and another Apple Watch S6 cellular (C). I paired them to my iPhone and took them to outdoor workouts.
2. Interestingly watch B's altimeter remained accurate after a long hike, but after a brief outdoor walk watch C's altimeter also started to be off by 8000 ft.
3. Suspecting that it might somehow be related to the cellular functionality, I then reset watch A, and then did an outdoor walk without adding the cellular plan to it. No glitch.
4. Then I moved the plan over from C to A and then did another outdoor walk. Now it is glitched again.

So now I am much less sure that it is a hardware issue, since the chance that both watches A and C are faulty in the same way is probably low. But I also couldn't figure out why it started happening after I moved to the Bay Area, not can I accept an 8000 ft error on my Apple Watch, or just give up the cellular functionality. Any chance someone can give me advices on what is going on?
 

waw74

macrumors 601
May 27, 2008
4,699
966
does it only happen at home?
how close to home are you working out?

This is a wild guess, and I have little to no knowledge of how cell works. but...
there is location information imbedded in cell signals, it's possible a tower by your house is configured wrong. doesn't explain why it's only the watch though. Although maybe it also has to do with type of signal (LTE, 3G) and your watch is on one while the phone is on the other.
I believe the watch uses a combo of "electronic" location to help keep the barometric altimeter calibrated, since weather changes can affect it.

wifi can also used to help with location, that's done with an external database of the Mac address of wifi routers and their coordinates. You can get the MAC address of wifi networks without joining them. You phone will connect to a server and says what MACs it can see, and the server will reply with a location.
Not sure if this has anything to do with it.

if you reboot the watch when you're away from home does it sort itself out?
you probably want to be at least a mile or 2 away, and have the phone off or in airplane mode.

also explains why it might not fail when it's in the shop.
 

tzm41

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 11, 2014
334
1,001
Sunnyvale
does it only happen at home?
how close to home are you working out?

This is a wild guess, and I have little to no knowledge of how cell works. but...
there is location information imbedded in cell signals, it's possible a tower by your house is configured wrong. doesn't explain why it's only the watch though. Although maybe it also has to do with type of signal (LTE, 3G) and your watch is on one while the phone is on the other.
I believe the watch uses a combo of "electronic" location to help keep the barometric altimeter calibrated, since weather changes can affect it.

wifi can also used to help with location, that's done with an external database of the Mac address of wifi routers and their coordinates. You can get the MAC address of wifi networks without joining them. You phone will connect to a server and says what MACs it can see, and the server will reply with a location.
Not sure if this has anything to do with it.

if you reboot the watch when you're away from home does it sort itself out?
you probably want to be at least a mile or 2 away, and have the phone off or in airplane mode.

also explains why it might not fail when it's in the shop.
I’ve suspected the same. However, there was once when I reset the watch without doing the first workout near my home. The glitch appeared when I did a hike in the mountains. The workout summary shows a low of 341 and high of 9117 ft.

The mountains were about 15 miles away from my home. So it might not be specific to a cell tower near my home.
 

jkel777

macrumors 6502a
May 10, 2014
599
145
I’ve had issues with my altimeter since February 8th. It does not record any elevation data during outdoor runs and walks. Elevation also just shows dashes in the compass app on the watch. I have tried everything except restoring my iPhone and sending the watch in for repair. I think it’s software related because the My Altitude app shows elevation on the watch just fine. Anyone have any experience with this or solutions? It randomly worked yesterday for most of the day but then stopped working again in the evening.
 

tzm41

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 11, 2014
334
1,001
Sunnyvale
I’ve had issues with my altimeter since February 8th. It does not record any elevation data during outdoor runs and walks. Elevation also just shows dashes in the compass app on the watch. I have tried everything except restoring my iPhone and sending the watch in for repair. I think it’s software related because the My Altitude app shows elevation on the watch just fine. Anyone have any experience with this or solutions? It randomly worked yesterday for most of the day but then stopped working again in the evening.
S6 or SE?
 

jkel777

macrumors 6502a
May 10, 2014
599
145
S6 or SE?
Series 6 cellular. I’ve done everything from turning location services off and on, fitness tracking off and on, unpaired the watch and restored from backup, unpaired the watch and set up as new, reset fitness calibration, and still doesn’t work.
 
Last edited:

tzm41

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 11, 2014
334
1,001
Sunnyvale
Series 6 cellular. I’ve done everything from turning location services off and on, fitness tracking off and on, unpaired the watch and restored from backup, unpaired the watch and set up as new, reset fitness calibration, and still doesn’t work.
Ok maybe try Apple support then. Cellular watches are the ones giving me issues so maybe more exposure to them would mean some sort of fix...
 

jkel777

macrumors 6502a
May 10, 2014
599
145
Ok maybe try Apple support then. Cellular watches are the ones giving me issues so maybe more exposure to them would mean some sort of fix...
I did and they weren’t much help unfortunately lol. Guess I’ll just see if it fixes itself.
 

jkel777

macrumors 6502a
May 10, 2014
599
145
Understandable. I’ve been in back and forth with them for over a month without any fix.
Yep I’m not sure what caused this issue. Everything was fine up until the 8th. I’ve read elsewhere that it fixes itself which was the case for me for a day at least.
 

Cheefy

macrumors member
Dec 27, 2020
94
48
When I first got my AW6 in December, the altimeter readings were way off. After several conversations on here and with Apple Support, it sorted itself out after a couple of weeks of GPS activities. It was then extremely accurate. About four weeks ago I reset my watch for a different reason and when I re-paired it, the elevation was back to being inaccurate again. After another week or so of GPS activities it returned to being very accurate again. From “as new” status it seems to need a period of calibration or artificial learning. When it goes through this and the accuracy sorts itself out, my watch is more accurate than either of my Garmin watches and any of the non Apple watches of the pals I run with.
 

michaelb5000

macrumors regular
Sep 23, 2015
228
167
If you install an app that uses elevation or the altimeter, so Workoutdoors or an altimeter app like UpHigh or Altimeter+, what values does that show for elevation? Try that when you don't have the phone with you or the phone is off. We have discussed here previously that the altimeter complication as shown there in the compass app shows incorrect values at times, but the watch actually does know your correct elevation and apps that use that will show correct values.

It is also possible that the barometric sensor is broken on the watch (that has happened to some users here over the years, since watches have had that sensor before the S6).
 

tzm41

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 11, 2014
334
1,001
Sunnyvale
When I first got my AW6 in December, the altimeter readings were way off. After several conversations on here and with Apple Support, it sorted itself out after a couple of weeks of GPS activities. It was then extremely accurate. About four weeks ago I reset my watch for a different reason and when I re-paired it, the elevation was back to being inaccurate again. After another week or so of GPS activities it returned to being very accurate again. From “as new” status it seems to need a period of calibration or artificial learning. When it goes through this and the accuracy sorts itself out, my watch is more accurate than either of my Garmin watches and any of the non Apple watches of the pals I run with.
Interesting, my watch went from accurate to extremely inaccurate....
 

tzm41

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 11, 2014
334
1,001
Sunnyvale
If you install an app that uses elevation or the altimeter, so Workoutdoors or an altimeter app like UpHigh or Altimeter+, what values does that show for elevation? Try that when you don't have the phone with you or the phone is off. We have discussed here previously that the altimeter complication as shown there in the compass app shows incorrect values at times, but the watch actually does know your correct elevation and apps that use that will show correct values.

It is also possible that the barometric sensor is broken on the watch (that has happened to some users here over the years, since watches have had that sensor before the S6).
The workouts recorded using the built in workout app show incorrect altimeter as well, not just the compass app. I just tried Altimeter+, which shows a dash and forces me to calibrate it with a number, so I input the number shown on my phone and it displays that number. Although the compass app still shows the wrong number. I’ll do another workout without my phone to see what happens.
 

tzm41

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jul 11, 2014
334
1,001
Sunnyvale
After getting a replacement watch and still seeing the same issue I think I am giving up...
 

jkel777

macrumors 6502a
May 10, 2014
599
145
After getting a replacement watch and still seeing the same issue I think I am giving up...
Yeah my elevation has stopped working for almost three weeks now. Third party apps show elevation just fine on the watch. It used to come back after a few days but now has just stopped working altogether. I think I’m giving up too. Bummer that I can’t see elevation gain and flights climbed during workouts anymore. I think this also affects stair speed up and down but that’s not a huge deal. I really don’t understand what caused this because my watch was working totally fine in regards to elevation before February.
 
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827538

Cancelled
Jul 3, 2013
2,322
2,833
Same thing happened to my S6, had to factory reset the watch to get it working again after flying maybe 6 times in a row.
 

Liz69

macrumors newbie
Nov 10, 2021
1
0
I have exactly the same problem with my apple watch 6. It indicates an altitude of 4600 meter, although I am actually at an altitude of 100 meters. The problem first occurred in September. I sent the watch out for repair and received a new one. After connecting the new watch to my Iphone 8 it indicated the correct altitude. I did an outside walking work out and the altitude was back at 4600 meters. The altitude indicated by the Iphone was correct, only the altitude indicated by the watch was incorrect. After disconnecting and reconnecting the watch I did an outside walking workout without my Iphone. The altitude reading was correct. Subsequently I did an outside walking workout with my Iphone and then the altitude reading was again at 4600 meters. Does anyone have a solution for this problem?
 

ManVsMIDI

macrumors newbie
Jul 11, 2022
2
0
I'm having this exact same issue on my 7. Works fine if I restore from backup or setup as new watch, but then as soon as I go to workout, elevation increases ~5000 feet and stays there. I sent to Apple and they sent it back saying they can't replicate the issue. Seeing the above about how even with a replacement it still messes up makes me think it's not hardware... OP or others, has anyone been able to fix this?
 

fiveoneoh

macrumors newbie
Jul 9, 2010
2
0
Same issue on my S6-GPS, also in the Bay Area. It will occasionally read the correct number (600 ft), but usually says I'm at 5000ft. I thought the os9 update had fixed it, but the correct number was only shown for a few minutes after the update. Given that it gets the right number after software updates, it doesn't seem to be hardware.
I initially had the issue after a flight, so I wonder if it has some bad calibration data from during the flight that the software falls back to. But even then, resetting and setting up as a new watch should clear that and ManVsMIDI say that doesn't work either.
 

ManVsMIDI

macrumors newbie
Jul 11, 2022
2
0
I had an extended flight (USA->India) and it seemed to reset and fix everything afterwards. Knock on wood it stays this way - I really think it is the case of it getting stuck in a weird calibration state. One would think that resetting and setting up as a new watch would fix it long term since it seems to work initially, but maybe there is some weird hardware memory state or something that holds settings reset to reset?
 
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