Can You Listen to PDF Document on Apple Watch Using Text-to-Speech?

A detailed and precise answer requires understating of quite a few aspects mentioned further in this blog post. But if simple answer would be needed it would be: YES.

However there are some things that you need to take into the account.

The concept of listening to the PDF documents on the Apple Watch may not be for everyone, but for some people it might be life changing. Those are people that prefer to have the Apple Watch without the iPhone in some cases. Those are usually related to sport activities, but may be also related to some specific professions. Taking a time to prepare for the marathon opens the opportunity not just to be more physically fit, but also to be more mentally fit and listening to the inspiring content on your Watch is one of the best ways to do so.

While technically it was possible to use the Watch as a PDF voice reader with any version of operating system on your Apple Watch, you probably don’t want to do this unless you have updated your Watch to the watchOS 9. The reason for this is that older versions provide only low-quality voices were and for most people those voices would not meet the threshold required to keep the attention when listening to the long documents which PDF files usually are. The good thing is that watchOS 9 is a free update and that it supports all devices starting with Apple Watch 4.

Out of box watchOS 9 still doesn’t provide any better text-to-speech experience than previous versions as all the higher quality voices are not installed by default. So the first step would be to ensure that those voices are installed:

  • Open the device Settings app.
  • Go to Accessibility > VoiceOver > Speech > Voice.
  • Ensure that you have installed the Premium or Enhanced voices that you like. For example if you want to install the Karen Premium English voice follow this path: Karen > Karen (Premium) > Download Karen (Premium).

Now your Apple Watch is set up to be able to read the content as well as the latest iPhone would!

However out of box Apple Watch doesn’t provide any PDF reading capabilities. As such you will need an app for that. Unfortunately the choice of apps is not as wide as it would be on the iPhone where there are literary hundreds of app that provide at least basic support for this activity. However two of the most popular text-to-speech apps on iOS are available on the Apple Watch too: Speech Central and Voice Dream Reader.

Some other popular apps like Speechify and NaturalReader currently don’t have the support for Apple Watch.

In both of those apps you will import the PDF document on the iPhone/iPad and be able to listen to it on the Apple Watch.

Here is a fact sheet that compares features of those apps on the Apple Watch:

Speech CentralVoice Dream Reader
Free tier+
Showing remaining timeReader screenOnly on playlist
Showing page number+
Showing read text+
Add bookmark++
Add item to favorite+
Visual indicator for favorite+
Remove item from playlist+
Setting voice speed++
Easily switch between two custom speeds+
Pitch setting+
Volume settings independent of device volume+
Getting booksData connectioniPhone connection
Browsing by chapter (epub)+
Browsing by titles+
Customizable back/forward intervals+

This should help you in making the right choice according to your specific needs. Enjoy the reading!