Pairing an Apple Watch should be a relatively simple affair, but things don’t always go as planned. Here’s how to pair and what to do if things aren’t working the way they should.
Make sure your watch and iPhone are compatible
watchOS 8 is the latest version of Apple Watch software at the time of writing. To use an Apple Watch running watchOS 8, you’ll need an iPhone 6s or newer with iOS 15 or later installed.
You can install watchOS 8 on Apple Watch Series 3 or later, and Apple Watch SE. All new Apple Watch models purchased with Apple will come with the latest version of watchOS installed, which means you shouldn’t buy an Apple Watch unless you meet the minimum iPhone requirements.
Earlier models of the Watch are not compatible with the latest version of watchOS, but that does not mean that they are no longer useful. Models like the Apple Watch Series 2 should remain compatible with an iPhone 5 or later running iOS 11 and above. You can still do things like log workouts and get notifications, but you’ll miss out on the latest software updates and features.
watchOS 9 is on the horizon and should be released in fall 2022 for the Apple Watch Series 4 and later. It will require iOS 16 running on an iPhone X, iPhone 8 or later.
Pair your Apple Watch automatically
Pairing your Apple Watch is simple, assuming everything goes as planned. All you have to do is turn on the wearable by long-pressing the side button and then bringing it closer to your iPhone.
The watch pairing screen should appear on your iPhone. Choose “Set up for myself” or “Set up for a family member”, then use your iPhone’s camera to scan the watch display.
You’ll be asked if you want to set up the watch as a new Apple Watch or restore it from a backup. If you are replacing an older model, choose the backup option which will restore previous settings, watch face configurations and other preferences. You may need to enter your Apple ID and password, which you’ll need to do if prompted.
At the end of the setup process, you’ll be able to enable features like Find My and Wi-Fi Calling, create a password, and decide which apps to install on your watch. If you have an Apple Watch with cellular, you can activate it or choose to activate it later (you’ll need a compatible cellular plan for this to work).
Now wait for your iPhone and watch to sync. Once you’re done, you can customize it further using the Watch app on your iPhone.
This setup process applies to new Apple Watch models and any watch models that have been unpaired and erased, ready to use with another iPhone. If you see a watch face when you turn on the watch, the watch is already paired with another iPhone and will need to be erased before you can use it.
No prompts? Pair your watch manually (or erase it)
Sometimes the prompt to pair your watch with an iPhone does not appear when you first turn on your watch. Luckily, you can pair your watch manually, but you’ll need to download the free Watch app for iPhone first if you don’t already have it.
Make sure the Apple Watch you want to pair is turned on, then launch the Watch app and tap “All Watches” in the top left corner. Tap “Add Watch” and follow the setup process.
You can use the “Manually Pair” option to choose your Apple Watch from a list of nearby devices if you can’t or don’t want to use the camera to pair it.
If you can’t pair your watch (or if you see a dial when you turn it on), the watch is probably already paired. You can check in the “All Watches” section of your iPhone to make sure it is not already paired with your device.
To pair the watch again, you will need to erase it. If Find My is enabled on the watch, you will need to ask the original owner to erase the watch. They can do this remotely through Find My on iCloud.com or by using the Find My app for iPhone. They can then use the “Remove from account” option to delete the watch.
A watch can also be deleted using the Watch app on the iPhone it is paired with. Under “All Watches”, tap on the watch in question followed by the “i” icon and select the “Unpair Apple Watch” option.
Pairing an iPhone with Multiple Apple Watches
You can use your iPhone with multiple Apple Watches by following the same steps outlined above. If you don’t see the pairing dialog, launch the Watch app, then tap “All Watches” and select the “Pair New Watch” option.
This is handy if you have more than one watch with different finishes, if you borrow a spare watch and don’t want to erase your old one, or if you’re trying out a new model (the Apple Store gives you 14 days to return your undamaged Watch, provided you bring all the packaging).
Although it is possible to use multiple watch models with a single iPhone, you cannot use multiple iPhones with a single watch. To use a watch with another iPhone (even an iPhone paired with your Apple ID), you’ll need to unpair and pair it again. Think of the Apple Watch as an extension of your iPhone, rather than a standalone device.
Apple Watch not pairing? Things you can try
There’s a long list of things you can try if your iPhone isn’t talking to your Apple Watch, but most of them assume the two devices are already paired. If you’re having trouble getting an Apple Watch to communicate with an iPhone in an unpaired state, the first thing to do is to make sure it isn’t already paired.
It’s paired if you see anything other than the home or pairing screen when you turn it on. If you see a watch face or a prompt to enter a passcode, you have a paired watch. Send it back to the previous owner and ask them to unlink it using the Watch app or wipe it remotely, then remove it from their account via iCloud.com or Find my app.
If you’re sure the watch is in “like new” condition, the next thing to do is to make sure you have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled on your iPhone. You can do this under Settings > Bluetooth or Settings > Wi-Fi, or by swiping down from the top right corner of the screen to reveal Control Center. You also need to make sure Airplane Mode is turned off as well.
You can also try updating your iPhone to the latest version of iOS under Settings > General > Software Update. You will need iOS 15 for a watchOS 8 device or iOS 16 for watchOS 9.
If everything is on and up to date, restarting your iPhone is also worth a shot. Failing that, you can always take your iPhone and Apple Watch to an Apple Store for advice. Apple shouldn’t charge you unless a device requires hardware repair and should be able to point you in the right direction to get a fix.
Apple Watch freezes during pairing?
You can reset your Apple Watch if it freezes during setup by pressing and holding the Digital Crown button, then tapping “Reset” when it appears. Once your Apple Watch restarts, begin the pairing process again.
Do more with your Apple Watch
Your Apple Watch can do all kinds of things, like act as a pedometer, track your workouts, call emergency services if you fall, and monitor your heart health.
Check out our best Apple Watch tips and tricks to get the most out of your wearable.
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