Pairing an Apple Watch should be a relatively simple affair, but things don’t always go to plan. Here’s how to pair, and what to do if things aren’t working as they should.
Make Sure Your Watch and iPhone Are Compatible
watchOS 8 is the latest version of the 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 the Apple Watch Series 3 or later, and the Apple Watch SE. All new Apple Watch models purchased with Apple will ship 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 doesn’t mean they don’t still have utility. Models like the Apple Watch Series 2 should remain compatible with an iPhone 5 or later running iOS 11 and up. You can still do things like log workouts and receive notifications, but you will 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 to plan. All you need to do is turn on the wearable by pressing and holding the side button, then bring it close to your iPhone.
The Watch pairing screen should appear on your iPhone. Choose “Set Up for Myself” or “Set Up for a Family Member” and then use your iPhone’s camera to scan the Watch display.
You’ll be asked whether to set the Watch up as a new Apple Watch or to restore it from a backup. If you’re 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 should do if prompted.
At the end of the setup process you’ll be able to turn on features like Find My and Wi-Fi calling, create a passcode, and decide which apps to install on your Watch. If you have an Apple Watch with cellular you’ll be able to activate it or choose to activate it later (you’ll need a compatible mobile plan for this to work).
Now wait for your iPhone and Watch to sync. Once you’re done you can further customize it using the Watch app on your iPhone.
This setup process applies to brand new Apple Watch models and any Watch models that have been unpaired and erased, ready for use with another iPhone. If you see a Watch face when you turn the Watch on, the Watch is already paired with another iPhone and will need to be erased before you can use it.
No Prompt? Pair Your Watch Manually (or Erase It)
Sometimes, the prompt to pair your Watch with an iPhone doesn’t show up when you turn your Watch on for the first time. Fortunately, you can pair your Watch manually, but you’ll first need to download the free Watch app for iPhone if you don’t already have it.
Make sure the Apple Watch you want to pair is powered on, then launch the Watch app and tap “All Watches” in the top-left corner. Tap on “Add Watch” and follow the setup process.
You can use the “Pair Manually” 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.
If you can’t pair your Watch (or you see a Watch face when you turn it on) then the Watch is likely already paired. You can check under the “All Watches” section of your iPhone to make sure it isn’t already paired with your device.
To pair the Watch again, you’ll need to erase it. If Find My is enabled on the Watch you will need to get the original owner to erase the Watch. They can do this remotely via Find My at iCloud.com or using the Find My app for iPhone. They will then be able to use the “Remove from Account” option to remove the Watch.
A Watch can also be removed 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.
Pair an iPhone With More Than One Apple Watch
You can use your iPhone with more than one Apple Watch using the same steps detailed above. If you don’t see the pairing dialog launch the Watch app, then tap on “All Watches” and select the “Pair New Watch” option.
This is handy if you have more than one Watch with different finishes, if you’re borrowing a spare Watch and don’t want to erase your old one, or if you’re trying a new model out (the Apple Store gives you 14 days to return your undamaged Watch, provided you bring all of the packaging).
While it’s 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 that’s paired with your Apple ID), you will need to unpair it and pair it again. Think of the Apple Watch as an extension of your iPhone, rather than a standalone device.
Apple Watch Won’t Pair? Things You Can Try
There’s a long list of things you can try if your iPhone won’t talk 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 make sure it’s not already paired.
It’s paired if you see anything other than the welcome or pairing screen when you turn it on. If you see a Watch face or invitation to enter a passcode, you’ve got a paired Watch. Return it to the previous owner and get them to unpair it using the Watch app or erase remotely then remove it from their account via iCloud.com or the Find my app.
If you’re sure the Watch is in an “as new” state, the next thing to do is make sure that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are enabled on your iPhone. You can do this by under Settings > Bluetooth or Settings > Wi-Fi, or by swiping down from the top-right corner of the screen to reveal Control Center. You should also make sure that Airplane Mode is disabled too.
You can also try updating your iPhone to the latest version of iOS under Settings > General > Software Update. You’ll need iOS 15 for a watchOS 8 device or iOS 16 for watchOS 9.
If everything is enabled and up to date, restarting your iPhone is worth a shot too. Failing that, you can always take your iPhone and Apple Watch to an Apple Store to get some guidance. Apple shouldn’t charge you unless a device requires a hardware repair, and should be able to guide you in the right direction in terms of getting a fix.
Apple Watch Freezing During Pairing?
You can reset your Apple Watch if it freezes during setup by holding the Digital Crown button down, then tapping on “Reset” when it appears. Once your Apple Watch restarts, begin the pairing process again.
Do More With Your Apple Watch
Check out our top Apple Watch tips and tricks to get the most out of your wearable.