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How to pair and set up your Apple Watch

Find everything you need to know about the Apple Watch pairing process below.
November 20, 2021
An image of the Apple Watch Series 7 on a table showing the all-apps screen
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

If you’ve finally given into the wearables trend and purchased an Apple Watch, you probably can’t wait to test out its features. But first, you need to pair it to your iPhone. We are here to help with step-by-step instructions on how to pair an Apple Watch, including solutions to common problems. Let’s get started!


The easiest way to pair an Apple Watch is to use your iPhone's camera to scan the Apple Watch's pairing animation when prompted during the setup process. We detail this method below.


How to pair an Apple Watch

To begin, you will need an iPhone 6s or later with iOS 15 or later installed. If you’ve postponed updating your phone for some reason, you will need to do so before attempting to pair your new Apple Watch. If you’ve met these criteria, follow the steps below.

  • Make sure your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi and has Bluetooth turned on.
  • Keep the watch and phone close to each other throughout the whole setup process.
  • Once your Apple Watch is turned on, you will receive an automatic prompt on your iPhone asking you to set up the watch. Press Continue. If the prompt does not appear, you can open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone instead and select Pair New Watch.
  • A screen with a viewfinder and a pairing animation should appear. Hold your Apple Watch up and align it carefully with the viewfinder window on your phone.
apple watch pairing steps
  • After a short period, a message confirming the pairing should appear on the screen.
  • From there, you either select Set Up as New Apple Watch if this is your first Apple Watch or Restore from Backup if you’re upgrading to a new watch or a replacement. Apple may also ask you to update the Watch to a later version of watchOS. If so, follow the onscreen prompts.
  • Next, and importantly, be sure to read through the Terms and Conditions. If you agree, tap Agree.
  • At this point, you might be prompted to sign in with your Apple ID. If not, you can sign in later in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. If the Find My service isn’t enabled on your iPhone, you’ll need to activate Activation Lock.
  • Apple will now ask which features you’d like to enable on your Watch, including Route Tracking, Siri, or a passcode to use Apple Pay. If you already have Diagnostics, Find My, Location Services, and Wi-Fi Calling enabled on your iPhone, these will be switched on on your Watch, too.
  • Once you’ve chosen all your preferences, your Apple Watch will need a couple of minutes to sync. You will receive a chime alert when it’s complete.
  • You should now be able to enjoy all the features your new Apple Watch has to offer.

See also: Everything you need to know about the Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch pairing problems and how to fix them

Unfortunately, things don’t always go smoothly, so if the above steps for pairing an Apple Watch to a phone haven’t worked for you, there are a couple of things you can try.

If you’ve bought a refurbished or second-hand Apple Watch, the previous owner might have not factory reset it properly. You can reset the Apple Watch yourself by going to the Watch Settings menu, then General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. Once you’ve done this, restart the pairing process described above. Additionally, if you see an Activation Lock on your Apple Watch, the watch is still linked to another Apple ID. You’ll need the Apple ID details of the previous owner to activate it.

If you’ve had your Apple Watch for a while, but you’ve recently bought a new iPhone, you shouldn’t rush to factory reset your watch. You can save all your settings and pair it to your new iPhone by using iCloud to back up the iPhone currently paired to your Apple Watch. Then, when setting up your new phone, on the Apps & Data screen, you can select Restore from an iCloud Backup. Once your setup is complete, you should receive a prompt on your Apple Watch to pair it to your new iPhone. Tap OK and enter your passcode if you have one. You should then be able to use your old watch with your new phone without any issues.

If your Apple Watch refuses to switch on, you may need to charge it. Insert your charging cable into a USB port or another power source. Then, place the Apple Watch onto the charger. You’ll feel a pull from the magnets in the charger. Depending on how old your Apple Watch is, it will take at least an hour to charge your device entirely.

Your Apple Watch might be invisible to your phone. In this case, restart your iPhone and Apple Watch before running through the pairing procedure once more. Be sure to double-check that your phone has the latest version of iOS installed and that your phone is compatible, too.

See also: The most common Apple Watch problems and solutions

Unpairing your Apple Watch

Apple Watch 6 rests on an iPhone 11 displaying reset screen
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

If any insurmountable problems do arise, unpairing and repairing your Apple Watch may be the only course of action. Luckily, this usually solves a lot of them:

  • Make sure your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi and has Bluetooth turned on.
  • Keep the watch and phone close to each other throughout the unpairing process.
  • Open the Apple Watch app on your phone.
  • Tap All Watches, then find the watch you would like to unpair.
  • Tap on the i (info) symbol next to the watch, then select Unpair Apple Watch.

If you own an LTE model, you can also choose to remove your cellular plan if you’re not planning to pair your Apple Watch with your iPhone again.

Importantly, Apple recommends that you remove any transit cards stored in the Wallet app on your Apple Watch before unpairing it. You can do this by heading to the Apple Watch app on your phone, then My Watch tab > Wallet & Apple Pay > Express transit cards.

Pairing to other devices

If you don’t own an iPhone but are partial to iPads, we are sorry to say there’s still no way to pair the Apple Watch with the iPad series. Of course, this might change in the future, and if it does, we will be sure to let you know.

Android fans might also be asking themselves if their smartphones are compatible with Apple’s wearable. The short answer is no. If you want the whole Apple Watch experience, you’ll need an iPhone. Luckily, there are plenty of smartwatches and fitness trackers that work well with Android devices.

That’s it — you now know the ins and outs of pairing an Apple Watch. Have tips of your own? Please share them with us in the comments.