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How to unpair and pair an Apple Watch

This quick how-to will teach you the right way to pair your Apple Watch with your iPhone, and how to unpair it.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Apple Watch on a display bar
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Pairing an Apple Watch with your iPhone has become a seamless process over the years. Apple has made it so all its devices recognize each other quickly to give customers a smooth user experience. Unpairing an Apple Watch can, however, present more challenges. So, we'll cover how to pair and unpair the right way.

Read on to first learn how to unpair your Apple Watch. If you need to pair an Apple Watch, scroll down to find those instructions. 

Also: How to AirPlay to a TV

How to unpair an Apple Watch

If you want to upgrade to a new Apple Watch and reset your current one before selling it or gifting it to someone else, you'll need to unpair it from your iPhone first. 

Also: How to turn your old devices into Amazon gift cards

If you were to restore your Apple Watch to factory settings without first unpairing it from your iPhone, that would trigger Activation Lock because your Apple ID and phone will still be associated with the watch (more details on this in the FAQ section below). This is a headache you don't want to deal with and totally did not happen to me once while exchanging an Apple Watch at Best Buy. 

Step 1: Place iPhone and Apple Watch close to each other

To unpair your Apple Watch from your iPhone, hold or place the two devices near each other.

Apple Watch and iPhone on stands next to each other
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 2: Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone

Tap on the Watch app to open it on your iPhone.

Touching the Apple Watch app icon
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 3: Tap All Watches on the top left of your screen

This will give you a snapshot of all the Apple Watches associated with your Apple ID. Find the one you'd like to unpair.

Arrow pointing to All Watches

Select All Watches at the top left corner.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 4: Tap on the Info button next to the watch to unpair

An info button will be visible on your iPhone, to the right of the Apple Watch you want to unpair.

Arrow pointing to the Info button on the iPhone

Tap on the Info button to the right of the listing for your watch.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 5: Tap unpair Apple Watch

The last option on the settings for the Apple Watch you selected should be Unpair Apple Watch. 

Box and arrow showing Unpair Apple Watch button on screen
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 6: Tap unpair again to confirm

A confirmation prompt will appear at the bottom of your screen; tap Unpair Apple Watch again.

Box and arrow indicating confirmation prompt at bottom of screen

Confirm unpairing.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 7: Enter Apple ID password and tap unpair again

At this point, you'll need to enter your Apple ID password as a security measure to unlink your Apple Watch from it. 

Unpair button at upper right and password entry field
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

A backup of your Apple Watch data and settings will be created, which is helpful if you want to reset your Apple Watch and not lose your data or if you're upgrading to a new Apple Watch.

iPhone and Apple Watch on stands, iPhone screen saying Unpairing Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is unpairing.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

How to pair an Apple Watch

Apple Watch and iPhone on stands next to each other

Now, let's cover how to unpair your Apple Watch.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Before trying to pair your Apple Watch, it's a good idea to make sure your iPhone's iOS version is up-to-date by checking your settings. Once you've done that, ensure that Bluetooth is turned on and you're connected to a network: either Wi-Fi or cellular.

Step 1: Turn on your Apple Watch

Press and hold the side button on the Apple Watch to turn it on. A screen will appear showing the Apple Watch is in pairing mode and instructing you to bring it close to the iPhone you'd like to pair it with.

Pressing the side button of the Apple Watch while it's next to the iPhone

Make sure your Apple Watch is turned on and near your iPhone.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 2: Hold iPhone close to Apple Watch until recognized

A message will come up on your iPhone when the smartphone recognizes the Apple Watch nearby. Just tap Continue.

iPhone and Apple Watch on stands, screens showing instructions

Hold the iPhone close to the Apple Watch until a message appears on your iPhone.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 3: Tap the Set Up for Myself option

The option to set up for someone else, like a family member, is also available.

Apple Watch and iPhone next to each other with Set Up for Myself option indicated
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 4: Point camera at the animation on the Apple Watch

An animation will appear on your Apple Watch that you must scan with your iPhone to complete the pairing process. If you can't use the camera for some reason, just tap the option to set it up manually and follow the prompts.

Hands pointing at the Apple Watch while the iPhone screen shows a square to scan it in
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

You can see I'm holding the Apple Watch behind the iPhone to scan the animation.

Apple Watch scanned on iPhone

Position the Apple Watch face so that the screen fits into the designated area.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Step 5: Wait until the Apple Watch is paired

Once the Apple Watch and iPhone are paired, the screen shown in the following picture will come up. Next, you'll be prompted to finish setting it up, which will allow you to customize your preferences, install new apps, and begin using your Apple Watch.

Message on the iPhone saying that the Apple Watch is paired, while Apple Watch shows a similar pattern
Maria Diaz/ZDNET


What is Activation Lock?

Activation lock is a security feature on your Apple Watch (and other Apple devices) that prevents someone from using your watch in the event it gets lost or stolen. If you do a factory reset on the Apple Watch itself, it will continue to be linked to your Apple ID and paired with your iPhone, so you want to unpair it from your iPhone before resetting it to prevent this.

Also: How to factory-reset an iPhone

Should I unpair my old Apple Watch before pairing a new one?

If you're upgrading to a newer Apple Watch, you'll need to unpair your old one from your iPhone, unless you decide to keep using both watches.

How do I unpair my Apple Watch without my iPhone?

If you're ever in a situation where you need to unpair your Apple Watch but don't have your phone (such as if it was lost or stolen), you can simply go to iCloud and log in with your Apple ID, then go to Settings and remove your Apple Watch under My Devices. This will prevent Activation Lock just like the in-person unpairing process above.

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