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How to pair and unpair an Apple Watch

This quick how-to will teach you the right way to pair and unpair your Apple Watch from your iPhone.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer on
How to pair and unpair Apple Watch
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Pairing an Apple Watch to 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.  

How to pair an Apple Watch

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

Turn on your Apple Watch by pressing button on side

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

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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.

The screen on your Apple Watch indicates to hold it close to your iPhone during pairing mode

The screen on your Apple Watch indicates to hold it close to your iPhone during pairing mode

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Step 2: Hold iPhone close to Apple Watch until recognized

Hold iPhone close to Apple Watch until a message appears on your iPhone
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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

Step 3: Tap set up for Myself

Step 3: Tap on Set up for Myself
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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

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

Step 4: Scan animation on Apple Watch
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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 set up manually and follow the prompts.

Apple Watch scanned on iPhone

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

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Step 5: Wait until the Apple Watch is paired

Step 5: Wait until Watch is paired
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Once the Apple Watch and iPhone are paired, this screen 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. 

How to unpair Apple Watch

How to unpair Apple Watch

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

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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. Failing to unpair your watch from your phone and simply restoring it to factory settings on the watch itself will 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. 

To unpair your Apple Watch completely from your iPhone and Apple ID, you'll need to do it through your iPhone. 

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

Hold Apple Watch close to iPhone
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Step 2: Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone

Go into the Apple Watch app on your iPhone
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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

Select All Watches

Select All Watches at the top left corner

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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

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

Tap on Info button

Tap on the Info button to the right of your watch, this will let you access your options

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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

Step 5: Tap unpair Apple Watch

Step 5: Select Unpair
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Step 6: Tap unpair again to confirm

Step 6: Confirm Unpair
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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

Step 7: Enter Apple ID password and tap unpair again

Step 7: Enter Apple ID Password
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

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

Apple Watch is unpairing

Apple Watch is unpairing

Image: 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.

FAQs

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 to your iPhone, so you want to unpair it from your iPhone itself to prevent this.

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 (if it was lost, stolen, etc.) to do so, 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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