Apple Watch shows contacts phone numbers instead of names?

Contacts app on Apple Watch shows phone number and not name

If you’re like me, you no longer know most of your friends and family’s phone numbers (and maybe even your own.) That’s because our smartphones and devices do such a good job of keeping all that information in one place. 

So, if you see numbers instead of names in apps like Messages and Phone, it’s really confusing, especially when you don’t recognize the number and don’t know who is calling or texting you.

Missing contact names not only messes you up on who’s calling or texting but also prevents Siri from doing their job. 

If your Apple Watch isn’t showing names, we have a few troubleshooting steps to quickly get everything back to normal.

So, let’s get to it!

In a hurry?Updated in a hurry

Don’t have a lot of time? Then, check out our top three recommended tips.

  1. Restart or force restart your Apple Watch and iPhone–especially if you just updated watchOS or iOS (or both.)
  2. Toggle iCloud Contacts app syncing off and on on your paired iPhone.
  3. Resync your watch’s Contact App data in the Watch app.

Is your Apple Watch not showing contact names? Look at your watch’s settings

There are a lot of reasons why the Contacts app isn’t showing names–from recent software updates to syncing problems and even issues with new third-party app installs. 

Before jumping into some troubleshooting steps, check the following:

  1. Make sure that Airplane Mode is off. Open Control Center and verify it’s off.
  2. Your Apple Watch has Bluetooth on. Go to Settings > Bluetooth. Scroll down, and if needed, toggle Bluetooth on. Toggle Bluetooth on Apple Watch
  3. Your watch is connected to WiFi–preferably the same WiFi network as your iPhone. Apple Watch WiFi only mode
  4. Open Control Center and confirm your Apple Watch connects to your iPhone. When connected, you see a green phone icon at the top of your screen. icons fro Apple Watch connection to iPhone for connected or disconnected
    1. If you see a red iPhone icon or red x, your watch isn’t connected to your iPhone. Move your phone and watch closer together and verify Bluetooth and WiFi are on for both your watch and iPhone.
  5. Review the accounts that send contact information to the Contacts app. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Contacts > Accounts. Look through each account you want contact information to sync to your iPhone, and make sure you toggle on Contacts. third party account info for mail, contacts, calendars, and notes for syncing with iPhone
    1. If you don’t want a listed account to sync anything (including Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Notes), press Delete Account to remove that account from syncing with your iPhone.

Once you check all of the above, restart your watch by pressing and holding the side button, tapping the power icon, and sliding to power off. Then, wait a few moments before pressing the side button to turn your watch back on.

Turn on iCloud to force your watch to sync your contacts

When your contacts suddenly start showing up as phone numbers instead of names, it’s often a syncing issue with iCloud.

Before starting, ensure that iCloud servers are online with no issues. Check Apple’s System Status site for details. If everything is working, it says all systems are operational. If there are issues, tap on the notice to find out more. Apple System Status mobile site all operational

Once you confirm Apple’s servers are working normally, visit your Contacts app iCloud settings:

  1. Go to Settings > your Apple ID > iCloud on your paired iPhone. iPhone Apple ID Settings
  2. Choose Show All to see all connected apps. iPhone Apple ID settings and iCloud settings
  3. Scroll down to the Contacts app. If it isn’t on, turn it on.Contacts app on iPhone Apple ID iCloud settings for Apps Using iCloud
  4. If it is already on, toggle it off. When asked what to do with previously synced iCloud contacts, choose Delete from My iPhone. Delete iCloud Contacts from iPhone to force them to resync
    1. Then, restart your phone and turn iCloud Contacts back on to force your contacts to sync back to your iPhone. Syncing contacts can take a few minutes to complete. 
  5. Wait a few moments and check your watch. A restart also refreshes your watch’s data.

Check the Watch app Contacts app sync settings

By default, the contacts on your Apple Watch automatically sync when you pair your Watch and iPhone. And the contacts’ order and structure usually mirror your iPhone.

However, it’s possible that these settings changed, so let’s look into that.

  • Open the Watch app on your paired iPhone and select My Watch > Contacts.
  • It should be set to Mirror my Phone. Apple Watch Mirror My iPhone for Contacts app
  • If you’d rather customize your watch’s Contact app, select Custom, review the sort and display order, and check the short name information. Apple Watch contacts app custom settings in Watch app on iPhone

Resync your watch’s contact data

This step does not work for standalone Apple Watches set up using Apple’s Family Setup. You cannot force sync data on these watches since they are not directly paired to an iPhone.

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone and tap the My Watch tab. iPhone Watch app My Watch tab
  2. Choose General, then Reset. reset options like reset sync data for Apple Watch in the Watch app on iPhone
  3. Tap Reset Sync Data. It may seem like tapping this button does nothing. But it works in the background to erase all contacts (and calendars) from your watch and then re-syncs with your iPhone. This process could take up to 30 minutes to complete.

Unpair and re-pair your watch

If your watch’s apps still show your contact’s phone numbers instead of their names AND your iPhone shows their names, unpairing and re-pairing your watch should fix this issue.

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone and tap the All Watches at the top.
  2. Tap the “i” icon next to the watch having this issue. Apple Watch All Watches info in the iPhone Watch app
  3. Choose Unpair Apple Watch. Apple Watch unpair using the Watch app on iPhone
  4. If asked, enter your password and confirm you want to unpair the watch. Then, wait for the unpairing process to complete. 
    1. When you unpair your watch, Apple automatically creates a backup of your watch.
  5. Once unpairing finishes, start the pairing process and choose to restore from your recent backup.

Final thoughts

We hope these tips did the trick for you!

Let us know in the comments if you discovered something we missed in fixing this Apple Watch contacts issue.

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A. Beth Whittenberger
I started my love affair with computers way back in elementary school with the Apple II. Since then, I've worked with technology in my career as a media educator and videomaker. I have an MFA in media making from Temple University, where I also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member. Additionally, I was a writer, content producer, and editor on the popular tech blog AppleToolBox. So I know a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides! After a cancer diagnosis, I turned to mobile technology like my Apple Watch to help me monitor my health throughout my chemotherapy treatment and later, to regain my wellness once in remission. I love sharing how to understand and use mobile tech, like smartwatches and phones, as a tool for empowerment to live our best and healthiest lives! Connect with me on LinkedIn!


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