Apple Watch won’t pair because iPhone is out of date?

iPhone out of date apple watch

Are you getting an error message saying your Apple Watch won’t pair because your iPhone is outdated and requires a newer version of iOS? This error can happen to anyone, especially when Apple releases a major iOS update.

But this can also happen due to compatibility between the Apple Watch and iPhone versions. In particular, if your iPhone is a much older model and can no longer support the iOS version your Watch model requires. 

Well, we’re here to help you fix the matter at hand. So keep reading to see how to resolve this issue.

In a hurry? in a hurry graphic

Don’t have a lot of time? Then, check out our recommended tip summary.

  • Update your iPhone to the latest version of iOS available for your model.
  • Restart or force restart your iPhone and watch.
  • Unpair your Apple Watch and then go through the setup steps again.
  • Contact Apple Support.

Suggested Reading:

Check watch and iPhone compatibility 

One of the main reasons people see this error message is when your iPhone is an older model like the iPhone 6/6+ or below, while your Apple Watch is either a newer model or runs a version of watchOS that your iPhone’s iOS cannot support. 

It’s a little confusing!

For example, if you currently own an iPhone 6 Plus and get a new Apple Watch Series 3, your watch will need the latest iOS to work. However, the iPhone 6 Plus runs iOS 12 and below and cannot be updated to the newest iOS.

If you’re gifted a used Apple Watch from a family or friend, that Apple Watch must run watchOS 5 or below to work with an iPhone 6 Plus. If that watch was updated by the previous owner to watchOS 6 or above, it cannot work with your iPhone 6 Plus and iOS 12.

If this is your situation, we recommend you follow the guidance we outline in the section Contact Apple Support.

It’s a good idea to take a look at Apple’s latest guidance on watch and iPhone compatibility by reviewing the technical specifications for your Apple Watch model. Be sure to read the fine print, that information is often there.

Update your iPhone

iphone out of date error

Before you start to panic, check to see if you can update your iPhone to the newest version of iOS. 

If your phone can get the new update, great! Go ahead and update it. Once you update your iPhone, your Apple Watch should pair again.

You can update your iPhone in the Settings app or by plugging it into your computer.

To update your iPhone from the Settings app:

  1. Plug it in to charge and connect to WiFi.
  2. Then go to Settings, select General, and tap Software Update. setting for updating software iOS on iPhone
  3. Tap Download and Install.

To update your iPhone from a computer:

  1. Plug your iPhone into your computer. If you are using any Mac, your iPhone will pop up in Finder. If you are using a PC, you’ll need to open iTunes to update your phone.
  2. Once your iPhone is connected, click on Settings and Check for Update.
  3. Then click on Download and Update

If you didn’t have any luck updating your iPhone, then you need to keep this in mind:

watchOS 6 is not compatible with any models earlier than an iPhone 6s. SO you need at least an iPhone 6s to use your Apple Watch.

Also, you cannot downgrade an Apple Watch’s watchOS once you updated it. So if you haven’t updated your Apple Watch and don’t have the proper phone to go with it, do not update it.

But, if you have an iPhone 6s or a later model and you still see that error message, you should follow these next steps.

Restart your iPhone slide to power off your iPhone

To restart an iPhone X, 11, or 12:

  1. Hold down the volume button and the side button until the Power Off button appears.
  2. Slide the Power Off button and let your phone rest for 30 seconds before you turn it on again.
  3. Then press and hold the side button until you see the Apple logo. Once you see the Apple logo, your phone should turn back on.

To restart your iPhone 8, 7, 6, or SE (2nd Generation):

  1. Press the side button until you see the Power Off button pop up.
  2. Slide the Power Off button and wait 30 seconds before you turn it on again.
  3. After that, press and hold the side button until you see the Apple logo appear. It should turn on right after that.

Restart your Apple Watch how to restart the apple watch (not forced restart)

  1. Press and hold the side button until you see the Power Off slider.
  2. Slide the Power Off slider to the right.
  3. Once your watch turns off, press and hold the side button again until you see the Apple logo on-screen.

If you restarted your device and still see the error message, then try this next step.

Force restart your iPhone iPhone force restart

To force restart iPhone 8, SE (2nd Generation), X Series, 11, or 12:

  1. Press and quickly release the volume up button, the volume down button, and the side button.
  2. When the Apple logo appears, let go.

To force restart iPhone 7:

  1. Press and hold both the volume down button and the Sleep/Wake button at the same time.
  2. When the Apple logo appears, release both buttons.

To force restart iPhone 6s:

  1. Press and hold both the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button at the same time.
  2. When the Apple logo appears, let go of both buttons.

If a force restart doesn’t work, then try this last step.

Force restart your Apple Watch force restart an apple watch

  1. Press and hold both the side button and Digital Crown until you see the Apple logo on-screen, then release both buttons.

Unpair Apple Watch

unpair apple watch iPhone

  1. To unpair your Apple Watch, go to the Watch app and select All Watches. All Watches button in Watch app for iPhone
  2. Tap on the “i” information icon next to your watch. 
  3. Then you click on Unpair Apple Watch.
  4. After that, you’re going to want to pair it with your iPhone again.

Contact Apple Support

If you purchased or were gifted a new Apple Watch that’s incompatible with your current iPhone model and iOS and you’ve tried all the steps above, reach out to Apple Support.

Explain to Apple that you received an Apple Watch but you can’t pair it to your iPhone because it requires a newer iOS version that your iPhone cannot update to.

Ask Apple politely to downgrade your Apple Watch’s watchOS to a version that is compatible with your iPhone’s iOS. Make sure you specify what model iPhone you have AND what iOS version your iPhone currently runs.

Find your iPhone’s model and iOS information in Settings > General > About. Look at Software Version and Model Name. iPhone information for model and software iOS version

In certain instances, Apple Support will agree to help you. You’ll need to send in your Apple Watch for them to perform the downgrade.

Summary

If your iPhone says it’s out of date and your Apple Watch won’t pair, that doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy the latest model.

There’s almost always a workaround, especially if you’re the type of person who uses their device until they no longer function. Hopefully, this guide has helped you!

I'm a content writer with a passion for all things lifestyle having earned my Bachelor of Science in journalism from St. John's University. I was born and raised in Southern California. My Apple Watch never leaves my wrist, but I also adore Fitbit. I love all things health tech, including fitness and self-care apps. When I'm not writing, I enjoy traveling, reading, and drinking iced coffee!

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