Getting error pairing failed because your Apple Watch couldn’t pair to your iPhone?

One of the most annoying and frustrating error messages Apple Watch users can get is the dreaded “Error Pairing Failed” message.

This error message typically pops up because your Apple Watch could not pair to your iPhone for some reason. Like maybe your iPhone is too far away, or it got disconnected. 

Getting this error message can be frustrating, especially when you do not know what triggered it.

But we’re here to help you determine the issue and how to fix it. Keep reading to learn more. 

Suggested reading:

Check compatibility iPhone out of date apple watch

Successfully pairing your Apple Watch depends on the compatibility between the watchOS and iOS versions.

If you own an older iPhone and purchase a new Apple Watch, it might run a version of watchOS that requires a version of iOS that your iPhone cannot upgrade to. 

For example, if you own an iPhone X, 8,  or older and purchase the latest Apple Watch, you cannot pair the two since the X model and below cannot update beyond iOS 16.

When the problem is compatibility, you often see messages like iPhone out of date or Update watch. 

If you see these messages, it might be time to upgrade your phone or watch to a newer model. If that’s not possible, contact Apple Support or better yet, schedule an appointment at your Apple Store’s Genius Bar–they may be able to downgrade your watch or iPhone to versions that are compatible.

How to fix the Error Pairing Failed issue

When your Apple Watch doesn’t pair to your iPhone, you’ll see the Error Paring Failed message pop up. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Here’s what you can do to fix it. 

Before you start, check if your iPhone runs the latest iOS version available for your model and that your Apple Watch also runs its latest watchOS version. 

Go to Settings > General > Software update to check for any updates.

If your iPhone is out of date and your Apple Watch is a newer model, you may not be able to pair it until you update your iPhone to the latest version of iOS.

Make sure Airplane mode is off and Bluetooth is on Apple Watch Airplane mode

If your watch or iPhone (or both) have Airplane mode on, it stops them communicating, and consequently, they cannot pair. So check Control Center or the Settings app on both devices and make sure Airplane mode is off. If you see it’s on (like this example) tap it to turn it airplane mode off.

Additionally, pairing uses Bluetooth, so open the Settings app on both your watch and phone and verify that you toggled on Bluetooth.

Check for Software Updatesoftware update for Apple Watch

For some users, this issue was a bug from an older version of iOS. So, if you are still experiencing this issue, your best bet is to check to see if your Apple Watch needs an update. 

  1. To check on your Apple Watch, tap on the Settings app.
  2. Then scroll down to General and tap it.
  3. Then select Software Update. If an update is available, connect your watch to WiFi for the fastest way to update your watch, then choose to update your watch.

You can also update your Apple Watch from your iPhone. Open your Watch app and click on General, then select Software Update. If an update is available, go ahead and proceed. 

software update iPhone

To update your iPhone, go to the Settings App. Sometimes, a banner appears at the top that says Software Update Available. You can click on that, and it automatically takes you to update your phone.

If it does not appear, you can still check by scrolling down to General and tapping on Software Update.

If there’s an available update, click on Download and Install, then follow the onscreen instructions to complete the update.

Try pairing againPairing Apple Watch

Typically, when this issue happens, it means that your Apple Watch is somehow disconnected from your iPhone. So, the first step is to try pairing your devices again.

Make sure your iPhone connects to a WiFi or cellular network and that the signal is strong. Your iPhone must maintain a stable wireless connection to pair with your watch.

When the error message pops up, you should see an option to click Start Over. Do that and follow the on-screen instructions. This takes you through the process of re-pairing your devices.

  • If that doesn’t work, check if your WiFi and Bluetooth settings are correct. Try using a 5GHz network if available.
  • Also, make sure Airplane Mode did not get turned on by accident.

If you got disconnected through either of those, that could be why your devices are no longer paired. You can check those settings by swiping up your Apple Watch to access the Control Panel.

Also, make sure your Apple Watch and iPhone are close by. If the proximity of these two devices is too far, that can be the issue, too. When pairing your devices, keeping them side by side is best. 

You should also ensure your Apple Watch is not paired to another device. That could also lead to the error pairing failed message. 

Restart your Apple Watch and iPhone

Whenever you experience any kind of glitch, sometimes restarting your devices can do the trick.

  • To restart your Apple Watch hold down the side button and slide the power off button.
  • To restart your iPhone, press and hold one of the volume buttons and the side power button until the power off slider appears.

When restarting your Apple Watch or iPhone, you should turn your devices off for a minute or two and then turn them back on, starting with your iPhone and then your Apple Watch. 

After restarting your devices, try and see if your Apple Watch wakes when you raise your wrist. 

Hard restart your Apple Watch (forced restart) Apple Watch force restart

If a restart doesn’t work, try to force your Apple Watch to restart–called a hard restart. 

Press and hold both the side button and the Digital Crown simultaneously and maintain this hold until the Apple Logo appears on your watch’s screen.

This process usually takes about 15 seconds but could be as long as 20 seconds (and maybe even more.)

Reset iPhone’s network settings Reser menu options on iPhone

For some users, resetting their iPhone’s network settings did the trick.

  1. To do so, open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down to General and select it. 
  3. Then scroll down to Transfer or Reset iPhone and tap Reset.
  4. Then, you should see Reset Network settings. Tap that, then follow the on-screen instructions to proceed with the reset.

Erase your Apple Watch 

If none of those solutions worked, then it is time for the last resort – resetting your Apple Watch.

If you choose to do this, keep in mind you lose all your Apple Watch’s information unless you do a backup. Backing up your iPhone also backs up your Apple Watch. 

When you reset your Apple Watch instead of unpairing it, Apple’s iCloud Activation Lock protects it. Before you can pair the Apple Watch again, you must enter the Apple ID and password that was used to set it up.

To reset your Apple Watch, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone or the Settings app on your Apple Watch.

  1. Put the Apple Watch on its charger. And verifying it’s charging.
  2. Open the Settings app on your watch, then tap General > Reset.
  3. Tap Erase All Content and Settings, then tap again to confirm. Then, wait for the watch to unpair.
    1. You can also use the Watch app. Open General and scroll down to the bottom to Reset. Tap that. Click on Erase Apple Watch Content and Settings. A message pops up confirming if you want to proceed, so tap Erase Apple Watch Content and Settings again. 
    2. If you have an Apple Watch with a cellular plan, choose Erase All & Keep Plan.
  4. Once your Apple Watch unpairs, pair it again. You’ll need the Apple ID and password that were used to set up the watch. You’ll set up your Apple Watch like a new device or connect to a recent backup, if available.

Using a new or new to you iPhone? Unpair your Apple Watch from your old phone first 

If you upgrading or switching phones, make sure you unpair your Apple Watch from your old iPhone and then pair it to your new phone.

To unpair your Apple Watch, go to the Watch app and select All Watches. Tap on the information icon next to your watch. Then, tap Unpair Apple Watch. APPLE WATCH UNPAIR IN WATCH APP

After that, you’re going to want to pair your Apple Watch with your new iPhone. This typically does the trick!

Is your Apple Watch getting stuck while pairing? 

If your Apple Watch gets stuck on Apple logo while pairing, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold the Digital Crown and the side button simultaneously until your watch restarts.
  2. Once your watch restarts, long press the screen or press and hold the Digital Crown until you see the Reset button.
  3. Tap Reset.
    1. Resetting erases all your watch’s content and returns it to its factory defaults.
  4. Once your watch resets, try pairing it with your iPhone again.

Still not pairing? Contact Apple Support

If your Apple Watch continues to not pair with your iPhone, it’s time to contact Apple Support.

If the watch is new to you and not associated with your Apple ID, make sure you have your Apple Watch’s serial number available.

You can find the serial number engraved in the band slot (or on the back of your watch) or in your list of devices associated with your Apple ID.

  • Open Settings > Apple ID and scroll down to your device list. Then tap your Apple Watch for its information, including the serial number.

You can also find the serial number on the original box and even on the receipt for the Apple Watch if you purchased it directly from Apple.

Final thoughts

Getting the “Error Pairing Failed” message is a common bug and glitch. It has happened to me too.

When I had to fix the error message, the only solution that worked for me was unpairing and re-pairing my Apple Watch. Luckily, I haven’t gotten the error message since then! 

I hope this helps, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask!


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