Is your Apple Watch not pairing to a new iPhone? Fix it!

Apple Watch pairing animation

One thing I really look forward to each year (or two) is upgrading my iPhone to Apple’s latest model! I love checking out all the new features and capabilities of the latest model.

But one thing I don’t look forward to is trying to get my older model Apple Watch paired with the new iPhone. Sometimes the process of transferring my Apple Watch from my old iPhone to my new one is seamless, but other times, it’s not!

This article focuses on problems you might encounter when you experience problems pairing your older Apple Watch when upgrading to a new iPhone model.

Related reading

Pairing your Apple Watch to a new iPhone

Before you start, the key is whether you still have your old iPhone or not. You need to follow a different series of steps if you don’t have your old iPhone with you versus if you do still have your old iPhone.

Before you start, make sure of the following:

  1. Your Apple ID and password to turn off your Apple Watch’s Activation Lock.
  2. Know your Apple Watch’s passcode (if it has one.)
  3. On your old iPhone and Watch, check that Airplane Mode is off and that WiFi and Bluetooth are on.
  4. Charge your Apple Watch and iPhone(s) to 50 percent or more before starting and keep all devices on their chargers so they are connected to power throughout the process.

We assume you are starting with a new, fresh from the factory iPhone that you have not set up. If you see the “Hello” screen when you turn on your new iPhone, then it’s in its factory setting. iPhone hello welcome screen

If you already set up your new iPhone and you cannot pair it to your old Apple Watch, we suggest you factory reset your iPhone and go through these steps again.

Upgrading to a new iPhone? Use Apple’s Prepare for new iPhone feature iPhone prepare for new iPhone automatic checklist

If your old iPhone uses iOS15+, there’s an awesome checklist feature for iCloud called Prepare for New iPhone that automatically walks you through the steps of making sure everything is ready for when you get your new iPhone, including getting all your app data ready for transferring and checking your trade-in status.

Plus, it works even if you don’t have a paid iCloud subscription or enough iCloud storage to backup all your important data! This feature gives you free and temporary access (about 2-3 weeks) to enough iCloud storage to seamlessly backup and transfer your old iPhone’s data to your new iPhone.

This new feature makes switching from an old model to a new model even easier! 

Find Prepare for New iPhone in your iPhone’s Settings app

  1. Tap General > Transfer or Reset iPhone.transfer or reset iPhone in Settings app
  2. Select Get Started.
  3. Your phone runs through a series of steps to prepare your phone for its transfer. If it discovers any issues like you aren’t backing up apps to iCloud, it lets you know so can add those apps’ data to your iCloud backup. app data not included in iCloud prepare for new iPhone feature
  4. Once complete, you see a message letting you know you’re ready for your new iPhone. Confirmation of iCloud Prepare for new iPhone feature with steps for trading in old iPhone

How to pair your Apple Watch with your new iPhone if you still have your old phone

  1. Ideally, update your old iPhone so it’s on the same operating system as your new iPhone. Go to Settings > General > Software Update.
    1. If you are updating a much older iPhone, you likely won’t be able to update to the latest iOS version. In that case, update it to the latest version available for your iPhone model.
  2. Using your old iPhone, update your Apple Watch to the latest watchOS available. Go to the Watch app > My Watch > General > Software Update. iPhone watch app software update
  3. Save your old iPhone’s health and other data to iCloud or your computer.
    1. If you back up using iCloud, go to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud and toggle on Health and any other apps you wish to save data from. iCloud settings on iPhone toggle on Health app
    2. If you back up using your computer, choose to encrypt your backup to save your Health data
  4. Backup your old iPhone using iCloud’s Back Up Now feature (Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > iCloud Backup > Back Up Now) or your computer (via Finder app or iTunes, depending on what macOS or OS X version your Mac uses.) iPhone iCloud Backup Now
  5. Set up your new iPhone using iOS Quick Start’s Automatic Setup.
    1. Turn on your new iPhone and place it next to your old iPhone. Wait for the Quick Start screen to appear. Quick start automatic setup for iPhone
    2. Follow the on-screen steps to start the data migration from the old iPhone to the new one. If your old iPhone uses iOS 12.4+, you can choose to transfer data via iCloud or connect a cable between the two devices for fast data migration (called device-to-device migration.)Appel quick Start setup transfer data from old iPhone to new iPhone including Apple Watch settings and data
    3. Follow the steps on the screen for your chosen migration method. When asked, choose to use your Apple Watch with your new iPhone. set up Apple Watch with new iPhone using Apple Quick Start
    4. Keep your devices near each other and plugged in until the migration process completes. 
    5. Follow the on-screen steps to finish your new iPhone setup.

Once this setup process completes, your Apple Watch should work with your new iPhone.

Quick Start didn’t ask if you want to use your Apple Watch during setup? Pair Apple Watch with new iPhone on screen message

With your Apple Watch and iPhone close together and still on their chargers, open the  Watch app on your iPhone.

  • If it asks you to confirm that you want to use your watch, follow the onscreen steps to finish setting up.
  • If it asks you to Start Pairing after setting up your new phone, unpair your Apple Watch from your old iPhone, and then pair it with your new iPhone using the Watch app.

During the pairing process, restore your Apple Watch from its recent backup. Or if you want to start fresh, set it up as new. 

Is your Apple Watch not showing up on the new iPhone? 

If your watch isn’t showing up as paired to your new iPhone, check your old iPhone to see if it remains paired there. unpair apple watch from iPhone, whether you have the iPhone or not!

When it shows as still paired to your old phone, unpair the watch from the old iPhone and then manually pair it with your new iPhone using the Watch app.

If that still doesn’t work, factory reset your Apple Watch via the watch’s Settings app > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. erase all content and settings on apple watch

Then, unpair the watch from the old iPhone.

This process erases all your watch’s data, so you won’t have a recent backup. But you should be able to pair it with your new iPhone.

If you continue to have problems with pairing to your new iPhone, it’s likely that the Apple Watch still has Apple’s Activation Lock turned on. In that case, try to turn off your watch’s Activation Lock remotely.

Unfortunately, you must erase your Apple Watch to remove its activation lock.

  1. On a computer, open Apple iCloud’s website and sign in with your Apple ID. 
  2. Open the Find iPhone app. Find My app on Apple's iCloud website
  3. Select All Devices and choose your Apple Watch. iCloud Find My app devices list
  4. Tap Erase Apple Watch. iCloud Find My app erase a device
  5. Select the X button next to your Apple Watch to remove it from its activation lock and your Apple ID. This deletes the Apple Watch from your list of devices.
  6. Open the Watch app on your new iPhone and start the pairing process.

How to pair your Apple Watch with your new iPhone if you don’t have your old phone

First, the good news: if you forgot or didn’t unpair your Watch from your old iPhone and no longer have the old iPhone or erased it back to factory settings, you can still get your Apple Watch paired and working with your new iPhone!

Now the bad news: you need to erase your Apple Watch and won’t retain any of its data unless you have a backup already available. That includes your health and activity data.

  1. Erase your Apple Watch by tapping Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. 
    1. Cellular models must choose to keep or remove your cellular plan. We recommend keeping it unless you are changing numbers or carriers. apple watch cellular plan erase options
  2. Turn on and start setting up your new iPhone. Sign in to your Apple ID and iCloud account and follow all the on-screen steps to complete your new iPhone setup.
  3. Once you finish setting up your new iPhone, open the Watch app and pair your watch with your new iPhone. Pair Apple Watch Animation-min
  4. See if you have a recent watch backup available and select that backup. If you don’t have a backup, set up your Apple Watch as new. restore an apple watch from a backup
  5. Follow the steps in the Watch app to finish setting up.

Can’t pair with your Apple Watch on the new iPhone? 

If you erased your Apple Watch but you cannot get it to pair with your new iPhone or it doesn’t show up, it’s likely that the watch is still tied to your old iPhone and has Apple’s activation lock enabled.

So we need to remove your watch’s Activation Lock remotely using Apple’s iCloud website.

  1. On a computer, open Apple iCloud’s website and sign in with your Apple ID. 
  2. Open the Find iPhone app.
  3. Select All Devices and choose your Apple Watch.
  4. Tap Erase Apple Watch.
  5. Select the X button next to your Apple Watch to remove it from its activation lock and your Apple ID. This deletes the Apple Watch from your list of devices.
  6. Open the Watch app on your new iPhone and start the pairing process.

Wrap up

Hopefully, you successfully paired your Apple Watch with your new iPhone using these troubleshooting tips.

If things still aren’t working for you or if something else did the job, please let us know in our comments section. We love hearing from you and sharing what works with our readers.

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. 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!

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