Notify when left behind notifications not working or showing up on iPhone or Apple Watch?

Apple Watch left behind notification

This situation happens way too many times than I care to admit: I leave my home or workplace forgetting that my iPhone is sitting on its charger or is next to my bed on the nightstand. And of course, I don’t even realize it until I am too far away to turn around and pick it up.

If only my Apple Watch alerted me that my iPhone isn’t nearby before I was miles away! 

The good news is that with iOS 15 and watchOS 8 and above, Apple finally releases a Notify When Left Behind feature that does just that! This feature shows a separation notification on your Apple Watch, letting you know when you are away from your iPhone so you can quickly turn back and get it. 

And it works for other devices, too, like your iPad or AirTagged products.

Sadly and surprisingly, it does not work for AirPods, and the notifications only appear when you’re more than 300+ feet away from the device you left behind. That usually means you are already on your way and need to turn around to get your device back. So, yeah, it’s not perfect.

Unfortunately, this feature does not always work or shows up as not supported. This short article helps you troubleshoot when Notify When Left Behind is either grayed out, not working or unsupported.

For those wanting a deep dive into how to set it up, see this article instead: How to get a left behind notification when you forget your iPhone, Apple Watch, AirTagged item, or other(s).

In a hurry? in a hurry graphic

If time is short and you don’t need a thorough step-by-step, follow these quick instructions to get Notify When Left Behind notifications working on your Apple devices and items!

  • Update to at least iOS/iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, and macOS Monterey and keep updating as new software updates become available. And update the firmware for AirTags and other Find My network supported items.
  • Make sure you use the same Apple ID for each device and item. Left behind notifications do not work on devices shared in a family sharing plan that are signed in with a different family member’s Apple ID.
  • Check that you turned on Find My in your iCloud settings.
  • Not all devices support Notify When Left Behind, especially older models. Devices with the U1 chip support these notifications consistently.
  • Make sure you do not have Do Not Disturb or another Focus turned on.
  • Toggle Notify When Left Behind off and on.
  • Remove all locations from your list of location exceptions.

Related reading

Use the same Apple ID on your devices

You must sign in with the same Apple ID to get Notify When Left Behind notifications for Apple AirTagged items and Apple devices.

At this time, you cannot turn on Notify When Left Behind notifications for devices that are part of your family but signed in under another family member’s Apple ID.

Find your device list in your iPhone’s Settings > Apple ID. Apple ID is at the top of the Settings app on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Scroll down to see all devices associated with your Apple ID. Apple ID sign out on iPhone in Settings app

Check iCloud’s Find My sync setting

If you use multiple Apple devices, check your iCloud settings on each device to make sure that you toggled on Find My.

  1. In your device’s Apple ID settings, tap iCloud.
  2. Scroll down to Find My app and toggle it on if it’s off. If it’s already on, toggle it off and wait for 10-20 seconds. Then, toggle it back on. Find My app iCloud settings

Check that your device supports Notify When Left Behind notifications

Devices that have the U1 chip consistently support these notifications. Currently, that includes AirTags, iPhones 11 and above, and the Apple Watch Series 6 and above. 

Devices that don’t include the U1 chip inconsistency support left behind notifications.

We found that we are more likely to turn on these separation notifications on newer iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. For example, I could enable Notify When Left Behind on my iPhone 12 and iPad Pro (2019) but not on my Apple Watch Series 3 (2018.)

Although you cannot enable Notify When Left Behind notifications for devices that don’t include the U1 chip, you can still receive left behind notifications on those devices.

Okay, that’s confusing so let me break it down.

I can toggle on Notify When Left Behind notifications for my iPhone 12, but I cannot toggle it on for my old Apple Watch Series 3–it shows up as “not supported.” Older Apple Watch doesn't support Notify When Left BehindEven though I can’t turn it on for the watch, I still get notifications on my watch if I leave my iPhone 12 behind and my AirTagged items. Apple Watch notifications for Find Items and Find Devices apps

Verify your operating system supports Notify When Left Behind notifications and update, if available

This feature requires that you run WatchOS 8 and above on your Apple Watch, iOS 15, or iPadOS 15 and later for your iPhone and iPad and that your Mac runs macOS Monterey and higher.

So first, check if there is an update for your devices: update Apple Watch via the iPhone Watch app

  • For Apple Watch, open Settings > General > Software Update. Using the iPhone’s Watch app, you can also update your watch via My Watch tab > General > Software Update.
  • For iPhone and iPad, open Settings > General > Software Update.
  • For Macs, go to System Preferences > Software Update.

If an update is available, backup your device and then update its software. Backing up ensures that your data is safely stored, just in case there are any problems with the update.

At this time, the only way to back up your Apple Watch is to unpair it, which automatically creates a backup and then re-pair it and restore it from that most recent backup.

For AirTags, check if they run the latest firmware. 

  • This isn’t as easy as it should be.  You need to open Find My and choose the Items tab. Find items for AirTags in iPhone Find My app
  • Then, choose your AirTagged item. Then, tap on the blank space next to the AirTag’s name to review its firmware version. How to find AirTags firmware version
  • You cannot manually update this firmware. Place your AirTag near your iPhone, and if an update is available, it should automatically update.

Although you can still use older operating systems on your devices, only those devices you update to the versions listed above allow you to activate Notify When Left Behind.

When you use an older device that runs an older operating system, the Notify When Left Behind setting is off, grayed out, and may also list the device as “not supported.” Find My app Notify When Left Behind Notifications grayed out and off or not supported

Check your Focus (do not disturb) settings custom focus in do not disturb on Apple Watch

It’s always a good idea to make sure that you receive notifications and verify that you don’t have Do Not Disturb or another Focus like Sleep active.

For iPhones and iPads

  • For Focus settings, swipe down Control Center and tap Focus. It might list as Sleep, Do Not Disturb, Driving, Work, Personal, Fitness, or another custom setting. If any Focus is on, tap it once to turn it off. iPhone Focus Settings

For Apple Watch

  • For Focus settings, swipe up Control Center and check that you didn’t activate any Focus, including Do Not Disturb, Sleep, Driving, or another custom setting. If any Focus is on, tap it once to turn it off. Apple Watch new updated Do Not Disturb feature called Focus

For Mac

  • For Focus settings, open Control Center and verify that you do not have a Focus active. If any Focus is on, tap it once to turn it off.Focus settings on Mac

Toggle Notify When Left Behind notifications off and on

Sometimes all you need to do is refresh your setting by turning the feature off, waiting for a few seconds, and turning it back on.

This tip particularly works when you recently updated your device’s operating system (watchOS, iOS/iPadOS, or macOS) and the feature stopped working.

How to refresh Notify When Left Behind notifications

For iPhone and iPad, open the Find My app. 

  1. Choose the Devices (for watches, iPhones, Macs, or iPad) or Items (for AirTags and Find My Network supported products) tab at the bottom. Find My app devices or items tab
  2. Select the device or item that you aren’t getting left behind notifications for. Find My app on iPhone list of devices
  3. Scroll down and tap Notify When Left Behind. Notification settings for Find My app devices and items
  4. Toggle Notify When Left Behind off. iPhone Find My app toggle Notify When Left Behind off and on
  5. Wait 10-20 seconds, then toggle it back on.

For Apple Watch, open the Find Devices or Find Items app.

  1. Select the device or item that you aren’t getting left behind notifications for. List of devices in Apple Watch Find Devices app
  2. Scroll down using your finger or the watch’s Digital Crown and tap Notify When Left Behind. Find Devices app on Apple Watch settings for Notify When Left Behind
  3. Toggle Notify When Left Behind off. Notify when left behind on and off on Apple Watch Find Items and Find Devices apps
  4. Wait 10-20 seconds, then toggle it back on.

For Macs, open the Find My app.

  1. Choose the Devices tab (for watches, iPhones, Macs, or iPad) or Items tab (for AirTags and Find My Network supported products).
  2. Select the device or item that you aren’t getting left behind notifications for.
  3. Tap on the “i” information button next to the device’s or item’s name on the Map.
  4. In the details window, scroll down and choose Notify When Left Behind. Mac Find My app notify when left behind
  5. Toggle Notify When Left Behind off. Mac Find My app toggle Notify When Left Behind off or on
  6. Wait 10-20 seconds, then toggle it back on.

Remove known and trusted locations from Notify When Left Behind notifications settings

You may have unintentionally added a location to your list of exceptions, and that’s the reason you aren’t getting any left behind notifications. So, let’s remove them and see if they start working.

Delete known locations from Notify When Left Behind Find My settings

  1. On your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, open the Find My app. Tap on the Devices or Items tab.
  2. For Apple Watch, open the Find Devices or Find Items app.
  3. Choose the device or item where left behind notifications aren’t showing up.
  4. Tap Notify When Left Behind. Find My app location exception list on Notify When Left Behind
  5. Scroll down to the listed locations under NOTIFY ME, EXCEPT AT.
    1. For iPhones and iPad, tap the red minus symbol next to each address listed to remove it and confirm you wish to remove it. Delete a location exception from Notify When Left Behind
    2. For Apple Watch, tap the listed address and scroll down and tap Remove, then confirm. Remove location from Apple Watch Find Devices or Find Items Notify When Left Behind settings
  6. Repeat for all listed addresses.
  7. Once you delete all the listed locations, press Done to save.

Now, test and see if you receive your left behind notifications. If so, return to the Find My app and enter your known and trusted addresses again. Then test to see if the left behind notifications still works.

Wrap up

When left behind notifications work, they are awesome especially for those of us that often leave behind our iPhones or other Apple devices at home, work, or when visiting others. 

If this feature isn’t working for you, hopefully, these tips got it working so you never inadvertently forget an Apple device or item again!

And if something else worked for you, please let us know in the comments so we can pay it forward with all of 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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