The Apple Watch, while undoubtedly one of the best wearables on the market, still runs into its fair share of issues. We’ve combed through forums, comments, and other online opinions on a host of issues, glitches, and everyday annoyances to put together a comprehensive list of the most common Apple Watch problems and how to solve them.
If you’ve been suffering, don’t let that Apple Watch wind you up — we’ve got workarounds and possible fixes for you to try. Once you’ve dealt with those, take a gander at our roundup of Apple Watch tips and tricks.
Unlock with Apple Watch not working (on iPhone 13)
More than a few new owners of the iPhone 13 found the Unlock with Apple Watch feature doesn’t work for them, even when it had with their previous iPhones. This particularly seemed to be the case when wearing a face mask, although some people weren’t even able to set up Unlock with Apple Watch in the first place.
Fortunately, Apple quickly became aware of this problem and rolled out a solution: iOS 15.0.1. As such, if you’re still experiencing this issue on your iPhone 13, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Once there, click Download and Install to install the latest version of iOS.
Notify When Left Behind not available on Apple Watch
Some users have complained that the Notify When Left Behind feature — introduced with iOS 15 — isn’t working on their Apple Watches, with the Apple Watch Series 6 being most commonly affected. The issue is that, when trying to set it up, they’re told that the feature isn’t available, with the option greyed out.
This is a software issue known to Apple, so your best bet is to update to new versions of iOS and WatchOS when available. However, if you continue experiencing problems, you should try the following:
- Close the Find My app and restart your iPhone and Apple Watch. Likewise, toggle Notify Left Behind off and then toggle it on again.
- Make sure you use the same Apple ID for your iPhone and Apple Watch, since Notify When Left Behind alerts do not work across devices signed to different Apple ID accounts.
- Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Settings. Make sure you have Location Services on and set to Allow While Using App in Location Settings.
- Go to your iCloud settings and make sure you have Find My turned on. Also, check that your iCloud storage isn’t full.
Apple Watch repeatedly asking for passcode
As with certain other users, you may find your Apple Watch repeatedly asking you to enter its passcode. It’s not entirely clear what causes such an issue, but it generally results from a failure to activate certain settings.
- On your iPhone, go to Watch > My Watch > General > Wrist Detection. Turn Wrist Detection on.
- Also on your iPhone, go to Watch > My Watch > Passcode > Turn Passcode On.
- Lastly, while still on the Passcode settings screen, enable Unlock with iPhone.
Apple Watch won’t unlock
One complaint that did the rounds earlier this year related to the Apple Watch failing to unlock, particularly after updating to iOS 14.7. This appeared to be an issue relating to Apple Watches paired with iPhones that use Touch ID (rather than Face ID). However, Apple recognised the problem and issued a fix with iOS 14.7.1.
As such, the solution to this problem is to update your iPhone, by going to Settings > General > Software Update.
That said, if you’re still experiencing this issue you can (on your Apple Watch) go to Settings > Passcode > Unlock with iPhone to make sure that the feature is activated. Also make sure that your iPhone is within range (about 33 feet/10 meters) when trying to unlock the watch with it. If it’s still experiencing the issue, try unpairing and pairing your Apple Watch with your iPhone. On your iPhone, go to Apple Watch > My Watch. Then pair all over again.
Apple Watch won’t update
Some users have been unable to update their Apple Watches to the latest version of WatchOS. This has become such a common problem that Apple has published official steps outlining what you should do.
- Restart — don’t force restart — the Apple Watch and the iPhone paired to it. Try updating the Apple Watch again.
- If the install won’t download or start, open the Watch app on your iPhone, tap the My Watch tab, and go to General > Usage > Software Update. Then, delete the update file and try to download and install the update again.
Apple Watch SE overheating
In a rather worrying twist, South Korean users are complaining that their Apple Watch SE units are getting hot on the wrist. This is usually followed by physical damage to the watch’s screen. The Reddit post claims the issue has been experienced by all types and sizes of the Apple Watch SE, though it seems oddly restricted to South Korea. There have been six reports so far, but if this is a growing trend, expect to hear more.
- If it’s a hardware issue — and that seems likely — then your only option is to report it to Apple or whichever retailer you purchased your watch from.
- In the meantime, take your watch off and let the battery run down. Do not put it back on again until a professional has been able to take a look at your watch.
Random reboots for Apple Watch 3 on WatchOS 7
Some users have been reported random instances of rebooting on their Apple Watch 3 ever since upgrading to WatchOS 7. Some users have even reported reboots multiple times per day.
- Check to see if your Apple Watch is running the latest version of WatchOS. Apple released WatchOS 7.0.3 on October 19, 2020, which addresses these restart issues on Series 3 watches.
Apple Watch Series 5 or Apple Watch SE stuck in power reserve or won’t charge
A small number of users with the Apple Watch Series 5 or Apple Watch SE models running WatchOS 7.2 or 7.3 have experienced an issue wherein the Apple Watch will not charge after entering Power Reserve.
- Apple has acknowledged this problem and started a free repair program for affected units.
Skin beneath Apple Watch feels uncomfortable and itchy
It’s not a problem everyone will get, but for some people, the area of skin that comes into direct contact with their Apple Watch’s sensors can become itchy and feel uncomfortable, especially after wearing it for a while. This seems to be a problem some people have with watches in general, but it seems the sensor points on the Apple Watch can be especially bad for certain people.
Unfortunately, there’s no real way to fix this, as it seems to be a skin sensitivity issue. However, there are some ways to stop it from impacting as heavily.
- Loosen the strap on your Apple Watch. Sometimes the issue can be caused by sweat becoming trapped between the skin and sensors, effectively lowering your skin’s ability to breathe. Loosen your strap a little, and the extra looseness will allow your skin to breathe a little better — and it probably won’t affect your Apple Watch’s sensors too much either.
- Take a scheduled break from your Apple Watch every day. Give your watch time to recharge, and your skin a chance to recover as well. If your symptoms are minor, just a little time off can stop it from becoming irritating.
- If it’s the strap causing you discomfort, try swapping out your strap for one made from a different material.
Apple Watch doesn’t turn on when wrist is raised
One of our readers, Sarah, kindly contacted us to explain this issue and how to fix it, and there’s also a discussion of this one in the Apple support forum. The issue is that the Apple Watch screen is not coming to life as it usually does when people raise their wrist or do a flicking motion with it.
- Start with the Watch app on your iPhone by going to My Watch (Tab) > General > Wake Screen, and make sure that Wake Screen on Wrist Raise is turned on.
- This could also be because your Apple Watch is in Theater Mode. If it is, then you should see the theater icon at the top of the screen, which is two masks. To turn it off, simply press the Digital Crown to bring the screen to life, and then swipe up from the bottom to access the Control Center. Scroll down to find and tap on the Theater Mode icon.
- It’s always worth seeing whether your iOS device or Apple Watch needs an update. Go to Settings > General > Software Update and see whether your device is due an update. To check your Apple Watch’s update status, open the Apple Watch app on your iOS device and go to General > Software Update.
Light bleed on Apple Watch Series 4 display
There are big discussions on Reddit, MacRumors forum, and the Apple support forum about light bleed from the Apple Watch Series 4 display. If you’re in a dark environment and the brightness dims, you may notice that one side of the Apple Watch display is brighter than the other and appears yellow. This isn’t actually light bleed, because the screen is an OLED. Rather, it seems to be an issue with gray images.
- Unfortunately, there’s no way to fix this yourself, so you need to arrange a replacement from Apple.
Messages remain unread on Apple Watch
A few people report an annoying glitch where they read messages on their iPhone but those messages continue to appear as unread on their Apple Watch. There’s a thread about it at the MacRumors forum. This glitch mostly seems to be triggered when people switch to a new iPhone.
- Close the Messages app on your iPhone, then try switching both your iPhone and your Apple Watch off by pressing and holding the power button, then sliding to Power Off. Turn your iPhone back on first, then turn on your Apple Watch. They should sync properly.
- It’s worth working through Apple’s official guide on how to unpair your Apple Watch and then how to set up your Apple Watch to see if that gets it syncing correctly again.
- If you have switched to a new iPhone, then it’s also worth checking out Apple’s detailed instructions for switching your Apple Watch.
- Try signing out of iCloud on all affected devices, rebooting each one, and then signing back into iCloud.
Screen has popped out of the watch casing
Multiple sources have confirmed that the Apple Watch will sometimes experience an issue where the entire screen pops out of the casing.
This problem, which has been documented on Twitter, has many Apple Watch owners sharing images of their Apple Watch with popped-out screens. Turns out complaints about this issue date back to at least September 2015. It seems that the issue stems from the battery. As the battery ages, it swells, taking up more room in the Apple Watch’s tiny innards and forcing the screen out. Oddly enough, having the screen hanging out doesn’t seem to bother the watch much, and there are videos of it continuing to work.
Most of the complaints seem to come from Apple Watch Series Zero owners, but there are some examples of Apple Watch Series 3 owners running into this problem, so any model of the Apple Watch can likely suffer from this particular defect.
- Take it to your nearest Apple Store, or get in contact with Apple’s support. Since the problem is battery-related, Apple will honor the warranty in the majority of cases and has even extended the warranty period for most Apple Watch models to three years.
Apple Watch won’t connect to LTE
If there’s one issue that the LTE variant of the Apple Watch is known for, it’s problems connecting to cellular. Apple publicly acknowledged this issue and said that it would push a fix in an update back in September 2017. Apple did officially address the issue in the WatchOS 4.0.1 update, explaining that it had to do with the Apple Watch having problems with the hand-off between Wi-Fi and cellular. The update prevented the Apple Watch from joining unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks. It was also reported to fix the LTE connectivity issues for some people, although for others, the issue did not go away even after the update.
- Update your Apple Watch software. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and go to General > Software Update.
Other possible solutions:
- You can try to set up your cellular plan again. Open the Apple Watch app and go to the My Watch tab. Tap the I next to Carrier and then Remove. You can then add your cellular plan afresh: Tap on Add a New Plan, reactivate, and reboot the Apple Watch.
- Some folks have reported that the issue was with AT&T. People reported that their LTE data functioned normally once AT&T reinitialized their call service. They accomplished this through several phone calls to AT&T, going in person to AT&T, or a combination of both.
- If none of these solutions work, contact Apple.
No iPhone connection error
After turning the Apple Watch back on, or sometimes after using Airplane mode, the Apple Watch may give you a No iPhone error. If this happens to you, the best way to deal with it is to let your Apple Watch and iPhone find each other again.
- Start by making sure that Airplane mode is turned off on both your Watch and iPhone and that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on.
- To restart your Apple Watch, hold the side button until you see the Power Off slider. Slide the Power Off slider to the right. When the Apple Watch is off, turn it back on by pressing and holding the side button until you see the Apple logo.
- To restart the iPhone X or later, press and hold the side button and either volume button until the Slide to Power Off slider appears. To restart the iPhone 8 or earlier, hold down the sleep/wake button until the Slide to Power Off slider appears. The sleep/wake button is located on the right side, or the top if you have an iPhone 5S or earlier.
- Use Control Center on your Apple Watch to check your connection.
- If all else fails, you can always try to unpair your devices and pair them again.
Bluetooth won’t connect or frequently disconnects
There are a couple of different possible glitches at play here. Some people find that their Apple Watch will disconnect from their iPhone, even when they’re in close proximity. Others are having Bluetooth problems when they’re trying to use headphones for a run or a workout. There are a few different things you can try to get Bluetooth working again.
- Proximity matters for Bluetooth, and different devices have different ranges. Some people report better performance after switching the device they were using to the same side of their body as the Apple Watch. You could also try switching your Apple Watch to the other wrist. Such a small change in distance shouldn’t really make a difference, but it’s worth a try.
- If the issue is with Bluetooth headphones and music streaming, then sync your playlist onto your Apple Watch and turn the Bluetooth on your iPhone off. This should allow your music to play seamlessly without annoying disconnections, and you can still sync data from a run or workout at the end of the session.
- If the issue is with your iPhone, then try turning Airplane mode on your iPhone on and off again. Alternatively, you can go to Settings > Bluetooth and toggle it off, then wait a few seconds and toggle it back on again.
- Press and hold the side button on your Apple Watch until the slider appears, then drag Power Off to the right. To turn it back on, hold down the side button until the Apple logo appears.
- If the iPhone is giving you problems, try unpairing. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Tap on Apple Watch > Unpair Apple Watch > Unpair. It might take a while. Once it’s done, set the connection up afresh.
- Your final resort is to erase all content and settings on your Apple Watch. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. Once it’s done, you’ll have to pair your Apple Watch with your iPhone and other devices again.
Poor battery life
Battery life is definitely one of the main weaknesses of the Apple Watch, but it should generally still get you through the day before needing a refuel. If you find that your Apple Watch battery is draining suspiciously fast, then you may have a problem.
- You can choose to put your Apple Watch in Power Reserve mode so it only shows the time. Press and hold the side button on your Apple Watch until the sliders appear, then drag Power Reserve to the right.
- Open up the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and go into Notifications. Turn off anything that you don’t need.
- Go to Settings > Brightness & Text Size on your Apple watch and reduce the brightness.
- On your Apple Watch, go into Settings > General > Wake Screen, and toggle off Wake Screen on Wrist Raise. You can also do this in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone via General > Wake Screen.
- Buy an Apple Watch strap with a battery in it.
- Turn off the heart rate sensor by opening the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tapping Workout, and then toggling Power Saving Mode on.
- Try updating your watch to the latest version of WatchOS.
- If you’ve signed up for the WatchOS beta, that could also be the culprit. Some have said a simple re-pairing has fixed this issue.
- Simply turn it off and on again. Press and hold the side button on your Apple Watch until the slider appears, then drag Power Off to the right. To turn it back on, hold down the side button until the Apple logo appears.
- Maybe an app is causing problems. Try uninstalling everything you don’t need. Tap and hold on the Apple Watch screen until your app icons begin shaking, then pick the app you want to get rid of and tap Delete App. Don’t worry, it won’t uninstall the app on your iPhone. You can also get rid of apps on your Apple Watch by opening up the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap on any app you don’t want, and toggle Show App on Apple Watch to off.
- The last thing to try is to erase all content and settings on your Apple Watch. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. Once it’s done, you’ll have to pair your Apple Watch with your iPhone and other devices again.
- Check to see if your Apple Watch is running the latest version of WatchOS. Apple released WatchOS 7.0.2 on October 12, 2020, which supposedly fixed issues related to rapid battery drain.
Apple Watch won’t charge
If you find that your Apple Watch won’t charge, then you’re not alone. Remember that it can take a few seconds for the charging icon to pop up when the Apple Watch is completely drained. Here’s what you should check before you start to panic:
- If it’s brand new, then make sure that you don’t have any plastic still attached to the Apple Watch or the charger.
- Use the magnetic charging cable and the USB power adapter that came with your Apple Watch. If you were using those when the problems began, consider using a different charging cable, stand, or dock.
- Check that both surfaces are clean, and remove any case or anything else you might have on your Apple Watch.
- Try plugging the cable into your laptop, computer, or another power adapter in a different socket.
- Hold down the side button on the Apple Watch and swipe Power Off to the right. Hold down the side button again to turn it back on.
- Once again, hold down the side button on the Apple Watch and swipe Power Off to the right. This time, hold down the side button and the digital crown together for at least ten seconds until you see the Apple logo.
- The last thing to try is to open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and go to General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.
- If none of this works, then it’s time to contact Apple.
Apps crashing or freezing
There have been a few reports of Apple Watch apps crashing and freezing up, especially the Nike app. If you find that your Apple Watch crashes frequently or locks up and won’t respond at all, there are some things you can try.
- The first thing you should try is checking to make sure the problem app(s) are up to date. If they aren’t, update them and try the apps again.
- If you’re able to, then hold down the side button on the Apple Watch and swipe Power Off to the right. Hold down the side button again to turn it back on. This might only be a temporary fix.
- If your Apple Watch is locked up and unresponsive, try holding down the side button and the digital crown together for at least ten seconds, until you see the Apple logo.
- Open up the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, go to My Watch > General > Software Update, and make sure it’s up to date.
- Try removing and reinstalling the app(s) that are causing issues. Open up the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap on the problematic app, and toggle Show App on Apple Watch to off.
- Sometimes a factory reset will get rid of glitches like this. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings to try it, but you will have to set your Apple Watch up again.
Apple Watch isn’t tracking activity
Some users on Apple’s forums have stated that their Apple Watch has failed to properly track their exercises, routes, or heart rate. Fortunately, there are a few things you can check to try to fix this.
- On your iPhone, launch the Watch app, and then go to My Watch (Tab) > General > Wrist Detection. Turn this on if it isn’t already. Additionally, make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your iPhone at Settings > Bluetooth.
- Make sure your Apple Watch isn’t too loose on your wrist. Adjusting the band may help the watch better track your activity.
- Keep your personal information, such as your height and weight, updated, as the Apple Watch uses this info to determine things like how many calories you burn. Open the Watch app on your iPhone and tap My Watch > Health > Edit.
- When it comes to tracking your routes, try opening the Workout app and changing the settings from Quick Start Walk to Outdoor Walk. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Have Apple Watch Faces set to While Using, then scroll down to System Services and enable all settings related to location and distance tracking.
- Your watch may need recalibrating. Start this process by opening the Watch app on your iPhone. Tap My Watch > Privacy > Motion & Fitness > Reset Calibration Data. Then follow Apple’s calibration instructions.
Apple Watch won’t turn on
- If you’ve enabled Power Reserve, the watch won’t respond to wrist movement or tapping. Try pressing the side buttons to see if the watch will turn on.
- It may sound silly, but try charging your Apple Watch. The battery may have simply run out.
- Press and hold the digital crown and side button for at least ten seconds to trigger a forced restart. You’ll know you did it right if the Apple logo appears.
- If the watch comes on after the restart but never fully starts, or if you’re met with a red exclamation mark, reach out to Apple Support, as you may have run into a hardware issue that can’t be fixed on your end.
Notifications don’t appear on Apple Watch
You’re used to seeing and checking notifications on your iPhone, and they’ll continue to appear there when your iPhone is unlocked, but when it’s locked or asleep you should get those notifications on your Apple Watch. If you’re wondering why you aren’t getting notifications on your Apple Watch, it’s probably because your Apple Watch is locked, Do Not Disturb is enabled or Wrist Detection is off.
- If you set a passcode for the Apple Watch (this is done on your iPhone), it’ll lock automatically when you’re not wearing it, when it loses contact with your skin, or while it’s charging. Consider removing the passcode or tightening the watch band. If you forgot your passcode, you’ll need to erase the Apple Watch. To do so, launch the Watch app, tap My Watch > General > Reset > Erase Apple Watch Content and Settings, and tap to confirm. If you don’t have your iPhone paired with your Apple Watch, follow the steps on this page to erase everything on the watch.
- If Do Not Disturb is the culprit, there will be a moon symbol on the watch face. Turn this on/off by swiping up on the watch face, swiping to the Settings glance, and tapping the Crescent Moon icon.
- If you believe Wrist Detection is no longer enabled, open the Watch app on your iPhone and go to My Watch > General > Wrist Detection.
Lines on the display
A few Apple Watch owners have shared their stories and pictures revealing the vertical lines plaguing their watch displays. The lines are very faint and difficult to see, but they have affected both the Apple Watch Series 2, Series 3, and Apple Watch Nike+.
- Reach out to Apple and get a replacement Apple Watch or have the screen on your watch replaced. According to other users in the aforementioned thread, the lines on the display are often the result of a laminating issue.
Apple Watch goes into Airplane Mode on its own
A rather odd issue has been discussed regarding how the Apple Watch will suddenly switch into Airplane Mode without any input from the user. Others have said their watch will occasionally activate other features as well, such as Night Mode.
- A future WatchOS update may deal with this problem.
- Unpair your Apple Watch, restart it, and re-pair it with your iPhone. Then, continue using it to see if it triggers Airplane Mode, or any other feature, again.
- Factory reset your Apple Watch by opening the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and going to My Watch > General > Reset > Erase Apple Watch Content and Settings.
- If you’ve turned on Airplane Mode on your iPhone, then your Apple Watch will mirror the change. However, it won’t switch back when your iPhone does, so you’ll need to turn it off on the Watch separately.
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