While the Apple Watch is more robust in keeping connections than it has been in years past, there's still a chance you may run into a situation where your watch just isn't recognizing your iPhone — or its cellular connection. And while the Series 1 and 2 Apple Watch can store up to 30 days of health and other data without connecting to an iPhone, chances are you'll prefer to connect — and back up! — that data sooner rather than later.

How to check your Apple Watch's connection status

The Series 1 and 2 Apple Watch have several radios inside them that allow for talking to your iPhone, external Bluetooth devices, and local Wi-Fi networks. To check and see how your Apple Watch is connected (or if it's struggling to make a connection), you need only swipe up on Control Center.

If your Apple Watch is connected to your iPhone

You'll usually see a red dot at the top center of your watch face, indicating notifications, or no indicator. When you swipe up on Control Center, you'll see a green Phone icon in the top left corner.

If your Apple Watch is connected to an existing Wi-Fi network

If your Apple Watch loses direct connection with your iPhone, before giving up entirely, it will scan for existing Wi-Fi networks that you've connected to in the past with a device that supports your iCloud account. If it finds one (and you don't have to authenticate it with an additional password via interstitial screen), your watch will connect via Wi-Fi. You'll be able to access the internet during this period, including features like Siri and Messages, and you can still record workouts and use Apple Pay, but you can't back up any Health data. When you reconnect with your iPhone, your Apple Watch will automatically upload all saved data (up to 30 days' worth) back to your smartphone.

When your watch is connected to an existing Wi-Fi network, you'll either see a red dot at the top center of your watch face, indicating notifications, or no indicator. Swipe up on Control Center, and you'll see a blue Wi-Fi indicator in the top left corner (indicating signal strength).

If your Apple Watch can't make a connection

If your Apple Watch can't reach your iPhone or a recognized Wi-Fi point, it stops searching and displays a disconnected signal. While disconnected, you can still record steps and workouts and use Apple Pay, but you can't connect to Siri, Messages, or any other internet-powered app. When you reconnect with your iPhone, your Apple Watch will automatically upload all saved data (up to 30 days' worth) back to your smartphone.

When your watch is disconnected, you'll see a red phone symbol in the top center of your watch face with a diagonal line through it. Swipe up on Control Center, and you'll either see the same symbol or no symbol at all in the top left corner.

How to troubleshoot your Apple Watch's connection status

First question: Are both devices operational?

I'm ashamed to say that on more than one occasion I've yelled at my watch for not connecting to my iPhone — only to realize that my phone had run out of battery. Oops. Avoid my mistakes, and follow step one of the troubleshooting guide: make sure both your Apple Watch and iPhone have power.

Check your Bluetooth connection

Once you've confirmed both devices are operational, check your Bluetooth connection on your iPhone. This is the primary signal your devices use to talk to each other, and if you've turned Bluetooth off on your phone to save battery, they can't chat.

Here's how to check the connection on your iPhone:

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to activate Control Center.
  2. Check the Bluetooth icon. If it isn't highlighted, tap it once to activate it.

Toggle Airplane Mode

Sometimes you can nudge your Apple Watch back onto a functional network by toggling Airplane Mode on and off. Doing so is as simple as pulling up Control Center.

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to activate Control Center.
  2. Tap the Airplane Mode icon to enable it.
  3. Wait three seconds, then tap the icon again.

Restart your Watch

If you're still not having any luck, try restarting your Apple Watch. It'll take some time to reboot, but a slow reboot to functionality is better than a disconnected smartwatch.

  1. Hold the Side Button on your Apple Watch until the three horizontal sliders appear.
  2. Tap the Power Off slider to shut down your Apple Watch.

  3. After your Apple Watch has shut down, hold the Side Button again until you see the Apple logo.

This should fix most basic problems, but just in case you run into trouble a regular restart won't fix, you can also force restart your Apple Watch — just hold down the Digital Crown and side button simultaneously for ~10 seconds.

Restart your iPhone

If your Watch still isn't responding after a restart, the connection issue may instead lie with your iPhone's networking capabilities. Try curing your smartphone of its ills by restarting it:

  1. Press the Power On/Off button on your iPhone until you see the Slide to Power Off screen.
  2. Slide the Slide to Power Off slider to shut down your iPhone.

  3. Press the Power On/Off button once more to restart your iPhone.

Reset your iPhone's network settings

I recommend this as a last-ditch effort, as restoring your iPhone's network settings will reset your connection with Wi-Fi networks and the like, but if none of the other suggestions above are working, it may well be your last hope before having to completely restore.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap General > Reset > Reset Network Settings.
  3. Enter your passcode.
  4. Select Reset Network Settings.

Wait for a software update (if you can)

If you've tried all of the steps above and can't get your Apple Watch to recognize your phone, it might be time to think about re-pairing your device. But the downside of such a move is that it deletes any data you haven't yet backed up to your iPhone; if you're been living with a disconnected watch for a week, that means a week of lost Move streaks and the like.

There is one other option: Wait for a software update to appear, then try the steps listed above to reset your Apple Watch. If you can't get the device to recognize your iPhone, you won't be able to install the update, but I've had weird luck with beta devices not showing up on my iPhone until a new software update appears. (Strange, but true.)

The last resort: Un-pair and re-pair

If nothing else works and you don't feel like paying your local Genius bar a visit, it's time to decide how much data you're willing to lose: If you un-pair and re-pair your watch, you may fix its connection woes, but any data you haven't backed up will be forever lost to the wild. I don't suggest venturing down this path until you've exhausted all other avenues of support.

How to unpair and reset your Apple Watch

Still have an issue?

If restarts, force quits, and un-pairing didn't solve your problem, it might be time to visit your local Genius Bar and have them try and address it. If you're curious about other troubleshooting tips, holler in the comments or on our Q&A page.

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