How to Set Up Apple Watch and Pair with iPhone

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How to Set Up Apple Watch and Pair with iPhone

Apple Watch and iPhone 6
image copyright Apple Inc.

The Apple Watch promises to bring some of the most compelling features of the iOS—Siri, location-aware apps, notifications, and more—to your wrist. But there's one catch: to get the most out of the Watch, it needs to be connected to an iPhone. There are a handful of Watch functions that work on their own, but for the best experience, you need to connect the iPhone in a process called pairing.

To learn how to set up your Apple Watch and pair it with your iPhone, follow the instructions in this article.

  1. To begin, turn your Apple Watch on by holding down the side button (not the round digital crown, but the other button) until you see the Apple logo. Let go of the button and wait for the Watch to boot up. In my experience, this takes longer than you'd expect the first time
  2. Select the language you want the Watch to use for its onscreen information
  3. When the Watch has started up, a message on the screen will ask you to start the pairing and setup process. Tap Start Pairing
  4. On your iPhone (and make sure it's your phone; you can't pair it with someone else's because the Watch and phone need to be near each other all the time), tap the Apple Watch app to open it. If you don't have this app, you need to update your iPhone to iOS 8.2 or higher
  5. If you don't already have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on, turn them on. They're what the Watch and phone use to communicate with each other
  6. In the Apple Watch app on the iPhone, tap Start Pairing.

Move on to the next page to continue the setup process

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Pair Apple Watch and iPhone Using the iPhone Camera

setup apple watch, step 1

With your iPhone ready to pair with the Apple Watch, you get the first of many neat experiences with the watch. Instead of entering a code and some other, standard way of connecting the devices, you use the iPhone's camera:

  1. An animated cloud-shaped object appears on the Watch's screen (this appears to contain hidden information about the Watch that is used for pairing). Use the iPhone camera to line up the animation with the frame on the iPhone's screen
  2. When you've got it lined up, the phone will detect the watch and the two will connect to each other. You'll know this is complete when the iPhone indicates that the watch is paired
  3. At this point, tap Set Up Apple Watch to continue

Move on to the next page to continue the setup process

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Set Wrist Preference for Apple Watch and Accept Terms

setup apple watch, step 2

Throughout the next few steps of the setup process, the Apple Watch shows a design and some basic information about the device. The screen won't change until close to the end when apps begin to sync to it.

Instead, the next few steps all take place in the Apple Watch app on the iPhone.

  1. The first of these steps is to indicate which wrist you plan to wear the watch on. Your choice will determine how the watch orients itself and what inputs and gestures it expects
  2. When you've selected a wrist, you'll be asked to agree to Apple's legal terms and conditions. This is required, so tap Agree in the bottom right corner and then tap Agree again in the pop-up window. 

Move on to the next page to continue the setup process

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Enter Apple ID and Enable Location Services for Apple Watch

setup apple watch, step 3
  1. As with all Apple products, the Watch uses your Apple ID to connect to Apple's device- and web-based services. In this step, log in with the same Apple ID username and password that you use on your iPhone
  2. On the next screen, the app informs you that if you have Location Services enabled on your iPhone, they'll be enabled on the Apple Watch, too. Location Services is the umbrella name for the set of services that let your iPhone—and now your Watch—use GPS and other location data to give you directions, let you know what restaurants are nearby, and other helpful features.

    The Watch mirrors your settings from the iPhone, so if you don't want Location Services, you'll need to turn them off on iPhone, too. I strongly recommend that you leave them on, though. Without them, you'll lose out on a lot of useful features.

    Tap OK to proceed.

Move on to the next page to continue the setup process

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Enable Siri and Choose Diagnostics Settings on Apple Watch

setup apple watch, step 4
  1. The next screen has to do with Siri, Apple's voice-activated assistant. As with Location Services, your iPhone's Siri settings will be used for the Watch, too. So, if you've got Siri turned on for your phone, it will be turned on for the watch, too. Change the setting on your iPhone if you want or tap OK to continue.
  2. After that, you'll have the choice to supply diagnostic information to Apple. This is not personal information—Apple won't know anything about you specifically—but it does contain information about how your Watch is working and whether it's having any problems. This can help Apple improve its products in the future.

    Tap Automatically Send if you want to supply this information or Don't Send if you prefer not to.

Move on to the next page to continue the setup process

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Unlock Apple Watch and Install Apps From iPhone

setup apple watch, step 5

There's one more step before things get exciting. In this step, you'll protect your Watch with a passcode. Just like on the iPhone, the passcode prevents strangers who get ahold of your watch from using it.

  1. First, on the Watch, set a passcode. You can choose a 4-digit code, a longer and more secure code, or no code at all. I recommend using at least a 4-digit code
  2. Next, again on the Watch, choose whether to unlock the Watch whenever you unlock your iPhone and the two are in the range of each other. I recommend choosing Yes, since this will keep your Watch ready for use whenever your phone is, too.

With those steps complete, things start to get exciting—it's time to install apps on the Watch!

Apps on the Watch work differently than on the iPhone. Rather than installing apps directly to the watch, your install the apps onto the iPhone and then sync them when the two devices are connected. Even more different, there are no standalone Watch apps. Instead, they're iPhone apps with Watch features.

Because of this, there's a good chance you've already got a bunch of apps on your phone that are Watch-compatible. If not, you can always download new apps from the App Store or from within the Apple Watch app.

  1. On the iPhone, choose to Install All apps or Choose Later to pick what apps you want to install after setup is complete. I'd start with all apps; you can always remove some later.

Move on to the next page to continue the setup process

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Wait for Apps to Install and Start Using Apple Watch

setup apple watch, step 6
  1. If you chose to install all compatible apps onto your Apple Watch in the last step, you may have to wait a while. The installation process is a little slow, so if you have a lot of watch apps, expect be patient. In my initial set up, with about a dozen apps to install, I waited a few minutes, perhaps around five.

    The circle on the watch and phone screens both indicate the app-install progress. 
  2. When all of your apps are installed, the Apple Watch app on the iPhone will let you know your Watch is ready to be used. On the iPhone, tap OK.
  3. On the Apple Watch, you'll see your apps. It's time to get started using your Watch!