How to set up your Apple Watch

Apple Watch next to iPhone showing the setup screen


Apple is known for creating products that “just work”, and Apple Watch No exception. The setup process is simple, if not always quick, requiring a few clicks and a bit of patience.

Making things simpler is that the process is nearly identical across all Apple Watch models and variants, from something as old as Series 3 into something new and distinct like Apple Watch Ultra.

But, even with all this simplicity, you may still have questions. What if you are setting up an Apple Watch that you recently reset? Will you need to set a passcode during setup or afterwards? Is the process different for GPS + Cellular models? We’ll get to all of these queries and more to help you get the smoothest tech setup you’ve ever experienced.

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How to set up your Apple Watch

  • the required materials: The Apple Watch you want to set up, and the iPhone owned by the watch owner or a family member.

It is important that your Apple Watch is fully charged before beginning this process. It may take some time for all your apps and data to sync to the device, so saving battery power in significant amounts is key. You can put your watch on the charger during setup, but some of the later steps work best while you’re wearing your Apple Watch, so it’s best to charge it beforehand.

Once your Apple Watch has been charged to at least 50%, the first step is to simply hold it, or your wrist, near your iPhone. If your Apple Watch isn’t already on, press the button below the Digital Crown and wait for the Apple logo to appear before letting go. After a moment, you’ll see the “Bring iPhone near Apple Watch” animation start playing on the wearable’s screen.

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Once it’s turned on and close to the iPhone you’re using to set up, a message should appear on the smartphone screen with a Complete button. Click this to start the process.

Apple Watch and iPhone during setup

They don’t have to be that close, but the closer they are the faster the data transfer is required.

Michael Griveaux/ZDNET

With just a click Complete, your Apple Watch should start playing an animation of multicolored particles spinning into a ball. This unique image helps initiate the pairing process when you point your iPhone’s camera at it. Use the frame that appears on the screen to position it correctly in the camera view.

If there is a problem with the iPhone camera, or something else is interfering with the pairing process, you can also tap Pair manually on the iPhone screen. This will require you to enter some information yourself. The required facts (mainly the make and model of the Apple Watch to be set) can be found by clicking on File “i” in a circle symbol on the Apple Watch screen.

Your Apple Watch scans with your iPhone to start pairing

Ensure that the entire watch face is captured in the selected frame while scanning.

Michael Griveaux/ZDNET

If the Apple Watch you’re setting up has already been used with this iPhone and just reset, or if you had a previous Apple Watch that you used with the same iPhone, it’s best to use this backup with your new watch. It will shorten setup time by restoring almost all pre-installed apps and data automatically.

If an existing backup is available, you should see an option that says “Make this your new Apple Watch. “ Click this to continue. You can then view details about your existing backup by clicking applications and data And settings options that appear. If you want to customize which apps, data, and settings will be applied from the backup, you can tap Customize settings. Or, if you are satisfied with the default settings that your version of Express Setup intends to use, you can click Complete moving forward.

If this is your first Apple Watch, or you simply want to start with a clean slate, you should instead choose “Set up your new Apple Watchoption. This will allow you to install only the apps and data you want.

In either case, you may be asked to submit an application Any required software updates for your Apple Watch, iPhone, or both. This may take some time, but it is an important step in ensuring that setup continues correctly.

Your iPhone asks if you want to restore your backed up Apple Watch or set it up as new

It’s a lot easier to restore from a backup if you have one for this watch, or an Apple Watch on hand.

Michael Griveaux/ZDNET

This step allows your new Apple Watch to sync your personal data, access the Find My function, and maintain Activation Lock (a security measure designed to ensure that only you can use your Apple Watch). While you can skip this step and do it later in the Watch app on your iPhone, it is highly recommended that you complete it as soon as possible.

If you’re setting up a used Apple Watch that was previously activated on another iCloud account, you might run into hiccups at this point. If the clock has been reset correctly, it should activate and link itself to your iCloud account. However, if it is not reset, or it was reset without unpairing it from the previous iPhone, your setting may be blocked by the previous owner’s Activation Lock. If this happens, Apple has it A guide on how to proceed.

You’re not required to set a passcode for your Apple Watch, but not doing so means you can’t use the Apple Pay functionality and some other features. Since you only have to enter the passcode once each time you tether on your Apple Watch, this is a small extra step that’s well worth the protection it provides.

During this step, you can choose a standard four-digit passcode, create a longer one, or skip it. Like signing into iCloud, this step can also be completed later in the Watch app on your iPhone.

The passcode setup screen appears while setting up your Apple Watch

Setting a passcode on your Apple Watch unlocks some functions that might otherwise be restricted using this security measure.

Michael Griveaux/ZDNET

During this step, you can choose several options that will determine how your Apple Watch works. If you’re restoring from a backup, most of them will be picked for you during quick setup. However, if you’re starting from scratch, and choose to modify any existing settings, you’ll be able to set things like find jobs, location service settings, Wi-Fi calling options, health notification preferences, and opt-in diagnostics.

You will also be asked at this point to customize your personal data, such as your date of birth (for Apple Health functionality). Finally, you’ll also see details about how the Apple Watch handles security features like Emergency SOS and fall detection.

Screen asking the user to choose a wrist while setting up the Apple Watch

It is important to set this correctly. Otherwise, the Apple Watch will be upside down.

Michael Griveaux/ZDNET

If you have a GPS + Cellular model of Apple Watch, you will be prompted to set up cellular. This process is usually fairly straightforward, but it will vary based on the specific carrier your Apple Watch is activated on. Just follow the instructions and agree to add your Apple Watch to your carrier account.

This is also when you can set up Apple Pay By adding at least one credit card that will be used for payment purposes.

We’re almost done! For the last few steps, your Apple Watch will walk you through options like Always-On display (if available), Show the app you like (list view versus grid), and a few others. Once that’s done, there’s only one thing left to do: wait.

This is when your Apple Watch starts syncing all the apps, data, settings, and other details that you selected during this process. Depending on the amount of syncing, this may take a while. Just make sure your iPhone and Apple Watch stay as close as possible to each other during this time, and you should be ready to enjoy your new Apple Watch in about 15 to 20 minutes (or less).

Your Apple Watch is syncing

Expect to stare at loading animations like this one for up to 20 minutes. Sometimes longer if you have a lot of existing apps and data.

Michael Griveaux/ZDNET

questions and answers

Can you set up an Apple Watch without an iPhone?

Apple Watch and iPhone during family setup

Clicking “Set up for a family member” will start this process.

Image: Apple

somewhat. You’ll still need an iPhone for the setup process, but the actual Apple Watch owner doesn’t need an iPhone. This is made possible by Apple’s Family Setup, which is designed to allow parents or guardians to set up a child’s Apple Watch using their iPhone, while providing access to additional parental controls and settings.

The process is almost identical to the steps above, but requires an Apple Watch Series 4 (or later) with GPS + Cellular. Since it will not be constantly connected to the iPhone, the cellular connection ensures that the Apple Watch can still access the required data.

also: How to use Apple Cash Family to help kids develop good money habits

The main differences you’ll encounter during family setups are the requirement to set the clock for one of your family members, the choice of whether or not that family member can purchase apps without your permission, and some parental control settings, such as disabling most functions. During “school time,” or setting movement goals.

Can you set up an Apple Watch with an iPad?

No. Unfortunately, an iPhone is required to set up the Apple Watch, even if it doesn’t stay connected to one constantly, as in the FAQ scenario above.

How do I change my watch face?

we’ve got A complete guide to help you Not only Swap your Apple Watch facebut create one that’s perfect for your needs, complete with a video clip.

How do I use Apple Music on my Apple Watch?

The Apple Music app should appear on your Apple Watch by default. However, you will still need to manually add music to the device if you want to listen directly from your Apple Watch.

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To do this, open the Watch app on your iPhone. Then press my watchfollowed by Music. On this screen, you will be able to add playlists, albums, and tracks. Finally, click Add music. Your selections should then sync to your Apple Watch, where you can listen to them via Bluetooth, even if your iPhone isn’t nearby.

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