How to set up an Apple Watch

Apple Watch next to iPhone showing setup screen


Apple is known for creating products that “just work,” and the apple watch is not an exception. The setup process is a simple job, though not always super fast, that will require a few taps and a bit of patience.

To keep things even simpler, the process is nearly identical across all Apple Watch models and variants, from something as old as the series 3 to something as new and premium as the apple watch ultra.

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

Also: Do ​​you want a new Apple Watch? We compare the 5 best models available

How to set up an Apple Watch

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

It’s important that your Apple Watch has a solid charge before beginning this process. It can take a while for all your apps and data to sync to the device, so an ample supply of battery power is key. You can have your watch on its charger during setup, but some steps later work better while you’re wearing your Apple Watch, so it’s best to charge it beforehand.

Once your Apple Watch is at least 50% charged, the first step is to simply hold it, or the wrist it’s on, close to your iPhone. If Apple Watch isn’t already on, press the button below the Digital Crown and wait until the Apple logo appears before releasing it. After a moment, you should see the “Move iPhone to Apple Watch” animation begin to play on the wearable’s screen.

Too: The easy way to add more complications to your Apple Watch

Once it is turned on and close to the iPhone you are using for setup, a message should appear on the smartphone screen with a Continue button. Tap this to start the process.

An Apple Watch and an iPhone during setup

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

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

once it touches Continue, the Apple Watch should start playing an animation of multicolored particles spinning in a sphere. This unique image helps start the pairing process when you point your iPhone’s camera at it. Use the on-screen frame to position it correctly within the camera view.

If there’s a problem with your iPhone’s 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 on your own. The required data (basically the type and model of Apple Watch being set up) can be found by tapping on the button “i” in a circle icon on the Apple Watch screen.

An Apple Watch being scanned by an iPhone to start pairing

Make sure to capture the entire watch face in the defined frame during the scan.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

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

If an existing backup is available, you should see an option that says “Make this your new Apple Watch.” Touch this to continue. You can then view the details about your existing backup by tapping on the apps and data Y settings options that appear. If you want to customize which apps, data, and settings will be applied from the backup, you can touch customize settings. Or, if you’re happy with the default settings that the Express Setup version intends you to use, you can tap Continue to proceed.

If this is your first Apple Watch, or you just want to start from scratch, you should choose the “Set up as new Apple Watch” option. This will allow you to install only the apps and data you want.

In either case, you may be required to apply any required software updates to your Apple Watch, iPhone, or both. This may take some time, but it is an important step to ensure that the setup is successful.

An iPhone asking if you want to restore a backed up Apple Watch or set it up as new

It’s much easier to restore from a backup if you have one for this watch or an older Apple Watch available.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

This step allows your new Apple Watch to sync your personal data, access Find My functionality, and maintain your Activation Lock (a security measure designed to ensure 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 trouble at this point. If your watch was successfully reset, it should be activated and linked to your iCloud account. However, if it was not reset, or was reset without unpairing from your previous iPhone, your settings may be locked by the Previous Owner’s Activation Lock. If this happens, Apple has a guide on how to proceed.

You don’t need to set up a passcode for your Apple Watch, but if you don’t, you won’t be able to use its Apple Pay functionality and some other features. Since you only have to enter the passcode once each time the Apple Watch is put on, it’s a small extra step that’s well worth it for the protection it provides.

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

The passcode setup screen seen during Apple Watch setup

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

Michael Gariffo/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 these will be chosen during out-of-the-box setup. However, if you’re starting from scratch, if you’ve chosen to modify any existing settings, you’ll be able to configure things like Find My functionality, location service settings, Wi-Fi calling options, health notification preferences, and diagnostics. subscriptions

At this point, you will also be asked to customize your personal details, such as your date of birth (for Apple Health functionality). Lastly, you’ll also see details about how Apple Watch will handle safety features like Emergency SOS and Fall Detection.

A screen asking the user to choose a wrist during Apple Watch setup

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

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

If you have a GPS + Cellular model of Apple Watch, this is when you’ll be prompted to set up your cellular connectivity. This process is usually self-explanatory, but will vary based on the specific carrier your Apple Watch is activated on. Just follow the prompts and agree to add the Apple Watch to your carrier account.

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

We are almost there! For the final steps, your Apple Watch will walk you through options like always-on display (if available), which app view you prefer (list or grid view), and a few other options. Once this is done, there is only one thing left: the wait.

This is when your Apple Watch begins to sync all the apps, data, settings, and other details you selected during this process. Depending on how much there is to sync, this could take quite a while. Just make sure the iPhone and Apple Watch stay as close to each other as possible during this time and you should be ready to enjoy your new Apple Watch in about 15 to 20 minutes (or less).

An Apple Watch in the process of syncing

Expect to be looking at a loading animation like this for up to 20 minutes. Sometimes even longer if you have a lot of existing apps and data.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

frequent questions

Can an Apple Watch be set up without an iPhone?

An Apple Watch and an iPhone during Family Setup

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

Image: apple

Something like. You’ll still need an iPhone for the setup process, but the actual owner of the Apple Watch doesn’t need to have an iPhone. This is possible through Apple’s Family Settings, which is designed to allow parents or guardians to set up an Apple Watch for a child using their own iPhone, while also providing access to additional parental settings and controls.

The process is almost identical to the steps above, but requires the use of an Apple Watch Series 4 (or later) with GPS + Cellular connectivity. Since you won’t be constantly connected to an 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 run into during family settings are the requirement to assign the watch to a family member, choosing whether or not that family member can buy apps without your permission, and some parental control settings like disabling most functions. during “school hours” or set movement goals.

Can an Apple Watch be set up with an iPad?

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

How can I change my watch face?

We’ve got a comprehensive guide to help you not only change your Apple Watch face, but also create the perfect one for your needs, complete with a video tutorial.

How can I use Apple Music on my Apple Watch?

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

Also: Apple Music, Apple TV apps coming to Windows 11

To do this, open the Watch app on your iPhone. then touch My watchfollowed by Music. On this screen you can add playlists, albums and tracks. Lastly, touch add music. Your picks should then be synced to your Apple Watch, where you can listen to them via Bluetooth, even if your iPhone isn’t around.