How to fix an Apple iPhone XS Max that won’t connect to Apple Watch, pairing failed error [Troubleshooting Guide]

Pairing an iPhone with Apple Watch is supposed to be a simple task. However, there are some factors that would ruin the process and cause the pairing to fail. Often times, the problem is associated with software glitches on the iPhone including rogue apps, errant services and data corruption. Bad updates can sometimes cause you the same trouble.

If you will encounter the same problem in which your iPhone XS Max won’t connect to your Apple Watch, then I’ve lined up some potential fixes for you to try. Read on whenever you need more help.

Before we move on to our troubleshooting, if you are looking for a solution to a different issue, make sure you drop by our troubleshooting page as we’ve already addressed some of the most common problems reported by our readers. Find issues that are similar with yours and use the solutions we suggested. If you still need our help after that, then feel free to contact us by filling up our iPhone issues questionnaire.

Troubleshooting iPhone XS Max that won’t connect to Apple Watch

Before troubleshooting, check and ensure that Airplane Mode is not enabled on your Apple Watch and your iPhone XS Max. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth must be enabled. You can swipe up to open the Control Center and check on these features. Your Apple Watch must also be fully charged as low power issues can also result to connection errors. Distance also matters, so you should keep your Apple Watch and paired iPhone within range or close to each other. Most importantly, check your device compatibility. Make sure that your Apple Watch is compatible with your iPhone XS Max or iOS 12 platform.

If your iPhone XS Max still failed to connect to your Apple Watch even when all prior requirements are met, try the following workarounds to rule out software-related errors on your iPhone and Apple Watch.

First solution: Restart your iPhone and Apple Watch.

Your iPhone or Apple Watch may be experiencing some random glitches that caused pairing to fail. To rule this out, performing a soft reset on your iPhone XS Max and restart on your Apple Watch is recommended. If you haven’t already, soft reset your iPhone XS Max with these steps:

  1. Press and hold the Side/Power button and either Volume buttons simultaneously for a few seconds.
  2. Release the buttons when the Slide to Power Off command appears and then drag the power off slider to the right.
  3. After 30 seconds, press and hold the Power/Side button again until the phone reboots.

To restart your Apple Watch, simply follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold the Side button until you see the Power Off slider.
  2. Drag the Power Off slider to turn off your watch.
  3. After a few seconds, press and hold the Side button again until you see the Apple logo.

Your Apple Watch should now boot up. Make sure it’s fully charge. If your Apple Watch is charging, then you should take the charger off first because the watch won’t restart if it’s charging.

Second solution: Toggle Bluetooth OFF and then ON again.

Wireless functions like Bluetooth may stop working at any time due to many different factors. To fix minor problems affecting the phone’s wireless radios, particularly Bluetooth connections, toggle Bluetooth OFF and ON with these steps:

  1. Go to your iPhone Settings-> Bluetooth menu.
  2. Then tap the Bluetooth switch to turn OFF.
  3. While Bluetooth is turned OFF, restart your iPhone.
  4. Then turn Bluetooth ON again from the Settings-> Bluetooth menu.

Wait until Bluetooth is enabled on your phone then retry pairing or connecting to your Apple Watch and see if it works. If pairing still failed, continue to troubleshoot and try the next applicable solutions.

Third solution: Enable and disable Airplane mode on both devices.

Performing the old Airplane Mode trick may also do some wonders and fix the problem you’re dealing with. Wireless radios on the phone may need a quick restart to clear out minor conflicts that might have caused pairing flaws. So here’s what you should do then:

  1. Go to your iPhone Settings-> Airplane Mode menu.
  2. Tap the switch next to turn Airplane Mode ON. Doing so will disable all wireless radios on the phone.
  3. While Airplane mode is turned ON, restart/soft reset your iPhone XS Max.
  4. As soon as your phone boots up, head back to Settings-> Airplane Mode menu.
  5. Then toggle the switch to turn Airplane Mode OFF again. All wireless functions are then re-enabled.

Wait until Bluetooth is enabled and then re-attempting pairing your iPhone XS Max with your Apple Watch.

Fourth solution: Reset network settings on your iPhone.

Resets can be considered among the last options if the problem persists after applying the previous workarounds. Your iPhone may be encountering some network-related issues that eventually result to Bluetooth pairing errors. To rule this out, try to reset network settings on your iPhone XS Max with these steps:

  1. From your Home screen, tap on Settings.
  2. Select General.
  3. Scroll down to and tap Reset.
  4. Select the option to Reset Network Settings. This will erase your current network settings including Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth connections.
  5. Enter your device passcode when asked to proceed.
  6. Tap the option to confirm network settings reset.

After the reset, default network options and settings are restore. This means you need to re-enable Wi-Fi, Cellular network and Bluetooth on your phone.

Fifth solution: Unpair your devices then pair them again.

If you’ve previously paired your iPhone XS Max to your Apple Watch and then suddenly unable to connect, the pairing might have been corrupted and therefore it’s no longer working. In that case, you will need to remove the previous pairing to start a new one that’s free from flaws. That being said, try to unpair your iPhone XS Max and your Apple Watch or any other connected Bluetooth watches then pair them again.

On your iPhone, unpair your Apple Watch with these steps:

  1. Open the Apple Watch app.
  2. Navigate to and then tap on the My Watch tab.
  3. Select your watch at the top of the screen.
  4. Tap on the information or “i” icon next to your Apple Watch to unpair.
  5. Select the option to Unpair Apple Watch then tap again to confirm.

After unpairing, go to your Apple Watch then perform these steps to reset it:

  1. Tap on Settings.
  2. Select General.
  3. Tap Reset.
  4. Select the option to Erase all content and settings.
  5. Follow the rest of the onscreen prompts to complete the reset process.

After resetting your Apple Watch, restart both devices and then pair them again with these steps:

  1. Turn on your Apple Watch if it’s off.
  2. While your Apple Watch is turned on, hold it close to your iPhone.
  3. When prompted to “Use your iPhone to set up this Apple Watch,” tap Continue. If this message doesn’t show, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone XS Max and then tap the option to Start Pairing instead.
  4. Be sure to keep your Apple Watch and iPhone close to each other until the pairing is complete. Hold your iPhone over the animation and wait for a message saying that your Apple Watch is paired.

Follow the rest of the onscreen prompts to set up your Apple Watch as new or restore from a backup. If prompted to sign in with your Apple ID, enter the correct Apple ID password to sign in. Set up your watch based on your preferences and then wait for it to sync with your iPhone XS Max.

Again your iPhone must be connected to Wi-Fi or a cellular network and Bluetooth must be turned ON.

Seek more help

For further assistance and more advanced solutions, you can escalate the problem to Apple Support. Just let them know exactly of what has transpired and what you’ve done so far, when attempting to solve the problem on your end. If you see any error code or warning prompt, then you should relay that information to the support team so they can use it as additional hints in determining what went wrong and finding ultimate solution.

I hope that we’ve been able to help you fix the problem with your device. We would appreciate it if you helped us spread the word so please share this post if you found it helpful. Thank you so much for reading!

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