[Fixed] Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch in iOS 16/17

It’s pretty simple to unlock iPhone with Apple Watch, but you may receive a message saying “unable to communicate with Apple Watch” after iOS 16/17update. Hopefully, you can solve it after reading this guide.


By Demi / Updated on February 5, 2024

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“Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch" when trying to enable "Unlock with Apple Watch"

I have seen a couple of posts, but none of the solutions work for me. When I try to enable to “Unlock with Apple Watch” option to unlock my iPhone while wearing a face mask, I keep getting an error saying “Unable to communicate with Apple Watch”. Is there anything else I can try? Thanks for any help you provide.

- Question from Apple Community

Since iOS 14.5, Apple released a new function that enables iPhone users with an Apple Watch to unlock iPhone with Face ID even when you’re wearing a face mask or sunglasses. Unfortunately, the function seems to stop working after updating to the latest iOS 17. here, this guide comes to help you out.

Part 1. Intro of unlocking iPhone with Apple Watch not working

Many iPhone users have reported in online forums that when they attempt to toggle on the feature, it just shows an error message which says “ Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch”.

Unable To Communicate With Apple Watch

Posts and comments also showed that common solutions don’t work, like soft and hard restarting both Apple Watch and iPhone, unpairing and repairing the Apple Watch to iPhone, etc. If you’re in the same situation, please keep on reading to find other solutions to avoid the error “unable to communicate with Apple Watch” in iOS 16/17.

Part 2. Fix unable to communicate with Apple Watch in iOS 16/17

Simple checks and preparations before troubleshooting

In case that you fail to unlock iPhone with Apple Watch due to any wrong operations, there are some simple checks and preparations you can do before troubleshooting this issue.

For Apple Watch
• Apple Watch is running with the latest Watches 8 or later. You can have a check from Apple Watch Settings. Tap on Settings Gear icon from the Home screen of Apple Watch > General > About > Version.
• Your Apple Watch must be on your wrist and unlocked.
• Apple Watch must be protected by password. To enable it, go to Settings on Apple Watch > Passcode > Turn Passcode on.

Turn On Passcode Apple Watch

For iPhone, please make sure you have turned on the Bluetooth. You can try again after checking all the requirements. If your iPhone still pops the message “Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch”, you may need to reset both Apple Watch and iPhone to factory settings with tutorials below.

Reset Apple Watch and iPhone to factory settings

Some comments show that after resetting Apple Watch and iPhone, they can pair Apple Watch to iPhone and get access to the function Unlock with Apple Watch. Please note that you will lose everything after factory reset either device. It is highly suggested to backup Apple Watch, or you can turn to Part 3 to fully backup iPhone to avoid data loss.

Detailed steps to reset Apple Watch to factory settings
Keep your iPhone and Apple Watch close to each other until the process finishes. To factory reset Apple Watch, you just need to unpair it with your iPhone, follow the steps to make it.

Step 1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone > My Watch > General > Reset.

Step 2. Tap Erase Apple Watch Content and Settings > Tap it again to confirm at the bottom of the screen > You may be asked to enter your Apple ID password.

Factory Reset Apple Watch

Factory reset your iPhone
Make sure you have the latest backup files of your iPhone, then factory reset your iPhone step by step.

If you’re using the latest iOS 16, go to Settings on your iPhone > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Erase All Content and Settings.

If you’re using iOS 14.5 or others, go to Settings > General Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.

When the task finishes, you can pair Apple Watch with iPhone 13 again like you did before, then toggle on Unlock with Apple Watch feature again.

Hope you’re lucky enough to fix the issue. If not, Apple has said in a support document it will fix the issue in an upcoming software update. Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer for those of you suffering the issue.

Part 3. Full backup iPhone to avoid data loss

To fix any software issues, you may have to backup your iPhone. However, it seems that official backup tools cannot satisfy all users to some degree. You may be eager for a professional third-party backup tool to create a full iPhone backup for you. It is highly recommended you try FoneTool.

√ What full backup contains
The Full Backup feature in FoneTool can backup almost everything on your iPhone, which includes apps (data files, preference), Safari (history, bookmarks), system settings, as well as common types of data like photos, contacts, text messages, music, videos, etc.
√ Multiple functions to manage your iPhone data
    ⨠ Selective Backup: Custom backup meets your needs of daily backup your iPhone in an incremental way.
    ⨠Transfer to computer/iPhone: With different functions of transferring data among iDevices and computer, FoneTool is also the best file transfer app for iPhone to PC.
√ Widely compatible
FoneTool can work well with iPhones from iPhone 4 to the latest iPhone 15, as well as different models of iPad and iPod. FoneTool is also perfectly compatible with iOS like iOS 17.

Free download FoneTool to computer by clicking the icon below, and follow the instructions to fully backup your iPhone.

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 1. Connect your iPhone to the computer > Click Phone Backup > Full Backup on the homepage of FoneTool, and click Get Started to begin.

Full Backup

Step 2. Click Full Backup again to backup all data on your iPhone.

Click Full Backup

Step 3. If necessary, enable Backup encryption to protect the privacy of your data. Once you enable it, you will be asked to enter the password before accessing the backup files.

Backup Encryption

Step 4. Choose a Backup Path as you like on Backup Storage Path > Click Start Backup to complete the task.

Start Backup

You can restore the full backup with no effort by clicking Backup History on the homepage and choosing Full Restore option instead. It won’t take you much time to finish the backup and restore task.


That’s all about what you can do when you intend to unlock iPhone with Apple Watch but receiving the error “Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch” on your iPhone after iOS update. There is no exact reason for the issue, but hope you can fix it with the help of this guide.

Demi · Editor
Demi is an editor of FoneTool group as well as a good advisor in the area of iOS-related issues. She does well in finding solutions to people's problems. She enjoys traveling, gardening, and watching movies. She spends most of her free time with her pet and family.