The Unlock with Apple Watch feature is not working for some new iPhone 13 owners, displaying an error message when attempting to toggle it on …

The feature was introduced back in April as a convenient workaround for unlocking your iPhone while wearing a face mask.

To enable the Unlock with Apple Watch feature, open the Settings app on your iPhone, then look for the “Face ID & Passcode” setting. Once you flip this toggle, your Apple Watch will be able to authenticate your iPhone as long as the following conditions are met:

  • Face ID detects a mask
  • Your Apple Watch is nearby
  • Your Apple Watch is on your wrist
  • Your Apple Watch is unlocked
  • Your Apple Watch has a passcode enabled

Once you enable the feature, your iPhone will unlock automatically with your Apple Watch the next time you wear a face mask. When your iPhone unlocks, you’ll receive a haptic feedback notification on your Apple Watch telling you that your iPhone was unlocked by the Apple Watch. There is also the option to quickly “Lock iPhone” directly from that Apple Watch notification.

However, many of those trying it today – including two of us here at 9to5Mac – are finding that the feature cannot be enabled. Attempting to toggle it on results in an error message:

Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch. Make sure your Apple Watch is
unlocked and on your wrist, and your iPhone is unlocked.

There’s a Reddit thread where others are complaining.

Nothing anyone tries seems to cure it. 

“I tried turning wrist detect on and off, turning on and off the unlock watch with phone, restarted watch, restarted phone, cycled Bluetooth off and on, did the same with airplane mode.”

“I’ve tried unpairing/repairing, hard resetting both watch and phone, turning off/on passcode and I’m at a total loss?!”

“I’ve tried resetting passwords, resetting all network settings, resetting the Apple Watch (restoring from backup and starting as new), changing both passwords to the same thing, toggling other settings etc. Nothing works. Absolutely nothing.”

Given that this appears to be a widespread issue, it’s looking like this might be a bug Apple needs to fix with an iOS update.

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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