How to Fix AirPods Not Syncing or Pairing to Apple Watch


Apple’s AirPods are pretty great, but they’re not perfect. While the initial one-tap pairing process with an iPhone works like magic (just by opening the AirPods charging case lid), we’ve experienced some issues with syncing to our Apple Watch.

The moment you pair your AirPods to your iPhone, it will also automatically pair to devices in your iCloud account, including Apple Watch and Mac.

Theoretically, to use AirPods for listening to music downloaded to your Apple Watch, you just launch the Music app on the watch, and tap the watch icon tab at the top. This will then show locally downloaded music and once you tap play, it’ll start streaming to your AirPods (or you can swipe up Control Center on Apple Watch, tap the AirPlay icon and connect to AirPods first).

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While our Apple Watch showed our AirPods as ‘Connected’, every time we tried to connect, we’d get the following error message (on the bottom right), which would say “Connection Failed – “Make sure “Gary’s AirPods” is turned on and in range.””—even when we were within WiFi range for Handoff:

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Seeing these connections errors are frustrating—especially when you’ve changed and are ready to step out on a run, only to discover you won’t have tunes to listen to (#firstworldproblems).

The fix for this AirPods connection problem to Apple Watch? In our case, we had to nuke the connection altogether. By forgetting AirPods from Apple Watch, it also deletes them from iCloud (Settings > Bluetooth > tap the ‘i’ icon and ‘Forget Device’).

To sync AirPods again, we had to follow the same process of opening the charging case with AirPods inside next to iPhone—but this time it asked us to hold down the button on the back of the case to enter pairing mode. Once that was done, the regular ‘connect’ screen appeared and with one tap, we were back in the running.

When we tried to listen to music on Apple Watch with AirPods, the connection worked perfectly.

If you don’t want to go nuclear on the AirPods connection, you can also try rebooting your Apple Watch as another possible fix. But since AirPods pair so quickly and easily, re-pairing is not a big deal.

Have you run into any connection issues with your AirPods?


  • James Bentley

    I had the exact same issue, so requested a call from Apple. I’m absolutely astounded to report that they told me the Airpods aren’t actually compatible directly with the watch!!

    They said that the Airpods require an iPhone to be in range in order to function properly on the watch – which is complete madness in my opinion and very disappointing. If you have to have your phone constantly on you, you may as well just listen to music from the phone directly! But that’s not always the case, as at the gym for example, I leave my phone in the locker and listen to music direct from the watch…

    They said that the watch doesn’t have the correct profile installed on it to allow the Airpods to pair directly with it – they need to be paired with the phone in order for them to work properly.

  • j shush

    Yes I have the same issue with the ” magic” connection with my apple watch series 1 its really frustrating


    The series 2 watch is compatible with the AirPods it’s one of their selling points it’s on their website

  • stannikola

    I went running with the watch s2 and airpods playing music directly from the watch, with my iphone left at home. So, that works for sure, but I still get the connection failed to airpods sometimes when I want to play from my watch, even thought the connection iphone-Airpods is on and connection iphone-watch is on. Only restarting the watch fixes this for me, I tried the trick above and it didn’t solve it for me 🙁

  • Benny

    I was having the same problem, but what I had to do was “disconnect” the phone from the AirPods before I could connect the watch. And that makes sense, because they can’t both be connected at the same time (or else which one would drive the sound). Note: Don’t “forget” the Bluetooth device (the AirPods), assuming you see it in the list on the watch, just “disconnect” (by clicking the same blue “i” next to the Bluetooth item and selecting “disconnect”). Then you should be able to connect with your watch (assuming you see the device; if you don’t, then follow the instructions above for starting over wth the pairing on all devices). Note: For good measure, I temporarily turned off Bluetooth on my iPad when connecting my watch, too, because I didn’t want that to interfere as well. 🙂

  • James Bentley

    This makes sense, however I find that I still experience issues when I’m connecting my AirPods with the watch completely out of reach of my iPhone. Plus, once they are finally onnected, they disconnect randomly whilst playing music, depending on my wrists’ position to the AirPods.

  • James Bentley

    The only way I can stop my connection issues is to put watch in Airplane mode and then back again. Seems to connect perfectly, first time after this. So I think this is a software glitch, and one that Apple aren’t admitting to (as usual).

  • stannikola

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll try it next time, makes sense