The Apple Watch is typically a very reliable device, but if a red exclamation point appears on its screen, Apple is signaling the user that a severe problem has occurred. A similar error is identified on the Apple Watch display with an outline of an iPhone and an Apple Watch. In either case, Apple’s wearable will be unresponsive and requires some help to correct the issue.
An Apple Watch must always be paired with an iPhone, even when the user doesn’t own an iPhone. Apple calls this Family Setup, and it allows most of the Apple Watch’s features to be used without the iPhone, mainly if using a model that supports cellular connectivity. However, some things still require the paired iPhone, including the warning symbols mentioned above.
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An Apple Watch with watchOS 8.5 can resolve the ‘red exclamation point’ error and a warning that looks like the outline of an iPhone and Apple Watch, both preventing the use of the watch. The previous solution was to try a forced restart, and if that didn’t help, it had to be taken in or sent to Apple for repair. With watchOS 8.5, users can resolve the issue with the paired iPhone with iOS 15.4 or higher. Here’s how to solve the problem. First, the iPhone needs to be connected to Wi-Fi and somewhat nearby the Apple Watch. Next, the Apple Watch should be placed on its charger, and then double-click the side button. The iPhone will notify the user that the Apple Watch needs to be updated or restored, and tapping continue will begin the recovery process.
Apple Watch Troubleshooting
If the user can’t restore the Apple Watch with the iPhone, Apple suggests checking the Wi-Fi as this is the most likely problem when something goes wrong. If connected to a 5-gigahertz network, try a 2.4-gigahertz one instead. A metered Wi-Fi hotspot might also cause a problem, so it’s best to connect to the home or office network. Unfortunately, there’s no way to identify this with the iPhone, so the person in charge of Wi-Fi should be asked.
The reason warnings like this appear in the first place is an update didn’t get installed correctly. In particular, if something goes wrong during an Apple Watch firmware update, such as the internet disconnecting or the connection to the iPhone being lost during a critical phase, the device can be left in an unusable state. While the Apple Watch is usually one of the easiest mobile devices to use, and it is rare to see any error messages, it can happen, and Apple has a way to solve this one quickly and easily.