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iPhone 13 can't unlock with Apple Watch: Here's what to do [Update: Fix available]

Apple Watch Series 7
(Image credit: Apple)

Update 10/1/21: Apple has released an update for the iOS 15 that fixes the issue preventing iPhone 13 from using unlock with Apple Watch. To update go to Settings > General > Software Update > iOS 15.01 > Download and Install.

Apple Watch owners that were quick to jump on the iPhone 13 upgrade last week were greeted with one hiccup with their new Apple Watch and iPhone combo.

A bug currently prevents the iPhone 13 from working with the useful "Unlock with Apple Watch" feature that Apple introduced this spring to allow iPhone users to skip Face ID or entering a PIN to unlock their phone if they have their Apple Watch (via Gizmodo).

Apple's response to the issue had good news and bad news for frustrated Apple Watch owners. The good news is that a fix is on the way and it doesn't seem like it will be too long. iOS 15.1 beta 2 was recently released to developers and appears to patch the bug. While there is no precise public release date for iOS 15.1, Apple has said that the SharePlay feature, which is also coming as part of this update, will be available this fall. Expect it to arrive over the next few weeks rather than months. 

The bad news is that there is absolutely nothing that you can do to fix the problem until then. So, for the time being, you are best served by deactivating the feature to avoid getting "Unable to Communicate with Apple Watch" messages as it tries futilely to unlock your iPhone 13.

(Image credit: Apple)

How to turn off Unlock with Apple Watch on iPhone 13

  • Open Settings
  • Open Face ID & Passcode
  • Enter your passcode
  • Scroll to Unlock with Apple Watch
  • Tap the toggle to the right of your Apple Watch's name.

That's it, you are back to using Face ID or a passcode to unlock your iPhone 13 until Apple releases its next update. You'll just need to follow the directions above again to reenable the feature once it is up and running again.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.