How to Fix iMessage Not Working on Apple Watch (Receiving or Syncing Problems)

Don’t you think it would be inconvenient when the Messages app on your Apple Watch stopped working? According to numerous reports from users, they were unable to send or receive text messages from their tiny device. More specifically iMessage, a native instant messaging feature from Apple.

Many folks purchased the Apple Watch to escape the process of pulling out their iPhone to exchange text messages. That being said, it’s important to maintain this feature at its best working condition.

Before we begin, allow me to clear out some details.

  • There is no particular method for resolving this problem.
  • It has nothing to do with the hardware or software of your Apple Watch.

Here are a few reasons why text messages might not show up on your watch:

  • You are currently using your iPhone instead of your Watch.
  • You have accidentally enabled a feature that stopped your Apple Watch from receiving text messages, doesn’t matter if that is iMessages or regular SMS.

Apple Watch Is Not Receiving Messages

When your Apple Watch is not receiving SMS messages, it might be that your iPhone is in active mode. In other words, it’s either not locked or in session. If the iPhone is on and you’re using it, all notifications including incoming text messages will be notified via the iPhone’s screen.


It’s important to lock the device or turn it off so that your Apple Watch can start receiving text messages despite the watch’s power status (asleep or awake).

Turn Off Do Not Disturb on Apple Watch

Let’s say you did follow what we instructed above and your watch still not getting any messages. Chances are the Do Not Disturb feature is enabled.


To disable this option:

  1. Press the Digital Crown to access your watch face
  2. Swipe up to launch Glances
  3. Continue to swipe left until you see Settings
  4. Tap on the Do Not Disturb icon to turn it off (assuming that this feature is currently enabled)

I think for this Messages problem on your Apple Watch, it’s very easy to troubleshoot. As long as you know how the Notification system work and you’ve disabled Do Not Disturb mode.

iMessage Activation Error

Another common mistake that we see people do is forgetting to activate their iMessage entirely before using it. By that, I mean entering their Apple ID and wait for iMessage to be activated. For most users this process is painless, but no technology is perfect.

If you tried to turn on iMessage and you see the “waiting for activation” popup, then follow the instructions below.

How to Fix iMessage Not Working on Apple Watch (Receiving or Syncing Problems) 1

How to Fix Waiting to Activate in iMessage

  1. If iMessage is enabled from the Settings app, please disable it
  2. Restart your iPhone or iPad
  3. Go back to Settings > Messages > and enable iMessage again
  4. Wait for a few minutes and see if it’s activated

If that doesn’t help, you can try a few more tips below.

  • Update to the latest firmware
  • Go to Settings > General > Restrictions and toggle off for iMessage. This could cause the “Waiting for Activation” alert
  • Sign out of your Apple ID and log back in
  • Contact your carrier and see if your plan allow the use of iMessage

I hope those steps above can help you troubleshoot this annoying error. Once iMessage is initiated, you should be able to use this feature on both iPhone and Apple Watch.

iMessage Not Syncing Between Apple Watch and iPhone

One of my favorite thing about owning multiple different Apple products is synchronization. When setting up your iPhone, MacBook or Apple Watch, you’re asked to enter your Apple ID and password.

How to Fix iMessage Not Working on Apple Watch (Receiving or Syncing Problems) 2

This allows the newly added device to collect shareable data from other devices and display them to you. For example, when I first setup my Apple Watch, it asks if I would like to automatically install the apps from my iPhone to my Apple Watch.

The answer is obvious. With a portable device like the Apple Watch, I’m able to quickly send reply or view incoming text messages without having to take out my iPhone. But this doesn’t always work as expected. Sometimes, there is a delay between both devices. Causing a bit of confusion when I switch from an Apple Watch to iPhone or vice versa.

Before we begin, I would like you to check and turn on the following things:

  1. Pair the Apple Watch to your iPhone
  2. Connect to a Wi-Fi network, and Bluetooth is enabled

If messages sending from the iPhone won’t reach your Apple Watch, or if you send a quick reply from your Apple Watch and that message doesn’t show up on your iPhone, then it’s best that you follow some of the tips down below.

Reset iMessage from your iPhone

When something is not operating correctly, our first instinct is always to shut it down and turn it back up. Same thing with iMessage on your device.

  1. Go to Settings > Messages > disable iMessage (make sure the button is no longer green). Launch App Switcher (double-tap on the home button) and force close the Settings app
  2. Re-open the app after a few minutes and turn your iMessage back on
  3. Any delayed messages will slowly be added back to your iPhone and Apple Watch

Still no help? Keep going…

Restart both devices

Let’s start with your smartwatch first. To turn off the Apple Watch:

  1. Press and hold the side button until you see the Power Off slider
  2. Drag it all the way to the right
  3. Press and hold the side button again until you see the Apple logo

Also, turn off your iPhone and turn it back on as well.

Unpair your Apple Watch

If that still doesn’t help, it’s time to unpair your Apple Watch and iPhone. Don’t worry, you will be able to re-pair it back after.

  1. Pull out both devices
  2. Open the Watch app on your iPhone
  3. Go to My Watch > tap the (i) symbol
  4. Select Unpair Apple Watch
  5. Confirm the action using your Apple ID (for some people this is not required)

Now wait until both devices are disconnected from each other. Here’s a good news though. You do not need to worry about data loss because before the unpairing process started, your iPhone has automatically create a backup of the Apple Watch.

How to Fix iMessage Not Working on Apple Watch (Receiving or Syncing Problems) 3

When you see the “Start Pairing” message, go ahead and re-pair both devices and use that backup to restore everything. Try sending a new iMessage again. This time, it will show up on your Apple Watch and iPhone.

Stop iMessages From Coming to My Apple Watch

If you think iMessage on your Apple Watch is causing you more headache then providing useful features, then it’s better if we stop it from getting to your watch in the first place. Now, such option is not really available yet. What we can do is turn off the notification system so that you don’t get notififed of new messages on your Apple Watch.

I found this interesting Facebook status that fits this scenario perfectly.

I have a hearing disorder, and so it’s very hard for me to know when there is a new text message sent to my iPhone. Because I have the Apple Watch, it often gets sent there instead and the noise being produced isn’t loud enough for me to hear.

To turn off iMessage from going to your Apple Watch:

  1. On your iPhone, open the Watch app
  2. Go to the My Watch tab > Notifications
  3. Scroll down until you see the Messages app
  4. Tap on it
  5. You should see a check mark next to Mirror my iPhone.
  6. We don’t want that option, tap on Custom to change it
  7. Under Alerts, you should see Show Alerts, Sound, and Haptic
  8. Turn all 3 of those settings off

How to Fix iMessage Not Working on Apple Watch (Receiving or Syncing Problems) 4

Like I mentioned earlier, you can’t entirely disable the Messages feature or iMessage itself from the Apple Watch. The partial solution to this problem above showed you how to customize the alerts setting.

I use this method to stop messages from being sent to my Apple Watch. Hopefully, this will work for you as well. I know there are still people out there that favor receiving notifications and text messages on their iPhone instead of the Watch.

Already Updated to watchOS 4 or Apple Watch Series 3?

If you came here because you recently purchased an Apple Watch Series 3 or you updated to watchOS 4 and had trouble with the Messages app, please read the following tutorials I just published. It will show you what to do when your watch fails to send or receive text messages.


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