Apple Watch Experience – It Just Works – Nope

A locked Apple Watch

Here is a short story of a bad Apple Watch experience. This story is a prime example that, sometimes, the Apple experience promise can easily be broken, for no obvious reasons. And when things go bad, they really do.

My wife has two Apple Watch: a Series 3 that she wears at night and a Series 6 for the day. On a recent morning, she woke up and instinctively switched her Apple Watch for the Series 6. After a few minutes, she noticed the Apple Watch wouldn’t unlock and was displaying a message to use the iPhone to unlock the Apple Watch, she immediately did. To her surprise, the Apple Watch wouldn’t unlock. She tried to unlock her iPhone a few times, no luck. Then she decided to switch back to her Series 3. To her big surprise, the Series 3 watch displayed the same message, use your iPhone to unlock the Apple Watch. Now, both of her Apple Watch were locked with no working way to unlock them. She then asked me for help.

I told her to reboot her iPhone. She did. It didn’t help. I told her to reboot her Apple Watch. No luck. It is not obvious to reboot a locked Apple Watch. I didn’t know what to do except to start googling for possible solutions.

While I was searching for a solution, my wife decided to book a meeting with an Apple Support specialist over the web for later that morning. I told her that I was highly doubtful about Apple’s ability to address the problem.

After a while, all my Google searches pointed me to this article on Apple’s support site. The article mentions what to do if we forget the Apple Watch passcode. The problem here is that the Apple Watch uses the iPhone to unlock itself. My wife’s iPhone is controlled via an MDM which is a requirement from her office. The policies forced by the MDM is to use the iPhone to unlock the Apple Watch.

So back to the article, at first, it wasn’t the right solution. The problem is that we couldn’t use the Watch app to force anything on the Apple Watch as it was locked. The only solution was to erase it and pair it again. Both of her Apple Watch had to be reset. This reminds me of the old days when a PC was acting badly, the typical solution was to re-install Windows. That’s a bad user experience now too common on the Apple side of the numeric world1.

We diligently executed the procedure as documented in the support article. At the step where the iPhone suggests restoring the Apple Watch from a recent backup, there was no backup shown for my wife’s 40 mm Apple Watch, only the ones for her 38 mm. The only thing was a backup with a “null” name and no more details. Strange. I told her to forget about the restore and just set up the device as a new one. The problem now she was facing is the pixels cloud never came up on the Apple Watch. She waited, waited and waited. No luck. She just could pair the device with the iPhone. She had to reboot her Apple Watch and tried the pairing process again. This time, it worked as expected and for no obvious reasons, this time, the missing backup for her 40 mm Apple Watch was there. She did the restore and all went well going forward.

She had to repeat the process for her 38 mm Apple Watch. It was a flawless process this time.

Then, I asked her how was the support call with Apple? She told me it didn’t go through. At the time of the meeting, she received an automated call saying that when an agent would become available, she would be put in touch with him or her. After fifteen minutes of waiting on the phone, without any background music, she hung up. She didn’t get a follow call or email. We don’t know what happened. Again. Another bad Apple experience.

It should be that way. It’s not a good Apple Watch experience. In fact, it’s not a good Apple experience in general. I used to be proud of the Apple ecosystem being immune to these horror stories. It no longer the case, I guess.

  1. The Apple ecosystem is now so rich and complex that we are exposed to the intricacies of computer systems.

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