iOS 15.4 update solves a big Apple Watch frustration since it first arrived in 2015

Recovering an Apple Watch through iOS 15.4
(Image credit: Apple)

With the release of iOS 15.4 and watchOS 8.5, Apple has finally made it easier to restore your Apple Watch without having to take it to an Apple Store for a Genius appointment.

Since its first release back in 2015, if you had an issue with your Watch where a factory reset wouldn't solve the issue, there was no direct port to plug in a lightning cable to restore from iTunes - similar to what you would do with an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

A trip to an Apple Store close by to book a Genius appointment would be the only option, where their tech support would be able to forcibly restore your Watch through a secret data port.

But with iOS 15.4 and watchOS 8.5, this can be done anywhere, saving you a long trip and a headache.


Analysis: A long time coming

The ability to restore your own iPhone has been the standard since the first iPhone in 2007.

But while the Apple Watch has always had a secret data port that's at the bottom of the smartwatch, it's a port that's never been intended for consumer use, only by Apple. You would go to an Apple Store, see its tech support, or Genius as they're called, and they would be able to use this port to reset your Watch.

However there are situations where an Apple Store could be hundreds of miles away, and you've got a paperweight on your wrist. This is why it's a relief to have this feature in iOS 15.4 and watchOS 8.5.

Apple Watch in recovery mode

(Image credit: Apple)

All you need to do is place the Watch on a charger, press the side button twice, and a pop-up should appear on your iPhone, explaining that it's discovered an Apple Watch that needs to be restored.

After a half hour, the Watch will appear as though it's being used for the first time, and you can start to pair it to your iPhone again.

This is going to be a great help for many, and will reduce the stress at least in trying to find time to go to an Apple Store to do this.

Daryl Baxter
Software & Downloads Writer

Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time, he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider'. His second book, '50 Years of Boss Fights', came out in June 2024, and has a newsletter called 'Springboard'. He's usually found playing games old and new on his Steam Deck and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.