Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Apple’s latest watchOS update includes a recovery mode of sorts

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Apple’s latest watchOS update, 8.5, now has a recovery mode that allows you to restore your Apple Watch if it gets stuck on the dreaded red exclamation mark screen (through 9to5Mac† The update is outlined in a supporting article that was updated on Monday – while the previous version of the article just recommended to try rebooting the watch and then set up a mail-in repair with apple support, it now describes the process to repair your watch at home.

Apple’s article states that you need an iPhone with iOS 15.4 to go through the steps. If your watch shows an animation of a phone and watch being brought together, or a red exclamation mark, the process to fix it is relatively simple:

  • Put your watch on the charger
  • Unlock your phone and bring it close
  • Double click on the side button of the watch, next to the crown

A prompt should then appear on your phone informing you that it has detected an Apple Watch in recovery mode, and should initiate the steps you can follow to restore the Watch.

A screenshot showing a watch in recovery mode and the prompt appearing on the phone.
Image: Apple

There can be some pickiness about the type of Wi-Fi network your phone is connected to during the process so if the restore doesn’t work, you may want to read the fine print of the article.

A colleague asked if this new feature would make it less risky to run beta software on your Watch. The answer to that question seems to depend on the type of risk you’re talking about. If you’re worried about your watch being bricked by unfinished software (a A few beta testers have reported if you saw a red exclamation mark before, which led to a chat with Apple support), it seems that this feature could potentially enable a home remedy.

It’s probably still best to leave the beta versions of Watch to the brave – some reports describe bricking an infinitely rotating loading screen, which this process may not be able to resolve. There’s also not much reassurance for those concerned about getting stuck with an unusable buggy watch. apples beta software frequently asked questions still says that “Apple Watch can’t be restored to previously released OS versions once the public beta is installed,” implying that this restore feature won’t help you go back to a public version of watchOS.

Apple did not respond to a question from The edge asking if there is a way to use this feature to go back from a buggy beta.

Whether or not this update changes the beta calculus, it’s definitely a win that users will be able to fix firmware issues at home instead of sending their watches in for service. To update to watchOS 8.5, you can: follow the instructions from Apple here† If you have a Series 3, keep in mind that the process can be more complicated due to limited storage space.

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