Since the Apple Watch doesn’t plug directly into its charger, charging problems can be hard to troubleshoot. Here’s what to do if your Watch won’t charge or is charging very slowly. (Unlike with an iPhone, you won’t need any toothpicks!)
What’s Normal Charging for an Apple Watch?
The Apple Watch uses inductive wireless charging. This means that the electromagnets in the charger generate an electric current inside the Watch, which charges the battery. Yes, there’s still a wire, but since you don’t have to plug it directly into a port, it counts as wireless. The inductive charging normally works once your Watch is properly positioned, but it can be a bit more finicky than a regular charging cable, as the connection between the device and the charger isn’t as secure.
On a full charge, you should get about 18 hours of battery life with all Apple Watches. Of course, if you use features like Bluetooth audio playback or workout tracking (especially if you track outdoor workouts with GPS), that will drain the battery a lot faster. The battery also degrades over time. An Apple Watch that’s a few years old won’t hold as much charge as it did when it was new.
It should take your Apple Watch between 1.5 hours and 2.5 hours to fully charge to 100%. It should charge to around 80% in less than 1.5 hours. If the battery is completely flat, it can take up to 30 minutes for it to charge enough to turn on.
When your Apple Watch is charging, there will be a green lightning bolt indicator on screen. If the lightning bolt is red, it’s on low battery and needs to be charged.
If anything different to the above is happening when you charge your Apple Watch, something might be up. Here’s how to check that everything is working correctly.
Restart Your Watch
Turning something off and on again can fix a lot of random, intermittent, nobody-really-knows-what-has-gone-wrong-here problems. And your Apple Watch is no exception. If it’s not charging properly but you’ve still got enough battery life left that it’s working, restart it and see if that fixes the problem.
To do so, press and hold the Side button until you see the Power menu.
Swipe the “Power Off” slider to the right, and leave it to power down for a few minutes.
Turn it back on by holding the Side button down.
After it’s fully restarted, try charging it again and see if the problem has gone away.
Check the Connection Between the Apple Watch and the Charger
Without a solid, physical charging port to clunk a cable into, it’s a lot harder to tell when your Apple Watch is correctly connected to the charger. To make sure that it is:
Clean both the charger and the back of your Apple Watch, wiping away any dust, sweat, or other grime. If you don’t do this regularly, you might be surprised at how much gunk can build up.
Put your Apple Watch on the charger on a solid, steady surface (like a table) with the cable at 90º to the band. (I’ve run into issues charging my Apple Watch if I leave it on a soft chair.). The magnets should align everything automatically, but this puts your Watch in the best position to charge.
The green charging lightning bolt should pop up instantly. If it doesn’t, gently wiggle the charger, make sure that it’s magnetically locked in place, and leave it to sit—it may take a few moments to start charging. If your Watch still won’t charge, there might be something more going on.
Peel off Any Plastic
One addendum to checking the connection between your Apple Watch and the charger: Make sure that you’ve peeled off the plastic covering that ships with the charger. It can interfere with charging if it’s left on.
I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that it was there with my Watch. (It took me about three weeks.)
Double-Check the Charging Block and the Cable
The charging block is the easiest part of the charger to troubleshoot. If you haven’t done so already, make sure that it’s properly plugged into a power socket and that the charging cable is properly plugged into its USB-port.
If it’s all properly plugged in, try the block in a different wall socket. Also, try a different USB cable—perhaps with your phone—so that you can confirm that the block is working.
If the block seems to work fine, try plugging the charging cable into the USB port on your computer or another charger. If you can borrow another Apple Watch, you can also check and see if it charges with your charger.
You should also visually inspect the block and cable. If there are any black marks, burns, visible tears or wires, or signs of melting plastic, stop using it immediately—you’ve found the problem. Contact Apple and get a replacement.
Try Your Watch With Another Charger
Since the Apple Watch has its own proprietary charging cable, trying a different charger—which is one of our go-to recommendations for problems like this—isn’t always possible. If you’re using a third-party charger, check your Apple Watch with the charger it came with.
Alternatively, if you can borrow a friend or family member’s charger for a few minutes, try it with that.
If you’ve followed the last two steps, through the process of elimination, you should now have an idea whether the problem is with the charging block, the charging cable, or the Apple Watch itself.
The charging block is the simplest thing to replace: You probably already have a spare lying around your house. If it’s the cable, your best bet is to get the official Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable. It’s $29, but you know it’s going to work.
Contact Apple Support
If your charger works and your Apple Watch still won’t charge—even after you’ve thoroughly cleaned everything—then the final step is to contact Apple Support. If you purchased your watch recently or you have AppleCare+, it should be covered under your support plan. Otherwise, a battery service should set you back $79.