Apple Watch automation fails with 'Remote user isn't registered'

I have an Apple Watch SE and an iPhone 7, both running the latest OSes. I thought I would try a simple automation for the watch to turn silent mode on in the evening and off in the morning so I wouldn’t be wakened by a phone call at night. I set it up and when it ran, it failed with the error message ‘Remote user isn’t registered.’ Huh?

A search of Apple support turned up nothing. No surprise. I didn’t find anything in Apple discussion forums either. A general web search turned up a few mentions. I then understood that the ‘remote user’ was the Apple Watch. But what does ‘registered’ mean? I’ve never seen this word used in any documentation, Apple or otherwise.

Nothing like using straightforward language in an error message.

The few recommendations on the web were basically about rebooting, with one person saying he had to reset his watch and then restore from a backup. I rebooted the phone, but that got me nothing but pestered to enter my Apple ID password for the umpteenth time.

However, rebooting the watch has solved the problem, and the automation has been running successfully for several days.

One time, I also got the failure message ‘Cannot send with an inactive account.’ Well, ‘cannot send’ implies the problem is on the sending device, the iPhone. But what account? Apple ID? Mine is not inactive.

This error didn’t happen again, so it may have been in the interim between when the phone pestered me to enter my Apple ID password, and when I actually did that, with all the resulting headaches that causes.

Yesterday, I downloaded to my phone a third-party app that brings WhatsApp to the watch to my iPhone, then installed the watch app. Opening the app on the watch is supposed to create a QR code that you scan with WhatsApp on the iPhone to connect the two devices, as you would if you want to run WhatsApp on a Mac. The watch repeatedly failed to do that until, yes, I rebooted the watch. The connection worked.

So I guess anytime you need to set up a new interface between the phone and the watch, reboot the watch to get it to work.

I mention this here primarily to document it for others to find if they run into this problem.


An update. A few weeks ago I got the dreaded ‘Your Apple ID has been locked for security reasons’ on my iPad. I unlocked my ID (for the umpteenth time!), but this always disrupts some of the connections between my devices. It caused the automation on the watch to resume failing with the ‘Remote user isn’t registered’ message.

I rebooted the watch, but this wasn’t sufficient to fix the automation, probably because I didn’t reboot the iPhone at the same time. I decided just to ignore it and let the error keep occurring. It wasn’t worth it to try to fix the problem if it would only return before long.

Last week, without me doing anything related to my Apple ID, I started getting the ‘You are now using Messages and Facetime on a new [device]’ messages, this time in rapid succession for my three devices - iMac, iPad, and iPhone. This message, which comes every time I have to unlock my Apple ID, shows how out of control this process is, since none of these is a new device. They are all about four years old and have been used on the same Apple ID since I got them.

However, as I suspected, the messages apparently occurred because Apple finally cleaned up its act. The automation started working again.

This proves that these problems were bugs in Apple’s system. Of course, there was never any announcement or admission of this, at least that I saw.

I have no idea how long this nirvana will continue until the Apple ID process breaks again, but for now it’s nice that my devices are working together again.

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