Shh! Secret Apple Watch controls are right here
There’s a lot you can do with your Apple Watch’s buttons, gestures, and taps
Despite its size, your Apple Watch has a surprising amount of functionality — all controlled by three unique inputs, including a side button, a Digital Crown, and Force Touch capabilities. Here’s what you can do with each!
The Side Button
The only traditional button on Apple Watch, the side button powers and turns off your wearable device. You can also use it for the Dock and the device’s emergency features.
Powering on and off
You can turn your Apple Watch on and off using the side button.
- To power off, hold the side button until you see the menu.
- Slide to Power Off.
- To power on, hold the side button until you see the Apple logo.
Press and hold to access Medical ID or SOS
You can access your Medical ID or notify local authorities of an emergency by using the side button on your Apple Watch.
To display medical information:
- Hold the side button until you see the menu.
- Slide Medical ID.
- Use the Digital Crown to scroll your Medical ID.
- Tap Cancel to exit.
To perform an SOS on your Apple Watch:
- Hold the side button until you see the menu.
- Slide Emergency SOS.
Warning: Swiping SOS will place a call to the local authorities and is only meant to be used in an emergency.
You need to enable SOS on Apple Watch first using the Watch app on iPhone.
Press once to open the Dock
The Apple Watch Dock shows your most recently used apps or up to 10 of your favorite apps. To activate the Dock, simply tap on the side button.
Press twice to activate Apple Pay
If you use Apple Pay, you can use your Apple Watch to pay almost anywhere that offers a tap-to-pay terminal — whether or not you have your iPhone along for the ride. Your Apple Watch uses skin contact and an unlocked Watch to authorize the purchase; just double-press the side button to bring up the Apple Pay interface, then tap your Watch to the terminal. You can also access Apple Cash from this screen.
You have to set up Apple Pay, add a passcode to your Watch, and unlock it to use this feature.
The Digital Crown
Perhaps the most noticeable of the Apple Watch’s interaction options, the Digital Crown is a physical dial that you can spin to scroll, press once, or press and hold to activate a number of different features.
Scroll to wake up your watch
You don’t have to lift up your Apple Watch to see its active face. Instead, you can use the Digital Crown and scroll up. As you do, the display slowly brightens from sleep.
The return of Time Travel
In watchOS 5, Apple removed the Time Travel feature on Apple Watch. In watchOS 6, it returns on certain watch faces. For each, there’s one simple task to remember: scroll up using the Digital Crown.
On the new watchOS 6 Solar Dial watch face, you can scroll up using the Digital Crown to see where in the sky the sun (or moon) sits at a given time in a 24 hour period.
On the Solar face, using Time Travel will move the position of the sun, taking you between Night, Dawn, Twilight, Day, Solar Noon, Sunset, Twilight, Dusk, Night, and Solar Midnight.
Performing the same task on the Astronomy face, you’ll see the shadow on the Earth and its clouds as it passes around the Sun, even revealing city lights at nighttime.
Note: The globe’s location on the Astronomy face is based on your current time zone.
On wake, the Kaleidoscope face is fairly tame: It’s only when you spin the Digital Crown when you create kaleidoscopic patterns.
On the Siri watch face, a scroll of the Digital Crown will show your upcoming appointments and suggestions, favorite sports team’s schedule, and more.
Scroll to view
In most apps, native- and third-party, you can use the Digital Crown’s scroll (up or down) to move across content.
- Scroll down to page up
- Scroll up to page down.
With some interfaces, scrolling will move the content on the display in a horizontal direction instead.
Zoom in the Photos app or on the apps list
For example, in the native Photos app, you can scroll the Digital Crown to zoom in or out on a photo.
Scroll to change the volume
Whether you’re listening to audio through your iPhone or locally on your Watch, you can open the wearable device’s Now Playing complication and use the Digital Crown to change the track’s volume. Just scroll up or down to raise or lower your music, podcasts, or whatever else you happen to be listening to.
Press to go home
One press of the Digital Crown on Apple Watch will bring you back to your currently active Watch face, assuming your inside an app. Otherwise, you’ll see your full list of apps.
Double-press to visit previous app
When you double-press the Digital Crown on Apple Watch, you’ll see the previous app activated.
Press-and-hold for Siri
When you press and hold the Digital Crown, you’ll trigger Siri.
Button combos are also available on Apple Watch, giving you some extra functionality.
Take a screenshot
To take a screenshot on the Apple Watch, you need only press in on the Digital Crown with your thumb, then use the rest of your thumb to press lightly on the side button.
Pause a workout
To pause a workout, press both the Digital Crown and the side button at the same time. To resume, press both buttons again.
If you have an unresponsive app, you can force quit on Apple Watch to restart the device.
To force quit an app:
- Press the side button until you see the power screen.
- Then, press the Digital Crown until you return to the Watch face.
To force restart your Apple Watch:
- Press and hold both the side button and Digital Crown until the screen goes dark and the Apple logo appears.
Besides using the Digital Crown and side button, there are multitouch gestures on the Apple Watch’s screen.
Cover to mute
Simply by cupping, lightly slapping, or covering your Apple Watch’s display will dim it and mute your settings.
Tap to wake, select, and more
Not surprisingly, tapping is an important option on the Apple Watch’s multitouch display. Tap to enter apps, tap to switch interfaces, tap to select options, tap to play games, and so much more.
Tap to speed your way through animations
Rather not see animations on Apple Watch? As they begin, tap on the screen. For example, when you see the Ready message in the Workout app, tap to skip the countdown clock.
Swipe to move, scroll, and delete
Swiping is almost as common on a multitouch device as tapping: On the Apple Watch, you can swipe up or down in lieu of scrolling with the Digital Crown, swipe between options, or swipe up or sideways to delete cards.
Swipe to view Control Center and notifications
From your active watch face, you can swipe up to view Control Center on the Apple Watch and access any of its controls, or swipe down from the top bezel to view your notifications on the Apple Watch.
Swipe between watch faces
You can use an edge-to-edge swipe on your currently active watch face to move between your other saved watch faces.
Swipe up or sideways to delete
In both the watch face picker and the Dock, you use swipes to delete faces or quit apps you no longer want to see. In the watch face picker, you’ll need to swipe up, then swipe up again; in the dock, it’s a sideways swipe.
Drag to draw or scribble
In certain apps and interfaces, you can drag your finger along the screen to draw, move items, or use the Scribble text interface.
Press down to activate Force Touch
With Force Touch, you can find contextual options for apps that developers have added. You can use Force Touch by pressing down on the Apple Watch screen.
Force Touch to switch between List and Grid view in the apps list
With the apps list open, you can press down on the screen to activate the List/Grid View organizational options.
Force Touch to create new watch faces
Finally, you can Force Touch to create and adjust your Watch faces. Press down on the screen on your current watch face to enter Edit mode, then swipe (or use the Digital Crown to scroll to the right until you see the New button.
Any secret Apple Watch buttons or gestures we’ve missed?
Let us know below!
We thank Serenity Caldwell for the videos and previous work on this!