30 Apple Watch tips and tricks you should know
The Apple Watch can do a lot of incredible things beyond checking the time or sending messages. We've collected together our top 30 amazing tips and tricks to try with your Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE, or any other model on your wrist.
Setting up a new Apple Watch? Don't forget to check out our handy guides about how to unpair an Apple Watch to get started with your brand new one and how to set up a new Apple Watch.
General Apple Watch tips
1. Wake to your last-used app
By default, when you flick your wrist, Apple Watch will wake and show the time. If you'd instead rather it go back to whatever you were doing before it going to sleep, you can change that setting by going to Settings > General > Wake Screen.
From here, scroll down to the section On Screen Raise Show Last. Choices include While in Sessions, Within 2 Minutes of Last Use, Within 1 Hour of Last Use, and Always.
2. Make the on-screen text larger
With such a tiny device, sometimes you want the option for bigger text at your disposal. Apple makes this easy in its accessibility settings; to change the text on your Watch, go to Settings > Brightness & Text Size, and adjust to your liking.
You can also choose a specialty Big Text watch face if all you're interested in is seeing the time in large numerals.
3. Mute alerts with your palm
If you have sound enabled on the Watch, you can keep it from annoying the outside world with notification sounds: If it goes off in a place you'd rather it not, you can cover the display with your hand for three seconds or more to instantly mute any new sounds. To turn this on, you'll need to visit the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then go to My Watch > Sounds & Haptics > Cover to Mute.
4. Hide watch apps
To hide third-party apps from showing up on your Apple Watch, go into the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and make sure you're in the My Watch section. Scroll down to the section called Installed on Apple Watch. Tap the apps you'd like to delete by toggling to the off position. Even though you've removed their Watch interfaces, those apps will remain installed on your iPhone unless you delete them from that device, as well.
5. Find your iPhone with your Watch
Can't find your iPhone? Don't sweat it — the Apple Watch can help you track it down. From your Watch face, swipe up to activate Control Center. From here, tap the Ping iPhone button in blue to have it make a noise.
6. Quickly access Zoom and VoiceOver
Want Zoom or VoiceOver to be quickly available on your Watch? You can turn on the triple-click Accessibility shortcut to automatically activate either Zoom mode or VoiceOver. To do so, visit the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then go to My Watch > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut. From here, you can choose which you'd like to activate on triple-click automatically.
Siri can also turn VoiceOver on or off with a verbal command — ask your Watch.
7. Take a screenshot
Want to memorialize that Digital Touch drawing or Activity achievement? You can take a screenshot on your Apple Watch by quickly and simultaneously pressing both the side button and Digital Crown.
8. Force Apple Watch to restart
If your Watch is misbehaving, you can turn it off by pressing and holding the side button until you see the Power Off slider, then drag it across the screen. If your Watch is entirely frozen, you can perform a force reboot by holding both the side button and Digital Crown for at least ten seconds until you see the Apple logo.
9. Save custom watch faces
Not only can you customize Apple's default Watch faces by using Force Touch on the Watch display, but you can also save customized faces for future use. To do so, Force Touch on the Watch display once more, then swipe all the way to the left and tap the New button. From there, you can customize the new version of your watch face to your liking.
To delete a custom watch face, swipe up.
10. Set your watch five minutes fast
Like being early for your appointments? You can manually set the watch face to display five minutes fast — it won't affect your alarms, notifications, or clocks from other countries, but it'll show on the Watch face. To do this, go to Settings > Time > +0 min, then turn the Digital crown to advance the time ahead up to 59 minutes.
11. Turn off snooze for your alarms
Don't trust yourself to wake up on time? You can disable the Snooze button on Apple Watch by going into the Alarm app on the device and tapping on the alarm time you'd like to change. Toggle so snooze isn't an option.
12. Pre-compose custom Messages responses
You can't type directly on your Apple Watch, but you can set up a few pre-composed responses via your iPhone that you can tap on during conversations to auto-send. To do so, visit the Apple Watch app, then go to My Watch > Messages > Default Replies. You can change this list and add/remove pre-composed responses at any time.
13. Always send your dictated text as audio
When you reply to a message with your voice, your Apple Watch offers one of two choices: sending it as dictated text or sending your dictation as an audio clip. If you prefer that your messages always send as audio clips or always as dication, you can make this happen by visiting the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then going to My Watch > Messages > Audio Messages.
14. Share your location in Messages with Force Touch
Want to send your friend your current location while you're out and about? From your Messages conversation, Force Touch the display and tap Send Location.
15. Hold a call until you can find your iPhone
While taking phone calls on the Apple Watch is pretty futuristic-feeling, it's not always practical. If you get a call on your Watch that you want to pick up, but your phone's not in easy reach, and you don't want to start it on your Watch, you can tap Answer on iPhone to place the call on hold until you can find your device. On the other end, the person will hear a repeated sound until you can get to your iPhone.
16. Turn on Walkie-Talkie
You need to activate the Walkie-Talkie feature on Apple Watch to use it. To do so, go into the Walkie-Talk app on the wearable device and turn on the Available toggle. Otherwise, people won't be able to reach you using the tool.
17. Clear all your notifications with Force Touch
Though you can swipe left to delete an individual notification from the Notifications screen, you can also get rid of all your notification alerts in one tap. First, swipe down from the display to access Notifications, then Force Touch the display to bring up the Clear All option.
18. Flag Mail messages with Force Touch
There's no way to compose a new email on the Watch owing to its relative impracticability as an email machine, but you can flag messages you want to reply to later with ease. Just Force Touch on a mail message, then tap Flag.
19. Choose what mailboxes show up on your Watch
Don't want to be inundated with notifications and info from all your mailboxes? You can choose specific mailboxes to show up on the Watch from the iPhone app. Just go to My Watch > Mail > Include Mail.
20. Switch between Day and List views in Calendar
Want to see what your day looks like — but also view items in a list? You can switch between Day and List views in the Calendar by using a Force Touch gesture on the screen while in the app.
21. Build your leaving time into your Calendar alerts
If there's a location added to your event, you can create an alert to tell you when to leave that factors in driving or walking distance along with traffic. To do so, make sure the individual event has the Travel Time switch enabled; you can do this on your iPhone by going to the Calendar app, tapping the event in question, and going to Edit > Travel Time.
22. Use the Taptic Engine when you're getting directions
Your Apple Watch offers various beeps, buzzes, and movements to get your attention, but it doesn't stop with notifications. You can also use the Taptic Engine to help navigate you around a city. When you're getting directions via the Watch, you'll receive a series of taps when you have to make a turn.
For a left turn, you'll get a series of two taps, played three times: tap-tap — tap-tap — tap-tap.
For a right turn, you'll get a steady beat of 12 taps: tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.
You'll also get a long vibration when you're on your last leg of the journey and when you arrive at your destination.
23. Stop directions with Force Touch
Want your Watch to stop navigating? Use a Force Touch gesture at any point on the Maps app to cease directions.
24. Review your iPhone photos from your watch
The Camera app on your Watch lets you use it as a remote display and shutter for photos, but you can also quickly review any recent shots. That way, you can make sure you've gotten the perfect group shot before retrieving your iPhone.
25. Set a default city for your weather
The Weather app on your Watch can check a variety of cities, including your current location. To change the default location, visit the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then go to My Watch > Weather > Default City.
26. Close your rings
Apple Watch encourages you throughout the day to close your exercise rings. To find out how you're doing, bring up the Exercise app.
27. How's your ECG?
On the fourth-generation Apple Watch, Cupertino has added the ability to check your ECG from your wearable device. To do so, tap on the ECG app on your watch, then hold your finger on the digital crown for 30 seconds while electrical signals are measured.
Finally, you can use the built-in Breathe app to relax. Use the Digital Crown to set how many minutes of breaths you would like to keep track of in the app. Next, hit the Start and relax.
29. Send your favorite watch face
Beginning with watchOS 7, you can send your watch faces to a friend. Force Touch on the Watch display, then select the face you wish to share. Tap the New Message icon to send your face.
30. Change your strap
Apple makes it very simple to remove and install new straps on your Watch. One at a time, hold down one of the two band release buttons on the back of the Watch, then slide the band across to remove it. Slide in your new bands with ease.
Your tips and tricks
Got any must-have Apple Watch tips beyond these? Please share it in the comments below!
Updated October 2020: Updated for watchOS 7.
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Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.