Secret Apple Watch features: How to use the Digital Crown on Apple Watch

How to use Low Power Mode on watchOS 9
(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

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 touch capabilities. Whether you have the brand new Apple Watch Series 8 or a slightly older model, the Digital Crown and side button have some great features. Here's how to use the digital crown on Apple Watch to do things you never thought possible!

The Side Button

Apple Watch Side (Image credit: iMore)

The only traditional button on Apple Watch is the side button that sits above and to your right Apple Watch band. While you likely know that it powers and turns off your Apple Watch, you can also use it for the Dock and the watchOS emergency features.

Powering on and off

You can turn your Apple Watch on and off using the side button. Resetting your Apple Watch is a different beast.

  1. To power off, hold the side button until you see the menu.
  2. Slide to Power Off.
  3. 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:

  1. Hold the side button until you see the menu.
  2. Slide Medical ID.
  3. Use the Digital Crown to scroll your Medical ID.
  4. Tap Cancel to exit.

To perform an SOS on your Apple Watch:

  1. Hold the side button until you see the menu.
  2. 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, 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

Apple Watch Digital Crown (Image credit: iMore)

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 several different features. Here's how to use the digital crown on your Apple Watch to its greatest potential.

Scroll to wake up your Watch

You don't have to lift 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.

Scroll to view

In most native and third-party apps, you can use the Digital Crown's scroll (up or down) to move across content.

  1. Scroll down to page up
  2. 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. Then, scroll up or down to raise or lower your music, podcasts, or whatever else you happen to have flowing through your favorite headphones.

Press to go home

One press of the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch will bring you back to your currently active Watch face, assuming you're inside an app. Otherwise, you'll see your entire list or grid of apps.

Double-press to visit the 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, Apple's voice assistant.

Button combos

Force quitting Apple Watch

Force quitting Apple Watch (Image credit: iMore)

Button combos are also available on Apple Watch, giving you some extra functionality.

Take a screenshot

To take a screenshot on your Apple Watch, you need only press in on the Digital Crown with a finger, then use your thumb to press lightly on the side button.

Pause a workout

To pause a Workout on Apple Watch, press both the Digital Crown and the side button at the same time. To resume, press both buttons again.

Force quit

If you have an unresponsive app, you can force quit on the Apple Watch to restart the device.

To force quit an app:

  1. Press the side button until you see the power screen.
  2. Then, press the Digital Crown until you return to the Watch face.

To force restart your Apple Watch:

  1. Press and hold both the side button and Digital Crown until the screen goes dark and the Apple logo appears.


Apple Watch passcode (Image credit: iMore)

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, you can dim 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, tap to skip the countdown clock when you see the Ready message in the Workout app.

Swipe to move, scroll and delete

Swiping is almost as standard on a multitouch device as tapping — on the Apple Watch, you can swipe up or down instead 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 your 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. However, doing so will change your Apple Watch face.

Swipe up or sideways to delete

In both the watch face picker and the Dock on Apple Watch, 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

You can drag your finger along the screen to draw, move items, or use the Scribble text interface in certain apps and interfaces. You can even write out a message on your Apple Watch.

Updated September 2022: Updated for watchOS 9

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

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.