30 Apple Watch tips and tricks you should know

Close up of a man wearing an Apple Watch on his wrist.
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch is a great wearable for keeping track of your fitness levels and your workouts, sending messages, listening to music, or simply checking the time. While using the Apple Watch is very simple to do, it's also quite easy to miss out on some key extras that it can offer. If you're keen to make the watch feel more like your own rather than just the wearable you took out the box a little while ago, we've collected together 30 amazing Apple Watch tips and tricks for you to try.

These tips work well on everything from a shiny new Apple Watch Series 8, the latest Apple Watch Ultra, or any other model you might own. Take a look below to see how you can enrich the experience for yourself. 

Remember, if you're setting up a new Apple Watch running watchOS 9, it's a good idea to read up on how to unpair an Apple Watch to get started with your brand new one and how to set up a new Apple Watch.

Apple Watch tips and tricks: Display

1. Wake to your last-used app

Got an Apple Watch that lacks an Always-On display? When you flick your wrist, it'll wake up and show the time but you can change that to something more convenient. If you'd prefer to go back to whatever you were doing before it went to sleep, go to Settings > General > Wake Screen to adjust it.

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.

wake screen

wake screen (Image credit: iMore)

2. Make the on-screen text larger

If you'd prefer larger text on your relatively tiny device, Apple has made the accessibility setting. 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.

Apple Watch brightness and text size

Apple Watch brightness and text size (Image credit: iMore)

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 didn't, you can cover the display with your hand for three seconds or more to instantly mute any new sounds. To enable the setting, 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

If you don't want all third-party apps to be visible 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 want to delete and toggle them to the off position. Even though you've removed their Watch interfaces, these apps will remain installed on your iPhone unless you delete them from that device too.

remove third-party apps

remove third-party apps (Image credit: iMore)

5. Find your iPhone with your Watch

Can't find your iPhone? Fortunately, 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 so you can discover it easily.

find iphone on Apple Watch

find iphone on Apple Watch (Image credit: iMore)

6. Quickly access Zoom and VoiceOver

If Zoom or VoiceOver are essential features on your iPhone, you can easily make them available on your Apple Watch. Turn on the triple-click Accessibility shortcut to automatically activate either Zoom mode or VoiceOver. To do so, go to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then tap 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.

Apple Watch voice over

Apple Watch voice over (Image credit: iMore)

7. Take a screenshot

Want to take a screenshot of your Activity achievement or simply a fun drawing you've concocted on Digital Touch? Simply take a screenshot 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. For a Watch that's entirely frozen, perform a force reboot by holding both the side button and Digital Crown for at least ten seconds until you see the Apple logo.

Apple Watch tips and tricks: Timekeeping

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. If that's your intention, Force Touch on the Watch display once more, then swipe all the way to the left and tap the New button. You can now customise the new version of your watch face just how you like it.

To delete a custom watch face, swipe up.

create apple watch face

create apple watch face (Image credit: iMore)

10. Set your watch five minutes fast

If you're a fan of being early for all your appointments and meetings, you can make that possible with your Apple Watch. Like being early for your appointments? Manually set the watch face to display five minutes fast (or more) and it won't even affect your alarms, notifications, or clocks from other countries. It just shows on your 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.

Apple Watch time advance

Apple Watch time advance (Image credit: iMore)

11. Turn off snooze for your alarms

If you don't trust yourself to wake up on time, you can disable the snooze button to force you to get up. Go into the Alarm app on the device and tap on the alarm time you'd like to change. Toggle the snooze option so you have no choice but to get moving.

Apple Watch snooze

Apple Watch snooze (Image credit: iMore)

Apple watch tips and tricks: Communication

12. Pre-compose custom Messages responses

It's not possible to directly type on most Apple Watches, 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, head to the Apple Watch app, then go to My Watch > Messages > Default Replies. You can change the list and add/remove pre-composed responses at any time.

Default replies Apple Watch

Default replies Apple Watch (Image credit: iMore)

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 your preferred response is for it to always send as one or the other, you can make this possible. Go to 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 to let them know.

send location

send location (Image credit: iMore)

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

The Walkie-Talkie feature lets you talk to others with Apple Watches but you'll need to activate it. Go to the Walkie-Talkie app on your Watch and toggle Available to on. Otherwise, people won't be able to reach you using the tool.

Apple watch tips and tricks: Productivity

17. Clear all your notifications with Force Touch

It's possible to swipe left to delete an individual notification from the Notifications screen, but what's simpler is to 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. If you're planning ahead though, you can flag messages you want to reply to later with ease. Just Force Touch on a mail message, then tap Flag so you know what to come back to when on a bigger screen.

19. Choose what mailboxes show up on your Watch

If you don't want to be inundated with notifications and info from all your mailboxes, you can make adjustments. Choose specific mailboxes to show up on the Watch from the iPhone app. Just go to My Watch > Mail > Include Mail.

included mail

included mail (Image credit: iMore)

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 a location has been added to your calendar event, you can get an alert that tells you when to leave based on driving or walking distance, tied into expected traffic. To do so, make sure the individual event has the Travel Time switch enabled. This is done on your iPhone by going to the Calendar app, then tapping the event in question, and going to Edit > Travel Time.

Apple watch tips and tricks: Apps

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 getting directions via the Watch, you'll feel a series of taps when you need 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 the last leg of your 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 stop receiving directions.

24. Review your iPhone photos from your watch

The Camera app on your Watch allows you to use it as a remote display and shutter for photos. You can also use it to quickly review any recent shots to check they're up to scratch. It's perfect for checking you got the ideal group shot before sending everyone on their way and grabbing your iPhone.

25. Set a default city for your weather

It's possible to use the Weather app on your Watch to check a number of cities, including your current location. If you need to change the default location, go to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then tap My Watch > Weather > Default City.

Apple watch tips and tricks: Activity

26. Close your rings

The Exercise app and exercise rings system is a great motivator when going about your day. To find out more about how you're doing and what you may need to work on, don't forget to tap the Exercise app once in a while throughout the day to see what to focus on next.

27. How's your ECG?

Since the fourth-generation Apple Watch, you can now 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.

28. Concentrate

The Breathe app is a great way to give you a moment's calm and encourage you to relax for a moment. Use the Digital Crown to set how many minutes of focused breathing you would like to keep track of in the app. Next, hit the Start and relax.

29. Send your favorite watch face

Since watchOS 7, it's been possible to share watch faces with friends. If you want to, Force Touch on the Watch display, then select the face you wish to share. Tap the New Message icon to send your face and show off your creation.

Apple Watch Share Face

Apple Watch Share Face (Image credit: iMore)

30. Change your strap

Apple makes it very simple to remove and install new straps on your Watch. To do so, hold down one of the two band release buttons on the back of the Watch. From there, slide the band across to remove it, then slide the new bands in with ease. The method works for all types of Apple Watch so you'll soon master how to do it within moments. 

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.

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