29 Apple Watch tips and tricks

Get the best experience from your Apple Watch with this essential guide
Apple Watch tips and tricks

The Apple Watch Series 2 (our Smartwatch and Wareable of the Year), has been around for a few months now, joining the original Apple Watch and the Watch Series 1 (a zippier version of the first Apple smartwatch).

There are a host of tips and tricks to bend the Apple Watch to your will, and with watchOS 3, it gets even more versatile.

WatchOS is one of the most complex wearable operating systems going, and while it makes for a steep learning curve, it also means there's an incredible amount of opportunity for customisation. In short, it's the most personal smartwatch to date.

Essential reading:Best Apple Watch apps

We've rounded up 29 essential hacks to help make the Apple Watch even more personal, including improvements introduced in the watchOS3 update. From adding music to trimming unwanted notifications and even taking screenshots, your experience will be richer for reading this list.

Eject water from Series 2

25 Apple Watch tips and tricks

Unlike the original Apple Watch, the second generation is waterproof and includes an eject mode to get rid of water lurking inside after you've gone swimming for instance. If you want to manually use this feature, swipe up from the main home screen to view the Apple Watch Control Center. Look for the water droplet icon and press. You'll now be prompted to twist the digital crown to eject the water.

Discreetly view the time

Another one for Series 2 owners, if you want to check in on the time without raising your wrist, you can slowly twist the digital crown upwards and it'll brighten up the screen gradually to let you peek in instead of fully illuminating the watch screen.

Take a screenshot

Both the Apple Watch and the Series 2 can take screenshots when you hold down the digital crown and the action button below it at the same time. Images are then saved to your camera roll on your iPhone. If you've upgraded to watchOS 3 though, this is not set as default. To enable screenshots, head to the Watch companion app and then go to General. There you'll be able to toggle Enable Screenshots on or off.

Organise the app dock

25 Apple Watch tips and tricks

Now that Apple has ditched Glances in watchOS 3, you can view all currently open apps by pressing the action button. You can customise how these open apps are displayed. Once you've pressed the action button to open up the dock, press and hold on any of the app widgets and you'll now be able to drag it up or down the order of apps.

Scribble a message

Another feature Apple decided to get rid of was the Friends Circle, which meant Digital Touch was moved to Messages. If you want to scribble a note to a friend instead of dictating one or picking one of Apple's pre-loaded responses, simply scroll down to the bottom of a message thread and hit the Scribble button.

Unlock Watch from your iPhone

If you didn't do this in the initial setup process, you can still unlock your Apple Watch and iPhone at the same time without having to hammer in a passcode (if you've set one of those up). To do this, go to the Watch companion app. Here you can toggle the Unlock with iPhone feature on or off. You need to be wearing the Watch for this feature to work though.

Unlock your Mac from your Watch

If you're fully kitted out with all the Apple kit, then there is also a way that you can use your Apple Watch (original and Series 2) to skip typing in a password on your Mac to get access. If you want to pair the two together, the first thing you need to is make sure they are both signed into the same iCloud account.

Your next step is to head to your Mac (make sure it's running macOS Sierra or later) and choose System Preferences, then Security & Privacy and General. Here you'll be able to set the Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. Make sure two-factor authentication is enabled as well on your Mac (head to System Preferences > iCloud > Account Details > Security).

Sharing Activity rings

25 Apple Watch tips and tricks

Apple's answer to Fitbit, Garmin and the rest of the fitness tracker fraternity is its Activity platform. That's where all of your daily movements are recorded. In its latest iteration you can now share activity progress with other Apple Watch users. To do it you need to add friends, which has to be done by going to the dedicated Activity app on your iPhone. You can then select Sharing and hit the + icon in the corner to add contacts.

Back on the Apple Watch, go to the Activity app and swipe right to see Activity data from your friends. You can also comment on workouts to keep them motivated, or to make fun of them. Either way, it's your call.

Check in on storage

There's a decent amount of room on the Apple Watch to accommodate apps, emails, and music. If you want to see how much storage you have to play with, head to the Apple Watch companion app, go to General and then select Usage. Here you'll be able to get a breakdown of how much space apps are taking up.

Change the wrist raise action

This tip came from complaining to Hole19 about constantly having to reopen the app while out on the course. Didn't we feel like fools.

In the Apple Watch settings menu turn on Wrist Raise feature. Choose to open Last Used app, and whichever app you were using when your Apple Watch went into power saving will be returned when you raise your wrist to check the screen.

You can also do it from within the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Just go to General > Wake Screen > Resume Last Activity.

Change text size

If you find yourself constantly squinting at your wrist to read the Watch's notifications, you can change the text size. Simply go to Settings > Brightness & text size then configure to what's comfortable for you.

Ping your iPhone

Lose your iPhone? Good thing you have your Apple Watch on because it can help you find your handset. Swipe up to bring up the Control Center, look for the "Ping iPhone" button and tap to be reunited with your iPhone.

Use picture watch faces

By default, the Apple Watch selects images from the Favorites folder on your iPhone – something we'd never thought to use before. So go and tag some images in iOS using the heart button at the bottom. When you use the photo album watch face it will randomly select photos from the folder. You can tap the face to cycle through images.

How to use Apple Watch

Reply to emails from your wrist

While replying from your Apple Watch was restricted to just SMS messages in watchOS 1, you can now respond to emails. You can use the pre-ordained responses if you wish, or tap the microphone to dictate replies with your voice.

Force restart

Apple says to do this action as a last resort, so if you're left with no choice then hold the Digital Crown and side button together for 10 seconds. Just like restarting your iPhone, the Apple logo will pop up and your watch should restart.

Cover to mute

If your Watch is set to notify you or ring with sounds, but you're in the middle of a meeting or situation where loud dings are rude, you can turn on "Cover to Mute" in the Sound & Haptics settings. Then simply cover your watch for three seconds for it take effect.

Use third-party complications

Added to the mix in watchOS 2, information can now be drawn from third-party apps into watch faces. The main face for this is the ever useful Modular, but Utility and Chronograph also have options for adding data from the likes of CityMapper and AccuWeather too.

Time Travel through your day

Scrolling the digital crown when using a watch face that supports calendar features (Modular or Utility) will enable you to cycle through upcoming or past events in your calendar. Pressing the crown will return you to the present, once again.

Turn your Watch into a bedside clock

Night Stand Mode was introduced back in watchOS 2. So when you put your watch on charge just tip it onto its side to turn your smartwatch into a nifty little clock.

Wipe notifications

If you're overburdened by notifications you can wipe your history by swiping down from the top of your screen to access a chronological list. Once displayed you can banish them all by long pressing the screen then tapping Clear All.

Transfer a call to your iPhone

Received a call on your Watch, but want to continue it on your actual phone? No problem. Accept the call from the smartwatch and swipe up to send it over. Seamless.

Customise the watch face

There's a healthy if not mind-blowing selection of watch faces for the Apple Watch, but they're helpfully customisable so you can add and remove details (complications) as you wish.

Press and hold the watch face to cycle through the selection, and tap Customise to enter an editing mode. Swipe to the right to make the areas that can be customised appear in boxes. Tap the area you want to change, and then use the Digital Crown to scroll through options – this is where those third-party complications can be added. Most can be turned off if you prefer the minimalist look.

Re-open the last used app

Switching between apps is easy as well – you can jump back to the last used app just by double-tapping the Digital Crown.

Put the watch in power reserve mode

Draining power too fast? Swipe up on the main watch screen to bring up the Control Center. The first icon displays current battery status. Press this to reveal the Power Reserve button.

Trim notifications

By default, the Apple Watch will show any notification that appears on your iPhone, but you can turn each one off individually, to quell the digital noise. In the iPhone's Apple Watch app menu tap Notifications and scroll down to 'mirror iPhone alerts from' and start turning off those annoying offenders.

Add music to your watch

Adding MP3s to your Apple Watch isn't hugely compelling, but if you're out for a run without your iPhone, it can be useful. To get your music on the Watch you first need to first create a playlist on your iPhone, and then head to the Apple Watch companion app.

In the app, choose the Music app from the list on the phone and choose your playlist, and it will start syncing. If it doesn't, stick your Watch on its charging pad.

You won't be able to see your music until you pair some wireless headphones, which is done via the Bluetooth part of the settings menu. Once they're synced, head to the Music app on the Watch, and long press to show synced playlists.

You may now go for a run.

Get the full details:How to add music to your Apple Watch

Set up for left handers

The Digital Crown isn't best placed for south paws, who generally wear their watch on the right arm. However, you can have the Apple Watch flip its controls so that the crown works on the bottom left instead of top right. In the iPhone companion app go to General > Watch Orientation and then choose your preferred wrist and Digital Crown position.

Reorganise your apps

You can change the order of your apps on that familiar home screen in the companion app too. Just fire it up and choose App Layout, which is easily missed at the top. You can then press and hold on the tiles and move them about the honeycomb, like a game of wearable blockbusters.

Trim watch faces

While Mickey has been the face of Apple's marketing campaign, it's virtually impossible to tell the time from his stubby arms. In fact, there are only two watch faces we actually can bear to use. Banish the rest by swiping up on any offending design. If you want one back, just press the + at the end of the list.


Shop for recommended smartwatches on Amazon

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Pebble 2
Pebble 2
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Sony SmartWatch 3
Sony SmartWatch 3
$159.99
Huawei Watch
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$279.99

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15 Comments

  • Randy says:

    Apple watch is the coolest ever. I am a big fan of Apple watch and I just love the way it performs (its Apple obviously). The aesthetic look just makes me go mad, I am just waiting for mine to arrive. I am a part of <ahref="http://affimity.com"&gt;Affimity</a>Smart Watch social network and would love to share this article on there.  

  • Jacobkendall02 says:

    hey I was wondering if there was a way to turn OFF the screenshot feature on my apple watch

    • j.stables says:

      Afraid not. Do you do it accidentally or something?

  • Samuel01 says:

    replaced my pebble the day the apple watch was released. Back to my pebble. The touch screen has failed and my insider says thousands are being returned due to a "hardware design flaw".

    I have no estimated time for repair.

    Back to the future with pebble!

    • xToddrick says:

      Does your "insider" have a link to that flaw as I read nothing about it?

    • PolyphonicGoat says:

      Hahaha "back to the future". Please, spare me the fisher price propaganda here. That thing is no more futuristic than a fax machine. 

  • Kimaward says:

    I cannot get the swipe up feature to transfer a call to my iPhone to work??? 

    • bzeldin says:

      Neither can I

  • Josamp1116 says:

    my wife & i both have iphone 6s's. I bought her an apple watch for xmas and now all her phone calls show up 

    On my phone and some of my calls show up on her phone. Is there any way to turn that off?

    • AppleKing says:

      Yea you have to make your own Apple ID's so they don't connect

  • Bree says:

    my watch face options do not have a photo album option... How can i upload one?

  • applewatch_face says:

    Browse and create beautiful Apple Watch Custom Faces using this website. It’s great.

    http://www.applewatchcustomfaces.com

  • Chub123 says:

    Hi guys, 

    Just wondering can you change between notifications by moving your wrist left or right, reason I am asking is that I really want an iWatch but restricted due a disability, I only have 1 arm, I can use SIRI for the majority of the functionality, but would find it difficult to change between notifications when I'm wearing the watch, all suggestions really welcome. 

  • BoTate says:

    Can you have the face show the home screen (time etc.) when using the pedometer or do you have to watch your steps all day?

  • tracyallen123 says:

    Apple watch, iPhones, iPads and more is now on sale only at HolidayShoppingMart .com

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