Apple Watch guide: How to navigate your first hour

Missing manual: How to get the most out of your Apple Watch
How to use your Apple Watch

Getting to grips with the Apple Watch can be a challenge, which is why we've compiled this guide on how to use your new smartwatch. From how to download apps to taking screenshots and customising your home screen, we've got your covered.

Essential reading: Best Apple Watch apps

So dive straight in and learn the basics of getting to grips with your new smartwatch.

The Apple Watch wrist twist

The Apple Watch screen winks off at every available opportunity, to save precious battery life. In theory, it should turn on when you raise your wrist and go dark when you lower it or don't interact with the watch for five or six seconds.

Very subtle movements will fox the watch, so you may need to perfect a slightly comically exaggerated wrist twist, in order to get the screen to activate reliably.

Alternatively, realise that instead of occasionally accidentally punching someone when trying to get the time, you can wake your Apple Watch with a single tap.

When it is on, you can now have it illuminated for 70 seconds rather than the standard 15. Just go to the General menu in the iPhone companion app, then choose Wake Screen and then flick to 70 seconds.

Using the Apple Watch Digital Crown

The Digital Crown has multiple uses, and these depend on context. A single press will:

  • Activate the Apple Watch display if it's off.
  • Switch between the watch face and Home screen.
  • Return to the Home screen when inside an app.
  • Centre the Home screen on the Watch app when you're already viewing the Home screen.

Press-holding the Digital Crown activates Siri.

Double-clicking the Digital Crown will switch you between the most recent two apps. Note that the watch face is considered an app in this context. Therefore, if you want to switch between two other apps, first enter the Home screen, launch one, tap the Digital Crown to return to the Home screen, and launch the other. You can now bounce between them with double-clicks.

How to download apps on the Apple Watch

You get a stock set of apps on the Apple Watch, but downloading more has to be done through your iPhone. Head to the companion app and tap the Featured tab at the bottom for some ideas for apps. If those don't float your boat then you can hit the search tab and manually look for apps to install.

Using the Apple Watch side button and taking screen grabs

The side button has several uses:

A single press brings up the friends screen (configured in My Watch > Friends in the iPhone app). Here, you can tap a friend and get in touch (including using Digital Touch doodles if the recipient also has an Apple Watch).

A double-click accesses your Apple Pay cards, which can be swiped between. You then hold the watch near the card reader, with the display facing it. (If you're in a country that doesn't have Apple Pay — i.e. most of them — this shortcut doesn't work, and it can't be reassigned. Thanks, Apple!)

A press-hold loads the screen for powering off the Apple Watch or placing it in 'power reserve' mode. This mode keeps the time on your Apple Watch for as long as possible, but disables other functions, and happens automatically when the battery drops below ten per cent. Return to normal power by holding the side button until the Apple Watch restarts.

To take a screen grab, press the Digital Crown, immediately followed by the side button, and then release the latter (or both). The grab will be sent to the Photos app and to your Photo Stream.


Apple Watch notifications come in different forms. Live notifications fill the screen, clearly displaying the app icon, the notification itself, and relevant options. The icon can be tapped to open the full app, or actions can be made directly from the notification, such as replying to a message.

Should the notification and its action buttons be taller than the screen, use the Digital Crown to scroll through everything. To dismiss a live notification, swipe down, press the Digital Crown or use a Dismiss button.

Unread notifications can be accessed by dragging down on the watch face. (A red dot will denote if you have anything waiting to be read.) A notification can be read in full by tapping on it. To clear all unread notifications at once, Force Touch the list and tap Clear All. There is no undo.


Drag upwards on the watch face to access your glances. These are static cards, designed to provide important information that you need at a moment's notice, without faffing about accessing individual apps.

The Settings glance is the only mandatory one. It provides buttons for Airplane Mode, Do Not Disturb and alarm muting. The full-width button at the bottom of the screen pings your iPhone, making a loud sonar noise.

To access other glances, swipe left and right. Tap one to open its parent app. Note that when you return to the glances view, you will see the most recently used glance. It's therefore advisable to keep the number of active glances low, in order to be able to quickly switch between them.

Using and managing your Apple Watch Home screen

To launch an app, tap its icon.

To navigate your apps, drag with a single finger. Rotate the Digital Crown downwards to zoom out and see more icons at once. Rotate the Digital Crown upwards to zoom in; past the maximum zoom level, any further rotation is another means of opening whichever app is centred on the screen.

To rearrange your apps, tap-hold an icon until they all jiggle. You can then drag individual apps to a new location. The Apple Watch Home screen positions apps in a honeycomb fashion, which is awkward and clunky, but you can with patience organise apps in spokes or long bars. We recommend using My Watch > Layout on your iPhone for major reorganisations, though, if you fancy retaining your sanity.

To uninstall an app from Apple Watch, make the icons jiggle and then click the relevant cross button. You'll be asked whether you want to 'Delete App' or 'Cancel'. Tap the former. This won't affect the iPhone app.

Using Siri on Apple Watch

Press-hold the Digital Crown or say “Hey, Siri!" to activate Siri. Say “Help" and Siri responds with a list of command categories; pressing a button gives you instructions and tips for the likes of setting alarms, quickly accessing apps (“Launch" or “Open" and then the app name), and finding basic information, such as local restaurants, movie times and weather forecasts.

Siri is also often used within apps to enter replies and content. Should you want to punctuate your text, you'll need to speak the relevant characters in full. This Siri dictation guide should help.

How to send your heartbeat

One of the Apple Watch's biggest gimmicks is setting your heartbeat through the Digital Touch feature. But using it is a little opaque. First, add a contact to the Friends tab that also has an Apple Watch. Then tap the left hand button to show the Friends wheel and scroll around to your contact.

A finger should appear at the bottom, in the middle. Tap that and a black canvas will appear for you to send taps and sketches. But hold two fingers on the screen to start the pulsing heart rate.

What to do when Apple Watch goes wrong

If your Apple Watch isn't working right, restart its paired iPhone and also the Apple Watch. Your Apple Watch is reset by holding the side button until the power sliders appear, and then tapping Power Off. Turn the Apple Watch on again by holding the side button until the Apple logo appears.

If the Apple Watch has frozen entirely, force a restart by holding both the Digital Crown and side button for at least ten seconds.

Sometimes, only a single app freezes up. To force-quit it, open the app, and bring up the power screen. Then press-hold the side button until you see the problem app close and the Home screen reappear.

More Apple Watch guides

Set up your Apple Watch

Apple Watch tips and tricks

Extend your battery life

The best Apple Watch apps

Set up Apple Pay on Apple Watch

Apple Watch untethered guide

Add music to your Apple Watch

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