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 you covered.
Much has changed in watchOS 3, mostly to overcome the main complaints about the original watch: poor battery life and naff performance. We’ve updated this guide to reflect those changes, and it has smoothed the learning curve for people just jumping on board with the Apple Watch.
So dive straight in and get to grips with your Apple smartwatch.
The Apple Watch wrist twist
The Apple Watch screen still 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. The Series 2 is a lot better at recognising wrist raises, and you shouldn’t find it difficult to illuminate the screen with a movement of your wrist.
If you want it to stay 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 the desired time.
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.
A single press will switch between the watch face and the apps screen.
You can return to the apps screen when using an app with a single press.
Press and hold the Crown to activate Siri.
Double-tapping 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.
Scrolling the Digital Crown when on a watch face starts Time Travel mode. This lets you look forward or backwards in time, so you can check upcoming appointments/events/moon phases.
Using Control Center
Much of the quick settings on your Apple Watch can be accessed via the Control Center, which replaced Glances on the Apple Watch. Just swipe up from the bottom of the watch face screen to open it.
From this screen you can check your battery level, place the watch into airplane mode, toggle silent and do not disturb modes, and ping your iPhone, if you’ve lost it.
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 App Store tab at the bottom for some ideas. If none of these float your boat then you can hit the search tab and manually look for apps to install.
The side button has been changed in watchOS 3 and the Apple Watch Series 2. Where before it was the gateway to contacts, that functionality has been replaced by a new Instant Launch dock.
Instant Launch stores six apps in the watch’s memory – like a kind of app stasis – ready to fire into life, mitigating the Apple Watch’s propensity for painfully slow loading times. Just swipe through and tap an app to, literally, instantly launch it.
You can customise what appears in this Instant Launch selection by going to Dock within the Apple Watch companion app and choosing apps from the list.
A double-click of the side button 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!)
Check out our full guide to setting up Apple Pay on the Apple Watch.
Power off and power reserve
A press-hold of the side button loads the screen for powering off the Apple Watch, but the Power Reserve mode has been culled from there.
To put your Apple Watch in the long-life mode, which keeps the time on your display but disables other functions, swipe up from the bottom of your screen from the watch face. Press the battery percentage option and then choose Power Reserve.
Take a screenshot
The ability to take screenshots has been turned off by default in watchOS 3, so you’ll have to head into the Watch companion app to turn them back on. Go to General > Enable screenshots. Once you’re up and running just press the crown and side button together to take a screengrab. The picture will appear in Photos on your iPhone.
Deal with notifications
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. Those tend to be limited to stock Apple iPhone apps.
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 from the top edge. 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.
The Apple Watch Home screen
To access the apps screen press the Digital Crown on the watch face. 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 re-organisations, 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.
How to send your heartbeat
One of the Apple Watch’s biggest gimmicks is sending your heartbeat and virtual touches via the Digital Touch feature. However, using it has always been a little opaque, and it’s been increasingly pushed into the background in watchOS 3.
You can now send Digital Touch drawings, heartbeats and taps from within the Messages app. Just open a message, tap the Digital Touch icon, and then sketch a drawing with your finger. Tap the screen, or hold two fingers on the screen to send a heartbeat.
You can also hold one finger on the screen to show anger, send a kiss by tapping two fingers on the screen and post a heartbreak by holding two fingers on the screen and then dragging them to the bottom once the visual appears.
What to do when Apple Watch goes wrong
If your Apple Watch isn’t working properly, 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.