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Take control of your Apple Watch with these 24 essential tips and tricks

The Apple Watch is one of the best, and most personal wearables on the planet. Aside from being the current bestselling smartwatch out there, it features a wealth of unique communication methods, an attractive design, and a host of third-party apps.

Related: 10 iPhone tips and tricks to make the most of your new-fangled iPhone

Despite being a year old, and with no direct replacement on the horizon just yet, the Apple Watch provides excellent value given its recent price reduction. Moreover, there are now many more watch straps available — official ones, special designer ones, and well-priced third party ones — to make the watch distinctly yours.

Once it’s on your wrist, it’s time to learn how to use it. However, navigating and making the best use its many features is easier said than done. Muting notifications and setting custom responses is only the beginning. How about using Apple Pay, setting your own pictures as your wallpaper, or transferring music? We’ve got all these, and many more secrets and tips, covered in the extensive roundup below.

Wallpaper, Time Travel, Music, Bluetooth, Nightstand mode

How to set your pictures as wallpaper

Pick an image from the Photos app and set it as your watch face

Yes, the Apple Watch has some cool wallpapers, but sometimes you’ll want to use a picture of your own as the background. The question is, how? The process is surprisingly easy, but it requires you to take a few steps on your iPhone first. Go to Photos, Camera Roll, and after selecting a suitable picture, tap the heart icon to favorite it.

The iPhone syncs your favorite pictures with your Apple Watch. To set them as your wallpaper, press hard on the Apple Watch screen and slide through the option to find the Photo Album, or Photo option. Tap Customize, then use the Digital Crown to zoom in and out of the photos. If you’d rather sync another album, then go to the Apple Watch app on your phone, find Photos and Synced Album. Careful, though, there’s only so much storage space on the Watch.

Time Travel

Time Travel

If you’re using a watch face with the calendar complication, such as Utility or Modular, then it’s possible to travel forward in time to check upcoming appointments, the weather, and certain notifications. Just a twist of the Digital Crown will activate the feature, which also works when you need to go back in time. To return to the present, just press the Digital Crown to exit Time Travel.

Transfer music

Apple puts aside up to 2GB of the Apple Watch’s 8GB space for your pictures and music. Having room for some music comes in handy when you want to workout without your phone. First, you’ll need to sync some music with your Apple Watch, which is partially performed on your iPhone. It utilizes playlists from the Music app, so make sure you’ve got some ready, then launch the Apple Watch app.

Here, scroll down to the Music app menu, tap it, and then select Synced Playlist. Now, choose which playlist you’d like to sync with your Apple Watch. If you change your mind, select the None option at the bottom of the list. Once you’re back in the main Music menu, go ahead and check how much space you’ve allocated for playlists. The default is often 1GB, but you can adjust it if you want more. Keep in mind that if you want to play music directly from your watch, you need to pair it with some Bluetooth headphones.

Pair a Bluetooth device

GoPro Apple Watch

This tip applies to Bluetooth headphones, heart rate monitors, or any other compatible wireless device that works with Bluetooth. To connect the two, make sure the device is ready to pair, and go to Settings on the Apple Watch. Once there, tap Bluetooth and the Watch will begin to search for nearby devices. Select the accessory from the resulting list, and complete the setup using a passcode if one is required. To forget a device, tap the “i” in the list of Bluetooth devices under the Settings menu, and tap Forget.

Nightstand Mode

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

You may already know about this feature given it was heavily publicized after the release of WatchOS 2, but did you know it needs to be activated before it works? Nightstand mode showcases the Apple Watch’s display in landscape mode, so can see the time, date, and alarm settings when the watch is charging.

To activate the feature, launch Settings on your Watch, go to General, and toggle the switch beside Nightstand Mode. Keep in mind that, for Nightstand Mode to work, your Watch needs to be charging and placed on its side. The Digital Crown should be placed face up, as it’s used for activating snooze when the alarm sounds.

Weather, Standby, Apple Pay, Activation Lock, Orientation

Detailed weather updates

This is one of the most helpful 3D Touch features available. Launch the Weather app, and hard press on the display to show additional bits of information. Tap Condition, Temperature, or percentage chance of rain to get some more helpful information regarding the day’s forecast.

Increase screen standby time

Apple Watch 38mm Rose Gold Aluminum Case with Lavender Sport Band (9)

The Apple Watch keeps the display on for 15 seconds. This is fine for a quick glance of the time, but less so for reading messages or checking data on some of the complications. This time limit can be extended to 70 seconds, however. Go to Settings, General, and find Wake Screen, then tap Wake for 70 Seconds. You can’t choose your own time, but this should be more than enough time for most people to read what the tiny screen has to offer.

Use Apple Pay

Apple Pay

Amaze the barista at your local Starbucks by paying for coffee using your Apple Watch. To do this, you need to set up a compatible bank card with the iPhone that’s paired with your Apple Watch. Provided you have, and your Watch is connected to the phone, head to the Apple Watch app and tap Wallet & Apple Pay. Then, select Add Credit or Debit Card and tap Add beside your card.

You’ll be asked to enter the security code, and to input a verification number sent to your email by your bank. Once all this has been done, tap Next and you’re ready to go.

Unlike Apple Pay on the iPhone, you need to tell the Apple Watch you want to use Apple Pay when making a purchase. To activate the feature and bring up the selection screen, press the side button twice when near the payment terminal. There’s no authentication process, but the Watch must be connected to your iPhone in order to work.

Activation Lock

Apple Watch dialpad
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

This ties the Apple Watch with the popular Find My iPhone feature available on the iPhone and iPad. This deters thieves and makes the Apple Watch useless if stolen. For it to work, however, you’ll first need to set up Find My iPhone. This is easy to do — just go to Settings on your iPhone or iPad, tap iCloud, and make sure Find My iPhone is set to On.

Next, ensure the Apple Watch is listed on the account. Go to the Apple Watch app on your phone, tap the button that identifies your Watch at the top of the My Watch screen, and press the “i” button next to it. If the Mark as Missing button is there, it’s all set up and ready to go. If your Watch is lost or stolen, tap this button. At this point, Apple Pay is disabled, and regardless of whether the Watch is reset, it will still require your Apple ID and password to reactivate.

How to switch the display orientation

Orientation Photo
It should go without saying that not everyone on this planet is right-handed. The Apple Watch can be worn on either wrist, though, with different orientations depending on your personal taste. To switch wrists and change the Digital Crown orientation, begin by launching the Settings app and tapping General. Afterward, select Orientation, and choose which wrist you’d like to wear your Apple Watch before selecting the Digital Crown orientation.

Find my phone, screenshots, last-used app, text size

How to locate your iPhone


Losing your phone is inevitable, but with the Apple Watch, finding it is a whole lot easier. Assuming your Apple Watch is connected to your iPhone — either via Bluetooth or the same Wi-Fi — swipe up on the display to bring up Glances. Then, swipe to the leftmost Glances screen and tap the iPhone icon at the bottom to make your iPhone emit a short pinging noise, even if your phone is is in silent mode. Additionally, tap and hold the ping button if you want your iPhone to flash its LED as it emits the sound.

How to capture screenshots

Screenshot Watch

Screenshots are key when it comes to pinpointing errors and touting your latest achievements. Thankfully, capturing them on your Apple Watch isn’t any more difficult than on your iPhone. Simply press and hold the side button on your watch, then immediately press and release the Digital Crown to capture your desired screenshot. The display will then flash, you’ll hear a faint noise akin to a camera shutter, and afterward, you can view your screenshot within the Photos app on your iPhone.

How to open the last-used app

Last App

A quick flick of the wrist will wake the Apple Watch and present you with the time by default. That said, if you prefer, you can set the watch to launch the last-used app whenever you raise your wrist, allowing you to quickly get back to what you were doing before the watch went to sleep. To do so, tap the Settings icon, select General, and tap Activate on Wrist Raise. Then, choose Last Used App to activate the feature. Alternatively, double-press the Digital Crown to bring up the last-app used.

How to increase text size

Text Size Photo

The Apple Watch is undeniably small, but that doesn’t necessarily mean text has to be. To increase the font size, launch the Settings app, tap General, and select the Brightness & Text Size option. Afterward, tap Text Size and use the Digital Crown or the letters on either side of the slider to increase the text side.


Hide apps, delete notifications, Siri, share location, restart

How to hide watch apps

App Delete

The Apple Watch interface can get cumbersome, especially when it’s cluttered with a myriad of apps you don’t actually use. If you want to hide a third-party app from view, simply press and hold your finger on the cluster of apps until they begin to vibrate. Next, tap the “X” symbol and press Delete App to confirm your decision.

How to delete all notifications

Delete Note Photo

One of the best things about the Apple Watch is the subtle way it handles notifications with a gentle pulse and quick chime. That said, the onslaught of messages buried within the Notification Center can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t clear them out from time to time. To clear all notifications at once, first swipe down on the watch interface to view the Notification Center. Afterward, force touch the display and tap the “X” button in the center of the screen.

How to activate Siri

Siri Apple

Your iPhone isn’t the only device that houses Siri, the voice-activated assistant Apple first introduced in 2011 with the release of iOS 5. The iconic feature is one the flagships of the Apple Watch, allowing you to quickly perform actions that would otherwise be time-consuming on such a small display. To activate Siri, press and hold the Digital Crown until the “What can I help you with?” message appears, or simply raise your wrist and say, “Hey Siri.” Then, ask a question or give a command as you would normally.

How to share your location

iPhone Share

Telling someone you’re waiting by the big tree next to the library isn’t always the best way to highlight where you are. Fortunately, you can send other users your exact location with the Apple Watch. To send someone a map of your current location, force touch the display while viewing a conversation and tap the Send Location button at the bottom.

How to force restart your watch


There comes a time in every smartwatch owner’s life when they’ll be forced to do a hard reset, typically because their watch is acting up or is completely unresponsive.  To do so, simultaneously hold down the side button and the Digital Crown for at least 10 seconds, or until the Apple logo appears on the display.

Power Reserve mode, advance time, haptic feedback, mute, snooze

Turn on Power Reserve mode

Power Reserve Mode

Sadly, the Apple Watch doesn’t exactly excel in terms of battery life. The aptly-titled Power Reserve Mode is designed to save battery life in times of need, though, essentially sacrificing more advanced features in order to extend general functionality. To implement the feature, swipe up on the display interface and right or left until you reach the Power glance. Then, tap Power Reserve and select Proceed when prompted. Alternatively, press and hold the side button before dragging the Power Reserve slider to the right.

Advance the watch time


The Apple Watch automatically duplicates the time on your iPhone, sure, but sometimes people like to get ahead. With the Apple Watch, you can set the time shown on the watch faces ahead, without affecting alarms or the times shown in notifications. To set the clock forward, launch the Settings app, select Time at the top, and tap the button in the middle of the display. Afterward, turn the Digital Crown to set the watch time ahead by as much as 59 minutes.

Haptic alert intensity


The Taptic Engine within the Apple Watch allows it to administer subtle taps on your wrist whenever you receive an alert or notification. It’s a far more intuitive method than using a simple vibration, but can be a bit overbearing or underwhelming depending on your preferences. To adjust the intensity of said taps, navigate to the Settings panel and select Sounds & Haptics from the resulting list. Next, tap the slider and turn the Digital Crown to adjust the intensity to your liking.

Mute notifications


Most of the time, the discrete vibrations are more than enough to alert you of incoming notifications. That being the case, swipe up on the Apple Watch face and left or right to the Settings glance if you wish to quickly mute notification sounds. Once there, simply tap the bell icon to engage Silent Mode.

How to turn off the snooze function

Snooze Photo

The snooze button is proof God exists, but it can also ruin you depending on the day. To shut it off, launch the Settings app, select Alarms, and tap the alarm you no longer wish to offer a snooze option for. Afterwood, toggle the button directly beside Snooze to turn off the feature.

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