12 Not Obvious Things You’ll Want to Know about Your Apple Watch

swipe left to dismiss apple watch notification
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Let us start by saying that we were those people who thought the idea of an Apple watch was ridiculous. Then we realized that it’s a lot less rude to surreptitiously check our watch than it is to whip out our phone every time a message comes in, and that started the descent into Apple watch fandom. This is not a review of the Apple watch, so much as it is a list of things that are nonobvious, that you’ll want to know about your Apple watch.

There is also a link to the Apple Watch User Guide at the end of this article, if you would like to see one.

Know Your Buttons

There are two buttons on the Apple watch. The upper round button is referred to as the digital crown. The other, flat ovular button is referred to as the side button.

The buttons each serve multiple functions on their own, and when used together. Some of these functions will seem similar to actions and features served by the iPhone home and power buttons.

apple watch buttons

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The Digital Crown

From the clock face, clicking the digital crown once brings you to the home screen.

Apple watch home screen
(approximate actual size)

apple watch home screen



Rotate the digital crown to scroll through things, such as notifications, email, text messages, etc..

Clicking the digital crown button twice brings up the last app that you used.

Hold the digital crown in to invoke Siri (you can also just say “Hey Siri”).

The Side Button

Clicking the side button once brings up your Friends (based on your “Favorites” on your iPhone).

Clicking the side button quickly twice brings up Apple Pay.

Holding the side button in will give you a screen from which you can turn off your watch, put it on ‘power reserve’ (shut down most functions but it still works as an actual watch), or lock your watch.

hold side button in to turn off apple watch


Both Buttons Together = Screenshot!

Press the side button and then immediately and simultaneously press the digital crown to take a screenshot on the Apple watch (how do you think we got those cute little screen shots?) The watch will give a little flash of the screen and also vibrate to let you know that the screenshot was successful.

The screenshot images are about 270×340 – we reduced them for this article to give you a sense of the actual size of an Apple watch screen.

Force Touch – the Invisible Button

Force Touch is the term that Apple has come up with to describe pressing firmly on the center of the screen. This may seem a little awkward at first, as we are of course used to treating our device screens as delicate flowers. However once you get used to it, you will really appreciate it.

You probably already know that force touching on the face of your actual watch is how you choose different watch faces. But it also offers a way into the settings in many apps – just force touch while in an app to see this in action.


Notifications, much like those on an iPhone, are accessed by swiping down on your screen when the screen is displaying your actual watch face.

(How to set notifications and alerts is a whole article unto itself. You can read our article on how to set notifications and alerts on your Apple watch here.)

swipe down on apple watch for notifications

notifications on apple watch


A red dot on your watch face means that you have new notifications. (You can turn this off in the notifications setting of your Apple watch app on your iPhone.)

notification red dot apple watch


If you tap on a notification from a native app (one of the apps that came with your Apple watch – read more about the difference between native and non-native apps and notifications here), it will take you to the app and instance for which you are being notified. For example, in the above picture of notifications, if you tapped on the mail notification, it would open the Mail app on the Apple watch. (This is the reason to use the digital crown to scroll – you can use the touch screen to scroll, but your watch will often interpret your effort to scroll as a tap, and take you to the app about which you are being notified instead.)

To dismiss an individual notification (i.e. to clear it from your Notifications screen on your watch), swipe to the left.

how to dismiss apple watch notifications

swipe left to dismiss apple watch notification


To clear all notifications at once, force touch while in Notifications.

force touch to clear all notifications


Also, sometimes to get notifications on your watch your phone has to be locked, and your watch unlocked (and by unlocked for the watch we mean not completely locked, such as when you intentionally lock it down; when your watch times out and goes dark after a moment, it is not locked, it’s just..dark, and that’s fine – the only way your watch is likely to be actually locked is if you went to the settings and locked it, or if you took it off).

This seems to be a sort of hit or miss thing; sometimes notifications will show up on your watch even if your phone isn’t locked – sometimes they don’t. You’ll need to see what works for you and your apps. Generally, it’s helpful to think of your iPhone passing the notifications to your watch, and it’s only going to do that if it’s “off duty” itself – if it’s on duty (in other words not locked) it’s going to take the notifications for itself, on its own screen.

Speaking of your watch going dark, there is no way to change the interval on the screen timing out and going dark.

Apple Pay, Touch ID and Passcode

Don’t let the fact that you have to enable a passcode put you off using Apple Pay from your watch! You may be thinking that it would be a hassle to have to enter a code every single time you want to look at or use your watch, and you’re right, it would be. Fortunately that’s not how it works. In fact, you only have to enter your passcode if your watch is locked and – wait for it – unless you lock your watch manually, intentionally, it only locks when you take it off your wrist.

Put another way, when you put your watch on in the morning, you will have to enter a passcode, but if you don’t take it off during the day, you will not have to enter the passcode again. In fact, if you’re one of those people who sleep with your watch on, you will rarely have to enter a passcode. It is the removal from your wrist that triggers the need to enter the passcode the next time you use your watch.

And it is that recognition of your wrist which is the “touch ID” that some people (improperly) refer to with respect to the Apple watch (unlike the Touch ID on the newer iPhones, that recognize your fingerprint).

Responding to Text Messages and Email

In addition to the canned responses that you can send in reply to a text message, you can create your own custom canned responses (do that within the watch app on your iPhone).

You can also dictate actual non-canned responses, both in text messages and in email. Unlike with the iPhone, though, you won’t get an opportunity to edit it before hitting send, so speak slowly and clearly!

Battery Life

We’ve seen people rave about the battery life on the Apple watch, and we’ve seen people complain about it. Put us in the first camp. Our Apple watch gets more than 20 hours on a single charge, and we get a lot of messages, and use it a lot. The one thing we did do to help preserve battery life was disable the heart rate monitor, and we do use a fairly minimal watch face (animated ones will of course drain your battery faster), but we think that battery life rocks!

Using Your Own Watch Band with Your Apple Watch

Guess what! You are not tied to using only Apple’s (very expensive!) watch bands!

Or at least you won’t be. A Kickstarter funded project called Click is very close to production on, and is now accepting pre-orders for, a watch band adapter for the Apple watch that lets you use your own 22mm watch bands.

use own watch band with apple watch

You can read more and pre-order your own Click adapter at Get-Click.com.

Apple Watch Users Manual

You can get the Apple Watch User Guide here.


Hopefully this has been useful for you in getting to know your way around your Apple watch. Please add other nonobvious things that you may have discovered, and that we may have missed!


No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
Click for amount options
Other Amount:
What info did you find here today?:

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