What do Apple Watch buttons do? Click, double click and hold

What do the buttons do?
The buttons on the Apple Watch switch apps, activate Apple Pay, open Siri and more.
Image: Apple/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

The Apple Watch borrows a lot from the iPhone, but the biggest difference between them is down to the extra buttons. They each do different things whether you click, double-click or hold them down. What do the Apple Watch buttons do?

Here’s a quick guide to get you started.

Meaning of the Apple Watch buttons

Infographic showing what actions the Apple Watch buttons do
Save this and send it to someone who might need help figuring out their new Apple Watch.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

The digital crown (the dial on the side) does the following:

  • Spin the digital crown to scroll up and down.
  • Click the digital crown to see the list of apps on your Apple Watch. Clicking it again will take you back to the watch face.
  • Double-click the digital crown to open the last app you were using. Double-click again to switch between two apps. (This is handy if you’re switching between Maps and Music.)
  • Hold it down to turn on Siri — but you can turn that off if you keep activating it accidentally with your wrist.

It’s not as obvious what the side button does:

  • Click the side button to see recently opened apps.
  • Double-click the side button to activate Apple Pay.
  • Hold the side button to turn off the watch, show your Medical ID, track your location on a hike or call emergency services.

Meaning of Apple Watch Ultra buttons

Infographic showing what actions the Apple Watch Ultra buttons do
The Apple Watch Ultra has an Action button that you can set to whatever you want.
Image: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

The Apple Watch Ultra has an additional button on the opposite side called the Action button:

  • Click the Action button to do… several different things, like launch a specific workout. On your Apple Watch, go to Settings > Action button > Action to set what you want it to do. You can start a workout of your choosing, start a stopwatch, set a waypoint for a hike, backtrack to where you started hiking, start diving, turn on the flashlight or run a Shortcut.
  • Hold the Action button to play a loud siren noise. This will come in handy if you get lost or injured in the wilderness and can’t yell out where you are. If you don’t want to set it off accidentally when you’re at home, go to Settings > Action button > Siren and turn it off.

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