How to Use Apple Watch Gestures for Easy Navigation

Did you know that the way you touch your Apple Watch display matters? Learn all the tips, tricks, and shortcuts in this Apple Watch guide to gestures!

Your Apple Watch display is more sensitive than you think! In these Apple Watch tips and tricks, I will explain the different ways to tap, drag, swipe, and hard press to make navigation easier. You will learn various touch-sensitive controls and how to turn off zoom on Apple Watch!

Related to: How to Unlock Your iPhone with a Mask on Using Your Apple Watch

Different Ways to Touch Your Display

Using gestures is a great way to navigate your Apple Watch. Learning to use them can make it easier for you to access everything you need. Different gestures offer unique Apple Watch controls and sometimes even app-specific functions.

Tap to Wake Gesture

Tapping is the most common gesture on your Apple Watch. Tapping selects a button or opens an app. Tapping your watch display will also bring the screen to full brightness on watch models with Always On.

Tap to Wake Gesture

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Tap & Hold for Hidden Features

The tap and hold gesture is also known as Force Touch. You can do it to see the options or settings in an app. Not all apps have tap-and-hold actions, but some use them to reveal hidden features.

Tap & Hold for Hidden Features
  • In the Maps app, you can tap and hold to put down a pin.

    In the Maps app, you can tap and hold to put down a pin.
     
  • In the Messages app, tapping and holding a message allows you to post a reaction. 

    In the Messages app, tapping and holding a message allows you to post a reaction. 
     
  • On your watch face, this lets you edit your watch face, share it with a contact, or change between watch faces.

    On your watch face, this lets you edit your watch face, share it with a contact, or change between watch faces.
     
  • On your Home Screen, this lets you reorganize or delete your apps.

    On your Home Screen, this lets you reorganize your apps if they are in grid view.

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Drag to Adjust Gesture

Dragging your finger across the screen allows you to adjust a slider, scroll, move across a map, or browse app icons on your Home screen. To learn more about navigating your Apple Watch, sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter.

Drag to Adjust Gesture

Swipe to Change Faces Gesture

Swiping is similar to dragging but is generally a quicker motion. You can swipe up, down, left, or right. You can swipe on your watch face to switch between watch faces.

Swipe to Change Faces Gesture
  • Swiping up from the watch face shows you the Control Center.

    Swiping up from the watch face shows you the Control Center.
     
  • Swiping down from the watch face shows your notifications. You can swipe left on the notifications to close them.

    Swiping down from the watch face shows your notifications.

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Cover to Silence Gesture

To silence your watch, you can cover the display with your palm for three seconds. This is an excellent discreet option if you are in a meeting and cannot take the time to silence your Apple Watch using buttons. This can be disabled or enabled in your Apple Watch settings, and it only works if you do it right after you receive a notification.

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Touch with 2 Fingers to Hear or Feel the Time

Your Apple Watch is a computer, but it is primarily a watch. You can tell time by looking at it, but you can also hear it or feel it. If enabled in the Clock settings of your iPhone' s Watch app, you can do this by placing two fingers on the watch face.

How to Enable Zoom on Apple Watch

You cannot zoom using the regular pinching motion that you can use on your iPhone and iPad. However, you can magnify the entire screen as long as you set up your Zoom settings.

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.

    Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
     
  2. Tap Accessibility.

    Tap Accessibility in the Watch app.
     
  3. Tap Zoom.

    Tap Zoom.
     
  4. Toggle to turn Zoom on and choose the maximum zoom level. You can zoom from 1.2x up to 15x.

    Toggle to turn Zoom on and choose the maximum zoom level.

Once you toggle on Zoom, you can use the following gestures:

  • Double-tap two fingers on the screen.
  • Drag two fingers to move around the screen.
  • Double-tap two fingers and drag to change zoom level.

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How to Turn Zoom Off on Apple Watch

Zoom is a great function, but it can get annoying to have Apple Watch zoom enabled permanently. Plus, you can't use other double-tap gestures while this is enabled. To disable it:

  1. Using your iPhone, open the Watch app.

    Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
     
  2. Tap Accessibility.

    Tap Accessibility in the Watch app.
     
  3. Tap Zoom

    Tap Zoom.
     
  4. Toggle to turn Zoom off.

    Toggle to turn Zoom off.

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Bonus: Apple Watch Touch Screen Not Working?

If any of these Apple Watch tricks or gestures aren't working, it may be that something isn't enabled. If double-checking your Apple Watch settings doesn't help, you might need to restart your watch. You can do this by pressing and holding the Side button then selecting Power Off from the menu. Once your watch is off, press and hold the Side button to turn it back on.

If this still doesn't help, you can try to force-restart your watch. To do this, you need to press and hold the Home and Side buttons simultaneously. Keep holding them in until you see the Apple logo; this will usually take around 10 seconds. Apple warns that this should only be done in an emergency as it can cause loss of data.

To force-restart, you need to press and hold the Home and Side buttons simultaneously.Return to top

I hope this Apple Watch user guide to gestures has taught you something new about your smart device! Different gestures can take a while to master but will make Apple Watch navigation much smoother. You should also know how to take zoom off Apple Watch to enable the other two-finger gestures instead.

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Author Details

Olena Kagui's picture

Author Details

Olena Kagui

Olena Kagui is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life who lives in Rhode Island. With a BA in International Relations from Anglo American University, Olena traveled the world. She has lived in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, China, and the USA. Olena won an excellence award for a controversial article, got a grant to blog from a war-zone, and published a short fictional story. She hopes to publish a full-length novel and continue writing up a storm on her blog The Travel Bug Bite! When she’s not typing or flying, she is loving on animals, crafting bizarre creations, and devouring all-you-can-eat sushi.