How to Modify Settings on Your Apple Watch

Customize your Apple Watch by using the Settings feature

Customizing your Apple Watch through the settings feature is easy to do, especially when you understand how the watch is set up and where each setting is located.

How to Get to Settings on Apple Watch

Even without third-party apps, such as those found on Android watches, the watch provides many base features that can be controlled through its Settings interface.

To access settings, tap the gray and white gear-shaped icon found on the watch's Home Screen. Each option presented in this interface is described below and listed in the order in which it appears on the device.

As you select each option, you'll find new commands and features to try out.

Change the Time

You can change the time shown on your watch face through this option, moving it up to 60 minutes ahead using the wheel and the accompanying Set button. If you're often late for meetings, or anything else, this self-induced psychological trick may be what you need to get where you need to be a few minutes early or on time.

This only affects the time shown on the face, not the value used by alerts, notifications, and alarms on your watch. Those functions use the actual time.

Airplane Mode on the Apple Watch and iPhone
Apple Inc.

Set Your Watch to Airplane Mode

This section contains a single button that toggles Airplane Mode off and on. When activated, all wireless transmission on the watch is disabled, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular communications such as phone calls and data.

Airplane Mode comes in handy while in flight, as well as any other situation where you'd like to stifle all communication methods without powering off your device.

When enabled, an orange airplane icon displays toward the top of the watch screen.

Turn Bluetooth On or Off

Your Apple Watch can be paired with Bluetooth-enabled accessories such as headphones or a speaker. Any Bluetooth devices that are in pairing mode and within range of your watch appear on this screen. A Bluetooth device can be paired by selecting its respective name and entering a key or pin number if requested.

The Bluetooth screen contains two sections, one for standard devices and another for those specific to tracking your health. One commonly used purpose of the Apple Watch lies in its ability to monitor such data, including your heart rate and daily activity.

To disconnect a Bluetooth pairing, select the information icon next to its name and tap Forget Device.

Use the Do Not Disturb Function

This section contains only an on/off button. Do Not Disturb mode ensures that all calls, messages, and other alerts are silenced on the watch. This can also be toggled on and off from the Control Center, accessible by swiping up while viewing the watch face and tapping the half-moon icon. 

While active, this icon is consistently visible toward the top of the screen.

Apple Watch General Settings

The General settings section contains sub-sections, each outlined below.

About

The About section provides important information about the device, including the device name, number of songs, number of photos, number of apps, original capacity (in GB), available capacity, watchOS version, model number, serial number, MAC address, Bluetooth address, and SEID.

This section is often overlooked but can be useful when troubleshooting an issue on the watch or a problem with external connectivity. It can also be used to determine how much space remains for apps, photos, and audio files.

Orientation

The Orientation settings allow you to specify which arm you plan to wear your Apple Watch as well as which side the Digital Crown (also known as the Home Button) is located.

In the Wrist heading, tap Left or Right to coincide with your desired arm. If you flipped your device around so that the Home button is on the left side, tap Left under the Digital Crown heading so that the device functions as expected.

Wake Screen

To conserve battery life, the Apple Watch's default behavior is for its display to go dark whenever the device isn't in use. The multiple settings found in the Wake Screen section allow you to control how your watch wakes from its power-saving slumber and what happens when it does.

Toward the top of the screen is a button labeled Wake Screen on Wrist Raise, enabled by default. When active, raising your wrist causes the watch display to turn on. To disable this feature, tap the button so that its color changes from green to gray.

Below this button is a setting titled On Screen Raise Show Last App, containing the following options:

  • While In Session: Only shows an app upon wrist raise during the current session.
  • Within 2 Minutes of Last Use: The default option shows an app that was used in the past 120 seconds.
  • Within 1 Hour of Last Use: Shows an app that was used within the past 60 minutes once you raise your wrist.
  • Always: Shows the most recent app that was open each time you raise your wrist.

The final Wake Screen setting, labeled On Tap, controls how long the display remains active after tapping its face. It also contains two options: Wake for 15 seconds (default) and Wake for 70 seconds.

Wrist Detection

This security-driven setting can detect when your watch is not on your wrist. It automatically locks the device and requires your passcode to access its interface.

While not recommended, you can disable this feature by tapping the accompanying button once.

Nightstand Mode

The Apple Watch can sit comfortably on its side while connected to the standard charger, making it an ideal nightstand alarm clock when it's not on your wrist.

Enabled by default, Nightstand Mode displays the date and time horizontally as well as the alarms that you may have set. The watch display brightens slightly as it gets closer to the time your alarm will go off, intended to ease you into waking up.

To disable Nightstand Mode, select the button at the top of this section once so that it's no longer green.

Accessibility

The watch's accessibility settings help those who may be visually or hearing impaired get the most from their device.

Each accessibility-related feature described below is disabled by default and must be individually activated through this settings interface.

  • VoiceOver: Activates an integrated screen reader that guides you through the main features of the watch and its native apps such as Calendar, Mail, and Messages. The VoiceOver reader is available in over two dozen languages.
  • Zoom: Enables a virtual magnifying glass that enlarges the display by up to fifteen times.
  • Reduce Motion: When active, the movement of major screen elements, including the Home screen icons, is simplified and tied closely to your navigation gestures.
  • On/Off Labels: Accompanies all on/off buttons with a label clearly stating whether that setting or option is currently active.

Siri

As is the case on Apple's other portable devices, like the iPad and iPhone, Siri is available on the Apple Watch to serve as a virtual personal assistant on your wrist. The main difference is that while Siri is voice-activated on the watch, it responds through text rather than speaking to you like it would on a phone or tablet.

To talk to Siri, wake the watch display through one of the methods mentioned above and speak the words, Hey Siri. You can also access the Siri interface by holding the Digital Crown (Home) button until the words What can I help you with? appear.

The Siri settings section contains one option, a button that toggles the feature's availability on the watch. It is enabled by default and can be deactivated by tapping this button once.

Regulatory

The Regulatory section doesn't contain any configurable settings. Instead, it lists information about the device, including the model number, FCC ID, and country-specific compliance details.

Reset

The Reset section of the Watch settings interface may contain one button, but it's probably the most powerful. Labeled Erase All Content and Settings, selecting this option resets the phone to its default state. This will not, however, remove Activation Lock. You need to unpair the watch if you'd like to remove that.

Apple Watch settings controls.
Apple Inc.

Brightness & Text Size Choices

Due to the relatively small screen size of the Apple Watch, being able to tweak its appearance is sometimes necessary, especially when viewing the contents in poor lighting conditions.

The Brightness & Text Size settings contain sliders that allow you to adjust the screen brightness, the size of verbiage in all apps that support Dynamic Text, and a button that toggles an overarching bold font off and on.

Sound & Haptics Settings

The Sound & Haptics settings control the volume level of all alerts using the slider at the top of the screen. Scroll down to the Haptic Strength slider to dictate the intensity of the taps that you feel on your wrist when there is an alert.

Also found in this section are the following buttons, interspersed with the above slider controls:

  • Silent Mode: Audio alarms and alerts are muted when this option is enabled.
  • Prominent Haptic: When this option is turned on, an extra tap is added to all common alerts.
  • Tap to Speak Time: Enabled by default, this setting causes the watch to audibly announce the current time when you tap the Mickey or Minnie Mouse character on the watch face.

Passcode Protections

Your watch's passcode is important, as it safeguards from unwanted eyes accessing your private messages, data, and other sensitive information.

The Passcode settings section allows you to disable the passcode feature (not recommended), change your current four-digit code, and enable or disable the Unlock with iPhone feature. The Unlock with iPhone feature causes the watch to automatically unlock when you unlock your phone, as long as the watch is on your wrist at the time.