How to Use the Apple Watch Control Center

Fully use the Control Center and customize the watch as you like

Two men playing basketball -- one wears an Apple Watch

Apple, Inc.

The Apple Watch control center allows you to check the status of your smartwatch at a glance and includes nearly a dozen shortcuts such as airplane mode, theater mode, and even a walkie talkie mode. More importantly, it gives you quick access to these features without hunting down a specific app icon or setting. Once you learn how to use the control center, you'll wonder how you ever got by without it.

How to Open the WatchOS Control Center

The first thing you will need to know about the control center is how to open it. The control center is only available when you are on the Apple Watch's lock screen, which is the screen with the clock that appears when you first click the watch's crown or flick your wrist to look at the watch.

Apple Watch with control panel opening
Apple, Inc 
  • You can open the Apple Watch control center by placing your fingertip at the very bottom of the watch's screen where the display meets the bezel.
  • When you hold your finger on this area of the screen, you will see the control center peek up from the bottom of the display. Simply swipe your finger up towards the middle of the screen to open the control center. Hint: You don't need to wait for the control center to appear at the bottom before swiping up. You can do this all in one motion to open the control center faster.
  • If you see a screen with a Customize button at the bottom, you pressed down too hard with your finger. The Apple Watch uses 3D touch controls, which are activated by using more pressure with your finger after you initially touch the display. Simply lift your finger and try again with a lighter touch.

How to Use the Apple Watch Control Center to Check Its Status

The WatchOS control center has a lot of great features, but one of the best uses is the ability to check your Apple Watch's status. This is great for troubleshooting if your watch isn't working as you think it should.

Apple Watch with the control panel on its screen
Apple Inc.
  • The icon at the top-left corner of the screen that shows how you are connected. If you are paired with your device, this icon will be a green phone. If you are using Wi-Fi instead of your iPhone, the blue Wi-Fi image will appear here. An image of a red phone means you are not connected to your iPhone or through Wi-Fi.
  • The icon at the top-right corner of the screen will be a blue arrow if an app or complication on the Apple Watch has recently used location services. This includes the map, a calendar event displaying traffic conditions, the workout app while running, or other apps that use the service.

How to Use the Shortcut Buttons in the Apple Watch Control Panel

Of course, the best use of the control panel is all the shortcut buttons that give you quick access to Apple Watch features. Some of these features like the flashlight are only available through the control panel, while others are simply quick switches to Apple Watch settings or simply open an app on your watch.

watchOS control panel on two Apple Watch screens
Apple Inc
  • Wi-Fi. The first button on the control panel allows you to turn Wi-Fi on or off. Wi-Fi will allow your Apple Watch to communicate with your iPhone at a longer distance but can drain power faster. It's good to keep this setting on unless you are low on battery.
  • Airplane Mode. Moving to the right, the button with the airplane icon on it acts similar to the airplane mode on your iPhone. This will switch off the cellular connection if you have a cellular version of the Apple Watch as well as shutting down Wi-Fi and other radios on the watch.
  • Battery. The button with the percentage shows how much battery power you have on the watch, but it isn't here just for show. If you tap the percentage, you can turn on Power Reserve mode, which basically takes out the smart features and turns Apple Watch into an ordinary digital watch. This is great when you have very little battery left.
  • Ping. Perhaps the best feature of the control panel is the iPhone ping, which will cause your iPhone to make a sound when you tap it. If you hold your finger down, your iPhone will even begin flashing, which makes it even easier to locate.
  • Flashlight. The Apple Watch flashlight can be changed from a grayish light to a bright white light by tapping the display while it is on. You can also swipe right-to-left to gain access to a blinking light or a red light.
  • Do Not Disturb. The button with the moon activates the Do Not Disturb mode. This can be great if you are using the Apple Watch as an alarm clock or if you simply don't want to be notified of calls or text messages for a while. You can choose to turn this on/off or turn it on until a specific event such as leaving home or until morning.
  • Theater Mode. Now that you have an Apple Watch, you have two devices to disable while you are watching a movie or play. The happy and sad theater faces let you quickly put your watch in silent mode and keeps the screen dark until you tap the display.
  • Water Lock. The button with the drop of water puts the Apple Watch in Water Lock mode, which is used when swimming with the watch. To turn Water Lock mode back off, you will need to turn the watch crown until any water is ejected.
  • Mute. The button with the bell turns mute on or off.
  • AirPlay. The button with the circles and the triangle a the bottom allows you to control AirPlay's sound output. While you can't send video using AirPlay on your Apple Watch, you can control where your music goes using this button.
  • Walkie Talkie. The last shortcut on the default control panel menu turns your availability for walkie-talkie mode on or off. You can set up walkie-talkie mode using the Walkie Talkie app, which lets you choose which contacts can talk to you via the walkie-talkie feature.
  • Edit. The edit button is at the very bottom of the control panel and allows you to rearrange the shortcuts. This is great if you frequently use the walkie-talkie mode or water lock and want fast access to them. You can move a button by tapping Edit, holding your finger on a shortcut button until it is highlighted, and then dragging the button to its new location by moving your finger without lifting it from the screen.