Hands-On With the New Theater Mode in watchOS 3.2

Apple released the first beta of watchOS 3.2 for developers this morning, and included in the update is a brand new "Theater Mode." Theater Mode is designed to let customers mute the sound on the Apple Watch and disable Raise to Wake, preventing the screen from lighting up with arm movement.

Since watchOS 3.2 is limited to developers, we went hands-on with Theater Mode in the video below to give MacRumors readers an idea of what they can expect when the update is released to the public.


Theater Mode can be accessed by swiping up on the watch face to bring up the Control Center. It's just below the option for silencing the Apple Watch and features an icon with two theater masks.

When Theater Mode is turned on, it prevents the Apple Watch from making noise and it keeps the screen dark even when the wrist is raised. Notifications still come through, however, and are delivered via haptic feedback. The Apple Watch's screen can be activated with a tap or through a press on the Digital Crown.

watchOS 3.2, which will likely be released to the public sometime in March, also brings SiriKit to the Apple Watch, letting customers ask Siri to do tasks like sending messages, sending payments, booking a ride, and more.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 9
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)

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Top Rated Comments

wolfshades Avatar
96 months ago
I don't get it at all - how this is remotely useful. Who is spending that much time in dark places to justify its own easily accessible setting for this feature?

I have my watch always on silent and I get haptic feedback all day, every day. When exactly was it ever an issue to have the screen light up, turning the situation into an inconvenient moment? Even in a theatre/cinema, it is not like my watch will light up the entire room.
As a weekly theatre-goer, you'd be surprised how annoying even a little bit of light can be. This is a good feature. Not an "OMG I have to upgrade immediately" type of feature, but a good one anyway.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
motm95 Avatar
96 months ago
Here is my watch with theater mode. Works great.

Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zacheryjensen Avatar
96 months ago
I have literally been wishing for this feature since the first day I had my Apple Watch at launch. I have no idea why someone would complain about it being added. The people who find their way onto these forums never cease to amaze me. You lose literally nothing with Apple adding this feature. You don't care about distracting people in the theatre? Fine. Never tap that button. Never go to the theatre? Probably not a concern to you then. Don't own an Apple watch? Why do you think your opinion is valid?

All the existing buttons on the swipe-up panel are still there. They just made it taller. Nobody loses anything. Considerate theatre-goers get a nice boost in convenience.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Blackstick Avatar
96 months ago
Seems like a widely-deployed solution to a very small problem.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
zacheryjensen Avatar
96 months ago
As a weekly theatre-goer, you'd be surprised how annoying even a little bit of light can be. This is a good feature. Not an "OMG I have to upgrade immediately" type of feature, but a good one anyway.
Right? I hate to witness someone being so completely ignorant of how rude they are like this. If you think your apple watch turning on in a theatre isn't incredibly rude, you need some serious recalibration of whatever part of your brain determines this.

To be perfectly clear: any light source in a theatre coming from a person is rude and very distracting. Period. It's never okay. And it's almost always 10x brighter than you think it's going to be. In fact, the farther away you are from it, the worse and more distracting it becomes as that is the nature of light, the smaller the source of light relative to your view, the higher contrast it will have in the view.

So in reality, the watch lighting up is actually worse than a phone. And personally, I have always gone through the trouble of manually setting my watch to behave as this mode does during any movie screening I attend. I'll be very happy to be able to do it in a swipe + tap.

On another note, I wonder about the water icon there. It's not there on my current watch. Is this a series 2 specific feature? If not, is it also new? What does it do?
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
itsmilo Avatar
96 months ago
That damn "Emergency Exit" Sign over the escape door right next to the damn screen needs a theater mode! Annoys me every time.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)