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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 Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)


Top Rated Comments

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12 weeks 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.
Rating: 35 Votes
12 weeks ago
Here is my watch with theater mode. Works great.

Rating: 21 Votes
12 weeks ago
Seems like a widely-deployed solution to a very small problem.
Rating: 18 Votes
12 weeks 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.
Rating: 18 Votes
12 weeks ago
That damn "Emergency Exit" Sign over the escape door right next to the damn screen needs a theater mode! Annoys me every time.
Rating: 15 Votes
12 weeks 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?
Rating: 15 Votes
12 weeks 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.
Rating: 14 Votes
12 weeks ago

but that's the point - who is like you anymore? No one goes to watch movies in a cinema anymore with all due respect. This is indeed a feature for the cinema enthusiast and therefore pretty pointless to put this on all our watches.

update: I will also stand to what I said before - the light is hardly strong enough to be an annoyance to anyone. also, my watch usually disappears under my sleeves anyway ?


"No one goes to watch movies in a cinema anymore" -- what planet do you live on? There were like 1.3B movie tickets sold in the U.S. alone last year. Sure that is off its peak in 2002 from 1.6B, but its still more iPhones than Apple sold in like 10 years and nobody says "no one carries an iPhone".

And yes, when your Apple Watch light comes on when you reach for your drink or your popcorn and shines right in your face in a dark theatre it is disturbing the person wearing the watch. This is way better than using power-save mode since it takes forever to come out of power-save mode.

I am glad they are providing this feature. If it it wasn't in control center, it would be worthless. Putting it where you can get to it quickly when the lights dim is right on the money.
Rating: 13 Votes
12 weeks 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.

Agreed! Plus the watch lighting up at a meeting, dinner or any occasion where it's impolite for an electronic device to attract attention to itself.
This is a good feature to have, I'm not sure if it wouldn't even be more adequate if you could activate it with the same gesture as the mute/silence one - cupping your hand over the Watch.
Rating: 13 Votes
12 weeks ago
I wear my watch to bed every night - can't tell you how many times my wrist has blinded me as I change sleeping positions.

That's what I'll use this for!
Rating: 13 Votes

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