Other than touch-based screen gestures like tapping and swiping, the Digital Crown and Side buttons are the Apple Watch's only control mechanisms. You can use the Digital Crown to scroll through lists and zoom into pictures and maps, plus it can be used to control slider bars like volume and font size. The Side button is the Apple Watch's one-step access to contacts on your favorites list who you can then call, write a text, or even send your heartbeat.

digitalcrownfriendsbutton
The Digital Crown and Side buttons have a few additional uses that you may not already know about. We've got a list of 10 important actions that the Apple Watch's external controls activate.

Activate Siri

In addition to saying "Hey Siri," you can activate the personal assistant by holding down the Digital Crown until you see "What can I help you with?" You will also feel a tap on your wrist, acknowledging that Siri is listening.

Siri on Apple Watch

Trigger Apple Pay

When near a supported terminal, you don't have to open the Apple Pay app on Apple Watch to activate it. Simply double-tap the Side button to bring up your card information. Then hold it near a terminal to make the purchase.

Apple Pay on Apple Watch

Return to Home Screen

The Digital Crown is like the home button on Apple Watch. No matter what screen you are on, you will be able to get to the home screen with one click.

Home Screen on Apple Watch

Return to Watch Face

After returning to the home screen by clicking the Digital Crown once, you can click it again (not a double-click) to return to the center app, which is the clock app. Then, rotate the Digital Crown upward to switch to the watch face. You can also click the Digital Crown a third time to switch to the watch face.

Watch Face on Apple Watch

Return to Last Used App

Whether you are looking at your calendar or checking your email, you can quickly switch to the last app you used by double-clicking the Digital Crown. You can switch between the two apps easily by double clicking each time. It also works with the watch face. If you went from the watch face to the Messages app, double-clicking the Digital Crown will switch between those two views.

Open an App

When on the Home Screen, you can center on an app and simply rotate the Digital Crown upward to open it. This helps you avoid those accidentally tapping on the wrong icon because it's so small.

Take a Screenshot

As with taking a screenshot on your iPhone, you need to press two buttons at once on the Apple Watch to capture what's on its display. Briefly press down on the Side button and the Digital Crown at the same time to take a screenshot. If it's not working, try holding the Side button down first and then pressing and releasing the Digital Crown. If a screenshot is successfully taken, you'll see a white flash, feel a tap, and hear the shutter sound if volume is enabled.

Activate VoiceOver

Just like on the iPhone, you can use VoiceOver on Apple Watch to help you know what is happening on the screen. Triple-click the Digital Crown to activate VoiceOver. You will hear a chime, and Siri will announce "VoiceOver on." Then you can tap on anything on the screen to have it read to you. Some gestures will change when VoiceOver is on, but it is familiar territory for anyone who has used the accessibility feature on the iPhone.

Voiceover on Apple Watch

Power Off and On Apple Watch

If, for any reason, you need to restart your Apple Watch, you can do so by holding down the Side button until the power options appear, prompting you to turn off, activate Power Reserve, or lock Apple Watch. Once this pops up, slide the bar to shut your Apple Watch down. To start it up again, press and hold the Side button until you see the Apple logo.

Apple Watch Power Off

Force Quit an App

Sometimes, an app will freeze up on you. It rarely happens, but it is good to know what to do in such a situation. Hold down the Side button while the frozen app is open. When the power options appear, hold down the Side button again until the app quits.

Now you know about the actions that both the Digital Crown and Side button can perform. They are more than just controls for zooming, scrolling, and finding your friends.

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

Top Rated Comments

AngerDanger Avatar
112 months ago
Unlike the 'How to use [insert app]' articles, this one sheds some light on multifunctional, unlabeled buttons. I'm glad to have read it.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Sheza Avatar
112 months ago
Slightly more informative than MR's usual Watch how-to posts.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chuck Kostalnick Avatar
112 months ago
The only useful one on this list was how to force-quit an app.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Benjamin Frost Avatar
112 months ago
I hope everyone who has one of these watches is enjoying it, but I just don't get the appeal of it.

Apple Pay strikes me as clunky, having to reach over with your wrist and hold it awkwardly next to the terminal. I feel the phone is much better for this purpose.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Billberryjuice Avatar
112 months ago
Hoping we'll get to see plenty of richly conceived and completely relevant comments from individuals who don't get the appeal of the watch!
I hope everyone who has one of these watches is enjoying it, but I just don't get the appeal of it.
Christmas in July!
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BillyTrimble Avatar
112 months ago
I hope everyone who has one of these watches is enjoying it, but I just don't get the appeal of it.
Well, at least you never miss an opportunity to bash the watch. How many times does one individual have to indicate they hate the watch?


Apple Pay strikes me as clunky, having to reach over with your wrist and hold it awkwardly next to the terminal. I feel the phone is much better for this purpose.
You've obviously have never done it, so it amazes me how you can pass judgement. I've used Apple Pay on the watch many, many times. It's incredibly easy to do. While twisting my wrist to let the watch face the terminal might be uncomfortable is I had to hold it there for a minute, it only takes a second and there is absolutely no discomfort involved. It's so much easier than using the phone.

How can people continue to criticize something that they have never tried and what's even worse make up erroneous fantasies based upon unfounded and blind hatred of something. I'll never understand that.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID Single Camera Hole

Six Reasons to Wait for Next Year's iPhone 17

Thursday February 22, 2024 4:20 am PST by
Apple's iPhone development roadmap runs several years into the future and the company is continually working with suppliers on several successive iPhone models concurrently, which is why we sometimes get rumored feature leaks so far ahead of launch. The iPhone 17 series is no different, and already we have some idea of what to expect from Apple's 2025 smartphone lineup. If you plan to skip...
iPhone Notch

Apple Explored These Notch and Dynamic Island Designs for iPhones

Friday February 23, 2024 2:05 pm PST by
With the iPhone 14 Pro models in 2022, Apple introduced the Dynamic Island, which can morph and expand to display system alerts, sports scores, and a variety of other information. The feature makes the space surrounding the front camera and Face ID sensors useful compared to the notch on older iPhone models. Apple explored a variety of ideas for the iPhone's notch area over the years before...
General Apps Messages

iOS 17.4 to Add This 'Groundbreaking' New Messaging Feature

Friday February 23, 2024 5:05 am PST by
With iOS 17.4, set to arrive in March 2024, Apple is bringing a new cryptographic security feature to iMessage called PQ3. This "groundbreaking" and "state-of-the-art" protocol provides "extensive defenses against even highly sophisticated quantum attacks," according to Apple. Let's break down what that means. Apple's iMessage service already supports end-to-end encryption, but security...
cracked glass vision pro

Handful of Apple Vision Pro Units Develop Identical Crack in Cover Glass

Friday February 23, 2024 4:46 am PST by
A small number of Apple Vision Pro owners have claimed that their headsets developed a hairline crack down the middle of the front cover glass, despite having never been dropped or mishandled. Photo of hairline crack in Vision Pro front glass (credit: Reddit user Inphenite) The first report was posted in the subreddit /r/VisionPro about 18 days ago, and several more have appeared in the last...
New Macs iPads iOS 17 4

What to Expect at Potential Apple Event in March: iPads, Macs, and More

Friday February 23, 2024 8:35 am PST by
Apple often holds its first media event of the year in March, so the company could be just weeks away from announcing new products. Below, we have outlined what to expect from a potential Apple Event this March. Past Apple Events in March Apple has held five events in March since 2015:Monday, March 9, 2015 Monday, March 21, 2016 Tuesday, March 27, 2018 Monday, March 25, 2019 Tuesday,...
iOS 17

When Will Apple Release iOS 17.4 for iPhones?

Friday February 23, 2024 11:56 am PST by
Apple has been beta testing iOS 17.4 for nearly a month now. Below, we explain when the update is likely to be released to all users. In its press release announcing major App Store changes in the EU, which were implemented in response to new regulations under the EU's Digital Markets Act, Apple confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released at some point in March:Developers can learn about these...
Next Generation CarPlay Porsche 1

Apple Launching Next-Generation CarPlay This Year With These New Features

Wednesday February 21, 2024 2:03 pm PST by
Apple recently updated its website to confirm that the first vehicle models with next-generation CarPlay support will debut "in 2024." This wording is shown on Apple's regional websites for the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries. The iOS 17.4 beta includes code-level references to eight new CarPlay apps:Auto Settings: This app will let you manage paired iPhones...