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 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)
Related Forum: Apple Watch

Top Rated Comments

AngerDanger Avatar
79 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
79 months ago
Slightly more informative than MR's usual Watch how-to posts.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chuck Kostalnick Avatar
79 months ago
The only useful one on this list was how to force-quit an app.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Benjamin Frost Avatar
79 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
79 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
79 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)

Top Stories

REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
a15 chip

iPhone 13 and Redesigned MacBook Pro Chip Production Hit With Gas Contamination

Friday July 30, 2021 5:44 am PDT by
The most important TSMC factory that manufactures Apple's chips destined for next-generation iPhone and Mac models has been hit by a gas contamination, according to Nikkei Asia. The factory, known as "Fab 18," is TSMC's most advanced chipmaking facility. TSMC is Apple's sole chip supplier, making all of the processors used in every Apple device with a custom silicon chip. Industry...
Apple watch series 5 new case material made of titanium 091019

Titanium Apple Watch Series 6 Models Currently Widely Unavailable

Sunday August 1, 2021 6:21 am PDT by
Models of the Apple Watch Series 6 with titanium cases part of the "Apple Watch Edition" collection is currently widely unavailable for pick-up in several of Apple's retail stores in the United States and is unavailable entirely for delivery in major markets. Noted by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman in the latest edition of his "Power On" newsletter, titanium models of the Apple Watch Series 6,...
iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 13 to Bring Over a Major Feature From the Apple Watch

Wednesday July 28, 2021 2:21 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will feature an always-on display akin to the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6, according to recent reports. In his weekly Power On newsletter, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman, who often reveals accurate insights into Apple's plans, said that the iPhone 13 may feature an Apple Watch-inspired always-on mode. The Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch...
apple rtp land

Apple Preparing to Occupy 200,000 Square Feet of Temporary Space Ahead of New $1 Billion North Carolina Campus

Thursday July 29, 2021 9:14 am PDT by
Back in April, Apple announced a $430 billion investment over the next five years to create more than 20,000 new jobs as the company continues to expand. One significant piece of that plan is a new engineering and research center in North Carolina where Apple will be investing over $1 billion and hiring at least 3,000 employees. Assemblage of seven properties in Research Triangle Park owned by ...
telegram

Bumper Telegram Update Enables Video Calls With Up to 1,000 Viewers

Saturday July 31, 2021 12:13 am PDT by
Telegram Messenger has received a major update to its video capabilities, including support for video calls with up to 1,000 viewers. Group video calls in Telegram allow up to 30 users to stream video from both their camera and their screen, and now a maximum of 1,000 people can tune into the broadcast. Telegram says it intends to continue increasing this limit "until all humans on Earth...
app store blue banner

Elon Musk: Apple's App Store Fees Are a 'De Facto Global Tax on the Internet'

Friday July 30, 2021 10:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter today to criticize Apple's App Store fees in a tweet that sides with Epic in the ongoing Epic v. Apple dispute. "Epic is right," wrote Musk, before going on to call Apple's App Store fees a "de facto global tax on the Internet." Musk earlier this week made veiled comments about App Store fees, but today's statement is a much more direct criticism....
FaceID iMac REREREREMIX

Top Stories: Face ID on Future Macs, Elon Musk Criticizes Apple, and More

Saturday July 31, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
This week saw an interesting range of Apple news and rumors, including a blockbuster earnings report, rumors about next year's "iPhone 14" and Face ID coming to Macs, and more. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Other popular topics included Apple's crackdown on leaks, changes in the latest round of betas for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey, and several stories...
duracell battery bitter coating

Apple Says Don't Buy AirTag Replacement Batteries With Bitter Coating

Wednesday July 28, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Since AirTags were just released earlier this year and are expected to have a year-long battery life, it may be some time yet before AirTag users need a replacement battery, but when the time comes for a refresh, Apple is warning customers not to buy batteries with a bitter coating. AirTags use coin-shaped CR2032 batteries, which happen to be a size that's easy to swallow. Some battery...