Under normal circumstances, you can control your Apple Watch by tapping the screen, hitting the side button, and pressing or turning the Digital Crown. But if your fingers are too large to accurately tap such a small screen, you’re wearing gloves and can’t make contact with the screen, or have limited motor functions, you don’t actually have to touch your watch to use it.
By enabling the AssistiveTouch and Hand Gestures features, you can access the display, activate the Digital Crown, trigger the side button, move an onscreen pointer, and perform other actions, all without touching the watch itself. Instead of tapping the screen, you use your watch-wearing hand to perform specific actions by pinching or double pinching your fingers, clenching or double clenching your hand, and tilting your arm.
AssistiveTouch is only supported by the Apple Watch Series 6, Series 7, and SE. You will also need to be running iOS 15 or higher on your iPhone and watchOS 8 or higher on your watch. To directly update either device, go to Settings > General > Software Update. You’ll be told that your OS is up to date or be prompted to download the latest update.4.5Outstanding$347.96 at AmazonSee It 4.0Excellent$279.00 at Apple.comSee It
Enable Hand Gestures
To enable AssistiveTouch on your iPhone, open the Watch app. At the My Watch screen, tap Accessibility and select AssistiveTouch. To enable it on the Apple Watch, open Settings > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch, then turn on the switch for AssistiveTouch. Enabling it on one device automatically enables it on the other.
Next, tap the Hand Gestures option and turn on the switch. To try out the gestures, tap the Learn more link under the entry for Hand Gestures. Tap the entry for each gesture—Pinch, Double Pinch, Clench, and Double Clench. If you do this from your phone, the Watch app will direct you to try it out on your watch. Follow the onscreen instructions and diagrams to practice each gesture. When finished, tap Done.
After you’ve enabled Hand Gestures in the Accessibility settings screen, you must turn on the feature each time you want to use it. However, you can do this with a gesture. Double clench your hand to activate hand gestures. You’ll hear a thumping sound indicating that the feature is active and a cursor will appear on the screen.
How to Use Hand Gestures
By default, pinching your thumb and forefinger once moves the cursor on the watch to the next item in a list or on a screen. Pinching your fingers twice moves the cursor to the previous item. Clenching your hand once activates a tap to select or open the current item. Clenching your hand twice displays the Action Menu with icons to activate a variety of different commands.
The Action Menu allows you to: activate the Digital Crown; move to the System menu; scroll left, right, up, or down; turn the Digital Crown up or down; hear the time spoken aloud; customize your current watch face; switch between pointer and gesture mode; autoscroll the screen; and put the watch to sleep.
The System menu displays a submenu with access to the Notification Center, Control Center, the Dock, the Home Screen, Apple Pay, Siri, and the Side button. The hand gestures are all context sensitive, so what they do varies based on your current screen or location.
Now let’s say the screen is currently displaying one of your watch faces with several complications available. Pinch your fingers to move from one complication to another; double-pinch them to move back to the previous complication. As you do this, notice that the cursor highlights the current complication.
Next, maybe you want to check your calendar appointments. With the cursor on the date complication, clench your hand to activate it and retrieve your calendar. Pinch your fingers to cycle through each event and then clench your hand to view the details on a specific event.
Double-clench your hand to trigger the Action menu. With the cursor on the first icon for Press Crown, clench your hand to activate it, thereby bringing you back to your previous watch face.
Activate Motion Pointer
You can also activate and control a Motion Pointer to move around the screen by tilting the watch up and down and side to side. From any screen, double-clench your hand to trigger the Action Menu. Keep pinching your fingers until you reach the Interaction icon, then clench your fist to open the Interaction menu. Clench your hand to activate Motion Pointer.
Now tilt your hand up or down or side to side to move the pointer around the screen. When the pointer is on top of an item you wish to activate, keep your hand still until the ring completes one motion around the circular pointer.
Customize Gestures and Motions
To customize the hand gestures and Motion Pointer, open the Watch app on your phone or go to Settings on your watch. Tap Accessibility > AssistiveTouch > Hand Gestures and you can change the action for each of the four gestures. Go back to the previous screen and tap Motion Pointer to change the sensitivity, tolerance, and hot edges for the pointer.
Choose Scanning Style to change how you move to different items on the screen. With Manual scanning, you use the pinch or double-pinch gesture to manually move between different items on the screen or in a menu. With Automatic Scanning, each item on the screen or in a menu is automatically selected one after the other. If you enable Automatic Scanning, you can also control the speed of the scan.
There are other accessibility features to enable under the AssistiveTouch menu. You can enable High Contrast and change the color of the cursor to better see the item selected by the cursor. Tap Customize Menu to tweak the Action Menu and add actions, change the position of actions, alter the size of the menu, and modify the autoscroll speed. Select Enable Confirm with AssistiveTouch if you wish to use AssistiveTouch with Apple Pay.
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