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Home / Tips and Tricks / What does the side button on Apple Watch do?

What does the side button on Apple Watch do?



Khamosh pathak

You could think of the side button as a simple device used to turn off your Apple Watch, but this humble button hides many functions, including a personal app launcher. Here̵

7;s everything the side button does on Apple Watch.

The side button started with a friend function

When the Apple Watch first came out in 2015, the side button served a completely different purpose. It had to be a one-click method to send your heartbeats to your friends. Unsurprisingly, this has failed.

Pressing the side button on the Apple Watch opened the Friends screen. This screen contained your contacts who also had the Apple Watch. Here you can tap the screen to send hearts or scribbles or to make a call.

The Digital Touch feature still exists, but is now hidden deep within the Messages app.

The side button acts as a dock

watchOS 3 update in 2016 brought a new feature: the Dock. It was similar to the Dock you’re used to on the iPhone, iPad and Mac, but with a new twist.

When you press the side button, you will see a list of your recently used apps, with the most recent app at the top. Here you can scroll down with your finger or Digital Crown to see other apps. Just tap an app to switch to it.

RELATED: How to add an app to the Dock on an iPad

You can turn it into a personalized app launcher

There is a reason why you find yourself not using the side button very often. It’s because the Dock’s default behavior isn’t really helpful. Most of us don’t juggle between three or four different recently used apps like we do on the iPhone or iPad.

Fortunately, there is a hidden feature that lets you turn the Dock into a personal app launcher (so you can finally get rid of the default app launcher). Instead of showing the recent apps, you can switch to your favorite apps.

To set this up, open the “Watch” app on your iPhone. Under the “My Watch” tab, select “Dock”.

Here first switch the section “Dock Ordering” to the option “Favorites”.

Now you will see a list of pre-selected apps. Tap the “Edit” button to customize the Dock.

You can scroll down to see all the available apps installed on your Apple Watch. Tap the “+” button next to an app to add it to the list.

Then use the three-line handle icon to rearrange the app order. You can add apps and arrange the layout of the Dock as you wish. When you’re done, tap the “Done” button to save the layout.

Now when you press the side button, the Dock will show your list of pre-selected apps with a preview of what’s happening in the app.

Tap an app to switch to it. The Dock remembers where you left off, so you won’t be at the top of the list the next time you press the side button.

You can use it for Apple Pay

Person using an Apple Watch with Apple Pay
Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock

If you live in a country that supports Apple Pay, you can use the side button to quickly access your cards and pay where NFC is available. Double-click the side button to open the Apple Pay app.

RELATED: Set up and use Apple Pay on your Apple Watch

How to turn off the Apple Watch (or contact Emergency SOS)

Finally, the side button is also how to turn off the Apple Watch and how to call emergency services. Press and hold the side button, then use the “Power off” slider to turn off the Apple Watch.

You can use the “Emergency SOS” slider to place a call to local emergency services. If you’ve set up the Medical ID in the Health app, you’ll also see a Medical ID slider here.


If you’ve been using your Apple Watch for a few years, it can be hard to get through the day without hitting the charger. Here’s how to extend the battery life on your Apple Watch.

RELATED: How to improve the battery life of your Apple Watch: 12 tips




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