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Take control of your Apple Watch notifications

Kirk McElhearn | June 5, 2015
If you've got a brand new Apple Watch, you probably want to use it to let you know when things happen. Phone calls, emails, text messages, and app notifications can turn your new wrist computer into a control panel for what needs your attention. When you check notifications on your iPhone, you may get drawn into checking email, Twitter, or Facebook, or even playing just one more level of Two Dots. But with Apple Watch, you can see these notifications, and decide whether you need to act on them.

Another setting to note is the Notification Privacy setting in the Notifications settings on the Apple Watch app. If you turn this on, only alerts will display on your watch; you won't see any information — such as the sender of an email, the text of a text message — until you tap the alert.

Reading and replying to notifications

When you get notifications on Apple Watch, you'll either hear sounds, get tapped, or simply see an alert, according to the settings I described above.

But if you get neither sounds nor taps, how will you know you have any pending notifications? When you glance at your watch, you'll see a little red dot at the top of the display if you have any notifications you haven't yet checked. (This is on by default; you can turn it off in the Apple Watch app's Notifications settings by toggling Notifications Indicator.)

Swipe down on your watch's display to see the notifications.

When you get a notification, you may be able to act on it or reply to it, depending on which app has sent it. If you get a notification from an app on your iPhone that doesn't have an Apple Watch equivalent, it's just an alert; Words with Friends tells you someone has made a move, but you can't do anything about it. But if it's a text message, you can reply, either using canned replies or dictation. You can snooze or mark as completed any reminders you get. Different types of notifications offer different options, and these will change as Apple Watch, and third-party apps, mature.

You can dismiss all notifications on your watch using Force Touch. When you're viewing a notification (or a list of them), press and hold on the display until you feel a tap and see a Clear All button; tap that, and the slate will be wiped. Until the next notification comes in.

So before you get overwhelmed by notifications, check out the Apple Watch's settings, and also check those on your iPhone. You may find that having a bit more calm is a good thing.


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