14 Great Ways to Use the Digital Crown on Your Apple Watch

Turning the Digital Crown on an Apple Watch

The digital crown on an Apple Watch is a handy button and dial combo on the side of your Watch. You can press it, double-press it, turn it forward, and turn it back. But what exactly can you do with presses and turns on the digital crown? More than you probably think!

Digital Crown Versus the Side Button

You have both a digital crown and side button on the side of your Apple Watch. The digital crown is the circular dial, whereas the side button is the rectangular button next to it.

Digital Crown and Side Button on Apple Watch

Along with pressing it like a button, you can turn the digital crown forward (shown below) or backward using your index finger or rotate it with your index finger and thumb.

Arrow showing how to turn the Digital Crown on Apple Watch

If you own an Apple Watch Ultra, you have another button on the opposite side of the Watch called the Action button. Check out our how-to for everything you need to know about using the Apple Watch Ultra Action button.

1. Wake Your Display

While you can wake your Apple Watch by tapping the screen, you can also slowly bring your screen to life by rotating the digital crown. As you continue to turn it forward, you’ll see the screen slowly brighten more and more with each turn. You can also press the digital crown to wake your screen with full brightness.

Wake and make the screen brighter on Apple Watch

To enable this on your Watch, open Settings > Display & Brightness, and turn on the toggle for Wake on Crown Rotation. In the Watch app on your iPhone, go to My Watch > Display & Brightness, and turn on the same toggle.

Wake on Crown Rotation in the Watch app on iPhone

Tip: remember this trick if you use Theater mode. You can turn the digital crown to brighten the screen slightly so as not to disturb those around you with a bright light.

2. Return to the Home Screen

No matter what you’re doing with your Apple Watch, you can always return to the Home screen by pressing the digital crown one time. Whether you’re using an app or reviewing your notifications, just press it to display your Watch face.

Good to know: learn how to add a PDF shortcut to the home screen on your iPhone.

3. Open the Last Used Apps

If you want to quickly reopen the last app you used on your Apple Watch, double-press the digital crown. If you want to switch between the last two apps you used, double press again.

For example, say you first use the Calendar app, then open Mail, and then go to the Home screen. You can double-press the digital crown to reopen Mail. While there, double-press it again to reopen the Calendar.

Mail and Calendar apps on Apple Watch

4. Activate Siri

Maybe you prefer to activate Siri manually rather than with “Hey, Siri.” You can open your digital assistant by pressing and holding the digital crown.

To enable this feature, go to Settings > Siri on your Watch or My Watch > Siri in the Watch app on your iPhone. Turn on the toggle for Press Digital Crown.

Siri Press Digital Crown setting on Apple Watch to reach Siri

5. Select a Watch Face

When you want to switch to a different Watch face that you’ve set up, browse through each one in order with the digital crown.

Long-press your Watch face, then turn the digital crown forward or backward to move to each face. Tap the face or press the digital crown to choose the one you want to use.

Change the Face on Apple Watch

6. Scroll Through Lists, Screens, or Items

If you used (or still use) the scroll wheel on your computer’s mouse, you can think of the digital crown on your Apple Watch the same way when viewing a list of items, pages, or longer screens.

For apps like Messages or Mail, turn the digital crown forward and backward to scroll down and up to see the list of conversations or emails. For notifications, turn the digital crown to scroll through your list of alerts.

Scroll emails and notifications on Apple Watch

If you have an open item, like a lengthy email or even the Settings app, turn the digital crown to scroll down and see the entire screen.

Scroll an email on Apple Watch

Additionally, use the digital crown to scroll through your apps if you use List View for your App View.

FYI: looking for something different than the default Mail app on your iPhone? Check out these email apps for iPhone.

7. Use the ECG App

If you want to keep an eye on your heart’s rhythm, use the built-in ECG app on your Apple Watch and the digital crown.

Open the ECG app, hold (don’t press) your index finger on the digital crown for 30 seconds, and you’ll see the results.

ECG app on Apple Watch

You can also save the results automatically if you use Apple’s Health app on your Apple Watch and iPhone.

Note: you must have an Apple Watch Series 4 or newer or the Apple Watch Ultra to use the ECG app. The app is not supported on Apple Watch SE or when using Family Setup.

8. Adjust the Volume for Music or Calls

Another handy use of the digital crown on your Apple Watch is adjusting the volume. When you’re listening to music or on a call, rotate the digital crown forward to increase the volume or backward to decrease it.

Adjust volume on Apple Watch

Tip: prefer Apple Music over Spotify? Learn how to transfer your Spotify playlist to Apple Music.

9. Zoom In or Out

Maybe you’re viewing a spot in the Maps app or checking out a picture in Photos. You can use the digital crown on your Apple Watch to zoom in and out. To zoom in on a map or photo, turn the digital crown forward, then backward to zoom out.

Zoom Maps on Apple Watch

You can also zoom in and out with the digital crown if you use Grid View for your App View and the Camera Remote for your iPhone camera.

10. Exit Schooltime

If you take advantage of the Schooltime feature for yourself or a child in class, you can exit this mode before the schedule ends using the digital crown.

Tap the screen to wake your Apple Watch and hold the digital crown. Keep holding until you see Unlocked on the screen, then release and tap Exit to turn off Schooltime.

Exit Schooltime on Apple Watch

11. Turn Off Water Lock and Eject Water

When you use the Water Lock feature on Apple Watch during a swim, that handy digital crown not only helps you exit this mode, it then ejects the water from your Watch.

After you finish your water activity, press and hold the digital crown until you see Unlocked. Ejecting water on the screen.

Turn off Water Lock and eject water on Apple Watch

Learn more: is the Apple Watch actually waterproof?

12. Take a Screenshot

You can take a screenshot on your Apple Watch to capture what’s on the screen, just like you can on your iPhone. However, you also need the side button for this action.

Press both the digital crown and the side button at the same time to take a screenshot. You’ll see the screen flash briefly and hear the shutter sound, letting you know you’ve captured the shot. Then, head to the Photos app on your iPhone to see the screenshot.

To enable the feature on your Watch, go to Settings > General > Screenshots, and turn on the Enable Screenshots toggle. In the Watch app on iPhone, go to My Watch > General, and turn on the toggle.

Enable Screenshots in the Watch app on iPhone

13. Pause a Workout

One more thing you can do by pressing both the digital crown and side button is pause a workout. While in your workout, press them simultaneously to pause and then again when you want to resume.

Pause and resume a Workout on Apple Watch

Note that if you have screenshots enabled as described above, you may also see a screen capture when you pause the workout, since the button press actions are the same.

14. Turn On or Off the Digital Crown Haptics

This is not an action you perform with the digital crown and is more of a feature. You can activate haptic feedback while you use the digital crown to scroll. This gives you the feeling of tiny “clicks” as you turn the digital crown.

To enable the feature, go to Settings > Sounds & Haptics on your Apple Watch or My Watch > Sounds & Haptics in the Watch app on your iPhone. Then, turn on the toggle for Crown Haptics.

Crown Haptics in the Watch app on iPhone

Make the Most of the Apple Watch Digital Crown

Even if you’ve worn an Apple Watch for years, you may just see something on this list that’s new to you. Give a couple of these nifty digital crown tricks a try and see if they are convenient for you.

For more, look at our guide explaining what the Apple Watch icons mean. If you’re looking for a different smartwatch, check out this review of the SKG V7 Smartwatch.

Image credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Sandy Writtenhouse.

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Sandy Writtenhouse

With her BS in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She wanted to help others learn how technology can enrich business and personal lives and has shared her suggestions and how-tos across thousands of articles.