The majority of Apple device users have never needed to make use of the many additional features found on the iPhone or Apple Watch, and in most cases these features just eat up extra space. For instance, the Accessibility tab contains lots of sound, haptic, and visual elements which many users choose to ignore as they are happy with the current setup of their device, and have no need to tinker with additional controls.
However, Apple Watches have some pretty nifty features you may not know about (read about others in our article on Apple watch tips and tricks). One of the most intuitive and underused functionalities of Apple Watches is Assistive Touch, which allows users to control what happens on the watch screen without even touching it.
In this article, we’ll examine what Assistive Touch is, how it functions, which Apple Watches come with Assistive Touch, and what actions it can perform to help you in your day-to-day life.
How Does Assistive Touch Work on Apple Watches?
Like most technology incorporated into these tiny Apple Watches, the way Assistive Touch actually works is by using on-device machine learning, which has the potential to detect how you are moving your hand or what position it’s in.
Basically, it makes use of a variety of features, including the heartbeat reader, the gyroscope, and the accelerometer (some of the same tech used in Apple’s incident detection feature) to determine how the user is moving the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in their wrist. This clever tech knows when you are doing a whole host of things, including tilting your arm in a certain direction, making a fist, or even pinching your thumb and index fingers together.
Who Is Assistive Touch Designed For?
Assistive touch was developed specifically for people who have disabilities and may have difficulty using an Apple Watch. This includes those experiencing issues with upper-body mobility, those who don’t have a conventional body, those who are missing limbs or digits, and those who are blind or hard of hearing.
However, this awesome technology is not only useful for differently-abled Apple users, but able-bodied people too. Just a few examples include anyone wearing thick gloves outside who might not be able to touch the watch face properly, chefs or home cooks in the middle of a cooking project, or even a mechanic whose hands and fingers are covered in oil and who needs to answer an incoming call.
As you can see, the Apple Watch with Assistive Touch can be highly versatile, and really comes into its own in a variety of situations.
How to Turn on Assistive Touch on the Apple Watch
Turning on Assistive Touch can be done on your Apple Watch by navigating to Settings > Accessibility > Assistive Touch > On. Or, to see what it’s like first, select Try It Out.
To set your hand gestures with the defaults, you can go through the customization process. The default settings will be set automatically for you, and you will see a focus ring appear:
Open the menu: make a fist twice in a row to double clench
Select: to tap the highlighted item, clench your hand together into a closed fist
Jump forward: tap your thumb and index finger together in a pinch
Jump back: tap the thumb and index together twice in succession to double pinch
Any of these gestures can be changed out with ease by navigating to Hand Gestures, selecting the one you want, and choosing the desired Activation Gesture.
Which Models of Apple Watch Feature Assistive Touch?
As Assistive Touch is a relatively new development on Apple Watches, it can only be found on Series 4, 5, 6 and 7 watches, as well as the Apple Watch SE. Watches from the 4 and 5 Series must be updated with watchOS 8.3 or later to be able to use this feature.
New updates are added regularly, so we can expect to see a wider range of hand gestures used to control the Apple Watch, with much greater accessibility features and precision.
Compare prices and choose your favorite merchant to buy the Apple Watch 7
|Apple Watch 7||Amazon||View offer|
|Apple Watch 7||eBay||View offer|
|Apple Watch 7||Apple||View offer|
|Apple Watch 7||Target||View offer|
What Can an Apple Watch with Assistive Touch Actually Do?
As the feature on the smartwatch helps users to navigate the watch’s features, there are lots of ways it can be used in daily situations. Not only does it let you answer a phone call without touching the screen at all, but you can also use it to signal the watch to begin your workouts, check the Settings, open and use apps, as well as activate Siri for you to use voice assistance.
You can even use the feature to Confirm when you need to pay at the checkout with Apple Pay. All you need to do is set up the smartwatch to register a double click on the side as the Confirm button. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Assistive Touch > Confirm with Assistive Touch. Then, press the side button twice, enter the correct passcode, and double click the button again and it will set automatically.
What Is the Assistive Touch Motion Pointer?
If you want to navigate the watch face in a precise way without using your fingers, try using the motion pointer. This shows on the screen as a circle that moves around as you begin to tilt your wrist. The feature activates when your wrist shakes for a couple of seconds (Shake to Start option). After that, you can navigate by moving your wrist, then tapping when the circle lands on the app you want, or using the hand gesture to select it.
You can even set your Apple Watch to select an item automatically after a few seconds if you haven’t done a hand gesture or tapped the screen, which makes it ideal for completely hands-free operation. The motion pointer works well when you need to swipe, too–just move it to the edge of the watch face in the direction you want to swipe, and it will do it for you.
Do you use Assistive Touch on your Apple Watch? Let us know how you use this feature in the comments!
Emma brings over a decade of freelance copy and content writing experience and is our Editor, Social Media Manager, and regular contributor. Specializing in long-form content such as blogs, articles, lead magnets, and white papers, Emma also provides businesses with email marketing, website copy, and landing pages.