One of the key attributes of the Apple Watch is its ability to not only display notifications, but to also give you a slight tap on the wrist when something of importance arrives, either to your Apple Watch or iPhone. Here’s where things can get a bit muddled. When you transition from iPhone to Apple Watch, what you define as important can also change. How you manage notifications on both devices can have a major impact. Now that you’re wearing a notification system, dialing in your preferences should have a profound effect on not only the usefulness of the watch, while also reducing any unwanted nag factor.

Apple Watch notifications tutorial

How to access your notifications

To access notifications on Apple Watch, swipe down on the display when the watch face is displayed. This differs greatly from the iPhone, where notifications can be accessed from any screen. You can swipe up or down to move between your notifications or use the Digital Crown. You cannot use the Digital Crown to dismiss a notification. Instead it acts more like a back button, returning you to the list of notifications.

Access notifications on Apple Watch

How to read and dismiss a notification

From the watch face, swipe down to view your current notifications. In many cases, the preview will provide you with the entire contents of the message. If not, tap on any notification to read the entire message. If the message is being mirrored from your iPhone, you can either leave the notification or tap ‘Dismiss’ to remove it from your list of active notifications. Dragging down from the top of the watch display down will also remove it. If it contains a message from an installed app, tapping on it will open the app.

Dismiss notification

How to enable the notifications indicator

Apple Watch has a notification indicator in the form of a red that appears at the top of the watch face. Here’s how to enable it.
1. Open the companion app on your iPhone.
2. Tap on the My Watch tab and select Notifications.
3. Toggle Notifications Indicator to ‘On’ or green.

Notifications indicator

Any new notifications will result in both a haptic tap of your wrist and a red dot. This is particularly helpful if you’ve docked your watch overnight for charging.

How to add privacy to a notification

By default, notifications are filled with details. For example, Messages will show the sender and a message preview. There are certain situations where this you might not want this information popping up on your wrist. Apple Watch is equipped with privacy features, which are accessible from the companion app.
1. Open the companion app on your iPhone.
2. Tap on My Watch and select Notifications.
3. Toggle Notifications Privacy to On.

Enable privacy Apple Watch

When this is set to On, notification details will only appear when you tap on an alert.

What’s the difference between notifications from a native Apple Watch app and iPhone notifications

The Apple Watch doesn’t need a supported app to display notifications. Out of the box, you’ll start to receive notifications on your wrist that mirror your iPhone. Notifications from supported apps allow you to take action on an alert. Using Messages as an example, you can tap on the notification and you’re offered the option to reply. Notifications that are being mirrored from your iPhone can only be read and dismissed.

How to use do not disturb to block alerts

If you plan on wearing your Apple Watch to bed, you probably don’t want to be subject to a steady stream of haptic taps. Thankfully, it supports the Do Not Disturb feature present on your iPhone. You can set it to Mirror Your iPhone.
1. Open the companion app and tap on My Watch.
2. Select Do Not Disturb and toggle Mirror iPhone to On.

Do not disturb on Apple Watch

This is dependent upon your existing Do Not Disturb settings. You can find those by opening the Settings app, selecting Do Not Disturb and entering your schedule. You can also manually activate Do Not Disturb. There isn’t an option yet to create event based Do Not Disturb settings, something we hope might appear in iOS 9. When Do Not Disturb is enabled, you’ll see a purple crescent moon at the top of your watch face.

Do not disturb enabled

Your settings can allow calls to come in from your favorites. The setting does not affect text messages. Any other than calls from favorites will be silenced and you won’t receive a tap when the message is received.

How to clear all notifications

The Apple Watch has a featured called force touch. Instead of tapping on the display, you have to press with slightly more force and hold. We use Force Touch to clear all notifications. Swipe down to access your notifications panel. Press and hold and you’ll have an option to “Clear All’. Tap the ‘x’ to accept and clear all notifications.

How to set custom notifications on Apple Watch

For many of the default stock apps, you can set custom notifications. This is particularly helpful when you want your watch alerts to differ from your iPhone alerts. To access and enable custom notifications:
1. Open the companion app and tap on My Watch.
2. Tap on Notifications and scroll just below Notification Privacy.
3. Tap on any of the list of stock apps and tap on custom to view notification options. These will differ based on the app and options available to you.
4. Set your preferences and return to the main screen. These will not sync with your Apple Watch.

How to mirror iPhone alerts for all or selected apps

On several occasions, I’ve noted how notifications can be invasive now that they come in on your wrist. When setting up your Apple Watch, the two biggest decisions you’ll make involve installing companion apps and for other apps, will you mirror their respective iPhone notifications. Some alerts make perfect sense on your iPhone, but not so much on your wrist. Here’s how to dial in your preferred settings.
1. Open the companion app and tap on My Watch.
2. Tap on Notifications and scroll to Mirror iPhone Alerts From.
3. For apps that you do not want to receive notifications on your watch, toggle to off.

Disable mirror iPhone alerts

This doesn’t affect notifications on your iPhone. Basically, you’re disabling notifications on the watch, but keeping them on your iPhone.