What you need to know about AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch:
- AssistiveTouch is an accessibility feature that helps you navigate your Apple Watch using gestures.
- To use AssistiveTouch, you must have:
- Apple Watch running watchOS 8 or later
- iPhone running iOS 15 or later
- This feature uses the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer as well as heart rate sensor data.
The Apple Watch is one of my favorite tech products, but I’ve always found it difficult to navigate its tiny screen. Fortunately, with the latest watchOS 8, you can activate AssistiveTouch on your Apple Watch to use hand gestures to navigate the screen.
This is a great new accessibility feature, especially for people with disabilities. Let’s dive into all the details and learn how to use AssistiveTouch in watchOS 8 on Apple Watch.
What is AssistiveTouch in watchOS 8?
AssistiveTouch is an accessibility feature that defines hand gestures to control the cursor and navigate the Apple Watch display. It’s already available on iPhone and iPad and makes it easy to use your Apple Watch without touching the tiny screen.
AssistiveTouch uses the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer, and heart rate data on Apple Watch, to determine the position of your wrist and hand.
Currently, Apple Watch can recognize the following hand gestures: pinch (touching your index finger to your thumb) and clench (clench your fist).
The squeeze gesture acts as a basic “next” action, and the squeeze gesture acts as a “confirmation.” So, for example, you can answer an incoming call by clenching your fist. If that sounds interesting, let’s check out how to enable AssistiveTouch on an Apple Watch running watchOS 8.
Note. The release date for AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch is likely to be in the fall of 2021, when the official version of watchOS 8 launches globally. Then we’ll have more details on how to set up AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch. But for now, here’s a general idea of what you can expect.
How to activate AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch
To set up AssistiveTouch, you need to put on your Apple Watch and update it to watchOS 8.
- Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
- Click Accessibility on the My Watch tab.
- Turn on AssistiveTouch.
- You may also need to go to Settings → Accessibility on your Apple Watch and turn on AssisitiveTouch.
Once this option is enabled in the settings, you can activate it by clenching your hand twice into a free fist. You can then use gestures to navigate the watch as described below.
AssistiveTouch basic navigation on Apple Watch
There are two basic gestures required to use AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch.
- First, pinching your fingers will lead you to different buttons or options on the screen in most applications.
For example , when the timer goes off, you can pinch to move to the Stop or Repeat buttons. The selected button will be highlighted with a blue rectangle on the Apple Watch screen.
- You can also double-click your finger to navigate backward between options.
- Third, by clenching your hand once, you will confirm your choice. This is equivalent to clicking on the selected option.
- Finally, you can double-squeeze your hand to open the action menu, as described below.
Two squeeze and squeeze motions help you bypass most Apple Watch apps with AssistiveTouch. But you can also customize them as described below.
How to set up hand gestures for AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch
- Launch the Watch app on the paired iPhone.
- Select Availability.
- Tap AssistiveTouch.
- In the writing area, tap Hand gestures.
The option is enabled by default.
- In the Customize Gestures section, adjust the Pinch, Double Pinch, Pinch, and Double Pinch options as you like.
The default values are Forward, Backward, Touch, and Action Menu, respectively.
Advanced AssistiveTouch controls in watchOS 8
In addition to hand gestures, AssistiveTouch includes an action menu with more options for interacting with the Apple Watch than just squeeze and squeeze. This includes:
- Pressing the crown: This button is equivalent to pressing the digital crown on the Apple Watch without touching it.
- Movement indicator. Activating the motion pointer for AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch lets you tilt your watch to navigate.
- When tilted up, the pointer moves up; when tilted down, it moves down. So you can use this to quickly scroll through the button options. Further, when you hover the mouse over an option, it is selected.
Likewise, you can tilt your watch left or right to go to the far left or far right of the Apple Watch screen and navigate to other windows in apps.
For example, when using the Workout app, you can use the lean motion to navigate between the statistics display and the End and Pause buttons.
You can squeeze your hand twice to activate the Action menu on Apple Watch. Then pinch your fingers together to move through the options and select the option by pinching once.
The motion pointer can be activated through the action menu or by quickly shaking your Apple Watch up and down.
You can turn off AssistiveTouch at any time in settings. Check out this space for more information on this feature following the official release of watchOS 8.
Other accessibility features announced by Apple
Along with AssistiveTouch in watchOS 8, Apple has announced several other accessibility updates for its platforms, including:
- Support for new hearing aids
- SignTime: ASL translator video call for Apple Store visits and customer support
- Improved Image Exploration Powered by VoiceOver
- Built-in background noise generator
- Replacement of some buttons with non-verbal sound in the mouth (for people with speech and mobility impairments)
- Custom Memoji for people with oxygen tubing, cochlear implants and soft helmets
- More inclusive media in the App Store, Apple TV, Books and Maps apps from people with disabilities or for people with disabilities.