Here's how to send texts and customize how and when messages show up on your Apple Watch.
Texting is a task typically handled on your phone, but if you have an Apple Watch, you can read and send texts right from your arm. The process isn’t as easy as texting on an iPhone, but there are ways to make it more user friendly. Here are our top tips.
Want to receive a notification on your Apple Watch the next time you get a text? You’ll need to enable the right notification option in the watch settings of your iPhone or Apple Watch. From the iPhone, open the Watch app and tap Notifications. On your watch, go to Settings > Notifications. (The following settings are for devices running iOS 15 and watchOS 8.)
Turn on the switch for Notifications Indicator to display a red dot on your watch when you have an unread notification. Turn on the switch for Show Summary When Locked to see a summary of your notifications even if the watch is locked. Toggle Tap to Show Full Notification to on if you want to hide the details of a notification unless you tap on your watch.
Tap on the option for Show Notifications on Wrist Down to see notifications even if your arm isn’t up. At the Show Notifications screen, turn on the switch for Show Notifications. Swipe down the screen and make sure the switch is enabled for Messages.
New notifications will appear on your iPhone or your Apple Watch but not both. If your iPhone is unlocked, then it will receive the new notifications. If your iPhone is locked or asleep, then your watch will receive the new notifications. Some types of notifications appear only on your phone, but notifications for new texts will show up on the watch.
When wearing Apple AirPods or compatible Beats headsets, you can have Siri read each new text you receive. For this to work, you’ll need AirPods Max, AirPods (2nd generation or later), AirPods Pro, Beats Fit Pro, Powerbeats, Powerbeats Pro, or Beats Solo Pro. Also make sure you’re running iOS 15 or higher on your iPhone and watchOS 8 or higher on your watch.
On your watch, go to Settings > Notifications > Announce Notifications and turn on the switch for Announce Notifications. Swipe down the screen and turn on the switch for Messages if it’s not already on. The next time you receive a new text, Siri will read it to you.
If you have enabled notifications on your Apple Watch, any new message that arrives will automatically appear on the screen. Just tap it to immediately read the message. If you don’t read the message right away, a red notification dot will appear at the top of the screen to inform you of a new notification. Just swipe down on the screen to read the new message.
To view all your text messages, tap the Messages icon on the watch’s home screen. Swipe down the screen to see each message and tap any that you wish to read. To filter the messages you see, swipe up to the top of the screen and tap Viewing. You can now opt to see all messages, those from known senders, or those from unknown senders.
The Apple Watch offers a few different ways to address a text to the right person. Tap the Messages icon from the home screen and then tap New Message. To select the recipient, tap Add Contact. Swipe down the screen to see all the people with whom you’ve exchanged texts in the past and select the right person from the list.
If the recipient doesn’t appear, tap the People icon at the top to view your contacts and select the person from that list. If the person is not an existing contact, tap the Dialpad icon and type the person’s phone number. Another option is to tap the Microphone icon and speak the person’s name or phone number, then choose the correct person from the suggestions.
You can create or respond to a text in a number of ways. With a new text, tap the field that says Create Message. With a response, tap the field that says iMessage.
If you have an Apple Watch Series 7, you can tap or slide across the characters on the built-in QuickPath keyboard. If you don’t see the keyboard, swipe up from the bottom and then tap the Keyboard button. All watch models can use Scribble mode to draw characters or dictation to speak text and punctuation aloud.
If you find texting from a watch to be a slow and frustrating process, you can still type the response on your iPhone. A notification pops up on your phone prompting you to enter the text using the iOS keyboard. Type the response on the phone, and it appears on your watch.
You can spice up a text with a fun emoji. At the screen to type or dictate your message, tap the smiley face icon. From there, swipe down to view the different emoji options and tap the one you want to use.
Tap the A icon in front of the New Message or iMessage field to access different stickers and GIFs to send to the recipient. The first icon displays a screen of memoji stickers. Tap the magnifying glass to search through a collection of animated GIFs.
You can use the Digital Touch feature to draw with different colors then send the picture in a text. Tap the A icon and tap the heart icon. Tap the small colored circle in the upper right and select the color you wish to use, then draw with your finger.
If drawing an actual object is too challenging, you can use gestures to create specific images. Tap the screen once to generate a circle or series of circles. Tap two fingers on the screen to draw a kiss image. Press one finger on the screen to generate an animated flame. Press two fingers on the screen to generate an animated heartbeat. When finished, tap Done then hit Send.
If you want to send a text but don’t want to write one yourself, you can opt for a Smart Reply. Open a text, then swipe down the screen to view the list of Smart Reply suggestions. Tap the one that’s most appropriate.
Send a text message with an audio recording by tapping the A icon and then select the soundwave icon. Speak your message or play the audio you wish to record. When finished, tap Done. You and the recipient can play the message once it has been sent.
Sometimes you don’t need to send an actual response to a text but still want to acknowledge the message with a reaction. In that event, you can tag the received message with an inline tapback response. Press down on the message to display a series of images such as a heart, a thumbs up, a thumbs down, and a question mark. Tap the image you want to send.
You can share your location with another person through text message. To do this on an Apple Watch, swipe down to the bottom of the screen past the Smart Reply suggestions and tap Share Location. A map of your location is automatically sent.
To text someone a payment via Apple Pay, tap the A icon and select the icon for Apple Pay. Turn the Digital Crown to set the dollar amount. You can add cents by tapping the dollar amount, selecting the number after the decimal point, and turning the Digital Crown to the required amount. After the amount is set, tap Pay and double-tap the Side button to send the payment.
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Surviving a long and varied career in publishing, advertising, and IT, Lance Whitney now wears a few different technology hats. By day, he’s a journalist, software trainer, and sometime Web developer. By night, he’s asleep. These days, he writes news stories, columns, and reviews for CNET and other technology sites and publications. He’s written two books for Wiley & Sons: Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time in 2012, and Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn in 2014. Contact Lance via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
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