watchOS 8: How to use AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch

How to use AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch

What to know about AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch:

  • AssistiveTouch is an accessibility feature that helps navigate your Apple Watch using hand gestures.
  • To use AssistiveTouch, you must have:
    • Apple Watch running watchOS 8 or later
    • iPhone running iOS 15 or later
  • The feature uses the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer, along with data from the heart rate sensor.

The Apple Watch is one of my favorite tech products, but I’ve always found its tiny screen challenging to navigate. Luckily, in the latest watchOS 8, you can activate AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch to use hand gestures for navigating the screen.

This is a great new accessibility feature, particularly 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 detects hand gestures to control a cursor and navigate your Apple Watch display. It’s already available on iPhone and iPad and makes it easier to use your Apple Watch without having to touch the tiny screen.  

AssistiveTouch uses the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer, along with data from the heart rate sensor on your Apple Watch to deduce the position of your wrist and hand. 

Currently, the Apple Watch can detect the following hand gestures: “pinch” (touching the index finger to the thumb) and “clench” (making a loose fist). 

The pinch gesture acts as a basic “next” action, while the clench gesture acts as “confirm.” So, for instance, you can accept an incoming call by clenching your fist. If this sounds interesting, let’s learn how to turn on AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch running watchOS 8. 

Note: The release date of AssistiveTouch on the Apple Watch will likely be sometime during fall 2021 when the official watchOS 8 will launch worldwide. We will then have more details about how to set up AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch. But for now, here’s the general idea of what you can expect. 

How to activate AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch

To set up AssistiveTouch, you need to be wearing your Apple Watch and have it updated to watchOS 8.

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Accessibility in the My Watch tab.
  3. Toggle on AssistiveTouch. 
  4. You may also have to go to SettingsAccessibility on your Apple Watch and enable AssisitiveTouch. 

Once the option is enabled in settings, you can activate it by clenching your hand into a loose fist twice. Then, you can use gestures to navigate your watch, as explained below. 

Basic AssistiveTouch Navigation on Apple Watch

There are two main gestures you need to use AssistiveTouch on your Apple Watch. 

  • Firstly, pinching your fingers will navigate forwards to different buttons or options on the screen within most apps.
    For instance, 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 your Apple Watch screen.
  • You can also double pinch to move backward among options.
  • Thirdly, clenching your hand once confirms your selection. It is equivalent to tapping the selected option.
  • Lastly, you can double clench your hand to launch the Action Menu, explained further below.

The two motions of pinching and clenching will help you get around most Apple Watch apps with AssistiveTouch. But you can also customize these, as explained below.

How to adjust hand gestures for AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch

  1. Launch the Watch app on your paired iPhone.
  2. Select Accessibility.
  3. Tap AssistiveTouch.
  4. Under inputs, tap Hand Gestures.
    The option is enabled by default.
  5. Under Customize Gestures, adjust the settings for PinchDouble PinchClench, and Double Clench as you prefer.
    The defaults are Forwards, Backwards, Tap, 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 your Apple Watch than just pinching and clenching. These include:

  • Press Crown: This button is equivalent to pressing the Digital Crown on your Apple Watch without actually touching it.
  • Motion Pointer. Activating the motion pointer for AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch allows you to navigate your watch by tilting it.
  • Tilting up moves the pointer up, while tilting down moves the pointer down. So, you can use this to scroll through button options quickly. Further, hovering over an option will select it.

    In the same way, you can tilt your watch left or right to navigate to the far left or far right of your Apple Watch screen and navigate to other windows within apps.

    For instance, when using the Workout app, you can use the tilt motion to move between your stats display and the End and Pause buttons.

To activate the Action menu on Apple Watch, you can double-clench your hand. Then, pinch your fingers to navigate through the options and select an option by clenching once.

The Motion Pointer can be activated via the Action Menu or by quickly shaking your Apple Watch up and down.

You can turn off AssistiveTouch anytime from the settings. Watch this space for more info about this feature after 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 across its platforms, including:

  • Support for new hearing aids
  • SignTime: An ASL interpreter video call for Apple Store visits and customer support
  • Enhanced VoiceOver-based exploration of images
  • A built-in background noise generator
  • Replacement of some buttons with non-verbal mouth noises (for people with limited speech and mobility)
  • Custom Memoji for people with oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and soft helmets
  • More inclusive media in the App Store, Apple TV, Books, and Maps apps by or for people with disabilities
Source: Apple obsessed

That covers everything we know so far about using AssistiveTouch in watchOS 8. What are your thoughts on this feature? Share in the comments below.

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