preview image showing different apple watch mode icons

With the release of watchOS 7, the number of modes available on an Apple Watch has become a little silly. There’s now Airplane Mode, Silent Mode, Do Not Disturb Mode, Theater Mode, Schooltime Mode, and Sleep Mode. Here’s what they all do.

To toggle any of these modes on or off, swipe up on your Apple Watch to access the “Control Center,” then tap the relevant icon (we’ll cover them as we go). Some of the modes can also activate automatically in certain circumstances.

demonstration of adding hidden modes to an apple watch

(If you don’t see an icon in the Control Center, you can add it by tapping the “Edit” button; any undisplayed icons will appear under “More.” Tap them to add them.)

Airplane Mode

toggling airplane mode on and off on apple watch

While Airplane Mode might not be necessary to keep planes from falling out of the skies, it’s still important and useful. It disables all the radios in your Apple Watch except for Bluetooth. This means no Wi-Fi, GPS, or, if you have it, Cellular.

Airplane Mode has a couple of uses:

  • It lets you comply with airline policy and various laws around the world, without turning your Apple Watch off.
  • It provides a quick way to force your Watch to reconnect with Wi-Fi networks, GPS satellites, or cell service. Turning things off and on again really can help.
  • It saves battery life when you want to.

To toggle Airplane Mode on or off, tap the “Airplane” icon.

Silent Mode

toggling silent mode on and off on apple watch

Silent mode mutes your Apple Watch. When it’s active, your Watch won’t make any beeps, buzzes, or other alert tones including alarms, although it will still vibrate and give you a haptic alert. Otherwise, it works as normal.

To toggle Silent Mode on or off, tap the bell icon. Silent Mode also gets activated when you put your Watch in Theater Mode.

Do Not Disturb Mode

toggling do not disturb on and off on apple watch

Do Not Disturb Mode is similar to Silent Mode, but with a couple of important differences:

  • It keeps notifications and alerts from sounding or lighting up the screen, with the exception of alarms and, if you have it enabled, calls from contacts on your Favorites list.
  • It doesn’t stop apps from making sounds as you use your watch.
  • Activating Do Not Disturb Mode on your Watch also activates it on your iPhone, and vice versa.

To toggle Do Not Disturb Mode on or off, tap the moon icon. You can set it to remain on for an hour, until later in the day, until a calendar event is finished, or until you leave your current location. It also gets activated automatically if you have it scheduled, you have a sleep schedule, and, depending on if you have the options enabled or not, when you’re working out or driving.

Theater Mode

toggling theater or cinema mode on and off on apple watch

Turning on Theater Mode (or Cinema Mode in the U.K.) activates Silent Mode so all alerts are muted. In addition, it also turns off your Watch’s always-on display (if it has one) and disables raise-to-wake.

To toggle Theater Mode on or off, tap the drama masks icon.

Schooltime Mode

apple watch schooltime mode watch face

Schooltime Mode disables all apps and complications, instead displaying a simple time-only watch face. It also enables Do Not Disturb Mode.

Schooltime Mode is intended for parents using Family Setup to manage their children’s’ devices, but you can activate it on your own watch by tapping the schoolchild icon. It’s a handy way to prevent your Watch from distracting you.

Sleep Mode

apple watch sleep time watch face

Sleep Mode turns on Do Not Disturb Mode, turns off the always-on screen, disables raise-to-wake, and activates a simple, low-brightness time-only watch face.

To toggle Sleep Mode on or off, tap the bed icon. Sleep Mode will activate automatically if you have a sleep schedule configured.


While there are a lot of modes and they have overlapping features, each does something slightly different. There are times when Silent is right and times when you want Sleep Mode—it’s just a bit overwhelming at first!

Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium's OneZero.
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