A man using an Apple Watch on an airplane.
Sergei Stemprok/Shutterstock.com

The Apple Watch brings notifications to your wrist. Finally, you can get important notifications without looking at your phone—and you’ll get unimportant notifications, too. Here’s how to control your watch’s alerts.

While you can configure some of these settings on your Apple Watch, it’s kind of awkward. It’s best to use the Watch app on your iPhone. That’s what we’ll demonstrate in this guide.

Only Install the Apps You Want

Everything starts with the apps you have installed. If your watch has started to get cluttered or you’re getting notifications from apps you haven’t opened in months, you should get rid of them and cut out the root of the problem.

To uninstall an app from your watch without uninstalling it from your iPhone, open the “Watch” app and scroll down until you see a list of apps “Installed on Apple Watch.”

Select the app you want to remove and uncheck “Show on Apple Watch.” And just like that, it’ll be gone.

list of apps installed on apple watch toggle to uninstall apple watch app highlighted

If you want to uninstall an app from both your iPhone and your watch, you just have to delete it on your phone.

Turn Off Notification Mirroring for Unimportant Things

There are some notifications that you might not mind getting on your iPhone, but you absolutely don’t need to see them immediately on your wrist. Even if you don’t have the app installed on your Watch, the notifications may still be mirrored.

In the Watch app, go to “Notifications” and scroll down to “Mirror iPhone Alerts From.” Here, you’ll see a list of all the apps you have installed on your iPhone. Toggle off any you don’t want sending notifications to your watch.

notifications option highlighted apple watch app notifications off toggle

Sadly, the notification controls on an Apple Watch aren’t quite as granular as you might like  It’s not currently possible to have it so certain apps only enable one kind of notification through but not others, at least not if the app itself doesn’t offer those controls. The notifications that appear on your iPhone will appear on your watch.

Customize How Each Notification Appears

For the notifications you do want to get on your wrist, you can customize how and where they appear.

In the Watch app, go to “Notifications.” Just beneath “Notification Privacy,” you’ll see a list of all the apps you can configure.

notifications option highlighted apple watch app apps with notifications for configuring

Apple’s built-in apps have a few more options. But, for most things you have a choice to “Mirror My iPhone” and have notifications appear as they do on your iPhone, or to go “Custom.”

notification options for apple watch

If you select “Custom,” you have the option to “Allow Notifications,” “Send to Notification Center,” or turn “Notifications Off”.

“Allow Notifications” means your watch will show the notification the next time you glance at it. You can toggle “Sound” on or off.

“Send to Notification Center” means notifications will be visible in the notification center, but otherwise won’t appear on your wrist. Again, you can toggle “Sound” on or off.

Finally, “Notifications Off” just turns off all notifications for that app.

Set the Alert Volume and Haptic Strength

sounds & haptics option apple watch setting sounds and haptics options apple watch

If you’ve followed along, you should now only receive notifications from the apps you want to get them from. The next step is to set how loudly your watch beeps (but only when you want it to!) and how hard it vibrates.

In the Watch app, go to “Sounds & Haptics.” Use the “Alert Volume” slider to set the loudness of the alerts. Under “Haptics,” you can select how firmly your watch vibrates with each notification. I’d recommend “Prominent.”

Use the Different Modes as Needed

While setting up some good defaults will cover you in most situations, you should also get familiar with all the different modes available. In particular:

toggling silent mode on and off on apple watch

To turn either mode on, swipe up on your watch and tap the bell icon for “Silent” and the moon icon for “Do Not Disturb.” Between the two, you can guarantee your watch only notifies you when you want.

RELATED: What Do All the Modes Do on My Apple Watch?

Profile Photo for 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.
Read Full Bio »