Get the most out of your Apple Watch Series 7, Series 3 or SE by adjusting these nine settings.

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Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

You just took your brand new Apple Watch out of the box and connected it to your iPhone, but now what? With tons of options and settings buried in both your Watch, iPhone and the Settings app itself, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. 

Whether you have a new Apple Watch Series 7, the Apple Watch SE or Series 3, they all run the same WatchOS 8 software and have (mostly) the same features and settings. Regardless if it’s your first watch or an upgrade, there are plenty of settings you should know. For example, sometimes the camera roll becomes overrun by errant screenshots. But it doesn’t have to be like that. 

Also, don’t let the number of apps installed on your watch overwhelm you. And definitely don’t get frustrated that Siri keeps randomly talking to you. There are simple fixes for some of these annoyances. 

We’ll walk you through changing nine settings that will make your Apple Watch experience a smooth and enjoyable one. 

Adjust your all of your Activity goals

With the release of last year’s WatchOS 7, Apple added the option to change your goals for the amount of time you stand and exercise. Previously, you could only change your Move (or calories) goal. 

So instead of using the defaults — 30 minutes of exercise and a cumulative 12 standing hours a day — you can change either one to fit your actual daily routine. 

This small change will make it possible for you to hit your own targets when you actually start your day, not when Apple tells you to. For example, if you use sleep tracking overnight and need to charge your watch more often in the morning, you won’t feel like you’ve lost an hour of time to close those rings.

Open the Activity app on your watch then scroll to the bottom and tap Change Goals. Make your adjustments for all three metrics and start closing those rings. 

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You now have full control over what it takes to close your activity rings.  Sarah Tew/CNET

So long, random screenshots

Taking a screenshot on the Apple Watch is done by pressing the Digital Crown and side button at the same time. It’s a simple and convenient method, unless you’re like me and find yourself frequently triggering it accidentally, filling up the photos app with random pictures of your watch face. 

To turn off the ability to take screenshots altogether, open the Settings app on your watch or use the Watch app on your phone and go to General and scroll down until you find Screenshots. Tap this option and toggle off the switch next to Enable Screenshots for a clutter free camera roll. 

Choose the Portrait mode photos you want to see on your wrist

Now that Apple’s WatchOS 8 update has arrived, you can set Portrait mode photos as the background for your watch face. But first, you have to dig into the settings in the Watch app on your iPhone. To get started, launch the Watch app and navigate to the Face Gallery tab at the bottom of the screen. Then, tap the Portraits option under the New Watch Faces category. Tap the Choose Photos option under Content to select up to 24 photos that will rotate automatically when you raise your wrist or tap the screen. 

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Apple’s new Portrait watch face lets you set photos taken in Portrait Mode as the watch’s backdrop.  Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Stop every app from automatically installing

Every time you install an app on your iPhone, it will automatically install its Apple Watch counterpart if there is one. This can clutter up your watch’s app grid pretty quick, making it hard to find the apps you do want to use on your watch. 

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The Apple Watch is so much more than a way to view your notifications.  Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

In the Watch app on your phone, go to Settings > General and then slide the switch next to Automatic App Install to the Off position. You can also do this on the watch by opening the Settings menu, tapping App Store and toggling the switch next to Automatic Downloads.    

Going forward, you can install individual apps on your watch by opening the Watch app on your phone, then scrolling to the bottom where you’ll find a list of available apps. 

Make text easier to read by increasing the font size

Reading notifications and news headlines can be difficult on a screen that’s so small. Luckily, you can increase the font size on the Apple Watch to make things a bit easier on your eyes. To do so, launch the Settings app on your watch and scroll down to Text Size. Rotate the digital crown, or tap the letters that appear on either side of the meter, to adjust the text size on your watch. If you’re planning to buy the Apple Watch Series 7, you’ll have more size options for enlarging the text, since it has a bigger display. 


Stop those annoying AF reminders to Breathe

Every few hours your Apple Watch will beep and tap your wrist, reminding you to take a moment to breathe. The first time it happens it’s kind of comical; why do I need a reminder to breathe, crazy watch?! Then it happens again. And again. Every four hours, by default for a physiological act that is literally involuntary. 

The Breathe reminder is designed to help you take a few minutes to clear your mind and control your respiration, in turn lowering your heart rate and potentially helping you feel more centered and calm. But if you’re like me and never follow the prompt, take a few seconds to turn it off so you no longer have to be reminded to breathe. 

Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, then scroll down and tap the Mindfulness app option. Next, select Notifications off. (Note: If your watch isn’t yet running WatchOS 8, this will appear as Breathe instead of Mindfulness.)

Make it easier to find your apps

The honeycomb app grid looks great in promotion photos and at first glance, but it can be difficult to find the app you want to launch, particularly if you have a lot of apps installed on your watch. Instead of using the grid, the watch can display all of your apps in an alphabetical list. 

Either in the Watch app on your phone or in the Settings app on the Watch and tap App View > List View. Now, when you press the Digital Crown to leave your watch face, you’ll see a list of apps that you can quickly scroll through and find what you’re looking for. 

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See, doesn’t the app list look better?  Sarah Tew/CNET

Control when you’ll see Siri

There are three different ways to activate Siri on your Apple Watch. You can raise your wrist towards your mouth and start talking, long-press the Digital Crown or use the wake phrase, “Hey, Siri.”

I’ve found that I often accidentally trigger Siri when trying to check the time or read a notification while I’m talking to someone else (but my watch thinks I’m trying to talk to Siri). It’s annoying, but thankfully it can be changed. 

Either in the Watch app on your phone or in the Settings app on the Watch, select Siri and there you’ll find three buttons to control when you’ll see Siri. Slide each button to the Off position for any of the options you don’t want to use. 

This is a hidden feature that you should memorize right now.  Jason Cipriani/CNET

Rearrange Control Center

Just like Control Center on your iPhone, Control Center on the Apple Watch is where you go to quickly adjust settings like “do not disturb” and airplane mode, and activate the flashlight. 

You may find the default list of options in the Control Center isn’t the best fit for how you use your watch, however. For me, that means moving the Bedtime toggle from near the bottom of the list to the top. That way when I want to track my sleep over the weekend when I don’t have sleep goals set, I can swipe up and tap the icon. 

To access the Control Center on your watch, swipe up from the bottom of the watch face, or when in an app you can long-press on the bottom of the screen until you see Control Center start to slide up, after which you just need to slide your finger up to access it. The same trick works to view your notifications from anywhere. 

Change the order, or hide some buttons in the Control Center by tapping the Edit button at the bottom of the list. The icons will begin to jiggle, and show a red minus sign to hide an option. Drag and drop the icons into your preferred order, or tap the red minus button to remove the option altogether. 

When you’re done, tap Done or press the Digital Crown on the side of your watch to go back to the watch face. 

There are plenty more Apple Watch features that are worth checking out. For example, the ECG app can help identify heartbeat irregularities, there are new workout options for Pilates and Tai Chi, and you can even share your custom watch faces.

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