Apple Watch Ultra: How to use the action button and emergency siren

On Friday, Apple will officially launch the Apple Watch Ultra in stores, a tougher, more capable smartwatch aimed at explorers, adventurers and athletes. One of the many unique features of the 999 euro (or 799 dollar) watch is the addition of a third button called the “action button”. Here’s what you can do with it.

Action button location

Colored “international orange”, the “Action” button is located next to the screen on the left side of the titanium case of the Apple Watch Ultra, between the two speakers and the siren. You can’t miss it…

apple watch ultra orange alpine loop action

Activation of the siren

Pressing and holding the Action button activates the built-in 86-decibel siren, which can be heard up to 180 meters away and is meant to be used to attract help in emergencies. What to find you, even under the rubble.

apple watch ultra siren

Custom Actions

The Action button is also customizable, meaning it can perform any function the user configures for it. As we saw in our Apple Watch Ultra review, customers can choose a function for the Action button when setting up their device. Later, they can adjust this choice in Settings, where a new section lists apps that support the button.

For example, you can launch the Backtrack app (which uses GPS data to create a route of where you’ve been so you can retrace your steps), launch a workout, and start a a diving trip. But the Action button can also be assigned to system-level functions, like turning the flashlight on and off, marking a compass waypoint, or starting the timer. Additionally, Apple Watch Ultra users can pause the current function by simultaneously pressing the buttons Stock and Power.

apple watch ultra 2022 under water safety

Assigning shortcuts

The Action button being powered by the new APIs App Intents that Apple unveiled at WWDC 22 in June, Apple Watch Ultra users will also be able to assign shortcuts to it, which offers huge potential for customization, such as the ability to control smart home accessories. Assigning a dedicated shortcut to the Action button could also pave the way for additional, adaptive functionality. For example, shortcuts with location or time-based actions could allow the action button to perform different functions throughout the day. A button that adapts to your needs, simply brilliant.

Click, click, click

Depending on the application for which the “Action” button is used, users of the Apple Watch Ultra will, in some cases, be able to choose different actions for the additional presses.

Apple anticipates that users will use the “Action” button without looking at the screen, so a specific button press should flow logically from the first press, while still making sense in the current context. For example, a workout app might allow the user to start a triathlon by pressing the first button and move on to another segment by pressing the next. It should be noted, however, that apps will not be able to assign functions to a long press of the Action button, as watchOS 9 reserves this interaction for the emergency SOS function.

apple watch ultra orange hands on

Conclusion

The Cupertino company’s decision to add a third physical control to the Apple Watch Ultra in the form of the “Action” button not only allows quick access to a series of functions provided by the system. It also offers third-party developers a new tool that will allow them to offer users key app functions by simply tapping on them.

We can already imagine its integration on the Apple Watch 9, or on a variant of the Apple Watch Ultra that is smaller and therefore cheaper.

Priced at €999, the Apple Watch Ultra comes in a single 49mm size, with Trail, Ocean and Alpine strap options. The new smartwatch can be pre-ordered now and will launch alongside the AirPods Pro 2 on Friday, September 23.

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