There are seven ways to program the Apple Watch Ultra’s all-new Action button, and while some are straightforward, others can be customized.
The Apple Watch Ultra‘s all-new Action button can be programmed for seven different functions, and there are key quirks and features associated with each. The Action button is a bright orange, customizable button that is designed to meet the needs of individual users. While every Apple Watch has a power button and the Digital Crown — a versatile version of a traditional watch crown used for scrolling and navigating watchOS — the Action button is exclusive to the Apple Watch Ultra.
By default, the Action button can activate the Apple Watch Ultra’s emergency siren with a long press. This is the only function of the Action button that is pre-set out of the box — everything else is completely customizable by the user. During the Apple Watch Ultra’s setup process, users will be asked whether they want to program the Action button or wait until later. If they choose to wait, the Action button will have no primary function until it is enabled through the Settings app on Apple Watch or the Apple Watch app on iPhone. However, the Action button has different functions when an application is opened, so those uses will work without additional setup required.
There are seven different primary functions that users can program the Action button to complete on the Apple Watch Ultra – Workout, Stopwatch, Waypoint, Backtrack, Dive, Flashlight, and Shortcut. The way the Action button works varies slightly based on what primary function is set, and there is some level of customization within each function. It’s crucial to know what each option does before making a decision because some offer more robust features than others. For example, programming the Action button to turn on the flashlight is simple, and there is no room for additional customization. Similarly, the ‘Waypoint‘ option drops a waypoint at the wearer’s current location with a single press. Though the ‘Shortcut‘ command provides the most potential for customization, the Action button simply activates the selected shortcut when it is pressed — there are no other button commands available.
Customizing The Action Button
Since the Apple Watch Ultra is targeted to fitness-minded individuals and serious athletes, the ‘Workout‘ option could end up being the most popular Action button setting. A first press of the Action button programmed to the ‘Workout‘ setting can perform one of two actions – it can start the Workout that is pre-set in the Apple Watch app on iPhone, or automatically open the Workout app. There are 20 different Workout options that can be started with the Action button, and they are different for each user. The 20 most recently completed or created workouts will appear in the Action button settings page. After a Workout is started, pressing the Action button again will perform a secondary action, which changes depending on the app or workout. If the Action button and power button are pressed simultaneously, the workout is paused.
Though the Action button has the most functionality with the ‘Workout’ setting enabled, the ‘Stopwatch,’ ‘Backtrack,’ and ‘Dive’ options also perform more than one task. With the ‘Stopwatch‘ Action button setting enabled, the first press of the button starts the stopwatch and subsequent presses mark new laps. Pressing both the Action button and power button pause the stopwatch, but users need to tap the touchscreen to end the stopwatch. When the ‘Dive‘ option is selected, the first press starts a dive and any additional presses perform a secondary action that depends on the running application. Similarly, a first press of the Action button for ‘Backtrack‘ records the wearer’s route, and pressing both the Action button and power button pause route-tracking. The Apple Watch Ultra‘s Action button provides quick access to essential functions, but the extent of the button’s functionality depends on the user’s selection.