The Apple Watch Ultra’s customizable action button can trigger shortcuts as well as a lot more

Later this week, Apple will introduce the Apple Watch Ultra, a more durable, capable smartwatch designed for explorers, adventurers and athletes. One of the many unique features of the $ 799 watch is the addition of a third button called the action button. This article tells you what you can do with it.

Action button location

In “International Orange”, the indented pill-shaped action button is located next to the display, to the left of the titanium case of the “Apple Watch Ultra”, between the two speakers and the siren.

Siren activation

Pressing and holding the action button activates the built-in 86-decibel siren that can be heard up to 600 feet (180 meters) away and is designed to attract emergency assistance.

watch with ultra siren

Non-standard activities

The action button is also customizable, which means it can perform any function configured for it by the user. Apple Watch Ultra users can choose the initial action button function when setting up the device. Later, they can adjust this selection in Settings, where the new section lists the apps that support the button.

Apple Watch Ultra action button


Apple examples of what the button can be configured for include Start Backtrack (which uses GPS data to create the track you’ve been on so you can retrace your steps), start training, and start diving.

The action button can also be assigned to system-level functions, such as turning the flashlight on and off, marking the compass, or starting the stopwatch. In addition, Apple Watch Ultra users can pause the current function by pressing the action and side buttons simultaneously.

Assign shortcuts

As the action button is powered by the new App Intents APIs that Apple released at WWDC in June, Apple Watch Ultra users will also be able to assign shortcuts to it, giving it great customization potential, such as the ability to control smart home accessories.

Assigning a dedicated shortcut to the action button can also pave the way for additional adaptive features. For example, shortcuts with location-based or time-based actions may allow the action button to perform various functions throughout the day.

Multi-functional use with subsequent presses

Depending on what application the action button controls, Apple Watch Ultra users will in some cases be able to select additional actions for subsequent presses.

Apple envisions people using the action button without looking at the screen, so the next press of the button should be logical from the first press while still making sense in the current context.

action button select segment


For example, a training application may allow the user to start a triathlon with the first press of a button and move to a different segment with the next press.

It’s worth noting, however, that apps won’t be able to assign functions to a long press of the action button as watchOS 9 reserves that interaction for the Emergency SOS feature.

Final thoughts

Apple’s decision to add a third physical control to the “Apple Watch Ultra” in the form of an action button not only allows quick access to a range of functions provided by the system. It also gives third-party developers a new tool that will enable them to bring key app features to users at the push of a button.

Whether Apple intends to introduce the Action button on its lower-priced Apple Watch Series models in the future is an intriguing question, the answer to which may depend on how versatile and irreplaceable it proves to be in the hands of Ultra users.

Apple watch ultra 2


Priced at $ 799, the “Apple Watch Ultra” is available in one 49mm size, with Trail, Ocean and Alpine band options available. The new smartwatch can be pre-ordered now and will arrive with the second-generation AirPods Pro next Friday, September 23. For more information on the design and features of the “Apple Watch Ultra” be sure to check out our dedicated recap.

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