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How to reverse the screen orientation on a smartwatch

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When it comes to watches, left-handers often have the short straw. Unless left-handers buy one destro watch, they should learn to wear watches on their dominant hand rather than on the non-dominant hand, as recommended. But that doesn’t have to be the case with all smartwatches. Because smartwatches have touchscreens, some watch manufacturers have given left-handers the ability to reverse the screen orientation so that it appears “upside down”. This, in turn, gives users more control over where the watch’s buttons are located, making it easier to use a device worn on the right hand.

While you can’t change the screen orientation with every smartwatch, two of the biggest players – Apple and Samsung – do. Wear OS currently requires you to use third-party apps to rotate the screen – although Google is reportedly adding the ability to reverse the screen orientation on future Wear OS watches. Unfortunately it is currently not possible on both Fitbit Sense or Versa 3 or on more recent Garmin devices.

But wait, you might say, didn’t my smartwatch ask me to choose the wrist I want to wear it on during setup? Often yes, this is something that many users have to do as soon as they put on a brand new smartwatch. Note, however, that this does not always refer to the screen orientation. In general, this prompt aims to help the watch perform the appropriate fitness tracking algorithms depending on whether you wear your device on your dominant or non-dominant hand.

While it’s a shame you can’t reverse your screen orientation on every smartwatch, here’s how to do it on the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 lineups. We’ll be sure to update if and when other smartwatch makers decide to enable this feature in the future.

Apple Watch

The Orientation menu on Apple Watch.
Image: Apple

Apple has long given users the ability to adjust the screen orientation of their watch. You can adjust this setting from your phone or directly on the watch itself.

To reverse the screen orientation with the watch:

  • Navigate to the Settings app.
  • Scroll down and tap General.
  • Scroll down to Orientation.
  • Select here on which wrist you want to wear the watch.
  • Then select which side you want the digital crown to appear on.

To reverse the screen orientation with iPhone:

  • Open the Watch app.
  • Select the My watch tab.
  • Select General and tap View orientation.
  • Select here on which wrist you want to wear the watch.
  • Then select which side you want the digital crown to appear on.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic

Render of the button position menu on the Galaxy Watch 4

You can also change which side the buttons are on.
Image: Samsung

When Samsung first launched the Galaxy Watch 4 range last year, you couldn’t change the screen orientation. That was a big deal if you wanted to use the new body composition feature and wore the watch on your right wrist. That’s because Samsung required you to touch two fingers on the watch’s buttons to create a circuit for bioelectrical impedance analysis. While this was easy enough to do on the left wrist, left-handers would have to reach all the way over in an awkward way to use the function.

Fortunately, Samsung has fixed this problem. Now left-handers or those who want to wear their watch on their right hand have the option to use the new feature without having to deal with less-than-ideal button placement.

To reverse the screen orientation:

  • Navigate to the Settings menu on the watch.
  • Tap Generaland then select Orientation.
  • Choose your Left or Right wrist.
  • Once you’ve done that, scroll down to Button Position.
  • Select again whether to show the left or right buttons.

Hopefully we’ll see more smartwatches in the future that add the ability to adjust the screen orientation. Not only would it help left-handers, but it would also be helpful from an accessibility point of view. And as the saying goes, if you make a design accessible, you also benefit from everyone.

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