watchOS 5 includes a fantastic new time saver, that for some reason Apple opted not to mention in the keynote.

You can now access Notification Center and Control Center panes from anywhere in the watchOS interface. On previous versions of watchOS, you always had to swipe from the clock face; swipe from the top to open notifications, swipe from the bottom and access the system toggles and control shortcuts.

With watchOS 5, you can access both of these screens from inside any Watch app. You can still swipe up or down from the watch face like normal, but to avoid conflicts with in-app navigation, the gesture to reveal Notification Center and Control Center has an extra necessary step. Here’s how …

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Activating Notification Center or Control Center from anywhere is probably easier to see in a demo, than it is to explain in text but it’s not hard once you have the knack.

To open Control Center from inside an app

  • Place your finger at the bottom of the watch display.
  • Hold your finger on the screen for about half a second.
  • When the peek of the Control Center pane appears, swipe up towards the top of the screen like always and the Control Center appears on top of the open app.

The reverse motions can be used to access Notification Center. As this pane is situated ‘above’ the display, you rest your finger at the top of the screen (sort of like a long press) and then swipe downwards.

You can do this gesture inside any first- or third-party apps. The swipes work on the clock face whether you pause or not at the beginning, staying compatible with previous behavior. It does not work on the Apple Watch home screen or in the Dock.

To accompany the new system-wide gestures, Apple has added some subtle animations to guide the interaction in watchOS 5. When you start the long press, the background of the ‘pane’ starts as an opaque gray and you get a little peek of the incoming window. The gray fades to transparent as the swipe gesture is completed. If you swipe faster, the panes hit the end and bounce back with satisfying physics.

The individual Control Center toggles also appear to bounce slightly as they come to a rest in their final locations. The pane content itself is slightly translucent, so you can get a sense of context from the blurred background of the app underneath.

In addition to the headline new features, watchOS 5 is full of small changes like this. Read more about watchOS 5 from our overview of tidbits earlier today.


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