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Apple Watch Screen Too Dark? Fix it in Seconds

The Apple Watch is a smart device that is occasionally too smart for its own good, dimming your screen with automatic sensors that make it impossible to read. How do you brighten up your Apple Watch when it dims itself at the wrong time?

If your Apple Watch’s sensor is the culprit, you can fix the brightness by covering up your phone for a few seconds and tapping the display. Doing so should allow the sensor to readjust to your conditions and automatically brighten the screen.

In most circumstances, that’s enough to fix the issue. If that doesn’t help, don’t despair! There are other steps to try.

The Tried and True Troubleshooting Advice – Restart the Apple Watch

Once you’ve tried to give the sensors a soft reboot by forcing them to reassess the lighting conditions near your watch, it’s a good idea to restart the watch. There’s a reason this is a frequent early step in most troubleshooting guidelines. Restarting your watch gives it a fresh chance to operate as intended. 

Resetting the Brightness on your Apple Watch using the iPhone Flashlight

One way to force the screen to brighten is to increase the ambient lighting near your phone. The simplest way to do this is to shine a light on it. The sensors in your Apple Watch are tuned into the ambient lighting around your device and automatically adjust the screen’s brightness to account for that lighting. 

  1. Point your iPhone flashlight directly at the surface of your Apple Watch within a few inches of the face.
  2. Turn the flashlight on. 
  3. Give it a few seconds to adjust. The screen should brighten. 
  4. Turn off the iPhone flashlight. The screen may dim slightly but should now be bright enough to be seen clearly. 

Don’t panic if you notice that your phone is not adjusting to the bright flashlight, don’t panic. 

How to Manually Adjust the Brightness on your Apple Watch 

You can manually adjust the brightness on your Apple Watch using either the settings on the watch itself or your iPhone. To do so, follow these steps:

Adjusting Brightness on the Apple Watch:

  1. Open the Settings app on your watch. The icon looks like a three-spoke gear. 
  2. Tap Brightness & Display. 
  3. To adjust brightness, tap the slider or the controls to adjust. Turn the Digital Crown to set.
  4. To adjust the text size, tap ‘Text Size’ and turn the Digital Crown to change their size or tap the letters. 
  5. To turn on Bold Text, tap the slider. 

Adjusting Brightness on the iPhone:

  1. Open the Apple Watch app. 
  2. Tap My Watch to access settings.
  3. Tap Display & Brightness. 
  4. Adjust brightness and text. 
  5. Updates out-of-date? How to Check and Install Updates on your Apple Watch

Sometimes, devices misbehave because they are out of date. To check to see if your Apple Watch may be missing the latest update:

  1. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. 
  2. Select ‘My Watch’
  3. Access the General menu.
  4. Go to Software Update. If an update is available, it will appear here. 
  5. Select ‘Download and Install’ if there is an available update. 

Cool Things Down

An overheated watch will act up. If you suspect that might be the culprit, remove your watch and turn it off completely. Put the watch in a cool, shady spot and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Turn it back on and check to see if the sensors are working by testing the automatic brightness by the first method described – cover the face with your hand for a few seconds, move it away, then tap the screen. 

Change Perspective – How to Change Apple Watch Displays for Better Visibility

Sometimes, your environment is the culprit. The default dark face may be harder to see if you are outside in bright sunshine. In that case, you can elect to change the settings on your Apple Watch to make it easier to see even in sunny spaces. Switch the background of the phone’s face to white, increase the text size, enable bold text, and increase the time your phone face is awake to allow you time to inspect it.

To adjust the settings on your Apple Watch’s display: 

  1. Access the settings for the watch face by touching and holding the display until a selection of watch face choices displays. 
  2. Swipe through the menu, left or right, to choose a face that suits you. Aim for a high contrast background for better visibility.
  3. Tap Edit when you’ve found the face you like. 
  4. Swipe through the feature menu, left or right, to choose the feature you want to edit. Here is where you’d select text to edit color or size. 
  5. Use the Digital Crown to adjust the settings on the feature by turning it. 
  6. While in the settings menu, you can also update the ‘Complications’ settings. Swipe to the left fully, tap a complication you wish to edit, and turn the Digital Crown to adjust your choice’s settings. 
  7. Press the Digital Crown to save when you’ve completed all setting adjustments. Tap the face selection once more to set it as your current watch face. 

Work Around the Dimness with VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a solution for overly bright environments. When the screen is appropriately adjusting to light levels and isn’t bright enough to compete with the light in your environment, consider trying VoiceOver. This accessibility feature allows you to navigate with gestures and reads aloud each item on the screen. 

Turning VoiceOver on:

  1. Click the Settings app (it looks like a three-spoked gear). 
  2. Choose Accessibility, then VoiceOver, and toggle the VoiceOver feature on. 
  3. Tell Siri to ‘Turn VoiceOver on’ or off. 
  4. Use your iPhone’s Watch app. Tap My Watch, access Accessibility, then toggle VoiceOver on. 

Simple VoiceOver gestures:

  • Explore: Move your finger on the display to read aloud each item. 
  • Select: One tap. 
  • Navigate: Swipe left or right for adjacent items and up or down with two fingers for other pages. 
  • Action: While VoiceOver is on, double-tap for actions that would typically require a single tap. 
  • Pause Reading: To quiet VoiceOver, double-tap on the screen. Once you are ready to listen again, double-tap once more to continue reading.
  • Volume Adjustment: WIth two fingers, tap and hold and then slide up or down to adjust the sound levels. You can also manage this via the iPhone by accessing My Watch, then Accessibility, then VoiceOver. There’s a volume slider you can adjust there. 

How Do I Fix an Apple Watch with a Black Screen? 

If the issue is a screen that won’t come on, leaving you with an unresponsive field of black instead of a functional smartwatch, you can take several possible causes and simple steps to rouse it back to life. 

Check the Charge

While it sounds obvious, frustration sometimes results in overlooking the simplest solutions to our challenges. If the screen is unresponsive, try charging it first to see if it rouses. 

VoiceOver and Screen Curtain Issues

Screen Curtain is a display setting that will leave you with an all-black screen. If it’s turned on, it will keep your screen black until it’s turned off again. This feature can be helpful in situations where you don’t want it to light up. Nobody wants to be blinded by an Apple Watch in the middle of the theater. To ensure that it is off, open your Watch app on your iPhone, select Accessibility, then VoiceOver, then toggle the switch next to Screen Curtain off. That should turn your screen back on for regular use. 

Reset the Watch

Much like turning a watch off and back on again can unstick challenged sensors refusing to adjust to changes in your environment automatically, a hard reset can resolve issues of failing software causing your watch’s face to fail to display. While not common, it is possible for the software on your Apple Watch to crash. A hard reset effectively unsticks it, shutting down the processes it’s failing to complete and starting it over fresh. 

To complete a hard restart, press both the digital crown and the side button on your watch at the same time. Hold them down until the Apple logo appears; this can take up to 30 seconds. 

Check for Updates

A black, unresponsive screen could be the result of outdated software. If your watch has not been able to complete recent updates, it may be failing due to bugs or failed patches. Using your iPhone, you can check for and update your Apple Watch to ensure you have the most recent software version. 

  1. On your iPhone, open the Watch app
  2. Select General, then Software Update
  3. This screen will show you if an update is available. ‘Download and Install’ or ‘Install Now’ will be available. Run the update.

Contact Apple Support

If you have gone through all the possible troubleshooting steps listed above and your screen is still too dim or refusing to come on, your best solution is to reach out to Apple directly for technical support or repairs. 

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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