Why Does My Apple Watch Vibrate Randomly?

One of the beauties of the Apple Watch is the silent haptic alerts. 

However, as many users are finding out, their watches seem to vibrate with no known reason, without any obvious notifications waiting. 

Why is it that your Apple Watch is randomly vibrating?

Why Does My Apple Watch Vibrate Randomly?

You Apple Watch is likely vibrating at seemingly random times because of connection issues to your phone, changes to your notification settings, or software or accessory issues. It could even be a weird psychological phenomenon known as Phantom Vibration Syndrome.

There is hope to getting this random vibration to stop driving you nuts. 

Consider each of the things that may cause the haptics to go crazy, and what you can do about each.

What Causes Random Apple Watch Vibrations?

Apple uses the term haptics when it refers to the vibrations the Apple Watch gives off. 

Each of the following are why many users experience these ghost vibrations, most of which are easily solved.

Loss of iPhone Connection

Have you ever walked away from your phone, and then wished you could remember where you left it? While the Find My app is great for finding it once you remember, one of the common complaints of Apple Watch users has been a lack of notification when the phone gets out of range. 

Until June 2021, the only way to achieve this was through a third-party app that only worked sporadically.

When Apple released watchOS 8, they included the feature as an option. 

Now, when you walk away from your phone, you’ll get a haptic response on your watch. 

You can easily turn this feature off if you don’t like it.

On your watch, look for the Find My app. 

Once you open it, scroll down to find the Notify When Left Behind option. 

Tap it to turn it off, and that should prevent haptic responses when you and your phone and watch are separated.

Chimes Are Activated

Sometimes people want to keep a close eye on the time, but without having to look at the watch constantly. 

Much like the old-fashioned clock chimes, Apple Watch has a chime feature built in that helps you do just that.

This chime function will produce an audible alert when the sound is turned on, but produces a haptic response when the sound is turned off. 

Oftentimes, the feeling of a phantom vibration is actually the chime having been turned on incidentally.

Pay close attention to when this is happening.

If it seems to happen routinely on the hour, this is the likely culprit.

To turn this off, go into your watch’s Settings app, and look for accessibility. 

From there, scroll down until you find Chimes, and then toggle it off. 

Prominent Haptics

Hearing the complaint about feeling phantom vibration, Apple introduced the concept of prominent haptics.

This gives a “prealert” before the actual notification comes in to the watch. 

The idea was that by giving a strong alert first, it lets you know what you’re feeling next is actually an alert.

However, what has happened is that users either don’t know what this feature is, or it is accidentally activated. 

Instead of fixing the ghost vibration feeling, Apple inadvertently worsened it for some users. 

Fortunately, you can easily turn it off. Go into the Settings app, then look for Sounds and Haptics. 

Scroll down until you find Prominent Haptics, and toggle the option off.

Why Does My Apple Watch Vibrate Randomly 1 Why Does My Apple Watch Vibrate Randomly?

Software Glitch

There are a number of software glitches that can cause your watch to vibrate. 

This can be a glitch within the watchOS itself, as well as any number of apps on your watch.

Fixing a glitch may take a few steps to find the right solution. 

Start by restarting your watch. 

Press and hold the button below the crown on the side of your watch until the power menu comes up, then slide the Power Off option. 

Once the watch turns off, you can turn the watch back on.

Simply press and hold the same button on the side of the watch until you see the Apple logo.

If the glitch is within one of the apps, you’ll need to do some testing to find it. 

The easiest way to correct it is to turn off haptic feedback altogether. 

Go into the Settings app and scroll down to Sounds & Haptics, and turn Haptic Alerts off. 

The challenge to this is that it turns off all haptic response, including texts, calls, and calendar alerts.

The other option is to look at the specific notification setting for each app, which has to be done on your iPhone. 

Go into the Apple Watch app, tap on your watch, then tap Notifications. 

From there, you’ll need to go through each app individually and turn off alerts from apps that you don’t want interrupting your day.

Watch Band Movement

One of the beautiful things about the Apple Watch is its versatility in design.

The bands are easily detached and replaced to match your wardrobe or activity for the day. 

Unfortunately, some of these bands can give the same feel as haptic feedback.

One of the bands that has gotten the most complaint is the leather loop band. 

When you flex your wrist, the band ends rub, creating the haptic feeling. 

Test this by replacing the band with one like the silicone sport band.

Phantom Vibration Syndrome

One of the psychological phenomena that’s popped up thanks to technology are the phantom vibration syndrome. 

This started with the phantom ring on your hip from phones on silent. 

However, this has grown to include any wearable device equipped with haptic feedback.

This phenomenon has demonstrated a high rate of people who’ve experienced it. 

One 2012 study found that nearly 90% of surveyed college students had experienced these phantom vibrations. 

Hospital workers also experienced a similarly high incidence.

These phantom vibrations are caused by conditioning that happens within the brain. 

This causes your nerves to sense the feedback when it’s not there out of anticipation. 

One of the best ways to deal with this is to take short breaks from your wearables. 

This doesn’t have to be days-long breaks, but even 30 minutes a day all help break connection.

This helps to rewire the brain, reducing the frequency of phantom vibrations.

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