Learn how to use the Control Nearby Devices accessibility feature on your iPhone or Apple Watch to perform basic actions on another iPhone or iPad with our comprehensive step-by-step guide.
It’s an accessibility feature
This feature is geared towards people with motor disabilities who want to control their other devices like iPad or another iPhone using their main iPhone or Apple Watch.
But anyone can use it in certain situations. For example, if you’re watching a movie on your iPad that’s kept at a distance, you can use your nearby iPhone or Apple Watch to increase or decrease the volume on your iPad or pause and resume the playback.
You can do the following on the other device using your iPhone and Apple Watch:
Enter App Switcher
Open Notification Center
Open Control Center
Play or pause media
Play previous track
Go to the next track
The controlling iPhone or Apple Watch and the device that will be controlled (like your iPad) must use the same Apple ID.
Turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on both devices.
How to control your iPad or another iPhone using your iPhone
1) Open the Settings app on your main iPhone and tap Accessibility.
2) Tap Control Nearby Devices.
3) Tap Control Nearby Devices once again.
4) Select your iPad or other iPhone from the list of Nearby Devices.
You will see a ‘Connected‘ alert on the top of your other device screen. It’s ok if you don’t get this little notification on subsequent tries.
5) Use the button on your iPhone to control the other device. Tap the Options button (three dots inside a circle) to see all controls, which include media buttons.
Note: You cannot control your iPhone with your iPad or your Mac with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
Control your iPhone or iPad with your Apple Watch
Just like you can control your iOS or iPadOS device with your iPhone, you can also perform those actions using your Apple Watch. You can use your watch to control the main iPhone it’s paired with, or any other nearby devices that fulfill the above requirements.
Follow these steps to control your iPhone or iPad using your Apple Watch:
1) Press the Digital Crown on your Apple Watch and open the Settings app.
2) Scroll down and tap Accessibility.
3) Scroll down to the Motor heading and tap Control Nearby Devices.
4) You should see your nearby iPhone and iPad appear as potential devices. Tap the one you want to control.
5) Use the buttons here to go Home, enter App Switcher, open Notification Center, launch Control Center, and trigger Siri. Tap the Options button to control media and set hand gestures.
Tip: You can also control your Apple Watch with your iPhone. You can do this on Apple Watch Series 6 or later by going to iPhone Settings > Accessibility > Apple Watch Mirroring.
Quickly go to the Control Nearby Devices screen
You currently have to perform four taps (Settings > Accessibility > Control Nearby Devices > Control Nearby Devices) to see nearby devices. But you can make things quicker using these two options.
You can set Back Tap to instantly take you to the Nearby Devices screen when you double or triple-tap the back of your iPhone with one finger.
iPhone: Go to Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and check Control Nearby Devices. After this, when you triple-press the Side button, it will automatically open the Nearby Devices screen or the controls screen on your iPhone.
Apple Watch: You can also set Accessibility Shortcut on your Apple Watch by going to its Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and pick Control Nearby Devices. Once this is done, you can triple-press the Digital Crown to get to the Control Nearby Devices screen immediately.
Can’t see your other devices, or it fails to connect?
Follow these solutions if you don’t see your iPad or other iPhone when you go to iPhone Settings > Accessibility > Control Nearby Devices > Control Nearby Devices. Additionally, the tips below will work if you tap an available iPad under the Nearby Devices heading, and it shows the ‘Failed to connect‘ error.
Keep the devices nearby
Make sure the controlling device (iPhone or Apple Watch) and the one being controlled (iPad or another iPhone) are nearby. By ‘nearby,’ we mean Bluetooth range, which is approximately 30 feet or 10 meters.
Force quit and reopen the Settings app
Sometimes, you may fail to control the nearby device due to minor glitches. Just close and reopen the Settings app on your iPhone. After that, follow the above steps once again, and it should work.
Unlock your other device
I found that I can establish a connection between my iPhone or Apple Watch and the other device, even when the latter is locked with its screen blacked out.
However, if Bluetooth is turned off from the Control Center (the icon is white instead of blue), your iPhone may fail to find and connect to the other device. So make sure Bluetooth is enabled properly, and if not, the device is awake and unlocked.
Check your Apple ID
Go to the Settings app on both devices and tap your name from the top to check you’re using the same Apple ID. Sign out and sign in if the IDs are different.
Enable both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
As per my understanding and repeated tests, I can conclude that this feature uses Bluetooth to search for and find nearby devices, and then communicates to perform the actions via Wi-Fi.
I tried using it with Bluetooth off, Wi-Fi off, and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off; but failed on all occasions. It worked when Bluetooth and Wi-Fi were enabled on both devices.
Connect to the same Wi-Fi network
In my tests, I found that the Control Nearby Devices feature works even if your devices are on different networks. For example, my Apple Watch SE can only connect to the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band, but my iPhone and iPad are on the 5 GHz band. Still, I can control my iPhone and iPad using my watch.
But if this doesn’t work for you, go to Settings > Wi-Fi and choose the same Wi-Fi network for both devices.
Turn off and turn on your iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch if you don’t see them under the Nearby Devices heading or they fail to connect.
Update to the latest operating system
If nothing helps, make sure your iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch are running the most recent version of iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS, respectively.
Suggestion: On-screen trackpad would be nice!
The Control Nearby Devices lets you perform basic actions, but the overall functionality is limited. For example, you can open the Control Center and Notification Center or go Home on your iPad using your iPhone, but after that, you can’t do anything unless you touch your iPad or use Siri.
If you use your iPhone or iPad as a remote for your Apple TV, you understand how nice and versatile the virtual touchpad is.
Similarly, it would be super helpful if the Control Nearby Devices screen gets an on-screen touchpad that allows the user to do more on the other device. For example, it could enable the user to use the touchpad on their iPhone, letting them control their iPad the same way a wireless trackpad or mouse connected to the iPad does. Here’s how it could look:
Check out next: How to control your iPhone or iPad with head movements using Switch Control