I downloaded watchOS 4 when it came out a few weeks ago. But for a week or two afterward, it was doing something that drove me absolutely insane. Specifically, it would show what I was listening to all the time. Which also seemed to have an effect on the battery life as it was draining quicker than before. I would be driving in my car, listening to a podcast, and “now playing” would show automatically. This annoyed me because I was in my car, and I could see what was “now playing” on the display. I like this feature if I’m working out and I don’t want to take my phone out of my pocket. Or presumably, this is a great feature if you don’t have your phone with you. But not everyone has the Apple Watch Series 3, so this shouldn’t be an automatic feature.
The other annoying thing about this was that it was always on. So if you want to raise your wrist to check the time, for example, you have to dismiss the Now Playing feature and it’s an extra step or two. You can click the Digital Crown to dismiss it, but then it pops back up again the next time the playback resumes. Honestly, it was incredibly frustrating. For me, I wanted to see other things on my wrist, rather than what was playing. I listen to a lot of podcasts, so I know what is currently playing. It’s the podcast that I turned on when I got into the car. Like I said, however, this might be a feature for you if you’re not close to your phone, or in a car.
How do you disable this feature you ask? Well, it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. You can disable auto-launch from the iPhone or the Apple Watch.
From the iPhone, go to the Watch app, find the General section from the My Watch tab, look for Wake Screen, and toggle Auto-launch Audio Apps off.
From the Apple Watch directly, click the Digital Crown from the watch face to find the app launcher, then look for the Settings app, find General, then Wake Screen, and toggle Auto-Launch Audio Apps off.
This behavior also makes a few assumptions that it probably shouldn’t for now. For example, auto-launch opens the Overcast watch app if you’re listening to a podcast using Overcast on the phone. Because Apple doesn’t yet allow third-party apps to include the same volume control as its Now Playing app, Overcast and other third-party audio apps can’t offer volume control with the Digital Crown, so you lose that benefit with auto-launch unless you uninstall the watch app to revert to Now Playing.
You are able to revisit this setting if you change your mind. Right now it doesn’t seem like this feature is well thought out. At least in terms of auto-launching. I do have an older version of the Watch, and this is clearly geared towards the Series 3, but I still think it should “work” in a functional way with the rest of the devices. Like I said – this was highly annoying for me, so I hope this helps you out in some way.