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22 Apple Watch Tricks & Tips

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Apple Watch


The Apple Watch is a pretty out-of-the-box experience thanks to a setup process fine-tuned by Apple’s developers. However, like any piece of modern technology, there are always little tricks and personal hacks that can make it an even better experience -- or at least customize it so that it suits your needs better. At Monowear, we’ve obviously thought a lot about the Apple Watch, and here are our top 22 favorite tricks for getting the most out of your device, from saving power to making it simply easier on you.

An illustrated hand with fully charged Apple Watch.

How to Save Power on Your Apple Watch

Whether you’re away from a charger or simply trying to stretch out your Apple Watch’s run time, saving power is never a bad thing. Consider these methods for tweaking your power usage to fit your needs.

Number 1: Disable Background Updates

One of the biggest perks of WatchOS 3 is its ability to run numerous background updates as a means of saving you loading time. Background updates come at a price, though, as they require extra power to process them while your Apple Watch is running its normal front end. However, if you have a need to extend your Apple Watch's battery life, you can disable background updates by going to the Settings > General > Background App Refresh. From here, you can turn off all background updates or just specific heavy-duty or unnecessary ones.

Number 2: Optimize Your Watch Face

This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised at how people may not necessarily think about it! To save power, you need to minimize your Apple Watch’s usage of software and hardware. That means for the screen itself, it should keep its brightness to minimal display of its capability. The easiest way to do this? Simply select a watch face that is mostly black -- no pretty pictures, no favorite photos from your gallery, nothing that catches the eye. Just a blank background with time and text to conserve power.

Number 3: Power Reserve Mode

The Apple Watch is designed to go a full waking day without requiring recharging. However, you won't always be in a place where you have access to a charging port. What do you do when you want to keep your Apple Watch's functionality but need to conserve power? The Apple Watch has a power reserve mode that increases functional usage time to up to 72 hours, turning it essentially into a timepiece. To activate power reserve mode, go to the Control Center and tap on the battery icon; that will provide you with the option to enter the mode.

An illustrated finger pointing at the user.

Make Your Apple Watch Yours with Customization

Your Apple Watch works fine out of the box, but where’s the fun in that? Consider these customization tips and features to make your wearable tech truly your own.

Number 4: Streamlined Dock

The initial Apple watch operating system wasn't the most crowd-pleasing in terms of user interface. With watchOS 3, the new Dock view replaces Glances, and the result is a streamlined and efficient way of keeping your apps organized. By simply pressing the action button, the currently open apps appear. Now, how these apps display is up to you. To customize this after you've opened the dock, simply tap and hold app widgets to enable drag-and-drop arrangement of your dock's display.

Number 5: Photo Watch Faces

While commercial backgrounds for mobile devices are readily available, many people use a photo of family, friends, pets, or other loved ones as their image of choice. The Apple Watch is no different. While various watch faces offer unique kinds of functionality, photo watch faces allow you to simply select an image you'd like to see when you unlock your Apple Watch. Go to the watch face you’d like to customize, then hold on it until options appear and tap on the Customize button. This will allow you to select from your synced photo gallery. Remember, just because you set one Apple Watch face doesn't mean you're stuck with it, as swiping from edge to edge on watchOS 3 allows you to quickly cycle through your faces.

Number 6: Set Brightness

Prefer your Apple Watch screen to be minimally visible? Or do you need a really bright contrast that takes advantage of the screen’s full capabilities (especially if it’s a Series 2 model, which is capable of displaying up to a whopping 1,000 nits in brightness)? Either way, it’s easy to tweak the Apple Watch away from its default setting, which is squarely at the middle of its capabilities. Access the Settings menu, then go to Brightness & Text Size, then move the slider to your preferred brightness. After doing this, you may want to try it out in several different environments to see what really works best for your overall needs.

Number 7: Re-open Last-Used App

Smartphone users have most likely encountered the annoying issue of letting their device time-out, only to remember that they need one more thing from their recently used app. With the Apple Watch, this same issue is addressed with the Wrist Raise feature. To activate this feature, go to the Settings menu and enable Wrist Raise. By selecting to open the Last Used app, a simple raise of the wrist will display the last app you used. This is especially convenient for those that use the Apple Watch more for its connectivity and apps rather than a simple time piece. If, however, you do tend to actually check the time by raising your wrist, this may be one feature you want to leave disabled.

Number 8: Font Size

With so many screens across so many devices, sometimes it feels that the designers forget that sometimes, you just need to read the darn text on the screen. In many cases, the default settings aren’t exactly friendly to people who need reading glasses or deal with astigmatism or don’t have the luxury of 20/20 vision. Fortunately, the Apple Watch has a simple way to customize the size of the font. Simply go to the Settings menu and scroll to the Brightness & Text Size section. From there, you’ll be able to set your default text size, making it comfortable and easy to view your Apple Watch’s notifications and displays.

Number 9: Left-Hand Mode

10% of the world's population is left-handed. That means a small segment of things, like scissors for example, are manufactured for this demographic. (Don't try opening a left-friendly store, though, as The Simpsons have shown that it won't work.) Fortunately for Apple Watch owners, there's no need to buy a separate device. The Apple Watch has proven to be ambidextrous with one simple setting, though it defaults as right-handed. Go to Settings, then General, then select which orientation you prefer for your digital crown. You can do all of this without having to be like Ned Flanders!

Number 10: Increase Screen Standby Time

How long do you usually glance at your notifications and messages on your Apple Watch? If it's longer than 15 seconds -- hey, some of us read slower than others -- then you'll probably want to change the allocated time before the screen goes to standby mode. Keep in mind that this time will apply to all screen activations -- checking notifications, reading messages, checking complication data, and yes, checking the time -- so consider all of that before making a decision. To update your timeout length, go to the Settings section and the General subsection. The setting for Wake Screen applies here, and you can set it up to 70 seconds. Be advised that this will have an impact on your battery, though how much it drains depends purely on how you use your Apple Watch, along with other settings.

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The Cool Features of the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is loaded with cool features that put it above the smartwatch competition. These are just a handful of creative and fun things you can do with Apple’s industry-leading wearable.

Number 11: Eject Water

One of the biggest features of the Series 2 models is the ability to go underwater up to 50 meters in depth. A large part of that waterproofing stems from internal engineering, stuff that's been designed and tested to ensure waterproofing capabilities. The Apple Watch, though, isn't impervious to water, not when it has tiny holes for its audio speakers. The engineering team behind the Apple Watch did come up with a brilliant solution to that -- use those very same speaker holes to eject the water. If you’re using the Workouts app and go swimming, you’ll be prompted to do this when you finish. Otherwise, go to the Control Center and click on the Eject Water icon.

Number 12: Screencap

Unlike your computer, phone, or tablet, there's probably not much fun incentive to make a screen capture. However, if you need to capture a notification, message, or a complication update, this can be a handy way of preserving that moment in time. This can be accomplished by holding the digital crown and action button simultaneously. Captured images are immediately transmitted to a paired iPhone's camera roll. For any model with watchOS 3 (anything purchased after September 2016 and launch models that have upgraded), screencap are not enabled by default, so you'll have to manually activate this feature in the Settings > General menu under Enable Screenshots.

Number 13: Load Music

Not going to have coverage or Wi-Fi during your run, hike, or bike ride? That's not a problem with the Apple Watch. With the Apple Watch circa Series 2 and watchOS 3, it's possible to pre-load music without having an active iPhone paired to it. That means that for workout junkies and weekend warriors that want to travel lightly, it's possible to simply put on the Apple Watch and go -- and if you have waterproof Bluetooth earphones, that even means you can go for a swim. To load music, you’ll need your iPhone with the Watch app open. Go to Music > Synced Music, then select a playlist to sync with your Apple Watch.

Number 14: Cover to Mute

Sometimes you don't want audio notifications from your Apple Watch. Most of the time you may be cognizant enough of the situation to do this manually. Other times, this is an impromptu thing, like if you're in the middle of a conversation or if someone pops up at your desk. The Apple Watch conveniently allows you to simply put your palm over it to mute it for times when you may suddenly need quiet. Go to the Sounds & Haptics menu in the Settings section and enable the Cover to Mute feature to activate. Still, remember to turn off audio notifications when you're at the movies!

Number 15: Bedside Clock

Want to get rid of your traditional bedside alarm clock? Now the Apple Watch can fill in that role as well. By properly setting up some custom configuration, you'll be able to simply turn your watch sideways and have it act like your alarm clock, complete with not-too-bright time display. Go to the Settings > General section and tap on Nightstand Mode, then enable the feature. Now connect the Apple Watch to the charge with digital crown up. The action button will work as an alarm snooze when in this mode.

A silhouette view of a head showing cognitive thought.

Become an Expert User

Apple devices tend to be fairly intuitive, but there’s always a deeper level of understanding you could learn. These handy items are useful for any Apple Watch owner, novice or gearhead.

Number 16: Force Restart

Modern technology is fantastic but it doesn't always work. And while the running joke for any piece of tech is “have you tried restarting it?” the bottom line is that a hard boot can often fix sluggish or glitchy behavior simply by providing a fresh start for applications and the operating system. For the Apple Watch, it's possible to force a restart if you're having any type of usability issues. Hold down both the digital crown and the action button for ten seconds. You’ll see the screen go black, followed by the Apple logo as it begins its initial startup.

Number 17: Wipe Notifications

Notifications are handy for moment-to-moment updates but what happens if you've taken off your Apple Watch for a few hours? Suddenly you've got an avalanche of notifications that you don't want to deal with. Fortunately, there's a simple way to wipe all of your accumulated notifications. Simply swipe down from the top edge to bring up a chronological list of notifications. If you don't have the time or simply don't want to deal with them, tap the Clear All button to jettison the mountain of notifications and start fresh.

Number 18: Zoom

Even the 42mm version of the Apple Watch isn’t exactly a big screen. Though you have the ability to adjust the font size, sometimes you may have a need simply to get a closer look at what your notification or display is telling you. There’s actually a really easy way to do this, one that many people don’t realize because it’s not the most intuitive. First, activate the Zoom feature from the Settings > General > Accessibility> Zoom menu (see, it’s a little buried). With the feature enabled, you can double-tap on the screen to turn it on, then use the digital crown to zoom in and out.

An illustrated bluetooth symbol.

Stay Connected

We are in the age of The Internet of Things, and the Apple Watch offers Bluetooth connectivity to your digital world. Not only does it connect with your devices, it offers unique and useful functionality to boot.

Number 19: Find Your iPhone

Not sure where your iPhone is? If you’re sure it’s buried nearby (and not taken by an unscrupulous individual or left at the office), the Apple Watch is here to save the day. Thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity, the Apple Watch can ping its paired iPhone to repeatedly play a noise while flashing the camera light. To ping your iPhone, go to the Control Center view and tap the ping icon to get your phone to emit a pinging tone. If you need even more help locating your phone, hold down the ping icon and your phone’s light will blink as well.

Number 20: Unlock Your Mac

If you’re one of those “only Apple” types of tech junkies, then you’re able to maximize your connectivity with your Apple products. Specifically, the Apple Watch offers a feature that lets you unlock your Mac. To do this, sign into your iCloud account on both devices. Then, put on your Apple Watch and turn on your Mac; on your Mac, go to System Preferences > General and you’ll see a checkbox for “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.” Tick off the box and you’re good to go.

For a more detailed description and troubleshooting check out Cydia Geeks article here. Thank you to blog reader, Hawon for pointing this article out.

Number 21: Unlock Watch from iPhone

The Apple Watch works in sync with the iPhone quite seamlessly (hello, Apple product synergy). One of the most efficient ways that this works is by having a simultaneous unlock feature. This setup actually happens on the iPhone end with the Watch companion app. This app allows you to configure various things about iPhone/Apple Watch connectivity, and one of the features is Unlock with iPhone.

Number 22: Pair Bluetooth Device

With Bluetooth, your Apple Watch will be able to detect any enabled device when it is in open detect mode. Keep in mind that it won’t necessarily be able to use any Bluetooth device, so this will mostly come in handy when pairing Bluetooth headphones or speakers to your Apple Watch -- and that will usually only be necessary when your iPhone isn’t around. To connect your Apple Watch with your device via Bluetooth, first put the device in pairing mode (check the device’s instructions for specific steps). Then on your Apple Watch, go to Settings > Bluetooth and tap this option. Shortly after, it should display a list of detected Bluetooth devices. Tap the name of the one you want to use and the devices will connect.

Ever More Tips & Tricks

Have further Apple Watch tips and tricks you’d like to share? Or maybe you’ve got a question for the experts at Monowear? We’d love to hear from you. Comment on our Facebook page and we’ll keep the Apple Watch discussion going.


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