19+ brilliant Apple Watch tricks and tips

Time to get tapping

Apple, Apple Watch, iOS, watch OS, how to, tips, tricks
Leif Johnson/IDG

You wear it daily, might be slightly obsessive about the Activity app, but are you getting everything you can from using your Apple Watch?

Check the time

No one likes people who check the time in the middle of a meeting, even though everyone does it. Apple Watch lets you check the time surreptitiously – just twist the Digital Crown away from you and the display will illuminate gently so you can check the hour.

Take a picture with your iPhone

This is a great feature:

Open the Camera app on your Apple Watch and you’ll see whatever your front-facing iPhone camera is pointing at. To take a picture tap the large round button, or the small timed button to capture a time shot. Your iPhone will take the image – this is really useful for capturing portrait shots using a tripod – but there’s more...

Flip and flash in Camera

Long press the Apple Watch display while in the Camera app and four additional options appear: Flip, Flash, HDR and Live. Tap flip to see what the FaceTime camera on your phone is looking at, and enable Flash, HDR or Live image capture using the other three buttons.

Call handling powers

When a call comes in you can answer it on your Apple Watch and transfer it to your iPhone – just swipe up to send it across.

Alternatively, when a call comes in just turn the digital crown a little so that you see the lower part of the notification screen, tap ‘Answer on iPhone’ and your caller will be told to wait while you reach for your smartphone.

Take a nap

The easiest way to make sure you wake from a nap? Ask Siri: “Wake me in XX minutes,” and your Watch will set a timer and then wake you by tapping you gently (but insistently) on your wrist.

Tap more intensely

You can intensify the haptic taps your Apple Watch delivers using the Watch app on your iPhone. Open Sounds & Haptics and tick Prominent to on under Haptic Alerts.

Staying on app

If you are using an app (such as the Camera app), Apple lets you find it by tapping the Side button and you should see it listed there, but you can also set your Apple Watch up so that the last app you used automatically opens when you raise your wrist to take a look.

To use this ask Siri: “Open Settings”, tap General>Wake Screen.

Look for the On Screen Raise Show Last App and set this to while you're in session, within two minutes of last use, within one hour of last use, or always. This subtle little change makes it a good deal easier to keep using the app you need.

Oh, one more thing: the fastest way to open your last used app is just to double tap the Digital Crown.

Fast contact

Apple Watch Series 4 devices have this added ability: You can turn contacts into Complications that you can place in easy access position on your watchface. You just need to define them as Favorites in the Contacts app on your iPhone. Once you have done so, you'll be able to contact them in just one tap on your watch.

Quick reply

Received a message and not in a position to grab your phone and respond? Here are your options: Tap the microphone icon to use Siri to dictate a response, tap the sketch icon to spell out your response one letter at a time, use an emoji, tap the heart or scroll down or select one of the canned response messages.

Do Not Disturb

Going into a meeting? Use the Do Not Disturb option:

  • Swipe up for Control Center
  • Tap the half Moon icon
  • Now select On, On for 1 hour, On until this evening, On until I leave or On until end of event. The last two features are intelligent enough to make use of your location or any available Calendar data.

These settings appeared in watchOS 5 and save you from accidentally leaving yourself in Do Not Disturb mode for weeks while anxious friends, family and colleagues try to get hold of you.

Dock your way

You can ask Siri to open any app on your watch. You can also access apps through the app grid found when your press the Digital Crown, or the Dock you get to by pressing the Side button. The problem with the latter is that by default your watch will simply show you the apps you most recently used. You can change this so it shows you only your Favorite apps, just open the Watch app on your iPhone and adjust this in Dock>Favorites. You can assign up to ten of these.

Lists are better than the Grid

Another setting I change is the Apps Grid, which I find hard to manage – tap the Digital Crown to get to this, then long press the display to switch it to a nice and readable List view.

Take control of Workouts

watchOS 5 is smart enough to figure out when you are doing a Workout, but it won’t automatically begin tracking this. Instead, it alerts you when it thinks you are working out and will then give you retrospective credit for the exercise once you switch workout tracking on. This also works in reverse when your watch reminds you to end a workout.

Control AirPod volume

Apple Watch is pretty useful with other Apple devices – you can use it to control music playback on your HomePod or as a Remote app for your Apple TV, for example. You can also use it to change the volume of your AirPods, just take a look at your Watch while music is playing. Rotate the Digital Crown to raise or lower the volume.

Find your iPhone

Swipe up to bring Control Center and tap the phone-shaped icon to make your iPhone “ping” – or tap and hold that button to make your device’s LED flash light up at the same time.

That Siri tip you forgot

Don’t forget to tap the screen once you’ve finished dictating to Siri in order to send a message or email. Why? Because Siri will stop listening to you once you do, and will send the message for you.

The Weather tip we all forget

You can open any app on your Watch by pressing the Digital Crown and asking Siri to open it for you. Try it now – ask Siri “Open Weather.” Once the Weather app is open, try this: Press and hold the location you want to see the weather to see new controls that will give you other information, such as rainfall percentage, temperature, and weather condition data for that location.

Unlock your Mac

I think most Apple Watch users are aware that you can use your smartwatch to unlock all the Macs you own, so long as all your systems are logged into the same Apple ID. Here’s how to set this feature up:

  • Open System Preferences>Security and Privacy on each Mac you want your Apple Watch to open.
  • Open the General tab and check the ‘Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac’ item. You'll be asked for a passcode.

In the future, your Mac will unlock for you next time you open it up.

Take a moment to breathe

Everyone gets stressed. Your watch may help. The Breathe app helps you focus on your breathing and relax a little. It is very effective, and all you need to do is follow the on-screen instructions.

>> Want more tips? Take a look at 12 Apple Watch tips for busy people.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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