By Brent Dirks
After more than two years on the market, the Apple Watch is still the best wearable device available for any iPhone user. Thanks to tight integration with iOS, the device can interact with a number of other Apple products and other services.
But there are a lot more features you might not know about, so here are five of our favorite things you should be doing.
The consensus is that using apps on the Apple Watch is mostly a bust. With very few notable exceptions, no one wants to hold their wrist up to play a game, compose a novel, or tackle other time-consuming tasks that are much easier on an iPhone.
But a new type of app integration — known as “complications” — have become more popular with Apple Watch users. Available from Apple and many third-party developers as part of apps, complications are small bits of customizable information available on every watch face except Astronomy. You can create a face with specific complications with a Force Touch (press harder than normal) on the screen or more easily by using the companion Apple Watch iPhone app.
As a nice plus, touching the complication will also automatically open the app. They’re a great way to build a perfect watch face with the up-to-date information most important to you. Here are five of the best.
Dark Sky ($3.99)
One of the best weather apps available for the iPhone and iPad, the larger Dark Sky complication will show you the current temperature, the forecast for the day, and the rain outlook for the next hour. The smaller version of the complication will show the current temperature.
Select either complication to view the app that features a look at current conditions, a full 24-hour outlook, and a seven-day forecast. You can also receive notifications on the watch to inform you when precipitation will be starting and severe weather alerts. The app is more accurate and well-designed than Apple’s stock weather app, hence the price tag.
Even though the Apple Watch can track a number of different fitness metrics, some people are mostly concerned about viewing the number of steps taken per day. According to most medical professionals, taking 10,000 steps or more per day is important to a healthy lifestyle.
With Pedometer++, you can quickly and easily view that important metric on a watch face. Both the larger and smaller complication show the exact step count and mileage count.
Another quick, glanceable item on your watch, ETA works with Apple Maps to provide accurate travel times to favorite locations. You’ll need to specify specific locations through the iPhone app. But after that, the large and small complication can show a specific destination, how long it will take to arrive, and any delays on the route.
Think of Fantastical as Apple’s native calendar on steroids. The best feature is its natural language parsing. That means you can enter “Lunch with Mom in Dallas at 1 PM Sunday” and the information will automatically and correctly appear on your calendar. The app also integrates directly with Reminders so you can manage even the longest to-do list.
The watch app will show you all of that information and more, but the complications can be customized to your heart’s delight. Both the large and small complications can show appointments, the day’s remaining items, remaining events, due reminders, the current date, or the current weekday and date. You can even specify what exactly the app will open when you hit the complication itself.
A great app to make sense of the usual email deluge, Spark takes the work out of going through your inbox. With the Smart Inbox feature, the app will automatically detect if an email is personal, a notification, or a newsletter. And then with specific swipes, you can process everything in a snap.
On an Apple Watch, you can get an idea of what’s been received and if you need to pull out your iPhone or iPad. With the larger complication, you can see a new email count and a preview of the latest message received. The smaller version will show an inbox count.
2. Making Purchases With Apple Pay
While most iPhone users know that any modern handset can be used to complete a payment with a quick Touch ID scan, the same feature is also available on the Apple Watch. Thanks to the way Apple Watch handles security, there’s no need to confirm each purchase with a fingerprint scan. Just double tap the side button below the Digital Crown, select which card you want to use and then place it near the reader. Quick, easy, and truly made simple when using a wearable device.
Just to note, there is one major task you’ll need to take care of before using Apple Pay on the watch. As an added security measure, you’ll need to add any applicable credit or debit cards separately through the companion Apple Watch app. Cards in your iPhone wallet won’t be available on the watch and vice versa.
3. Running and Listening to Music Without an iPhone
With a Series 2 watch, you can run without an iPhone and the device will capture your exact route and distance. That’s thanks to built-in GPS capability. Many runners don’t like to be weighed down on a long trek, and being able to leave their iPhone at home is a big plus. All of the information can be seen in the iPhone Activity app after the run.
While running with just the watch, you can also keep up the pace while listening to music directly from the device. You’ll need Bluetooth headphones to wirelessly connect, like Apple’s AirPods, but you can store approximately 500 songs in up to 2 GB of the Apple Watch’s storage. Along with music you own, it’s easy to listen to anything from Apple Music or iTunes Match if you already have a subscription to those services.
When it’s time to hit the ground running, just open up the music app. In iOS 11, officially arriving this fall, Apple Watch users will notice a redesigned app while Apple Music subscribers can automatically sync smart playlists to the device (Heavy Rotation, Favorites Mix, and New Music Mix).
4. Automatically Unlock Your Mac
If you’re a Mac user, the Apple Watch can even automatically log on and unlock any laptop or desktop. A Mac will need to be a mid-2013 or later model using macOS Sierra and the Apple Watch will need to be using watchOS 3 or later. You will also need to set up two-factor authentication on your Apple ID if you don’t already have that very useful security feature active. That does take a few steps to complete but is a must in today’s online landscape.
Once that’s complete, make sure you Mac is awake and the magic will happen. It’s a simple feature, but one that does save time and improve your computer’s security.
5. Smart Home Control
While Amazon’s Echo lineup of connected speakers — including the newly released Echo Show — still lead the way, smart home devices compatible with Apple’s HomeKit protocol have also grown in popularity. If you haven’t heard about HomeKit, it’s a connected home platform that allows users to quickly and easily control any number devices using the Home app or Siri. Once set up, control is available on an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and even the Apple Watch.
Even if you’re smart home device isn’t HomeKit compatible, there is more than likely a companion Apple Watch app that is available that offers simple control from your wrist.
As you can see, the Apple Watch can accomplish a number of different tasks, some you probably weren’t even aware of. Can you imagine what will be possible if Apple ever decides to add cellular connectivity to the watch?
Are you using one of the Apple Watch’s lesser-known features? Let us know how it is working out in the comments?
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