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Making the Apple Watch Useful

As the weeks go on, I am reaching an interesting place with the Apple Watch. Here’s an update.

Glances

One of the ways I have made it more useful is by winnowing out the number of Glances. Right now I use four. I keep a few at the tail end of the available selections but I rarely use them. Here is my current rotation.


They are all well-designed and, although three of them are slow to refresh (it is hardly their fault since they are hobbled third-party apps but I still find it annoying for now), the information they provide is something that I regularly used my phone for and they serve a useful purpose on the watch.

Fantastical’s “day map” timeline is a really nice view of your day at a glance (ha!) and Flexibits has wisely added the ability to toggle what gets sent over to the watch. I find it very well thought out. By turning off reminders, I don’t see them cluttering up my list of meetings and appointments. I don’t go to my watch to check off a reminder; I just want to see what’s happening next and anything beyond that is clutter.

PCalc’s Glance is something I originally though was a throwaway feature but, after using it for a week, it makes a lot of sense. It shows you the last two numbers you calculated (from the Watch and the iPhone) – that is all. While it may sound too sparse to be useful, having your last calculation result available with a flick of the wrist is really excellent thinking. It saves some short term memory registers in my aging brain and if I need to get to the calculator, a quick tap will take me there. Very smart.

I have been a huge fan of DarkSky’s hyperlocal weather and still use it on my phone (and I still have it installed on my Apple Watch) but WeatherUnderground’s Apple Watch Glance is my current favorite. It is a well thought-out Glance with the high temp/low temp/current conditions for your immediate location with the current temperature and an abbreviated hourly forecast on the bottom. Clean and informative.

ETA’s Glance is terrific. ETA is an app that will give you an estimated time of arrival for locations of your choice. The latest version gives you traffic conditions (for what it determines is your likely road choices). The Glance will display the last-viewed ETA which is exactly what you want when you tilt your wrist.

While I do use the Watch for Activity Monitoring and the motivational stuff, the iPhone app has more information and I usually check my progress when I have a quiet moment (thus it seems more suited to the iPhone to me).

Watch Faces

I only have three watch faces in my list and they all suit a particular purpose.

  • Utility face with an orange second hand for the weekend
  • Utility face with a green second hand for work
  • Simple face with nothing but analog time and date number

I really like the Utility face in general and I have the different second hand colors to quickly suss out which view I am in. One of the faces is focused on work-related needs (date, sunrise/sunset, meeting reminders, activity) and the other less work-focused (date, sunrise/sunset, Hong Kong time, activity). The Simple face is for when I’d like a more stripped down, classic look.

I have been playing around with complications and like how you can tune them to to suit your needs. I never thought sunrise/sunset times would be useful but with my current push to get fit, having those times on my wrist lets me easily find time windows to fit my bike rides in throughout the day. As I mentioned above, I don’t want to delve into my activity details on my watch but having a little graph indicating where I’ve been slacking off is great.

The bottom line is they are very personal and are so easily changed that I find I don’t really worry all that much about locking down “how I use my Apple Watch from here on out”. My whole approach to the Watch has become more fluid and dynamic. If I need another watch face to serve a specific purpose, a new view can be set up in seconds and I can swap to it with a push of my finger. With familiarity comes a host of new ways to think about how to fit the watch into your day.

Note that I have removed the battery indicator from the watch face or my Glances. I rarely go to bed with less than 45% battery and seeing that every time I looked at my watch was wasted space.

Notifications

I get very few notifications on my watch.

  • Calender reminders
  • Message notifications
  • Twitter replies
  • Lead changes in the Phillies and Mets games

Calendar reminders are a no-brainer. Having them thump my wrist and show me where I’m going next is very helpful throughout the day.

Message notifications are also useful. For extremely chatty conversations, I set them to “Do Not Disturb” on the iPhone and check them when I have time. Generally they don’t contain time-sensitive messages so that works out.

Twitter replies are helpful and I find Twitterific does a great job of keeping me informed of any activity on Twitter that I should take a look at.

Lead changes in baseball games on your wrist using the MLB app is a pretty nice way of keeping abreast of what is happening in games when you don’t have time to listen or watch (which is, sadly, most of the time for me)

That’s it! Thinking critically about the types of helpful information I could use throughout the day has really paid off for me and it has been an interesting experiment seeing how my interaction with the Apple Watch evolves week in/week out. I am finding it a more essential piece of technology now than in week one and I can only imagine that, when native apps hit the App Store, we may find we have a very capable and powerful device on our wrist.