Apple Watch advice — for using and coding...
September 17, 2023 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Two parter! I've just ordered the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Should arrive Friday. I primarily purchased it for the health-tracking benefits but am keen on other features. I have never owned a smart watch. What apps would you recommend I check out? What are perhaps some not-so-obvious things it can do / I should use it for. Part 2: What's the best way to learn to make apps for the Watch series? Thanks!
posted by dobbs to Technology (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Most useful feature of watch is for finding my phone - worth all the $$$. I haven’t found the need for many additional apps - mostly the ability to not have to carry my phone all around the house is the key benefit.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:32 PM on September 17 [4 favorites]

I use the Shazam watch app all the time (not to identify songs I like, but to identify songs at the gym I hate, so I know who to mock).
posted by jonathanhughes at 6:56 PM on September 17 [4 favorites]

The rather specific use I found the other day: if you get an e-boarding pass from United, it can display the QR code.

The flashlight feature is oddly useful.

I have not made use of it, but it can actually Bluetooth connect to your headphones. The reason I haven't used it is because it will happily control both Apple Music and Spotify when they're playing on your phone or a house speaker, so I just leave my headphones bound to my phone and use my watch to skip forwards and backwards and see what's playing.

Picking up calls is a whole lot easier than hunting down my phone to do it. It's apparently good enough that no one complains about its speaker and mic. You can transfer the call to your phone when you find it (see above re: find my phone, which I use several times a day).
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 7:54 PM on September 17

Yes, it's great when you're out and about with earbuds in. No need to dig your phone out to skip the next song on shuffle.

The timers are handy for cooking, etc.

I didn't think I'd make much use of the Apple Pay feature, but I do. Skip hunting for your wallet in your bag!

Finally, totally unexpectedly, I find the haptic alarm the least hateful way for me to be awakened on a schedule. I really wouldn't have thought being tapped on the wrist would work for me. Maybe I just hate sound alarms that much more.
posted by praemunire at 9:40 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]

In addition to what's above, I look at the weather a lot on my watch, especially the UV and Air Quality metrics, which guide me on what to wear on walks or whether to have a walk at all. Also Siri has gotten a lot better of late with responding accurately to off-the-wall questions, so that's handy too. Siri is more useful when you can just raise your wrist and talk to it rather than fish one's phone out or whatever. "Hey siri, 15 minute timer" so I don't let the potatoes burn.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:14 AM on September 18

If you need to use a 2FA login frequently (e.g. for work), many of the authenticator apps now have Watch apps, so you can just tap your watch rather than dig out and unlock your phone. A lot of the already mentioned features have changed my everyday life (music controls, UV and AQI, Apple Pay), but easing the pain of frequent 2FA is probably my favorite.
posted by telegraph at 5:27 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]

Also, you can use the shortcuts app on the phone to develop macros that you can run on your watch with the shortcuts watch app. This is functionality that people don't really explore much but can do a whole lot of stuff.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:32 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]

“Hey siri, add mustard to my grocery list”. You can have multiple lists ( drug store, grocery, etc.) and lists can be shared with others. Being able to shop with a list yet have two hands free is nice.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:21 AM on September 18

When traveling, I use Maps on the watch constantly, and adore the feature that 'taps' your wrist depending on the turn you need to take. Allows me to walk to a destination without having to constantly check visually.
posted by griffey at 11:16 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]

Another great thing about Maps is that for public transit directions, it also taps you before your stop so you remember when to get off.

For simple "I know what route I'm taking, just need to see when the next bus is", the Transit app is helpful and has the bus/subway/light rail times of the routes closest to you in large friendly numbers. (Free version is fine for this!)

Nthing all the above as well :) There's a lot you can do with Shortcuts, including filling in gaps in native functionality - you can add Shortcuts to write an Apple Note, turn the always-on-display on and off via Siri, or even (this one is breaking for me lately though, alas!) open any webpage in the tiny watch browser.

You can also adjust how long an app stays on the screen before automatically going back to the watch face. For the Transit app and Reminders app I have this set to 1 hour instead of the default 2 minutes, so I can just keep flipping my wrist to check the bus time or to check items off my grocery or to-do list. For the Timer app I have it set to stay on the screen for as long as a timer is running.
posted by beryllium at 11:38 AM on September 18

Most useful feature of watch is for finding my phone - worth all the $$$. I haven’t found the need for many additional apps - mostly the ability to not have to carry my phone all around the house is the key benefit.

Yep. I joke with people that it's a $500 phone-finding machine. Honestly I find the UI pretty terrible, even with a large (44mm) screen, so I really only use it outside of that for reading texts instead of having to pick up my phone.
posted by anotheraccount at 7:11 AM on September 19

IMHO, the timers on the watch are one of the most useful practical features of any device I have. Some ways I use the timers routinely:
  • Need to go out somewhere (meeting, errand)? I set a reminder alarm on my iPhone to a time maybe an hour before I have to go out the door, and when it goes off (it rings both on the phone and the watch), I habitually set a timer on the watch to elapse after (depending on circumstances) 15 minutes or 30 minutes, to make sure I do get ready and don't get distracted by something
  • After I put clothes in the laundry, I set a timer to remind me to check it again in 1-2 hours, depending on the load
  • When I'm cleaning certain things around the house, and something needs to be soaked for a time, I set a timer for 10 minutes or whatever the soak time is, and go do something else
  • When working, I use it to remind me to take a forced mental break after a certain time
  • When I put something in the microwave, I set a timer on my watch – my spouse and I turned off the annoying microwave beep because it's annoying AF and would distract us while trying to concentrate on something, and this way I remember that I was microwaving a burrito or whatever
  • Did a timer go off while I'm in the middle of something? No problem, tap one of the preset timers (3 min, 5 min, 15 min, whatever is appropriate) and continue what I was doing, safe in the knowledge I won't go too long without attending to whatever the timer was meant to remind me of.
Basically, I offload the need to keep an imminent event in mind by setting a timer, thus freeing my mind to do something else. Since the timer is on my watch and not my desk or computer or even my phone, it means I won't miss it when it goes off.

The above may look like a lot, but on a typical day, I'm not setting a lot of timers – only a few times a day (some days none at all), and rarely do I have more than one timer going unless one of them is for 1-2 hours – to avoid timer overload and the feeling that I'm a slave to the device.
posted by StrawberryPie at 7:14 AM on September 19

Having Siri on my wrist means less time on my distracting iPhone. This is now how I add events and set timers.
posted by zippy at 10:47 AM on September 19

Timers and Reminders, absolutely essential. I use my watch about half the time for my 2-Factor Authentication codes (I use Authy). Also current weather conditions at a glance.

Frankly, the various faces, and their complications (or lack thereof) are some of the funnest parts of the watch.

I also have certain very important email correspondents set up to chime when I receive a message from them.
posted by lhauser at 7:00 PM on September 19

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