Three years and four hardware revisions down the line, and it’s clear that the Apple Watch is here to stay—but are you squeezing all the functionality you can out of your Apple wearable? Here we present 19 tips and tricks for the Apple Watch, many of which will work across multiple models, to help you really master your wrist-based mini-computer.
1) Alter AirPods volume
Got a pair of AirPods with your Apple Watch or iPhone? Want to change their volume from your wrist? Glance at your smartwatch to see what’s playing then rotate the digital crown to turn the volume up or down (which is much more convenient than using your phone).
2) Squeeze out more battery life
Boost battery life on your Apple Watch a little by stopping apps running in the background (just like you can do on your phone)—from the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap My Watch, General, and Background refresh to turn it off for individual apps or all of them.
3) Ping your iPhone
If you’ve lost your iPhone down the back of the sofa then your Apple Watch can help you find it: Swipe up from the watch face then tap the Find iPhone button to get it to emit a sound so you can locate it. Press and hold the button to flash the phone’s LED light too.
4) Take photos with your Apple Watch
Most of you will have discovered this, but it’s one of the coolest party tricks the Apple Watch has, so just in case: Open the Camera app on your iPhone and the Camera Remote app on your Apple Watch and hey presto... you can use the watch as a shutter button.
5) Add sleep tracking
The Apple Watch can’t track your sleep in any meaningful way just yet, but a variety of third-party apps are around to plug the gap. Some of the best we’ve seen include Pillow (freemium), AutoSleep Tracker ($3), Sleep Watch (freemium) and Sleep++ (freemium).
6) See more on your Apple Watch
Don’t struggle with a small text size you can’t read—the Apple Watch lets you adjust text size across the whole of watchOS. From the Apple Watch app on your connected iPhone, choose My Watch then Brightness & Text Size to make the necessary adjustments.
7) Share your location
Sharing your current location can be helpful for meeting friends or keeping the family updated, and you can do this from your Apple Watch: In any conversation you’ve got going in Messages, do a hard press on the screen then choose Send Location from the menu.
8) Check Apple Watch data usage
If you’ve got an Apple Watch Series 3 or Series 4 strapped to your wrist then you can use it to connect to cellular networks directly. To check up on how much data you’ve got through, open up the Watch app then tap on My Watch and Cellular for the latest reading.
9) Quickly mute your Apple Watch
If you need to quickly mute your wearable during a meeting or theater trip, you can put your hand over it. You need to make sure this is enabled in the settings first though: Tap My Watch, Sounds & Haptics, then Cover to Mute in the Watch app on your iPhone.
10) Show your last-used app
If you’d rather see the app you were just using when you raise your wrist to wake the Apple Watch (if you’re tracking a run, for example), it’s easily done: From Settings on the watch, tap General, then Activate on Wrist Raise, and pick Open to the Last-Used App.
11) Check the time more discreetly
Raising your wrist is the standard way of waking up the Apple Watch and checking what the time is (kind of essential for any watch), but what if you want to do it more subtly? Twist the digital crown on the side of the watch slowly upwards to illuminate the display.
12) Use your own photos as watch faces
Adding your own photos from your iPhone is as good as it gets in terms of creating custom faces on the Apple Watch—at least for the time being—with the picture of your choosing accompanied by a simple time and the date widget showing in the corner of the screen.
To do this from iOS, open Photos, tap Share, then Create Watch Face: Configure it as needed, tap Add, and it’ll soon appear as an option on your watch. To do this from your wrist, press firmly on the current face, scroll right to left and tap New, then pick Photos.
13) Change how often you get buzzed
By default, the Apple Watch buzzes twice for new messages, but maybe you only need one alert—or maybe you want more reminders that something needs attending to. In the Apple Watch app, head to My Watch, Notifications, Messages, and then Custom to set this.
14) Change the strength of haptic alerts
Speaking of incoming wrist notifications, you can also change the strength of haptic feedback for individual alerts as they arrive—you might want to have a Facebook message give you a very light buzz, for instance, while Snapchat triggers much stronger ones.
To do this, open up My Watch inside the Apple Watch app, then choose Sound & Haptics, then pick the type of alert you want to change. To make haptic feedback stronger across all apps, go to Settings on the Apple Watch, and tap Sounds & Haptics and Prominent.
15) Share your activities
See if sharing your activities with friends and family is enough to give you a motivation boost. From the Activity app on your iPhone, tap Sharing, then tap the Plus button (top right)—start typing out the names of your contacts or tap on their names in the list.
With the latest iOS 12 and watchOS 5 updates, you can challenge friends and relatives to a week-long competition too. From the Activity app on your Apple Watch, swipe left then tap on a contact name: Choose Compete then tap the Invite button to lay down the challenge.
16) Force a restart
If your Apple Watch becomes unresponsive, you can force a device restart by pressing and holding the digital crown and the side button for 10 seconds (release when you see the Apple logo). Only use this as a last resort and definitely not while watchOS is updating.
17) Unlock your Mac
If you’ve just picked up a new Apple Watch you might not be aware of this one, which makes life much more convenient—you can use your wearable to unlock your Mac, rather than entering your password, as long as you’re running macOS 10.12 Sierra or later.
From the Apple menu on your Mac, click System Preferences then Security & Privacy. Open the General tab and tick the box marked Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. You need to have two-factor authentication on for your Apple ID too (see here).
18) View apps as a list
The default grid of app bubbles on the Apple Watch home screen won’t suit everyone, and you can switch to a list instead if you like—hard press on the home screen, choose List View, and you’re done. You can’t change the order of apps here: It’s always alphabetical.
19) Live in the future
Setting your watch to an earlier time is an old trick for avoiding being late, and the Apple Watch can do this while still pinging you at the right time for events and reminders. Go to Time in the Settings app, add the extra time you want (up to 59 minutes), then hit Set.