How I use my Apple Watch

If you find yourself Apple Watch-curious, or already own one and want to get more out of it, you might find some inspiration in how I use mine and some of the apps I find useful.

What I love most about my Apple Watch

For me, glanceable information is where I get the most value out of my watch. Looking at my watch I can, at a glance, see:

  • The time, duh (I used to use my phone for this?? Caveman times.)
  • The date
  • Current weather conditions & temperature
  • My activity levels for the day
  • Upcoming calendar appointments
  • Number of tasks left on my task list
  • Time in a different time zone
  • and so on…

This might not seem so advanced nor necessitating an expensive James Bond/Dick Tracy/Inspector Gadget — nerd-watch, but combined with its fitness tracking features and connectivity to my iPhone, it’s totally worth it to me.

These nuggets of glanceable information are called complications, just like on analog watches.

Another feature I’ve been using a lot lately is using complications as app-launching shortcuts. Rather than using the honeycomb grid or dock, I tap the complication of an app to launch it right from the watch face.

Multiple watch faces

If you own an Apple Watch you might find it frustrating that you can’t quite fit all of your favorite complications on any given watch face. I used to suffer this anxiety until watchOS 2.0…

The primary way I access all of the features of my watch is through multiple watch faces. With watchOS 2 came the ability to simply swipe from the side of the screen to switch watch faces, making it much easier to do than the method of switching faces in watchOS 1. Now, I have watch faces for different contexts:

  • Working out
  • Being at work
  • At home & on the weekends
  • Driving
  • Traveling
Watch face for attending classy events
Watch face for attending classy events

If I’m at the gym (rare as it is), I use the fitness-focused ‘Activity Digital’ watch face with my activity rings and fitness data prominently displayed. The complications I use in this context are:

  • Workout (the built-in workout app) I use this to launch the workout app and start a workout such as running, elliptical machine, cycling, etc…
  • (Streaks) Workout (a third party workout app) This workout app runs me through a quick workout consisting of various exercises that I can do anywhere.
  • Weather I like to be able to see what the weather is like for outdoor workouts. I’m thinking to change this to something else because it’s not really relevant once I’m already working out… As a Spotify subscriber, it’d be nice if they had an Apple Watch app & complication I could put here…

While I’m at work, I swipe to my work watch face, which uses the ‘Utility’ watch face and the following complications:

  • Calendar This produces a text readout of my next upcoming calendar appointment. Handy when I have a lot on my calendar (movie tonight!). Tapping on the complication opens the calendar app so I can see all of my upcoming events for the day.
  • Carrot Weather I use this over the built-in weather app because its icon shows the weather conditions and temperature. You have to choose between the two with the stock weather complications.
  • Omnifocus This is my task management app and it shows me how many to-do’s I have left for the day.

When I’m in the car, I swipe to my driving watch face. I use the ‘Chronograph’ face, primarily because it looks cool, not because I’m timing my 0–60 or anything like that… cough. My phone is usually plugged into my car in an awkward-to-reach-while-driving compartment (probably a good thing), so my watch becomes really useful for accessing a few key features of my phone while driving.

I can see the temperature on my car’s computer and the weather conditions with my eyeballs, so the complications I use are:

  • Maps With two taps I can set my destination and navigate to work or home in Apple Maps. I obviously know how to get to both, but it’s often useful for avoiding as much traffic as possible, especially when I’m coming home from somewhere in the middle of Los Angeles.
  • Overcast This complication launches my favorite podcast playing app. So, while my car really wants to autoplay that same jazz track from my library again, I can launch a podcast from my wrist with just a few taps.
  • Drafts This app is a little hard to explain, but essentially it’s a way to capture a thought for later. It launches speech-to-text recorder and anything you say gets dumped in the app’s inbox (on your phone) so you can deal with it later. You can learn more about what this app can do from the website. Between Drafts and “Hey Siri, remind me to…” I have found some excellent ways to capture information from my brain while driving.

Outside of those scenarios, the watch face I use most often is the ‘Modular’ face with the following complications:

  • Carrot Weather
  • Activity PlusPlus An alternative to activity rings, this app displays your fitness data in bars instead.
  • Workouts If I find myself going for a good walk, or mowing the lawn, I can launch a workout and capture that exercise data.
  • Overcast I listen to A LOT of podcasts, so if I’m doing the dishes, picking up dog poop, or running errands, I’ll pop in my AirPods and listen to a podcast. Usually I’ll just use my phone to start a podcast but it’s often handy to use the watch to control things like advancing forward and adjusting the volume.

My wife and I recently traveled to Washington DC. On the airplane I configured a ‘Utility’ watch face for my time there and found it pretty useful:

  • Activity Usually when I’m traveling I’m walking around a lot more than I usually do so it’s fun to see exactly how much activity I’m doing (so I can feel less guilty about vacation-eating & drinking).
  • World Clock: At-home time Because it’s that much easier than remembering to subtract 3.
  • Weather When you configure the weather complication on the bottom of the Utility face, it reads out the temperature and conditions. Also, being a stock app, it tends to be the fastest to load and update.

Bonus: My Disneyland watch face. As a southern California resident, father of young kids, and a Disneyland fan, I find myself at Disneyland at least once a year, so of course I have a foot-tapping Mickey Mouse watch face configured:

  • Activity I always get a ton of walking in at Disneyland and seeing the progress gives me all the excuse I need to indulge in that churro or Dole whip.
  • Sunrise/Sunset I like knowing when the sun will go down so I can plan out when and where to be in the park to get a good view of the fireworks or see the neon lights in Cars Land.
  • Carrot Weather On faces like ‘Utility’ and ‘Mickey Mouse’ Carrot Weather gives snarky weather reports like “84º Sunny as hell”, which always brings a smile to my face (as if Disneyland needed any help bringing a smile to my face!).

So that’s how I use my Apple Watch. I probably spend way too much time thinking about this stuff, but I hope you find some of this useful.