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20 Tips Every Apple Watch Owner Should Know

Whether you just bought the new Series 6 or have owned an Apple smartwatch for years, our quick tips will help you make the most of the Apple Watch.

By Lance Whitney

Though not as powerful as an iPhone or iPad, the Apple Watch is quite a versatile gadget for something packed into such a small package.

Depending on which model or type of Apple Watch you own and where and how you like to use it, there are a variety of activities you can perform, from listening to music and tracking your workouts to monitoring your heart rate and viewing your photos. And like the iPhone and iPad, the Apple Watch includes an array of settings and options you can tweak to coax it to work and act the way you want.

Below are 21 tips for Apple Watch owners, whether you just ordered the Series 6 or have owned an Apple smartwatch for years. Some of these will likely be tasks that you’ve already tried. But others may just prompt you to say “I didn’t know my watch could do that.”

Listen to Music

With an Apple Watch running watchOS 4.1 or higher, you can listen to albums and playlists created on your iPhone, stations on Apple Radio, and any music from Apple Music (if you’re a subscriber). You can also listen to music and podcasts from apps such as Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio.

First, set up your earbuds, headphones, or speaker via Bluetooth. Open Apple’s Music app to swipe through your library of albums and playlists. From the player, you can pause, resume, skip ahead, go back, and control the volume. Apple Radio comes as its own separate app, where you can tune up Apple Music 1 (formerly Beats 1) and certain news and music stations.

To listen to music-streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio, you’ll have to download their apps through the App Store on your watch. Each app is slightly different, but the process is similar — just fire up the app to access your stations or library. With a paid subscription to a service like Pandora, you can typically do even more through your watch, such as listen to music offline.

Listen to Podcasts

Apple has its own Podcasts app that lets you download podcasts on your iPhone and listen to them on an Apple Watch. You just need watchOS 5 or higher. If you have an LTE-enabled Apple Watch, you can listen to podcasts without hopping onto a nearby Wi-Fi network.

Open the Podcasts app on your watch to swipe through the latest available podcasts. You can also access your library of subscribed podcasts or individual episodes. From the Podcast player, you can pause, resume, jump ahead 30 seconds, go back 15 seconds, alter the speed, and change the volume.

You can also play podcasts from your phone using your watch as the controller. And if you’re not crazy about Apple’s Podcasts app, try some third-party apps, such as Downcast, Overcast, and Pocket Casts.

Track Your Workouts

The Apple Watch shines for its health and fitness abilities, and one of its handiest features is the ability to track your workouts. Using the built-in Workouts app, you can track your progress at a variety of activities in and out of the gym, including biking, walking, hiking, jogging, rowing, elliptical, stair stepper, swimming, and even yoga.

The app will let you shoot for a specific time, distance, or number of calories burned, or just record a free-flowing workout. As you perform your activity, the app shows you your time, calories burned, distance traveled, and your heart rate. When you’re done, the results are sent to the Fitness app on your iPhone where you can view the latest stats on your watch and track a history of your workouts.

Monitor Your Heart Rate

Using the built-in Heart Rate app, you can monitor your heart rate at any time. Open the app, and it will measure and display your current heart rate. As long as your watch is in display mode, or you glance at the face, measurements are periodically taken to record your rate. Tap the arrow in the upper left, and the app displays your current rate, your resting rate, your average rate, and specific rates based on your activities. You’ll also discover third-party apps that monitor your heart rate with more bells and whistles than you’ll find in the built-in app.

Take an ECG

With an Apple Watch Series 4 and up you can take an electrocardiogram, which checks your heart rhythm and alerts you if it finds any irregularities in that rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation. This is not something you’d necessarily want or need to do on a regular basis unless you have a heart condition or are experiencing some type of symptom.

Needless to say, if you are feeling chest pains or similar issues, don’t waste time with the app; call emergency services. But in certain circumstances, the app can flag possible issues that you certainly should convey to your doctor.

Before you can use the ECG app, you must first set it up on your iPhone. Open the Health app, tap the Health Data icon, and then tap Heart. Swipe down the Heart screen and tap the entry for electrocardiogram. Tap Set Up ECG and go through the setup process.

To perform an electrocardiogram with your Apple Watch, open the ECG app. Make sure your watch is on the wrist you’ve already established in Settings, then tap OK. Hold your finger on the Digital Crown. The app will count down as it takes the ECG. After 30 seconds, the results pop up to display your sinus rhythm and heart rate.

If all is well, tap Done. If not, you can add any symptoms you’re experiencing, or contact your doctor or emergency services if you suspect something serious is going on.

Measure Your Blood Oxygen Level

With an Apple Watch Series 6 and watchOS 7 or later, you can use a built-in app and oximeter to measure your blood oxygen level. This reading can tell you if you’re getting enough oxygen to your brain and other vital organs. A typical reading should be somewhere between 95% and 100%. A low percentage of oxygen in the blood can be a sign of a pulmonary or cardiac issue, or other related problem.

Though you shouldn’t rely on this sensor as your sole source of information on your blood oxygen level, it can at least tip you off to a potential issue, prompting you to alert your doctor.

To set up the Blood Oxygen sensor, open the Watch app on your iPhone and tap the setting for Blood Oxygen. Make sure the switch for Blood Oxygen Measurements is turned on. Here, you can also control when the sensor takes background readings by enabling or disabling In Sleep Mode and In Theater Mode.

To take a reading, open the Blood Oxygen app on your watch. Make sure your watch is not too low on your wrist and that the band is snug but comfortable. Keep your hand and wrist as still as possible during the reading. Tap the Start button to begin the scan. The sensor begins with a 15-second countdown. If the measurement is successful, the screen will then indicate the percentage of your blood oxygen level.

Time Your Hand Washing

Washing your hands is a crucial way to remove germs and prevent infections from spreading. Now, hand washing has never been more important in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say that you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, especially if you’ve been in a public place or touching things that could transfer germs to you.

To help you with this goal, watchOS 7 unveiled a handwashing tool that detects when your hands are under running water and gives you a 20-second countdown from start to finish. Enable the handwashing reminder directly on your watch by going to Settings > Handwashing, then turn on the switch for Handwashing Timer. The next time you start to wash your hands, the timer should kick off and reward you with a chime and a thumbs up if you make it to 20 seconds.

Protect Your Hearing

Loud noises are annoying but also potentially damaging to your hearing. Introduced in watchOS 6, Apple’s Noise app can alert you if the surrounding sounds are above a safe level that could lead to hearing problems. By setting a certain decibel threshold, you can receive a notification from the app if the ambient sounds are too high.

To set this up directly on your watch, go to Settings > Noise. Tap the option for Environmental Sound Measurements and turn on the switch for Measure Sounds. Go back to the previous screen and tap the option for Noise Notifications. Here, you can set the decibel level. If your watch determines that the surrounding sound is too loud, a notification pops up to warn you.

Track Your Sleep

Third-party sleep tracking apps have long been available for the Apple Watch, but with watchOS 7, Apple introduced its own built-in sleep tracker. The new sleep app can determine how much time you’re actually asleep during the night. It can help you try to get better sleep by analyzing your night-time schedule, and it can show you your sleeping pattern over an extended period of time.

To set this up, open the Health app on your iPhone. Swipe down the Summary screen and tap the Get Started button for Set Up Sleep. The next screen explains how the app tries to help your sleep. Next, set a goal for the number of hours you’d like to sleep. Set your bedtime and wake time and the days active. You can also add an alarm.

You can enable Sleep Mode to automatically turn on Do Not Disturb at your bedtime. Another mode called Wind Down eliminates distractions at a certain number of minutes before bedtime. You can also turn on sleep tracking directly from the Sleep app on your watch. Then just wear your watch to bed. Check the sleep data on your iPhone the next morning to see how much sleep you got.

Turn on Do Not Disturb

Just like your iPhone, the Apple Watch supports a Do Not Disturb mode so you’re not bothered by phone calls, text messages, or any other notifications. By default, the Do Not Disturb setting on your watch mirrors the iPhone, though you can disable this under the General section in the Watch app on your phone.

On your watch, you can flip on Do Not Disturb a couple of ways. Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb and turn on the switch. The half-moon icon appears at the top of the screen to indicate Do Not Disturb mode.

Alternatively, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to Control Center and tap the half-moon icon. At the next screen, choose whether to leave Do Not Disturb on until you turn it off, for one hour, until this evening, or until you leave your current location.

Call Emergency Services

You can call emergency services directly from your watch if you’re in any kind of pain or trouble. Press down on the side button for a few seconds until you see the screen for Power Off, Medical ID, and Emergency SOS.

You can either slide the button for Emergency SOS to the right or continue holding down the side button. After a short countdown, your watch calls emergency services. If you start the countdown by accident, release the side button. If you start an emergency call by accident, press down on the screen and then tap End Call.

As an added feature, you can add an emergency contact through the Medical ID screen in the Health app on your iPhone. That person then receives a text with your location after the emergency call ends.

The cellular version of the Series 5 and higher supports international calls to emergency services, regardless of your carrier or where you live. So if you’re an American visiting London, for example, and need help, the watch will call 999 and not 911.

Set Up an Apple Watch for Someone With No iPhone

With watchOS 7, you can set up an Apple Watch for a family member who doesn’t own an iPhone. That person can then make and receive phone calls and text messages, use a variety of built-in features, and run third-party apps on the Watch. For this to work, you’ll need an iPhone 6s or later with iOS 14, while the family member will need an Apple Watch Series 4 or later. Certain features also require a cellular connection on the person’s watch.

To set this up, position the person’s watch next to your iPhone. Open the Watch app on your phone, tap the All Watches link at the top, and then tap the link to Add Watch. Tap the button for Set Up for a Family Member. From there, follow the screens to enable or modify the necessary features and settings. When you’re done, your grateful family member can start using their watch, and you can continue to manage their watch from your own phone.

Talk to Siri

Yes, you can talk to Siri on your watch. And with a Series 3 or higher, Siri will even talk back to you. Long-press on the Digital Crown, and Siri will appear, awaiting your command or question. With watchOS 7, you can ask Siri a greater variety of things, such as translating a phrase from one language to another.

You can also get Siri’s attention by voice. To set this up on your watch, go to Settings > General > Siri. The first option for Hey Siri lets you say “Hey Siri” directly to your watch. The second option lets you raise your watch to your mouth where you can then say “Hey Siri” to chat with the voice assistant.

Run a Siri Shortcut

If you use Siri Shortcuts on your iPhone, you can now trigger them even faster via your Apple Watch. With watchOS 7, Apple has added a Shortcuts app to the watch. Tap on the app to see all supported shortcuts that you can start from your watch. Tap a specific shortcut, and you can then run and manage it directly from your wrist.

Find Your iPhone

Lost your iPhone? You can probably find it by calling it from another device, but if another phone isn’t handy, you can use your Apple Watch. Swipe up from the bottom of your watch face to access Control Center. Look for the icon that resembles a phone with audio waves emanating from it. Tap that icon, and as the icon turns blue, your phone will emit a pinging noise that you can follow to track it down.

Browse Photos

You can view certain photos from your iPhone on the watch. By default, your watch displays the photos you’ve tagged as favorites, but you can change the album. To do this, open the Watch app on your iPhone and go to the My Watch section. Tap the entry for Photos and change the Synced Album to one of your choosing.

On your watch, open the Photos app to see thumbnails of all your synced photos. Zoom in by tapping or turning the Digital Crown. Swipe left or right to browse through them, and tap a specific photo to see it up close.

Organize Your Apps

Your home screen can quickly get cluttered with apps, but you can rearrange those icons in a layout that works best for you. On the iPhone, open the Watch app. In the My Watch section, go to App Layout and move your icons to different spots.

To do this from your watch, go to the home screen and press down on one of the icons until they all start jiggling. You can now move the icons to different areas. You can even press down on the home screen and choose List View instead of Grid View to see your apps in an alphabetical list.

Access Apps From the Dock

You can quickly access your favorite or most-used apps through the dock. Just press the side button and scroll through the list until you find the app you want. Apps can be added to the dock, and if you want to remove one, just swipe it to the left and tap the X.

To better manage your docked apps from your iPhone, open the Watch app. At the My Watch section, tap the entry for Dock, then tap the Edit link. You can then remove an app from the dock by tapping the minus sign, or add an app by tapping the plus sign.

Change and Customize Your Watch Face

Tired of looking at the same old watch face every day? You can easily change and customize the Apple Watch face. To see a different watch face, just swipe to the right or left of your watch screen. To set up new faces, open the Watch app on your iPhone, go to the Face Gallery section, tap a face, jazz it up with a specific color and style, and then tap Add to add it to your default watch faces. At the top of the My Watch screen, tap Edit next to My Faces. Here, you can remove faces you don’t want and change the order in which the faces appear.

Change the Brightness and Text Size

Do you have trouble seeing the text and screens on your watch? You can play with the brightness and text size. On your watch, go to Settings > Display & Brightness. Tap the left or right icon on the brightness scale to lower or raise the brightness. You can also control this by turning the Digital Crown.

Tap the entry for Text Size. Tap either of the icons on the text size scale to change this, or turn the Digital Crown. If you need a bit more visibility, turn on the switch for Bold Text.

Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.



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