Who would have imagined less than two decades ago that small wrist computers would be a reality?
I remember the days when I was somewhat obsessed with electronic watches. This obsession was with functional watches (usually from Casio) and not luxury watches. Common functions, beside time and date, included a stopwatch, a timer, world times, and perhaps a calendar. One watch I had came with a universal infra-red remote control and one with a wheel to measure distances on a paper map!
That functionality, however, feels primitive compared to what is on offer today! Smart watches have gone a long way and are beginning to gain wider adoptability in the market. I had first experimented with the Fitbit Charge 2 (in 2017), then upgraded to the Apple Watch Series 3 (May 2018). In this article, I will talk about the core usage of the Watch for me, and some other specific tasks.
# Why get a smart watch?
Since smartphones could show the time and date (and do other basic functions of electronic watches), I had stopped using any kind of watch for years! Gradually though, I became more and more interested in the technological advancement of smart watches. Once the interest built up to a sufficient level, I decided to get the Fitbit Charge 2 as a trial.
The device was fairly simple and had a good battery life. I liked getting back to the habit of checking the time on my wrist! That’s definitely easier than taking out a phone! The Fitbit – being a health-focused device – also pushed me to move more. It calculated my steps, measured my heart rate, and even played the role of a coach or workout mentor! I remember the great feeling of achievement whenever I crossed the target number of steps a day!
In addition to helping me be more healthy, the Fitbit gave me useful notifications. It was interesting to be able to check who’s calling or texting before having to pull the phone from my pocket.
After about a year of use, it became clear that a smartwatch is valuable to me. And so was the decision to get the Apple Watch Series 3!
# Why the Apple Watch?
The experience with the Fitbit Charge 2 was useful in exploring a few valuable usages of smartwatches. I also reached the point where it was clear that I needed more functionality. For a start, an ideal device would need to be more compatible with the Apple ecosystem. I became intrigued with the potential synergy between an Apple Watch and my other Apple devices (mainly the iMac and the iPad Pro 11″). Additional interesting functions included a watch companion for apps like OmniFocus.
As in every technological tool, you need to adopt an approach of gradual improvement in how you use the Watch and how to get the most out of it. For now, the Watch plays several useful roles for me; it’s a time keeping device, a communicator, a health mentor, and a tool for higher productivity and efficiency.
# It’s a time machine!
Not to be confused with MacOS’s Time Machine (or other fancy ideas you might have!), The forefront value of the Apple Watch is its time keeping capability.
No longer do I have to pull out my phone to check the time or date. When buying milk for example, a quick glance at the Watch helps me know how fresh the bottle is. Walking to a classroom is also more relaxing knowing that I’m right in time.
Ok, that could be done with any other cheap watch!! What is so special about the Apple Watch? For a start, it is very good for setting timers. I usually do that by telling Siri, “Set a timer for X minutes” and off it goes! I frequently set it, for example, for my power nap (7 minutes!) and my moka pot coffee brewer (5:30 minutes).
One other common timing task I use the Watch for is to set up a Pomodoro timer. Basically, you work for 25 minutes, then take a break for 5 minutes. That could be done with a normal timer, but it is more efficient using a dedicated Pomodoro app. The one I use is Pommie. It works very well and nudges when the work/break time is over.
A fourth time related task is checking the prayer times (Falah app) where I could know how many minutes are left for the next prayer time, all prayer times for today, and to get notifications when it is time to pray.
Lastly, I always use the Calendar app on the Watch. It notifies me when an appointment is coming and I could check the details quickly on the go. Again, this increases efficiency throughout the day.
Overall, the Apple Watch primarily plays the role of the time hub. All of these tasks could be done on an iPhone, but the efficiency level is higher with the Watch. In addition, you would soon be getting into the habit of having the Watch do these tasks, which reduces mental energy consumption throughout the day.
# To communicate, or not!
You are having both your hands occupied (lunch time, organizing the office, replacing light bulbs, etc), and you need to call/text someone. Taking out the phone is not ideal and disrupts your current activity, so a better solution is to use the Watch. “Hey Siri,” then, “Call/text XYZ.” Other times, you could choose to send a quick reply to a message through the Watch by dictation, hand writing, or choosing from one of the pre-set (and customizable) responses.
Other times, you would rather mute all communications! When a meeting is approaching, you swipe up the Control Center from the bottom of the screen and select Do Not Disturb. You could then either keep it on, or set it to switch off after an hour, when you leave this location, or by the end of the meeting (an appointment shows up in the menu when it is about 15 minutes away).
# Siri on your wrist!
Related to the above, is the fact that you could invoke Siri from the Watch (“Set a timer,” “Call my wife,” “Is it going to rain today?” “Did Juventus win today?”).
Siri Shortcuts is also doable on the Watch, by saying the previously set up Siri trigger for the shortcut. However, I found that, unfortunately, this is not sufficiently reliable. Hopefully, Apple will improve Siri Shortcuts performance in an upcoming update.
# Stay healthy
For many people, this is perhaps one of the most important functions of the Apple Watch (or basically any smart watch). For me, unfortunately, it is not at the top of my usages! (I know, I know. I need to workout more!).
However, it is still something that I use every day. The Watch reminds me from time to time to move, stand, or breath. It also notifies me if my movement rate is less than usual. Towards the end of the day, and if I achieve my goals, it gives me a nice and encouraging notification (sometimes, even an award!).
Occasionally (!), I do some light workout. That usually means riding on my indoor bicycle or having a short outdoor walk. In these cases, I make sure to launch the Workout app. I then choose an “Open Goal” and go for it! You know how the saying goes, “what gets measured, gets done!”
I should also mention the nice and simple breathing app. If you have the Watch, use this when you feel overwhelmed or stressed. It helps!
# Other usages
If you’re keeping count, I have thus far mentioned about 15 tasks/apps I frequently use the Watch for. Here are some other relatively frequent tasks:
– iMac unlock. (Approach the Mac, click a keyboard key, wait two seconds, and it unlocks via the Watch! No need to enter the Mac password!)
– Checking weather details (chance of rain, temperature, …)
– Taking a photo with the iPhone! (Keep the phone in that ideal location, then remotely start it from the Watch when you are ready!)
– Find the iPhone. (Where’s my phone? Press the icon on the Watch, and have the phone play a sound and even flash a light!)
– Flashlight. (The iPhone could be away, but the Watch is always with you!)
– Check notifications. (Though I suggest you keep this under reasonable control!)
In addition to my particular tasks above, you could also use the Watch to play music/audio, make payments via Apple Pay, read News, use it as a Walkie-Talkie (with another Apple Watch), make phone calls without the iPhone (Series 4, Cellular model), and much more!
# The negatives
No device is not perfect obviously. Here’re some negatives of the Apple Watch:
– More money to spend on electronics!
– One more device to charge! (Don’t travel without its charger!).
– Takes time to set up, update, and fine-tune.
– There’s a noticeable learning curve (i.e., you’ll need time to learn how to use it!).
– Siri shortcuts is not smooth yet.
– Battery life is relatively ok, but you would have to remember to charge it at least once every two days.
So, is it smart to get the Apple Watch?
The first obvious issue is the cost. It would not be a smart purchase if other more important priorities are set aside just to enjoy a new toy! The truth of the matter is that you could certainly live well without it.
Beyond that, you would need to think about the value that it could provide to you. Going through the tasks/functions mentioned above, do you feel that such a device would add value to your life worthy of the asking price?
If so, go for it! Get a suitable model, and give yourself time to adapt it to your particular needs. And, why not, enjoy it!