I first put on my Apple Watch in January 2019, and haven’t wanted to take it off since. At first, I saw it as a handy lifestyle accessory. However, over time, I’ve come to appreciate it as much as my iPhone—and here’s why you might, too.
It Motivates Me to Move
One of the simplest, but greatest features on the Apple Watch is its ability to track when you move, exercise, or stand. Each of these appears on a ring, and your goal for the day is to “close your rings.”
The Move ring is a bit different. Your Move goal is personal to you and your fitness level. Each week, the Apple Watch gives you a buzz to let you know how well you did last week, and what your goal for this week might look like if you want to increase it. This way, you can meet and improve your exercise goals over time.
Being able to view how much energy you’ve expended is both rewarding and encouraging. When I meet my Move goals by lunchtime, I feel good about hitting the gym hard. When I’ve sat around playing video games all day, the Move ring serves as a reminder to get outside.
The Apple Watch also notifies you when you’re close to closing your Move ring, and tells you how long of a walk you should take to do so. If you remain seated for around 50 minutes, your watch sends you a notification to stand and move around a bit. You might already be mindful enough to get up and move regularly, but I’m not.
In my job as a layabout tech blogger, I’m all too aware of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting at a laptop all day is how I pay the bills, but it’s also bad for my health. The Apple Watch might be expensive, but I see it as an investment in my health. Since getting it, I’m fitter, less sedentary, and more mindful of my activity levels.
Track Your Workouts
One of the main reasons I embraced the Apple Watch is its ability to track workouts. I go to the gym to lift weights, and, although the Apple Watch isn’t best suited to monitor this sort of resistance training (find me a fitness tracker that is), I’ve fallen in love with the data it collects.
I now track just about every type of workout, from a walk to the shops to all-day cycling trips. The Apple Watch allows you to register “Other” workouts, for which you can then pick a predetermined label. There are categories for activities, like “Mind & Body” and “Play,” but also hiking, most variations of football, and archery (among others).
The Activity and Health apps store this data on your iPhone. You can see how long you spend exercising in any given month, observe trends in your fitness patterns, and even get competitive with friends. The Watch registers all sorts of additional information, like routes and maps for outdoor pursuits, weather conditions, and, of course, heart rate data.
If you think recording every workout is a bit over the top, the Apple Watch encourages it. Even if you don’t start a workout, the watch registers brisk or vigorous movement toward your exercise goal for the day. If the Watch detects that you’re moving at a brisk pace for an extended period, it offers to register the full duration of your walk retroactively.
Everything on Your Wrist
I’m a big fan of Apple’s Infographic watch face because it displays so much information. Apple calls the small modules that display information “complications.” In addition to the analog clock face (complete with second hand), the Infographic face has four corner complications, a large central complication, and three additional, smaller complications.
I live downtown and cycle, walk, or take public transport everywhere. When I know what the weather is like, it helps me decide which form of transport to take, as well as how many layers I need to wear. Sure, you can also do this on your iPhone, but it’s incredibly convenient to just glance at your watch, instead.
At the gym, I always set timers for rest periods between exercises. It’s possible to do this on an iPhone, but it requires three or four taps. Having this functionality on your wrist—like a 1999 Casio watch—makes much more sense. Also, because I live in Australia, being able to see the UV index at a glance is important to me.
With two taps on my wrist and a twist of the digital crown, I can swipe and tap to finish a logged workout. I also have two spare complications: the battery percentage and watchOS 6’s new decibel meter (which looks cool).
The other Apple Watch feature I use multiple times per day is “pinging” my iPhone. First, you swipe up on the watch face to reveal the Control Center. Tap the iPhone icon, and your iPhone emits a loud, high-pitched chime. You can trigger the same chime from the “Find My” apps on iOS or macOS, or by logging in to iCloud.com.
Never Miss Important Notifications
If (like me) you’re almost desensitized to iPhone notifications, you’ll love how the Apple Watch allows you to prioritize them. When you first pair it with your iPhone, all notifications are enabled. Go to Watch > Notifications to turn off anything you don’t want buzzing your wrist.
It’s amazing how much noise we put up with on our phones. If you just move that noise to your wrist, you quickly realize how much of it you can filter out. By keeping only the most important notifications on your wrist, you can deal with what matters first, and everything else second.
I also forward all calls to my Apple Watch, so I never miss one, even if I’m in a different room than my iPhone. You can prioritize notifications from your business email account, Slack, PayPal, Reminders, Messages, news alerts, or even eBay, and silence those from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, personal email accounts, or games.
You still see your other notifications, but you can browse them at your leisure when you have time to pick up your phone.
You won’t miss notifications that require action, like an eBay auction that’s ending soon. If I spend money, my banking app sends a notification to my wrist. If someone clones my card and starts spending my money, I’m going to be aware of it right away.
Siri and Apple Pay Are Better on the Watch
Siri isn’t the best digital assistant out there, but hands-free Siri on my Series 4 Watch somewhat makes up for it. You don’t even need to say, “Hey, Siri,” anymore; you just raise your watch to your mouth and speak. It works most of the time, but there’s always room for improvement.
Having Siri on your wrist is a great way to accomplish small tasks quickly. For example, you can add items to your shopping list or create a new reminder. It’s particularly useful if you’re cooking and need a kitchen timer. You can also use Siri to make calls, send text messages, start workouts, get directions, and more.
The other feature I use daily is Apple Pay to make instant payments. This is much faster than fumbling around for your phone. You also don’t have to position your thumb awkwardly on the fingerprint reader; just double tap the side button on your Apple Watch and swipe.
The only reason I still keep my wallet with me is to carry my travel card (in my city, this isn’t yet compatible with Apple’s wireless technology).
However, be careful about relying solely on your phone or watch to pay for transit—if the battery dies, you’re responsible.
Oh, Yeah, It Also Tells Time
People often see a nice watch as a luxury item, but it doesn’t have to be. At its current price point, the aluminum, entry-level Apple Watch straddles the line. It’s expensive, but for a watch, it’s not that expensive. Fortunately, it’s also pretty good as watches go. At this writing, the latest Series 5 starts at $399 for the 40mm or $429 for the 44mm in aluminum. You can save money if you pick up a Series 4 secondhand, or a brand new Series 3 directly from Apple (starting at $199).
I’ve always worn watches, but the Apple Watch is by far the most comfortable. I chose the Series 4 Nike+ Sport Loop variant, purely because I wanted a black reflective band. It’s so comfortable, I forget I’m wearing it minutes after I put it on. I can’t necessarily say the same for the silicon band, though.
Battery life is fine after you get used to taking off and charging your watch when necessary. This was one of my biggest concerns, but once I got in the habit of doing it, I realized how wrong I’d been. I never take my watch off in the shower or while swimming (even in the ocean). It’s picked up a few dents and scratches, but I’ve not felt the need to wrap it in a case like I do my phone.
It also looks good. This is ultimately subjective, but a range of colors and straps, plus an ever-expanding selection of watch faces, means you can customize your Apple Watch to suit your tastes. You can wear your data-packed Infograph during the day, and then just swipe right to switch to an elegant, numeric watch face for your dinner date.
Something for Everyone
I’m a 30-something, fairly active freelance writer who lives in a big city. If you’re a 60-something retiree who lives in the countryside, you probably want a different experience from your watch.
You can opt for the cellular version, leave your iPhone at home, and still use every feature. It can unlock your Mac for you and prevent you from having to type so many passwords. Regardless of the version you choose, all of them are packed with useful features.
The Series 5 also introduces the long-awaited always-on feature. If you were put off by the required wrist-flick on other models, this could be a great jumping-on point.
Apple also offers stainless steel, titanium, and ceramic editions at the more premium price points. These are perfect if you want to make more of a statement.
I reviewed the first-generation Apple Watch and the Series 2 a few years later, so I’ve seen firsthand how Apple has evolved both the hardware and software into a highly polished product. In my opinion, there’s never been a better time to jump on the Apple Watch train.