Some see the Apple Watch as little more than an expensive Bluetooth remote for your iPhone. That may be so, but you can use this expensive Bluetooth remote to access a huge number of iPhone features without having to reach into your pocket.
If you’re still considering buying an Apple Watch, knowing a bit about how this integration works might just influence your decision. Here’s how to master the basics from the comfort of your wrist.
Making & Answering Phone Calls
You can make and answer phone calls on your Apple Watch, which will ring along with your phone and provide a not-so-private method of answering phone calls. When your iPhone receives a call, you’ll feel a “ringing” haptic notification, and you’ll be able to accept or reject the call as you would on your iPhone.
When you answer the call, the audio will be routed to your watch, so if you’re in a quiet room or the subject matter is especially private, you should answer on your phone instead (unless you’re using Bluetooth audio, of course). This is very convenient when you’re out and about, carrying bags of shopping or cycling and are unable to physically reach your iPhone.
You can make calls in three ways. The first involves simply opening the Phone app and picking from your favorites, recents, full list of contacts and voicemail. This is the slowest method.
Press the dedicated favorites button, which appears below the crown, to bring up 12 top contacts accessible with a simple press of a button. You can configure who appears on your favorites list under the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
Last of all you can ask Siri, accessible by saying, “Hey Siri” or holding the crown down as you would your iPhone’s home button. Speak your command and Siri will make it so.
Messaging on the Apple Watch could have gone badly wrong considering the size of the screen — there’s simply no room for a keyboard. Instead, Apple has opted for canned responses, speech-to-text, and some rather animated smileys to get the message across.
Your Watch will sound a notification when you receive a message, and you can respond by tapping on it which will open the Messages app and corresponding thread. At the bottom of the message list, you can hit Reply which will prompt you for a canned response, and provide two buttons: a smiley and a microphone.
The smiley can be controlled by turning the crown to produce some pretty spectacular expressions, though it’s not that useful overall. Hit the microphone button and wait for the haptic buzz before speaking your message. Once you’ve done, Apple will convert it to text and you’ll have the option of sending an audio recording or the transcribed message.
This is the same realtime voice dictation found in iOS 8, and it works surprisingly well even in noisy environments.
You can access your message threads as you would on your iPhone simply by heading to the Messages app. If you want to send a message to a favorite contact, hit the favorites button (beneath the crown). If you want to compose a new message to a contact who you’re not already conversing with, ask Siri to “create a new message” to the contact of your choice.
Alarm, Timer & Stopwatch
One of the best things about the Apple Watch is that common watch functions, like alarms and timers, can be moved away from your pocket and back onto the wrist. What’s more, these events are now connected — if you get an alarm on your iPhone, you will also get an alarm on your wrist.
However your Apple Watch is also capable of having its own separate timers and alarms. These are independent of your phone, and if you’ve got silent mode enabled they will provide only a haptic buzzing notification. If you need to get up at 6 a.m. and your partner doesn’t, it might be the perfect way of waking up.
Siri is arguably the best way of setting timers, starting the stopwatch or creating alarms; partly because all of the icons are the same orange and you can be forgiven for forgetting which is which. Just speak your command, for example, “Hey Siri, set a timer for one minute,” and you don’t even need to press a button.
If you find yourself using alarms, timers or the stopwatch a lot, you may want to use a customisable watch face that allows you to place these elements on the watch face. You can then simply tap it, set it and resume what you were doing.
To set this up, force touch on your watch face and choose one that is customizable. Hit Customize, pick a color or face detail and then swipe to the next screen. Here you’ll be able to swap various elements in and out by tapping on a field and rotating the digital crown.
Taking A Photo
No, your Apple Watch doesn’t come with its own in-built camera, but it is capable of acting as a remote shutter for your iPhone. Simply open the Camera app on your watch and wait for the camera to launch on your iPhone (you may need to hit the Open Camera) button.
Once the two apps are running, you will see your iPhone’s viewfinder displayed on your watch screen, along with a shutter button and a three-second timer. Hit the timer and your iPhone will take a burst of 10 photos (provided your iPhone supports burst mode, the iPhone 5 does not) allowing you to pick the best of the bunch.
This is probably one of the most impressive tricks Apple thought of, though some have expressed concern over the James Bond-like nature of taking photos covertly. You don’t have to use it to get up to no good of course, and it will only function reliably while your iPhone is within range (about 10 metres).
Everything Else Using Siri
“What, is that it?” I hear you chirp in unison. No, that isn’t it at all; and thanks to the power of Siri, virtually anything you can do on your iPhone can be performed on your wrist too. I found that though the “Hey Siri!” command often falls on deaf ears, Siri’s ability to understand me even in busy, loud environments held up.
As an example, you can use Siri to create calendar events by saying, “Hey Siri, create a calendar appointment at 1 p.m. tomorrow for dentist,” and you’ll be able to preview the event before confirming it. You can do the same for reminders.
While you can’t compose a whole email from your wrist, you can start the process by asking Siri to “send an email to James about upcoming reviews,” which uses Handoff. On your iPhone, you will see the Siri icon appear in the bottom-left corner, swipe it up and unlock your phone to dictate the rest of your email.
Another cool feature that’s easy to forget are cinema listings — just ask Siri, “What’s on at the cinema?” and all films will be displayed on your wrist. The same works for sports results, tables and fixtures too.
There are a few things Siri can’t do — like turning a personal hotspot on or off, but on the whole the voice-activated assistant has come on leaps and bounds since its introduction with iOS 5.
Will you be buying an Apple Watch? Let me know what you think in the comments.