Well, it’s the big day: April 24, the day the Apple Watch is supposed to start landing on the wrists of the faithful — the faithful who preordered. Some of them, anyway.
If you’re among them, you’ll quickly discover that this watch’s operating system has many visual and gestural similarities to the software on the iPhone. But overall, the navigation and features are very different.
And so, to help you dive into the splendors of your new acquisition — and for all the curious bystanders — I offer you Pogue’s Top Tips for the Apple Watch. These are the little goodies Apple has buried in the watch’s software but never really told anybody about.
Many of these rely on the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. It’s a fairly unsung app, with hundreds of settings to explore. And it has a lot of fodder for Top Tips.
Tip 1: Magnify the text.
Just when you’ve gotten used to reading tiny type on the screen of a phone, now you’re supposed to read email and news items on the screen of a watch.
Fortunately, the watch’s small type need not be a barrier to your enjoyment. In the iPhone app, don’t miss the Brightness and Text Size and Bold options. As you drag the type-size slider, you see the font change on the watch in real time, wirelessly. Turning Bold on or off, however, requires you to restart the watch.
Tip 2. You can zoom.
If things on the watch are still too small, you can zoom in! Turn on zoom on the iPhone app in General → Accessibility.
From now on, using two fingers, you can double-tap to zoom in, drag to scroll the magnified view, or double-tap/drag to zoom in and out. (That is, with two fingers, tap twice — but on the second tap, leave the fingers down and drag up or down.)
Tip 3: Bounce between the two most recent apps.
The crown (knob) on the side of the watch is also a clicker (push it inward). If you double-click, you pop back and forth between the two apps you’ve used most recently.
Tip 4: Insta-mute.
If your watch is ringing or chirping for any reason, you can shut it up by briefly resting your palm on it, as though to say, “Shush, you!”
(That’s a feature called Cover to Mute. The on/off switch for this feature is on the Sounds & Haptics screen of the iPhone app.)
Tip 5: Put your favorite app icons at the edges.
The app icons on the watch screen are about the size of hydrogen atoms. But at least you can rearrange them so that the ones you use most stick out near the edges of the cluster.
To do that, rest your finger lightly on any app icon to make them all start jiggling, then drag to rearrange. Just like on the iPhone or iPad.
Actually, you can do exactly the same thing on the App Layout screen of the iPhone app. It’s easier that way, because the icons are bigger.
Tip 6: Stifle the “stand up” reminders.
Every time you’ve been sitting like a sloth for an hour, the watch reminds you to get up and walk around for a minute. That’s good for your health!
But there may be times when you can’t stand up and walk around — for example, when you’re stuck in a meeting, attending a church service, or watching a Michael Bay movie. In those situations, you can turn that reminder off in the iPhone app. It’s on the Activity screen, and it’s called Stand Reminders.
Tip 7: Edit your canned replies.
When you get a text message and hit Reply, the watch offers you a list of six canned responses like “OK” and “I’m on my way.”
But in the Messages screen on the phone, under Default Replies, you can customize those messages. You can change them to say, for example, “Got it!” or “Thanks!”
Tip 8. Exploit Power Reserve mode.
When the battery gets down to almost zero, the Apple Watch goes into Power Reserve mode. In this mode, the watch does nothing but show you the time — not a bad feature for a watch to have.
And it displays the time only when you push the watch’s side button. The good news is that the watch can stumble along for nearly a week in this mode.
You can also go into Reserve mode on demand. From the clock screen, swipe upward to get to the Glances (information screens). Then swipe sideways until you reach the Battery screen; tap Power Reserve and confirm your decision.
To exit Power Reserve, charge up the watch (if it entered Power Reserve automatically) or restart it (if you entered Power Reserve manually).
Tip 9: Two ways to talk to Siri.
To ask Siri a question, speak while pressing the crown.
Or do it hands-free: Wake the watch (by tapping it or by raising your wrist), then say, “Hey, Siri” and your question.
Tip 10: Get online without the iPhone.
In general, the watch requires an iPhone to be nearby — the iPhone is its antenna to the Internet world. But when you’re in a known Wi-Fi hotspot, the watch can perform the most essential online functions even when your phone is turned off or unavailable! You can query Siri, send and receive iMessage texts, and exchange drawings and tap patterns with other watch owners.
Tip 11: It’s OK to be left-handed.
You can wear the watch on either hand, with the crown and button on either side.
To set up how you like it, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, tap General, then Watch Orientation, and tap your preference.
Tip 12: Load music.
You can listen to music while you’re running or working out without the iPhone — provided you have Bluetooth headphones.
In the iPhone app, on the Music screen, tap Synced Playlist to choose an iTunes playlist of songs that you want copied into the Watch’s storage. (It holds up to 2 gigabytes.)
Tip 13: Load photos.
Similarly, in the iPhone app, under Photos, you can choose an album of pictures that you want available for viewing on the watch. (Turn the crown to zoom in to the batch of photos you’ve copied there, as you can see here in the before/after.)
Microscope not included.
Tip 14: Choose your friends.
When you push the side button, you see your most frequently used contacts, so it’s quick and easy to text or call them. But the iPhone app, under Friends, lets you specify who appears here, and in which order. (Tap Edit.)
Tip 15: Exchange glances.
Glances, in Apple lingo, are the quick-info screens that appear in a horizontally scrolling virtual row beneath the time display: weather, stocks, Twitter, and so on.
One of your first acts as a watch owner should be to open the iPhone app and tap Glances. Here, you can hide the Glance screens you never use, install new ones, and rearrange the left-to-right order of the Glance screens (by dragging the grip handle on the right side up or down).
Tip 16: Run a couple of times with the phone.
The watch’s accelerometer (motion sensor) knows every time you take a step, but it doesn’t know how big each step is. So you should start out your watch ownership by going for a run or two with your phone, which does have GPS. That way, the watch can learn how much distance you cover with each footstep — it even differentiates between quicker footsteps and slower ones. Thereafter, it can calculate the distance you’ve run all by itself.
Tip 17: What happens when you raise your wrist
Ordinarily, the watch wakes up when you raise your wrist. But what does it show you at that point? The current time? Or the app you were most recently using? That’s up to you.
Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Tap General, then scroll down to Activate or On Wrist Raise; tap your choice.
Poke around the Apple Watch app on the iPhone long enough, and you’ll find a lot more gold. It’s an impressively complete set of settings for a 1.0 product. And it’s kind of cool that you never have to hit Send or Save — whenever you change something on the iPhone, that setting takes effect on the watch wirelessly and instantly.