Last year, I was one of those people who rushed to pre-order the Apple Watch, keenly anticipating its arrival on launch day. Luckily, I received it without a delay and like a child with a new toy, I excitedly set up and customised the thing to my liking. Now that I’ve had it for just over a year, I’ve been reflecting on how I use it on a day-to-day basis. There hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t worn it since first setting it up, and I can honestly say that I use a large number of features often.
Every day, I use the Activity and Workout apps to track my movement and exercise; I can say honestly that I have become more aware of my general health and have been motivated to integrate more exercise into my day. Messages and Twitter are also fantastic to have on the wrist, and it’s really cool and convenient to select music in the car simply by saying “Hey, Siri”. While dismissed as somewhat of a gimmick, I also use Digital Touch (sketches) every day with my girlfriend and family members, whether it be in the form of colour-coordinated tap codes (e.g. three white taps left to right = “I’m on my way”), or little sketches just for fun.
Aside from all of these features, however, I’ve also thought about how the watch contributes to my productivity each day. I was surprised to discover just how much use the device for work.
Below, I expand on some of the apps and functions that I use the most for work and commuting.
Watch face and Home screen
Well, this goes without saying, really. The watch face is central to the Apple Watch experience and is the first thing that you see when you raise your wrist and the display illuminates. Whilst I do swap faces every so often, sometimes to match a different band, the Modular face is (to my mind) the most useful one for linking to various apps. On my Modular setup, I link to the app Streaks (for encouraging new habits), Activity, Weather and most importantly for work, Calendar, which is integrated into the day/date display in the centre. Having your day’s events and appointments a tap away is a fantastic thing.
While I’ve heard that a number of Apple Watch users don’t go to the Home screen much to navigate between apps, I do this often. Rather than litter my Glances section with a lot of apps, I prefer to click the Digital Crown on the side of the watch to reach the Home screen and swap between my apps. It’s easy to re-organise the apps and get to the one you want quickly. Alternatively, you can just ask Siri to open the desired app.
Flowing on from the watch face, Calendar is an indispensable app. Some may prefer to use an alternative calendar app such as Fantastical or Sunrise, but the default calendar on iPhone, iPad, Mac and so on has always worked well for me. The app is great for viewing what’s coming up in the week ahead and keeping track of meetings and appointments.
Something I would love, however, would be the ability to browse different months with a year, rather than just one, even if it were just for checking days and dates. It is understandable that Apple would limit the range of events that one can view in a stream, as it would quickly become ridiculous to scroll endlessly through future appointments with the Digital. That’s where the iPhone comes into play.
Many tech commentators emphasise the need for a “killer app” on any given device; notifications on Apple Watch may be that killer app.
In a productivity context, notifications on Apple Watch are powerful and reliable. With a simple tap on the wrist using the Taptic Engine (and my watch always set to silent), I can receive subtle notifications on my wrist as I work, whether from Messages, Mail, Messenger, Slack, Calendar, Twitter or any other myriad apps installed on my watch or purely on my iPhone.
This is particularly useful for meetings, when I can monitor new notifications coming in with a simple turn of the wrist, rather than pulling out my phone, which can come across as even more impolite.
The beauty of Mail on the Apple Watch is its simplicity. All e-mails from multiple accounts are showed in the unified inbox and it’s super-easy to flag, reply, mark or trash individual e-mails. Like all apps, it’s easy to navigate by scrolling with your finger or the Digital Crown, or tapping the top of the screen to fly to the top.
Replying via e-mail can be done with quick phrases or dictation, the latter of which isn’t necessarily advisable in a quiet office environment, but it’s great to have on the go. It’s fantastic to be able to manage things like this when away from the desktop or rushing down the street.
Slack is big enterprise favourite for messaging and for certain organisations it is an entire replacement for e-mails. Slack works like the default Messages app with dictation features, also giving you access to both group and direct/private message streams. Again, accessibility and simplicity on the wrist coupled with the instant tap notification system means you’re not going to miss important work messages.
I worship this app. For those who may be unfamiliar with it, 1Password is a fantastic password vault and generator that syncs beautifully between versions designed specifically for the Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac. All you have to do is remember one password to unlock all the others.
In order to keep things tidy, the Apple Watch version will only display passwords that you have saved on your iPhone and marked with “Add to Apple Watch”. Upon entering the code in the app, you are then granted access to your favourite or most used logins and passwords.
Whilst I personally use Apple’s iCloud Keychain on my Mac at home to accelerate login (passwords are entered automatically in fields), I prefer not to save all of my passwords on my Windows desktop at work. Using 1Password means that if I want to log into an app or service that I use less frequently, I can easily check my watch instead. For added security, Apple has programmed the watch to lock itself when removed from your wrist at all times. If someone were to steal your watch, they would need to know the code to unlock your watch and the one for 1Password as well.
Here’s an app with a very simple use case. As I work at the German-Australian Chamber, I sometimes need to know what time it is in Germany (surprise!). Having the time in Berlin only a tap away (or even in the Glances section or as a watch face complication) is really useful. Naturally, one can add more cities to the list and it reflects whatever is set on your iPhone for consistency.
Maps has improved by leaps and bounds ever since its rocky release back with iOS 6 back into 2012. It has gained public transit information, many more 3D Flyover locations and is much more detailed and reliable than ever before.
On top of this, it now includes even more information from popular sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. I used to keep Google Maps on my iPhone just in case something went wrong with Apple Maps, however now there is absolutely no need for that.
Maps on the watch is executed extremely well. For meetings in Sydney CBD we’re I’ve had to go by foot, or even in situations driving by GoGet, Maps has been a significant aid in getting me to the right place at the right time, using either the on-screen map display or taps that tell you when to turn.
Much like Maps, Australian transport app TripView is absolutely brilliant (as the full app and in Glance mode). I use it every day for train times to and from work, as well as in situations when I’ve had to catch buses and trains during work hours.
iTranslate and WordBook
As I work in a German- (and English-) speaking office, German words tend to come up quite often. When not using the dict.cc German-English dictionary on my desktop computer, iTranslate has proven to be really useful for translating words on the fly. Simply say the word that you want to translate and the app will do it for you. A light Force Touch on the display will also allow you to change languages.
The same principles apply to English dictionary app WordBook, except there is also the expanded functionality of definition history, bookmarks and new words to learn day-to-day.
LinkedIn and Xing
While LinkedIn doesn’t have its own Apple Watch app, there is still compatibility with notifications to stay current with new connections and received messages. Xing, Germany’s equivalent to LinkedIn, does have its own dedicated watch app, which allows users to keep track of message history and recent profile visitors.
One of the iOS community’s favourite third-party calculator apps is Calcbot (made by Tapbots, developers of the beloved Twitter client Tweetbot). Tapbots has done a fantastic job of compressing a decent calculator into a tiny space. Tapping the buttons is easy with a low error rate, plus a Force Touch on the display reveals mathematical functions. It’s fantastic for performing quick mathematical operations that exceed the power of my own measly brain.
Last, but certainly not least, Siri is a great productivity tool. As much criticism as Siri and other digital voice assistants such as Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana often receive, in my experience, Siri is always improving in its accuracy and responsiveness. Each day, I use Siri to add new reminders, calendar events/appointments, start a navigational route in Maps, check the weather forecast, open apps on the watch and more.
Contrary to some of the criticism of this first-generation product, once personalised properly, it really is a powerful assistant. The true power of Apple Watch, aside from its customisation and personalisation, is its ‘glanceability’; it’s always there on your wrist, delivering the most important notifications and saving time that you would otherwise spend periodically checking your iPhone. I can recommend it highly as a productivity tool and can’t wait to see where Apple will take the device in the future.
Title image credit: Apple 2016