6 Apple Watch features that have changed my life

  • 5 min read
  • May 15, 2023

I have been using an Apple Watch now for the last few months, and to say it has been a game-changer would be an understatement. There are so many features that I find helpful throughout my day in terms of productivity, fitness and activity, and just for convenience. But there are a handful of features in particular that stand out. These include specific things I can do with the Watch that have, in many cases, are now part of my daily routine.

1 Paying for items using Apple Pay

pay from apple watch feature

The second I started to pay for items from my Apple Watch, I began to sing its praises. How did I ever live without this?

It’s so convenient for numerous reasons, but mainly because I don’t need to fish through my purse or wallet to find my credit card. Apple Pay on iPhone is great, too, but it still requires that I unlock the phone, open Apple Wallet, then double-press to activate it. With Apple Watch, I simply raise my arm to my face, tap the Apple Wallet icon, select the desired card, then double-click the button and twist my arm to the reader to pay. I can do this nearly hands-free.

The other day, I went out for a quick walk to the store and left my bag at home. I didn’t have to worry about grabbing my credit card to put in my pocket; I just paid right from the Watch. I was able to pay for train and subway tickets from the Watch, too, which is great if I'm in a rush. I have since paid for everything from retail to restaurant purchases using the Watch.

2 Controlling the phone’s camera

apple watch control phone camera feature

Selfies are no more! Being able to control the phone’s camera with my Apple Watch means I can easily position the phone, get ready for the photo, then open the Camera app on the Apple Watch. Once I tap the remote shutter button, there’s a three-second timer before the photo is taken. It’s handy to take post-workout photos to send to my exercise group, images I need for articles, or even group photos with friends. I love that I can even preview the image on the Watch screen itself to ensure framing is correct.

Plus, I can snap several photos in a row with different poses then go through them after and save the best one(s). It’s a feature I have been using with the Watch more often than I anticipated I would.

3 Apple Fitness+ workout syncing

apple watch iphone fitness syncing feature

I exercise every day, and while I use different workout apps, there’s no comparison to the flawless Apple Fitness+ experience. While Apple Fitness+ no longer requires an Apple Watch, it’s even better when you use it with one. Once I queue up a workout on my phone, if my Apple Watch is connected to the same network and unlocked, it automatically syncs and begins tracking. I don’t need to fidget with the app on the Watch, select the workout, and press go. It'll just start when I do.

This works, it should be noted, even with other workout apps, but the process can be finicky. I sometimes have to reset the watch or force close the app and re-open it to sync properly. But the Watch instantly recognizes when I have initiated a workout from a compatible app on my iPhone. It will begin tracking and then record the specific workout and my stats. It makes engaging in physical activity just that much simpler, so I can just focus on the workout and not on my app.

4 Closing the rings

apple watch apple rings feature

Anyone who owns an Apple Watch will talk about how “closing their rings” is such a big deal. Especially when sharing your stats with friends, closing rings becomes a fun competition. (You can even set up a one-to-one competition with a friend via Apple Watch.) There are three rings: Move, Exercise, and Stand. Unlike other smartwatches and fitness trackers, the Move ring doesn’t necessarily relate to the number of steps you take per day but rather the calories you burn.

I, for example, have clocked far more than the recommended 10,000 steps in a day but still didn't close the Move ring. How? Most of these steps were accomplished by casual walking that didn’t get my heart rate up and thus didn’t burn as many calories. Saying I accomplished my Move goal at 20,000 steps if my heart rate was at rest the entire time isn’t really a good indicator of progress.

The way the Move ring is calculated is good encouragement to not only get up and move, but also to do more intense activities that make those movements truly count. Turn a short walk into a light jog or even add a 10-minute yoga session to the end of your day. It will help you close the Move ring and feel more accomplished.

5 Various app notifications

apple watch dryer notification feature

From my LG smart ThinQ washer and dryer to my Ring doorbell, social media accounts, emails, and more, having access to all these updates right from my wrist makes a big difference. While my phone is arguably at my hip 24/7, being able to simply flip my wrist up to see a notification saves valuables seconds. This might not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time.

The Watch notifications also encourage me to interact more, like when I get a notification that a friend has completed a workout. I can press “reply” and send a quick motivational (or sassy) pre-defined reply to them via iMessage. If I get a notification that the washer has finished a cycle while I'm out and about, I might message my husband or son to remind them to take the load out and transfer it to the dryer. They can be both functional and fun.

I’m the type of person who is constantly on the go and always looking for efficiency. I also work from home, which means much of the interaction I have with others throughout the work day is via text-based communications. So being able to do this right from the Apple Watch is extremely convenient. While it isn’t easy to compose lengthy messages from the tiny screen, it is useful to be able to tap a button to send preset replies, like “Ok,” “I’m on my way,” or even “Can I call you later?” It allows me to stay engaged in group chats with friends and family while I’m busy working.

What’s more, the preset messages change based on the content of the missive you’re replying to as well as the person. When replying to my son, for example, the preset message might include ones like “I love you” versus replying to business-related texts that offer more formal reply options like “How much is it?” for marketing SMSs or a simple “yes" or "no."

I should note that there are also fun preset replies for those with whom you share fitness stats. Whenever someone completes a workout, I receive a notification on the Watch and I can send a quick reply praising or even ribbing them.

Which Watch should I get?

You don’t need to have the highest-end Apple Watch model, the Apple Watch Ultra, to take advantage of these features. In all cases, these features work with Apple Watch models dating back years. The Apple Watch is unequivocally one of the best smartwatches you can buy. Now that I’m on board, I doubt I would ever go back.

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