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This is what I'm still using my Apple Watch for

Recently, I've seen comments from friends and strangers alike about their Apple Watch: It's been left on the nightstand, in the drawer, and otherwise ditched from its place on the wrist. I can't say I'm entirely surprised: As much as I love the concept of the watch, it's far from being a perfect accessory.

Siri, which should be the watch's marquee feature, is often slow to wake and respond—largely because it needs your iPhone to do the query processing. You can't see the time unless you wake your watch, to save battery. Notifications and glances can be impenetrable to those who don't know where they're hiding. And while Watch apps are a great idea in theory, 85 percent of them just don't serve a useful purpose on your wrist.

Apple's watchOS 2 helped address some of those pain points, bringing third-party complications, native apps, and more Siri commands, but the company still has a long way to go before the watch is a must-have accessory. Of course, most of the other wearables in this field are struggling with similar issues—useful in some regards, endlessly frustrating in others—so Apple does have some time to reevaluate the watch.

I've stuck with the Apple Watch, however, despite my minor frustrations: The daily benefits it brings me far outweigh the negatives. Nine months in, here are the Apple Watch features I'm still using (and loving) every day.

Third-party complications (and multiple clock faces)

The market for third-party complications is still young—Apple only released watchOS 2 in the fall, after all—but I've already found a few I rely on day-in, day-out. I tend to rock the ugly-but-functional Modular face for most of my complication use, largely because I prefer data over looks in the day-to-day.

When it comes to at-a-glance information, Carrot Weather (opens in new tab) has a deliciously snarky Apple Watch complication that not only tells you the current weather and any precipitation, but does so in a viciously amusing style: "It's frakking sunny" is just one of the complication's many bon mots.

ETA (opens in new tab) incorporates the Digital Crown's Time Travel feature and traffic prediction to give you arrival estimates for a frequent location (for me, derby practice) depending on when you leave. The app's had a bit of bugginess lately so I haven't used it as often as I did last fall, but it's still one of the smartest complications I've seen.

Just Press Record (opens in new tab) is the complication that actually gets the most use, tapping-wise—the small complication is essentially a shortcut to the Just Press Record app, which hooks in to the Apple Watch's microphone to let you record anything in earshot. I need only tap the complication to launch the app; and because Just Press Record takes advantage of Apple's native apps framework, it's speedy. No waiting three seconds for the app to query the iPhone. I've recorded story ideas, song snippets, and on-the-spot interviews with Just Press Record, and all that audio gets automatically synced back to the iPhone and any other devices via iCloud Drive.

The real beauty of the Apple Watch, however, is in how quickly I can change faces. I've got a Modular face for my day-to-day, a Modular face designed specifically for roller derby coaching (replete with stopwatch, activity tracker, timer, and weather chart), and a more refined Utility and Photo face for going out in the evenings.

Ping my iPhone

I don't think I've used any feature more on my Apple Watch than Ping Phone, and it's almost (almost) worth the $350 just to be a glorified alert system. Since moving from my small Boston studio to a much larger suburban house, I frequently leave my iPhone in strange places: the hall closet, on top of the washer, the bathroom's music dock, buried under mail... you get the picture. I'm a bit scatterbrained, and the watch has saved my bacon so many different times by letting me instantly find my iPhone by swiping up for the Settings glance and pressing the Ping Phone button. It's largely responsible for me getting out of my house and on time most days.

Is this a little sad on my part? Maybe. But given all the insanity of daily life, it's a relief to just have a "Find" button so quick at your command. (I only wish it would hook into my Tile and ping my keys, too.)

Exercise tracking

When you work at home, you can very easily get sucked into sitting in front of a screen for eight hours without moving, ignoring your body's cries for nourishment and movement with a dismissing "I just have to finish... this... paragraph."

I've fallen into this neverending work pit many times throughout my career, and though I've tried many an OS X app to force me to get up and just move already, the only thing that has really worked is the watch. It yells at me to stand; it yells at me when I've done nothing but get breakfast and it's 4PM; it yells at me to not break my 20-day move streak just because I want to finish an article before midnight. Who knew I was so persuaded by yelling?

In seriousness, the Apple Watch may over-nag at times, but it keeps me moving and active in a way that BreakTime never could. It's exciting to look back at two weeks of successful move goals and actually feel the difference in my body: I'm not nearly as achey or anxious when I make time to do yoga or a little cardio crosstraining outside of my weekly derby caloric burns.

Notification management

I have notifications highly regulated on my Apple Watch: Very few alerts set off a sound or haptic tap, and only a few more make it to my wrist at all. (You can set all this up in the watch's notification settings.) This means that when I get an alert on my wrist, it's at least important enough to give it a quick glance; if it's actually worth stepping away from whatever I'm doing, I can address it.

This system has allowed me to largely keep my iPhone off the table and out of public gatherings during the last nine months, which I very much appreciate. All the stupid notifications I'd mindlessly check—Instagram, Facebook, non-VIP email, Star Wars Card Trader—none of those make it to my wrist. They're out of sight, out of mind.

Answering calls on my wrist

Though perhaps one of the most gimmicky Apple Watch features (or, at the least, spy-movie-worthy), I've actually found answering phone calls on my wrist to be strangely useful. It lets me quickly triage calls even when I'm doing something else with my hands, or don't have the time to find my phone before the call disconnects. The other day, I answered a call on my wrist while my hands were covered in biscuit dough and chatted with my mother as I made breakfast; sans watch, I would have just let the call go to voicemail.

I'm not advocating for answering calls on your wrist in every situation—they're still not ideal in many environments, and the Apple Watch's speaker is tinny and hard-to-hear in a crowd. Still, at the right time, it's a lovely option.

Siri... when it works

Oh, Siri. This Apple Watch feature is simultaneously a favorite and a frustration—you never know which Siri you're going to get when you press and hold the Digital Crown. I've had days where I barely needed to hold the Digital Crown before Siri was up and transcribing my query. I've also had moments where I'd hold the Digital Crown and start to speak, only to have Siri immediately go from listening to processing.

The Watch still relies heavily on your iPhone to process Siri queries; as a result, the speediness or sluggishness of your voice assistant depends largely on the iPhone (and internet connection) doing the work. Its interaction methods—"Hey Siri" and pressing the Digital Crown—can also be a little buggy unless you know tricks here and there to keep everything working. (My tips: Use "Hey Siri" only on screen wake; if you're using the Digital Crown, press it inward and hold it in until you're finished delivering your query.)

I'm complaining a lot about Siri and the watch in a section supposedly praising Siri, I know. But I only complain because Siri is so darn good when it actually works. The watch's microphone is better at identifying what you want to say than the iPhone—especially if you're in the car, since you aren't routed through your vehicle's Bluetooth speaker—and you can execute a staggering amount of commands. Kitchen timers, workouts, text messages, reminders, tip calculation, calculations, opening apps, enable or disable settings, search, get map information, play music, use HomeKit, get dictionary definitons... the list is large, and expands every time Apple updates watchOS.

I use Siri on the watch constantly in the car—it's many times better than my subpar Bluetooth speakers, and now sends messages more quickly than its iPhone counterpart. I also love using it for controlling HomeKit lights and music, and for starting workouts.

If Apple can reduce its reliance on the iPhone without deeply compromising the Watch's battery life, and make activation a little more reliable, Siri would be the Apple Watch's killer feature. It's pretty good right now—just not quite there yet.

How are you using your Apple Watch?

Any apps you've found that aren't terrible? Glances you love? Let us know in the comments.

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

46 Comments
  • I'll continue using it for the notifications alone. Even if that's all it did. I can't tell how valuable keeping my phone in my pocket has become avoiding the risks of dropping it. Sent from the iMore App
  • …Phone case?
  • That would be a lot cheaper.
  • Not to mention if he's that clumbsy, tie a rope around his neck and drill a hole in the case ala Flavor Flav
  • Notifications is largely what I use my watches for. I've had a smart watch for 2 years and maybe used an app less than half a dozen times. For my use, apps are just pollution.
  • I wear my Watch every day - morning to night. Exercise tracking, VIP emails, VIP Messages, news headlines, kitchen timer, Siri commands e.g. while in car, podcast I'm listening to ends, "Siri - play my music." On walk - "remind me to call (friend) when I get home" etc. etc. Worst part of my day is when I take off charger in morning and all my activity rings reset - but it gets me going. Sent from the iMore App
  • As much as I prefer Waze for navigation, when I'm on an trek in an unfamiliar area I use Apple Maps so that I get the turn notifications on my wrist as I drive. The haptic tap almost always occurs a moment before the app speaks up with directions. A quick look at the current temp and forecast with Dark Sky app helps determine what coat to hand our 7 year year old to wear to school that day. And I also use Siri on the watch many times a day to set an event, reminder or send and reply to text messages. I don't regret my Apple Watch purchase last spring at all - but I probably won't upgrade until v3 (unless there is some extremely compelling new advancement with v2).
  • If I leave my Apple Watch on the nightstand accidentally and start getting ready to leave for work, I just feel wrong and end up running back to the bedroom to get it. Obviously, it's the fastest way to look at the time. I don't care what anyone says, you can't take your phone out and check the time as quickly as looking at any watch. Also, super fast way to look at the weather; I'm Canadian, you never know what's happening outside. I also use it for my Cineplex Points, Air Miles, 7-Eleven points, etc. I would use Apple Pay if it was available for anything other than American Express. But my most appreciated use of the Apple Watch is changing tracks/volume wirelessly while teaching my Zumba classes. I had a Pebble before and it was difficult to do the same thing; the same buttons were used for changing tracks and changing volume. You had to press a button to enter a different mode for each and when I was teaching I often couldn't see the indicator to know what I was changing! The Apple Watch interface works much better. Do I have a bunch of apps? Yes. Do I use them? Not often. Do I like leaving my much-too-expensive-in-Canada 128 GB iPhone 6S+ in my pocket in the winter? You bet I do.
  • I haven't noticed a difference with native app support but I also think the apps I use didn't update to take advantage of the support either.
  • It's not faster to launch, but running, it's faster.
  • It's just become habit to wear it everyday though it's not as useful. Even for time it's so irritating that it doesn't have an always on display in low power mode or something. Hopefully they have that in the next version which will be a great addition. Sent from the iMore App
  • I really like Sleep++, Pedometer++, RunKeeper, Stava, and Streaks. All of these apps work great. I also use a water drinking app but it is spotty. The other 5 work perfectly everytime. I really like having a day time screen, sleep screen, and a workout screen. I do wish I could have pages of screens like to swipe other instead of force press.
  • I agree with Ren for the most part besides the health stuff which I don't use. Siri needs major improvement because when it does work, it's great. Imagine if it worked great all the time. Even with just notifications, answering (or at least knowing about) messages & phone, and those complications, it more than pays for itself.
  • I am returning my watch. I like it, but its just not worth $450 to not pull my phone out of my pocket.
    I do love having the temp and calendar on my watch home screen but i see the news 2-3 times a day. I know what the weather is going to be. I may try again with Apple watch 2 or 3 when they get much better.
  • Can we get the sports complications before the next Watch is released? Complications are definitely the biggiest reason I wanted mine
  • Maybe Apple gave people the wrong idea too early. As a first gen product, this works exactly how I thought it would. Notifications being the best feature. I switched to a 6s+ because I don't have to grab my phone all the time to get notifications. All of the other things it can do with 3rd party software I didn't think they would get right until Gen 3 actually. Battery and processor speed in wearables are not there yet. Siri, oh Siri. Until Apple adds Siri local to any device, don't know if we'll ever be happy with Her/Him( need the British voice a little closer to Jarvis).
  • With regards to watch faces and complications, it doesn't take long to switch to a different face but I always forget to change the face. It would be great if I could set certain rules that make the watch face/complications automatically change throughout the day. For example: during the work week the complications I use the most are ETA, Sunrise and Stocks. I use ETA primarily in the morning, but don't really need it again until the drive home (would use throughout the day if it could switch locations based on calendar events). At night I would like the Sleep++, Weatherunderground, and Thessa (nest control) complications on the watch face. If you have flight details or other travel info on your calendar it could switch to a watch face that has TripIt!, world clock, etc. Yes, you can switch it manually and it's pretty quick, but I'm sure there are many people just like me who already have enough to remember. Sent from the iMore App
  • I love my watch & for a first gen product it is pretty good. I drive around 2 1/2 hours everyday so answering phones, controlling podcasts, siri for music, notifications, etc is great. The activity app and watch faces for info is something that I use frequently. I even showed pictures of the manufacturing process and my product on it to people. In glances I check my heart rate and fantastical. I use the timer when I am exercising and the stop watch when I am cooking. Sent from the iMore App
  • Apple Pay and Wallet is my (or one of) big use for it. Especially the Starbucks drive thru.
  • Wear it everyday snap it on as soon as i wake up...take it off when I go to bed
    Activity tracker - it's all about the rings (must close each ring, must close each ring....'
    Notifications
    Siri - mainly for timer (cooking and ur hands are a mess)
    Time and weather
    And surprisingly phone, quite often...the clarity of the call is surprising (haven't had a "I can't hear you" yet)
  • Mine is mainly used for Exercise purposes and it is the main reason why I have improved my running stamina from less than 2 kilometers without a walking break to more than 13 kilometers since August 2015. Getting messages or answering call while having misplaced the phone is also nice. Didn't know about the ping feature until reading this article.
  • Oddly enough, my favorite thing about the Apple Watch is that it's a really good high-end watch; it's the only watch I've ever worn where I miss taking it off at night. I also enjoy nightstand mode, as I would say that it's the best alarm clock I've ever had as well. I really like the 3rd-party complication Weather Underground, it comes it handy quite a bit. I only use some of the stock Glances at the moment, and I really don't use any apps other than the Workout app, as I just find it easier to use the iPhone versions of most of them.
  • Judging by most comments (here on iMore and other sites) maybe we should consider the Watch Apple's new hobby.
  • I just bought my Apple Watch three days ago. I'm still learning but so far I like it better than the Moto 360 I tried last year. Other than the basics I would really like an imore feed on my watch..... Sent from the iMore App
  • Thanks for the "Just Press Record" tip, that is a brilliant use case for the watch. I tried it and I can see myself definitely using it. Makes me wish the watch could add or update notes with Siri. I also like Cheatsheet for quick updates and access to small bits of info, like when I travel and need to remember the hotel room. Sent from the iMore App
  • Gymaholic to track strength exercise (non cardio). water minder and caffeine tracker. August to open lock and Tile to find things. App In the Air complication when I fly. Uber - although hanging on initial screen a lot lately but as use case brilliant if they fix it. Strava to track biking. 1 Pssword.
  • It only every often that I realise how convenient it is and how much it has improved my workflow; from controlling my music/podcasts to receiving notifications. It's great.
  • I love my Apple Watch and haven't missed a single day wearing it since receiving it on April 24. Most used apps are the Workout app, Alarm, Apple Remote app, Carrot Weather, and iDevices for HomeKit accessories. I have been very frustrated at times when apps or Siri takes forever to load or process something and end up taking my iPhone out of my pocket to complete it. Been waiting for a few apps to go native (specifically Nike+ Running). Went for 100+ days of completing all three Acitivty Rings until RunKeeper mis-synched my Move goal and broke my streak. But I still love my Apple Watch even though it's frustrating at times.
  • I use mine for: Siri, which I find works amazingly when I drive. Setting me reminders, controlling my music Maps: love the taps I get. I never have to look at my phone Wunderlist: great app to keep me organised and I can tick them off from my watch. iTranslate: I work for Apple Retail and iTranslate is amazing for the customers. Worked flawlessly every time. Fit Men Cook: New Years resolution was to eat healthier and this makes it easier. Get ingredients list to my wrist which I can tick off when I shop. Activity: go to the gym regularly and love seeing how active I've been. Apple Watch has been amazing for me. When I don't wear it I do miss it and can't wait to see the future. Was a great purchase. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm enjoying the watch but the biggest problem I'm having is a lack of customization. Apple should've released its lugs for consumer purchase so that consumers could be able to purchase any band they like. The fact that Apple didn't limits their "most personal device" big time. The first Apple Watch might be my last and it's their fault.
  • Dafuq is a complication?
  • It's a watchmaking term of art - refers to displays on a watch face other than the time. Those old school mechanical watches that also displayed the phase of the moon? That's a complication.
  • I wear my watch all the time. Love screening my notifications to VIPs. It's great. Connects for work to Good App and alerts me to my appt no need to look at a screen. I use Carrot for fast weather info. Find near me app I have played with but not used but it will really help find stuff. The excercise apps I use all the time. Is it worth the price. Well depends is a suite worth 300 bucks? Compared what I pay for clothes it's well worth it. If I can trade I will get Apple Watch 2.
  • Thanks for your article, Serenity! I did also notice one article about a dude who had the watch and no longer uses it, but the people I know who have one enjoy it. I like it because of the basics: see at a glance if a call is important without having to pull out my phone; ditto for notifications; also checking the weather is simple; the timer function is right there on the watch face if I want it to be; nothing exotic or mind-blowing, but it does make daily tasks easier (and a little bit more fun)! Sent from the iMore App
  • Its hilarious how all the "cool things" users say the Apple Watch does, have been available at half the cost with other devices for years on better looking devices. The Apple Watch is the product that proves apple users will buy anything. The screen isnt always on. Its square. Its overpriced. Battery life stinks. Apple would still be ahead if its following wasnt so easily satisfied and oblivious. Because of it, Apple takes the back seat these days and leans on marketing and its logo. Nothing impressive at all from Apple anymore. Just a bunch of MeToo products that only get recognition because of past Apple success.
  • They've been available at half the cost and also with half the performance (If you've ever tried the first Android watches you'll know this). As for better looking, I like the look of the Apple Watch, it's a bit bulky, but I imagine that's for a reason, and a square screen works better for the UI, it doesn't need to be round, but maybe a round option would be nice. Battery life is subjective, it depends on how long you want to last. It lasts the whole day for me, I don't mind charging it at night or in the morning. I'm assuming you haven't tried an Apple Watch, you should give it a go first before making it sound so bad.
  • I recently bought Apple Watch(on Jan 1st) and I like it. I mainly use it for health.. I run around 15-20 kms a week so watch is a great companion. Their native workout app is good but it lacks the history of your workouts in a stack. You have to individually select the date to see on which day hiw much did you run which sucks! Also, the call feature is helpful when I drive! Overall, I'm pleased with it. Looking forward to buy a good leather strap. Sent from the iMore App
  • One thing you would love, (and quite frankly I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it yet) is the ability to save a music playlist to the watch and listen to it without the phone. You could go for a run with bluetooth headphones connected to the watch, so you can leave the phone at home. Pretty easy to do if you haven't done it already.
    PS. the Jaybird bluetooth headphones are perfect for this, and you can get them on Amazon for around $100.
  • I'm not buying another iPad until they are round. Who cares if they work well; they will look way better round. yup.
  • All of the use cases, to me, boil down to "it makes it so I don't have to take my phone out of my pocket". And I just can't see paying hundreds of dollars for that. Not to say it's no good for anyone, obviously, lots of people do find it useful. It's a headscratcher for me, though.
  • Honestly, I think most people just want something new and want to like it. Even if they dont, theyll convince themselves too, especially if theyre marketed to believe they should. Or theyll be optimistic for the future if the product stinks. A total win win for Apple. They cant lose. Not a single person I know that has a smartwatch even remotely needs it. Instead of pulling your phone out youre now constantly checking the wrist. Its a bit much and I think its the reason smartwatches arent taking off too well.
  • I counter your argument with the amount of time I've saved from looking at the garbage notifications on my phone, particularly when at work. If my hands are full and I feel a buzz in my pocket, stop what I'm doing, pull out my phone, check the notification, take or not take action from there... the cost of the time I save by just glancing at my watch and ignoring it is far more valuable than $400 pricetag, especially over the year or two which I will own and use this watch.
    And also the other side, I don't miss the important stuff - If I'm so busy that I choose to not take my phone out, I could miss an important email, but with a simple glance and I know I need to give that notification attention right now. Again, very valuable. And I use Siri all the time. For messaging, email, notes, reminders, directions, timers, checking calendar events, etc. As S.C. stated, it's not perfect, but adding up the time it does save is priceless. Sure, there are a bunch of 'cute' features that are pointless, like the proprietary drawings and sending your heartbeat. I do like to see my activity metrics. Besides those, the few useful time savers are absolutely worth the cost for me. As far as it being an Apple product, and the option for other devices from other manufacturers, I've owned a Pebble, and it was great for it's price, but it was a one-way-street; I couldn't reply to notifications at all, also no Siri. The argument (by others) about the other options out there, sure, use what you want. But the aWatch is the best option for the iPhone, which is what most of us iMore readers have chosen, reasons for which I'll save for another forum.
  • I have Just Press Record and Drafts. I'm still comparing the performance but I like Drafts' ability to convert speech to text so I can later send it to another app from my phone.
  • i just like my watch as a watch.
    pro
    -like using timer
    -notifications are so handy not always important pulling the iPhone out
    -watch bands are so nice(3rd party)
    -widgets
    -reminders(just like when i can tell siri remind me when i am back home...)
    -battery life dislike
    -expensive (here in canada )
    -apple watch bands price really?
    -should be a better way access apps like double press friends button to open four favorite apps
    -still no jailbreak
  • I just bought the Apple Watch, and so far love it. I couldn't justify the cost when it came out, and after hearing people were disappointed with it so consistently, I pretty much made up my mind to wait until the next generation. After WWDC promises about watchOS 3, and a couple of price drops I decided to pick it up for my birthday this summer. Today I just did a little search to find out what people are using their watch for - and found Ren's article here! So far the recording feature, activity app, notifications, podcast controls, also moon phases, dark sky weather app and camera remote trigger are all awesome and impressive to me. I might even try to use Omnifocus on my watch. Because I have the 6 plus and not 6S plus I am enjoying engaging Siri without plugging my phone in, and I've noticed that messages and phone calls hit my watch before I see them on my phone, which was a surprise. Lots of great suggestions here too, I'll be sure to check them out!
  • Love the watch series 2. My number one uses are (1)initiating phone calls in my car, and then switching over to bluetooth. The (SIRI feature in my car has a time delay, and is not accurate with identifying contacts). (2) Sending text messages with Siri. Remote starting my car (not sure why the actual phone app takes so long for me to log in,, and I MUST log in each time with the phone ... but the watch app stays logged in, and I can remote start my car much faster from the watch). And then there are actually a lot of useful apps for me personally. App in the Air does a fantastic job of notifying me of real-time air flight information as a complication: gate changes, delay, boarding now, etc ... The Chess.com notification on my apple watch gives more info than the notification from my iPhone ... not only do I know that a person has made a chess move, but I get to preview the board and get to think over my next move in an inconspicuous way. RainAlarm is wondering. Breaking Headline news, ... love it. One thing that really really surprised me after I bought the watch ... it can connect to wifi's that you have previously connected to with your phone. I can leave my phone at my desk and walk the football-sized building where I work and still make and receive phone calls, have access to incoming email, text messages etc ... without my phone being on me. I am looking forward to the day when the watch can take a sim card.