How to tune your Apple Watch for the app life

 

The Apple Watch is many things to many people. As I grow into mine, I’ve come to appreciate its ability to help me focus on tasks, so I tinkered to explore ways to make it a better fit for using it first for apps, and second for time. If you’re interested in giving this a try, read on for how to set up your Watch for this workflow and a trick for making it all work.

 

To give you a couple examples: I often collect errands or house tasks in Wunderlist, then take an hour or a Saturday afternoon to get them done. While I’m going about said tasks, I really like being able to simply raise my wrist to check what I need to do without skipping much of a beat. If I need the time, it’s in the upper right corner.

I also use RunKeeper when I go skating on Chicago’s lake front trail. While I’m on my route, I sometimes raise my wrist to see my current stats like time, calories burned, and distance (if you’re curious, my iPhone is in my messenger bag). Again, if I need the time, it’s in the upper right corner of the app’s screen. In fact, I believe that’s a requirement of Apple’s design guides for the Watch.

Step 1: Settings

The first step to making your Apple Watch more app-centric is to change what you see when you raise your wrist.

Out of the box, Apple Watch defaults back to your clock face a short while after you lower your wrist, regardless of what you were doing. If you want to get back to an app, this means you have to deal with the tedium of, at best, double-pressing the crown to switch back to your previous app—which has now been put to sleep and must start up fresh and probably grab data all over again—or pressing the crown and manually navigating back to the app.

To try the app life, go to Settings on your Watch, then General > Activate on Wrist Raise. The “Wrist Raise” option at the top is enabled by default, so you can leave that. Scroll down the “Resume To” option and change it from “Clock Face” to “Last Used App.” Now, the next time you open an app for whatever you’re doing—checking stocks, watching your workout stats, controlling media, sending messages, etc.—that is what you will see from now on every time you raise your wrist.

This makes it much easier to set out for any sort of task and stick with it until you’re done.

Step 2: Get back to your watch face with this one crazy trick

(C’mon. I couldn’t resist)

I’ll admit, one of my favorite things about Watch is that I can see the current weather, my next appointment, and day’s activity, all alongside the time in one pretty layout. I figure there are two fundamental “modes” of Apple Watch: my ‘dashboard for the day’ clock face (which, true to the ‘most personal’ pitch of the Watch, could be very different from yours), and ‘app time,’ for lack of a better phrase.

You can easily get back to your dashboard from app time by double-pressing the Digital Crown. Much like “Phone” is just another app on the iPhone, “Watch” (or “Time?”) is just another app on the Apple Watch. Since double-pressing the crown switches between your two most recent apps, this is a handy trick for getting back to your watch face when you need your dashboard of info nuggets.

The Caveat

If you often switch between multiple (non-Watch/Time) apps, there’s a catch. If you switch out of Watch, open App A, then go back to apps and open App B, double-pressing the crown won’t take you back to Watch, it’ll take you back to App A. Maybe this is something Apple could let us control down the road in an update, or maybe it’s in watchOS 2 and problem solved.

Livin’ la vida Watch apps

(You want me to hang my head in shame for that sub-heading, but I won’t. You’ll have to come to terms with that)

I’ve been running this setup for just over two weeks now and I really like it. I think the core idea falls in the ballpark of some other Apple initiatives, like the full screen nature of iPad and iPhone apps which Apple brought to the Mac—focus. I set out on a task, I put the notes for that task on my wrist, I can focus on them until the job is done.

In light of native, more powerful apps on the way with watchOS 2, maybe that can be a defining characteristic of the Apple Watch: focus.