I wear my Apple Watch seven days a week, but recently realized that I do so for different reasons throughout the week. These days, it’s with me at least as much as, if not more than, my iPhone, so I decided to explore how I can make my Apple Watch even more contextually useful for each day’s tasks. After experimenting with the new watchOS 3 faces features, and getting a pair of AirPods, I’m getting the urge to break into song.
In watchOS 3, Apple added the ability to quickly swipe between multiple Watch faces. After playing with this effortless switching, I realized that it feels like swiping between pages of apps on an iPad or iPhone.
Now, I’m also the type of person who organizes my app pages by task or context. Page 1 is my most important personal + work apps, page 2 is for my photo, video, and music hobbies, page 3 is strictly work apps, and so on. Once I combined these two ideas, things started to click.
I got my Apple Watch in its early days, and my go-to face has always been an info-dense (for a watch, anyway) dashboard of my day’s events, tasks, and physical activity. I was looking for a way to be more present and cut down on how often I have my phone in my pocket or hands. This face was a great solution.
Around the beginning of December 2016, I decided to add a “relax mode” Watch face. It uses one of the new animated jelly fish backgrounds with only a clock and Drafts complication for quickly dictating ideas to revisit later. In the evening or on weekends when I had little-to-no work to finish, this “no work stuff allowed” face would serve as a nice on-demand reminder that it’s chill time.
After my standard work-based dashboard face, this was my second purpose-built Watch face. It worked great and made me think about Watch faces as the new app pages – quick access to a few apps for related tasks. Now that faces are so easy to switch between, what other occasions, tasks, or purposes could use a Watch face?
The Setup – Watch faces as the new app pages
It was easy to go down the rabbit hole, separating my days or even portions of them into all kinds of categories and “modes,” for lack of a better word. But I eventually settled on a few general purposes for which I think an individual, customized Watch face might be useful. Here we go, in order of appearance in the gallery below from top left to bottom right.
Music – The perfect AirPods companion for me
I love my AirPods, they go everywhere with me now. Pro-tip for pants people: the case probably fits in that little change pocket just above your right pocket.
However, I’d say around 50-60 percent of the time, I’m listening to a playlist I created or something I’m exploring from Apple Music, which means spurts of skipping. Since I’m trying to keep my phone in a pocket or, ideally, my bag or on the shelf at home more often, I realized I could create pretty quick access to media controls with a Watch face.
I didn’t expect to turn this music dashboard into what is technically now the first Watch face in my lineup, but there it is. Now I can quickly swipe a couple times to control my AirPods music without digging out my phone or fumbling with other app controls.
There’s a catch here, though, and I might have to tinker more. The music complication in the middle of this Modular face doesn’t have controls, it’s really just a nice big tap target for me to open the Music for Watch app and then start controlling stuff (tip: to quickly get back to your Watch face from an app like this, double-press the crown). I’ve considered adding a smaller complication to other faces, and maybe I simply don’t need this one. We’ll see.
Ultimately, I wish I could have one of two things. The first, and my preference, is an update to the Watch Control Center to give it multiple pages like iOS 10 added for iPad and iPhone. Also like iOS 10, it could remember the last page I picked, so swiping up on my Watch during a good music session could always display media controls.
Failing that, I could also go for a mini-music dashboard Watch face, or at least the complications we could use to build one. It could display the current thing playing and controls right on the face; no switching away from the clock to other apps. With the popularity of AirPods and how well they go with a Watch (iPhone not necessarily required), I wouldn’t be surprised if this arrives soon. Yes, I’ve submitted this idea to Apple’s feedback and bugreporter sites.
General purpose – Modular face
My standard face that I’ve had practically since day one with watchOS 1. Like my first iPhone and iPad app page, this is quick access to some basics for most days: date, Timepage in the middle (my new favorite calendar app), Drafts, Activity, and Weather Underground.
Work – Modular
This feels self-explanatory. Todoist in the upper left, Timepage again in the middle, then Drafts, Hours for time tracking, and AnyList in case there are errands I can run during my day. I’d prefer to have Trello in the lower right, but they don’t have a Watch complication yet. Hopefully soon.
Personal – Modular
A face for non-work personal days of errands, friends, and chores around the house. Timepage in the upper right, Todoist in the middle, then Drafts, AnyList, and Activity. I feel like I want to tinker with this one more, maybe replace Activity with something else. But for now it’s pretty good.
Activity – Analog
I deleted most of the default faces, but kept this one. On the (gradually more frequent) days where I exercise, I like having quick access to a dashboard of the health apps I use. Right now I use a mix of Apple’s workout tracking and RunKeeper, though I’m getting really unhappy with the latter. Details aside, I love having this big colorful view of how much exercise ass I’m kicking.
Relax – Motion
This is the chill out face I mentioned earlier, and in some ways my favorite. It isn’t just the pretty video—I love having an always-available dashboard, of sorts, which reinforces the idea that right now is my time, and I can do whatever I want.
Relax 2 – Photo Album
I sync my favorite photos from Apple Photos to my watch. This face is just an alternative for relaxing, and the only one that doesn’t have Drafts. I sacrificed it in the name of having a more complete view of my photos.
A work in progress
This is new territory for me, so I’ll continue to tweak my Watch faces and replace apps or switch faces altogether. Overall though, I’m really happy, as I feel like I’ve unlocked a new level of Watch usefulness. I hope some of these ideas can do the same for you.