For MacRumors readers who just got a new Apple Watch for the holidays, we’ve created a list of 10 useful tips and tricks that you won’t want to miss in order to get the most out of your new watch, whether you’re new to Apple Watch entirely or upgrading from an earlier version.
Apple Watch Basics
New to the Apple Watch? We have some how-tos for beginners that will walk you through setup and basic features on your device so you don’t miss out on anything.
10 Tips for New Apple Watch Owners
Beyond the basics, here are 10 more useful tips about your new Apple Watch:
1. Track Your Sleep
If you wear your Apple Watch to bed, it will track the amount of time that you’re asleep, providing insight into how long you’re in bed, how much of that time you spend sleeping, and your heart rate.
To have your Apple Watch automatically track your sleep when you go to bed, you need to set up Sleep Mode, which you can do in the Health app by following our tutorials.
With Sleep Mode, you tell your devices what time you want to go to sleep and what time you want to start winding down for bed. Sleep Mode will automatically silence your notifications at your Wind Down time, though you can customize who can contact you in Sleep Mode using the Focus interface.
When you wake up in the morning, Apple will provide you with a summary of the notifications that you received while you were sleeping, the weather for the day, and more.
Sleep data that’s gathered by Apple Watch can be viewed in the Health app by going to the “Browse” tab and selecting “Sleep.” It will provide information on your sleep trends, such as how well you slept one night compared to another night, and how consistent your sleep is from night to night.
Tip: Wearing your Apple Watch to bed has a benefit in addition to sleep tracking — you can get woken up with a haptic alarm. The Apple Watch will gently tap you on the wrist until you wake up, which is useful if you sleep with a partner and want to wake quietly.
2. Unlock Your iPhone With Your Watch When Wearing a Mask
If you have both an iPhone with Face ID and an Apple Watch, you can enable a feature that will let you unlock your phone while wearing a mask using the Apple Watch as an extra authentication layer.
To use this feature, you need to make sure to enable it in the Settings app under “Face ID & Passcode,” with specific instructions available in our how-to.
Once turned on, after you unlock your Apple Watch with an unlocked iPhone or your Apple Watch passcode, your Apple Watch will be able to unlock your iPhone through skin contact verification. When you’re wearing a mask and swipe up to unlock your iPhone using Face ID, it will read your face and authenticate via the Apple Watch, successfully unlocking your device.
It’s a method that’s much quicker than having to enter a passcode whenever you have a mask on, and it’s secure, too. Apple lets you know any time your watch unlocks the iPhone through a notification on your wrist, and the iPhone and Apple Watch need to be in close proximity to one another for the feature to work.
Tip: Unlocking the iPhone with an Apple Watch is based on a long-available feature that lets a Mac be enabled with an Apple Watch. If you haven’t turned this on, it’s super handy. Just go to System Preferences on your Mac, select “Security & Privacy,” and enable “Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac.”
3. Set a Photo as Your Watch Face
You can set one of your own photos as your watch face so you can glance down at your favorite places, people, or pets whenever you go to check the time. It’s easiest to set a photo as a watch face on iPhone, following these instructions:
- Open up the Watch app on iPhone.
- Tap on “Face Gallery.”
- Scroll down to “Photos” and tap it.
- You can select an album of photos, such as your Favorites, or choose to select up to 24 individual photos from your Camera Roll. There’s also an option for Dynamic, which uses photos from your Memories.
- Tap on “Album” to choose an album, select “Choose Photos…” to choose photos, or tap on “Dynamic” to have it pull from Memories.
- If you want to add a tint to your photos, pick a color from the top bar.
- Scroll down to “Time Position” and choose “Top” or “Bottom,” and then select your Complications if you want to use them.
- Scroll back up to see a preview of your watch face, and tap “Add” if it looks good.
- Tap on the “My Watch” tab.
- Tap on the “Photos” watch face that you created.
- Choose “Set as Current Watch Face.”
Tip: In watchOS 8, Apple added a new “Portraits” watch face that accompanies the Photos face. With the Portraits face, you can choose a photo that you’ve captured using Portrait mode and set it as a watch face. With the data from the portrait photo, there is a sense of depth to the watch face, with the time able to be placed behind the subject in some images. To set it, follow the steps above, but choose Portraits instead of Photos at step 3.
Note that this effect only works with photos of people, and not pets or objects captured in Portrait mode.
4. Set Up Express Transit
In select cities with robust transit options, there’s a nifty Express Transit feature that lets you pass through a transaction gate with just a tap of your Apple Watch, with no need to wake your device or authenticate with a passcode.
Express Transit is super simple and convenient, whether you live in a city with the feature or are visiting. The feature can be set up through the Wallet app, and we have a how-to with full instructions. All you need is an iPhone and Apple Watch, and a debit or credit card linked to Apple Pay to pay for your fare.
In the United States, Express Transit is available in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington D.C. It’s also available in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Sweden, the UK, and more, with a full list available on Apple’s website.
Express Transit is well worth setting up if you’re in an area where it’s accepted because of how quick and convenient it is. In New York, for example, if you want to get on the subway, you just tap your wrist on the turnstile and pass through. The charge goes onto your linked Apple Pay card with no other interaction from you. You don’t even need a MetroCard.
In some cities like San Francisco, you do need to add a card to your Wallet app first, which can be done by opening up the Wallet app, tapping the “+” button, selecting “Transit Card” and choosing the card for the city that you’re in. After this, you can still use the Express functionality that lets you tap and go without authenticating.
You can use Express Transit with either the iPhone or the Apple Watch, but as with Apple Pay, it’s most convenient to use the Apple Watch as it’s right on the wrist.
5. Time Your Handwashing
Washing your hands for an appropriate amount of time to eliminate viruses has been important in the ongoing global health crisis, and to make sure people are washing for a full 20 seconds, Apple added a Handwashing timer.
With this feature, the Apple Watch will detect when you’re washing your hands based on the motion and the sound of running water, and it will start a 20 second countdown so you know how long to continue. Here’s how to enable it:
- Open up the Settings app on Apple Watch.
- Swipe down or use the Digital Crown to scroll down to “Handwashing,” and tap it.
- Toggle on the “Handwashing Timer.”
From there, the Apple Watch will detect when you’re washing your hands. If you’d also like to receive a notification to remind you to wash your hands after returning home from an errand, you can also toggle on “Handwashing Reminders.”
Tip: If you open up the Health app and search for “Handwashing,” you can see statistics on how often you wash your hands and for how long.
6. Control Your Apple TV With Your Watch
If you have an Apple TV set-top box, you can control it using the Remote app on your Apple Watch, which is useful if you lose your remote.
- Press on the Digital Crown to get to your App List or App Grid, depending on your App View.
- Find the “Remote” app, which is labeled as Remote and has a blue icon with a triangle in the center.
- Tap it.
- Wait a moment as the watch syncs to the Apple TV sets in your home.
- Select the Apple TV you want to control.
From there, you can turn on the Apple TV by tapping on the little TV icon in the bottom left of the display, and scroll through the interface using swipe gestures. To launch an app or make a selection, just tap.
Tip: Tap on the “+” button to add an Apple TV that your watch is not linked to and go to Settings > General > Remotes on the Apple TV set. The Remote feature is compatible with the third-generation Apple TV and later.
7. Get Help in an Emergency
If you want to be able to get help quick in an emergency, you can enable an SOS feature on the Apple Watch that calls emergency services with the press of a button.
- Open up the Settings app on the Apple Watch.
- Scroll down to “SOS.”
- Enable “Hold Side Button.”
With the SOS feature toggled on, your Apple Watch will begin dialing emergency services in the country where you’re located if you hold down the side button. The side button is the rounded rectangular button below the Digital Crown.
Holding it down calls emergency services, but you will have a countdown to stop the call in case it gets activated by accident.
Tip: If you want the Apple Watch to be able to automatically call emergency services if you take a hard fall, enable fall detection in this same section. If you slip and are knocked unconscious or have an accident on a bike, skateboard, or other mode of transportation, your Apple Watch can get you help.
8. Remove Apps From Your Apple Watch
If you have a bunch of apps on your Apple Watch that you don’t need, you can get rid of them.
- Unlock your Apple Watch and go to the App View.
- Long press on the Apple Watch display.
- Tap on “Edit Apps.”
- Scroll through the list or swipe through the grid (depending on your view choice) to locate apps you don’t want.
- Tap on the small “x” on the app to delete an app or swipe to get to the delete interface if you use the List view.
- Confirm that you want to delete the app.
Note that there are core apps that cannot be removed from the Apple Watch like Activity, Compass, App Store, Heart Rate, Maps, Mail, and Messages, but there are a number that can be eliminated for a cleaner look.
You can remove Alarms, ECG, Blood Oxygen, Memoji, Find Items, Cycle Tracking, Mindfulness, Sleep, and other similar apps. If you want them back later after deleting them, you will need to redownload them from the App Store.
9. Share a Photo From Your Watch
As of watchOS 8, Apple is allowing users to share photos directly from their Apple Watches. If you come across an image on your watch that you want to share, you can send it to someone else right from your wrist.
- Open up the Photos app on the Apple Watch.
- Select a photo that you want to share and tap it.
- Tap on the small share icon on the bottom right of the photo.
- Apple will offer your most recent contacts to send it to, or you can scroll down and send it to anyone using Messages or Mail.
- Select a contact, and then write a message if you want to add one.
Tip: The Photos app on Apple Watch can display one album from your iPhone photos. To change it, open up the Watch app on iPhone, scroll down and select Photos, and tap on “Sync Album” to choose an album to sync to your Apple Watch.
You can sync up to 500 photos, but be aware that the number of photos that you choose affects the storage space on your Apple Watch. In the Watch app under Photos, you can also choose to sync memories and sync featured photos. With these options enabled, your featured memories and images will show up in the Photos app, and the selection will change daily.
10. Make Apple Watch Text Larger
Apple Watch text can be tiny, especially on the smaller 40 and 41mm Apple Watch models. You can make it bigger by following these steps:
- Open up the Settings app on Apple Watch.
- Scroll down to “Display & Brightness” and tap it.
- Tap on “Text Size.”
- Tap on the “Aa” on the right side of the display to make the text bigger, and tap on the “Aa” icon on the left side to make it smaller again.
When you adjust the text size, any app that supports Dynamic Type will show your preferred text size. If you want to make text even more visible, toggle on the “Bold Text” option below text size.
Learn More About Your Watch
We have dedicated roundups for the Apple Watch Series 7 and the Apple Watch SE, both of which provide a complete overview of the different features available with each model. Our watchOS 8 roundup also offers a good look at the newest features introduced to the Apple Watch through software.