Quick tips on using apps with Apple Watch.

In using the Apple Watch for a few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out the best patterns and methods of usage for my life, and how it fits in. I definitely enjoy the device and while I’ve seen people decry it as a superfluous bauble, I’m convinced of the variety of ways in which it can provide simple support on a day-to-day basis. I think it’s extremely important to think about the device in this way–as a support system for small tasks, not a replacement for your primary input, which for most of us is our iPhone.

There’s no shortage of writing on the Watch, and I’ve been thinking about what I want to say about it. I’ve decided (for now) to keep it as pragmatic as possible, since the market on breathless analysis is pretty much tied up. Not that I had much anyway. I’m exhausted with the state of technology coverage on the web right now, and I’m avoiding much of it in favor of exploring some other interests I’ve been neglecting. But I’ll share some things I’ve figured out because I think they’re useful. Maybe you’ll find them useful too.

Get to apps more quickly
Given that the Watch’s navigation is so different from iOS proper, I wanted to find ways to maximize efficiency in moving around the UI. A lot of people seem to feel that glances are the way to go, so you can peek into an app and then tap to jump directly to it, but I’ve found that glances take time to load and I don’t like the horizontal structure they employ once you start using more than four or five. So I’ve limited my glances to only three: Now Playing, Workflow, and the non-removable Settings. Instead, I’ve clustered my most-used apps around one another so that they are all easily tappable without scrolling the magnetic ball-pit that is the Watch’s Springboard equivalent. I found that even when the icons are in a partially-shrunken state, they are still tappable, which makes that first view when you press the Digital Crown so important.

Crown press, one tap, into an app. About as difficult as opening a folder to launch an app on your phone. I know where things are, and I don’t have to wait for a potentially finicky glance view to load first. Glances remain for quick access to infrequent actions.

Create an arrangement that snaps quickly
Although you can arrange the apps on your Watch in a variety of ways, I’ve found that quickly zipping up or down with a swipe is a very easy gesture to pull off. I’ve put a few apps that are less-used but require quick access at the very top and bottom of the arrangement. So when I swipe quickly up or down, the arrangement zips to that point and sticks. I have Workflow at the top and the Apple Remote app at the bottom.

Speaking of your arrangement, make it fit the display effectively
Since the Watch is a vertical screen, and since you can actively tap icons that are in a partially shrunken state, keep the width of your app arrangement tight to the width of the display. You can see here, how the overall number of apps I’m displaying varies between three and four, but doesn’t exceed that, so I only have to move in two directions to see everything (up and down). Once you get used to limiting the dimensions in which you need to move to see things on the tiny screen, actions and choices get smoother and easier.

BONUS ROUND: Flip the body, save the world
The second I put the Watch on, I knew that the Digital Crown would not be comfortable for me in its top right position. I immediately detached the band, flipped the body, and reoriented the UI with the DC on the bottom, and the side button on top. Pressing these with your thumb (if you wear your Watch on the left hand) and anchoring with your index finger is way better. YMMV.

Author: Seth Clifford

I'm here for the open bar.