12 Apple Watch Features You Should Be Using

Man using Apple Watch showing apps on the watch faceDenPhotos/Shutterstock.com

The Apple Watch comes standard with a ton of features you should be using, including workout tracking, heart rate tracking, and more.

Apple packs a lot of exciting and useful features into the Apple Watch. Whether you’re considering buying an Apple Watch or want to make the most of the ones you already own, here are some helpful tips and tricks.

Following a training program

The Apple Watch can track a variety of workouts such as walking, running, cycling, rowing, dancing, high-intensity interval training, and more.

You can track workouts using the built-in Workout app on your watch, which provides real-time feedback on stats such as distance covered, your current heart rate and altitude achieved.

Workout overview of the Apple Fitness app

watchOS 9 has introduced even more features, such as heart rate zone tracking, which lets you know how long you’ve spent in different exercise intensity zones. Other features include new views for visualizing elevation gains and the ability to automatically switch between different activities in Multisport workouts.

RELATED: What’s New in watchOS 9

Heart rate and altitude changes in an Apple Watch workout

Exercise data is stored in the Fitness app on your iPhone, while metrics such as heart rate, running pace and more are recorded in the Health app. You can view workouts for information such as split times, route, average heart rate, elevation gain, and more.

Apple Watch Workout Card View

For many, exercising alone is a good reason to own an Apple Watch. Over time you will build up a detailed picture of your fitness and you can visualize areas for improvement.

Activity monitoring

Apple Fitness App Activity Rings

The Apple Watch uses Activity Rings to motivate you to be more active. These activity rings include:

Move: records your total active energy burned during the day Exercise: records minutes of intense exercise for the day Standing: records how many hours you have taken a moment to stand

These rings use goals to motivate you. For example, you can fill your Move ring daily to earn a Move streak. But if you miss a day, you have to start over. The Apple Watch will suggest an appropriate exercise target for you based on your age and activity level, but you can also adjust it manually.

Activity monitoring works well alongside workout tracking. Since exercise tracking will help you reach your exercise goal, a challenging but achievable exercise goal can motivate you to use the Workout app to track your exercise.

Before you know it, you’ll be going around the block to catch up on a few extra minutes of training or complete your Move ring.

Fall and crash detection

Fall detection is a potentially life-saving feature that can alert emergency services if your watch suspects you have fallen. You need an Apple Watch Series 4, SE or later to use the feature. You can enable fall detection anytime or only during workouts using your iPhone under Watch > Emergency SOS > Fall Detection.

Switch fall detection in Watch app for iPhone

The feature detects a hard fall and then prompts you to respond, with a slider you can drag to the right to call for help.

If your watch doesn’t detect any movement, it makes the call for you, with Siri notifying rescuers of your location and the situation that led to the call. You have time to cancel the call if the function has been activated unnecessarily.

Crash detection is a feature on the second-generation Apple Watch Ultra, Series 8, and SE (plus the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro) watches. It uses modern sensors that can detect the level of force associated with what Apple calls a “serious” car accident. The feature will prompt you to call emergency services or call them for you if you don’t respond.

Switch crash detection in Watch app for iPhone

Crash detection is enabled by default on Apple Watch models that support it. You can disable it with your iPhone under Watch > Emergency SOS > Call After Severe Crash, but you should probably leave it on.

Find your iPhone quickly

Swipe up on your Apple Watch while the watch face is displayed to reveal Control Center, which offers a few quick shortcuts just like Control Center on your iPhone or iPad. Tap the iPhone icon to send an alert to your phone, causing it to make a loud noise.

Quickly find your iPhone with your Apple Watch

This is ideal for recovering a lost iPhone or making sure your smartphone is in your bag when you leave home.

Compass, Waypoints and Backtrack

The Apple Watch Series 5 and newer features a digital compass, accessible through an app or watch face Complication. watchOS 9 has revamped the app with new features, including the ability to drop waypoints, locate your parked car, and retrace your steps with the Backtrack feature.

By placing a Complication Compass on your watch face, you can see at a glance which direction you are looking. This arguably has limited use in a world where GPS and online maps are commonplace, but it’s still useful for getting your bearings.

You can drop waypoints with the “Waypoint” button in the lower left corner and even set up a dial complication that can lead you back.

Apple Watch Compass App Views

Backtrack is new to watchOS 9 and works by recording your route so you can find your way home if you need to. The feature is probably most useful for outdoor explorers and can be accessed quickly by holding down the side button (under the Digital Crown) and then sliding the “Compass Backtrack” slider to the right.

Watch Face Complications

Apple Watch Infograph Watch Face

Like any other smartwatch, the Apple Watch is great for getting information at a glance. This means not only reading notifications on your wrist as they come in, but also seeing information useful to you when you look at your watch.

Complications range from the current temperature or UV index to your next Apple Calendar appointment. There are even complications in telling you how many hours of daylight you have until sunset, the time on the other side of the world, or the song currently playing.

You can set up Apple Watch Face complications by tapping and holding the face and then choosing “Edit” or using the watch app on your iPhone under the Face Gallery tab. We recommend that you create a pair of watch faces so that you can switch between them.

These complications are also useful for setting a timer, starting a workout, or activating a shortcut. If you want to get as much information as possible on one watch face, try Infograph or Modular.

Heart rate monitoring

Resting heart rate information for a year in Apple Health

All Apple Watch models are equipped with a heart rate monitor that measures throughout the day, including during exercise, rest and sleep. This information is recorded in the Health app on your iPhone and gives you insight into statistics such as resting heart rate and walking heart rate.

If desired, you can also take real-time measurements with the Heart app on your Apple Watch. Heart rate tracking combined with heart rate zones in the watchOS 9 Workouts app can help you achieve specific levels of exercise intensity, which is especially helpful for runners and triathletes.

In addition, your Apple Watch can give you high and low heart rate notifications, which can indicate the presence of a heart condition or a condition that requires emergency treatment.

You can enable these alerts with your iPhone under Watch > Heart with the options “High heart rate” and “Low heart rate”.

Focus mode Switch between watch face

Customize the focus lock screen, home screen and watch face

Focus modes are not unique to the Apple Watch. They also work on iPhone, iPad and Mac. You can use Focus modes to reduce distractions and improve productivity.

This feature allows you to automate lock screens on your iPhone and watch faces on your Apple Watch. By pairing your watch face with a particular Focus mode, your watch face changes throughout the day based on whatever you’re doing.

It lets you turn your watch face into an activity-focused face while you’re at the gym, a distraction-free face while driving, and something more casual while at home.

Follow cycle

The iPhone and Apple Watch can be used for menstrual cycle tracking and fertility window predictions. You can set this up using the Health app on your iPhone under the Cycle Tracking option in the “Browse” tab. The feature requires you to record symptoms, including start and end dates, which you can do on both devices.

Using an Apple Watch should theoretically make Cycle Tracking all the more accurate. Heart rate information from your Apple Watch can improve predictions, and if you have an Apple Watch Series 8 or newer, the wrist temperature sensor measures changes in your basal temperature while you sleep to improve things even further.

Wallet and Apple Pay

Wallet app on iPhone

Apple Pay is now widely accepted and available at most major banks and financial institutions for contactless payment. After you set up Apple Pay under Watch > Wallet & Apple Pay, you can make purchases with your watch.

Once done, all you need to do is double-tap the side button (below the Digital Crown) and hold your watch over a contactless payment terminal to complete a transaction. Customer cards can also be scanned in this way.

If you’re lucky, you live in a city or state where you can also keep transit cards and driver’s licenses in your Apple Wallet.

Sleep tracking

If you’re comfortable wearing your Apple Watch at night, you can set Sleep in the Health app (select “Sleep” in the “Browse” tab). This gives you detailed information about the quality of your sleep and recommendations on when to relax for the night to increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.

Wearing a watch to bed isn’t for everyone, and you’ll need to figure out the best time to charge your watch during the day rather than just leaving it on the charger next to your bed.

With your Apple Watch, you can set different sleep schedules depending on the day of the week, use your Apple Watch as an alarm clock, and see interesting data about how long you spent in each sleep stage.

Emergency SOS Alerts

SOS emergency call for Apple Watch

Last but certainly not least, the Apple Watch is arguably the fastest way to get help if you’re in a life-threatening situation. Press and hold the side button on your Apple Watch until the countdown reaches zero (or use the “SOS” slider that appears on the touchscreen). Your Apple Watch calls emergency services and shares your location with them.

When you’re done, all emergency contacts you’ve named in your Medical ID will receive a text (or you can cancel). Contacts also receive updates when your location changes for a short period of time after an SOS emergency call.

If you have an Apple Watch Series 5, a first-generation SE, or later, International Emergency Calling works even abroad in supported countries and regions. To make an SOS emergency call, you must be within range of your iPhone or have an Apple Watch GPS+cellular model.

Tips and tricks for using your Apple Watch

If you’ve just received your wearable, check out our Apple Watch Beginner’s Guide. You should also learn how to use features like Low Power Mode and how to install apps directly with the watch.

Finally, check out our favorite Apple Watch tips and tricks that all watch owners should know.

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