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15 Hidden Apple Watch Hacks You Didn’t Know About

You aren't using your Apple Watch to the fullest if you don't know about these expert-recommended hacks.

apple watch
via amazon.com

The benefits of an Apple Watch

The first time you held an iPhone in your hands, you were convinced nothing could ever top it. The accessibility! The connection! The ease of use! This was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best that technology had to offer.

And then, you got an Apple Watch. And suddenly, everything you loved about your iPhone was available to be worn around your wrist. Surely it couldn’t get any better than that! But guess what? You’ll love it even more once you learn these expert-recommended hacks.

sleep tracker
Courtesy Thomas Bradbury, GetSongkey

Sleep tracking

“First of all, every user should make sure they take advantage of the sleep tracking feature offered by the Apple Watch,” says Thomas Bradbury, technical director at GetSongKey. “Sleep is important, and this feature allows you to see how much you sleep, as well as assess your sleep quality.”

While you can get an analysis of how much time you spend in bed from your Bedtime tab in iOS 13, your apple watch won’t track how much you actually sleep or move throughout the night on its own. For that, Apple recommends using downloading one of the complementary sleep trackers within the Health app on your phone. If you’re anxious to get tracking, this simple trick can help you fall asleep in 60 seconds or less.

apple watch
Courtesy Samuel Rutter

Clearing all notifications

“While some people never clean out their notifications, others obsessively swipe them away for a nice clean tray,” notes Damien Mason, technical expert at ProPrivacy. “The ordinary way to do this is to drag down with your finger from the top of the watch, but you’re sadly limited to dismissing them one by one.” But if you’re facing notification overload, Mason has a solution. “If you want to clear them all at once, simply force touch the notification tray by pressing harder on the screen.” If you’re the type who likes to keep your tech organized you’ll want to find out the 11 things productive people do on their smartphones.

apple watch mac
Courtesy Samuel Rutter

Unlocking your Mac

“Apple is well-known for its inclusive ecosystem, rewarding customers that purchase multiple devices,” Mason explains. “You can actually unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch, just like you can with an iPhone.”

If you’d like to pair your Apple Watch and your Mac, you need to first make sure both meet the requirements. Next, on your Mac, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General > then tick the checkbox “Allow Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.” “You can now feel like the protagonist in a spy novel when accessing your Mac device,” Mason says. Of course, he adds, “It’s advised that you keep your watch safe if you choose this method, as it can bypass the need for a password.” You can also learn how to use AirDrop on any Apple device—it’s a game-changer when it comes to sharing files.

enable screenshots
Courtesy David Lynch, UpPhone

Taking screenshots

“Unlike other Apple devices, you have to manually turn on the ability to screenshot before you can actually take them,” informs David Lynch, content lead for Payette Forward, an Apple support website that helps millions of people fix problems with their iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches every month. “Taking screenshots is helpful if you want to show off your new Apple Watch Face to a friend, or if there’s something you’re unfamiliar with and you need help.”

To enable screenshots on your Apple Watch, on your iPhone open the Watch app > General >then turn on the switch for “Enable Screenshots.” Once screenshots have been enabled, you can take them on your Apple Watch by simultaneously pressing the side button and the Digital Crown. The display will flash and your Apple Watch will vibrate to indicate that a screenshot has been taken. Your Apple Watch screenshots will appear in the Photos app on your iPhone, Lynch shares.

water lock
Courtesy David Lynch, UpPhone

Water Lock

“Apple Watches are great for tracking exercise, even swimming,” Lynch says. But note that Apple Watches are water-resistant, not waterproof and there are steps you can take to help preserve your watch’s water resistance, which Apple notes diminishes over time. If you’re an avid swimmer, Apple has you covered, Lynch says. “Water Lock is automatically turned on when you select a swimming workout on your Apple Watch.” You’ll know it’s on when you see the icon of a blue drop of water at the top of your watch face.

If you want to turn it on manually—say you’re lounging in the pool versus doing laps or if you want to be extra careful when it’s raining or snowing—open the Control Center on your Apple Watch by swiping up from the bottom of the display of your home screen. “Then, tap the icon that looks like a drop of water.”

eject water apple watch
Courtesy Marcus Prendergast

Ejecting water

After your swim, it’s a smart idea to eject any water from your watch. “To do so, tap the icon of a blue water drop and turn the Digital Crown,” says Marcus Prendergast, cybersecurity of Belgravia Cybersecurity. “You’ll see a pulsating blue dot, then dancing blue raindrops on the screen as your device emits a few beeps before it notes that it’s ‘unlocked,'” he says. If it’s your phone that got dropped in water, try these tricks to save it.

apple watch
courtesy Andrew Darlow

Pairing your alarms

This simple hack makes morning’s easier, swears Andrew Darlow, a New Jersey-based author, photographer, and inventor. “Just set an alarm on your paired iPhone, and when the alarm sounds, you will see the alarm notification on your watch, which allows you to either turn off or snooze the alarm.”

Using paired alarms, he knows he won’t miss a reminder, even if his phone isn’t nearby. This has been beneficial to me because it avoids the need for me to pull out my phone (or find it if I have it charging on a stand) so that I can turn off the alarm.” On the other hand, if you need extra help waking up, these smart alarm clocks can make you a morning person.

walkie talkie
Courtesy Rebecca Lee Armstrong, HighSpeedInternet.com


“There are a ton of reasons to use walkie-talkie instead of calling or texting,” says Rebecca Lee Armstrong, tech and internet services writer at Highspeedinternet.com. “It’s a great alternative to texting during the winter because you don’t have to struggle to text wearing gloves or take off your gloves to text.” Another benefit is that the Walkie-Talkie app doesn’t have range limitations like traditional walkie talkies—you can use it wherever you have an internet connection. And, as an added bonus, “After you open the channel of communication, it stays open for continued messaging—super useful if you’re trying to meet up with someone in a crowded place,” Armstrong says.

Setting up walkie-talkie mode is simple, too. “The Walkie-Talkie app comes loaded on your Apple Watch home screen,” Armstrong explains. “It’s the yellow icon with a black walkie talkie symbol (it looks vaguely like a black and yellow version of the Instagram logo). Tap that, choose one of your contacts, and hold the on-screen button to talk.” Find out how to get better cell phone reception in your home.

i grill apple watch
Courtesy Joe Wilson, Volare Systems

Grill a better burger

There are a few gadgets that work with your Apple Watch and one that Joe Wilson, owner of Volare Systems, a custom software development company in Denver, loves is the Weber Bluetooth thermometer. “Via the iPhone app, you select the type of food you are grilling and it warns you as you get close to the preset done temperature. But the real help is that the Apple Watch also shows the temperatures of the thermometers and you get the same alert on it when your food is almost done.” Discover the 12 hidden smartphone codes you should start using ASAP.

apple maps
Courtesy Joe Wilson, Volare Systems

Get directions

“If you use Apple Maps on your iPhone for directions, you’ll also get notifications on your watch in the form of taps and clicking sounds when it’s time to turn,” Wilson says. That means you get direction reminders without having to constantly look down at your screen, which is super useful when you’re walking down a busy city street and surprisingly helpful when you’re driving and need a second reminder that yes, it’s time to turn. Find out the 10 hidden Google map tricks you never knew about.

heart monitoring
Courtesy Joe Wilson, Volare Systems

Heart monitoring

“I have been diagnosed with a-fib, and I use my Apple Watch to monitor if I am having an a-fib episode,” Wilson says. “The Apple Watch series 4 or later heart-monitoring hardware has the ability to take a low-res ECG. It records your measurements to the Apple Health app on your phone, so you can take your phone in and show your doctor your ECG results.”

If you have reason to keep special track of your heart, open the Health app on your phone > Browse > Heart > Electrocardiograms (ECG) > Set Up ECG App. Once it’s set up, open the ECG App to take an ECG.

apple watch time check
Courtesy Marcus Prendergast

Discreetly check the time

“Normally you raise your wrist rather emphatically to have the Apple Watch display the time,” Prendergast says. “But that motion and full brightness of the face can be attention-getting, especially at an event.” To check the time without signaling to anyone nearby that you’re doing so, he says to, “gently lower your wrist to a viewing angle and slowly rotate the crown. The watch will brighten up gradually allowing you to see the time discreetly.” If you’re loving these hacks, you’ll also want to check out these 17 hidden iPhone hacks you never knew about.

apple watch
Denys Prykhodov/Shutterstock

Fall detection

If you take a hard fall, one that would indicate potential injuries, your Apple Watch has your back. “If you fall and don’t tap “I’m OK” on your watch within 60 seconds, Apple Watch will call 911 and play an audio message that Apple Watch has detected a fall,” Prendergast says. It will also send a text to anyone on your emergency contact list with a text message and share your latitude and longitude coordinates.

For Apple Watch users under the age of 65, this is a feature that needs to be enabled manually. To do so launch the Watch app on your iPhone > My Watch tab > Emergency SOS > then turn Fall Detection on.

apple watch
Courtesy Justin Sochovka

Pinging your phone

“If you are anything like me, you lose your phone all the time,” says Justin Sochovka, a television host and electronics expert. “With the Apple Watch, you can ping your phone to make a noise even if it is on silent as long as it is in the Bluetooth range.” (To determine that it is, swipe up to the control screen. If the iPhone icon in the top left corner is green, it’s in range. If it’s red, it’s out of range.) On that screen tap the icon on the right with the phone with what looks like two sets of parentheses around it. These are more of the best products for people who lose things all the time.

apple watch
Courtesy Justin Sochovka

Customizing watch faces

“This seems simple, but a lot of people don’t realize they can customize virtually anything on their watch face, from the types of icons to the color of the numbers,” Sochovka explains. “Press on your watch face until you find the one you like. Click the Customize button then use the Digital Crown to scroll through the different custom features.”

This is where some people might get lost, he cautions. “If you swipe across the screen while in Customize mode, it unlocks other features that you can customize. A lot of people don’t realize you can swipe through and customize more than just the first option.” Learn 13 more things Apple employees won’t tell you.

Leah Campbell
Leah Campbell covers technology for Reader’s Digest as well as sites including Reviewed.com. She has a degree in developmental psychology and has written extensively on topics relating to infertility, dating, adoption and parenting. A single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter, Leah is also author of the book Single Infertile Female. She lives in Alaska.