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Tips & Tricks

Taking screenshots on your Apple Watch

It’s pretty common knowledge by now how to take a grab a screenshot on your iPhone, but what about if you want to capture an image of whatever you’re looking at on your Apple Watch? The concept isn’t much different from the iPhone; simultaneously pressing the only two buttons on the Watch — the Digital Crown and the side button — has been the usual way of capturing a screenshot on the Apple Watch, however watchOS 3 threw an extra wrinkle into the mix.

In watchOS 3, Apple chose to also assign the simultaneous press of both side buttons to the Workout app, allowing you to quickly pause and resume an in-progress workout. On the assumption that most users are more likely to want to pause/resume workouts than take screenshots, by default watchOS 3 disables the screenshot feature. Fortunately, however, you can turn the option back on with a quick visit into the iPhone’s Apple Watch app; the Enable Screenshots setting can be found in the General section. Note that enabling screenshots on the Apple Watch doesn’t change the behaviour of the Workouts app, so you’ll still be able to pause your workouts in the same way, but the downside is that you’ll get a screenshot every time you do that as well.

Using Theatre Mode in watchOS 3.2

The biggest change in watchOS 3.2, released earlier this week, is the addition of a new “Theater Mode” feature that should allow you to be more discrete when wearing your Apple Watch in darker places. As the name implies, the main idea behind Theater Mode is to ensure that your watch face doesn’t accidentally light up when fidgeting around in your seat at the theater, but of course realistically it can be used in any environment where you want to keep your watch face dark unless you’re very specifically looking at it; let’s face it, as convenient as the “raise to wake” feature is, we’ve all had those moments.

Activating Theater Mode is pretty straightforward: Swipe up on your watch face to access the Control Center, and tap the button that looks like two theater masks. Under the hood, enabling Theater Mode really just combines two features that have been on the Apple Watch since its inception: Silent Mode and Wake Screen on Wrist Raise. While Silent Mode can be toggled on and off from Control Center just as easily as Theater Mode, the “Wake Screen” option requires digging into the watchOS Settings app, so Theatre Mode is definitely a much easier way to deal with this. Note that you can also turn Silent Mode OFF again (e.g. un-mute your watch) from Control Center without disabling Theater Mode, which can be useful if you’re in a situation where you don’t want your Apple Watch screen waking up automatically, but still want to be able to hear alerts (and listen to Mickey and Minnie speak the time).

Using your Apple Watch without your iPhone

If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you’ve probably become accustomed to using it “fully online” with your paired iPhone within Bluetooth range, or by itself where you’re only tracking workouts and aren’t concerned about too much else. It’s easy for most of us to forget that the Apple Watch actually has its own Wi-Fi radio, and can actually connect directly to just about any Wi-Fi network — provided your iPhone has joined it before — and allow you to do quite a few things without your iPhone nearby. You can check if your Apple Watch is connected directly to a Wi-Fi network, rather than your iPhone, by swiping upward from the watch face and looking at the icon in the top right corner; you’ll see a green cloud here when you’re on a direct Wi-Fi connection.

While directly connected to a Wi-Fi network, you’ll still be able to send and receive iMessages and even make phone calls using FaceTime Audio, or even the cellular network if you’re on a carrier like AT&T or T-Mobile that supports Wi-Fi calling over iCloud connected devices. You can also control your HomeKit accessories, check weather and stocks, set and respond to reminders, and use Siri for anything that doesn’t require access to an app on your iPhone. The catch here is that your Apple Watch will only connect to networks that your iPhone has previously joined, and there’s no way to join captive networks from the Apple Watch, meaning this feature probably won’t be too useful when you’re stopping into a Starbucks on your run — although of course you’ll still be able to pay for your coffee using Apple Pay or a card in your Wallet app.

Sorting your Friends’ Apple Watch Activity

If you’ve got friends and colleagues who are also Apple Watch users, you can help motivate each other by sharing your Activity rings with up to 25 of your friends. Once you’ve invited a friend and they’ve accepted your invitation, you can see their Activity data either by swiping to left from your rings in the watchOS Activity app, or by going to the Sharing tab in the Activity app on your iPhone.

By default, this list sorts you and your friends alphabetically by name, showing your progress toward each of your move goals. You can actually change this sort order, however, to rank yourself among your friends by how far you’ve each progressed toward your daily Move, Exercise, or Steps goals, or how many workouts you’ve completed — giving yourself even more motivation to get to the top of the leaderboard each day. In the iPhone Activity app, this is done from the Sort button in the top-right corner, while on the Apple Watch Activity app you can force touch (press hard) while viewing your friend list to access the option sorting options. On the Apple Watch, you’ll also see the current sort order displayed at the top of the list.

Muting Activity Sharing Notifications from friends on Apple Watch

Apple expanded the Activity app in watchOS 3 with a new feature that allows you to share the progress of your activity rings with up to 25 of your friends, family, co-workers, and other workout buddies. It’s relatively straightforward to set up — just go to the Activity app on your iPhone, select the Sharing button at the bottom, and follow the instructions — once you’ve added friends and they’ve accepted your sharing requests, you’ll both be able to see each other’s activity and you’ll start getting notifications on your Apple Watch whenever one of them closes their rings or completes an achievement or workout.

However, if you find that being constantly reminded of how far your friends are progressing ahead of you is more of a de-motivator, or simply want to be able to see your friends’ activity without being bothered by notifications during the day, you can mute the notifications from any of the users with whom you’re sharing your activity without having to “unfriend” them. To do this, go to the Sharing tab in the Activity app on your iPhone, select the user whose notifications you’d like to mute, and tap the “Mute Notifications” button. Your friend won’t know that you’ve muted their notifications, and you’ll still be able to see how they’re doing toward their goals if you care to go in and check, but you’ll no longer get notifications as they progress throughout the day.

Using the Digital Crown to peek at your Apple Watch screen

Along with major enhancements like built-in GPS and swim workouts, the Apple Watch Series 2 includes another unique new feature which allows you to gradually wake the screen using the Digital Crown — essentially letting you sort of “peek” at it. The setting to enable this can be found under General, Wake Screen in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, although oddly it’s not present in the corresponding section in the watchOS Settings app — you have to enable it from your iPhone.

Keeping the Christmas Tree Lights On with HomeKit

If you’ve got more than a couple of lights tied into your HomeKit system, you’ve probably gotten accustomed to using Siri commands like “Turn off the lights” when you’re leaving home, going to bed, or just otherwise want to de-illuminate your home. Of course, in that case, this time of year you’re probably going to be tempted to plug your Christmas tree or other holiday lights into a HomeKit-compatible plug so that you can control them using Siri and HomeKit automation. It’s a great idea, but suddenly you might find yourself avoiding Siri commands to turn all of your lights off at home, or in a given room if you still want to leave the Christmas lights on.

Making the Mickey and Minnie Mouse Apple Watch faces speak the time

Along with the new Minnie Mouse Watch Face in watchOS 3, Apple has also snuck in the ability to have both Mickey and Minnie actually announce the time when you tap on them.

The feature is normally enabled by default for both of these Mickey and Minnie Watch Faces, but if you’re having trouble, swipe up to access Control Center and make sure your watch isn’t set to silent mode, and go into the watchOS Settings app, choose Sound & Haptics, and scroll down to ensure that Tap to Speak Time is enabled. If it’s the first time you’ve used the feature, you may also need to ensure that you’re connected to Wi-Fi (via your paired iPhone) and wait a few minutes for the necessary voice data to be downloaded over the Internet.

Accessing Apple Watch Glances with Siri

If you’ve got an Apple Watch on your wrist, you’re probably already familiar with Glances — those useful summaries of information from built-in and third-party apps. What you may not realize, however, is that you can call up specific glances by name with Siri — even glances that aren’t included in your list of active glances.

Using the iPhone as a remote camera with Apple Watch

If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you probably already know that you can use your wearable device as a camera remote to take pictures on your iPhone from your wrist, but you may not realize that it also makes a great way to keep an eye on what’s happening elsewhere in your home or nearby, directly from your wrist.

For example, you could leave your iPhone in a kid’s room to keep an eye on the youngsters while you’re busy with other household tasks, or check on the status of lights in the kitchen when trying to figure out which circuit breakers are which in the basement of your house. As the link between the iPhone and your Apple Watch is limited to the standard Bluetooth range of about 30 feet, you won’t be able to roam far, but it should work reasonably well in a small home or office setting.

Using photos for an Apple Watch Face

Apple provides some pretty nice built-in Faces for the Apple Watch, but if you’re really looking to give the Apple Watch your own personal sense of style, you’ll be happy to know that watchOS 2 lets you select one of your own photos to use as an Apple Watch Face. You can choose to either use a single photo (including Live Photos if you’ve got an iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, or iPhone SE), or choose to cycle through your entire synced photo album.

Using ‘Nearby’ on Apple Watch

While Apple’s watchOS 2.2 update wasn’t nearly as feature-packed as iOS 9.3 or even tvOS 9.2, it did offer up at least one particularly useful new feature: The “Nearby” feature from iOS 9’s Apple Maps comes not only to CarPlay, but also to the Apple Watch, once you’re running watchOS 2.2.

See when messages were received on an Apple Watch

Due to the limited screen space, the Apple Watch adds timestamps to your messaging conversations far less frequently, so it may not be clear just by glancing when a given message was actually sent or received. Fortunately there’s an easy way to check this out, and it works the same way as it does on your iPhone.

When viewing the message list, pull any conversation bubble to the left and you’ll see the timestamps displayed beside each message indicating when it was sent from your Apple Watch or received by it. You can still scroll up and down through the conversation, and releasing your finger will pop back to the normal view.

Getting Directions from a Calendar Notification on the Apple Watch

In many cases, it’s the little things with the Apple Watch that make life easier, especially for users who are always on the go with busy schedules. If you’re frequently hopping between meetings, you may find it useful to know that you can actually get directions to your next event right from the notification on your wrist. Simply force-touch on the alert when it comes up (or the appointment if you’re viewing it in the Calendar app) and you’ll see an option to get directions.

Tap again and the Watch Maps app will open up, ready to guide you to your destination. Of course you’ll have to ensure that you’ve entered locations for your meetings into your calendar events — but this is a good reason to do so.

Customizing World Clock City Abbreviations on Apple Watch

Most of the watch faces on the Apple Watch include the ability to add a world clock display — a handy feature for travelers or anybody who needs to regularly keep track of the time in more than one city. To use the feature, you simply add additional world clocks in your iPhone “Clock” app and these automatically appear on the Apple Watch.

By default, the Apple Watch uses pre-determined abbreviations for each city, however you can customize these to whatever you want them to say by going into the “Clock” section of the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. This will bring up the list of cities configured in your main iPhone Clock app, and you can tap to change the abbreviation for any city to whatever you like — useful if you’d rather see time zone codes or airport codes, for instance.

Changing up animated emojis in Apple Watch Messages

The Apple Watch provides a cute way to respond to text messages from your wrist by sending back an emoji, with access to a large template of standard emoji icons and three animated ones — a heart, a smiley face, and a fist-pump.

What’s a bit less obvious is that you can actually change each of these animated emojis up by using the Digital Crown. Swipe to the one you like and then turn the Digital Crown to basically move through a variety of styles and facial expressions for each of the base three. Of course, if you still can’t quite say what you want with these, you can always pick a standard emoji, choose a pre-determined reply, or dictate a response into your wrist.

Answering calls on your iPhone from your Apple Watch

If you’re wearing your Apple Watch when a phone call comes in on your iPhone, you’ll be alerted on your wrist with options to either accept or decline the call, with the green accept button effectively taking the call right on the Apple Watch itself. For those who may not feel like talking into their wrist, however, there’s a slightly less obvious option that will let you answer the call on your iPhone, and in fact even help you get to it.

When a call comes in, simply swipe up on the Apple Watch face to reveal options to either “Send a Message” or “Answer on iPhone.” The first option behaves in much the same way as the equivalent option on your iPhone screen, however tapping “Answer on iPhone” will immediately answer the call, but place it on hold to wait for you to pick it up on the iPhone handset itself; a “ping” button even appears to help you track down your iPhone in case you’re not quite sure where you left it.

If you do inadvertently answer the call on your Apple Watch, you can also easily transfer it to your iPhone handset simply by swiping up on the Phone handoff icon that appears in the bottom left corner of the lock screen, or tapping on the green phone call status bar that appears if your iPhone is already unlocked.

Customizing Default Message Replies on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch can be a great tool for keeping up with your messages on the go, but if talking into your wrist like a modern day Dick Tracy feels weird, you’re going to be limited to choosing from a list of canned responses. Fortunately, there are quite a few available and you can customize any of them to your liking by visiting the iPhone’s Apple Watch app.

To do this, go into the Messages section and tap on any of the replies listed under “Default Replies” and you can type in your own to replace the default. Entries you’ve added are shown in normal text, while default replies are grayed out. If you want to erase a custom reply and revert back to the default for that slot, you can tap to edit the entry and then hit the “X” button that appears at the right of the field to clear it out.

Setting Reminders from your Apple Watch

Although the Apple Watch doesn’t have a built-in Reminders app, you can still receive — and action — reminder notifications on your wrist, and can even set Reminders using Siri in much the same way as you would on your iPhone.

Activate Siri either by holding down the Digital Crown or raising the Watch to your wrist and starting with “Hey Siri” and then continue with a statement like “Remind me to…” You can even create location alerts (“when I get home”) or use more generic times (“tonight”). Siri will confirm the reminder, and when it’s time for it to go off, you’ll be alerted on your wrist and can choose to complete the task or snooze it for later.

Keeping Apple Watch Notifications private

The Apple Watch is a somewhat private device by its very nature, since it sits on your wrist, so having Messages and other notifications appear with full detail is probably not going to be a problem for most users, particularly since notifications are only received when you’re actually wearing the device. If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, however, Apple does provide the option of suppressing notification details until you actually tap on the Apple Watch screen.

To do this, simply go into the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, select Notifications from the main menu screen, and toggle “Notification Privacy” ON. With this setting enabled, you’ll still get notifications for things like Messages and emails on your wrist, but the text and other details won’t be shown until you actually tap on the screen, shielding them from curious onlookers.

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