Scribbles from R Scott Jones
May 25th, 2024

Some unexpected ways I rely on my Apple Watch


It took me awhile to warm to the idea of buying an Apple Watch. I'm not sure what generation I finally jumped in (must have been 3 or 4?), but it's become something I find quite useful and feel weird going without.

There were a number of reasons I finally took the plunge, pushed in large part when the step-counter alternatives I had been using became feature-rich but generally underwhelming. It was only the Apple Watch's dismal battery life that had initially held me back, and once that seemed good enough, I finally took out my wallet. I have not been disappointed.

In fact, since owning one, I've come to appreciate a number of unexpected uses that make my life easier. These are not reasons alone to buy one, but just a few simple things that have made it surprising handy to have. I figured I'd write a bit about the first handful of such things that came to mind. Here we go.

A flashlight to pee

One of my most used features on the Apple Watch is the flashlight. I find this funny because I very much mocked it the first time I used it. That's because it's not much of a flashlight—it's far less bright than the one on your phone, for example. But I've come to appreciate that it provides just enough light for me to shine my way around the house if when I get up to pee in the middle of the night. Any brighter and I'd risk waking up my wife. Best of all is that it's already on my wrist, so I don't have to fumble with unplugging (and later re-plugging) my phone, which sometimes stirs my wife. The best part is that when you turn it on, it only partially lights up. It's not until you face it away from you that it goes into "full" mode, which means that you won't accidentally blind yourself. And it's super easy to turn off when I get back towards the bedroom—just cover the screen with your hand and it shuts off. <chef's kiss>

Reminders to turn

Driving time is often thinking pondering time for me, especially during long road trips. Getting lost in my own thoughts can be a bit hazardous to one's itinerary, especially when it means missing that rural country road and having to backtrack an hour to get back on the crazy route I had set.

I hate audible driving directions, so I keep the sound on for alerts only. But with my Apple Watch, I'll get a little buzz on the wrist as I'm approaching a turn, reminding me to pay attention to the route. It's easy enough o turn these out when you're paying attention, but just enough of a notification to catch your attention when you're not.

See the time

I'm absolutely blind without my glasses. So when I wake up in the middle of the night, I can't see the alarm clock across the room, even when we swapped it out for the one with the big ass numbers. Before my watch, I used to pick up my phone to check the time, but the last thing I want to do is see a notification or reflexively tap in to do something. But since I wear the watch while sleeping—tracking my sleep was one of the primary uses I had for the watch when I first bought it—I can tap the watch face to see just the time, making it much easier to fall back asleep without additional distraction.

Quickly add to our grocery list

Another unexpected use is quickly adding an item to the grocery list. I simply start Siri by long pressing the dial, then hold my wrist up towards my mouth and say "Add mayonnaise to the grocery list." Boom, it's on the shared grocery list in Reminders. Since it takes just a three seconds to add an item, it's greatly increased how many items we proactively put on the list, which makes grocery runs much more efficient.

RX reminders

Given my family health history, it's no surprise that I've collected a number of daily prescriptions. But I wasn't expecting the bevy of allergy meds I'm now on, too. It's enough to own one of those weekly pill containers that I dutifully fill each week. Unfortunately, I often forget to take them, at least in the morning—my morning routine is, well, all morning and no routine. But if I haven't logged my meds in the health app by a certain time, I get pinged with a reminder. And then reminded again 30 minutes later if I still haven't done it. I find this particularly useful when traveling, when I might be waking up in a hotel, tent, or the back of my vehicle.

Silencing alarms

I set a lot of alarms. Maybe it's to remind me when the dryer will likely be done, or to check on something that's cooking, or to remind me to grab that package from the front doorstep when I expect to be off the phone. Well, many of these manage to go off while I'm not near my phone. But you can silence them from your watch, which frequently comes in handy.

Finding my phone

Ok, ok, yes. I occasionally leave my phone in a weird spot and can't remember where it is. Perhaps I've laid it on the back of the chair, blending into the blanket that drapes over it. Or maybe in the kitchen, where it's currently hiding behind some dirty dishes. I dunno, sometimes I just didn't grab it from the car before I exiting with all the other stuff I carried in. But it's not hard to find with the "ping my phone" feature (I have no idea what this is actually called, but tapping it makes your phone chime a certain sound).

All the other ways

Of course, these are not the primary reasons I use an Apple Watch, but just a few unexpected ones that I've come to appreciate. It's been useful enough that we've outfitted both my wife and my mom with one, too.

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