Watch's Best, Most Powerful Feature: Changing Faces

Ledgem

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Original poster
Jan 18, 2008
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Hawaii, USA
I bought my Apple Watch refurbished, more out of curiosity than anything else. A lot of people had them and seemed to be using them for various things. I couldn't really imagine a use case for myself - my iPad is almost always on and in front of me at work, and at home I have my iPad, computer, or phone - but I figured that, being a lover of technology, I'd be able to find a good use for it.

I admit that I struggled at first. The obvious use case was receiving text messages and, yes, it was nice being able to leave my phone holstered for those, but I would still take it out for most replies. I got used to accessing my grocery list (a special Reminders list) from my Watch instead of my iPhone while out shopping, but again, it wasn't really that different.

In hindsight, I see what I was doing wrong. I was approaching the Watch as a device similar to the iPhone or iPad. The apps launch slower on the Watch, and the interface for viewing and interacting with information is much more limited by comparison.

More recently, I've been playing with "complications," the on-screen information widgets. I've found a few that are useful, but more importantly, I discovered something new: swapping between Watch faces.

I don't mean discovering that there were other faces, or that you could simply swap through them. The Watch comes pre-loaded with practically every face available, to the point that it seemed more like a disorganized demo. The iPhone Watch app didn't make this any better. I deleted all of the Watch faces and then began to create my own. The Modular face carries the most utility for me, and I now have three Watch faces that I cycle through: one for at home, one for in the car, and one for while I'm at work (all Modular, but all in different colors). The data displayed on each is slightly different, as are the apps available as complications: weather, activity, reminders, and sunrise/sunset times for my home face; music, maps, and texting for my car face; and my calendar events, texting, stopwatch, and mail for my work face. I can envision creating more Watch faces (and using styles other than Modular) for other use scenarios, such as going to the gym, or going to formal events. (Alas, home, car, and work are my life right now.)

This is incredibly powerful. The Watch is at its best when you can glance at it for quick information or a brief interaction. The "honeycomb" app screen looks nice, but I feel that I've somehow failed if I need to resort to that screen. It's more cumbersome to navigate, and launching an app from there tends to take some time. Similarly, the app dock, while handy, is also not particularly speedy to move through. Of course, it was the app dock and the "honeycomb" screens that I customized first, because those are the most similar to other Apple devices. I'm guessing it's similar for most Watch users. All that when actually, customizing a face, and then creating another face, and swapping between them as appropriate, would likely be far more beneficial.

I'm sharing this because I'm curious to know if others are using their Watches this way, and because I'm not sure that it's so apparent. The honeycomb and the dock are screens we're trained by OS X (now macOS) and iOS to use, and the two dedicated buttons on the Watch take you to them, with one button for each. To get to the face swapping screen you need to press down hard on the watch face, a motion that isn't necessarily obvious and isn't always easy to pull off... and even when you do it, as I mentioned above, it's already junked up with every style of watch face, which makes the utility of the screen a bit more difficult to visualize.

If everyone is already doing this, then... better late to the party than never, I suppose. If you're not already doing this, I hope you'll try it, and hopefully you'll find it to be useful. The Watch has been steadily growing on me for the various conveniences it offers, but for me, this is the "killer feature" that will greatly increase its utility.
 
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steve217

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Nov 11, 2011
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I had a similar experience as you; I expected the watch to be a more involving experience. I was a little disappointed I wasn't hunkered over it for hours at a time. I forgot that it was the web browser on the iPhone that made it such an engaging device.

Now, after 3 months, I think I get it and use the watch as intended: for anything involving time, notifications and activity monitoring. Oh, and the watch makes Siri usable.

As for the watch face, I have three that I toggle; a red large digital for when I drive in the dark, a utility with calendar and weather complications that I use during the work day and an activity analog for when I exercise.
 

Ixidor

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Mar 22, 2016
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I did this as soon as this was available in watchos3. Prior to that, you had to hard press to change Watch faces.

If your Watch face holds 4 complications, you have access to 12 apps (current, left and right Watch faces) with just a single swipe and tap.
 
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BarracksSi

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Jul 14, 2015
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(I think that the watch's best overall feature is how easily it can change straps, but that's another discussion...)

Yup, you're getting the hang of it. Quick-and-painless interactions are the best way to use the AW.

I don't use the honeycomb bubbling sea-of-apps unless I'm sitting down (like, on the "can"), and that's when I skim news headlines or play a simple game. The rest of the time, I use faces and launch a few apps via their complications -- weather, alarms, calendar, workouts, etc.

(you can tap the date in the middle of an analog face and it'll take you to Calendar; so the Simple face, like Modular, really has five complication positions: four corners plus the center date display)

When I got my watch, I let it automatically load all the compatible apps during setup. This included four or five news readers. I sampled each of them and found out how differently the developers approached the watch.

At one extreme, an entire news article would be displayed; if you can imagine turning the crown to scroll through ten feet or an inch-wide article, that's how it was (and it sucked). At the other, there would be a headline, maybe a photo (the size of a postage stamp), and one sentence (sometimes truncated, too); this was somehow more useless and annoying because getting to the article took more time than reading it.

Right in the middle, Goldilocks-style, there's a news app that would show a headline and three meaty sentences. Just enough content to give you the gist of the story without taking up all your time.

So, yeah, I found out pretty much the same thing -- the watch is best as a tricked-out wristwatch, not a shrunken-down smartphone.
 

the future

macrumors 68000
Jul 17, 2002
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Funny how different people are. To me modular is the best face by far in that it is just as modern as the watch itself. I can't stand the fake, skeuomorphic watch "hands" on many of the other faces.
 

Ledgem

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Original poster
Jan 18, 2008
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Hawaii, USA
(I think that the watch's best overall feature is how easily it can change straps, but that's another discussion...)
From a cosmetic standpoint, I definitely agree with you there. I figured I'd buy two bands - one for more formal use, and one for casual or workout-based use - and somehow I've ended up with five bands that I cycle through (and occasionally I still eye others). That feature also makes the Apple Watch a fairly versatile device. I'm sure there were watches and other wrist-worn devices with changeable bands before the Apple Watch, but it seems like the Apple Watch really popularized the concept. It's a really nice feature.
 

TxWatch

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Nov 30, 2015
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Texas
I have five modular faces for different use cases and I switch between them on a regular basis. I never use the honeycomb interface unless I am adding something new to a Watch face. WOS3 has made the Watch so much more usable than the previous version because of the face-swipe feature.

TxWatch
 
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Relentless Power

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Jul 12, 2016
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From a cosmetic standpoint, I definitely agree with you there. I figured I'd buy two bands - one for more formal use, and one for casual or workout-based use - and somehow I've ended up with five bands that I cycle through (and occasionally I still eye others). That feature also makes the Apple Watch a fairly versatile device. I'm sure there were watches and other wrist-worn devices with changeable bands before the Apple Watch, but it seems like the Apple Watch really popularized the concept. It's a really nice feature.
Apple executed the band switching perfectly because its so easy to do and takes seconds. Part of owning multiple bands allows the Watch to have a totally different look based on your occasion for the day and or event you're attending.
 
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BarracksSi

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From a cosmetic standpoint, I definitely agree with you there. I figured I'd buy two bands - one for more formal use, and one for casual or workout-based use - and somehow I've ended up with five bands that I cycle through (and occasionally I still eye others). That feature also makes the Apple Watch a fairly versatile device. I'm sure there were watches and other wrist-worn devices with changeable bands before the Apple Watch, but it seems like the Apple Watch really popularized the concept. It's a really nice feature.
Apple executed the band switching perfectly because its so easy to do and takes seconds. Part of owning multiple bands allows the Watch to have a totally different look based on your occasion for the day and or event you're attending.
Right, and because it becomes so much more fashionably versatile than other smartwatches (and other wearable gadgets), an owner is more likely to wear it more often --

-- which both boosts the functionality (who's going to write apps for a device that nobody wears?) and raises exposure.

People who enjoy watches might have a collection. Maybe it's just two or three, maybe it's a dozen, but often, the different watches are meant for different outfits and occasions. Because the Watch can match individual tastes so easily (and the mechanism embraced many existing straps, too), it can fit in where multiple regular watches would have been worn.
 

the future

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Also, because the design of the Watch body itself is so simple (or as Mr. Ive would say, "essential"), it is so easily transformed by the different bands into something fitting for any occasion.
 

Arran

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Mar 7, 2008
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The Modular face carries the most utility for me, and I now have three Watch faces that I cycle through: one for at home, one for in the car, and one for while I'm at work (all Modular, but all in different colors).
I've been doing the same since the OS added the ability swipe between faces quickly. Even down to the color coding. Great minds.... ;)

So it's one face for office/everyday/out-and-about (weather, temp, calendar). Another for lounging around at home or sitting on planes (music, hue remote, apple HomeKit, Apple remote) and another for 'dry' workouts (weather, heart rate, rings, start workout).

One really useful face I've added lately is the "X-Large" face with a single HUGE complication in the center to start a workout. I use that to start swimming workouts after I jump in the pool and the watch face is wet. It replaces the smaller modular face complication that I use only for "dry" workouts, because I found the water was causing the wrong complication to triggger. That, or none at all. Now it fires up first time.

I may add a few more faces? With summer approaching, I'm thinking gardening/lawn mowing might be a candidate (music, phone, text, sunset time)? Maybe another for shopping? The only limiting factor is the lack of complications for certain apps.
 
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