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Apple Watch: Best tips to make you a smartwatch ninja

There's so much more your Apple Watch can do.

Angela Lang/CNET

When the Apple Watch was first announced, it was half fitness tracker, half notification device. With cellular connectivity and several software updates, the watch has become a miniature iPhone, only with a heavy dose of health and fitness features. Heck, there's even a chance that the Apple Watch Series 4, in combination with an app, can help prevent strokes

But the Apple Watch is so much more than a tool to help keep tabs on your health. You can install apps, talk to Siri just by raising your wrist, check sports scores, send messages or even triage your inbox from the tiny screen. It's pretty crazy to think about just how powerful the Apple Watch is, even if you don't use it to its full potential.

Let's change that. Below you'll learn some basics, like making sure its software is up to date, how to use its walkie-talkie feature to feel like a spy and learn about more complicated features like taking an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to make sure your heart is healthy.

Read more: All of the WatchOS 6 updates | Complete guide to Apple's Health app | 18 devices that sync with Health App 

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The basics

Update your watch. After unboxing your watch and pairing it to your iPhone ($1,000 at Amazon), you'll want to ensure it's running the latest version of WatchOS so you can take advantage of the newest features. Read this to learn about the update process.

Icons and apps. Curious as to what those small icons that flash on your watch's screen are? Or what about Siri's Raise to Speak feature? We cover that, plus a handful of other tips, in this post.

After taking a dip, you need to get water out of the Apple Watch's speaker. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Notifications are a key smartwatch feature, and it's a feature you'll want to learn to how to tame. Notifications can get overwhelming, especially when your wrist is beeping and vibrating, for every Facebook like or Instagram direct. Learn how to manage your Apple Watch notifications.

Your watch is waterproof. You can swim with newer Apple Watch ($349 at Amazon) models, but it's a good idea to read up on what you need to do if you plan on swimming with your watch on -- especially if it's in sea water.

Use theater mode. Ever notice the button in Control Center with two masks on it? That button activates theater mode. When enabled, your Apple Watch is silenced and your watch will not light up until you tap the screen. As its name implies, theater mode prevents your watch from lighting up while you're at a movie theater, but it's also helpful for those who use a sleeping app or in meetings when you don't want any distractions. 

Health

Fitness first. Starting with WatchOS 5, the Apple Watch can now auto-detect certain workouts, track yoga workouts and store workout tunes from your favorite streaming service on the watch itself. Here are five of the best new fitness features in WatchOS 5.

Heart health. The Apple Watch continuously tracks your heart rate while you wear it throughout the day. There's a dedicated app to tracking your heart rate or conducting an on-demand reading. Read this to learn how to get the most out of the Apple Watch heart rate features. Also check out why it's important to track your heart rate to reach your fitness goals.

Taking an ECG reading with the Apple Watch Series 4. 

Setup the ECG app. You'll need to have an Apple Watch Series 4, running WatchOS 5.1.2 or newer, and an iPhone running iOS 12.1.1 or newer before you can set up the new ECG app. Once you're updated, using the ECG app is a simple task.

Extra features

Fall detection. The Apple Watch Series 4 has a built-in fall detection feature that will identify when it thinks you have fallen, and after a few seconds of no movement, will call emergency services on your behalf. Fall Detection is a feature you'll need to enable, but hopefully, never have to use.

Want to feel like Inspector Gadget? Then learn how to use the Walkie-Talkie app. Using the app is simple: Hold up your wrist, press and hold a button, talk, and let go. Just keep in mind that your approved contacts can start talking to you at any moment, so marking yourself as unavailable is key to avoiding embarrassment.

watchos-5-walkie-talkie-talk

Walkie Talkie mode on the Apple Watch is fun but can be embarrassing. 

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Unlock your Mac when wearing your Apple Watch. As long as you have a passcode set up on your Apple Watch, and a fairly recent Mac (2013 or newer), you can use your watch to log in to your Mac. On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy and check the box next to Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. Enter your Mac password when prompted. The next time you wake your Mac, your Apple Watch and Mac will talk to one another and sign you in to your computer. It's pretty cool.

Check your AirPods ($145 at Amazon) battery status. You've surely opened your AirPods charging case next to your iPhone to check their current battery level. It turns out, you can check your AirPods battery life on the Apple Watch as well. Visit this link for tip No. 5, stay for all 16 AirPods tips.

Originally published December 2018.

Update, April 29: Updated with new features, more information.

Mentioned Above
Apple Watch Series 4 GPS (40mm silver aluminum case, white sport band)
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