Smart watches were popular Christmas gifts, apparently. Many of these are fitness trackers, being used right now to encourage users with their slowly fading resolutions. More advanced ones, like the Apple Watch, can do other stuff, too. If that’s what you received, here’s a few of the ways you can use your snazzy new timepiece to help you be more productive.
It’s important to adjust your notifications: if you have several email accounts and you set the Watch so every single message is notified by making your wrist buzz, you’ll quickly get fed up of the interruptions.
Better, set your notifications to just the account that matters the most or make particular senders such as your boss, say, VIPs. In the Watch app on the iPhone, under Notifications, you can choose which email accounts will notify your wrist, and you can turn VIPs on or off here, too.
This way you will know you won’t miss an important message, but also won’t be notified with every single email you’re sent, which can be overwhelming.
You can be even more specific. On the iPhone choose “Notify me…” and when that particular email conversation is updated, your Watch will alert you. You choose this option by swiping left on an email or conversation on the iPhone and choose More from the options that appear. On the latest iPhones you can also force-press on the screen and swipe up.
And there’s plenty of room to customise things. For instance, when a voice message sounds on your Watch, swipe up to reply. Then you’re offered three default texts, an emoji button or a microphone. I find the microphone best as Siri translates my dictation pretty well, and if she doesn’t I can send the message as an audio file. But if you want to personalise the standard texts, you can do that. Go to the Watch app on the iPhone, scroll down to Messages and pick Default replies. This is useful if you find yourself regularly sending the same text reply like “Honestly, the traffic is terrible” or “I haven’t forgotten, I just haven’t done it yet”. I use that a lot.
Gadgets and tech news in pictures
Gadgets and tech news in pictures
1/25 Voice assistants are coming for your home
A year from now, Google, Amazon and Apple might be listening in on your living room. And you’ll be glad of it. All three of those companies are working on or have announced voice assistants that sit in people’s houses and talk to them. The boxes – which function as speakers, and look like them too – are meant do everything from asking questions to operating various parts of peoples’ houses
2/25 North Korean Facebook set up and immediately hacked
An imitation of Facebook apparently set up for North Koreans has already been hacked and sent offline, just days after it was discovered. Internet company Dyn Research found the site – hosted in North Korea and created to look almost exactly like Facebook – and discovered that it was accessible for anyone in the world. But days later a college student got access to the site because it had been secured with just a default password
3/25 Bring broken smartphone back to life - as a robot
Do you have an old broken smartphone lying around the house somewhere? Then why not turn it into a robot? That's exactly what YouTuber Mehdi Sadaghdar did in a recent video, after his efforts to bring a destroyed phone back to life disastrously failed. Using the phone's vibrator, a coin battery, a simple switch, a few wires and the bristly part of a toothbrush, he managed to make a simple little toy that can skitter around a tabletop as long as the battery last
4/25 Detachable plane cabin
A Ukrainian inventor has proposed building airliners with detachable passenger cabins that could separate from the rest of the plane and parachute safely to the ground in the event of an emergency
5/25 FA announces it will host the Emirates FA Cup video game tournament
The FA has announced that for the first time ever it will host the inaugural Emirates FA Cup gaming tournament, with video game fans from across the world invited to compete for glory at Wembley Stadium connected by EE. Early rounds will take place in iconic locations in the stadium such as The Royal Box, the changing rooms and the players’ tunnel, with the two finalists set to play the virtual final using Wembley Stadium’s 82 foot screens as they sit in the centre circle. Gamers of varying ability will descend upon Wembley Stadium as the home of football transforms into an epic gaming colosseum set to turn heads and sweat palms in equal measure
The FA via Getty Images
6/25 Oculus Rift release date
Oculus has said that it is about to open pre-orders for its Rift virtual reality headset. Some have claimed that the hardware will be the device that will bring virtual reality into the mainstream. And it will start being available from 6 January 2016, the company has said. The company hasn’t said when the headsets will actually start arriving, or how much they will cost. It isn’t clear whether the company intends to announce more details before pre-orders begin
7/25 iPhone stock apps can be removed by just putting them into special folder
A new trick shows a quick way of getting rid of the stock apps that might be cluttering up your iPhone screen — at least for a while. The iPhone comes with a range of apps that are stuck on the phone, and can't be deleted like others. While some are key to the phone — like the Phone app itself — others like Stocks are less well-regarded. But the new trick shows how you can hide those unused stock apps with just a quick trick using some folders
8/25 CES 2016: Four big things set to be revealed
The CES 2016 gadget show is about to kick off, and nearly the entire technology industry has descended on Las Vegas to try and show off the future. Every year, companies and technologists attempt to show that they have seen what’s coming and that they will be there to offer it. Every year, a lot of people get it wrong. This year’s expectations are as big as ever. Every year, CES unofficially gets a big theme that everything’s supposed to be about — this year that’s virtual reality. There is also future for cars, smart home and wearables
9/25 Terrorists could use drones to attack planes and spread propaganda
A government counter-terrorism adviser has warned that terrorists could use commercially available drones to attack passenger planes. Detective Chief Inspector Colin Smith, a security expert and adviser to the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology, warned that small quadcopter drones could easily be used by terrorists for attacks and propaganda purposes
10/25 Goggle-Eyed Lemurs watch TV as part of their reintroduction to the wild
Port Lympne Reserve in Kent, UK, has installed Sony Bravia 4K TVs into its lemur and langur enclosures to show life-like footage to its primates as part of its ‘Back to the Wild’ programme. The charity will trial TV watching on Sony’s 4K TVs as part of this programme in a bid to make langurs more familiar with the new environment
Mikael Buck / Sony
Uber has added a lift-sharing feature to its app in London, allowing people to share their taxi with a stranger in return for a reduced fair. Users will be given 25 per cent off their journey if they say they will let up to two other passengers share their car. Drivers will then receive a message telling them that they’ll be picking up more than one fare, and can plan their route accordingly. London is the second European country to get the feature, after Paris. It was first launched in San Francisco and now most people who use the app do so with the feature
12/25 Attempt to build world’s biggest Rubik’s cube ends in disaster
An attempt to build the world’s biggest Rubik’s cube ended in disaster when the puzzle exploded as it was turned for the first time. One of the masterminds behind Coren Puzzle, a YouTube channel dedicated to custom puzzles, live-streamed the final assembly of the 22x22 cube. The video was the culmination of seven months of construction, which included a month of deliberation on how to build the mechanism at the centre of the device
13/25 New battery chip could let phones charge in minutes
The maker of a new chip claims that it could reduce the charging times of phones to a few minutes, and could prevent dangerous explosions. The tiny chip could be embedded into batteries of all sizes and monitor how healthy and charged they are. That in turn would mean that the batteries would become much safer and quicker to charge, according to the scientist that developed it. Unhealthy lithium-ion batteries can be at risk of exploding or catching fire, as well as gradually losing their capacity so that they run out more quickly. Those problems may become even more important as people move towards electric cars or other vehicles
14/25 Facebook on iPhone gets new fast-loading Instant Articles
If you've noticed articles on Facebook loading a little quicker recently, that's because the new Instant Articles have been launched to all iPhone users. Instant Articles load up to 10 times quicker than a regular article, and have some enriched features - such as unobtrusive autoplay videos, zoomable high-definition images and interactive maps
15/25 Halo 5 patch
Gamers looking forward to playing Halo 5: Guardians on its release on 27 October 2015 will have to wait to download a 9GB day one patch before the game's multiplayer mode can run properly. Those without the patch won't even be able to play multiplayer at all until it's downloaded, in yet another case of a blockbuster game needing a patch on the day of launch
16/25 New HTC Desire 626 handset launch
HTC has launched its latest Desire 626 handset with the Sense 7 software which automatically detects whether you’re at work, at home or on-the-go and alters its theme to suit your location. This advanced technology intelligently analyses your favourite photos to modify the look and feel of your apps, allowing you to modify the colour scheme and backgrounds – the ultimate in personalisation
17/25 Nasa confirms Mars water discovery
Nasa has announced that it has found evidence of flowing water on Mars. Scientists have long speculated that Recurring Slope Lineae — or dark patches — on Mars were made up of briny water but the new findings prove that those patches are caused by liquid water, which it has established by finding hydrated salts.
18/25 Customers wait in line at the Apple Store in Paris to get their hands on the iPhone 6s
Several hundred camped outside the London store in Covent Garden. The 6s will have new features like a vastly improved camera and a pressure-sensitive “3D Touch” display
19/25 Bloodhound SSC: The most powerful ever made is shown off to the public
The car is displayed at Downing Street, when the team visited David Cameron to demonstrate the project
20/25 Lunar eclipse threatens Nasa technology
Artist's rendering of Nasa's LRO spacecraft, which will have to withstand a rapid drop in temperature during an upcoming lunar eclipse that could lead to it shutting down
21/25 Mobile phone bills could rocket up after Ofcom announced that the fees it charges to phone operators will be trebled
The regulator will now charge far more to phone companies for using the mobile spectrum — and though it says that fee will not be passed on to customers, experts have said that prices are likely to go up
22/25 New iPhone 6s rose gold
Apple has released a bright pink new iPhone 6s — likely the only way that you’ll be able to tell that someone has the new handset. The company released the new phone with much fanfare, but almost all of the changes — a new camera and pressure-sensitive display — were on the inside. The only new noticeable addition to the phone’s look is the very pink rose gold colour, and a tiny “S” on the back. The new handsets will be released on September 25
23/25 iPad Pro
Apple has launched a huge new iPad, which it hopes can bring the tablet to offices and designers. But it unveiled it with an Apple-designed stylus — an idea that was famously mocked by late Apple founder Steve Jobs
24/25 Apple TV
Apple has introduced the new Apple TV
25/25 Apple Pencil
Apple has introduced the new Apple Pencil
Siri, of course, has more uses. It’s great when you’re cooking: raise your wrist and say, “Hey Siri” followed by “set a timer for 10 minutes” which is useful if your hands are mired in flour or oil. Or use Siri so you forget less. “Remind me to pick up the dry cleaning when I leave the office” is a useful location-defined command, for instance.
As with all Apple products there are plenty of hidden features which are hugely valuable. If you forget to turn your iPhone off when you’re at the theatre, when it rings your wrist will, too. The natural response is to cover the Watch with your hand. Usefully, Apple fixed it so that this quells the sound of the ring on both iPhone and Watch instantly. If people have started tutting, do the same to shift blame elsewhere. Then leave it a few discreet minutes and tap your Watch, swipe up and tap the inflight mode which it does for both iPhone and Watch at the same time. Holding your hand over the Watch face should already have invoked silent mode, but if not, tap that, too. Then pay attention to what’s on stage.
There are plenty of apps which can help you be more efficient, and lots of them have Watch support. Like Dark Sky (£2.99) which gives astonishing details of exactly when it’s going to rain in your precise location. You can even build this into the Watch as a complication in some faces.
Or try Streaks (£2.99) which lets you set particular goals which can appear in the Watch app or as a complication. These can range from walking the dog to brushing your teeth, though as goals go, I’d say that ought to be a given. It works in conjunction with the iPhone Health app to help you towards fitness goals. The name comes from the idea of hitting targets for streaks of consecutive days.
Lark (free) is another resolution helper, geared towards weight loss and fitness. It works with the Health app as well and offers surprisingly human-seeming text message conversations as little pep talks to keep you going in the right direction. If you like Lark on the iPhone, there are more features on the Watch.
Apps with Watch capabilities say so in the App Store. One of the unique things about the Apple Watch is that the apps already number well over a thousand, so there’s plenty of versatility.
These are a tiny group of features and apps that can help productivity. Though if I told you that thanks to the Watch I’m never late any more, I think friends may disagree. Ah well.