Computer Science, Education, Innovation, STEM

First Look: 10 Secret Tips on making the most of the Apple Watch

Yesterday, on the official launch day, I received one of the Apple Watches my wife and I ordered to celebrate over two decades of marriage and they hype of the Apple Watch lived up to my expectations. So you will read a lot of Twitter posts and blogs about the Apple Watch. I’d like to tell you why I think it’s a great piece of technology, some secret tips I’ve discovered about how the Apple Watch can be used to improve our lives, and why the outlook for STEM education that uses technology like the Apple watch to hook kids into pursuing STEM education is so promising. Here are the 10 tips I’ve discovered about the 10 secret tips for the Apple Watch and my explanation of each one.

  1. To pair the Apple watch you use your camera to outline the watch in a box and it automatically pairs.
  2. It will take a long time (about 10 minutes) for the iPhone to pair with the Apple Watch because it has to load contacts, apps, etc.
  3. You can take a screen shot of what’s on your Apple Watch by pressing the Digital Crown and the Side Button simultaneously.
  4. You can go to your Settings Glance and press a button that will ping your phone and make the same sound that Find My iPhone makes in case you have trouble finding where your phone is.
  5. Siri can launch and do almost anything you want to do by just speaking the commands without having to type in commands.
  6. Sometimes launching an app or command using Siri on the Apple Watch will require you to use Handoff on the iPhone to complete the task.
  7. The Apple Watch may quietly become a huge tool to combat obesity in adults and children worldwide through its Activity and Workout apps.
  8. The Apple Watch also has a big upside as a platform to provide educational STEM apps for kids and adults.
  9. The Apple Watch is rich platform for young people and older alike to begin developing innovative apps to sell on the Apple Watch store.
  10. The Apple Watch can act as a buffer to minimize the amount of time we look at our iPhones during the day so that we can be in the moment more and focus on meaningful and spiritually positive thoughts.

The Apple Watch is not my first smartwatch (I have a Pebble watch I no longer use) nor am I saying it’s better than Android Wear (because I’ve never had an Android smartwatch). I’m considered an early adopter of technology. I got the iPhone on the day it came out and my wife purchased the iPad when it was first launched. As a researcher, I try to anticipate what technology may look like 10 years from now and then do research that lays the foundation for theory and principles that will make it a reality later. Apple does a great job of building on the foundation of knowledge that many others have researched over the years and integrating it all into a masterpiece of engineering and design.

For those who are considering the purchase of an Apple Watch, I would suggest you visit an Apple Store or at least watch the introductory instructional videos they have online. I hear one commentator from a well known magazine complain that it was horrible technology because it always shut off while they were trying to film it. However, they didn’t realize that’s a built in feature to save batteries and the Apple Watch only turns on briefly when you hold it up to look at it or if you manually press the digital crown on the side of the watch. If you don’t have one, then start watching the videos so you will be prepared.

I was amazed to get my Apple Watch on the launch day, April 24, because my Apple Store order said it would come May 13-27. However, I was one of the crazy ones that tried to wake up at midnight PST and was off by only about 10 minutes to order to Apple Watches. So I was glad when on April 23 they charged my card and then said they would have it by Friday. I made sure that one of us would be home when UPS came and sure enough, my wife sent me the text that it had come. Another great part of the Apple user experience came when Apple sent me an invite to have an online personal setup by an Apple specialist. Even though my phone hadn’t come yet, it was useful to talk to Andre on the phone while I saw a live video feed of his iPhone screen and Apple watch as he explained the features and how to set it up. Tip #1: To pair the Apple watch you use your camera to outline the watch in a box and it automatically pairs. In fact, the swirling display of a geometric cloud that looks something like the science fiction movie, Minority Report, gave me the feeling that the Apple Watch technology truly is futuristic. The other thing that Andre told me was Tip #2: It will take a long time (about 10 minutes) for the iPhone to pair with the Apple Watch because it has to load contacts, apps, etc. That was helpful to know before I got the Apple Watch so that I didn’t interrupt the process thinking something was wrong. I forgot to mention that the long white box had a presentation that was artistic and fun to open. The whole process was user friendly and I had my daughter reluctantly document the process with video and pictures.

Another thing I discovered on my own was that Tip #3: you can take a screen shot of what’s on your Apple Watch by pressing the Digital Crown and the Side Button simultaneously. This picture is loaded on to the iPhone and can be transferred to your photos on your Apple Watch if you save it in an album you have set up to be stored on your Apple Watch using the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. If this sounds confusing, you may want to make an appointment to go to an Apple store to have a personal setup done for you. One more great feature is Tip #4: you can go to your settings Glance and there is a button to press that will ping your phone and make the same sound that Find My iPhone makes in case you have trouble finding where your phone is. This feature will be great to have if you drop your phone on a plane and what to go searching for it before someone tries to hide it.

The biggest tip and advance is Tip #5: Siri can launch and do almost anything you want to do by just speaking the commands without having to type in commands. If you don’t have an Apple Watch yet but do have an iPhone, start practicing how to use Siri to look up information, sports scores, restaurants, launching Maps to get directions, make phone calls, etc. When I hold up my Apple Watch and say “Hey Siri” or press and hold the Digital Crown, Siri will launch and I can have it make calls, send texts, launch an app or look up scores. This really to me is the power of having the Apple Watch. I can do all of these things without having to take my phone out. There is a caveat to that. Tip #6: sometimes launching an app or command on the Apple Watch will require you to use Handoff on the iPhone to complete the task. For example, if I want ask Siri what song is playing on the radio, it will ask me to complete the task with the iPhone. A little icon appears on the lower left of the lock screen and swiping it up will allow the iPhone to do the processing to complete the request. I imagine this was a design trade off used to preserve battery power.

So why does the Apple Watch continue to excite me about getting kids to pursue STEM? It’s another great example of how science, technology, engineering, math, and design can be integrated to build a useful tool to help people connect, communicate, and collaborate. Just watching the videos of that describe the metallurgy to make new blends of steel and gold are a testament of how science and engineering are used to create products that people value and enjoy. Once kids see the green light that emits from the back of the watch when the sensors are determine the heart beat rate, that should get them curious about how biomedical engineers, electrical engineers, physicists, and mechanical engineers can collaborate to improve people’s health. Which also brings me to another Tip #7: The Apple Watch may quietly become a huge tool to combat obesity in adults and children worldwide through its activity and exercise features. I found the Apple Watch prompting me to stand to meet my standing goals. The Activity app also has goals and encouragement for three types of activities: standing, moving, and exercising. The Workout app has different types of workouts to choose from. You can see your progress and receive reminders or encouragement. This just touches the surface on how this wearable technology, if people use it, can change the health landscape of our nation and world. Of course, we need to get the cost down so more people, especially families with kids can afford and use the Apple Watch. Tip #8 The Apple Watch also has a big upside as a platform to provide educational STEM apps for kids and adults. I can let you use your imagination on that as you think about how best to deliver timely reminders, games, and facts to kids that will excite and assist them in learning knew knowledge about technology, science, math, and engineering. Tip #9 The Apple Watch is rich platform for young people and older alike to begin developing innovative apps to sell on the Apple Watch store. My desire is that young people will begin to see the Apple Watch as just something that will let them consume information and entertainment but as a platform that will allow them to produce and create new content and applications for the Apple Watch that they can entrepreneurial market and sell to improve their financial and career outlook. My final first insight is Tip #10 the Apple Watch can act as a buffer to minimize the amount of time we look at our iPhones during the day so that we can be in the moment more and focus on spiritual and eternal thoughts. One of my favorite Apple Watch apps so far is a verse of the day app that quotes wise sayings and positive thoughts. Instead of relying on the Apple Watch as a personal “interrupter”, I can learn to effectively use it to help monitor and make progress on my physical, mental, and spiritual health. To me, that’s a revolutionary concept and use of the new Apple Watch.

Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D., is a researcher, educator, and motivational speaker. His recent TEDx talk, Belonging in Technology, What I learned from Steve Jobs, addresses creativity and its relationship to talent development, innovation, diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and workforce development.  Dr. Williams is the author of, “Out of the Box: Building Robots, Transforming Lives”.

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