I’ve been using the latest Apple Watch for 4 months — here are the best and most surprising features I’ve found so far

The Apple Watch Series 4 is Apple's best watch yet.

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The Apple Watch Series 4 is Apple’s best watch yet.
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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

When Apple released the first-generation Apple Watch to the public in early 2015, it felt like incredible hardware being held back by software limitations.

Four years later, the Apple Watch hardware has improved even further, but the software has finally caught up too. Navigation feels intuitive, apps launch quickly, and the overall experience feels more mature.

The Apple Watch Series 4 is Apple’s best watch yet. And in using it over the past couple of months, I’ve stumbled upon features that surprised me initially but that I’ve come to appreciate.

Take a look.


The Apple Watch can unlock my Mac computer.

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Dave Smith/Business Insider

I bought a 2018 Mac Mini in December. Being able to walk up to my computer, press the mouse or any key, and be immediately logged in is super nifty.

I was surprised when this happened the first time. I started moving the mouse on my computer to wake it, then felt a tap on my wrist, and suddenly I was logged into my Mac.

It’s really cool knowing that the Apple Watch can act as a key, or a universal access code, to my other Apple devices.


The Apple Watch can control my Apple TV — and I love using it way more than Apple’s physical remote for the device.

The Apple TV is a perfectly good streaming device, but the Apple TV remote is, well, not as good. It’s very small, extremely slippery, and easy to lose in couch cushions. It’s also symmetrical in a way that you can’t hold the remote and be sure which side is up – I often pick up the remote and press a button only to return to the main menu, because the remote was upside down.

I never have this problem on the Apple Watch, and using it as a remote is as easy as lifting my wrist and pressing the button on the side to toggle my “dock” of 10 favorite apps. Once I’m in the Remote app on my watch, I can play, pause, scroll, and return to menus manually. (Siri support would be a nice feature, given how useful it is on the remote control.)

The Apple Watch is superior to Apple’s included remote for the Apple TV, and I’ll never misplace it because it’s literally attached to my arm.


Achieving your activity goals in the Apple Watch felt more rewarding than I’d anticipated.

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Dave Smith/Business Insider

I’d heard a lot of happy Apple Watch customers discussing the satisfaction of “closing your rings.” In the Apple Watch, you have daily activity goals that it will encourage you to meet: a standing goal, a movement goal, and an exercise goal. They’re easily achievable and adjustable, but what’s nice is the positive feedback the watch gives you when you meet a goal or are getting close.

The Apple Watch will occasionally remind you to stand – even the original watch did that – but I love how you’ll get notifications and shiny medals for when you beat your move goal or complete a certain workout for the first time.

It feels like having a coach there encouraging me to keep going, and I’m definitely more motivated to close my rings every day as a result.


Choosing and customizing your Apple Watch face is super fun now, thanks to the Watch app for your phone.

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Dave Smith/Business Insider

On the original Apple Watch, choosing a new watch face meant pushing into the screen, touching corners of the display, and twisting knobs to alter the “complications,” or little pieces of information you can read at a glance, to your liking. It was doable, but spending so much time on a tiny screen on your wrist was not a great experience. I’d end up craning my neck a lot.

On the Apple Watch Series 4, though, choosing and customizing your Apple Watch face happens mostly on the iPhone, where you can quickly tweak various aspects like complications, color, and design without straining yourself. And when you’re happy with what you’ve made, implementing your creation on the Watch is as easy as pressing a single button on your phone. It couldn’t be simpler.

Apple has made the “Face Gallery” a permanent channel in the Watch app for you to explore designs and customize them directly. Hopefully Apple will open a Face Gallery Store where you can download user-made designs, but this feels like a great improvement from changing the watch faces on the original Apple Watch.


The dock is an awesome feature — I love having shortcuts to all my recent or favorite apps.

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Dave Smith/Business Insider

The Apple Watch features a single button on the side of the enclosure – pressing it once summons the dock, or shortcuts to your recent or favorite apps.

You can choose whether the dock brings up recent or favorite apps on the Watch app for iPhone; I went with favorites, since you can choose up to 10 and decide the order in which you see them. I chose the Remote app, for easy Apple TV control; the Home app, so I can turn my smart lights on or off from my wrist; the Reminders app, since I can cross off items from my grocery list and to-dos on there; and other apps I like using, such as the Heart Rate app, the Activity app, the Workout app, Messages, and more.

I’m sure the original Apple Watch had a dock or similar feature to bring up your most recent apps, but I can’t remember using it at all. On the Apple Watch Series 4, I love that I can choose between recents or favorites, and switch between them on the fly.


Being able to track your heart rate and see how it changes throughout the day is fascinating.

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Dave Smith/Business Insider

One of the reasons I bought the Apple Watch Series 4 was to get better feedback about my health, but I wasn’t expecting to use some of the heart-related features that often.

But I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoy looking at that heart data, since Apple delivers the information in a way that isn’t panic-inducing.

One of my favorite watch faces features my heart rate in the middle of the screen, to show how my heart rate has changed throughout the day. I can see periods where I’m resting and portions where my heart rate goes up – because of exercise, interacting with others, or stress.

It’s a clever, passive way to get feedback about not just your heart rate but your body’s overall reaction to the environment through the day.


Apple’s Workouts app feels feature-rich in a way I didn’t expect.

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Dave Smith/Business Insider

The Workouts app seems simple at the outset. Clicking it will show you a list of available workouts, both indoors and outdoors. Click one of the workouts, and it will begin tracking your movements through the lens of that particular exercise and count how many miles you’ve run, for example, even if you’re on a treadmill. It’s neat.

But what’s even better is how the Workout app can also access your music player, so I can pause or change tracks on Spotify in the middle of a run without needing to fiddle with my phone or headset controls. And if you swipe left from the Watch’s workout screen while it’s active, you’ll get a handy set of controls to pause or end your workout, or lock out water (in case you’re swimming). The Apple Watch can also sense if you’ve forgotten to end your workout – it’ll ask you if you’re done or just resting, or want to pause it to resume later.

It feels as though Apple thought of everything you’d need during exercise.


The Breathe app does a better job of calming me down than my own breathing exercises.

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Dave Smith/Business Insider

Since I moved to Canada from the US less than two years ago, I’ve learned mindfulness techniques and strategies to cope with stress. One of the best is to just focus and breathe.

I’ve used a technique called “box breathing,” where you breathe in for four or five seconds, hold it for four or five seconds, and breathe out through your mouth for four or five seconds, then wait a few seconds before starting again.

But the Apple Watch’s Breathe app does a way better job of this. For just one minute (or longer, if you choose), the Apple Watch tells you to focus on the image on your wrist and breathe in and out as it expands and contracts. The watch also provides haptic feedback, making it even easier to focus on your breath.

By the time I’m done, I feel way more relaxed.

The beauty of Apple’s Breathe app is that you don’t need to be stressed to use it – doing it a handful of times each day is a great way to improve your focus and concentration.


There’s still so much to discover.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

I’ve spent most of my first week with the Apple Watch Series 4 getting used to navigating apps and testing some of the Apple-made watch-specific apps like Heart Rate, Breathe, and even the electrocardiogram feature. But I’m really looking forward to exploring even more of the watch and seeing it evolve through software updates.

If you have a favorite feature on your Apple Watch, please let me know! I’d love to hear your stories and try some of these experiences. You can email me at dsmith@businessinsider.com.