Ruthless Gatekeeping is the Key to Apple Watch Bliss

I received my Apple Watch on April 24th and, like most folks, took all the defaults during the setup process. This resulted in every Apple Watch companion app I had available on my iPhone being installed on my Watch, complete with all Glances enabled. I thought this was a good thing. It is, after all, how I manage my iPhone — I test a lot of apps, so I tend to keep things around on the phone, dormant and out of the way.

It took me nearly two weeks to realize this was the very reason I wasn't enjoying the use of my Apple Watch. 

The best way I've found to use Apple Watch is to be a ruthless gatekeeper when it comes to installing Apps and Glances. If I try an app and don't immediately envision myself using it regularly, I remove it. It's easy enough to reinstall it in the future when either the app is updated (presumably for the better) or when my needs change. All I need is my iPhone to reinstall an app and, let's face it, my Apple Watch isn't going to do much without my iPhone close by anyway.

Before (on the left) and after (on the right).
Paring things down keeps it simple and makes it easy to
find the app you want.

Glances I manage with even more ruthlessness. I give a cold, hard look at each Glance I can activate and determine whether I am really going to use it frequently. If not, I disable it and get it out of my way. I recommend having no more than 6 Glances installed. I know Apple allows 20, but I think they should have limited it at 6 (at least until they can make Glance updates more efficient; more on that another time). 

Sure, it's fine (for the most part) to leave a dogpile of apps on your iPhone, safely tucked out of the way in folders and hopefully not chewing battery life in the background even when you think it's not (Skype, I'm still looking at you). The Apple Watch app-layout UI doesn't accommodate this sort of hiding-in-folders behavior, nor does it need to. Just uninstall the apps from the Watch and reactivate from your iPhone if and when you desire.

But, The iPhone Version is My Favorite App!

What really brought this home for me was Twitter. I use Twitter's native apps on iOS and OS X. This is largely because Twitter has been changing their feature sets faster than developers can update their apps, so it's just simpler to use Twitter's native offerings. Along those same lines I figured I should be using their native app on Apple Watch.

Problem is, Twitter on Apple Watch is built to let me just scroll through my Twitter stream there. I don't want that on my Watch. I want to address direct messages and replies, which Twitter's Apple Watch app won't do. Twitterific, however, does exactly what I want on the Watch, so I started using that. Initially, though, I left the native Twitter app on the Watch in hopes of testing a potential update down the road. Wrong decision. The right decision, which I've now implemented, is to remove the native Twitter app from the Watch and pay attention to Twitter's iPhone app update notices. When they say they've done something better for Apple Watch, I'll reinstall it there and try again.

This all reinforces the concept that Apple Watch is (at least currently) a companion to the iPhone. Because of that, my iPhone is never far away and always has all those other things I need. Just like I wouldn't take everything from my Mac and put it on my smaller-screened iPad, and wouldn't take everything from my iPad and put it on my even-smaller-screened iPhone, I certainly don't want to put everything from my iPhone on to the yet-smaller screen of my Apple Watch.

I instituted this policy less than five days ago and my Apple Watch experience has dramatically changed for the better. I now am actually using the (few) apps I keep on the Watch and am learning to enjoy the experience. I highly recommend it.