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6 Things You Never Knew You Could Do With Your Smartwatch

That device on your wrist can do more than just monitor your heart rate and count steps.

Your smartphone may have become an essential part of your everyday life, but it's not the only gadget that can make your life easier. A good smartwatch can take a lot of the accessibility of a phone out of your pocket and put it right on your wrist, with even the most basic and affordable models providing features such as step counting, heart rate monitoring, and alerts. But whether you've worn one for years or are just getting ready to buy one for yourself, the tiny devices are actually capable of more than you probably realize. Read on for the things you never knew you could do with your smartwatch, according to experts.

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Connect to your doorbell camera

Doorbell cam

Keeping an eye on your front door no matter where you are can bring peace of mind. And many of the porch devices that are good for keeping an eye on who's coming and going can work with your smartwatch just as well as with your smartphone. In fact, some say they can help make your home even easier to manage.

"Apple should've advertised the Apple Watch as an accessibility tool," Meryl K. Evans, a speaker and accessibility marketing consultant who is deaf. "If they had, I would've bought one a lot sooner and be on my third watch instead of second."

She explains that her watch's haptics—or a specific series of vibrations—alert her whenever someone comes to her door or drops off a package, whether they ring the doorbell or not.

"This way, I know right away to get the package or see who is at the door," she tells Best Life. "My sister came over once, and my kids didn't let me know. The watch let me know when she was there."

Pay at the cash register

A customer using their smartwatch to pay at a store

Changing technology is making it easier and easier to save time at the register. First, it was cards that only needed to be tapped instead of swiped. Then, our phones got the ability to tap and pay in an instant. And now, that same capability means you won't have to do much more than move your wrist to settle up.

"Smartwatches with NFC technology, such as the Apple Watch (with Apple Pay), Samsung Galaxy Watch (with Samsung Pay), and Garmin watches (with Garmin Pay), enable users to make secure, contactless payments," says George Patient, founder and editor of Merch Mates. "Simply hold your watch near a compatible payment terminal and authenticate with a passcode or biometric, making checkout quick and hassle-free."

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Custom haptics

person wearing black smartwatch
A. Aleksandravicius/Shutterstock

One of the more alluring prospects of wearing a smartwatch is that its notifications and alerts cut down on the need to check your phone. And thanks to certain settings, you can tailor your device so you won't even have to glance at your wrist to check what's going on.

"Haptics—or specific vibration patterns—make it possible to know what kind of alert I am getting from my watch without looking at it," says Evans. "Without doing anything, I know if it's the door, timer, alarm, text message, or other notification. This is especially helpful If I'm in a meeting, so I can decide whether I need to look at my watch or not knowing what kind of alert I got."

Remote controlling your phone's camera

A woman taking a photo with her phone while using a smartwatch as a remote

For as advanced as the cameras on our smartphones have become, it's still limited if you want to set up a larger shot without handing it off to a stranger to take it for you. That's where your smartwatch can come in handy.

"Smartwatches like the Apple Watch allow users to control their smartphone camera remotely," says Patient. "This feature is handy for taking group photos, selfies, or starting video recordings. You can preview the camera view on your watch screen, set a timer, and capture the perfect shot without touching your phone."

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Turn-by-turn directions

A person setting GPS on their smartwatch

Printed roadmaps are a thing of the past thanks to GPS in our vehicles. If you find yourself in a situation where you still need to use an outboard device for turn-by-turn directions, your smartwatch can be particularly helpful.

"I am not good at directions, and the GPS map that came with my car is outdated, so I have to use my phone's map," says Evans. "Thankfully, my watch can give me directions, so I don't have to look down at my phone, which is unsafe. The watch even vibrates when a turn is coming up, so I don't miss it!"

Call for help in an emergency

A person using the SOS feature on their smartwatch

At their most basic, the phones in our pockets should be able to call for help in a serious emergency. And while some features have made it possible for them to call for assistance even without being prompted to do so, it also helps to have a device on your wrist that has a surprising number of safety features.

"In emergencies, many smartwatches have an SOS feature that can be a lifesaver. For instance, the Apple Watch allows you to quickly call emergency services and notify emergency contacts by pressing and holding the side button," says Patient. "This feature can provide your location and critical information to responders, ensuring you get help when you need it most."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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