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Illustration for article titled How the Apple Watch Became My Favorite Quarantine Gadget
Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

Apple Watch Series 5 (40mm) | $360 | Amazon
Apple Watch Series 5 (44mm) | $379 | Amazon

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When I got my first Apple Watch in 2015, I only really used it for a couple things: fielding notifications for anything when I was bussing tables, and shutting all but the most important pings when I was out with friends to avoid peeking at my phone too often. There wasn’t a lot of utility in that, I’d done without it as long as I’d had a smartphone, but it was still nice to have. That all changed after my first panic attack last year.

I’d gotten a Series 3 earlier that year, but it was still mostly for triaging notifications while I was working and tracking my bike rides to the gym. Last August, while I was out with friends enjoying a tasty meal, my body started to spiral and I convinced myself I was having a heart attack. Several hours at the hospital and one panic disorder diagnosis later, my heart turned out to be fine. Still, I didn’t ever want to go through that feeling again, so I started taking heart rate monitoring more seriously and picked up a Series 4, hoping to get more out of its improved fitness and health tracking.

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I dove into the App Store looking for the best heart rate monitor and went with HeartWatch. It’s a pretty intricate app that gives you lots of data to work with, but I was mostly interested in getting an alert whenever my heart rate was getting too high. This wasn’t a fool-proof way to stop panic attacks, but it helped me see when they were coming on so I could gather myself and find a way out. For the first time, the investment in an Apple Watch made sense to me beyond making me a less rude friend.

That utility’s gone out the window since March when I came down to Arizona to quarantine with family. Suddenly, many of the things that made me anxious, like being in large crowds, biting off more obligations and hangouts than I could chew, and the ever-present stress of driving in Los Angeles weren’t a part of my life anymore and my watch was just another screen for notifications. After spending a good chunk of change to keep me on track, this was a serious bummer.

At first, I accepted defeat and let my watch just sit on the charger; that lasted a few weeks. Luckily, a sleepless night in quarantine is a great time to browse the App Store and stumble upon a promising app or two, and they’ve helped me use my Apple Watch every day to get me through quarantine.

My favorite quarantine app is Toothy, which, while it may sound trivial, has helped me get over the gross hurdle of not brushing my teeth in the morning before logging on for work. Just press a button and the app starts timing your tooth brushing, ensuring that you don’t call it quits before the recommended two minutes are up. It’s sort of like having a quip, but for your wrist. You can even set timers for flossing and rinsing, leaving you with few excuses to let morning breath infiltrate your day.

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Illustration for article titled How the Apple Watch Became My Favorite Quarantine Gadget
Graphic: Toothy

I’ve also been having a lot more trouble sleeping since starting my shelter-in-place, which, if left unmanaged, really makes getting through a workday pretty grueling. Rather than brute-forcing myself into sleeping more (which, sorry, doesn’t work), I’ve started tracking my time asleep using AutoSleep. Combined with all the other health data I throw into my phone (workouts, hydration, calories), I’m able to get a good idea of how changes to my routine affect my sleep. Pro tip: You can use your Apple Watch as your alarm clock and leave your phone in another room overnight to cut the nasty habit of checking your phone the moment you can’t fall back asleep.

As helpful as that’s been in giving me a better chance at sleeping through the night, quarantine has still left my brain pretty spacey and warped my sense of time. When I have to plan my day around calls with my coworkers and set aside time for writing, a brain running on empty gets in the way pretty quickly and obligations start to fall through the cracks. It’s a small tweak, but using WatchOS’s modular face lets me get a quick look at when my next meeting is, along with how many tasks I have due soon, and serves as a quick way to throw my ideas into my notes app before they slip my mind.

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Alone, none of these things would have really gotten me to commit to using my Apple Watch daily, but together these apps have made it a surprisingly useful tool to help keep me on track as quarantine continues to melt the days together. So, if your watch has been sitting on that charger a bit too long, maybe try browsing the App Store and seeing if any apps might help you bounce back from where you’ve faltered over the last few months.


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