Why my iPhone is the best watch I’ve ever owned

In the past, I tried my best to use Apple’s iPod Nano as a watch. Charging it each and every night, syncing it to my Mac, even strapping it to my arm with a custom watch band case. In the end everything I tried did not work out for me. Keeping in mind that it was disconnected, that experience has left me a little skeptical on how useful a smartwatch could actually be.

Since then, I’ve happily transitioned to using my iPhone as a sort of smart pocket watch. The best thing about it is that I never have to adjust my iPhone for Daylight Savings Time as it can set its own date and time.

Our smart devices constantly sync their time with various time services on the internet. No setting the clock five minutes ahead or three minutes behind to ensure you make it on time to important events. There is no longer an excuse for not knowing what time it is, right down to the second.

My iPhone is more important to me as a time piece than it is an actual phone. Here’s why.

iOS announces the time

Alarm clocks: The built-in alarm clock is rather basic but it gets the job done. You can set multiple alarms and assign a different ringtone to each one. Finding a good replacement alarm clock app is an ongoing challenge, like my quest to find a good calculator app for my iPad or a good overall weather app. There always seems to be a new app that is better than my previous favorite app. Rise Alarm Clock ($1.99, universal) is just that sort of app. It’s not just its ability to play music from my library in the morning. There is something about the way you use the clock that makes it feel like a much better clock. And being able to re-adjust your alarm wake-up time in the morning sure beats living with a standard snooze time limit.

Reminder alerts: As useful as the Rise Alarm Clock is, I’ve moved away from using the Clock app’s built-in alarm capabilities in favor of setting an alarm in the Reminder app. After creating a reminder item, clicking on the info button to the right of the reminder reveals additional settings. Setting an alarm for the reminder can not only wake you up in the morning, but also let you know what’s important to you that day.

Calendar events: It’s nice to be reminded of the time throughout the day. Calendar events are a great way to keep track of the time. Recurring events like lunch, picking up the kids from school or meeting your boss every other Wednesday for lunch are just a few examples. Adding alerts to your calendar events each day helps keep you on track.

Different alert options

Ringtones: There are several different ringtones available in iOS by default. You can set your alarm, reminder, calendar event and even the ringtone of each individual contact in your contact list to use a different alert. In the past, getting custom RingTones on your iOS device required you to sync to iTunes on your Mac or PC. Now, with Apple’s GarageBand ($4.99, universal) for iOS, you can create custom ringtones right from your iOS device without having to sync. The trick comes when you are finished editing your song. Tap the Action button and select “Share Song As Ringtone.” After the new ringtone has been exported, choose “Use Sound As” in order to associate it with one of the ringtone alert options on your device.

Vibrations: You can also use vibration alert to remind you of the time, and you can even create custom vibrations. To set an alert to a different vibration pattern go to Settings > Sounds, select the Sound and Vibration you want to customize, and tap on the Vibration setting to select which vibration pattern you want to use. If you like, you can even create your own vibration pattern by selecting Create New Vibration instead. It makes you wish you knew Morse code.

Flashing light: You can make your camera’s flash light up as part of an alert. It is one of the many useful accessibility features that everyone should know about. To use this feature go to Settings > General > Accessibility and under the Hearing section, turn on “LED Flash for Alerts.” Now each time a new notification is sent to your iPhone the camera flash will go off. Just be sure to place your iPhone face down so that the flash is pointing up and will be seen when the alarm goes off.

Siri’s voice: If you want a little more information than just a beep, bump or flash, you can have Siri read each notification to you when it displays. This feature is located under Settings > General > Accessibility > Voice Over. Scroll down to the bottom of the section and enable “Always Speak Notifications.” The trick to making this feature useful is being able to turn it on and off when you need to. This is done on the bottom of the main Accessibility section’s view. Here you will see a setting called “Accessibility Shortcut.” Set this to “Voice Over” and now every time you triple click the Home button, your iPhone will be placed in Voice Over mode and will read all of your alerts to you.