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Regret buying your smartwatch? Try these 8 tips before you ditch it

OK, you bought a smartwatch and you're disappointed. Follow these simple tips and I suspect you'll soon be enthralled with your wearable.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

I've been wearing a smartwatch for years. I've gone through Fitbit, Samsung, various knock-offs, and Pixel watches. The Pixel Watch 2 is my current companion. When I first started wearing a smartwatch, I was still on the fence about its usefulness. Sure, I was able to keep track of my "steps" but as I'm a runner, that's not nearly as helpful as other features might be.

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It took me quite some time to realize just how helpful a smartwatch can be -- and I'm here to offer you a few tips that can bring you across the fence (and prevent you from tossing that investment to the side).

1. Change the watch face

This one might not sound especially helpful at first glance, but believe me when I tell you that the right watch face makes a big difference.

First and foremost, some watch faces aren't readable by older eyes. I had to go through numerous watch faces before I found one that offered the right balance of helpful and visible (without the help of my glasses). I tend to check my watch at night (to see how much time I have left). I've had some watch faces that were fancy to look at but impossible to read without the help of my specs.

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If you don't find the ideal watch face included in your app, do a search on the Google Play Store and you'll find plenty of available options (some of them free, some of them with an associated cost).

2. Organize the different tiles

Most smartwatches are set up very much like your smartphone, in that you can swipe right or left to view different tiles. On each tile, you can configure the app or information that is displayed. Make sure you configure this to best suit your needs. 

For example, if you use your watch for exercise every day, ensure the exercise tile is quickly accessible. If you like to monitor your sleep habits, add that tile. If there are tiles you don't ever use, remove them. The important thing is to add only those tiles you use to make the information presented on your watch helpful.

3. Connect it with your phone

This one should be a no-brainer but I've known plenty of people who did not connect their watch to their phone. Or, they connected the watch during setup and left it at that. It's important to use your phone in conjunction with your watch for things like keeping track of data, updating the watch firmware (and apps), managing your tiles, and more. Using the watch without the phone is like making pancakes without a spatula.

4. Customize it

In addition to customizing the watch face and tiles, there are many other customizations you can -- and should -- take advantage of. You can configure notifications, the display, safety and emergency information, wrist preference, security, auto-launch media controls, and more. 

Most of the customizations are done through the phone, but some customizations can be handled on the watch itself (such as changing the order of tiles). Go through the phone app and see what types of customizations are available for your watch and configure it according to your needs.

5. Utilize notifications

I always have my watch on but don't always have my phone with me. Thanks to the Bluetooth connection between my watch and phone, I never miss a notification. I even get notifications from my outdoor cameras, so I always know if something is happening beyond the walls of my house (or if someone is at the front door). That feature alone makes my watch incredibly handy. Although not every notification on the watch is created equal, you'll find some quickly become incredibly useful for your daily routines.

6. Check your sleep habits

I've been doing this for quite some time. Every day, I check how well my watch thinks I slept and compare that information to how I feel in the morning. Surprisingly, the watch data is almost always accurate. With this information, I can keep tabs on my sleep habits and try to make necessary changes, so I'm getting enough REM and deep sleep. I average around 6:29 hours of sleep a night but since I don't use an alarm to wake, it's always helpful that my watch keeps track of the time I spend within the Sandman's realm.

7. Mind the charge

Smartwatches aren't exactly known for outstanding battery life. On my Pixel 2 watch, I usually get anywhere from 24-30 hours from a full charge. Every morning when I get to my desk, the first thing I do is slap my watch on the charger and let it get a full dose of power before returning it to my wrist. By sticking to that routine, I can count on my watch having a full charge whenever I need it.

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Here's one thing I have noticed, however: Using the watch to track my runs tends to gobble up more battery than anything else on the watch. When I run for more than two hours, I know my watch won't make it to that 24-hour mark and will need a charge sooner than usual.

8. Enable always-on display

Always-on display makes it much easier to get a quick glance at your watch. Without always-on display enabled, you'll have to either tap (or double-tap) the watch face or press the crown to view the time. If you want to simply tilt your wrist and see the time, the always-on display must be enabled. 

The one caveat about this feature is that it does consume more battery. This is especially true if you frequently check the time, your heartbeat, your steps, or any other data presented by your watch. I've always found the battery hit to be a worthwhile trade-off. 

Keep in mind: How you configure these settings -- or even if all of these are available -- depends on the watch make and model you own. If your watch of choice doesn't offer all of these features, I'd recommend you consider making the changes for whatever features your watch does offer.

It shouldn't take much work to turn that timepiece into something truly useful.

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