I gave my dad an Apple Watch — his 3 biggest questions, answered

Apple Watch blood oxygen app
(Image credit: Future)

Was it a bit diabolical of me to give my dad his first-ever Apple Watch without any instructions? Definitely, but I did it hoping he’d ask all the questions someone who doesn’t have a smartwatch expert on speed dial would. And I figured at least some of his queries would cover things I haven’t thought to address here on Tom’s Guide before.

Though our page on how to use the Apple Watch offers most of what a novice user needs to know, there are plenty of quirks or personal curiosities you might face with your new smartwatch. My dad, for example, is a health buff attempting to turn the Apple Watch 6 into an everyday fitness tracker. He’s not as concerned about curating notifications or mastering the refreshed messaging features in watchOS 8

I’ll admit, he surprised me by figuring out most of the basic functions by himself. Even if the Apple Watch is notoriously user-friendly, he’s never worn a wearable with as many applications as Apple’s before. (It’s the best smartwatch every year for a reason.)

Still, after a few days and workouts alone with his Apple Watch, he returned with some fair questions, all which I've answered below. 

Does the Apple Watch have auto-pause for bike riding?

This question kind of offended me. If my dad actually read my Apple Watch 7 workout test or Apple Watch 7 review, he would know a) there is in fact an auto-pause feature for outdoor bike rides and b) it’s not enabled automatically. You need to go to Settings > Workout > Auto-Pause and toggle on Auto-Pause. The Apple Watch currently offers auto-pause for Running and Outdoor Cycling workout types (but not for walking, unfortunately,) and you can opt-in to each individually.

My dad's routine bike ride includes a stop for push-ups and tricep dips at a cluster of public benches. When he hopped off his bike, he said he paused tracking his ride after his Apple Watch issued an "Finished your workout?" prompt. But he forgot to un-pause the workout for second-half of his ride, so he didn't get an accurate gauge of his effort at the end. At least you have a fix for next time, dad. 

Will the Apple Watch ECG app notify me if I’m having a heart attack?

With the exception of the Apple Watch SE, every Apple Watch since the Apple Watch 4 can administer electrocardiograms (ECGs) on your wrist. Of all the native apps on the Apple Watch, ECG interested my dad the most. Could it truly warn him of a heart attack, he wondered?

There are number of tools for managing heart health with the Apple Watch, although it cannot definitely detect a heart attack. Instead, it can identify an irregular rhythm suggestive of atrial fibrillation (AFib.) If an Apple Watch does pick up possible signs of AFib, you can then get medical attention to see what might be wrong.

Either way, the ECG sensor in the Apple Watch is a preventative tool for anyone who wants to keep close tabs on their heart's workings. My dad constantly monitors his heart rate for exercise, so he's pretty aware of what's going on without the ECG app. But if he wants to learn more about how to use it, here's our guide on how to use the Apple Watch ECG app.

Can I use the Apple Watch as a golf watch?

In typical retiree fashion, my dad's free time is often spent golfing. As such, his prior experiences with connected watches comes from using the best Garmin watches with golf-specific features, like the Garmin Approach S62 or Garmin Approach S20. He hardly wears them off the fairway, though. So, could he wear his new Apple Watch on the links instead?

The short answer is yes. Some of the best Apple Watch apps like SwingU and V1 Game and The Grint can turn the Apple Watch into a digital caddy, complete with GPS, swing and score tracking. Certain features you'd expect from a traditional golf watch usually cost extra, though. 

Then, even if you're paying for a premium experience, battery life could be a major problem. The best GPS watches could last as long in GPS mode as the Apple Watch can without the constant location tracking most golfers look for. Should your Apple Watch survive 18-holes without dying, you won't be able to use it for long after before leaving it to charge. I'd suggest switching back to your Garmin when you golf.

If there's a parting piece of advice I could give my dad and any other first-time Apple Watch users, it's that you'll make the most of your smartwatch the more you play around with it. There are all sorts of customizable settings, hidden features and additional apps at your disposal, as long as you figure out where to look. 

In the meantime, if there's a specific Apple Watch question you'd like answered, send it my email address below. Yes, that applies to you, too, dad.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.