Friday, August 26, 2016

Tips & Tricks: Wearables & the Sound of Silence

The convenience of automation is something that is becoming more and more accessible to the everyday user. Services such as IFTTT makes it easy to make those mundane tasks that you always forget about (like silencing your phone when you arrive at work so your amazing ringtone doesn't go off right in the middle of an important meeting) happen in the background and without you ever having to think about it. For me, I use automation apps and services to streamline how my phone acts under certain circumstances. And for this post, I'd like to share some fun tricks you can do between your phone and your Bluetooth-enabled wearable.


Let's start with requirements:

  • For these tricks, you do need an Android smartphone (sorry iPhone users)
  • On your phone, you need the AutomateIt app (don't worry, it's free)
  • Bluetooth- enabled wearable (like a Fitbit or Apple Watch)
For this example, I am using my Samsung Galaxy S6 and Microsoft Band 2, but you should be able to apply similar tricks to your own device. The AutomateIt app is only available to Android phones, but if you can find something similar for iPhone, you may be able to implement this idea similarly.

So, if you're like me and have a wearable that can receive notification from your phone (ex. calls, text messages, etc.), you probably keep your phone on silent for the most part. I love having my phone on silent and receiving my notifications on my Band because I feel as though my focus is less rattled with every notification and everyone around me has no idea I've got a text message or incoming phone call.

However, wearables like these typically require some decent charging every day or two and I found that I was forgetting to turn my phone's ringtone up while my Band was stuck on the charger. Because of this, I have admittedly missed several important calendar notifications which resulted in me scrambling to join a meeting the next time I checked my phone. Thankfully, the standard "I was in another meeting" excuse worked but it was still frustrating.

AutomateIt on
Google Play
To solve this problem, decided to turn to the AutomateIt app. This app allows users to set rules that, if certain conditions are met, execute an action (ex. if "x" happens, then perform "y"). Some have raised concerns about the battery usage of this app but I have not noticed much of an impact. AutomateIt comes in both a free and pro flavor and, as expected, the pro flavor has a few more features and no ads. For this scenario, however, the free version is all you need.

Solving my problem was pretty simple; it just took some exploring of the app's features. AutomateIt has a "trigger" (aka the "if this happens" part) that allows for an action to be performed if the state of a Bluetooth device changes. So with a few quick clicks, I set the following rules:

  1. If my Band disconnects from my phone's Bluetooth, turn the volume up on my phone.
  2. Rule #2
  3. If my Band connects to my phone via Bluetooth, turn the volume on my phone to silent.
Now in any scenario, be it if I walk away from my phone a little too far or I am charging my Band, my phone will automatically turn up the volume so I won't have to worry about remembering to turn it up myself. Though, if your wearable has a "sleep" feature that blocks notifications from being received, be aware that this could result in the volume being turned up in the middle of the night (but this can also be fixed through DnD features or additional automation rules).

If you have an Android wearable, AutomateIt has trigger specifically you for which might make this process even simpler. There may be some devices where this doesn't work, such as wearables that are not constantly connected or provide notifications to it's wearer, but this idea can certainly be implemented in other ways, like in a Bluetooth-enabled car. Also, it's important to note that if you're near your wearable without it on, it can cause your phone to stay in silent-mode.

So that's it, a pretty simple solution to a problem. I hope this helps others to never miss an important notification because your wearable isn't being worn. If you've already solved this problem on other devices, in a different way and/or more efficiently, I'd love to hear about them! Please comment below.

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