My Week Without Apple Watch

Sometimes, in order to truly appreciate life with modern day conveniences, we have to be reminded of what life was like before them. As an experiment for the last week, I decided to live without the thoroughly modern convenience of the Apple Watch. I was lucky enough to be included in the first group of folks outside of Apple to get an Apple Watch. I’ve been wearing the watch all day, every day since April 1st. Here, I shared my thoughts after my first week. Since April 1st, I have deeply integrated the Apple Watch into my everyday life. I decided to run an experiment and see what a week would be like without the Watch after 85 days of living with it. This is what I learned.

iPhone Present vs. iPhone not Present

The first thing I noticed was my heightened awareness of where my iPhone was at all times. One of my observations from my first week with the Apple Watch was how it untethered me from my iPhone in a positive way. Whether it was in my pocket or on the coffee table or near the front door, the Watch allowed me not to worry about my iPhone needing to be with me at all times to remain connected. Life without the Watch reminded me of the habits I developed to make sure my phone was always near me. I would make sure to always put it in my pocket as I moved around the house or carry it with me from room to room.

This behavior is a result of wanting, and sometimes needing, to respond whenever I get a buzz or ding of a notification, whether it is an email alert, text message, or something else. I don’t like the idea of missing something important and this led me to be much more aware of where my iPhone was when I was not wearing the Apple Watch.

Notification Disruption

One of the ways I integrated the Apple Watch into my life was to heavily filter what notifications I allowed to buzz me on the wrist — voice calls, VIP emails, text messages, and only a handful of apps which push me useful information. However on the iPhone, even though I limit the notifications, all of them are treated equally and my phone was constantly buzzing telling me I had a notification. Of course, I check it to see if it is important and needed an immediate response. I had forgotten how much I had to pick up and check my iPhone prior to the Apple Watch. I’d prefer the luxury of reaching for my phone when necessary. Apple Watch helped me achieve this.

iMessage notifications were the worst of the bunch. The vast majority of my daily conversations are via iMessage. Prior to the Apple Watch, this would not have bothered me, but the first few days without it and I was irritated by how often I’d get a buzz of a message, reply to it, put my phone down or in my pocket, get another buzz a minute or two later, reply, put my phone down, get a response a few minutes later, reply, put my phone back down, ad infinitum. For the first few days, this really bothered me because a text message conversation is not always one that happens in real time. Sometimes it takes the other person time to reply. I’d rather not stare at my iPhone screen continuously waiting for the person to respond as I find it inefficient and a waste of time. So I put the phone down or in my pocket between messages and continue what I’m doing. The constant pick up, reply, put down sequence frustrated me. With Apple Watch, this process is seamless. Notifications come in reply from the Watch with text or Siri voice dictation and I keep doing what I’m doing. Living without the Apple Watch for a week showed me how much I took this one experience for granted before the Apple Watch. This was the most frustrating part of living without the Apple Watch because of how much I use iMessage to have conversations throughout the day.

Time Saved

When I told people about my experiment, many were curious if I used my phone less as a result. For a few weeks prior to this experiment, I had been using an app called Moment, which tracks your iPhone usage each day and how many times you pick the phone up, turn the screen on and look at it. While I didn’t see my iPhone usage in terms of hours per day decline during the week without the Apple Watch, I did see a significant drop in the number of times I looked at it. The average number of times I picked up and looked at my phone my last week with the Apple Watch was 74. This last week without the Apple Watch my average number of daily pickups was 102. I charted it to see the difference.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 10.35.14 AM

When I had the Apple Watch on, I averaged 28 fewer times I looked at my iPhone each day. This is a good proxy of how notifications on the watch help minimize the number of times I need to look at my phone to see the nature of each notification.

After reflecting on what looking at my phone fewer times meant in my daily life, I concluded the experience was less disruptive. Don’t get me wrong — I love my iPhone. It is my primary computer. However, having to respond to your phone or pull it out of your pocket or bag for each phone call or text message turns out to be fairly disruptive. As I’ve observed my wife’s behavior as well with her Apple Watch, she articulates similar feelings. As she is out and about, not having to fumble through her purse each time her phone dings is a less disruptive experience in many daily situations. Particularly since not all notifications are important or in need of an immediate response. However, without the use of the Apple Watch, you would not know this without getting your phone out and looking at it. This is an area of immense value that can only be understood once experienced.

Interestingly, the same sentiment is noticed by other Apple Watch wearers. I’m working with a company doing research on existing Apple Watch owners called Wristly (if you have an Apple Watch please consider joining our panel) where 32% of respondents said they spend much less time on their iPhone and 58% indicated they use their iPhone somewhat less.

So what did I conclude? As I pointed to at the beginning of this article, the Apple Watch is a modern day convenience and should be understood as such. It is a convenience in the same way a dishwasher or washer/dryer or a microwave is. None of the items are absolutely necessary, yet so many of their owners can’t imagine life without one. This is what my week without the Apple Watch taught me. Of course I can get by without it but, given the number of conveniences I’ve been able to quantify in the flow of my daily life, I can no longer imagine life without it.

Published by

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

626 thoughts on “My Week Without Apple Watch”

  1. Is the iWatch a convenience, or are notifications an inconvenience ? What I mostly take from your tale seems to be that a gizmo is needed to solve a problem created by another gizmo.
    I personally try to not let notifications interrupt me too much. People know to call for emergencies, or to allow 2 hours for text/IM/mail answers. I find slowing things down also helps with churn: stuff happens and things get done/decided w/o me even having to get involved 🙂

    1. My experience which echoes Ben’s article is that notifications are not all equal. A notification on your wrist is significantly less inconvenient than a notification on the phone in your pocket when you are, for example, driving in your car. At the same time, a notification on your wrist may be more inconvenient than a notification on the phone on your desk when you are in a meeting.

      Although a notification on your wrist is less inconvenient a lot of the time, there are times where a notification on your phone or even on your PC is much more convenient.

      I originally thought that notifications would be a nuisance unless you could easily answer them, and that good filtering of only the important ones would be important. My experience is that I was wrong. If notifications are extremely easy to glance and dismiss, then even the trivial notifications aren’t so annoying.

      This leads me to believe that notifications will be an increasingly important feature of many apps. In fact, I often use one app only because the notifications are pretty good, despite the UI being total crap.

      Also, the future of marketing may well be in notifications and they may actually not be too annoying, even when they aren’t very relevant to my preferences. Dismissing notifications on the watch is *that* easy.

      1. Reading your post, I think widgets make a big difference: I have a few so-so apps for their good widgets.
        When I’m at my desk, I have my tablet and/or phone on a stand, displaying widgets for what would normally be alerts: RSS items, emails, IM… My home screen is a giant notifications display, but the notifications are open and persistent. I can see their content at a glance (not just the fact that I have a notif, but the actual notif body, w/o interacting with the device), let them pile up, dismiss them, or choose to handle them from my PC or device.
        I’ve retired my smartwatch because the incessant notifications weren’t working for me. With widgets I’m in the driving seat, with notifications I’m reacting (and interrupted !) constantly.

        1. Being an iPhone user, I don’t know enough to make a judgement on how useful widgets are, but I can clearly understand how they could potentially be valuable. At the same time, there are many differences between widgets and notifications, for better and for worse, depending on the situation, device, etc.

          Perhaps we need a better classification of UI elements that exist mostly for glancing and with limited interaction. I don’t think that the distinction between widgets and notifications is nearly as important as the situation (standing, talking, walking, sitting alone, sitting with others), screen size of device, persistence (persistent vs. temporary) of the UI element. There’s much more than I could fit into a comment (even though my comments tend to be quite long 🙂 ), but there’s a lot that could be quite important in the near future.

          1. Indeed Widget vs Notification is very contextual.. Widgets are great when I can have the device visible somewhere, useless otherwise.
            I do think they are a driver for screen size: I always wish I could fit just one more widget. I’m up to a 7″ phone, that’s bit much, but here’s nothing at 6.5″… I’m unsure about going back down to 6″ next time around.

    2. l’ve tiers of notifications. What the Watch allows me to do is put tier 1 to my wrist and others I want but are less time crucial to phone. I still value the notifications coming to my phone and want to be alerted, but they are the ones that I can address when I’m ready to be on my phone for long periods of time. As I’ll articulate in a later article, i’m in a class of hyper-mobile people. I’m pretty sure I use my iPhone more hours per week than my PC. For my usage patterns, and the flow of my mobile lifestyle, the Watch adds an element to my efficiency, and one of convenenience, which is what I realized I appreciate the most.

  2. Similar watch/phone dynamic to what I’ve experienced. The filtering and use form on watch has made my all day long device interaction more efficient and less disruptive. I feel more immersed in life outside my phone. I’ve also migrated a lot of communication from email to messaging. I’ve never liked the back and forth of messaging with staring at and typing on the phone. With the watch, I prefer it to email. I’ve also gone from strongly-anti to pro-emoji! They are fun, easy, and even useful on the phone. I would’ve never predicted that.

  3. If one more person asks me if my Moto360 is an Apple Watch (at least 4 per week), I’m gonna….
    Kind of like the NFL announcers calling Surfaces iPads!
    Must drive Coca Cola crazy!

    1. It’s probably worse than you think. The person probably walks away thinking, “he has the Motorola Apple Watch.”

    2. A few years ago I had the same issue with my HTC HD2 vs iPhone. The answer that gets the best reactions: “No: it’s something better”. You can feel the existential doubt in their vacant stares :-p

  4. My phone spends the day on the dresser. My Watch sends me all notifications and I get calls on my iPad or MBP………

  5. My personal experience of the Apple Watch is something that I did not anticipate. It’s nothing to do with notifications (although I *do* enjoy the disconnect from my iPhone).

    My issue is related to the size of my iPhone. I went for a 6 Plus, specifically because I wanted a large screen, and whilst I appreciate what the increase screen real estate give me – it throws up one little irritation…

    …my iPhone is my primary music player, and my my Apple Watch has now become a first class remote control. Anyone who has sat on public transport with an iPhone 6 Plus in their front jeans pocket will recognise the ‘stand up, extract iPhone, navigate to Music app, change playlist, sit down’ pantomime.

    The Apple Watch means I now no longer have to go through this little dance.

    Yes, that’s the very definition of a ‘first world problem’, but honest – it’s a massive boon for me personally.

    1. I also use the Plus and can relate. My original theory was these two products would go nicely together.

  6. Hi there,
    A very nice article specially after reading your first week with the watch. I do have a question for you about the first article… you have mentioned you tracked your activity during a 2 hour tennis match. can you tell me what settings you used in the workout app to actually track the activity during tennis? I am a bit lost when it comes to tracking stuff that is not predefined in the workout app. I play badminton and cant really decide what mode to use.

    1. Yes this was a pain and it got trickier with the update. The only way I’ve found a successful tracking of tennis is to set up a workout and chose “other.” The downfall is it won’t track steps, which is actually the one stat I care the most about in my tennis match.. I’m hoping Apple makes strides in specific tracking for sports like tennis, soccer, basketball, and others where no measurable distance by GPS is tracked. So bottom line, use “other.”

      1. Thanks for your reply Ben. I used outdoor walk last time I played Badminton for 2 hours. I will try the “other” option and see how it works out.
        Thanks again.

  7. Very interesting. I burnt my hand badly a month ago and just started wearing it again this week. I’ve found it harder to adapt to now than when I first started wearing it. I actually forgot to put it on this morning, which I never did before.
    I didn’t actually miss the Watch much, but I was basically bedridden for 2 weeks and spent the rest at home so my iPhone or iPad was in my good hand 80% of the time.
    I’m happy to have texting, notifications and fitness tracking back but could easily live without it.

  8. Before my Apple Watch I too was never without my phone in the house. Now I leave it in the office charging and almost never worry about and it’s actually gotten me to use my iPad more than I did in the past.

    I still believe the true power of the Apple Watch hasn’t been met yet and will be more realized when its real potential is opened up as the primary remote for the upcoming revamped Apple TV.

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