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The Apple Watch Keeps My iPhone Addiction Under Control

Over the past year, many people, on noticing the Apple Watch on my wrist, could not help themselves but ask, “So, how do you like your Apple Watch?” After a short pause, my answer has always been, “I like it!” So, one year into the launch of the device seems like a good time to explain my hesitation in answering the question and see if what I was happy with a week in still makes me happy today.

First off, let me explain my hesitation in answering this very straightforward question. It has nothing to do with not liking the Apple Watch. My hesitation comes from the fact that articulating why I like it to someone who has not tried it is not easy. What I usually end up saying is I like it because it helps me keep my phone addiction under control.

While the capabilities of Apple Watch are the same for everyone who has one, the hook it provides for users can be quite different. This is why it is hard to articulate why you like it in a way that speaks to other people.

My hook has certainly been notifications. The reliable nature of the notifications provided by Apple Watch allows me to have my phone on silent all the time because I know I will always see that tweet or email or text that matters to me the most. While allowing me to be in control, notifications also prevent me from getting sucked into email or Twitter. I can see what is happening and I have to make a conscious decision to reach for the phone to reply or interact which, in turn, forces me to judge whether something is urgent enough to interrupt what I am actually doing at the time.

Overall, I feel the Apple Watch lets me be more in the moment. Prior to the Watch, you would have never seen me without my phone on my desk or on the restaurant table, screen up of course! Now, I can happily leave my phone in my bag without fear of hyperventilating. The pre-populated answers you use to reply to a message, as well as voice dictation, are useful ways to do quick triage when waiting is not an option. Even those help to limit my engagement as they encourage a quick and to the point interaction. The bottom line is, I don’t think the Watch is about active engagement the same as it is for the phone. This does not make it less valuable. To the contrary. Having something that delivers, in an immediate and easy manner, what you need without a prompt from you is valuable and convenient.

The Activity App is not the Drill Sergeant I need

The Watch complications also help with my obsession of being in control, especially as I have my activity app circles on. While I quickly got bored with the gamification aspect of the activity app and I no longer check what badges I’ve earned, I still check my daily activity and progress. As I want to get in shape, I wish the activity app offered more than the current level of suggestions for the following week. I certainly would like to be pushed harder vs. asked to settle for a lower goal after missing one. In other words, I wished the Apple Watch were more like a drill sergeant than a supportive mother providing steps on how to achieve my target rather than making me settle for less.

More context, please!

Over time, I have noticed I am not as strict as I was at the beginning with my standing and I blame the fact that the Watch is not always precise at capturing my stands. The lack of context negatively impacts my dependence on the stand reminders. If Apple Watch knows I am doing 65 miles per hour, chances are I am in a situation where standing up and moving around is not an option. If Apple Watch knows I am in a meeting because my calendar says so, I might not want to be reminded to get up. While I can mute reminders for a period of time, I wish there was some degree of automation to start with even if this requires an initial setup.

This increased context added to the more coach-like experience I am hoping for would turn the Watch, and Siri with it, more into an assistant deepening the relationship with the Watch.

Lack of compelling apps shows the current lack of devs interest

Aside from notifications, there are no killer apps I have found. After one year, I am still waiting for someone to make a decent sleeping app but I realize I might have to wait until the next generation Apple Watch when the Watch may have more sensors which will circumvent users having to enter when they go to sleep and get up. Overall, I feel developers are really not putting much effort into thinking about the Watch in a unique way. For me, the Watch is certainly not a duplication of my iPhone. The Watch is all about convenience and ease of use. Apple Pay probably best reflects what I mean. While I could do Apple Pay on my iPhone, it was not until I got it on the Apple Watch I became a regular user.

Developers seem to be waiting for more sensors and more processing power on the Watch. I am not sure if they are necessarily waiting for cellular though. I know I am not in a hurry for that particular feature if it means a compromise on battery life which right now serves me perfectly. While Apple Watch has helped my phone addiction I am not quite ready to leave my phone behind, but that is just me!

From controlling one addiction to becoming one

I like my Apple Watch and I would not go without it but I know I want more so I can love it. I want more so I can be addicted to it in the same way I have been addicted to my phone for so long. Only such a shift will make sure wearables avoid the same issues tablets experienced as they struggled to become a must-have for the masses.

Published by

Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

871 thoughts on “The Apple Watch Keeps My iPhone Addiction Under Control”

  1. Couldn’t agree more about being reminded to stand up while driving at 70 mph, sitting in a movie theater or while dining out at a restaurant. Not being context aware is so unlike an Apple experience.

  2. Me imagine notifications could be more subtle and music-like. A short acquaintance w/Apple watch uncovered two questions. First, my own phone could not be paired with Apple watch in Apple store (apparently TouchID could be transmitted to a store watch) and I could not rub through a two-device experience. Second, swiping though the screens on the Watch was counterintuitive to my taste. Overall, the watch left me delighted, but spaced out.

  3. Does substituting a smartwatch for a smartphone really count ? Is the addiction to the device or to the alerts and whatnot ?

  4. “If Apple Watch knows I am doing 65 miles per hour, chances are I am in a situation where standing up and moving around is not an option.”

    You might be a commuter or traveller on a crowded train going between cities (or just getting up to go to the buffet bar) – I know it doesn’t happen so much in the US, but it’s not that uncommon in Europe. These things are never quite as clear-cut as we would think.

  5. The stand reminder is there because sitting still for too long is bad for you, regardless of how fast you’re moving. If you’re in a car, take a pit stop. If you’re in a plane, get up and walk around, which will help prevent blood clots as well.

    I found it awkward at first but it’s valuable for me on long plane flights and car drives.

    At a movie theater, it’s on Do Not Disturb so I don’t get the reminders anyways.

  6. The new German word for people walking around absorbed in their phones is “smombies” – it’s possible watches help prevent this new zombieism. I’ve thought watches really only will appeal to owners of the giant paddles like the 6S which are physically inconvenient nuisances to pull out and check for routine activity – small phones are easy enough to use that they obviate the watch format.

    1. But even the small phones are a permanent distraction. It annoys me when I speak to someone and they are relentlessly playing with their phone. If you can’t give me your full attention, we’ll talk later. Your routine activity can wait.

  7. I also pause when asked about my watch. It’s the anti-device. I love it because my phone now sits in my briefcase or backpack, and almost never rings anymore. Seriously…it has been months. Yet, I always have my next appointment handy.

    Unless it’s a planned call, I use Siri to dictate a message or place short calls. In the car, I use it to select playlists and podcasts while my phone remains in the trunk, in my briefcase.

    I would love to leave my billfold there in lieu of Apple Pay, and have dropped CVS for Walgreens for that reason. I’m also trying to abandon my key ring in favor of digital locks and using the garage door opener.

    I don’t carry as much. My pockets no longer bulge with gear. My Apple Watch doesn’t demand my attention all the time, and I’ve learned to minimize the notifications I receive. When it taps me, I know it’s important and urgent. I wish it had built-in LTE so that I wouldn’t need to stay within 20 feet of my phone. It’s awesome to take a quick call in the hallway, while my phone stays in a conference room.

    I get to be human again. When I chat with someone in person, I look into their eyes, and watch their expressions. I focus. I don’t check my phone every…well, almost never nowadays. I feel free.

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