Jacob Evans

Apple Watch’s Killer Feature No One Told Me About

Since purchasing the original Apple Watch back in 2015 I’ve used it mostly for checking the time (shocker, right?) and getting notifications delivered to my wrist. The former is extremely useful, the later I’ve had to tune over time to only display the most timely alerts, such as iMessages and emails from individuals on my VIP list. Outside of these two use cases, I’ve struggled to find the killer feature1 to make me really love the watch, until now.

I’m working to be more present when in social situations. I want to give my friends and family my undivided attention. And when I’m not around people, I need to relearn what it means to be alone with my thoughts. Unfortunately, pulling out my smartphone to check the news, email, and Slack messages has become my goto habit when there’s a lull in the conversation or when I’m alone and bored.

Finding excuses to do something, or to have something, is one of my many talents. For instance, I think I should have my smartphone with me at all times because there may be a situation (or lord forbid an emergency) requiring my immediate attention. There may be an instance where I need to crank out a bit of work or help a colleague. There may even be a time when I need to lookup some bit of esoteric information to win an argument. I can count on one hand how many times each of these scenarios has happened to me since the dawn of the smartphone (the last one being the exception, of course).

Don’t get me wrong, smartphones are incredibly useful. My iPhone is indispensable when traveling. I would hate to go back to using paper maps and printed directions. But there are times, perhaps many times, when I don’t need to have a smartphone in my pocket, particularly on a date night or when visiting with friends and family. But I could benefit from being reachable if an emergency or situation comes up requiring my immediate attention. And that’s the killer feature of the Apple Watch.

The cellular-equipped Apple Watch can be almost entirely decoupled from its iPhone companion. I can receive phone calls and timely alerts on my wrist without having my iPhone nearby, which means it can serve as a smartphone replacement for critical uses2 without bringing all the tempting distractions the iPhone has to offer.

I attended a family function recently and experimented with leaving my iPhone in the car and only wearing my Apple Watch, and guess what? I was more present. I found it easier to engage in conversation and really listen—not to just to listen to reply. I even took a short nap when there was a long lull in the conversation. It was a refreshing experience, one that I hope to repeat often.

I’m certain my new found presence wasn’t noticed by others, but I noticed. And when I was tempted to reach for my iPhone, it was through a door, down some steps, over the grass, across the streat, and safely tucked in the glove compartment in my locked car. My smartphone was the perfect distance away.

  1. The Apple Watch is excellent at health and fitness tracking. For many this is the killer feature. I'm not a health nut, nor do I peform regular workout routines. For this reason, the watch hasn't been useful to me for recording health-related activities. ↩︎

  2. I appreciate many people take pictures when out and about primarily with their smartphone. I don’t, and when we do need to take a photo, my wife has her's at the ready. ↩︎