24-hour Apple Watch challenge: Can it replace the iPhone?

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In a test to see if it was possible to live without an iPhone, one AppleInsider staffer bravely uses just their Apple Watch to see if it was possible, and what limitations they'd run into. Here's how it went on their 24-hour Apple Watch challenge.

I'm ditching my iPhone for my Apple Watch
I'm ditching my iPhone for my Apple Watch



There are a few housekeeping items on the logistics of my challenge before we get into the meat of it. I do have a cellular plan on my Apple Watch, so when I leave my iPhone behind, I still can get alerts, data, and everything else on my Apple Watch.

If you don't have a data plan on your Apple Watch, it will be much harder without your iPhone as there's no way to use Siri, receive messages, take phone calls, or anything else.

The challenge is also supposed to be about replacing my iPhone. That doesn't prevent me from using other devices that don't compete with Apple Watch, such as my Mac or iPad, though I did try to limit their use as much as possible.



I'm also using the Apple Watch Ultra. Compared to other versions of the Apple Watch, this has the longest-lasting battery life and can recharge rapidly.

I started the day with a full charge and made it through the whole day and the following night -- a whole 24 hours -- without charging up.

If you're doing this regularly, you'd need to ensure you set time throughout the day to power up.

One issue I knew I'd have to contend with that others don't is that I'm a type 1 diabetic and wear a CGM. My Dexcom G7 connects to my iPhone to give me near real-time readings of my blood sugar level so that I can take the appropriate amount of insulin needed with meals.

Dexcom CGM only goes to iPhone
Dexcom CGM only goes to iPhone



The Dexcom G7 currently only connects to the iPhone, which will forward the data to the Apple Watch. When I left the house without my iPhone, I got no readings from my CGM.

Dexcom says it is working on an update to the G7 that will allow direct Apple Watch connection, but until then, I was out of luck. Since using a CGM is somewhat niche, we won't go into further detail when evaluating my day.

When I wake up in the morning...



Starting the day, I roll out of bed after I dismiss the sounding alarm vibrating on my wrist. I always wear my Apple Watch to bed for sleep tracking and the ability to have my Apple Watch assist in getting me out of bed thanks to its Taptic Engine.

Sleep tracking with Apple Watch
Sleep tracking with Apple Watch



Instead of looking at my iPhone for my morning summary, I looked at the notifications on my Apple Watch and checked my emails. I did have one that I wanted to respond to right away, which meant using the small on-screen keyboard.

The keyboard isn't as bad as it was, and swiping to type is reliable. Still, it felt like it took me three times as long as it would on my iPhone.

Typing with the new watchOS keyboard
Typing with the new watchOS keyboard



I hopped out of bed to make my morning coffee, and while I waited on the brew, my instinct was to scour social media. Except, this is much harder with Apple Watch as your sole device.

There's no native Twitter or TikTok client for watchOS. I use Chirp, which works in a pinch for Twitter, so I saw what was trending on its version of my home feed.

With my coffee in hand, I set out to get work done.

Working 9 to 5



My work day was the easiest portion of the challenge as I simply used my Mac more. I'm not going to lie -- my first move was heading to Twitter for a better view of the day's ongoings.

With my Mac, I checked in on Slack -- something else I can't do on my watch -- and my email. The latter is possible with watchOS, but seeing only one or two emails at a time feels limiting for real work.

Throughout the day, I used my Mac for texting, Slack messages, video editing, photo editing, and answering questions on social media. The usual rigamaroll.

I'd probably have done much of this on my phone while walking around the set or filming, but I was more tethered to my notebook than usual. At times, it felt good to be more focused with my Mac, but I also felt like I couldn't work whenever I stepped away.

Hold the wheel then drive



In the afternoon, I had some errands that needed to be checked off my to-do list, so I hopped in the car. No CarPlay today, though, and I had to listen to SiriusXM through my car radio instead of catching up on podcasts.

I could have used my AirPods directly with my Apple Watch to stream music, podcasts, or books from my Audible library, but I didn't bring them so I was out of luck.

Apple Pay on Apple Watch
Apple Pay on Apple Watch



My first stop was Petco to grab my online order for dog food and water for my salt tank. My watch tapped me as I got a message from my partner asking if I could grab some teething bones for the pups.

After picking out a bag of natural toothbrush bones, I headed to checkout and completed the purchase via Apple Pay. I did have my wallet, but it's nice to tap to pay when possible -- and safer.

I was dragging, so on my way home, I made a detour to Starbucks. Once more, I could have paid using my wallet, but I wanted my Starbucks stars.

Paying for Starbucks with the watchOS app
Paying for Starbucks with the watchOS app



Starbucks has a watchOS app that shows my remaining dollar balance and allows the barista to scan the barcode to complete the transaction. Easy enough through the drive-through.

While I waited for my cold brew, I did run into another Apple Watch limitation that drives me crazy -- the News app. Apple News on Apple Watch shows you only the top five headlines and the lede, no more.

Apple News on Apple Watch
Apple News on Apple Watch



If you want to continue reading a story, it pushes you over to the iOS app which I didn't have access to. I had to just sit there and be patient while I waited, with no phone to distract me.

Be runnin' up that road



Before dinner, I wanted to get a workout in. I went outside for a quick (very quick) jog. This time I did remember to connect my AirPods to listen to music while I ran.

Starting a cycling workout on Apple Watch
Starting a cycling workout on Apple Watch



Once I made it back, I hopped onto our spinning bike for a bike ride too. I am running watchOS 7 so it is nice to see the new cycling features.

Apple Home controls on Apple Watch
Apple Home controls on Apple Watch



Before biking, I used Siri to set my working scene which closed our living room blinds and turned on the living room lights. If I didn't have my Apple Watch I'd still be able to use my HomePods though.

As I started cooking dinner, I initially started using the timers on my iPhone but I quickly realized that the HomePod was better suited. No need to use my watch at all there, even if it was my task for the day.

I did run into an issue when I couldn't look up a recipe substitute though. I won't say I cheated, but I did have to use my iPad to do a bit of culinary research.

So take it easy



As I started to wind down for the night it was the most difficult part of the day to be without my iPhone. Messaging was more cumbersome on my watch over an extended period, I couldn't read the news or browse social.

I felt disconnected from the digital world. That doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing as it can be a bit freeing to ditch the constant glow of our phones.

There was no way I could sit on the couch, consumed by my smartphone but instead spent some time in our garden, chatting, playing with the baby, and other offline activities. I did those things before, but I probably spent more time doing them with no digital alternative.

Remote app for Apple TV is only OK
Remote app for Apple TV is only OK



As we hit the bed for the night, I tried using my watch to control the Apple TV and while possible, it isn't as convenient as the Siri Remote or my iPhone.

Finally, I used my Apple Watch to set my good night scene and enabled the sleep focus.

Making it through the day wasn't as difficult as I imagined it would be but it still isn't something I could do each day. Some tasks are plain out tougher to do and some are downright impossible.

Looking back at it all it is impressive how much the Apple Watch can now do, even if there are still a few gaps to shore up.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    waveparticlewaveparticle Posts: 1,497member
    My Apple Watch will show CarPlay notification. Does this require iPhone to be nearby? 
  • Reply 2 of 12
    pulseimagespulseimages Posts: 607member
    No, it won’t replace the iPhone.
    baconstangmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobrapscooter63
  • Reply 3 of 12
    No camera. People addicted to selfies for example (myself excluded thank you but what about that food shot at a restaurant?...). Or using an app like iNaturalist to photograph plants, insects, etc. for IDing. I use my iPhone to digiscope wildlife and therefore always have to have my iPhone handy - cannot do that with a watch. Plus the added expense of a data plan to include a watch to duplicate most everything I already do with my iPhone? Oh, and my iPhone can actually tell me the time... 
    baconstangwatto_cobraaccsmobi
  • Reply 4 of 12
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,337member
    This paragraph will, I hope, really strike a chord in a lot of readers:

    There was no way I could sit on the couch, consumed by my smartphone but instead spent some time in our garden, chatting, playing with the baby, and other offline activities. I did those things before, but I probably spent more time doing them with no digital alternative.”

    These digital devices are truly amazing, but just as with televisions from a few generations back, it’s *really* important to spend more time in the “real” world with the people and places you love and not fall into the trap of being glued to your screen. Although the Apple Watch failed the test of being a substitute for one’s iPhone, it succeeds at reminding people there is a balance to be struck between digital and real.
    watto_cobradesignrFileMakerFellerpscooter63dewme
  • Reply 5 of 12
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,354moderator
    No, it won’t replace the iPhone.
    At some point in future it could if it was able to get a larger display:



    That concept video shows laser projection and another option is rollable displays. Two bands on the wrist with a rollable display and pull the bands apart to show the full display:



    In the collapsed form, it would behave like a smartwatch and when extended, like a smartphone. Battery life would be quite bad if the phone part was used often, especially for games, but when mostly used as a smartwatch, it would last all day. It would be more comfortable to use with the display on the underside of the arm.

    It could have a built-in camera or a separate bluetooth camera that is paired to it.

    The rear camera and battery are the biggest parts but the rest + front camera would fit in a wrist phone:



    It's about time there was an improvement in battery tech. Toyota says they have improved solid state batteries and aim for commercial use in 2027:

    https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/toyota-market-next-gen-battery-evs-2026-built-by-new-ev-unit-2023-06-13/

    With a solid state battery, it can charge very quickly so wouldn't need all day battery life. There could be wireless charging points and you would hold your wrist against it for a few seconds and it would charge up.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 12
    Hoping for solid state batteries within the next 4 years.  Interested to see if the goggles will be a suitable replacement for a mac laptop within 5 years or so.  

    For now, I spend a LOT more time on a MBP than on an iPhone.  May look more carefully at attaching a keyboard, mouse and external display to an iPhone via a dock.  Will wait until transition from lightning to usb-c in a year or two.  I keep the iPhone powered off most of the time (except during power failures, and to use for two factor authentication, where some sites do not offer email or landline as an option).  
    edited July 2023 watto_cobraaccsmobi
  • Reply 7 of 12
    I went days without using an iPhone - I don't own a watch except a Rolex that I only sport to special occasions.  The only tiny problem was telling the exact time, but you would be surprised how many clocks they are around if you look - otherwise you just have to ask a stranger if you're alone, with friends, family or work, clock doesn't matter.
  • Reply 8 of 12
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 809member
    I can go for a long time with just the Apple Watch, and I do. The only app I really miss is WhatsApp, so many people in Europe use it that it’s hard to be without it for more than a few hours. And I need my iPhone for CarPlay but luckily I only use my car once or twice a week. 
    edited July 2023
  • Reply 9 of 12
    jdiamondjdiamond Posts: 125member
    Can you tell me which app you were using for sleep tracking?  It's the one feature that's kept me from upgrading to an Apple Watch, because i never found any Apps that could break out sleep into the 4 categories.

    Thanks so much for this article - it's hugely helpful.

  • Reply 10 of 12
    40domi40domi Posts: 103member

    In a test to see if it was possible to live without an iPhone, one AppleInsider staffer bravely uses just their Apple Watch to see if it was possible, and what limitations they'd run into. Here's how it went on their 24-hour Apple Watch challenge.

    Without a camera, No is the short answer, however with cellular you can often leave your phone behind, which I do often when going to the gym, shops & bar's.
    The lack of a proper WhatsApp is an issue as well from my point of view.
    I'm amazed how many people don't understand the benefit of cellular & go without.
    edited July 2023 sflagel
  • Reply 11 of 12
    40domi said:

    In a test to see if it was possible to live without an iPhone, one AppleInsider staffer bravely uses just their Apple Watch to see if it was possible, and what limitations they'd run into. Here's how it went on their 24-hour Apple Watch challenge.

    Without a camera, No is the short answer, however with cellular you can often leave your phone behind, which I do often when going to the gym, shops & bar's.
    The lack of a proper WhatsApp is an issue as well from my point of view.
    I'm amazed how many people don't understand the benefit of cellular & go without.
    My personal preference is to avoid increasing the number of radios in close or near contact with my skin. I've had periods where the skin under my watch gets irritated, and so does the skin surrounding the pocket where I keep my phone - it's hardly a showstopper, and it's such a rare sensitivity that I doubt many people need to worry about it, but there can be side effects so I try to minimise my exposure.
    designr
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