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The Apple Watch keeps my iPhone addiction under control

I like my Apple Watch, and I would not go without it, but I know I want more so I can love it.

Lauren Goode for Re/code

A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.

Over the past year, many people, upon noticing the Apple Watch on my wrist, could not help asking me, “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 that 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.

One year into the launch of the Apple Watch seems like a good time to see if what I was happy with a week in still makes me happy today.

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 versus 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 that 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-up reminders. If Apple Watch knows I am going 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, which may have more sensors that will circumvent users having to enter when they go to sleep and get up.

I feel that developers are really not putting much effort into thinking about the Watch in a unique way.

Overall, I feel that 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 that 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’m not quite ready to leave my phone behind, but that’s 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.

Carolina Milanesi is a principal analyst at Creative Strategies Inc. She 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, Milanesi drove thought leadership research; before that, she spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as VP of consumer devices research and agenda manager. Reach here @caro_milanesi.

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