watchOS Independence

Image source: Apple (2019)
Image source: Apple (2019)

Earlier this week, 9to5Mac writer Guilherme Rambo tweeted about the appearance of keywords ‘independent’ and ‘independence’ in yet-to-be-released watchOS code. The suggestion here is that Apple Watch could run by itself, with its own App Store and without the need to be a tethered accessory to iPhone. Naturally, it has been discussed on a range of websites and podcasts as an exciting (but kind of expected) development for Apple Watch. The future and profitability of the watchOS platform may depend on such expanded functionality and perhaps even compatibility with Android handsets. We’ll see next week at the WWDC 2019 keynote if this comes to pass.

Since the announcement of the first-generation Apple Watch in 2014, I’ve been excited about the device’s potential to become a meaningful daily replacement for the iPhone. Now, let me clarify: I do not mean that the iPhone should disappear nor that Apple Watch could address the entire range of features that iPhone offers. The difference in screen size alone has a huge influence on the types of app and feature that are possible on each device. Different circumstances and use cases suit different people.

Still, since the release of the Apple Watch Series 3 and now with Series 4, I’ve enjoyed the near-independence that cellular capability has granted the device. I go out frequently with only my Apple Watch and AirPods, leaving my phone at home. I do this whether I’m exercising, visiting the shops, catching up with a friend for coffee or going out for dinner with my wife. There are numerous situations in life when you do not actually need your phone, either because it’s heavy, rude to have out or just plain unnecessary. Remember when phones were becoming smaller? The smaller that your Nokia was, the cooler it was. Now we live with the opposite, with gargantuan phones for Snapchat filters and AR apps. Apple Watch is the contemporary equivalent of the tiny mobile phone.

So, in a potential world where an Apple Watch does most of my essential daily tasks (without a tethered handset), such as messages, maps, email, activity-tracking, workouts, phone calls, music, podcasts, weather, transport times, banking and Apple Pay, what is the actual point of carrying an iPhone? At this stage, the only missing functionality—albeit a big one these days—is the camera.

As ridiculous as it may sound, If I were able to run an Apple Watch with a mobile payment plan that’s iPhone-free, I would seriously consider ditching the iPhone. After all, I have a Mac and an easily portable iPad Pro when I need it for work, messaging or Web-browsing.

On an additional note, the recent refresh of the iPod touch also got me thinking about the size of my current phone, the iPhone 7 Plus. Sure, Apple’s newest models come with bigger displays in a smaller overall package, however they are still huge phones. Other than the tantalising dual-camera set-up that drove me to buy my 7 Plus, I have never been totally fond of the device’s size and believe that the sweet spot exists somewhere around the dimensions of an iPhone SE or 8.

Many podcasters (to whom I listen) were pleased to see that iPod touch received a bit of an upgrade, but struggled to think of who would need such a device besides young children or those who work in services such as hospitality.

I’m telling you: I would buy such a device and consider it as a replacement for an iPhone, whether for its camera or to plug into my car for music. The ability to have smaller, lighter device and be less distracted by an iPhone would be fantastic. Moreover, it’s cheaper and the A10 processor is more than capable.

I love my iPhone but since first buying an Apple Watch, I have pushed myself to think differently about how I use my tech. We should ask ourselves what is actually necessary and what’s just nice to have. How can we use technology in a way that isn’t only cost-efficient but also enables us to pay more attention to our physical surroundings and the ones we love?

Let’s see what WWDC 2019 brings. I may sound even crazier in a few days.