This is How People Are Really Using the Apple Watch

Jun 17, 2015

Article ImageThe Apple Watch is here to stay, and depending on how you feel about smartwatches, that may be a good or bad thing. As we learn more about how people are actually using their smartwatches, manufacturers have the opportunity to create devices and operating systems that better address the needs and wants of users. With that in mind, Battery Ventures decided to find out exactly how smartwatches are being used.

Battery found that the top features/apps on the Apple Watch are:

  • fitness tracking (72%)
  • checking email (72%)
  • checking the weather (71%)
  • Siri (63%)
  • sending/receiving text messages (62%)
  • receiving/making calls (61%)
  • maps/navigation (60%)

So what does this tell us about the future of Apple Watch and its competitors? "Based on these specific findings, I recommend making the fitness tracking features as compelling as possible since these seem like a big incentive for wearables," says Jonathan Sills, an executive-in-residence at Battery Ventures. "This might include broader functionality around health and wellness, from blood pressure monitoring to sleep tracking. Secondly, I'd focus on making the integrated communication functions (managing email, text, calls, voice guidance, etc.) easier and more delightful to use. It is also important that the watch was light, had long battery life, was waterproof--all the things that make it simple to wear as much as possible without hassle."

The advice doesn't end there. Sills adds, "Additionally, there was some qualitative feedback around the desire to use the smartwatch as a control: remote for your television, garage door opener, etc., so you could eliminate all those other devices. Right now those features are confined to the Apple ecosystem (e.g., control Apple TV)."

Any study that highlights the winning apps and uses of a device will inevitably tell us what isn't working-or at least isn't compelling for users. Battery found that some of the Apple Watch's most basic functions were going practically unused. "Ironically, the core timekeeping functions (timer, world clock, stopwatch, etc.) which are given front-and-center prominence on the Apple Watch might be too expansive relative to everything else motivating people to buy and wear the device. We'll see how things develop."

Even as Battery was releasing its findings, Apple was already announcing updates to the Watch and its iOS at its World Wide Developers Conference. Sills was excited about the same feature that most users and pundits were: the ability for the Watch to work independently of the iPhone. "Running applications independent of the iPhone will give it more utility particularly with fitness and health related features," says Sills.

Incidentally, Battery research found that smartwatch users are already moving away from interacting with their phones. In a blog post about the findings, Sills wrote, "When we asked respondents how their interaction with their iPhone device has changed because they are now using Apple Watch, we saw--even with the small sample size--a strong signal that they are using their phones somewhat less (39%), and not somewhat more (18%). This means marketers who depend on iPhone interactions to fuel customer engagement might need to focus more on how to generate interest through small watch screens, instead of mobile phones and tablets. Qualitative feedback from Apple Watch owners has surfaced numerous issues about how the watch can and should work independently of the iPhone, and that paradigm will likely evolve with future hardware and software releases."

There were some other important updates as well. Sills says, "Replying to emails direct from the watch and added support for FaceTime improves the communications utility. And HomeKit will offer people more control of the devices around them, although it appears heavily tethered to Apple TV."

(Image coutesy of Shutterstock.)