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Apple Watch Put to the Phoneless Challenge
Apple, Feedback Loup

Over a seven-day period last week, the Loup Ventures team decided to go phoneless. We used only a cellular Apple Watch S4 and left our iPhones turned off.

  • Apple Watch is the most viable (and most expensive) wearable available today to go phoneless.
  • The Watch does not replace the iPhone, but using the Watch in lieu of the phone made our lives mostly better.
  • We no longer believe an Apple Glasses product (best guess Dec 2021 launch) will cannibalize iPhone, rather they’re complementary.
  • We spent significantly less time consuming media, which gave us a sense of having more free time.
  • Battery life was the most acute challenge we faced for the phoneless use case (on average lasting until late afternoon).

We wrote more about the psychology of going lite here, so this note’s focus is the functionality of the Apple Watch as an alternative to the iPhone.

An Important Point Before We Begin

We set out to use the Apple Watch as our only device – a use case for which it is not intended. It’s clear that in terms of battery life, functionality, and the user experience, Apple designed the Apple Watch as a companion device for the iPhone. The cellular Apple Watch is great for temporarily leaving your phone behind, but not for powering it down permanently.


Going phoneless was less painful than we thought it would be. Even core phone use cases like making and receiving calls (with AirPods), reading emails, and checking calendars are easy on an Apple Watch. There is certainly not feature parity from iPhone to Apple Watch, but the Apple Watch fared mostly well doing the basics. Below are our top likes:

  • Email: Reading short (two-sentence) emails is easy on Apple Watch.
  • Siri: Dictation on Apple Watch works exceptionally well and solves much of the text input challenge.
  • iMessage: Receiving, reading and responding to iMessages on Apple Watch is simple.
  • Apple Pay: We finally broke the habit of reaching into our pocket to use Apple Pay on iPhone. The Watch is a better tool for Apple Pay.
  • Peace of mind: It’s harder to lose your Watch because it stays on your wrist. We lose our phones, if only temporarily, often.


Throughout the week there were lots of things we couldn’t do or didn’t want to take the extra time to do on the Apple Watch. Below are our top dislikes:

  • Email: Even though Siri dictation works well, sending a reply of more than a sentence or two is a hassle. If Siri made mistakes, the editing process is laborious. Instead, the best option is to wait and send the email later via laptop (a productivity hit). One of us was asked every day to re-authenticate Google email accounts on the iPhone to push to the Watch. We would have expected a better experience receiving non-iCloud emails on Apple Watch.
  • Messages: We were consistently having trouble sending non-iMessage messages over cellular.
  • Photos: Camera and Photos are daily iPhone uses cases. With Apple Watch, you can’t take a photo or send a photo already in your library.
  • Maps: We realized how dependent we were on Google Maps/Waze on iPhone. At one point, one of us pulled out a laptop, connected to a distant wi-fi network, and found a route on Google Maps (via web). Throughout the week, we learned to use Apple Maps for turn by turn directions with some level of success, but not as seamless as using Google Maps iOS app.
  • Privacy: Because dictation is the optimal text input, composing a message in public can’t be done privately like it can be on an iPhone.
  • Compatibility: We couldn’t connect to Sonos or CarPlay. Also, there was limited app availability and functionally.
  • Conferencing: Apple Watch isn’t capable of merging two calls into a conference.

Apple Watch Experiment Observations

Quotes on behavior:

  • Often reaching for my phone even though it’s not in my pocket.
  • Think cannibalization risk to phones (from any wearable) is lower than I did before.
  • Can’t really text privately in public (Scribble takes too long for a text of any length, so Siri/dictation is the only way to text).
  • Can’t multi task.
  • Dictation for texting is really good.
  • Scribble worked better than I thought.


  • Battery died at 1pm.
  • Battery died at 3pm.
  • Battery died at 5pm.
  • Battery died at 5pm.
  • Battery died at 7pm.
  • Battery failed on conference call.


  • Asked to enter email credentials on phone.
  • Asked to upgrade to AnyList Complete to access my shopping list on my watch.
  • Asked to set up August app on my phone.
  • Felt like the iMessages app on Mac is a lifesaver.
  • Email on desktop is so much better, and email takes so long (seems not to be push) on the Apple Watch.
  • Saw iMessage threads turn to text message threads on the Watch, and texts won’t go through.
  • Can’t send iMessages.
  • Can’t add a contact.
  • Can’t search emails.
  • Can’t scan a document to email or save to cloud storage.
  • Can’t Venmo.
  • Can’t send iMessages consistently (cellular and WiFi).
  • Can’t use grocery list app (AnyList) at grocery store. Don’t have premium access to Watch app. Used iPad instead.
  • Parking app not available.
  • Calendar not syncing in a timely manner.
  • No mobile web.
  • August locks don’t work.
  • Can’t add or fix a Wemo switch.
  • Can’t edit a note.


  • Watch connectivity (either the cellular or the bluetooth connection) was inconsistent. Not a reliable phone connection for longer calls.
  • It’s too easy to hang up on a call.
  • Cant add participates on a conference calls.
  • Can’t tap a phone number in Calendar to place a call.
  • Choppy cell coverage.


  • Can’t text a picture.
  • Can’t take a picture of the whiteboard with my phone, needed to use MacBook Pro Photo Booth app.
  • No camera.
  • Can’t easily add a photo to photostream.


  • Can’t use the Apple TV Remote app without having iPhone in range and connected to the same network.
  • AirPods don’t connect quickly enough to seamlessly pick up a call on the Watch when I’m not already wearing AirPods.
  • Can’t control Sonos.
  • Can’t Airplay a phone call from Watch to HomePod.
  • Changing settings in Home app needs to be from the phone.
  • Can’t pair with Bluetooth in car.
  • Can’t start a hotspot.


  • Can’t share a location from the maps app.
  • Needed addresses in my events for maps/directions.


  • Asked to view image on iPhone.
  • Asked to view .gif on iPhone.

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