Pietro Rea

My Apple Watch life

December 04, 2023

For the past month, I’ve mostly used an LTE Apple Watch Series 9 as my main mobile computing device. My iPhone now lives in the basement full-time, plugged into a MagSafe charging puck. I still keep it turned on all the time but its primary function is now to be an APNS server for my watch.

The Apple Watch Series 9 is the first Apple Watch that I believe can comfortably play this role. Two improvements have made this experiment successful for me: the new CPU and on-device Siri.

This is the first Apple Watch to get the S9 SiP, which is based on the A16 chip from the iPhone 14 Pro. The previous three generations (Series 8, Series 7, Series 6) were all using the exact same CPU, which was based on the A13 chip from the iPhone 11. This is a big jump in CPU, which makes the watch very responsive in all situations.

Interacting with the Series 9 via Siri is also a lot less frustrating than with previous generations. When you issue a Siri command, the step that takes your voice input and transcribes it to a text command now happens directly on the watch. This has reduced latency for Siri significantly. Many of my common Siri requests (e.g. starting a timer) now don’t go out to the network at all.

My biggest issue with this setup has been LTE connectivity. I don’t know if it’s Apple or T-Mobile, but when I leave my house I often find that the handoff from WiFi to cellular didn’t work. I always need to toggle airplane mode on and off for 10-15 seconds for the cellular connection to kick in. I’ve never been left stranded without an LTE connection, but I’ve opted to take my phone as backup on occasion, especially when taking the kids somewhere new.

The other problem I’ve run into is the lack of third-party Apple Watch support. There’s no Slack Apple Watch app anymore, so I can only respond to Slack messages I receive. I cannot initiate new Slack conversations from the watch. I also don’t have any of the rewards apps I’ve installed on my iPhone, which was an issue at Chopt and 7-Eleven. By and large I’m using first party apps all day.

This was a successful trial run and I’ll continue this way for the time being. In the past month, I’ve definitely been more present with my family. I’ve read more books. I’ve paid more attention on the road. I’ve slept better and generally have been less anxious throughout the day. The Apple Watch lifestyle is not for everyone, but since I work from home I find that I don’t really need a “mobile” computing device most of the time. And when I’m out and about I can get by with my watch.

Pietro Rea
Written by Pietro Rea, a software engineer, engineering manager and author from northern Virginia.