2018 was the year we started taking our screen time seriously. We didn’t quite reclaim our lives back from our smartphones, but we started talking about it: Google introduced Digital Wellbeing, Instagram rolled out an activity dashboard that sends self-policing push notifications, and with iOS 12, Apple unveiled Screen Time, an update that gives users every instrument they need to tame their iPhone addiction.
The numbers that these tools showed made me increasingly queasy about my own tech consumption. My iPhone comes with me into the gym, into the bathroom stall and into my bed. It’s often the first thing I reach for when I open my eyes each morning, and sometimes it’s the final thing I see before I close them at night. For a long time, I believed that introducing new gadgets into my life would only make my Internet obsession worse; wearable tech seemed like a step too far towards affirming my cyborg identity.
However, when Apple sends you an Apple Watch Series 4 to trial over a weekend in Whistler Village, you swallow your scepticism. I’ve been wearing my Apple Watch for over a month now, and its quick ability to become an integral part of my life has shocked me: I now track my activity, set my pasta timers, respond to notifications, play my podcasts, pay for groceries, check the weather, answer the phone and find my Uber driver all on my wrist. Which, rather than increasing my daily digital “Time Spent” numbers, has allowed me to start ignoring my smartphone almost altogether.
Here’s how that works: when my iPhone vibrates or I see its screen light up, I reach for it. I intend to check a single notification, but instead, I click Instagram and enter an endless void of dog videos, breakfast photos and selfies of people I haven’t spoken to since high school. With the Apple Watch, I see the notification, hit dismiss and continue on with whatever soul-fulfilling activity I’m supposed to be engaging with IRL.
Often, the activities that suffer most at the hand of my iPhone addiction are adventure related. I may be in an exciting new city or surrounded by breathtaking nature, but I’ll still find myself staring down at my phone screen, scrolling until I see something that sparks joy. That’s what made Whistler the perfect place to trial the Apple Watch Series 4 for the first time: I realized that when I stop reaching for my smartphone, I can finally enjoy being in the moment. And, with the Apple Watch tracking my health and fitness data, I can actually see how those moments on the trails, in the studio and on the slopes are benefiting my mind and body.
The Apple Watch hasn’t made my iPhone entirely obsolete—I still needed that pocket-sized device to snap photos of the vast mountain landscapes and snow-covered trees—but it’s come awfully close. Here’s what I learned about the device after testing it through three different activities: