In early 2018, I did some math and came to the conclusion that I was paying AT&T too much for monthly service on my Apple Watch Series 3. The peace of mind, at that time, just wasn't worth the $13 or so I was paying each month on top of my wireless plan.
I canceled my Apple Watch's data plan and enjoyed the additional battery life that I gained from turning off the cellular functionality on the watch.
The feedback I received from that article was mostly positive, with fellow users echoing the sentiment that paying $10 a month for the minor amount of data a smartwatch uses is too expensive.
I kept the data plan disabled until the Apple Watch Series 4 was announced -- when I once again ordered the cellular model. After it arrived, I reactivated my plan, and I've been paying for cellular connectivity on my watch.
My original thinking was that I would test out the watch and watchOS 5 (which improved the Music experience and added the Podcast app), with the added benefit of a cellular connection, and then, ultimately, I'd cancel the data plan again.
Admittedly, I haven't used standalone connectivity on the Series 4 any more than I did when I had it the Series 3. In fact, I've probably used it less, if that's even possible. But I don't anticipate canceling my watch's cellular plan this time around.
So, why the change of heart? It's a combination of a few things.
Freedom from my phone
It still fascinates me that a set of Apple's AirPods and a watch on my wrist is all I need to leave my phone behind and remain reachable.
I mean, think about that: A watch and a pair of Bluetooth headphones -- it doesn't even have to be Apple's AirPods, but they're my choice -- and you have what amounts to a smartphone with you at all times.
Text messages, emails, phone calls, even FaceTime audio calls, Facebook Messenger, music, calendar... it's all there, on my wrist. But at the same time, the interaction dynamic between the watch and myself is different from the iPhone.
With the phone, I can pick it up at any time and get lost in Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or my inbox. The phone is always there, ready to waste my time.
With the watch, the experience is limited enough that the idea of managing my inbox or finding a third-party app to browse social networks on the small screen isn't appealing at all. Instead, interactions with the watch are simply to react to notifications, which I have pared down significantly.
In the end, the watch eliminates my habitual routine of bouncing between apps just because my phone is there.
I need to get into the habit of leaving my phone at home and being comfortable with communicating from the watch. I think my biggest hangup about doing that right now is having to talk to the watch like I'm Dick Tracy while out in public. Granted, I could use Scribble to reply to messages, but longer messages make Scribble feel laborious.
With the launch of the Apple Watch Series 4, Apple added a new fall detection feature. Basically, if your movement mimics the motion of a person falling, then the watch will ask if you're injured. After about a minute of no movement or interaction with the watch, it will automatically call emergency services and send a message to your emergency contacts with your current location.
I'm not accident prone by any means. Heck, I can't remember the last time I slipped and fell, but knowing that if something did happen -- especially while on a business trip, when I'm typically by myself -- I would have the means to get help and let my wife know what's going on. It's reassuring.
It seems small, but I can't count the number of times I've been out and about, realized my phone's battery is draining without a charger nearby, only to find comfort in knowing that even if it does die, I can just use the watch to stay in touch.
Cost is still an issue
Don't get me wrong, I still think the $10 a month for a watch that uses very little data is too expensive. I still want to see the monthly cost absorbed by what I already pay AT&T for my phone's data plan.
Data plans are going to have to change, after all, with the launch of 5G networks.
The irony of carriers talking up the ability to download gigabytes of data at gigabit speeds on a 5G connection while charging $10 a month (before taxes) for something that sips on megabytes is not lost on me.
Here's hoping 2019 ushers in a new way of thinking about connected smartwatches.
Apple's latest wearable improves exactly where customers wanted to see improvements; larger viewable area, longer battery life, and enhanced health and fitness functionality. It's a marvel of technology, but Samsung does it better for less.