How My Apple Watch Brought Me a Serenity I Haven’t Had In Years

My Apple Watch and my dog, the two great loves of my life.

Mark Joseph Stern

Shortly after I put on my Apple Watch for the first time, I lay down on my bed to read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent No Ordinary Time. As always, I placed my iPhone next to me. Just when I got to the bit about Eleanor Roosevelt’s speech to the 1940 Democratic National Convention, I felt a buzz. Instinctively, I reached out and grabbed the phone. No notification—a phantom vibration! Five minutes later, I felt another buzz—a phantom, again! I went back to my book, distracted and irritated.

And then, just a moment later, I felt yet another buzz—this time, on my wrist. I glanced down, and my watch revealed a text from The Doctor, aka my mom. (Long story.) “U busy?” it read. “Can I call?”

Suddenly, a profound sense of serenity swept over me—the kind of relaxation somewhat akin to relief. I realized that, for the first time since I bought a smartphone, I could just sit back and read. If somebody needed me, really needed me, I’d know it: The (ridiculously named) Taptic Engine would tell me, with a few brief but unmistakable vibrations on my wrist.

I dictated a quick message to my mom—“busy sorry”—and added a ghost emoji for good measure. Then I went back to Eleanor’s speech. I nestled into the pillows and plugged into the book. And for the next hour, I didn’t feel a single phantom vibration from my phone. For a while, I even forgot it was there. My deep reading brain was activated.

Some Apple Watch naysayers have predicted that users could become dangerously addicted to their new gadget. Over the last week, I discovered the exact opposite: My watch has helped me unplug from technology more frequently and more meaningfully. Lunching with an old friend, I found myself pitying his frequent, nervous glances at his iPhone, which sat, face up, on the table. Mine remained in my backpack. I glanced at my watch twice. Even taking my dog on her midday walk is more pleasurable. B.W. (before watch), I anxiously updated my email and Slack, worried some news within my beat would break. A.W., I know my watch will tell me, and I can spend some quality time perambulating with the pooch. I am not the only Apple Watch user to discover that the device unchains you from your phone. This perk, in fact, seems to be one of the watch’s biggest draws.

I have to disagree with pretty much every criticism my colleague Seth Stevenson lobbed against the gadget. The Apple Watch does not make you stupid or boring or brusque. It makes you present and mindful, better able to enjoy the beautiful things and wonderful people in your life without distraction. Every other Apple device gives you fun, exciting complications. The Apple Watch simply gives you freedom.