Smartwatches: What Are People Actually Using Them For?

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Source: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Smartwatches are still a fad, but among a small section of tech aficionados they have become a go-to gadget for a variety of uses. What exactly are people using their smartwatches for, though? Analyst firm Wristly surveyed over 2,000 Apple Watch users to gauge just how these devices are working its way into their daily lives.

While all Wristly’s respondents owned an Apple Watch, the watch itself isn’t too much different in terms of features from others on the market. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think owners of other smartwatches, like those in Samsung’s Gear line, use their own devices in similar ways.

So what are the top five ways we’re using our smartwatches?

5. Making and receiving phone calls

The smartwatch in most cases is certainly not there to replace your phone, but it can be more convenient than pulling your phone out. With the Apple Watch itself, the device alone can not place phone calls, and instead needs to connect via Bluetooth to your iPhone in order to access its calling features.

Most other smartwatches operate in similar fashion, including Android Wear devices from Asus, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony. In some cases those devices can use either a paired iPhone or Android device to make those calls, according to Fortune.

The fact though that placing and receiving phone calls doesn’t rank too high does indicate that by and large we aren’t ready to put down our phones in exchange for a smartwatch.

4. Measuring heart rate

Apple Watch uses Infrared and visible-light LEDs, along with photosensors, to detect your pulse rate


Despite being more focused on keeping our ever-more digital lives in order, it’s becoming obvious that smartwatch users are returning back to classical uses for wearable devices like checking heart rate. Even well before the days of smartwatches, timepieces existed for fitness enthusiasts to stay on top of their heart rate while working out, walking, or other types of activities. That hasn’t changed with the Apple Watch or whatever smartwatch the person happens to be using.

And hey, in some cases this information is being used in interesting ways, like trying to detect if a Tinder profile is a match for you, according to this International Business Times article.

3. Checking notifications

With the host of apps and functionality of smartwatches, it shouldn’t be surprising that checking notifications appears high up on the list of top uses. For example, the Apple Watch can deliver a variety of alerts, from email and text messages and phone calls, to new tweets and breaking news alerts. Notifications trigger the watch to vibrate, which in turn causes you to take a look.

This silent nudge to check your watch is something that respondents to the Wristly survey says they liked about their smartwatch. “I was at dinner when I felt the vibration on my wrist. A call from my daughter,” one user responds. “I excused myself to the restroom where I could call her back. No one knew I took the call.”

2. Checking the time

It would be pretty shocking if checking the time wouldn’t make our top five list. Despite all the functionality a smartwatch is still a watch at its core. Smartwatches do make it fun though, with a variety of watch faces to select from, and the capabilities to put additional useful information like temperature or weather data right on the front screen. Nearly half of survey respondents actually said they checked the time more than they expected.

1. Checking “activity” rings

Just like heart rate, the fitness aspects of smartwatches are perhaps the biggest surprise to us as to their popularity. On Apple Watches, Wristly found that seven in ten people were checking their Activity Rings more than they expected, which tracks movement and activity in an attempt to spur users to be more active.

Apple isn’t the only one that offers fitness tracking: Sony’s SmartWatch and Motorola’s Moto360 have similar functionality. Wristly says that in most cases, these activity functions have motivated users to become more active, and that might be the most lasting effect for smartwatch owners.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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