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Should Apple Enable Wi-Fi Assistance on Apple Watch?



Although I haven't used an Apple Watch 100% of the time since the release of Series 0, I've owned every single one. There are benefits to using one for health reasons, and there are also reasons to use one for connectivity. I am particularly fond of owning a mobile version so I can run without the iPhone or take a quick walk in the store. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I could see future versions of the LTE Apple Watch as a great first mobile phone for kids. It's been something that frustrated me about the Apple Watch from the first day I owned it to today, that's when Apple Watch doesn't have a network connection. Is it time for Apple to release a version of Wi-Fi Assist for Apple Watch?

Here's an example of what's going on: I have my iPhone down on the charger. I should be up there playing with my kids, cleaning up, etc. I want to look up something via Siri, and I realize that Apple Watch is in this middle state when connected to iPhone via Bluetooth, not using Wi-Fi yet, and don't even try to use the LTE connection. Apple Watch can't look up anything with Siri, it's time-out email and slow to send iMessages. It is extremely frustrating to own a device that has three ways to connect to a network but does not do any of them.

This is what I think is happening: to save battery life, Apple Watch prefers to be connected to the iPhone at all times. When I'm in my house, I get into these situations where I'm close enough to the iPhone to try to connect but not do anything. If I were farther away, I would have been on Wi-Fi. Since I'm in a weird state between others, Apple Watch fails and gives up (which is not ideal).

On a recent episode of Under the Radar, David Smith and Marco Arment talked about what they will do with the power gains in future versions of the Apple Watch. David talks about how since Apple Watch has improved battery life, Apple has not made the actual watch battery last much longer, but rather added things like mobile, faster processor, etc. This process is very similar to how iPhone, iPad and Mac have come forward. We still do not have a Macbook Air that lasts for several days without recharging, but instead of improving battery technology, Apple has utilized it for multiple features while still having the same battery life. David mentioned that he wanted to see continuous heart rate monitoring for the Apple Watch. Marco mentioned that he wanted to always see a face on the Apple Watch.

This episode got me thinking about what I want Apple to do to solve this long-standing problem with Apple Watch. I would like to see a setting for future versions of watchOS that have a version of Wi-Fi Assist for Apple Watch. Here is the official description of Wi-Fi Assist for iOS:

Wi-Fi Assist lets you stay connected to the Internet even if you have a poor Wi-Fi connection. For example, if you are using Safari with a poor Wi-Fi connection and a web page is not loading, Wi-Fi Assist will enable and automatically switch to mobile networks, so the website will continue to load. You can use Wi-Fi Assist with most apps like Safari, Apple Music, Mail, Maps and more. When Wi-Fi Assist is enabled, you will see the mobile information icon in the status bar of your device. Because you stay connected to the Internet over the cellular network when you have a poor Wi-Fi connection, you may be using more cellular data.

How I see this working on Apple Watch is that as soon as watchOS realizes that it cannot complete a request via Bluetooth, quickly connect to Wi-Fi, and if it fails, jump quickly on mobile. Even if it used more battery, it would be better than the request failed. Right now, when Apple Watch fails to complete a task, it completely negates the purpose of the device.

Photo of Andres Urena on Unsplash

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