This past weekend I was in New England, in three weeks I’ll be in Cincinnati and then three weeks after that I’ll be in Toledo, Ohio. These seasons of back-to-back travel always make me think a lot about systems and tools to improve my trips.
I don’t know that anything has improved my traveling life more in recent years than my Apple Watch. This tiny little computer I carry on my wrist is an absolute necessity whenever I leave my home city now.
One of the Watch’s killer features for me is it’s role in turn-by-turn navigation. Shown off in the first demo for the device, Apple Maps on the Watch is perfect for navigating new cities. I used it to get around Boston this weekend by train and on foot. The transit directions do a good enough job of telling you the ideal stops to enter and exit trains.
It’s the walking directions that really make it indispensable to me though. I love getting a tap on my wrist telling me to turn at the end of the block without pulling out my phone. Not only does this keep my hands warm inside my gloves, it also keeps me from looking a tourist which is both reassuring and helpful. The last thing I’d want is to get my phone stolen while I’m on the road.
I’m also a huge fan of Apple Pay. As more stores in the US adopt contactless payments it keeps me from reaching for my wallet, but it also keeps my transactions encrypted while I’m in foreign territory. On this last trip I started using the Watch’s Wallet app for my boarding passes at the gate too, which was way more convenient than digging in my pockets or my bag for my phone.
And that leads me to playback controls. Being able to control music and podcasts on the watch while I’m walking through airports is satisfyingly convenient. I go back and forth between devices for these functions, but its nice to have multiple options when I’m in a rush or my phone is underneath a couple of layers of jackets.
As much as I love my Apple Watch there are still a few features I think it needs for it to be the perfect travel companion.
While playback controls are great, they only work when your bluetooth is on. Right now Apple Watch and iPhone both turn bluetooth off as soon as you turn on Airplane Mode. So you have to manually re-enable bluetooth to regain controls on the Watch. This seems like an easy fix that could have been resolved a while ago.
And speaking of playback controls, it’s mildly infuriating that Now Playing has to be open and the watch has to be awake for turning the Digital Crown to control volume. I’d love to just reach down and turn without even looking at the display.
Technically the charger is an accessory, but I’m bitter about the lack of quality third-party Apple Watch chargers out there. I’d love a more portable solution than the long USB puck and string. Something integrated into the side of a portable USB charger would be cool. The Twelve South TimePorter makes a good solution for most situations, but I still think something better should exist.
On the whole, I probably use my Apple Watch more when I travel than I do at any other time. It’s a great little companion and I love it more with every trip I take. I can’t wait to see where my watch and I go next.