Data usage with the Apple Watch

Discussion in 'Apple Watch' started by JohnApples, Jan 29, 2015.

  1. JohnApples macrumors 65816

    Mar 7, 2014
    So I did a quick search and didn't see any threads that really dove into the possible data usage that the Apple Watch will cause. Although I'm grandfathered into an older Sprint plan and have unlimited data, a recent issue from a friend sparked my curiosity.

    My buddy and I are somewhat tech-savvy phone geeks, and we both love to read about the latest tech, phones, etc. We often share tech news with each other (he's an Android user, I'm an iPhone user) and like to compare each other's phone features and such. When the Moto 360 released last year, my friend was first in line and has been using it since with his HTC One M8, and he seems to love it.

    However, ever since he bought the Moto, he has complained about routinely hitting his data cap of 2GB early each month (Verizon), when before he could allegedly make it through a month with around half a gig to spare. While I'll admit I don't know a whole lot about the Moto and it's data usage, we both came to the conclusion that it was eating up data even when not actively being used.

    Obviously I haven't been able to use the Moto for myself to test this, but I did some Googling and can't really come up with a clear answer as to when and how much data the watch uses. Now assuming the Apple Watch will act the same way, this raises concern for data usage.

    Even though the Watch is a simplified device and essentially just "displays" information while the iPhone does most of the work, is it possible for the Watch to use up more of one's data allowance than just using the phone by itself? Was the Moto constantly 'streaming' data from the phone to watch to keep itself up to date? And if so, can we assume that the Apple Watch will do the same?

    If that's not the case, is it just as simple as "the watch is convenient and readily available, so therefore you use it more and thus use more data"? I suppose my real question is:

    Will the Watch use LESS data because it is a simplified version of the iPhone and doesn't require as much data to perform it's internet functions?
    Will the Watch use MORE data because the iPhone will be accessing the internet more often as it has to send information over to the Watch?

    I'm almost positive there would be some sort of "offline" mode where the watch would just act as a timepiece and not require data from the iPhone, but then that's really not the point of the gadget.

    What are everyone's thoughts on the matter?
  2. Runt888 macrumors 6502a

    Nov 17, 2008
    I doubt that the watch will cause much of a spike in data usage. Like you said, it's basically a display for what the phone already gets. If it causes you to respond to notifications sooner then you may see a small difference (ie, I'm going to respond to a notification now on the watch while I'm out walking around, versus later on my phone in the office where I'm on wifi).

    Since the encouraged usage pattern of the watch is very short interactions, I have a hard time ever seeing a time where it will be using significant amounts of data (even when native apps are available - most people won't be staring at their wrist for hours on end).
  3. JohnApples thread starter macrumors 65816

    Mar 7, 2014
    I agree, that is most likely the scenario we are dealing with. Still, I have a couple questions that don't seem to be answered by Apple.

    1. Will the Watch only use data in short burts, when I'm making the short interactions with it? Or, is it going to have data constantly pushed to it whether it's being used or "sleeping". I suppose it wouldn't make a data difference as your iPhone does this anyway but that leads me to...

    2. For (non-native, at least) apps, will the Watch use a little bit more data for it's own app? Meaning, let's say you have Twitter on your iPhone and then get the Apple Watch version on your Watch. Let's also assume that you get notifications sent to your phone from Twitter. When a notification is received, will your iPhone download the data for the "iPhone version" and download separate data (even if it is miniscule) for the "Apple Watch version" of Twitter at the same time? Or is the watch literally just a second screen that does nothing more than display a mini version of it?

    I'll rephrase that: Does the Apple Watch request it's own data at all or does it just merely rearrange and display iPhone data on a small screen?
  4. Tycho24, Jan 29, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015

    Tycho24 Suspended


    Aug 29, 2014
    This is an interesting question...

    I answer similar questions every day with regards to data usage, at work (cellular sales); people always want to know if because they are getting a new device with faster internet, or a better screen... that means they will be consuming more data.
    I always explain that data doesn't care the specs of your device... audio and video have a particular precise amount of bytes to them, whether being shown on a small screen or large... whatever.
    You won't suddenly consume more data, unless the enjoyment of using the device increases, compelling you to do so.

    Similarly, in my opinion... with Apple Watch, for example- a retweet whether initiated from an iPhone or Apple Watch has a precise amount of data & contains functionally identical packets sent to Twitter. So, why would using one or the other cause difference in data usage?

    There might be some minor increase, if Apple Watch is causing the phone to query the internet more... but I would assume, that the vast majority of queries sent to iPhone over BT would be to receive "known" items from your phone; that is to say, if the phone has already download and processed an incoming alert, passing that data to Apple Watch would incur no additional data usage & wouldn't cause iPhone to use any more internet than it was planning on already, so to speak.
  5. Technodynamic macrumors 6502


    Jul 25, 2012
    As part of Apple's key interest in battery life I'm sure they've looked at data broadcasts as a key area to save power. You'd hope!
  6. Runt888 macrumors 6502a

    Nov 17, 2008
    I'm guessing the correct answer is "it depends on the app." However, I doubt there will be many apps that show more information than what is available on the phone, so for the most part it can be considered a second screen.

    However, I do think there will be some surprises related to changes in usage (for example, I can see myself using Siri way more often than I do currently, which uses data).
  7. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

    Jul 17, 2008
    I think it depends on the app.

    With things like Twitter notifications, I don't see why there would need to be separate data for the watch. It'd just be rearranging the data that is sent to the iPhone, as you said.

    But something like turn-by-turn directions for maps might require more data sent to and from the watch (through the phone) than just having turn-by-turn on the phone itself.

    Then there is heart-rate tracking. That is data generated by the watch, which would have to be sent to the cloud (through the phone) for record keeping, syncing with other devices, etc. That would be extra data transfer that wasn't there when you were just using iPhone only.

    So whether using the watch increases your data consumption would vary greatly from user to user, depending on how they use the watch.
  8. JohnApples thread starter macrumors 65816

    Mar 7, 2014
    Interesting. Thanks for the insightful replies. I'm really, really curious about the Apple Watch and I know we don't have a ton of info to go on yet.

    Here's yet another, but similar, question...
    Assuming the Watch is just in fact a small display that gets pushed data that is already on the iPhone... Let's say you want to check the weather on your Watch. Obviously, the weather app on the Watch is smaller and displays less information than it's iPhone counterpart, therefore it would make sense that the Watch's weather app uses less data, even if the difference is very small.

    So, if you load up your Watch's weather app to check the weather, and it refreshes to get the current weather, would the iPhone that it's connected to have to refresh the full weather app first, then send a fraction of the data over to the watch?

    e.g. Let's for simplicity's sake, say that refreshing the weather app on your phone uses 50 bytes of data. The weather app on your Watch however, is smaller and only takes 25 bytes worth of weather data from the phone to display to you. So when you refresh your Watch's weather app, is it going to make the iPhone grab all 50 bytes of data (even though the watch is only going to use half of that) or is the iPhone going to 'know' that the watch is requesting the data, and only use enough data to grab the necessary info it needs to push it to the watch?

    I know that in the case of the weather app (and probably most apps) it really wouldn't matter, because the difference is too small for it to matter much. Still, I'm really curious to know the answer.
  9. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

    Jul 17, 2008
    I think, even though the display of the watch is smaller, it doesn't mean that it uses less data.

    For instance, with your example of weather, there is temperature and current condition (sunny, cloudy, raining, etc). This data is the same size, whether it is being displayed on the watch or the phone.

    Now, it may be that the watch just displays current temp and condition, but the phone displays forecast for the entire day.

    In which case, I don't know. Can an app be coded to only request data that will be displayed on the watch? A dev who has worked with the WatchKit may be able to tell you -- or such details may be under NDA.

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8 January 29, 2015