Second Screen

I’ve been using my iPhone as my primary computer for a long time now. I’ve been limited to one screen, not able to have a second screen to rely on for viewing or other interactions. And whilst I can get all of what I need done on a single screen, having a secondary screen would be really great.

Most people I know use multiple screens: a phone and a computer, a phone and a tablet, or even a phone + tablet + tablet + PC. But when I really started thinking about what I need my second screen to do, I wasn’t thinking of something larger than the Plus-sized screen I currently have: I get enough done on that already. I wanted to think portable. I wanted something to complement my mobile experience — and that’s what led me to get my Apple Watch.

Having this as a second screen has been really amazing. Sure, it’s not like an iPad or a Mac. It’s severely limited in what it does, but it also changes my device interaction for the better. The notifications are worth the price of admission. My phone is always on silent. The only notifications I get are on my wrist now. No longer am I checking multiple things all the time, I’m focused on the quick tap, decide if I need to respond, and move along with what I was doing. It doesn’t disturb my conversations, it allows me to focus more on my family, and makes me a present individual.

I didn’t expect was how having the second screen would change the way I use my devices: not just behaviors, but also with my app selection. There are apps that I’m giving another shot because they work so well with the watch. There are other apps that I’ve used for years that I’m eliminating because their watch experience is just awful. Native watch apps are really great, like Reminders and Calendar. Other apps, like Carrot Weather, are worth the extra money for certain features like complications that make their app the best for both phone and watch. And I finally get to use Drafts on my wrist to capture text, which is incredibly useful.

If you’re reading this, you know that I love workflows. If there is something I can set up to make my life easier, then that’s what I want to have. And now that I’m able to kick things off on my wrist, it’s making things a little bit easier. Previously, I had a workflow in Workflow that gave my a daily agenda. Over time, I’ve modified it and changed it based on my ever-changing needs/apps. But, I had to set a reminder to remember to run the workflow the night before, which ultimately lead to me not running it at all. But when I got the watch, that changed things. Seth and I got to talking one day, I modified the workflow I had, formatted it in a bunch of different ways, and made it available in the widget and on the watch. Now, not only can I look at a daily agenda, I can do it today, from my wrist, with a single tap.

Another thing that has been useful is Reminders on the Apple Watch. Using Siri is by far and away the easiest way to input a reminder, especially on the watch. But there are often times that I can’t have my phone out, and I also need to be silent. Using this workflow, I am able to put in a reminder from my watch, but I’m able to use the scribble input (thought I can still use dictation if I wanted). A few taps later, and I have a reminder saved with a time or a location.

As I’m walking out of work, there are a lot of things that I am now actively doing on the watch rather than my phone. I’ll review the shopping list to check if I need to stop in the way home. I’ll also send a message to my wife to let her know I’m on my way. I’ve also created a workflow to send a few different canned messages, along with a Dictate option, so that I can quickly message her when I leave.

I’m actually surprised but the amount that I use my Apple Watch to respond with my voice. It’s starting to become my preferred way of interacting with a message. The watch is quick and easy for responding. Additionally, if I’m listening to something on my headphones or watching something on my phone, I can respond on my watch without having to pause the audio/video.

But even more surprising is that I am just recording my voice more. I was using an app called Just Press Record that I used to capture audio snippets when on the go. I might do it for more complex thoughts or for when I’m journaling. Sometimes my youngest says some funny stuff, and I never know when I’m going to need to be ready. But now, I can use Workflow to record and save these things to iCloud, which eliminates another app for me.1

I’m actively working on more of these that will improve my life. Sometimes, the workflow is too much or it doesn’t go anywhere. But I’m really starting to think in new ways of how to use this all to my advantage as a second screen. The future of the Apple Watch looks bright. It’s not a device that is required by an means, but it really improves a lot of the daily use of my connected devices. It tends to make daily tasks better for me, make me feel better about how I interact with the world around me, and if that’s all it does — then it’s completely worth it.

Now that I have a second screen in my Apple Watch, I’ve been thinking more and more about adding a third. There’s a lot of compelling things out there about an iPad Pro. I’ve written before about how much I can do from my iPhone, and that’s absolutely still the case. However, I still feel drawn to having this larger screen.

I have read other people’s posts about how much they love their iPad Pro. I’ve read about some of the cool features, like handwritten notes and podcast editing, that really appeal to me and benefit from a larger screen. And while I’d like certain things to come to the iPhone, I’m not sure Apple really feels the same way.

So, I’m having a bit of FOMO. Actually, it’s more than that: I know I’m missing out. I’m not trying out a different set of interactions that others do. I’m not able to try more complex automation to propel iOS to new levels and try new things. I’m missing out on trying a new way of interaction and computing that could be helpful to me, my family, my friends, and others. The perspective that I’m losing is substantial. There’s always another new thing, but at this point, I’ve been missing out for a while now.

If I can get this much done on my phone, and now my phone + watch, what the hell could I get done on an iPad? I’m really anxious to find out. It can’t come soon enough.

  1. This is something that I’ve been actively doing now for a while. Feels good.