iPhone addiction can be a serious and uncomfortable problem for a lot of people in modern life. With the right settings, Apple Watch can help you create new behaviors away from your phone without being totally disconnected.

iPhone Addiction

That concern is why Apple included new Screen Time and Down Time features in iOS 12 that let you track and limit how you use your smartphone and apps with rules you create. Screen Time is a great tool — especially useful for parents, seriously, check it out — but it can be challenging to limit yourself when you hold the keys.

The challenge can be made worse when you mix the tools that you use for personal life with the tools that you rely on for work life. It can be impossible to put hard limits on access to communication and information.

It’s when we notice ourselves removed from a moment we should be sharing with others or engaging in a cycle of checking buckets of information for changes that aren’t there that we feel the symptoms of the problem.

screen time iphone addiction


There are lots of ways to fight the impulses to not miss a moment of the news cycle or what’s going on in our social circles.

Charge your iPhone in another room at night, schedule Do Not Disturb at a certain hour each night and use Do Not Disturb While Driving, or even pick up a new hobby that keeps your hands busy like playing an instrument, sketching on paper, or even playing a video game. Anything to keep my hands busy and my mind engaged.

Just be careful not to replace one bad habit with another. The fix is an ongoing experiment for me, but I’ve found that anytime I enjoy an experience that doesn’t involve checking Twitter and Instagram on my iPhone that’s something I should explore deeper.

Apple Watch

Creating new routines and behaviors that don’t involve the iPhone can be key in reducing the compulsive habit of looking for entertainment on your phone. For me, the Apple Watch has played a major role in creating these experiences.

That’s because the Series 3 and Series 4 with LTE allow you to leave your iPhone behind without going totally offline. As a parent, I appreciate being able to distance myself from my iPhone without worrying about missing critical messages and phone calls if needed.

Experiences without iPhone can include workouts (outdoor workouts or even gym workouts with the iPhone secured in the car or locker), trips to the movie theater or dinner at a restaurant, visits to parks with your family or spending time outdoors on your own, or even an hour spent grocery shopping. If photography is important to you, it may even be worth investing in a decent camera so you can keep shooting photos when you disconnect from your iPhone.

Apple Watch Series 3 and Series 4 let you do all sorts of activities without your iPhone and without being disconnected in case of an emergency. Removing the iPhone from the equation for an hour or two is a great way to experience first hand what it’s like to not have it as an option.

Away Mode

If you want to stay connected, you need an Apple Watch Series 3 or Series 4 with an active cellular plan — and you’ll probably want to enter nearly the same mode with settings that I recommend for sleep tracking to prevent interruptions.

Theater Mode may not be needed unless you’re actually at the movie theater, but Do Not Disturb and Silent Mode can reduce distractions while still allowing favorited contacts and repeated calls to come through — and you can still contact anyone as needed.

If you’re using Apple Watch to track workouts, you can automatically enable Do Not Disturb at the start of a workout. Turn ‘Workout Do Not Disturb’ on from the Watch app on iPhone on the My Watch tab under General and Do Not Disturb.

Apple Watch still lets you do much of what you can do on your iPhone including listen to music and play podcasts or even check Twitter and refresh your inbox, but the experience is much less immersive and may feel less compulsive. We’re not at a point where the watch can replace the phone for all tasks, and that’s probably a good thing for now.

Have your own advice for reducing the urge to check your iPhone constantly using Apple Watch? Share your own ideas and experience in the comments.

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About the Author

Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news, hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast, and created SpaceExplored.com.