There has been plenty of hype over the last few months about the Apple Watch, the tech giant’s first big new product in five years and its first-ever wearable. But there’s been very little independent research so far about exactly how early adopters are using the device.
In order to get a better sense of real user experience with the Apple Watch so far—and the top implications for technologists and marketers trying to understand how to leverage the new device—we commissioned a survey through a third-party research firm that was fielded from May 19-28th. Ultimately, 109 Apple Watch owners completed it. This number represented around 2.5% of the over 4100 iPhone owners we sent it to. The survey was conducted online.
The 109 respondents were geographically distributed across the country and represented both buyers and gift recipients of all Apple Watch models, including the 38mm and 42mm Apple Watch Sport (which retails for $349/$399) as well as the most expensive model, the Apple Watch Edition, which can cost upwards of $10,000. Perhaps not surprisingly, while we had a cross-section of respondents, the Apple Watch owners we found were more often male, aged 25-44, and suburbanites; they generally had been using the watch for more than two weeks.
Here are our more-detailed takeaways, including observations on which features people use the most, how the watch has affected their use of social media, and whether having a watch increased or decreased iPhone usage:
1. When asked which Apple Watch features they’ve used so far, the top ones reported were fitness tracking (72%), checking email (72%), checking the weather (71%), Siri (63%), sending/receiving text messages (62%), receiving/making calls (61%), and maps/navigation (60%). These results have a margin of error of plus or minus 10% given the sample size, so the best way to interpret them is that they are the likely top features being used. However, when we asked respondents to estimate the approximate percentage of time spent using those features, fitness tracking emerged a strong number one.
2. Apple Pay, the company’s mobile-payment service, is gaining momentum among Apple Watch owners. When asked how their use of Apple Pay has changed because they are now using the Apple Watch, 50% of our respondents reported using it somewhat or much more, vs. 8% who said they used it somewhat or much less. This finding is notable because mobile-payment systems have been slow to catch on so far, though giants like Apple and Google are investing heavily in them. (Google just announced a revamped Android Pay service in late May.)
3. We asked respondents how their usage of social media networks has changed now that they are using an Apple Watch. While the majority said “no change”, a solid double-digit percentage of respondents–in most cases around 30-50% of those surveyed who engage with social media–said they are using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat somewhat or much more because of the Apple Watch. So to the extent that monetization of those services depends on engagement and impressions, the Apple Watch seems like a positive development.
4. When we asked respondents how their interaction with their iPhone device has changed because they are now using Apple Watch, we saw–even with the small sample size–a strong signal that they are using their phones somewhat less (39%), and not somewhat more (18%). This means marketers who depend on iPhone interactions to fuel customer engagement might need to focus more on how to generate interest through small watch screens, instead of mobile phones and tablets. Qualitative feedback from Apple Watch owners has surfaced numerous issues about how the watch can and should work independently of the iPhone, and that paradigm will likely evolve with future hardware and software releases.
5. Since Apple Watch users are able to check email on the device, even with its tiny screen, we asked them explicitly about their interaction with promotional email offers via the watch. The great majority of our respondents (90%) reported that their behavior has not changed, or that they are engaging with promotional emails more often because they are accessing them on the Apple Watch. We gave them the option of reporting that they are now ignoring or deleting promotional email more often because they are accessing them on the watch, yet very few surveyed chose that option. This should provide some relief, at least for now, for the businesses that depend upon promotional emails to drive engagement as eyeballs switch to the small Watch screen.
 Survey was fielded through Research Now (http://www.researchnow.com). Research Now maintains a proprietary panel of respondents globally, and has a comprehensive database of profile information on panelists. Sample was sent to panelists who self-reported that they own an iPhone. Within that group, 109 respondents were collected who reported purchasing an Apple Watch, and using it for at least a week. iPhone and Apple Watch are trademarks of Apple Inc.