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Why Apple Watch is a business traveler's best friend

Al Sacco | July 2, 2015
A recent trip from Boston to San Francisco with the Apple Watch as a personal assistant demonstrates that smartwatches can be valuable tools for busy businesspeople and frequent travelers

Roadwarriors know it's often a scramble to return your ID and other belongs to a purse or bag after you pass through the first TSA checkpoint and onto the security scanners. I'm always worried I'm going to drop something. It was nice to have one less thing -- a phone or boarding pass -- to worry about. And I didn't have to remove my aluminum Apple Watch Sport when I passed through the metal detector.

As my takeoff time neared, the JetBlue app on my Watch provided a countdown timer so I knew exactly when my flight would board, and both it and TripIt kept me abreast of flight status updates and delays -- thankfully there were none.

[Related: How to take a screen shot on your Apple Watch]

That's when I experienced a few hiccups. At Starbucks, inside the terminal, I was able to pay with my Apple Watch via a Starbucks card I stored in the Passbook mobile wallet, but due to a scanner attached to the side of a payment terminal, I had to awkwardly reach and twist my wrist so the barcode faced the reader. It took a few attempts for the machine to read my card, and at that point, lots of sleepy travelers in need of caffeine had sent disgruntled stink eyes in my direction. It would have been easier to use a phone in this instance, and I faced a similar situation at the gate when I tried to board my flight. 

I had my JetBlue boarding pass in Passbook ready on my wrist as I waited in line, but as I neared the tunnel, I noticed the gate attendant was holding customers' paper boarding and phones beneath another fixed, vertical-oriented scanner. It was impossible for me to fit my wrist in the small space, so I had to quickly reach for my phone. In this case, a boarding pass on my Watch would have been much more convenient because I already had my hands full with a bottle of water and a tablet. (I did use my Watch to board my return flight to Boston later in the week, because JetBlue had a different type of scanner at the gate at SFO.)

Onboard with Apple Watch

After I'd boarded but before takeoff, I started a music playlist using my phone, and then put it in the seatback pocket. I then controlled the music playback and skipped back and forth between tracks using an Apple Watch "Glance," or a screen that provides basic audio controls. And just before the plane took off, I used my Watch to enable airplane mode on both devices. However, I had to later grab my phone again to turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. And I was disappointed to learn that you can't disable airplane mode on your iPhone using your Apple Watch; you have to turn the feature off on the phone itself. 


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