Over the past few years, reporting with smartphones has come into its own.

Photoshop Express, AVR, Video Trim & Cut, Microsoft Word and several other applications work together to let you record, draft and edit a multimedia story on an iPhone. WordPress and similar mobile tools allow freelancers like us to publish our work immediately.

But the iPhone wasn’t always capable of these things — far from it. Once upon a time, it was in the same place the Apple Watch is now. Chris Mathews, Samantha Healey and I, all students at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, wondered whether Apple had learned from the development of its iPhone and implemented reporting features into the Watch straight away.

We decided to put the Apple Watch to the test.

In this challenge, Samantha took her iPhone on assignment while I attempted to cover the same story using just the Apple Watch.

We went into our test with realistic expectations. We knew the Watch was entirely dependent on the phone for storage and that the connection was key, but we wanted to approach the report as if I couldn’t take the phone out of my back pocket for some reason, such as a threat to my safety.

Producing a complete project was out of the question, but I did get creative and find a few ways to gather components by making the Watch technology work for us. For example, I was able to look up directions to the story venue by asking Siri. Similarly, I addressed the lack of a keyboard for note taking by composing a text message to myself and orally dictating my notes. The Watch interpreted them and when that was complete, I texted the notes to myself.

For interviews, as long as my Apple Watch was able to connect to my phone, I could record audio as simply as if I was just using my phone in the first place.

While Samantha could take photos using her iPhone, I devised a plan to search social media apps like Twitter and Instagram for content shared from the event. From there I could seek permission to republish the content, screenshot it on my Watch, and then incorporate it into my story once I was able to compile all of the elements. However, this workaround only applies to incorporating still images and, for now, obtaining and including video remains out of reach.

For Samantha, the process was much simpler. She was able to not only gather all of her components using the phone, but also to complete a finished, publication-ready product in the field.

In the end, it was clear the Apple Watch has some serious limitations as a reporting tool, while the iPhone is a seasoned pro.  But we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Watch can already be used in some capacity to gather certain story components. It’s a start. But we hope journalists and news organizations will do more testing of the Watch’s capabilities while Apple and other smartwatch developers work on their products’ current limitations.

Lauren Slome  
Guest blogger


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