Blogography Logo
spacer

   

Apple Watch: Series 6

Posted on September 22nd, 2020

Dave!As I mentioned when I ordered my Apple Watch, I am not comfortable wearing watches. Never have been. But I decided to "train" myself using a comparatively-small Wyze Band so I could eventually work myself up to an Apple Watch. They keep getting more and more relevant to me as they add new features, so I wanted to save up for one. With ECG, Heart Monitoring, and the new Blood Oxygen Monitoring, I was finally sold with the Apple Watch Series 6.

Let's just run through it all point-by-point, shall we?

UNBOXED
I ordered my watch directly from Apple. Which means my origami-style packaging arrives factory-sealed. Inside there's the band box and a watch box. As you'd expect from Apple, it's all so very clean, minimalist, and pretty...

Seems like a lot of stuff in there for a company priding themselves on being eco-friendly? Probably all recycled, so there's that. Of course there's barely any instructions (remember when things came with an entire book for a manual?)... Apple likes to think that they make things so easy to understand that you don't need instructions. And, in this case they're mostly right. Everything is found on your iPhone... when you can find it.

DESIGN
I am still a bit salty with Apple that they claim you can order any combination of watch color/style and band color/style... except I sure couldn't get the PRODUCT RED Aluminum Watch with a black Solo Loop Band I wanted, for whatever reason. Instead I got the "Space Grey" version. The watch itself is gorgeous, looking stylish and slick. That was never an issue. For me it's always been the size of the thing that bothers me. I have tiny wrists, so even the "small" 40mm option looks giant...

Apple Watch Series 6 looking big on my puny arm.

But it's the thickness that is the bigger pill to swallow...

Apple Watch Series 6 looking big on my puny arm.

And yet, even that isn't the thing that bothers me most. Note that the "black" band I ordered is actually blue-grey. Which wouldn't be a big deal, except it's a cool grey-tone and the Space Grey watch is a warm grey-tone. Leaving me wondering who the hell coordinated this shit. My guess is that nobody did. The watch team and band team never saw what the other was doing. This color disparity bothers me. A lot. So much so that I may see if I can exchange the band for something that will actually match my watch. Note that the Apple website shows something completely different, having the color tones look the same...

Dark grey watch with a black loop band.

100% bait-and-switch right there. Steve Jobs is rolling over in his grave.

SOLO LOOP BAND
Other than the crap color match, what's the new "Solo Loop" like? Well, it's mostly fantastic (except for the price, because $50 is insane). I used the size gauge that Apple had me print and I think it was mostly accurate. My "size" was a 6-1/2, but since Apple doesn't have half-sizes, I ordered the 6 because that's what I read was suggested. At first I thought the 6 might be a bit too snug... but after a single day it's already loosened up a bit. Will it be too loose after a week and not stay put on my arm? I worry about that given the high price tag. What also worries me is that it will be sweaty in the heat since it can't breathe. Maybe I shouldn't have gone with a Loop given the potential problems. An old-fashioned watch band may not be as comfortable, but at least it won't be money down the toilet because it's too loose and sweaty.

WEARING IT
As I've mentioned, I have tiny arms. With a protruding wrist bone. The Solo Loop band is comfortable enough to wear above the bone, but the large size of the watch is uncomfortable there so I just wear it below the wrist bone and it's fine. I have no idea if this positioning is good or bad for the sensors to do their job. Once I get used to wearing the watch I hope I won't notice it.

SETUP
Initial setup is accomplished via the Watch app on your iPhone. Don't have an iPhone? That's too bad. You'll have to find somebody with an iPhone to do it for you. Overall the process is pretty easy, and pairing is automated by using the camera on your iPhone. Alas, some sections of the setup are tough to see clearly if your iPhone is using enlarged text (WHY IN THE HELL DOESN'T APPLE TEST THIS? THEY SCREW IT UP EVERY DAMN TIME!), but it works. Speaking of enlarged text, if you have old eyes like mine, you'll be happy to know that you can bump up the sizing...

The iPhone Watch app to set the text size on your watch.

After setup (which takes a weirdly long time to process on the watch once you're done), many settings can be handled within the watch itself. Others are much easier being set with the iPhone Watch app. So far as I can tell, the only way to get new faces sent to your watch it through the iPhone app, but I guess the customization would be difficult if you attempted it on the Apple Watch.

BATTERY
This is really hard for me to figure out. Time to charge Apple Watch is 1.5 hours. Battery life is 18 hours. So there's 19.5 hours accounted for out of a 24-hour day. Keep in mind that this is a watch featuring SLEEP TRACKING! So ideally you will wear it to bed in order to take advantage of that. You'll actually want to wear it as much as possible to take advantage of all the health things it can monitor. So do I just charge my Watch for 6 hours even though that's overkill and cuts into my wear time? Or do I charge it once when I get home from work and again when I wake up in the morning so I can wear it the maximum amount of time? It's like... DOES ANYBODY AT APPLE EVER THINK ABOUT THIS STUFF? You need a battery that lasts 22.5 hours and charges to capacity in 1.5 hours SO THAT IT ADDS UP TO 24 HOURS AND YOU GET MAXIMUM WEAR-TIME!

DISPLAY
The resolution of the 40mm display is 324 × 394. That may not seem great, but the screen is so small that it works out to be 324 dpi(!). That's amazing, and even the tiniest details are crystal clear with no pixelation at all. The high resolution also comes with an apparently high refresh rate, which makes everything move buttery smooth (the second-hand sweep on the watch face is mesmerizing because it just looks so real!). Apparently the Series 6 is brighter than previous series. I have mine set to medium brightness and it's plenty bright. Like the Series 5, Apple uses an "always on" display (before that the screen went black until you raised your arm or tapped the face). The "always on" is dimmed, but perfectly readable (and is apparently 2.5 times brighter than Series 5). I don't know what more I can say... except the thing is gorgeous.

SOUND
Apple keeps pushing the enevelope when it comes to getting great sound out of unlikely devices. My MacBook Pro sounds incredible and I have no idea how they do it. My iPhone and iPad sound far, far better than they have a right to be given their size. But how could a frickin' WATCH have sound that could on any level be considered "good?" I don't know, but Apple has done it. You're not going to use the internal watch speaker for listening to music or anything, but it is wonderfully clear and plenty loud when making a phone call and listening to voicemail... using the virtual Walkie-Talkie app... interacting with Siri... or listening to Mickey Mouse tell you the time. Yet another audio feather triumph in Apple's cap.

INTERFACE
Considering I have the "small" 40mm version of the watch, I was worried that it would be entirely too small to interact with. But, not surprisingly, Apple did a great job of making it work surprisingly well. Everything is exceedingly well thought-out. I love the way the icons for the various apps float and ooze across the face as you navigate through them. Icons grow as they approach the center so you can get to the one you need. So nifty! This is the kind of stuff Apple does best...

The app selection screen.

There is a physical button on the right-side which brings up the recently-used app cards. Double-clicking brings up ApplePay. The "crown" controller is also a button and can be used to bring up the app selector from anywhere, then get back to the clock. Rotating the crown will scroll through options in various ways. It's fairly intuitive even after just a short time using it.

FACES
Apple includes a variety of watch faces... most of which can be customized to show extra information along with the time. There's some really cool options, including Mickey Mouse, the watch I had as a kid! But even better than that? You can display Mickey in black-and-white so it's less garish and more "adult." Even better than that? Tap on Mickey and he'll tell you the time! I've customized mine to have the weather in the upper-right, a "Shazam" button in the upper-left (to listen to songs and tell me what the name/artist is), and my heart rate along the bottom...

A Mickey Mouse watch face.

Some faces are artsy and minimalist... some are packed with information. All are beautifully-designed and you can swap between the ones you've added by swiping horizontally. When Mickey doesn't have what I'm looking for, a quick swipe and I'm in the GMT face, which has the battery level in the lower-left and a remote control for my AppleTV in the upper-right...

GMT watch face.

The crappy part? NO OPTION TO CREATE YOUR OWN FACES! Which is insanity. The closest you can get to creating something all your own is by using your photos...

A photo of Jake my cat as a watch face.

Why Apple hasn't come up with an "Apple Watch Face Construction Kit" over SIX generations is inexplicable. This just cements the criticism that Apple feels they know better than you what you need from their products.

CONNECTIVITY
The "GPS" model of the watch I have includes WiFi and Bluetooth, but mostly gets its data from my iPhone. For extra money (and a monthly fee from your mobile company) you can get a cellular version that will allow you to make/take calls, text, and access the internet even when you don't have your iPhone on you (which for me is almost never).

ALERTS
I have a myriad of alerts set on my iPhone. But they are easy enough to ignore because my phone is almost always on silent mode while I work. When I set up my Apple Watch, I just had the alerts mirrored from my phone. But this became distracting in a real hurry, as I was constantly looking to see what alerts were bombarding my wrist. Including the NestCam in my bedroom once again thinking that Jake hopping on my bed is a person...

My Apple Watch on my wrist showing an alert from my NestCam that there's a person in my bedroom... except it's actually Jake my cat.

I ultimately ended up turning most all of my alerts off. Only the most urgent alerts which I would definitely want distracting me are turned on. I really wish that Apple's notifications were more powerful. I'd love to be able to schedule what happens when and have alerts that automatically turn off and on based on my location. But, alas, not yet.

HEALTH & STUDIES
The many health functions of you Apple Watch integrate into the Health app on your iPhone for an easy way to visualize all the data collected. This data, in turn, can be automatically integrated into your medical chart (assuming your doctor's office has a system which is compatible). Here where I live, Confluence Health owns the majority of doctor offices, the local clinic, the larger clinic in the next city over, and the hospitals in neighboring cities. Their system is compatible with the Health app, but it's a crap integration. From what I can tell, it's one-way. I can pull data from their "MyChart" system, but nothing from the Health app will be sent to my doctor. This is ten buckets of lame. Ideally, the data should be accessible by my doctor whenever he needs to see it. Furthermore, if there's a problem detected, the clinic should get an alert so a doctor or nurse can decide if I need to be seen. Anything less is not as useful as it should be. Oh well. Maybe one day Confluence Health will get off their asses and join the year 2020. Somebody who has joined the year 2020? Apple. They allow you to volunteer your data to various health studies you can sign up for. Naturally I want to help science make us healthier, so I signed up for every study they have available and will sign up for any future studies they offer...

The iPhone Watch app to set the text size on your watch.

When I was researching the various studies I found that there are some people bitching that they don't get monetary compensation for submitting their data. =insert eyeroll= All I can think of is how the life that the science saves or improves from your data MIGHT BE YOURS, dumbass.

ECG
My resting heart rate is 80-85bpm, which is more elevated than I'd like but is considered "normal" as it falls smack-dab in the middle of the 60bpm to 100bpm range. One of the reasons I've wanted an Apple Watch is to help me get a lower resting heart rate and be healthier. Then Apple added an ECG (electrocardiogram) which is a smaller, less accurate version of the EKG heart rhythm monitor you see on medical dramas. It can be useful in detecting a heart problem before you have a serious issue, which is very cool. You just open up the ECG app then hold your finger on the crown so Apple Watch can monitor your heart. After 30 second you get a report...

My Apple Watch ECG report.

No sign of atrial fibrillation, so I guess I'm good to go? I'll likely set an alert so I remember to run an ECG once a day or something. Apple doesn't really tell you how often you're supposed to do it.

BLOOD OXYGEN SENSOR
What made me finally pull the trigger on an Apple Watch was the addition of a Blood Oxygen Sensor. But after using it multiple times, I'm not sure I can trust its accuracy. I'll run it and get 98%. I'll immediately run it again and get 100%. That's not so bad. A 2% variance isn't the difference between life and death. But then I run it again and get 92%...??

My Apple Watch screen showing a 92% blood oxygen level.

I understand that Apple is not claiming that this is a medically accurate reading (they tell you over and over again), but it seems weird that it is so wildly inconsistent. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm not in the exact same position every time and that's a problem. Or there's some other factor. I dunno. I have it set to automatically take measurements, so maybe over time I'll have a better picture of what my blood oxygen levels are. But right now? "Normal" is considered 80% to 100%, so perhaps it's enough that I (apparently) don't have hypoxemia and (hopefully) my watch will let me know if I ever do.

SLEEP
As I've written many, many times, I am an insomniac and don't get much sleep. Three or four hours a night and maybe a nap or two (if I'm lucky). That's it. A far cry from the 8 hours we're supposed to be getting. I've been so concerned about it that I've gone to the doctor for help. But since I am fully-functional when awake... able to work and play without issue... able to concentrate... not falling asleep... and not getting sick due to lack of rest... apparently there's nothing to be done. And thanks to all the crazy shit happening in the world, things have only gotten worse. Take last night for example...

My Apple Watch screen showing 3 hours and 47 minutes of sleep last night.

That's pretty bad, right? But average for me. The Wyze Band has sleep tracking, but it isn't very accurate. Yet at least it tries to sense all the times you sleep. Apple Watch is programmed to only look for your sleeping during a time range you set. This sucks because it doesn't recognize any naps you might take outside that range. And you can't just make the sleep range be 24 hours, because it puts your watch to sleep during the whole time! BUT IT GETS WORSE!. What if you have an early travel day or something? From what I can tell, there's no way to tell Apple Watch to wake the hell up permanently. Only temporarily until the time range you set is over. What you have to do to get your watch back is go change the time range for your sleep so it ends and your watch will wake up. This is ten pounds of stupid. And it sure would be nice if there was a "I'm gonna sleep now" button you could press before a nap so the total amount of sleep you're getting is actually counted. So damn frustrating. You can look at a compilation of sleep data when you go the the Health app on your iPhone. It not only shows your heart rate while sleeping, but when your sleep actually happened as well...

The iPhone Health app Sleep screen.

See that short break at 7am? That was when the Alexa alarm went off to feed my cats. After dishing up their breakfast, I returned to bed and was miraculously able to fall right back asleep again until I got up at 9am to answer emails, do some work, grab a shower, and head into the office. Apple Watch captured all of it. If I had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I have no doubt that Apple Watch would show that as well. I liked the idea of using Apple Watch to help me deal with my insomnia, but it's just so horribly brain dead and the procedure you have to take so clunky that I haven't decided if I'm even going to bother. I cannot for the life of me understand how Apple got all this so wrong.

FITNESS & ACTIVITY
The big draw of Apple Watch for a great many people is that it can be programmed to manage your workouts, track your fitness, and be generally helpful through all of it. What's so brilliant is that you can go as deep or as shallow into the fitness pool as you like. Since I am not into any of it, but want to do better, I am starting out with the bare minimum. This means using Apple Watch's Activity app to improve in three areas... MOVE, EXERCISE, and STAND. All of which are necessary for good health...

Live a better day with ACTIVITY!

After confirming details about your stats, you enter details of a plan in each area and you're good to go. Apple Watch then keeps track of what you do and displays the data in rings. Your goal each day is to close your MOVE, EXERCISE, and STAND rings. Here was where I was at at noon today...

My activity rings on Apple Watch!

The MOVE ring (red) comes from just walking around during my day. The STAND ring (blue) is an area I really need to improve upon because I sit at a computer desk all day. The EXERCISE ring (green) is something I just don't do... but need to. And I think I will begin by walking to work each day like I did pre-COVID. Your watch can even be set up to send you reminders if you want to get things done...

Reminder to Stand on Apple Watch!

You did it! on Apple Watch!

And once you are regularly closing all your rings you can then increase your goals to keep improving. It's all so insanely great because it's as encouraging or passive or overbearing as you want it to be. I don't think it's inside me to become a fitness fanatic, but I would like to be more healthy than I am. Apple Watch is part of my plan to get there.

PHONE
Since I don't have the version of Apple Watch with a cellular radio, the watch has to be tethered to my iPhone to make a cellular call. HOWEVER... you can make a phone call from your watch even if you left your phone at home if you have "Add WiFi Calling for Other Devices" enabled on your account (my carrier, AT&T, supports this). So long as you can connect to Wifi, you can make or receive a call and listen to your voicemails. FROM YOUR WATCH!

A phone... ON MY WATCH!!!

This is some next-level Dick-Tracy-style amazement right here. As mentioned above, the sound is perfectly good. I can hear just fine and people can hear me just fine. I am rarely without my iPhone so the odds of me using Apple Watch as a phone are slim, but it's nice to know I can still use it for calls when I left my phone downstairs or something.

WALLET
Your entire arsenal of cards from your Apple Wallet are available on your phone, including credit cards and ApplePay. Which is to say that you can use ApplePay anywhere it's accepted without taking your phone out of your pocket. Groovy.

HAND-WASHING
A nifty idea in the age of COVID-19 is Apple's new hand-washing app. But the implementation? Kinda wonky. It uses your location to remind you to wash your hands when you get home. Yesterday it reminded me 2-1/2 hours after I arrived. Today after about three minutes. But then the stupid reminders were going off CONSTANTLY. After the sixth reminder I got since being home today I finally turned the damn things off..

An alert to wash my hands!

Yesterday it didn't recognize the motion of my hands and the sound of running water until I was almost finished. Today it recognized washing quicker, but was still quite late. I don't know if the solution is to decrease the countdown to compensate... or wait to see if it gets better at recognizing the sound of my sink...

A soapy countdown!

Either way, handwashing is effective in combating the pandemic, so this is a good feature to have. They just need to fix the reminder notifications so they shut the hell up once you're home.

APPS
Your Apple Watch comes with all the various Apple apps you'd expect it to... including Mail, Messages, Music, News, Calculator, Compass, Timer, Weather, and such. All of them are beautifully crafted. I really love the look of Compass...

A beautiful compass on my Apple Watch!

And extra information your watch has is just a scroll on the crown-knob away...

Extended compass info such as Lattitude, Longitude, Incline, and Elevation on my Apple Watch!

Nothing makes you nostalgia for the early-80's era of calculator watches like calling up that app...

A mini calculator on my Apple Watch!

Fortunately you have the option of deleting apps you won't use. For me that means the Cycle Tracking app which tracks your mensural cycle...

Deleting the CYCLE app on my Apple Watch!

There is, of course, an Apple Watch App Store. I haven't done a lot here because I just don't see myself using an abundance of apps on my watch, but some are nice... like a SONOS controller app I picked up for a couple bucks. Some of the apps I have on my iPhone have a companion app you can get for WatchOS, which is good. A few, like watch apps for my Ecobee thermostat and Hue Lighting, may even be useful. And then there are some iPhone apps which really should have a companion watch app but don't (I'm looking at you, Schlage). It's a mixed bag all the way around.

CONCLUSION
Is Apple Watch worth it? I've only had one for two days, so I don't know if I can answer that. I suspect it could be based on the health features alone (borderline-accurate though they may be). If Apple were to address my biggest disappointments... namely creating bands that match the watches, making the watches thinner, having battery life make sense, making sure the iPhone setup app can be read if you're using large text, allow you to design your own watch faces, increase accuracy of the sensors, fix the insanely stupid sleep tracking mess, improve hand-washing so it doesn't KEEP BOTHERING YOU TO WASH YOUR HANDS WHEN YOU GET HOME AFTER YOU'VE BEEN HOME FOR HOURS... then I'd say Apple Watch is absolutely worth it. As it is though, I feel kinda like a beta-tester for a new product that's been around for five years and has gone through six revisions. Too many things are half-baked and poorly thought out for this to in any way be a homerun. Maybe with Series 7?

   

Bullet… MONDAY?!?

Posted on September 21st, 2020

Dave!No, your eyes are not deceiving you. So much stuff happened yesterday and today that I'm having back-to-back bullet posts. So sit back and enjoy... because an all new Bullet Sunday Monday starts... now...

   
• Watch! My new Apple Watch Series 6 arrived in the time-frame Apple actually promised (which was not expected given their track record). It's bigger than the Waze Band I had been "training" myself to wear, but I think I'll do okay. I just wish they could find a way to slim the thing down so it doesn't look and feel so massive when you have skinny arms like I do. Because, seriously, this is the small watch...

Apple Watch Series 6 looking big on my puny arm.

The height is just so offensively big. How about your big "feature" for Series 7 is a thinner watch, Apple...

Apple Watch Series 6 looking big on my puny arm.

I have many, many thoughts already (the first being HOLY CRAP! THE BLACK BAND IS NOT BLACK AND THE GREY COLOR IS NOT THE SAME COLOR TONE AS THE SPACE GREY WATCH?!? WTF, APPLE?!?), so a blog post will land in a day or two.

   
• Make Mine Marvel! The first trailer for WandaVision dropped and it looks pretty bonkers. Like they're channeling Leave it to Beaver and Bewitched or something. In the comics, The Scarlet Witch has reality-warping powers that haven't found their way into the MCU movies, but it looks like all that's about to change...

Two things. First, they have made the character costumes from the comic books into Halloween costumes or something, which is a nice nod to the source material for fans...

Wanda, The Scarlet Witch, in her comic book costume.

Vision in his comic book costume.

Second of all... Monica Rambeau, is that you?!?

Probably Monica Rambeau laying on the ground looking at the camera.

Can't wait to see WandaVision later this year. Especially since Falcon and The Winter Soldier has been pushed back to next year. This pandemic blows.

   
• Emmys! Thrilled that Schitt's Creek and Watchmen did so incredibly well. They are some of my favorite television shows of all time, and having that be acknowledged is a bit surprising, if I'm being honest (Regina King OWNED that award!). All well-deserved! Also happy that Zendaya got some love for Euphoria, which was also well-deserved. A little upset that The Good Place was snubbed for their beautiful final episode... and I still don't get all the fawning over Succession, but you can't have everything.

   
• Cobb! Gutted to learn that Ron Cobb has died. I've been a fan of him and his work for decades. He's been a huge part of some of my favorite movies (including Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Total Recall, The Abyss, Firefly and Back to the Future, to name a few)...

Ron Cobb Art: The DeLorean from Back to the Future.

Ron Cobb Art: An airlock interior from Aliens.

Rest in Peace, sir. You are leaving a legacy that few will ever eclipse.

   
• Ellen! I have always loved Ellen DeGeneres. Her standup is some of the best and funniest I've ever seen. I liked her talk show, but just couldn't watch any more because the constant audience screaming is annoying as fuck. But still... love Ellen. So when the allegations about abuse on her show started surfacing, I was understandably concerned. It seemd way, way out of left field. A part of me was... "Holy crap! Ellen is not allowed to ever get upset... lose her temper... be angry... be a human? Because I was sure that's what was happening. Ellen is focused on her show, some people expect her to be "on" 24/7, and when she's not or is like... being human... people are upset with her. Which is bullshit. But then so-called "stars" started speaking up and I thought "Well, maybe? But even then in the back of my head I'm going Though perhaps they feel that Ellen didn't treat them enough like a "star" and went looking for nasty things to say? In the end, I honestly don't know. But Ellen finally addressed it all, and I have to say that this is pretty much what I expected...

So... yeah. I'm happy that Ellen took the allegations seriously, fired those who let things get so bad, and is promising to do better. That's all we humans can really do. And maybe since the audience is now "virtual" they will tone down all the fucking screaming so I can watch the show again? Anything is possible.

   
• Fascism! Holy fucking SHIT! Is anybody giving a crap what's going on in this country? Anybody? We've got a president trying to scare people with outright lies so they vote for him after telling people that he didn't want to cause a panic with the pandemic so he lied to the American people about it? Are you fucking kidding me? I don't give a crap which political party you ascribe to, just look at this shit...

I honestly don't know what to say. If anybody should be outraged about this, it's Republicans. What's happening is diametrically opposed to what Conservatives are SUPPOSED to be about... yet the GOP seems to be doing fucking nothing except enabling the maniac in charge. It's like we're living Bizarro World. Especially when you consider that are alternative to all this is fucking Joe Biden? How fucked is this country? Oh well. At least with Biden we'll (hopefully) not have anti-science Nazi fascism actively working to destroy the country and screw its citizens. Assuming he can get elected... which is not the slam-dunk it should be, alas.

   
See you tomorrow for a non-bullet post. Or so I assume. Who knows what might happen before then? The world seems to be exploding daily.

   

Apple Watch What Happens

Posted on September 15th, 2020

Dave!Apple had yet another virtual "event" today, focusing on the Apple Watch Series 6 and new iPad models for the Classic and Air varieties.

As I've mentioned every single time Apple has released a new Apple Watch, I detest wearing watches. I can never seem to get used to them and question the need to have one since I can get the time from my iPhone any time I want to. Also... the Apple Watch is just too dang thick. I thought maybe if they ever came out with a thinner model with the battery in the strap or something, I might be able to manage it.

But then... Apple actually started adding features that mean something to me.

I very nearly bit with the 2018 Series 4 model because of the ECG feature.

Then today Apple unleashed Series 6 which adds blood oxygen monitoring and sleep monitoring. Since I finally managed to train myself to wear a $25 Wyze Band without it bothering me, I went ahead pulled the trigger...

Apple Watches intertwined on each other.

Apple Watches come with a crazy number of options...

FACE SIZE: 40mm • 44mm
Since I have bony little arms, there really wasn't a choice here. Even 40mm is likely too big, but it's the smallest they offer.

CASE MATERIAL: Aluminium • Stainless Steel • Titanium
Given that stainless steel starts at $699 and titanium starts at $799, I was juuuuust fine with aluminum.

CASE FINISH: Space Grey • Silver • Gold • Blue • Red
I wanted a Project RED case with a black band. But you can only get a Project RED case with a Project RED band which I thought might be a little too bright and flashy for work. I ended up going with Space Grey since I really like it on my MacBook Pro.

BAND TYPE: Solo Loop • Braided Solo Loop • Sport Band • Sport Loop
Interesting to note that Apple now offers closed loop bands! No buckle or clasp or any overlapping material... just a single closed loop of either squishy silicone or a braided material. I wanted to go with the braided one because I thought it might trap less heat... but it was $50(!) more and looked kinda hippy, so I decided on the silicone. Kinda excited about it since it means I won't have a clasp digging into my wrist! In order to get the right size, Apple has you print out a measuring guide and wrap it around your wrist to get a size number. We'll see how that goes.

BAND COLOR: Citrus • Navy • Green • Yellow • Red • Black • White
I really, really coveted that Project RED, but there's just no way I could wear something like that for work... especially if I get back into volunteerism. So I went with classic black to pair well with my Space Grey watch. Still more than a little bummed that I couldn't get a Project RED watch with a black strap. It makes no sense that Apple doesn't allow that.

CONNECTIVITY: GPS • GPS+Cellular
Even if I wanted to pay an extra $100 to get Cellular on the thing so I can text and talk without my iPhone nearby, I didn't want to spend extra money on my AT&T bill each month to get it. I am never without my iPhone nearby anyway, so it would have been a wasted expense for me.

Thanks to wanting to having to have something I can wear for any occasion, this is the kinda boring watch I ended up with...

Dark grey watch with a black loop band.

Keep in mind that the watch I wanted to order would look like this, assuming Apple let me make it...

Red watch with a black loop band.

Seriously... HOW COOL IS THAT!!! So why, Apple? In order to get this I would have had to have ordered the Project RED watch with a Project RED band, then purchased a separate black band for $50. Yikes. I was already going $50 over my $350 savings... I can't afford to add another $50 on top of that. Oh well. The Space Grey is a more subdued, classic look so I can't be too mad about it.

Another thing I can't be too mad about? Apple's continuing efforts to become a more sustainable company. The list of "green" features of the Apple Watch just keeps getting longer...

A bunch of green features... including eliminating some toxic chemicals, using recycled materials, minimal packaging, and such.

INTERESTING TO NOTE... Apple is no longer including the little USB charger brick in the box. If you need one, that'll cost you $19 extra. All you get is the cable with magnetic charging pad. Apple is actually touting this as a "feature" because most people already have a bunch of the chargers so it's not wasting materials and adding to their CO2 footprint. And I'm like... okay... I guess that makes sense. But you will note that they did not decrease the price by $19, so I am smelling a fair amount of bullshit here. If you watch the event video, you will note that nothing is said about how much money this is adding to Apple's bottom line. Given how many watches they sell, I'm guessing it's a considerable chunk of change.

So... $400 plus tax. Plus an additional $80 if you want to purchase 2 years of AppleCare+. That's about $200 more than I wanted to spend. A better option for my budget was the Series 3 at $200 or the new Watch SE at $279... but they don't have ECG functionality or blood oxygen monitoring, which is the whole reason I want the watch in the first place. Still wish it was thinner by at least 1/3, but Apple seems in no hurry to get there, so I guess this is what I get.

Apple says my new potentially-life-saving toy will arrive by the end of the month. Given that they currently have a 0 for 3 track record in hitting promised delivery windows with me, I'll believe it when I see it.

In other news? I'm officially poor now!

But what else is new.

   

TECH WEEK: Function 101 Remote for AppleTV

Posted on August 21st, 2020

Dave!Welcome to Technology Week at Blogography, where I will be reviewing tech purchases I've made over the last month or so.

The remote that comes with AppleTV is total shit.

I'm not even kidding. It's absurdly small, easy to fall through the couch cushions and lose, difficult to tell up from down, has a crap "trackpad" for navigation, and is an overall loser for functionality and user experience.

As you might have guessed, I am not a fan.

Before I cut the cord, I had to use an assortment of remotes for my television, satellite box, and AppleTV. I mostly watched satellite TV. and that remote was just fine. But now that I've cut the cord and everything is streaming through apps on AppleTV, this shitty little remote is what I'm using 100% of the time. And I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

"Surely I'm not the only one who hates this piece of shit! I wonder if there's a third-party remote for AppleTV that has actual buttons and is pleasant to use?"

Turns out there is. The majority of options are programmable remotes, however, and that's overkill for me because I just have the one device now. What I want is a simple remote for AppleTV only.

Enter the Function 101 Button Remote for AppleTV...

Function 101 remote next to an AppleTV.

Exactly what I always wanted!

When the remote arrived, I immediately noticed a few great things...

  • Wonderful soft-touch rubberized surface!
  • Amazingly responsive and clicky buttons!
  • Super-comfortable fit in my hand!
  • Big enough to not slip between my couch cushions!

Alas, it's not all a bed of roses. There are problems to be had.

First of all, there is no "Home" button. I believe this is a technical limitation of AppleTV, because I never had a "Home" button on my Harmony remotes either. Some of the functionality can be had by long-pressing the "Menu" button... but that doesn't work to turn off the AppleTV quickly. Bummer.

Second of all, the button layout is not like the original crappy Apple Remote. This is incredibly frustrating and makes zero sense. I am CONSTANTLY hitting the "Channel Up/Down" instead of volume, which immediately forwards you to the next episode in many apps. This is horrible. If I had been the one to design the remote, I would have laid it out exactly like the Apple remote so you can easily switch between them and have the buttons where you expect them to be...

Function 101 remote next to a Dave revised remote.

Third of all, this is an IR-only remote. Which means you must have clear sight of the AppleTV and be pointing the remote directly at it in order for signal to be received.

And Lastly, It did not work with my AppleTV 4K right away. Every time I pressed a button I would get three rapid flashes on the AppleTV, but nothing would happen. It took days of back-and-forth with Function Tech Support (who were very responsive) and it still wouldn't work. Through a lot of Googling, I tried the following suggestions...

  • Restart AppleTV — Doesn’t work.
  • Unplug/Plug In AppleTV — Doesn’t work.
  • Reset Remote Pairing — Doesn’t work.
  • Reset AppleTV — Doesn’t work.

Ultimately it was a suggestion from a friend who's an Apple Store "Genius Bar" employee to Reset & Update AppleTV that got things working. This is a terrible last-ditch effort because you have to sign back into all your apps again. You'd think this would be a simple matter since Apple added a unified AppleTV subscription provider login, but none of the apps seem to use it properly. You tell the app to use your provider login, then still have to jump through hoops to get signed in. Incredibly frustrating.

Ultimately the Function 101 remote is a mixed bag. It's so much better than the crappy Apple remote in form, function, and feel... but the button arrangement is incredibly problematic because it's different from the Apple original which means you're pressing the wrong buttons all the time. This is a shame. If they were to fix this, it would be a seriously good buy at $29.95.

UPDATE: I revised this to reflect that I eventually got the remote working.

   

HOMEPOD IS SHIT AND APPLE IS THE WORST!

Posted on July 3rd, 2020

Dave!"Hey Siri, Fuck you, you steaming pile of shit!"
"I won't respond to that."

I have a SONOS smart speaker music system and I am very happy with it. It gives me great sound in every room... from my home theater to my kitchen to my bedrooms to my bathrooms. Thanks to integration with Amazon Alexa, I can control all the speakers with my voice. Or control all aspects of my smart home and ask for information just by talking to the nearest speaker. And thanks to integration with Amazon Music Unlimited, I can tell SONOS to play whatever music I want anywhere I'm at. It's glorious.

The only shortcoming is that SONOS cannot integrate with iTunes Match. Which means all the music I've purchased through iTunes or ripped into iTunes is off-limits. This is generally not an issue, because Amazon Music Unlimited has most everything I own anyway. It can be an issue when I am wanting to play different music in different places because I only have a single license for Music Unlimited... which, I guess, is not so unlimited after all.

Enter HomePod. Apple's answer to SONOS...

Apple HomePod

I had no intention of buying one because A) I already have SONOS, and B) they're $300 a pop!

Apparently nobody else is buying them either, because they're regularly discounted to $250. And now Best Buy had them knocked down to $200. Factor in my Best Buy Card cash-back and the credit and cash I had, and I was able to pick one up for around $150.

So why not? I'll just pull the money out of my Black Friday fund. I have plenty of clothes anyway. And it's not like I'm going anywhere thanks to a pandemic raging.

And so...

I'm going to get this out of the way right now... the sound out of this speaker is exceptional! It absolutely trounces my Amazon Echo and the SONOS One. The fidelity, bass, and clarity is off-the-charts fantastic. It cannot, of course, compete with my SONOS home theater setup... because how could it? But for a single speaker? Incredible. Room-filling sound that seriously blows me away. Unlike SONOS which requires you to tune it to a room using your iPhone to listen to itself as you walk around the space, HomePod automatically listens to the space its filling and adjusts itself to fit without you having to do a thing. And it's not just hype... I moved the HomePod to different places in the room and it is absolutely creating magic. So when it comes to the acoustical abilities of Apple HomePod I am 100% sold. Also nice? The sound doesn't drop down (AKA "ducking") when you talk to it like what happens with Alexa devices.

And that's about it for things I like about HomePod. Except perhaps the looks, which are not bad.

Setup is admittedly a piece of cake if you own an iPhone... you just hold iPhone up next to the speaker and it automatically detects it and asks if you want to set it up...

My iPhone asking me if I want to setup my HomePod

After set up, I asked Siri to play the album 101 by Depeche Mode...

"Sorry, I couldn't find Depeche Mode in your music. If you subscribe to Apple Music, be sure that it is set up properly in the Home app."

Well that's odd. I repeat my request in a half-dozen different ways. Each time I'm told that Siri can't find the music I want to play.

The Apple forums say that individual items sometimes cause problems, but creating a playlist usually works. So I tried creating a playlist called "DM 101" with the album 101 as the only content. I verified that it was showing up on all my devices, and it appeared almost instantly. So sync is definitely working. So then I ask HomePod to play it...

"I couldn't find DM 101 in your music."

After a half-hour trying to figure this shit out, I finally gave up and reset HomePod so I could start over. Maybe there was something I missed? Maybe the OS update didn't register?

Same damn thing.

OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

So then I think that I'll just use my MacBook Pro to tell HomePod to play Depeche Mode's 101 directly. I use the Music app to find the song... send it to HomePod... and it's actually playing! At last! But then I close the lid on my MacBook Pro and HomePod stops playing. I wasn't telling HomePod to play my music... I was merely streaming music to HomePod over AirPlay.

Ditto with Music on my iPhone. You cannot control HomePod from there either... only stream to it. The HomePod setup controls are in Apple's shitty Home app, but there's no way to find out why it can't get to iTunes Match. Nothing that even indicates you are set up to use iTunes Match. And, of course, nowhere to type in what I want HomePod to play.

So I reset HomePod AGAIN and go through setup AGAIN.

I tell Siri to play the album 101 by Depeche Mode...

"Sorry, I couldn't find Depeche Mode in your music."

Now I'm actually worse off than I was before. Not only can HomePod not find the album 101, it can't find ANY music by Depeche Mode at all? I HAVE 30 FUCKING ALBUMS AND 197 SONGS BY DEPECHE MODE! AND HOMEPOD CAN'T FIND ANY OF THEM?!?

          "Hey Siri, Fuck you, you steaming pile of shit!"
          "I won't respond to that."

So here I am... searching the Apple support communities trying to figure out how the fuck I play a damn album that I own and have synced with iTunes Match WHEN THAT'S THE ENTIRE FUNCTION OF APPLE HOMEPOD! I've tried absolutely everything I've managed to dig up on Google. Turning off personalized requests... using playlists... unplugging and re-plugging back in... everything.

  • I've spent hours searching for solutions in the Apple Communities.
  • I've reset HomePod three times. Unplugged/plugged numerous times.
  • I've sat back and waited for an hour, thinking it just needed time to sync stuff.
  • I've tried controlling via my MacBook Pro and iPhone but can only stream, not control.

What the fuck else is there?

I bought HomePod to play my iTunes Match music. If I wanted to stream my music to a speaker over AirPlay, I WOULD JUST USE MY SONOS SYSTEM SINCE IT HAS AIRPLAY BUILT-IN! Not only that, but I have a Plex server sitting on my NAS with all my purchased music on it. So what happens if I ask Alexa to play it via my SONOS?

          "Alexa, tell Plex to play the album 101."
          "Playing the album 101 by Depeche Mode."

Can you believe this shit? SONOS/Alexa/Plex didn't even fucking hesitate! It just started playing what I asked, even though it takes THREE SEPARATE SERVICES TO MAKE IT HAPPEN! And of course it sounds amazing because it's using my SONOS Playbar, two SONOS One speakers, and the SONOS Subwoofer...

Meanwhile Apple HomePod can't even make it happen with their own iTunes Match service! How fucking embarrassing.

Time to schedule a call with Apple Tech Support.

Despite scheduling a call and specifying I need help with HomePod, I was put on hold 15 minutes to wait for an Apple HomePod Specialist. Then after I explained the problem, I was put on hold for 22 more minutes. Then the HomePod Specialist came back and said he would transfer me to his supervisor, Mason. AT WHICH POINT I WAS DISCONNECTED!!!

Despite Apple knowing who I am and having my number, nobody calls back. So I call them back. Keep in mind I have been working on this problem FOR THREE HOURS AND 45 MINUTES!

On hold waiting for Apple again, this time for 51 minutes until somebody answered. TWELVE MINUTES LATER I WAS DISCONNECTED AGAIN!

Fuck it. I am returning this HomePod pile of shit. Four-and-a-half hours of my life wasted.

And definitely fuck Apple.

Apple tech support is the absolute WORST! They used to be the gold standard, now they're just the shittiest of the shitty. I haven't had a truly good tech experience with Apple for nearly a decade. You would think that a company with BILLIONS in the bank would do something about it... but, alas. My advice to you if you ever have a problem needing Apple support? Don't even bother trying to solve it on your own. Call immediately. Then, if you happen to solve it while you're holding for hours, then say that when they call... or you get off hold. Because otherwise you're just wasting your time. And Apple doesn't not give a fuck about your time, trust me.

I found that out the hard way when they accused me of not returning my iPhone... THAT THEY TOOK FROM ME AT THE APPLE STORE! A fucking week of my life wasted on that bullshit. I really need to type up that story one day... but I am enraged just thinking about it. Maybe one day.

God how I hate Apple. I really, really do.

Tags:
Categories: Apple Stuff 2020Click To It: Permalink  5 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Magic Keyboard 2020

Posted on April 24th, 2020

Dave!Continuing on from my new iPad 2020 post from yesterday...

I had no intention of buying a Magic Keyboard for my new iPad Pro. I bought the thing for drawing and painting. I don't need a keyboard for that, and adding one essentially turns an iPad into a laptop. I've already got a laptop. And then there's the $350(!) price tag for the thing. Add that to a 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($1,000) with an Apple Pencil ($130), and your total jumps to a whopping $1,480! A MacBook Pro 13-inch is $1300! So why?

But then...

In anticipation of my new iPad arriving, I started taking a look at all the new apps and app updates that have been released since I set up my existing iPad back in 2016. Because once I installed Procreate (the painting/drawing program I use) and the essential stuff I had on my iPhone, I never really looked at anything else. I made an exception for Photoshop for iPad when it was released because, well, it's Photoshop and I was really looking forward to what it might be like on iPad... but that ended in disappointment. Nope. With the exception of trying to blog on my iPad every once in a while, I've used it solely for Procreate and nothing else.

But then...

After looking at all the things I could be doing with my iPad, I decided to take another look at my keyboard options because there's entirely too many apps for which is would be a very handy thing to have. My current iPad has a "Smart Keyboard" which I actually like quite a lot. The keys aren't really keys... they're bubbles that click on the fabric surface, but it's perfectly useable. I could type better on this than I ever could Apple's horrific "butterfly keyboard." The problem is that you can't really type on your lap with it. There's no solid "base" on which to rest it on an uneven surface and it just flops over when you attempt it.

The new "floating" Magic Keyboard is different...

Apple's new Magic Keyboard with an iPad attached to it... when seen from the side everything is really thin.

On the plus-side it is very sturdy, has a solid base, can be used on irregular surfaces (like your lap), and types like a dream. Plus... a trackpad! Something that is weirdly (but brilliantly) integrated into what is supposed to be a touch-based device.

On the down-side there's no way to fold the keyboard back and out of your way. In order to use the tablet like a tablet, you have to pop it off the keyboard completely. At which point your iPad is 100% unprotected. This scary and, quite frankly, dangerous prospect has me more than a little worried. It's way too easy to drop a $1000 device and end up with some serious damage if there's no protection on it whatsoever. I don't know if Apple will release some kind of hard case to protect the iPad which can still be used with the Magic Keyboard, but somehow I doubt it.

So let's get into this, shall we?

Given that I blew through all the Apple Cash I had been saving up for the past year to get this (and still had to come up with $60 on top of that!), the biggest question I have for myself is whether or not Magic Keyboard is worth the $350(!) price tag.

The answer is a resounding no.

As high-quality as it feels... as capable as it is... as well as it works... as beautiful as it looks... it's just not worth THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!). I mean, holy crap... that's THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!)... FOR A KEYBOARD!!! I can see it being worth $200 tops. Which is likely what the competitors will be selling for when they get around to it. They may not be as top-of-the-line as an Apple model, but give me a break.

The way it works is to magnetically attach to your iPad. And those magnets are strong. My initial worries about my pricey new tool falling off the keyboard and crashing to the floor were wiped away the minute I attached it. And the Magic Keyboard is heavy. I mean really heavy. It makes my 12.9-inch iPad feel three times as weighty. That's great for making sure that it stays on the table without falling over... but it's terrible for portability. A primary selling-point for iPad is how much lighter and smaller it is than a computer. Well... with this keyboard on it, Apple might as well have added a touchscreen to a MacBook Air and been done with it.

Opening the Magic Keyboard folio is terrible. Because the hinges are all so tight and the Apple Pencil gets in the way, I have ended up accidentally lifting the magnetic cover off the iPad instead of opening it a couple times now. It's easier to open if you take the Apple Pencil off, but should that really be required? And speaking of Apple Pencil, it's kinda stupid that there's no security strap to help keep it attached while charging. The magnets which attach it are strong, but brush the iPad up against something and Pencil still going to come off. This is an inexplicable move, and I wish that there was a model which had SOMETHING to help keep the Pencil in place so I don't lose my $130 stylus. I'm trying to get in the habit of lifting the iPad up and cracking it open like a book when opening it. This is far easier, but way less intuitive.

The "floating" aspect of the design is a mixed bag. Push the iPad to a flatter more normal viewing angle and the bottom of it floats right up next to the number keys, which is kinda a bummer (and also explains why Apple didn't bother to put function keys on this? Talk about a bummer!). And, as I mentioned, you can't flop the keyboard back behind the iPad so it's out of the way. You're either using it like a laptop with your iPad attached or you're not using it at all because your iPad is detached. There is no "best of both worlds" to be had. As mentioned above, the hinges which keep the Magic Keyboard closed and the hinges which allow angle adjustment for the iPad angle are very stiff. Almost too stiff to be comfortable. It makes me wonder if they loosen over time, and Apple made them too stiff so that their pricey keyboard attachment wouldn't be floppy within a year? Something I'm guessing is still a possibility. iPads are light, but they ain't that light. Eventually the hinges have to succumb to the weight, don't they?

Unlike the "Smart Keyboard" on my old iPad, the Magic Keyboard works just fine on my lap when sitting... or propped against my knees in bed. I don't know that it's worth the trade-off of not being able to flop the keyboard around to the back so it's out of the way though.

As for the keyboard itself, the keys are certainly nice enough to type on. Far better than the old fabric-bubble "Smart Keyboard" I was using, which I actually liked just fine, so I'm quite happy typing on it. The keys are backlit so you can more easily type in dark places (which holds true even if you are a good touch-typist because you have to find those keys first!). Sure I would like a bit more "travel" to be really comfortable, but it's not a big deal.

There may be no "Escape" key... no function keys... but there is a "Global" key which summons the on-screen emoji keyboard. This is so much more useful than the crappy little "TouchBar" on my Mac which takes forever to navigate emoji with. I wish they would give us this in MacOS X where we would use the mouse or arrow keys to navigate as quickly and easily...

The on-screen emoji keyboard which displays tons of emojis you can scroll through quickly and easily to find what you're looking for.

The trackpad confuses me. In the best possible way. What I find confusing is why I would ever need to use it since I have a massive touch display floating in front of me. Wouldn't it be better to just tap on the screen instead of the trackpad? Well, not always, as it turns out. First of all, your hand doesn't get in the way of viewing the display when you use the touchpad. Second of all, the way the "mouse pointer" works when you use the trackpad is really beautiful. It doesn't just stay an arrow (or, in this case a big dot)... it morphs, changes, and sticks like a magnet as you move it over elements like buttons and text and such (not everywhere and not always, alas, but when it does it's magic). So very elegant and useful. Which is to say it's so very Apple. I dearly love the way the trackpad works with iOS and can't help but wonder if this kind of thing would translate well to MacOS X as well? It's such a nice idea that I'm sure somebody at Apple has looked at it.

On the functionality side... the entire trackpad surface is a button you can press but, unlike on my MacBook which fakes a "click" by providing force feedback when you press down, this trackpad actually physically clicks. I'm guessing this is due to the smaller size making physical clicks more feasible than on the massive trackpad on Apple's laptops. It feels good. Not just for clicking but for tracking and dragging. I wish it had a bit more "tooth" to provide physical sensation for your fingertip, however, because it's really slick. Of course the trackpad supports gestures (like multi-finger swiping) and click-dragging, which work much like my MacBook Pro... though they are a bit more difficult to use on the smaller surface.

The Magic Keyboard comes with a USB-C port on the left-side of the hinge for charging (the resulting power then gets to your iPad through the so-called "smart connector" on the back of it). Apparently it doesn't do data. This is nice, I guess, but the real cool thing here is that it frees up the USB-C port on your iPad for other things! Since the iPad can now communicate with so many external devices (like disc drives or a display), having just one port is kinda silly. Since Apple wasn't smart enough to put two ports on the iPad itself, they at least thought to provide an extra via their keyboard. Another bit of good news... the smart connector allows direct communication between the iPad and Keyboard, no Bluetooth required. Alas the Magic Keyboard's USB-C port is a very stiff fit and takes some effort to plug and unplug the power cable into it. Maybe things will loosen up a bit after a while? I hope not too much... just enough to make things a better fit. On my wish list is a new MagSafe connector that's also USB-C compatible (how is this not a thing?) and USB-C ports on both sides of the hinge instead of just one.

When it comes to actually protecting your iPad, I'm going to say that the Magic Keyboard doesn't do much there at all. There's essentially no cushioning or protection for the sides and corners. Indeed, the only thing you get extending past the iPad structure is part of the weak seam where the Magic Keyboard parts are heat-sealed together! This is shockingly lame, and one of the main reasons I'm so mortified that I paid $350(!) for it. I'd have hoped for some protection, but got practically nothing. The screen is protected and that's it.

One final note that I find kinda silly... there's a cutout for the camera bump on the back. So if you want to take a photo with your iPad, you can lift up the entire iPad/Magic Keyboard assembly and snap a picture... even though the angle of the iPad on the Magic keyboard is really silly for this. Anybody wanting to snap a photo will most likely just pop the iPad off the Magic Keyboard to do it. But, hey, I guess they had to do something to accommodate the camera bump back there, so why not?

And so...

Am I keeping it? Am I willing to just eat the $350(!) cost despite my not thinking it's anywhere near worth that much?

As I understand it, Apple has extended their return window, and so I have some time to decide. But, odds are, I will probably hang onto it. Despite value-for-the-money not being there, it is a really nice keyboard. And given how iPads are so very quickly getting to the point where I will be able to do actual work on them (in addition to the drawing and painting work I do now) I'll be needing a nice keyboard for extended typing tasks.

But THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!) FOR A KEYBOARD? Damn, Apple, that seems absurd... even for you.

UPDATE: The soft-touch vinyl(?) cover is already showing scuff marks, which is rage-inducing. THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS(!) and you can damage it with your fingernail? Seriously? For that kind of money, couldn't Apple have made it with a tough fabric cover that will hold up to even the most minimal abuse? What a shitty, shitty design decision. Used to be with Apple you paid more because the quality was better. Not so much with this Magic Keyboard embarrassment.

Tags: ,
Categories: Apple Stuff 2020Click To It: Permalink  3 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

iPad 2020

Posted on April 23rd, 2020

Dave!The last iPad I bought was the 1st generation 9.7-inch iPad Pro four years ago in 2016. It was my second iPad and, at the time I purchased it, the intent was to use it as a laptop replacement for travel. That didn't work out at all. It just wasn't capable enough for me to do real work on it. Any time I traveled with my iPad, I had to have my MacBook with me as well. Still, it was good for watching movies on the plane.

What the iPad did do for me was revolutionize the way I draw and paint digitally. Thanks to its blazing speed, virtually non-existent parallax, and low latency (with the right app)... plus the fantastic responsiveness of the Apple Pencil stylus... everything changed. I found it to be a better experience for creating art than an expensive Wacom Cintiq tablet paired with a high-end computer! If there was a flaw, it was that the 9.7-inch size was too small for me to work comfortably, and I regretted quite badly that I didn't spend the money to buy the 12.9-inch size.

In November 2018 Apple released their 3rd generation model iPad. It was compelling enough an upgrade from my older model that I started saving $50 a month until I could afford one.

A month ago Apple released their 4th generation model iPad Pro. It was definitely time to upgrade now, but I had only saved up $700 of the $1000 price tag. Then quarantine started dragging on so I figured I might as well blow through some of the vacation money I had been saving since I won't be using it any time soon... and went to order me a new 12.9-inch iPad!

Much to my horror, the specs stated that my 1st generation Apple Pencil wouldn't work with the new model and I would have to spend an additional $130 to buy an upgraded one of those as well. It would be another month until I could get the money together for that, so my plans were put on hold.

Eventually I managed to scrape the money together and order... then today it finally arrived!

Apple's beautiful new iPad Pro 12.9-inch tablet.

And now for my thoughts...

Holy cow is this thing beautiful. And so impossibly thin! It's like a thick sheet of glass with metal on the back. I honestly don't know how they manage it, and thinking of how far technology has come in my lifetime makes my head hurt.

My old iPad was pretty darn fast, even when running modern apps. But this thing is ridiculously speedy. Everything happens instantaneously. There's no delay for anything. It's kinda how like you dream your computer would work... except it's reality. What I don't understand is why Apple put in an A12Z chip instead of the newer, faster, better A13 chip that's in my iPhone. The A12Z has an additional core compared to the A12X from the previous iPad (8 cores instead of 7) which aids in some areas, but it's a minor upgrade at best. If you're going to use a new chip, why not go with the best you already have instead of spending the money to retool an older one with minimal effect?

The "new and improved" $130 Apple Pencil drawing stylus is actually "new and improved." It has a matte surface instead of a glossy one so it also has a more natural texture when you grip it. I also like the thinner diameter (which I know some people do not). But the absolute best part? You don't have to plug it in to charge it! It magnetically attaches to the iPad and charges wirelessly in either direction (nice for lefties and righties)... but only on the right "long-side" of the iPad (when held vertically... it's the top when held horizontally). As a side benefit, the flat "charging" side of the Pencil means it won't roll off the table. Where the Apple Pencil is just frickin' brain dead is that it's not reversible. Most styluses can be flipped to erase something (mimicking a real-life pencil eraser). STILL NO ERASER ON A $130 STYLUS IS UNFORGIVABLE. They do have a tap sensor on the pencil, however. In Procreate a double tap switches to the eraser. Another double tap goes back to your pen. This is a really nice way of working, but I still don't understand why a stylus costing a fraction of what Apple's charging has an eraser end when Apple's doesn't. Even so, I like this stylus 1000% better than Apple's old one. If I have a complaint, it's that I don't understand how it costs $30 more than the previous model.

Apple's beautiful new iPad Pro 12.9-inch tablet.

Back to the iPad itself... the larger size of the 12.9-inch model is far, far better for drawing and painting. Not as comfortable to hold, of course, but much easier than a tablet hooked up to a computer. EXCEPT... thanks to a feature called "Sidecar" you actually can hook your iPad up to your computer if you want to (assuming it's a new enough model to support it)...

Apple's beautiful new iPad Pro 12.9-inch tablet.

But it gets better... MacOS X apps which support pressure sensitivity can inherit this data from the iPad! Below is not a screenshot of my computer screen, it's Photoshop on my iPad in Sidecar mode. I drew a mustache on Jake to show how the pressure sensitivity on brushes allows you to get thicker lines as you press harder...

Photoshop running from my MacBook Pro on my iPad screen... it's a photo of Jake the Cat with a mustache drawn on him illustrating the pressure sensitivity.

Not as flawlessly responsive as when using an iPad-native app like Procreate, but still perfectly useable! This is next-level-amazing, because now I won't have to save up $1,200 to get that Wacom Cintiq Pro 16 display tablet I've been dreaming of. My new 12.9" iPad is able to sit in for a 15.6" tablet, and still be useable as an iPad on its own! Disconnect the Cintiq from your computer and it doesn't do anything. iPad truly is the best of both worlds.

Not that I wouldn't love to have an even bigger screen than 12.9-inches but, finances considered, it's absolutely big enough. Still, can you imagine if Apple were to unleash a 16-inch iPad? A 20-inch iPad? As display technology gets more amazing and cheaper, it's gonna happen. The pro creative market pretty much demands it. Apple could match Wacom Cintiq models size-for-size and price-to-price and corner the market with display tablets that are also fully iPad-functional.

The display on this thing is brilliant. I mean really brilliant... as in bright and beautiful. I don't even need to turn the display brightness to maximum like I usually do! Colors are lush and saturated. The refresh rate is a mind-boggling 120Hz and buttery smooth when dragging shapes I've drawn. Just like my older iPad, it's still too slick for me to draw comfortably. To help with this I've ordered a PaperLike 2.0 screen protector which is supposed to feel more like drawing on paper. We shall see. The brightness and color is spectacular, so I am hopeful that the protector won't diminish that any. Apple says that there's a fantastic anti-glare coating on the display, but it looks to have the exact same reflectivity of my old one, so I'm hopeful the PaperLike will help with that too.

I don't think I've ever used the camera on either of my past iPads. My iPhone is better and more capable for taking photos (not to mention handier since it's always in my pocket). Never-the-less, the new iPad Pro has gone dual-lens with a wide and ultra-wide lens if I ever need them. The big technology here is the brand new LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) Scanner which can accurately map out your surroundings for things like Augmented Reality. I haven't had a chance to play with this much, and I don't know that it's something I will ever use regularly, but it does give us a hint as to how big Apple is betting on AR for the future.

Something else I haven't used in previous iPads was the front-facing "selfie" camera. But in the age of social distancing when video-conferencing has become the norm, I've found myself actually using it. And Apple's camera works fine... when the iPad is held vertically. But since I use my iPad horizontally the vast majority of the time, it's just bizarre. People can see me fine, but I'm looking off to the side and I got a comment that it's a bit disorienting. You may be thinking "All video conferencing cameras are like that!" and you're right. But it's very noticeable in horizontal mode because the camera is on the side of your screen instead of on top of it. And there's another problem there too... when held in portrait orientation, there's a good chance your thumb will cover the camera needed for FaceID unlock. Apple really, really needs to rethink this and put a camera for both vertical and horizontal orientations. Transmitted sound is really good, and I'm told it's not as "tinny" as my old one when I asked about it during video chat. Likely because Apple says they are using five "studio-quality" microphones.

There's no headphone jack, of course. I have AirPods so this isn't a problem, but I sure wish I could use my high-priced headphones from 1994 with the iPad and not have to use an adapter. Right now, my MacBook Pro is the only thing left which has a headphone jack. That being said, the sound quality coming from the built-in speakers floors me. Just as with my iPhone before this, I cannot comprehend how such good sound can come from speakers so thin! And, unlike the cameras, Apple has made darn sure that your stereo experience is good whether you hold it vertically or horizontally (though horizontal seems to give better dimension to the sound because the speakers are further apart). There are four speakers, two on the top and two on the bottom, and they seem to adjust automatically depending on the orientation of the iPad. So nice!

Given how stubborn Apple can be about cables and connectors, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the 2020 iPad has USB-C instead of Apple's proprietary Lightning connector. Granted, before USB-C was invented Apple had to do something to get away from the "this-side-up" idiocy of older, larger, slower USB connectors... but given how USB-C is on everything else Apple makes and working great, it seems silly to hold out on the iPhone. Hopefully that will be remedied soon.

And then there's the iOS that's running everything...

=sigh=

Having the greatest tablet hardware in the world means very little when the software isn't up to the task. And iOS is mostly there. But not completely. The gesture-based multitasking is just plain bad. It's confusing, complicated, unintuitive, and sometimes I can't even get it to work correctly (and never understand why). Sadly, this makes an otherwise amazing product feel half-baked. Given Apple's long history of sublime user experiences and interfaces, this is baffling to me. There are a number of "proof of concept" videos out there showing better alternatives to how Apple is doing things, yet Apple themselves just sits on their hands? Why? I can only imagine it goes back to their preposterous stubbornness (which was responsible for their laptops having shitty keyboards for years). Well, get off it, Apple. You can do better than this. You need to do better than this. The power users you're courting to break free of the "home and hobby" mindset of a tablet not being a "real" computer isn't going to change until you do.

And so...

In all the ways that matter, the 2020 iPad Pro is not that different from 2018 iPad Pro. It has one more core in the CPU and a LiDAR sensor that's of limited use, and that's pretty much it. But when compared to my 2016 iPad? It's a pretty big upgrade. And not just because I went from a 9.7-inch screen to a 12.9-inch screen... it's faster, smarter, and more capable in every way. And when you couple that with the fact that I can use it as a display tablet when hooked up to my desktop Mac? It's a phenomenal value... even with the $1,000 price tag (or, if you include the $130 Apple Pencil stylus I had to buy, the $1,130 price tag).

We are rapidly getting to the point where computers and tablets are converging. This is more apparent when you look at Microsoft Surface and the slew of touch-screen PCs being released, but things seem more kludgy on the Windows side than with Apple's more purposeful iOS/MacOS convergence. Next year Apple is said to be switching from Intel chips to their custom ARM chips in their Macintosh computers. The next step will be to have an iOS layer on MacOS to run iPad apps natively. Then, once all the apps have gone to iOS for the Mac, the MacOS is no more. As technology gets smaller and faster, it's pretty much inevitable. I have to wonder if it will be less than 10 years before you can get an iOS desktop? I dunno. More likely, it will just be iPad. And if Apple gets off their asses and stops being so stubborn, this might not be a bad thing.

To be honest, I would have rather spent my vacation money on an actual vacation. But, I am quite happy with my new iPad and am grateful to have gotten it ahead of schedule. Hopefully it will unleash my creativity and be worth the price.

   

  Home  

spacer
Welcome:
Blogography is a place to learn and grow by exposing yourself to the mind of David Simmer II, a brilliant commentator on world events and popular culture (or so he claims).
Dave FAQ:
Frequently Asked Questions
Dave Contact:
dave@blogography.com
Blogography Webfeeds:
Atom Entries Feed
Comments Feed
translate me
flags of the world!
lost & found
Search Blogography:
thrice fiction
Thrice Fiction Magazine - March, 2011 - THE END
I'm co-founder of Thrice Fiction magazine. Come check us out!
hard rock moment
Visit DaveCafe for my Hard Rock Cafe travel journal!
travel picto-gram
Visit my travel map to see where I have been in this world!
badgemania
Blogography Badge
Atom Syndicate Badge
Comments Syndicate Badge
Apple Safari Badge
Pirate's Booty Badge
Macintosh Badge
license
All content copyright ©2003-2020
by David Simmer II
   
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under
a Creative Commons License.
ssl security
Comodo SSL