Posted on November 17th, 2020
My biggest iPhone disappointment was the iPhone 6. I bought it direct from AT&T in September of 2014. It was a terrific phone at the start. It had the first "Retina" display and everything on it looked amazing. It was fast. It finally had the ability to shoot 1080p HD video. The photos on it were a clear step up from the iPhone 5 released two years prior. It was a good purchase that I was happy to have made.
But then... right around the time the iPhone 7 was released in September of 2016... everything started turning to shit.
All my apps were slow to launch, sluggish to use, and it didn't make any sense. Apple Support had me reset the phone and reinstall everything. Didn't work. Then sometime in mid-2017 the battery started malfunctioning. I'd charge it up and it wouldn't last me a day of light use. I was traveling somewhere... Salt Lake City maybe?... and made an appointment with the local Apple Store because I just couldn't take it anymore.
The Apple Genius looked at it or hooked it up to something or ran a diagnostic app or whatever. They told me that it was operating normally for its age and maybe I should upgrade if it was a problem. Or I could pay out-of-pocket for the battery to be replaced (my AppleCare had expired).
I absolutely didn't want to buy a new phone since Apple was most certainly releasing a new model in a few months. But because I needed a reliable phone for my work travel, I bought an iPhone 7 off of eBay for cheap, and used that until the iPhone X was unleashed a few months later in November of 2017.
Like I said, it didn't make sense At. The. Time.
But now we know that Apple was intentionally slowing phones down in order to extend battery life. Which would have been fine if I knew what was happening and had a choice to turn this "feature" off and on. But I wasn't told, I didn't have a choice, and Apple's "solution" was to buy a new phone.
That's "Batterygate" in a nutshell.
Today I found out that there was a class-action lawsuit where Apple agreed to pay out million of dollars in compensation to people like me who got burned by "Batterygate." But here's the problem... I never knew about the lawsuit. Never received any communication from Apple about it. Never had a chance to participate before the October 6, 2020 deadline.
And I am pissed.
Even if I were to only get a $25 gift card settlement or some other silly amount that in no way approached the money I had to pay for my second-hand iPhone 7, at least I would get something.
I know that only the lawyers end up getting rich off of these lawsuits and I likely wouldn't get much of anything, but you'd think that since Apple and AT&T had a record of my purchase they would be obligated to contact me.
Oh well. Even more money for the lawyers, I guess.
Posted on November 13th, 2020
Back when my iPhone was mostly used as a phone, I didn't care so much about upgrading. But now that my iPhone is used mostly as a camera, getting the latest model has become increasingly important to me. The better my camera-phone gets, the less I have to lug around my "real" DSLR camera. And thanks to the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program I can actually afford to upgrade. This year, getting the best camera came with an added surprise... it's not available on the "Pro" model, it's only on the "Pro MAX" model. AKA Apple's "HUGE F#$!%@ PHONE" model. Knowing Apple has a two-week return policy, I decided to see if the MAX was something I could live with because I want that phone.
And today it arrived.
Let's just go straight to the elephant in the room... or, to be more accurate, the elephant in my hand. This phone is ridiculously huge. Almost bordering on comically impractically huge. And heavy. From a usability standpoint, Apple seriously should not have gone this large. Because there's simply no getting around the fact that this is a two-handed device. Even when Apple has features like a slim "side keyboard" for typing one-handed, you will still have way too many controls out of reach and end up using a second hand. Even when you have fairly large hands like I do.
But we'll get to that. We'll get to all of that
The packaging for my new iPhone is a classy, minimalistic affair. Apple kindly has pull-tabs on everything so it's easy to unwrap and open...
I bought the Pacific Blue color, which is very nice... though difficult to photograph. As has been widely reported, Apple does not include a charger or headphones. All you get is a cable. Apple says that this is because there are too many charger bricks out there already, but it's an absurd stance to take. The vast, vast majority of chargers are USB-A. Furthermore, even if you have a USB-C charger, it's very likely not the 20 watt brick which means you won't get fast charging. The brick I got with the 11 Pro is only 18 watt, so even last year's model isn't good enough. I guess I'm not too mad about it... my phone charges overnight so it can be slow... but it's still more than a little bit infuriating.
My favorite iPhone of all time is the iPhone 4. Absolutely stunning construction with that classy metal band holding everything together like a glass sandwich. They more-or-less carried over the design to the iPhone 5, but the 4 remained my favorite. Everything that followed was a step down... until Apple decided to resurrect the design for the iPhone 12 Pro. And, let me tell you, it's gorgeous. The band is now tinted stainless steel and looks amazing...
I deeply regret having to put a case on the thing because it's just so pretty, but I have to keep it in flawless condition for the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program. Oh well. When it comes to construction, the iPhone 12 Pro Max sure feels substantial and solid. The glass back is etched for grippability, but still feels a little slickery. The thickness seems the same as my old 11 Pro... with the exception of the camera bump which pokes out quite a bit more. So much more that the phone doesn't lay flat when you put a case on it and set it on a table. That's annoying, but it's the price you pay for the camera you get.
I'm going to break this out in it's own space because it' just so idiotic... the iPhone 12 line still doesn't use a USB-C jack for charging or connectivity! They finally moved iPad and Macs to USB-C, but iPhone is still tied to Apple's proprietary "Lightning" connector. This is just inexcusably stupid. Apple says they keep it because there's so many Lightning devices out there, but that's a laughably weak argument to make considering they've abandoned absolutely everything in their recent history. You are trying to tell us that there were not a lot of USB-A devices out there? Go sell that crap somewhere else. Just move to USB-C and get it over with.
A hallmark of Apple products is their ease of setup and use. But that's not always the case, and it seems that setup complications keep getting more and more severe while happening more and more often. Sadly, my iPhone 12 Pro MAX experience was far from ideal. The concept is that you set your old phone next to your new phone when you turn it on and everything transfers over. That part was fairly smooth. My activation and settings magically popped up with no problem. Mostly. Some apps, like Amazon Alexa and Schlage, required a login to get started. Other apps, like Smart Life and Hue, were ready to go immediately. No big deal. What was a big deal was when I got to my Apple Watch. You are not allowed to just click on the Watch app and have everything working. Nope! First you have to unpair with the old phone. Which would be fine. Except I couldn't make it happen because nothing... and I mean nothing I tried work. Either nothing happened or I couldn't get verified by the Apple ID Server...
After trying over and over and over to get past this, I finally Googled to see if I could do it another way. Turns out I could unpair by remotely wiping it from iCloud. Jeez. That was a mess with a lot of trial-and-error that took 20 minutes of my time, but eventually it happened. But that was only the beginning. THEN I got this...
Which sucks because now I'm going to have to change the password on all my Apple devices. It's just so phenomenally stupid. YOU HAVE TO LOGIN WITH YOUR CURRENT PASSWORD TO CHANGE THE PASSWORD. IF SOMEBODY WASN'T ABLE TO GET IN TO BEGIN WITH, WHAT DOES THIS SOLVE?!? As it turns out, nothing. Because THEN I got this...
And this is exactly what I was talking about. Apple's ease of setup is only good when it works. When it doesn't work, the entire system is a massive barrier to getting anywhere. After nearly an hour-and-a-half of work, I finally got my watch to unpair, erase, pair and restore. But holy crap what a stupid ordeal. Do better, Apple. This is Microsoft-Windows-level pathetic.
My iPhone arrived this morning at 11:15am at about 75% full. It's now 10:00pm and it's down to 50% full. My guess is that it only dropped that much because of all the setup and playing around I've been doing. It seems likely that I won't ever have to worry about battery life seeing as how I charge it every night and never once had my iPhone X or iPhone 11 Pro run out of power. I expect that it will continue not being a problem with the 12 Pro MAX. The MagSafe charging puck I ordered hasn't arrived yet, so I can't comment how it works or how fast it is with my 18 watt charger instead of the brand new 20 watt charger you're supposed to buy in order to get fast charging. The phone is so huge that it's tough to position on my Qi wireless charger and I'm assuming the MagSafe puck will be easier. It better be for $30.
The OLED Super Retina display is definitely pretty. It's bright and saturated and anything you put on it looks great, just like it did on my old iPhone 11 Pro. However... after having seen the new "ProMotion" display on my iPad Pro which refreshes at 120 Hz, the poky 60 Hz refresh rate on this phone seems almost primitive. Other manufacturers have gone to 120 Hz, so I don't know what the deal is with Apple. My guess would be battery life, but it seems weird that they haven't been able to figure it out so that the user can choose whether display or battery is important to them. I barely use 25% of my battery each day, so I'd absolutely click the preference for ProMotion. Because once you've seen the buttery-smooth optics of a high refresh rate, going backwards is really quite jarring. For Apple's sake, I hope iPhone 13 Pro has ProMotion, because anything less is pretty embarrassing.
For some reason I thought that massive size of the MAX would have better sound than the "standard" size iPhone Pro. This doesn't seem to be the case. Out of their respective cases, the sound is not noticeably different between my old phone and new phone. Not that this is disappointing... far from it. I still cannot fathom how Apple manages to get such phenomenal sound out of a frickin phone that's so thin. No, it's never going to rival what you can get out of a dedicated speaker, but what you do get is better than I ever expect.
And so here we are. Remember how I was talking about how the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 were my favorite iPhone designs of all time? One of the things I loved about them was how beautifully compact they were. When I made the jump from iPhone 8 to the iPhone X, the size increase was tough to take. Jumping up again to the MAX is beyond tough to take. Just look at the iPhone 5 next to my new iPhone 12 Pro MAX...
The MAX is what's considered a "phablet," which is a hybrid phone/tablet. I never thought I would own one. Who wants a massive phone to lug around? The jump from 11 Pro to 12 Pro MAX looks like this...
After spending the day with it, I'm still not sure how I feel about the size. I really hate not being able to operate it one-handed. With practice I might be able to get some functionality back, but way too many controls are always out of reach. It's hugely frustrating. On the plus side, the other size-related drawbacks that I thought would be a problem ended up not being a problem at all. It fits in my pockets just fine (shirts, pants, jeans, and jackets). I can shoot with the camera one-handed. It's not uncomfortable to hold or use as a phone. And it doesn't seem to get in my way like I imagined it would.
When it comes to what I like about the size? That large screen is phenomenal for looking at photos. This cannot be overstated. The difference is not subtle. It may not seem like a massive change on paper, but the MAX feels more like looking at a photograph. I absolutely love that. I think back to all the times I've shown people images from my phone and how they have to squint and put their face up to it... and it's hard to imagine going back. And then there's gaming. Slow 60 Hz refresh rate aside, the larger size is SO much nicer for playing games. And watching movies. And reading. And just looking at... well... everything. The larger size allows for things to display a touch larger as well, so if you have aging eyes like mine it offers a slightly better experience to boot.
My guess is that I will be keeping the MAX rather than returning it for the "regular" 12 Pro. Even setting the superior camera aside, there are too many nice things about the large screen I'm enjoying which offset the inconvenience of having to use two hands sometimes.
The initial hot take from reviewers who got an advanced phone sent to them was that the photography difference between the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone Pro 12 MAX was not quite the leap everybody was expecting. The larger sensor does have slightly less noisy images in low-light... but it's nothing mind-blowing. You get more detail in the shadows... but not so vast that most people will notice. There's extra length on the telephoto at 2.5x vs. 2x... but it's not going to make a massive difference in the long run (so to speak). The sensor-shift optical stabilization reduces shake a bit... but not so much that you'll be able to get radically sharper photos while moving. It's all subtle degrees of change instead of some kind of revolution. And yet... I will take whatever advantage I can get, no matter how small. Most all I care about when it comes to my iPhone is the photos I can take. If the MAX is what it takes to get the best, then that's what I want.
Though the difference between 12 Pro and 12 Pro MAX cameras may not be huge, the difference between them and my 11 Pro very much is. The first photo I took was of Jake when he plopped down next to me after I got home. It was starting to get dark, so it wasn't especially bright. First I shot it with the 11 Pro, which dropped into 1-second Night Mode and got me this image (cropped to about 70%)...
Then the 12 Pro Max, which did not drop into Night Mode, got me this image (cropped to about 70%)...
Now, I don't mind saying that I was a little disappointed. They both look similar, don't they? The 12 Pro MAX is a little bit more clear, but that's just because it didn't have to expose the scene for a full second. Then I zoomed in further and saw just how much more clear the 12 Pro MAX is. Here's the 11 Pro...
And here's the 12 Pro MAX...
And... there it is. This is why I'm so grateful that Apple has an iPhone Upgrade Program which allows me to afford to upgrade every year. This is not a small difference. This is huge. The 12 Pro MAX has superior imaging which will allow me to zoom in tighter... print larger... and do more... with every shot I take. And this is just the first photo I took! I can't fathom what I'm going to see when I goof around with the camera over the weekend. I'm guessing I'm going to be blown away. I expect to be blown away.
One thing I'm dying to experiment with is Apple's new ProRAW photo image format. The file size is around 25 MB... each... but there's more information with less artifacts and a higher dynamic range. And the raw data you capture isn't touched as you adjust it in the Photos app, so the image doesn't degrade. You can always go back to exactly what you captured at any time. I won't be shooting ProRAW for casual shots, but I'm very excited at having it available when I'm shooting serious shots. Vacation scenery shots, portraits, photos for work... any time the bigger file is worth it. Alas, ProRAW isn't coming until iOS 14.3 which hasn't come out yet, so something to look forward to.
I'm sure early next week sometime I'll be posting photos I've been taking.
I ordered the (PRODUCT)RED version of the silicone case along with my iPhone like I always do. The red color makes it easy to spot, it will look all Captain America with my blue phone, and the Apple-branded cases have always been quality. The fact that some of the profits go towards fighting AIDS in Africa is just icing on the cake. Now Apple has a new "iPhone Studio" tool where you can see what your iPhone will look like when paired up with various color cases and MagSafe wallets...
The new MagSafe that intelligently (and magnetically) attaches things to the back of your phone actually is pretty cool. My case is red, so when I pop it on the phone it is able to recognize that and give you a cool special effect that pulses across your display...
Had my case been green, the effect would be green, and so on. A nice touch.
Nice as the iPhone 12 Pro MAX is, it's not a foregone conclusion that I'm keeping this phone. There are times that I am not bothered by the massive size... there are times that it's just so overwhelming that I don't know if I can live with it. Maybe after a week it will seem "normal" but it sure doesn't now. I hate that it's so bad for working with one-handed. Part of that is just not being able to grip something so big. But a chunk of that is also Apple and 3rd party developers not doing a good job of adapting their apps to function well on a huge display like this.
...I pick up my old iPhone 11 Pro and it feels like a toy (I pick up my old iPhone 5 and it feels like it's fake). I love that bigger display so much that any time I drop back to a phone without it the thing feels wrong somehow.
I guess I'll have to wait and see.
Once thing I do know is that I can't wait to see what kind of photos I can get out of it.
Posted on November 11th, 2020
Yesterday Apple resurrected Steve Jobs for a One More Thing event. And, try to check your shock, I'm going to talk about it!
Veteran's Day started early for me when the cats found a golf ball and decided to play with it in my bedroom... on my hardwood floors... AT 3:30 AM!! This is the golf ball that disappeared well over a year ago. As mentioned previously Jake can fit the ball in his mouth and carry it around. Before falling back asleep I heard them rolling it around downstairs but saw no sign of it when I went to feed them later this morning.
I honestly don't understand my cats. 99% of the time Jake and Jenny sleep when I sleep. I am almost never bothered or awakened by them at night. But every once in a while...
Ugh. Not. Enough. Coke Zero. To get me through this day.
I had planned on spending my Veteran's Day morning boxing up all the stuff I bought for my AnySoldier.com care packages so I can get them mailed for Christmas arrival. Instead I spent my morning taking a nap before work. THANKS, CATS!!!
And now back to Apple's third(!) "special event" of the season which, as expected, ended up being product announcements for their new Apple-based silicon Macs...
I'm not going to recap everything here. There are tech sites taking care of that. But I do have some thoughts. If you haven't seen the event and want to watch, here's where you can do that.
And that's that, I guess. There's no reason for me to buy any of the new M1 Macs. My MacBook Pro isn't even a year old and my work iMac is slower than I'd like at some things but still fully useable for everything I do. It's nice to think that by the time I'm ready to replace either of them, a far cheaper computer will likely be available that's more powerful than what I was using. If nothing else, that's my ultimate takeaway from Apple's "One More Thing."
Posted on October 21st, 2020
I've been walking to work whenever possible in order to fill in the "Activity Rings" on my Apple Watch so it won't bug me about being a potato. Few things are worse than sitting on your couch watching television and eating Cheetos when your Apple Watch buzzes and says "You can still do it!" At which point I get all mad at my watch and tell it "Stop bothering me! Can't you see I'm watching TV?
And, oh yeah, apparently it's healthy to get some exercise from time to time.
EXCEPT WHEN YOUR EXERCISE TRIES TO KILL YOU!
This morning on my way to work I tripped over some twine that had been discarded in the field behind my house. And it wasn't one of those "oopsies!" moments, I bit it pretty hard. Lucky for me, my security camera captured the whole thing. I've cropped into the footage here...
Hurt my wrist. Hurt my elbow. Really hurt my knee. And hurt my pride... because, seriously, am I so old that I'm going to have to get one of those LifeCall alerts now?
And since I'm The Olds now, I know I'm not going to heal as fast as I did in my 20's. Nope... this pain is going to be with me for a while. What's weird is that it doesn't hurt very much when I'm moving. It's when I've been sitting at my desk for a couple hours then try to move that's the killer. The pain in my knee is breathtaking. As in it literally takes my breath away.
Something else that took my breath away?
My Apple Watch, which is supposed to have "fall detection," didn't detect shit. Didn't beep and say "Holy shit, are you okay?" Didn't ask if I wanted to call for an ambulance. Didn't even have a laugh at my expense. Not sure what's going on there, but it's irritating to know that this feature will not be having my back if I need it. Or having my knee, as the case may be.
So that's my hump-day today. How're things with you?
Posted on October 13th, 2020
And here we are at the magical time of year when Apple unleashes a new series of iPhones! Can you feel the excitement? I know I can!
As with every Apple Event since I started blogging, I jotted down some notes while I watched it on my lunch hour. With any luck it's all coherent and doesn't have many errors. And if it does? Well, I guess you get what you pay for, dear reader.
The event kicks off with beautiful shots of the amazing architecture of Apple Park and the surrounding 175 acres. This is kinda what Apple does every time now, for which I cannot blame them. A) They know their HQ is fire, and if that's where I worked I'd be showing it off every chance I get too... and B) The shit cost FIVE BILLION DOLLARS and they need to get their money's worth when it comes to location shoots...
It's the Steve Jobs Theater, bro!
Can you believe that Apple's HQ is bigger than the Pentagon?
Then we zoom in on Apple CEO Tim Cook, who seems oblivious to the horrendous state of what passes for "customer care" at the company he runs...
Tim Cook... a firm believer in jazz-hands at presentations.
Tim is ever so excited to be unleashing amazing new Apple products with some HUGE announcements. Blah blah blah... easy to use. Blah blah blah... privacy. Blah blah blah... HomePod. And here we go...
Yeah, Apple can fuck right off with their HomePod crap. You can read all about my attempt to get one of these things working... and failing miserably despite hours on the phone with Apple's shitty fucking "customer support" at this link. If you're into "Smart Speakers" for your home, I'd go with SONOS or Amazon. There is zero benefit in investing in HomePod if you already have an iPhone or Apple Watch sitting around. They both have Siri which actually works. The only reason I wanted HomePod is to play my iTunes Match music... something they claim it does, but would not work no matter what "customer support" told me to do (when they weren't hanging up on me, that is).
The new speaker looks like a fabric mesh-covered orb. Far more interesting to me than the product was the brilliant special effects Apple paid for to transition to Bob Borchers talking about it...
Wait... what's behind that HomePod mini?
It's... a little miniature living room set!
When you have Apple-Money, all your videos are choice extreme!
From there it was all blah blah blah about the features and $99 price, which I couldn't give a shit about because I won't be going through any more crap with Apple's smart speakers after what happened to me when I tried last time.
I'm just going to get this out of the way right now. The new iPhones are going back to the gorgeous stylings of the iPhone 4 with a flat design finish that made it my favorite-looking iPhone of all time. The 12's are frickin' beautiful...
I love the look of this phone so much that I almost don't care about anything else! Except I really do.
The biggest selling point of the new iPhones is their ability to use 5G networks...
Is... is that Tiny Tim Cook down there on that stage?
5G offers amazing download and upload speeds for cellular, which is nice. Though I'm hardly expecting the world here. In the valley where I live, AT&T's service is a complete joke. I found out that the tower in my small city is actually connected via internet, and if internet goes down my phone goes down... plus the signal disappears completely when the phone tries to switch between towers from my town to the city next door. It's so bad that sometimes I have to reboot my damn phone so I can make a call. I hate this crap. 5G might get here in a year or two, but who knows if it will change anything for me. I guess I have the consolation that AT&T is apparently not charging an additional fee to use their 5G network, so there's that.
The deets on 5G were presented by a guy from Verizon. They are promising huge capacity at places where people assemble en-masse (and will again when we are through this pandemic)...
What about in my house, Verizon guy?
What I may do is take a look at Verizon (who always had great service, but awful customer support) if they get to me with 5G first. Who knows? It may be time to switch. Now that iPhones aren't specialized to work on specific networks, it's finally an option for me.
The entry-level iPhone 12 is pretty darn impressive. And, as previously mentioned, is gorgeous. Especially since it comes in colors which you can't get for the iPhone 12 Pro (I covet that Product RED phone)...
What's interesting here is that iPhone 12 is not that much different from the iPhone 12 Pro. You get two camera lenses instead of three and the memory configurations start at half what you get with the Pro model. The other specs are identical. But there is one very big difference... or rather, small difference. The iPhone 12 is also available as iPhone 12 mini...
Going back in time, the iPhone mini is the phone I actually wanted. I love the smaller size of older iPhones. But then I got accustomed to the larger size and don't feel the need to go back. Standard iPhone 12 starts at $799... iPhone 12 mini starts at just $699. Pretty good pricing for a brand new model phone as advanced as these guys.
And here's where things get interesting. For the last two iterations of iPhone, I went with the "Pro" models because I care about the camera on my phone more than I care about any other feature. Thanks to the Apple iPhone Upgrade program I'm enrolled in (I couldn't afford an iPhone any other way), I will be upgrading to the new Pro model again this time because the photography features are luxe...
I don't want the giant model iPhone Pro Max, so I'll be going with the "regular" iPhone Pro again.
Or will I...?
Both models feature wide-angle cameras with an f/1.6 aperture to get better photos in low-light situations. Both models have a new 7-element lens for superior optics. Both models have LiDAR for faster low-light focusing. But then... ONLY the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 47% larger image sensor with larger pixels to reduce noise and provide 87% better low-light photos. ONLY the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 5x OPTICAL zoom range thanks to the new 2.5x zoom lens over the 2x lens I have now, and that's a big deal. ONLY the iPhone 12 Pro Max has sensor-shift-based image stabilization. These are three features I want quite badly... but I can only get them if I buy the bigger phone?
Which puts me in a quandary.
I eventually managed to adjust to the bigger phones when Apple started making them bigger. But will I be able to adjust to going even bigger than that? I just don't know. I really don't know. The 1/4" width increase doesn't seem like a lot, but it will sure make one-handed typing more difficult... and make it harder to reach all my icons one-handed. And I have big hands! I would definitely have to re-think how I arrange my home screen. And then there's the whopping half-inch height increase. Again, that doesn't sound like a huge amount... but it's quite a chunk when you consider it's being added to a small phone that I use almost exclusively one-handed. What I should do... buy the iPhone 12 Pro and wait to see if the better camera stuff in the Pro Max makes it to the iPhone 13 Pro. What I will probably do... just pay the $100 extra and give the 12 Pro Max a try to see if I can get used to the massive size just to get the camera features I crave...
AND JUST LOOK AT WHAT IT CAN SHOOT!
And if I can't get used to it, I think I have 2 weeks to return it to Apple and get the 12 Pro. So... hello Pacific Blue iPhone Pro Max, I guess.
There's a lot to unpack here...
MagSafe! Apple ditched their amazing MagSafe magnetic-connector technology used for charging their laptops in favor of a standard USB-C cable connector. While more versatile, this still pissed me off because this was a great feature to have. But now it's back on the back of iPhone 12's! This allows you to align the wireless charger more precisely to charge your phone as quickly as possible... but MagSafe charger (or any charger)... NOT included. MagSafe also allows you to attach other accessories to your iPhone... like Apple's Leather Wallet Pouch ($60 and they don't even tell you how many credit cards it can hold!). This magnetic system for accessories will expand to include things like car-mounts and other cool stuff in the future.
Chargeless? As mentioned above, Apple no longer includes USB chargers with their products to "save the environment" (and save Apple a ton of money, natch). All you get is a USB-C to Lightning cable. Not a big deal since I have many chargers... but wow. What if you don't? This is nickel-and-diming at its most epic. You'd think Apple would sell these at cost to truly back up their reason for removing them... "Get a charger for $3 with each iPhone purchased if you don't already have one" kind of thing... but you think wrong. Apple charges you $19 for one. Ouch.
LIGHTNING?!? Yes, you read that right. Apple has moved to USB-C on every other device... but you're still saddled with Lightning on their phones. Utterly stupid at this point. They CLAIM it's because there are so many Lightning connector accessories out there... which there are... but that's a lame excuse. Include a frickin' DONGLE for people who want to attach a Lightning device. Sheesh.
Bumper? When I saw that Apple had gone back to the beautiful design aesthetic of the
Glass! Apple is using a new Corning Glass "Ceramic Shield" on their phones which they claim makes them much, much tougher and harder to break... with 4x better drop performance. Maybe for the first time since the first iPhone I will not buy a screen protector?
A14 Bionic! Apple's silicon chips have been best-of-class for a while. It's so good that they are building laptops and desktops around their own CPUs. With 6 CPU cores, 4 GPU cores, and 16 Neural Engine cores, Apple is not dicking around with the power you get with their hardware. Nor are they resting on their laurels. This advanced processing power promise some truly great things.
League! In a gaming coup, Apple convinced Riot to bring League of Legends to iPhone. This is kinda bizarre. An iPhone is as powerful as current dedicated gaming machines? Cool enough...
Compu-what? Thanks to the amazing power of the iPhone 12, Apple has added a lot of "Computational Photography" features to their latest cameras. NightMode, which was already amazing, makes the cameras perform even better in low-light for gorgeous flash-free photos. Smart HDR, which compiles multiple exposures to bring out details in highlights and shadows, has even more fidelity. Their "Deep-Fusion" technology which fuses multiple images into a single image with better clarity is now available on all cameras. Now more than ever iPhones are "cameras with phones" instead of "phones with cameras." I may never have to use my DSLR again. Did you see the photo samples I posted above? Holy cow.
HDR Vid! Apple is still shooting 4K video (instead of 8K like some others) but now it's shot in HDR... all processed on the fly! And not just any HDR. Dolby Vision HDR in 700 million colors. This is beyond amazing, and only possible thanks to the hardware and software Apple is playing with...
It's mindblowing to think that you can edit and photo-grade Dolby Vision HDR 4K video not in a high-end computer studio... but on your iPhone!
So RAW! In a welcome approach to image file format, Apple's new RAW files no longer smoosh all your processing and adjustments into a flat layer file. Instead the color, detail, and dynamic range of the original is preserved by writing out the actual data adjustments separately. That way, if you want to go back to the original source file, you totally can...
Super Whatever! The new display on the 12 Pro models are labeled "Super Retina XDR" and are larger than ever... while the phones themselves are surprisingly close to the same dimensions. The Pro is now 6.1" diagonal at 2532-by-1170 pixels (460 ppi) where the Pro Max is now 6.7" diagonal at 2778-by-1284 pixels (458 ppi). Apple rates them with a 2,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio which is darn spiffy. They are, of course, HDR displays for the ultimate in color depth and fidelity. It may seem like overkill, but this is what you need in order to look at the amazing photos you'll be taking in their best possible light.
LiDAR. Apple is once again going all-in on their LiDAR technology which creates a depth map of your environment. Not just for focusing in low-light, but also for VR and AR applications. I have not used it at all on my iPad, but maybe with Apple putting LiDAR on everything they will come up with more ways to use it...
Green! Just like with the Apple Watch event, Apple is touting their move towards renewable energy and their efforts to reduce their global impact. All rare earth magnets apparently now come from recycled materials, which is nice. As previously mentioned they are also telling us that they are saving the earth by not including headphones or a charger with their products. If you need one, you have to buy one.
Pricing! Apple is proud of the fact that they're cramming in more features and technology than ever... but keeping the price the same as the iPhone 11 Pro. iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999 and iPhone Pro Max starts at $1099. You lose the charger and headphones, but get double the starting memory, so I guess it's an even trade? I know I'd rather have the memory than yet another charger and yet another set of headphones I won't use.
And that was that. Overall, I'm quite happy with Apple's new iPhone lineup. If I have a complaint, it would be that I want the iPhone Pro Max camera features on the iPhone Pro, but I guess you can't have everything.
Posted on October 1st, 2020
With television production shut down and the new television season pushed back for the foreseeable future, I've been turning to YouTube for entertainment while I work. There's just so much to experience. And since everybody else is probably in the same boat with running out of stuff to watch, I thought I'd go through some of my favorite YouTube channels that I watch regularly. I did this a while ago but wanted to update after I learned that Great Big Story is shutting down.
Channels I watch because I want to learn something. There are so many brilliant educational channels that it blows my mind, and I'm regularly linking to them in my Bullet Sunday posts. When I'm alerted that Veritasium has a new video available, I drop everything and watch immediately. Derek Muller breaks down science like nobody else, and his latest video is the kind of stuff I obsessess over...
Channels I watch because I just think what they do is so fascinating. Baumgartner Restoration is just video after video of Julian Baumgartner restoring fine art... mostly paintings. That alone would be amazing to me. But it's the things he develops to be able to do the work that blows my mind out of the back of my skull. He did a SIX PART SERIES on restoring a painting which was painted on wood. But before he even got to the point where he was working on the actual paiting, he had to use his engineering and fabricating skills to build a special table to do it...
Baumgartner is like some kind of renaissance guy who can do everything. And he has one of the most soothing voices and most agreeable personalities of anybody I've ever seen. There are few things I can watch which will calm my mind faster than Julian working on his latest project. Another brilliant channel for watching somebody make magic happen? My Little Bakery is filled with Nadia's incredible icing artistry and has to be seen to be believed. I mean...
Another fascinating thing to watch is Calligraphy Masters which was originally for learning calligraphy, but also features beautiful lettering art I can't get enough of. And then there's the cool stuff that Mark Rober does, which is about as fascinating as it gets.
Channels I watch because I love woodworking and home reno. My favorite hobby is working in my garage wood shop and doing my own home renovation. YouTube has been invaluable in learning how to do all this stuff. The channel I look at first is always Home RenoVision DIY where Jeff will give you all the dirt on how to get professional results from your projects and save money while doing it...
Another person doing God's work for learning renovation and home improvement is skateboarder Ben De Gros at Vancouver Carpenter. For pure woodworking, Peter Millard is another great channel. And I love Fix This Build That as well.
Channels I watch because I want to keep up on tech. My favorite tech blogger is Marques Brownlee. The guy is smart as hell, has a subtle funny streak that makes him fully relatable. He reviews the stuff you want to see, but doesn't get bogged down in too many details nobody cares about. I didn't see his Apple Watch Series 6 video before I bought mine, but I was livid when I finally got to see it because HE HAS THE WATCH I WANTED TO BUILD THAT APPLE WOULDN'T LET ME! A Project RED watch with a black band...
Marques may not want a red watch... BUT I DID! Except I couldn't get it with a black band. =sigh= If you're looking to majorly geek out to tech, Linus Tech Tips has been around forever and sometimes goes reeeeeally deep into the nuts and bolts of it all. And then there's Unbox Therapy, which is exactly what it says in the title.
Channels I watch because I want ideas for new things to cook. But many of them I watch because I just like to watch cooking channels. Especially foreign cooking channels where you can turn on auto-translated subtitles and see how masters of their craft work. Like De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina...
And if you love pasta, the artistry found on Pasta Grannies is remarkable...
Channels I watch because I want to be more informed on Current Events. All media is biased. All of it! but when you recognize their biases you can use that to expand how you see the world. I'm not saying I'm going to watch Far-Right assholes or Far-Left assholes... that's just torture. But I'll tune into channels by those on the Right or Left if I think that they have something to actually say on a subject and aren't just parroting extremist talking points and don't consider their views to be above the facts. David Pakman is highly opinionated towards the Left, but not beyond all reason. Somebody who is labeled as Right, claims to be more Left, but strives to ride down the middle and distill information wherever it lands, is Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan gets a lot of hate from both sides, some of which is justified, but he has thoughtful commentary and does a really good interview. Here he is with Pakman and some fantastic discussion that really needs to happen...
There was another interview with Pakman which was equally good and equally important from this year (and highly disturbing in hindsight). Seriously. Tune into that.
Sure, Rogan skates on the edge of conspiracy theory sometimes, but the guy got me to change my mind on Bernie Sanders, and that ain't nothin'...
I love that there are conversations which can make me look at a person or an event or an ideology in a different way... or even change my mind. Joe Rogan's show is really good at this kind of thing. Even though I definitely don't always agree with him or his guests, I keep watching.
Channels I watch because I want to challenge how I see and live. I know that Russel Brand can be problematic. The guy has some views which I consider to be naive, impractical, and just plain bonkers. And yet... he is one of the smartest, most caring, most insightful humans on this planet. And he's hilarious. And it's because of this that I tune into every one of his videos. A third of the time I have to bail because the discussion is not something I'm interested in exploring with him, but the other two-thirds? Fascinating stuff. Take this short 12-minute video where he discusses the presidential "debate" fiasco we just endured...
Yep. Yep. Yep. I mean, Russel is more "big picture /slash/ in the grand scheme of things" here than he might should be... if you believe in a woman's right to choose (to throw out one example) then there is a huge difference between President Trump and Joe Biden getting elected. But is he wrong that our political system is primarily interested in self-preservation over addressing the needs of a diverse population and that the big-picture items won't change much because it's all run by people who only care about money? Fuck yes, he's right. Or, to be more accurate, he's not wrong. And it's not just politics and the hideous crap going on in the world today. Russell has a number of videos on self-help and personal growth that can be inspiring and helpful. Another channel along these lines is Rich Roll. It's not like he's going to convince me to adopt a 100% plant-based diet or become an endurance athlete, but Rich has some very good insight on living a healthier, most enlightened life and I enjoy hearing his thoughts.
Channels I watch because I want to see people being human. It's really easy to get disassociated from humanity even when there's not a pandemic. It's not good for us. It's not healthy for us. It's not fun for us. But it happens. So there are a few channels I subscribe to simply because I like to watch and feel more connected to people. Yes Theory is a good example. The crew there do things and go places and ponder ideas that are just so very... human, and I love to see it. Take a look at this video where Thomas visits the least-visited country on earth to see what I'm talking about...
God I love videos like this. How can you not? The crew's latest video is where they paid somebody to be their friend for 12 hours. The result was wonderful...
And there you have it! Some of my favorite YouTube sites! And I didn't even get to those sites that I watch just to be entertained. I guess that's a list for another time.
Posted on September 22nd, 2020
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?
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.
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...
But it's the thickness that is the bigger pill to swallow...
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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!
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.
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.
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...
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.
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...
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...
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...
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.
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).
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...
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...
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.
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...
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%...??
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.
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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.
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!
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.
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.
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..
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...
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.
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...
And extra information your watch has is just a scroll on the crown-knob away...
Nothing makes you nostalgia for the early-80's era of calculator watches like calling up that app...
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...
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.
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?
Posted on September 21st, 2020
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...
The height is just so offensively big. How about your big "feature" for Series 7 is a thinner watch, Apple...
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...
Second of all... Monica Rambeau, is that you?!?
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)...
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.
Posted on September 15th, 2020
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 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...
Keep in mind that the watch I wanted to order would look like this, assuming Apple let me make it...
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...
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.
Posted on August 21st, 2020
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...
Exactly what I always wanted!
When the remote arrived, I immediately noticed a few great things...
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...
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...
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.