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 September 30th, 2020
I stopped walking to work because of the pandemic. But I started again when I got my Apple Watch because it kept telling me to STAND and MOVE and EXERCISE.
It's also been a nice way of seeing new stuff since I haven't been traveling and likely won't be able to travel for quite some time. Yesterday, for example, I saw that somebody was giving away a bag of free play-food...
It looked like a lot of fun (TOY PIZZA!) but I figured there was likely somebody 1/6th my age who could make better use of it.
So... not too exciting.
But what is exciting is closing all my rings on my Apple Watch each day. You get a little fireworks show...
Yes, this is what passes for excitement to me now.
Posted on September 25th, 2020
After living with my Apple Watch for an entire weekday week, I thought I'd revisit the thing while stuff is still freshly accumulating in my head. If you haven't read my initial impressions, you can find that here.
Shall we begin?
My Apple Watch is surprising me daily. When I bought it, I fully expected that the only reason I'd be using it would be for the health risk stuff. A safety net for my declining years, as it were. That hasn't been the case at all. It has proven useful in a number of areas, most of which you can't anticipate before having one on your wrist. After ordering, there was a part of me thinking it might be returned to Apple. Now I don't want to live without my Apple Watch! Good on you, Apple! Another surprise? There's already an update out...
The notification that an update was available popped up on my iPhone, and it's your iPhone which downloads and installs it. Pretty easy and seamless.
Once the "newness" had worn off... let's say, Day Two... I was looking for things my watch could do for me. I rarely need to know what time it is, but I am constantly needing to know what DATE it is. I tried adding it to the various watch faces I had set up, but it proved impossible. Most faces don't even have an option to display the date... A BASIC WATCH FUNCTION FOR FOREVER. But even the watch faces which do, don't seem to work. "Infograph" makes you THINK it can display the date. All you have to do is turn it on, right?
Not so much, no. Even if I turn off every other option to make room for the date, there's no way to turn it on. Just a way to confirm that it's OFF...
This is the most inexcusable, inexplicable disaster for a watch imaginable. How in the hell can you not tell your watch... IN ANY CAPACITY... to display the damn date? Apple Watch can tell you your blood oxygen level, can make phone calls, but can't display the date? Is ANYBODY at Apple paying attention? Do you know how I finally got my Apple Watch to display the date? I PAID TWO DOLLARS TO PURCHASE A "COMPLICATION" CALLED "BETTER DAY"...
Once installed, Better Day can add the date to any watch face which allows "complications"...
Including Mickey Mouse...
As an added bonus, you also get a full month calendar when you tap on the date...
Apple CEO Tim Cook must be out of his damn mind to allow this idiocy to propagate at his company. Does he even wear an Apple Watch? If he does, he must not care about what day it is.
After a couple days, all three of my Macs dropped an alert asking me if I wanted my Apple Watch to automatically unlock them. I thought "Well that's nice!" and agreed. The model MacBook Pro I have includes a little fingerprint sensor for unlocking it that's easier than typing a password, but the Apple Watch unlock is even easier. Press a key to wake it up... and you don't even see a login screen! It's just... ON... and ready to go. Ditto for my other Macs...
The watch makes a little "clink" unlock sound once your Mac has been unlocked. Very cute. This is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say "I don't want to live without my Apple Watch.
Since I've always got my iPhone on me, I did not anticiapte ever using my watch for anything requiring text input. But that hasn't been the case at all. My iPhone is often left in my backpack now. It's just so much easier to use my watch for simple text replies and such. There are third-party keyboards you can buy, but Apple's built-in "Scribble" is pretty great...
I'm not saying that I would type a letter on it, but I do use it for text more often than I imagined I would. It's quick, easy, and accurate.
I was anticipating my Apple Watch telling me that the sound level is dangerous to my hearing when I'm at a concert or something, but the other day I got this alert... in the shower...
Perhaps water droplets hit the microphone or something? Bizarre.
And so... guess this whole "masks cause hypoxemia" idiocy can be verified as bullshit by scientists... medical professionals... and now me. I tested my blood oxygen level several times during the day. Seems my "normal" is 97% (though I sometimes hit higher). That's what I keep getting. Including this morning at 10:12am...
It was also 97% immediately after a brisk walk home from work... WEARING DOUBLE MASKS AS I ALWAYS DO IN CASE I RUN INTO SOME RANDOM STRANGER ON THE STREET...
So there. Maybe all the scientists and doctors of the world are totally lying to us all the time... but you can totally trust me to tell the truth! OR CAN YOU? You may never know for sure.
For somebody who's not fitness-oriented, I didn't think that Apple's fitness goal tracking was going to be something I cared about. Turns out I was really wrong about that. Once I started paying attention to how much I MOVE, EXERCISE, and STAND, I was caring quite a lot about closing my "fitness rings" each day. It doesn't hurt that my watch is spurring me on with inspirational messages and congratulating me as my rings close one-by-one...
I haven't thought much about the Fitness Achievements you can earn... that may be going too far for me... but who knows? Maybe one day getting all these checked off will be something I feel like doing...
What I'm hoping is that Apple Watch will make me want to do more and more exercise, which can only benefit me health-wise. But even if that never happens I'm still much better off than I was by having moderate fitness goals instead of no goals at all. Thanks, Apple Watch!
One of the three parts of Apple's fitness ring theory is to "stand" 12 hours a day, and Apple Watch will give you regular reminders to do that...
This is a weirdly large amount of time and makes zero sense to me. Unless I change to a standing desk (which is something I hate) I will never make this goal. And so I dropped it down to a more manageable 8 hours which I can meet if I get up and walk around when my watch tells me to. That's probably a good thing since sitting or laying down for too long can contribute to health problems.
My Apple Watch was pestering me to "breathe" a couple times a day. At first I was like "Pshaw. I'm already breathing! Leave me alone!" But then one day I decided to humor the watch and just do the breathing exercise it's been asking me to do. It's only a minute of my time, so what's the big deal...
I was surprised that my heart rate was 92bpm during an exercise meant to calm and center myself, but I have to be honest here... it was a really nice little break during my day! And so now I am taking a breathing break every time my watch wants me to. I'm totally into it, and think it's absolutely beneficial.
I touched on this in my first impressions, but the more I have to deal with Apple's absurdly stupid "sleep tracking" feature the more outraged I get. Apple Watch will only track your sleep during a set period of time that you have to tell it. Contrast and compare this inflexible nonsense on a $400 (minimum!) Apple Watch... with a $25 Wyze Band. Sure, the Wyze Band isn't as accurate, but if you were forced to have it be on a sleep schedule it sure would be! I just randomly set a schedule because I have to... even though I'm rarely in bed by 11:00pm...
It's just so bad! If you have a variable sleep schedule? Too damn bad. You have to go in and manually change your sleep schedule and risk losing sleep data when you do EVERY TIME! If you have to get up early for a trip? Too damn bad. Your watch is scheduled to be asleep during this time since you're scheduled to be asleep, so you have to force it awake in order to even use it. Have to stay up late? Too damn bad. You told your watch you would be sleeping, so it's asleep now and you have to force it awake in order to use it. Want a nap to count towards your sleep? Too damn bad. There is no way to tell your watch that you're sleeping outside of the schedule you're forced to set. And it just gets worse from there. Once I went to bed after midnight (something I do a lot) and my data was posted on the following day's sleep. Which means the data from that night didn't post at all because Apple Watch thinks I had already been to sleep? I cannot express in mere words just how jaw-droppingly crazy this all is. Trying to get a handle on my insomnia was something I was fully expecting to accomplish easily on an Apple Watch. Turns out that unless you go to sleep AT THE EXACT SAME TIME EACH NIGHT and get up AT THE EXACT SAME TIME EACH MORNING, Apple's way of doing things won't work for you. At least not very well. At the absolute bare minimum Apple needs to add a "complication" button which allows you to manually tell Apple Watch you're sleeping. That's a lot more work than I was planning on putting into sleep monitoring... but it's better than the worthless pile of crap Apple's handed me now. This is a 100% FAIL! on every possible level.
Turns out the battery longevity /slash/ charging stuff I was complaining about wasn't quite the issue I made it out to be... for me! If you are using the watch a lot... and using it for extra tasks like listening to music or texting all day long... then the use/charge disparity is likely still a problem. As for myself, I charge my watch to 100% every night around 9:00pm. It takes anywhere from an hour to an hour-and-a-half, and then I'm good to go. My iPhone alerts me when it's done charging and I can check the battery level and charge status there any time...
When I wake up in the morning I've got around 75% battery left, which keeps me going until I charge at 9:00pm again...
This is a huge relief, because the idea of having to charge the battery twice a day in order to use the sleep tracking was a major sticking point to me. I guess Apple was being conservative with its battery life estimate and trying to factor in people who use their watch a lot more than I do.
Welp. My Solo Loop watch band went from being a little too snug... to being just perfect... to now being a little loose. OVER THE COURSE OF FIVE DAYS! I am understandably worried that it's going to continue to loosen over time, which would suck since that means the watch will float up and down my arm instead of staying in place. What sucks is that you only get 14 days to return an item to Apple. By the time I know if it's going to be too loose for me to keep using it, the return period will be over. Hopefully Apple will consider this to be defect if it's not the size I ordered after a month or two. Guess we'll see. I sure love not having to buckle/unbuckle a watch band.
If you have a SONOS system, Lyd (which means "sound" in Norwegian) is a must-buy app for your Apple Watch. For only $2 you gain control of your SONOS system, and its abilities are far more extensive than I had expected. Everything from volume and track fast-forward/rewind to playlists and speaker group management...
You can even record a message on your watch and play it on speakers around your home! Fantastic work all the way around. It can also be used as a "complication" so it's ridiculously handy to immediately be able to access SONOS control from your main watch face. Congratulations to Alexander Heinrich for making me love my Apple Watch even more than I already do!
It hasn't been a week yet, so I'm still discovering how my watch can help me through the day and what it can do for me. I'm also still discovering things I wish it did (or did better) and am keeping a list...
There will be more to come, I'm sure.
GOING ON ONE WEEK...
On one hand I'm sad I waited so long to jump on the Apple Watch bandwagon... it's just such a hugely useful and handy piece of tech to have. On the other hand, it's nice that I jumped on with Series 6 because some of the things I really love about having an Apple Watch are recent additions to the hardware. The good news is that this was the last piece of the Apple ecosystem I was missing, so I guess my status as a Certified Apple Whore is still in good standing. At least until they release Apple Glass, which is something I'm really excited to see happen.
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 September 10th, 2019
AND LO DID TIM COOK DESCEND FROM ON HIGH TO DELIVER A NEW iPHONE TO THE APPLE FAITHFUL FROM THE SANCTITY OF THE APPLE SPACESHIP HEADQUARTERS!
He dropped some other Apple stuff too, but the only thing I really cared about was the iPhone. And the only reason I cared about a new iPhone was the possibility of an improved camera inside of it.
And here's all the crap Apple talked about, along with my notes...
I love video games. I've loved video games since video games were invented. Alas, I never have time to actually play them, which means my Nintendo Switch sits mostly unused and any game I buy for my iPhone is never finished. So when Apple announced "Apple Arcade" I was ready to take a big 'ol pass... but then you find out it's just $4.99 a month (a third less than I was expecting) and a part of me is like Hmmmmmm?!? $5 is (on average) what I pay for a single game. Now I can get hundreds of games for that same price? That's a pretty sweet deal. And every one of the games are exclusive to Apple. So who knows? Maybe a couple times a year I'll pay my $5 and play when I can for a month just to see what's up. Sure beats paying $5 for one game that will never be completed. There's a one-month free trial to check it out on September 19th...
I already pay far more for television every month than I am comfortable with (or can afford). But looking at the cool shows that Apple has lined up for their streaming service is certainly compelling. And, again, I'm more than a little blown away that Apple is only going to charge $4.99 a month given the money and quality of shows they are producing. This will be yet another case of paying for a month of service a couple times a year so I can binge all their content. And then Apple drops the other shoe... any purchase of a new iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV comes with a FREE year of Apple TV+, which is pretty mind-blowing. Apple developed a streaming service not as a monthly revenue model... BUT TO SELL MORE OF THEIR PRODUCTS! No idea if people like me who are a part of the iPhone Upgrade Program will get a free year every time they trade in their old phone for a new phone, but that would be pretty sweet...
I have a new-ish model of iPad which I purchased to paint with. And I love it for painting. The Apple Pencil is fast, intuitive, and there's all kinds of apps available to unleash your creativity. But what I need an iPad for is drawing, not painting. I want to be able to draw on the thing, and I have a really hard time with that. I just can't seem to get the precision needed for drawing down, and every time I try I end up reaching for a pencil and paper. What I need to do is just sit down for a week and force myself to learn. But I can never find the time so my iPad sits in a drawer. For that reason, iPad news is kind uninteresting to me... but I do tune in, because nothing would make me happier than to use an iPad for travel instead of lugging my laptop everywhere. And if things keep advancing like they have been, we are closer to that becoming a reality than ever before. Would I buy a new 7th Generation iPad if I could afford one in the first place? Probably not. But I still want one, and that's how Apple gets you. The latest model is sublimely fast, capable, and beautiful to look at and draw on. What's not to want?
The only way that I would ever buy one of these would be if they made it considerably thinner. Because while I would absolutely love to own one... I would likely never wear it. But, again, I want one anyway because Apple makes such a compelling case as to why I can't live without one. The health features alone are pretty spectacular. But now the display is ALWAYS ON which addresses my other major pet peeve about Apple Watch. The fact that they innovated a way to make this happen without sacrificing battery life is insanely great. All the other new stuff in Series 5... like a compass... is cute, but not compelling enough for me to shell out $500.
iPhone 11. This is the new entry model iPhone, which I'll just skip right over, since it doesn't have the cameras I am looking for. Faster, better Face ID, better cameras, blah blah blah... it's dope, we get it. The base model starts at $699.
iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. Here we go...
Durability. They claim that the new iPhone Pro models are constructed with the toughest glass ever created for a mobile phone. Will this preclude giving up a protective case? That would be nice, but I'll have to wait until somebody tests that. Since I am on the iPhone Upgrade Program and have to return my iPhone in pristine condition if I don't want to pay a fine to get a new one, I'll probably end up with a case unless the glass is so tough that it's impossible to scratch. Not likely.
Display. Apparently "Super Retina" displays just aren't good enough now. Apple has leapt forward with Super Retina XDR. It's got better contrast, better color gamut, better brightness... all while being 15% more energy efficient.
A13 Bionic Chip. Apple's line of chips has been fine-tuned specifically for doing exactly what Apple wants their phones to do and nothing more or less. There's no wasted energy going anywhere because Apple designs them that way. This makes them crazy-powerful all while drawing less power from the battery. Nowhere is this more evident than with Apple's dedication to "machine learning" via their "Neural Engine." This is a special set of routines that can analyze massive amounts of data and provide tools to use that data in intelligent ways. Feed it a bunch of images of an object to define an object, for example, and you can ask it to look for the object in new images with very little coding. That's pretty basic scenario, and creative programmers are able to do much, much more. This is a case of Apple providing killer tools so developers can come up with killer apps.
Battery. I don't use my phone a lot, so the battery has barely drained when I charge it each night. Even when I travel and am using my phone constantly, it still lasts me all day. I rarely ever run out of battery (which used to happen all the time with earlier iPhone models). Even so... the new Pro has up to 4 hours more battery life... the new Pro Max has up to 5 hours more battery life. And they are including a more powerful charger, so you can charge your phone quicker as well (assuming you still want to use a cord... ugh!). It was expected that Apple would introduce "reverse wireless charging" so you can use your iPhone battery to charge another phone... or your Apple Watch... or your AirPods... or whatever. This was introduced in the previous version of the Samsung Galaxy phones, but didn't happen this time for the iPhone. Maybe next year.
Haptic Touch. As rumored, Apple has eliminated 3D Touch from its displays, which allowed a "deep touch" to perform different functions from a "touch." This is a real shame, because 3D Touch is a frickin' amazing feature (no wonder it wasn't even mentioned at the event!). So now instead of a display that's pressure-sensitive, we instead get "Haptic Touch" which relies on the length of a touch instead of the hardness of a touch to deliver different functions. This is most decidedly not the same thing, even though Apple is essentially selling it that way. I'm sure it will just be a learning adjustment. But it's weird that Apple would be removing features like this. I guess it makes for cheaper displays... but how is that a consolation in a phone that starts at $1000?!?
Lightning Again. The dream was that Apple finally move to USB C for the cable hookup. They didn't. It's still a Lightning connector, which means you have to continue to pack stupid Lightning cables with you everywhere. I rarely use a cable at home thanks to wireless charging, but I use it all the time when I travel, which is why this sucks.
Sound. Dolby Atmos on a phone is an absurd claim... probably more "Dolby-Atmos-like," but I don't doubt that the spatial sound abilities are much improved.
Camera. I use my iPhone as a camera more than anything else. By a ridiculous margin. To me, it's not a phone at all... it's a camera which happens to be able to use the internet and make phone calls. When I travel now-a-days, I rarely take my actual camera with me. My iPhone is enough. And with each new version that Apple unleashes, my "professional camera" is less necessary. I haven't needed to buy a new mobile phone in years. But I do so anyway because I want a better camera.
Night Mode. Apple has always had pretty good low light capabilities. But with the advent of mobile phones like the Google Pixel with its amazing "night sight," Apple's efforts are downright pitiful. But now they've addressed this shortcoming in a big way to add far better low light photography to the iPhone. This is a pretty big deal...
Lens Trio. Saying that the iPhone Pro has "three lenses" is actually wrong. It has three cameras, each with a different lens. A 12MP 26mm f/1.8 Wide Camera, a 12MP 52mm f/2.0 Telephoto Camera, and a 12MP 13mm f/2.4 Ultra-Wide Camera...
Note that we haven't gotten an increase from 12MP in a while now. This is probably smart given the massive storage space needed, but they really need to get to at least 16MP real soon for those who want it... maybe even giving just one of the lenses 24MP or something. Anyway... it's the ultra-wide that's important here...
Most any time I've taken scenic photos I end up having to take panoramas, which are great but problematic. Far better if I can take a wide photo in one shot, which is going to be much more likely now.
Deep Fusion. And here's where things get interesting! Deep Fusion is a technology which uses the iPhone's machine learning to to build fantastic detail out of multiple shots... automatically. Every time you initiate the shutter, iPhone takes nine photos (four of them happen before you even touch the shutter). It then analyzes every pixel of all the images and builds a finished image which combines the best pixels from each... in less than a second. The demo image is phenomenal, and has me totally sold...
Video. All three cameras can shoot in 4K. New editing tools allow for adjusting attributes like brightness. That's impressive. But it's Mickey Mouse stuff when you consider what it can actually do with these cameras. To demonstrate that, Apple had the CTO from FiLMiC show off the next version of their app which takes full advantage of the fact that the iPhone Pro can record from MULTIPLE CAMERAS AT THE SAME TIME!
So you can have coverage at the wide and telephoto levels in the same shot. And you can use the selfie cam as one of those cameras.... Which means you can record both sides of a talking heads conversations in one go...
Insanity. But in the best possible way.
5G. Ain't got it. Which is a bit of a dangerous game to play. As the 5G rollout gains momentum, having a phone with the option of connecting to it seems like something you want to have in a $1000 phone for future-proofing. But Apple, of course, doesn't want to future-proof. They want you to keep buying new phones to get those sweet new features.
Price. No increased retail on the Pro. Still $1000 for the "regular" sized one... which seems absurd, even when considering all it can do. I don't have $1000 to throw around, so I will be upgrading from my current iPhone with the iPhone Upgrade Program I bought into last year...
Artistry. Apple gave some of the new iPhone Pro phones to professional photographers and let them loose. Using the new tech, they created some amazing images...
And that's all she wrote.
My iPhone Upgrade Program renewal date isn't until the 20th, and I'm too cheap for an early buy-out, so I'm fine waiting until then (which, coincidentally, is the actual release date). Of course by that time the waiting list queue for backorders will likely have me getting my new iPhone 11 Pro in October, so I won't get to try out the awesome new camera(s) until then.
Think of all the cat photos I'll be missing out on.
Posted on September 13th, 2018
As my enthusiasm for Apple has waned, so too has my enthusiasm for their "events" where they unleash their new products and services on the world.
I do watch them of course. I may not be the raving Apple Whore™ I once was but, as there is no better alternative, I am still tied to the Apple ecosystem.
THIS IS BIG
If you want to watch the event before reading what I have to say about it, knock yourself out...
If you'd rather just get an 108-second summary, here you go...
Gotta hand it to Apple... boy do they know how to make "stuff" seem cool.
After moving from Apple Campus to Apple Park (home of the Giant Donut HQ, AKA "The Apple Mothership"... a building larger than The Pentagon), information on the massive complex in Cupertino has been relatively scarce. Yes, there's been a good article, a few videos, and some interviews, but nothing showing a major behind the scenes look at any of it. At this year's event (held in the Steve Jobs Theater), there were new bits and pieces shown in the cute video that started things off. If you didn't watch the entire keynote above, here it is...
Gorgeous. Obviously I'm dying to visit. But since the only thing you can see when you show up is the 100 million-dollar visitor center, I don't know that it's worth the trip.
If there's one area where Apple continues to impress me, it's with their retail operations. The stunning architecture that is the hallmark of these gorgeous new spaces is mind-blowing...
Now that Hard Rock Cafes have gone all hipster-lounge and are not nearly the destination-worthy attractions they used to be, one could make a strong argument for visiting Apple Stores around the globe.
As I have said every time a new Apple Watch is released, the product is not for me. I have tiny wrists and wearing a massive piece of tech on my arm is not something that works. I'd much rather keep my iPhone in my pocket and use that than to be uncomfortable. Not that I don't see the appeal. Having so much so readily available is definitely something that interests me. Especially with the new Series 4 watches, which add all kinds of things that have me reconsidering my stance...
The sizing issue is helped by more of the product being devoted to the watch face... and that it is supposed to be thinner. Probably not so thin that I'd be happy to wear it, but anything to take bulk away is a step in the right direction. Perhaps it's time that I visit an Apple Store and see if the smaller watch is something I could handle? Maybe. Or, if you factor in the new EKG capabilities, probably...
Yes, you read that right, the thing has a frickin' EKG built into it! I've always had issues with rapid heartbeat, so maybe the new pulse sensors and EKG stuff makes Apple Watch Series 4 a smart move? And now they've also added fall detection to the mix. Considering I just had a bad spill earlier this week, maybe this is more of a necessity than a luxury as I get older? It's certainly very cool. If my cats won't help me and I can't ask Alexa to get help because I'm unconscious, perhaps now is the time to invest...
We don't have an Apple Store in my corner of Redneckistan, but I think AT&T stores will be carrying them... so maybe there's that. Or a trip to Seattle to check things out.
It would be easy to dismiss the evolution of the iPhone X to iPhone XS with a big "meh" since things haven't changed a huge amount there. But there are three things that make Apple's latest and greatest worth a look. The first is that they are coming out with a "XS Max" version of iPhone X with a larger screen. I don't care about this, but I know a lot of people do. I was not happy having to go with the larger size of the "X" but ultimately adjusted. There's no way I want to have to get used to something even bigger in my pocket. Assuming it would even fit in my pocket...
The second? Photography. The faster processor of the next-gen A12 Bionic chip sounds pretty sweet. The machine learning enhancements of the "Neural Engine" alone make for some exciting possibilities down the pipe... particularly in the arena of Augmented Reality stuff. I use my phone primarily for calls, texts, home automation control, and Facebook... none of which will benefit from all this additional power. What will benefit? The thing I use my camera for more than any other function (by a long shot!)... photography. And here's why... the new processing power will allow you to adjust aperture after the photo has been taken! So you don't have to tap anywhere to set focus points and depth of field, you just fire away and adjust after the fact. Amazing...
More than anything else Apple has tossed out at this event, this is what makes me covet the new iPhone XS. Well, this and the fact that they've upgraded the camera itself again. Better low-light shots with less noise and more detail. Better HDR. Better Bokeh. Stronger dual-lens capabilities. Apple just keeps getting closer and closer to DSLRs. Heck, I wish I had some of these capabilities with my DSLRs!
And that third thing? The display. Hands-on reports say that the display fidelity of the XS is pretty spectacular and a noticeable upgrade from the X. This intrigues me because I thought the OLED Super Retina X display was pretty great already.
There are a few other notable improvements. Apparently the new XS models are capable of "Gigabyte class" LTE cellular speeds. The lack of which was a big criticism of mine on the old X model. But until I know if "Gigabyte class LTE" equals "Gigabyte LTE" I have no idea what this means. It only matters if you travel in an area where it's available but, if you are in that area, it does matter. Another interesting change? Apple has gone with eSIM rather than traditional SIM cards. This is fantastic if you have two phones and would like to be able to use both in a single handset. I have no idea how this affects being able to use foreign SIM cards for cheap foreign service when I'm out of the country though. Everybody knows to contact me with WhatsApp, so the carrier doesn't matter when I'm abroad... all that matters is the price. If I can't easily change SIMs with eSIM, that kinda sucks.
In general, I've preferred to grab an older model phone over a new cheaper model if I don't have the cash for the latest and greatest. In my head, "former top-of-the-line" beats "cheaper newer alternative" when it comes to tech. Not necessarily every time, but often. Apple once again dips into "cheaper newer" territory with their XR model. And, once again, it's the only way to get cool colors like Blue, White, Black, Yellow, Coral, and Red...
Boy would I like to have me a red iPhone! Guess I'll have to settle for a red case again. But anyway... the XR features the same amazing Bionic 12 chip, cool wireless charging, and fantastic TrueDepth sensor array (so everybody can use Face ID to unlock their phone, a feature I love). Where Apple cut corners to get a cheaper price is mainly with the display. Being LCD, its contract ratio is 1,400:1 instead of the stunning 1,000,000:1 ration of the OLED on the XS. Also? No 3D Touch on these displays. Another savings is with the single camera vs. the dual-cams in the flagship models. None of these are terrible compromises. Whether it's worth the $250 savings is the question people are going to have to answer. If I weren't already going with Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program, I would probably pick the XR in red and be done with it. But since I am with Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program (the only way I can really afford any new-model iPhone now-a-days), I'll just swap my X for an XS when my renewal comes in December.
Not surprisingly, MacOS X was once again shit upon at the event. Apple has long been used their World Wide Developers Conference for all things Macintosh, so all we got from Tim was a reminder that "OS X Mojave" is coming on the 24th and it has "Dark Mode." Wheee...
Boy I wish Apple would put some serious money into redefining the desktop experience. Despite annual upgrades, MacOS X feels stale (at best) and downright stagnant (at worst). Giving us "dark mode" ain't going to fix that. Given how most of their revenue comes from iOS, neglecting the Mac is hardly surprisingly. But it is disappointing. Almost as disappointing as their "pro" model hardware that's not really "pro" at all.
And that's a wrap. Until next time. Where hopefully we will get an update on Apple's AirPower charging mat... something that was supposed to be released by now?
Posted on June 5th, 2018
And lo, Apple did unleash another World Wide Developer's Conference this week.
Given my rapidly diminishing enthusiasm for Apple, I wasn't the least bit compelled to drop everything and watch it live. Instead I made it my after-dinner entertainment tonight.
Here are my thoughts on the parts that stood out to me...
If there's a promise for the future of computing that most people can see coming, it's augmented reality. Apple has teamed up with Pixar to create the USDZ file format for AR Kit 2. This is a fascinating advancement, and the fact that Adobe has grabbed it by the throat and promised support for USDZ in Creative Cloud bodes well for the format. Craig Federighi demonstrated customizing a USDZ guitar and dropping it into reality at actual size so you can visualize exactly what it will look like in your space...
Federighi then demoed AR "Shared Experiences" where two people were playing the same game from their own perspective, and it looks pretty amazing...
But the coolest demo? LEGO!!! They've shown how their physical models can be recognized by AR Kit, then expanded upon with virtual "sets" which are interactive in AR space. Then they showed how two people could explore the space with their own characters at the same time as your real-life model comes alive...
You can even look inside the physical model to see what's happening inside of it. Kids are going to love this. Especially LEGO-loving BIG kids like me!
The future of AR is mind-boggling. You just know that Apple is developing a headset for full VR/AR envelopment. It will be cool to visit the world... real and imagined... from your sofa.
I'm still sore from Apple discontinuing Aperture, but they're adding interesting features to Photos, including search, which I'm assuming is making use of their machine-learning algorithm. This will make it easy to dig through the bajillion images on my iPhone. Other features, like automatic image collaboration between iPhone users are also a step in the right direction.
I use Alexa on my Amazon Echo dozens of times a day because she can do so much stuff. I rarely use Siri because she can't really do much of anything. Apple seems to be aware of this, and is attempting to make Siri more relevant and useful. A big step up is "Siri Shortcuts," which allows Siri to be customized for your life, and even monitor your habits and schedule to suggest ways she can help out. It's all nice, and will probably encourage me to use Siri more, but my primary use of a digital assistant is home automation. Unfortunately Apple is married to their shitty, shitty "HomeKit," which I gave up on. Maybe if they start allowing other automation interfaces... like my ISY... I'd be able to use Siri for many of the things I use Alexa for.
It's kind of bizarre that Apple is advocating not using your iPhone so much, but once they sell you the phone, they probably don't care how often you use it. To that end, they've expanded what "Do Not Disturb" can do, added new features to slow or group Notifications, and even added "Screen Time" which can monitor and limit how much you use certain apps. Parents can use "Screen Time" to monitor, adjust, and allow/disallow apps on their kid's phones remotely... and restrict access to certain apps and sites. It's a great idea... but I wonder how many people will use it. They use their phone when they want to use their phone and it seems bizarre to set limits on that. Our lives are our phones now, for better or worse.
I rarely use Animoji. Apple adding the ability to stick your tongue out or customize Animoji to look like you with "Memoji" is probably not going to change that. It's fun, and very cool... but I don't see it getting much use from me...
Being able to put an Animoji over your head and add stickers live for photos is an interesting spin, however...
Maybe I'll be more apt to video chat if I can use an avatar like this and not have to worry whether or not I'm having a good hair day.
Group Facetime for up to 32 people at the same time is a pretty incredible technical achievement. The fact that Apple made the feature so smart is what makes Apple be Apple. When somebody starts speaking, they enlarge so you know who's doing the talking. You can also use Live Animoji or Live Memoji during Facetime calls. This would be a complete zoo, but an interesting one.
I always like to see how Apple Watch is maturing but, until they find a way to make it thinner on my skinny arm, I'm just not interested... no matter how many cool and useful features get added. Kinda sad how Apple has resurrected the dreaded "push-to-talk" and is calling it "Walkie Talkie." I frickin' hate push-to-talk because I don't want to hear people shouting to each other over a phone (or watch) in public. Aren't phone calls irritating enough?
I really like my Apple TV, but it's got a lot of problems that no amount of new features are going to fix. I can't tell you how many times I've had it lock up. Or be unable to stream a purchase. Or have the interface go all screwy for no reason. I reboot the dang thing so many times that I finally bought an electrical plug that I can control on my iPhone so I don't have to get up, unplug it, then plug it back in. When I contact Apple support, they tell me the problem is always, always, always my internet. So I switched from cable to fiber, which is ten times faster download speed. Still having problems. If bandwidth issues are such an AppleTV-killer, they need to have their apps be a lot smarter on handling it. None of the other apps on my AppleTV have any problems. Netflix, HBO, CBS, ABC, YouTube, Hulu... all of them just fine. So it's not the AppleTV hardware... it's Apple's software that's the problem. You'd think with billions of dollars Apple could get somebody to fix their shit, but no.
"We love the Mac! — Tim Cook says this every time he presents the Mac at WWDC. He pretty much has to say it because Mac users aren't seeing it. I am almost to my breaking point with frustration at just how bad MacOS has gotten. Printing is so screwed up that it's almost impossible to get work done. Way too many times I end up having to put my work into a PDF and send it to a colleague so they can print it on their Windows machine. Apple can blame printer companies all they want, but it's their OS updates which cause things to break. And lately Apple introduced a huge bug which makes your mouse pointer unable to access menus if you go to the very top of the screen. You have to move the pointer down on the menu bar in order to get a menu to work. WHAT THE FUCK?!?? does ANYBODY bother to beta test this shit anymore? Who the fuck releases such obvious bugs into an OS update? Apple. That's who. They may "love the Mac" but they are constantly shitting all over it, so you'll have to excuse me for not believing them.
Apple has been promising automated file stacking and organization for years... but the only place it was ever implemented was in the Dock. Now it's come to the desktop. This is a nice feature for people like me who make a huge mess out of their desktop on a daily basis. But this is the biggest new feature of the next
Adding handy tools to QuickLook is nice, but they aren't very smart about where they are putting their efforts. What about the third party tool you have to buy in order to modify file dates and manipulate other file data? THAT'S WHAT THE FINDER SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO! But instead we get the ability to trim a video clip in the Mac file manager? WTF? Handy, yes, but is editing video something you really need to do on the desktop? Is opening up iMovie really so difficult? How about adding new file tools to the file manager? Revolutionary, I know.
I actually use News on my iPhone, so I'm happy that Apple is bringing the app to my desktop.
I will say this again for those in the cheap seats... HomeKit is utter shit. Partly because AppleTV is totally inadequate as a hub for it. Mostly because it's so restrictive that anybody serious about home automation just doesn't give a shit about it. I tried HomeKit with my locks and couldn't wait to get rid of it. Unreliable, slow, and not nearly pervasive enough with manufacturers, Apple should just buy a company that actually knows how to do this and give up on their massive failure.
Apple's continuing efforts to protect its users' privacy is admirable. No matter how far they go, it will never be far enough, but I'm grateful for what we do get.
Machine Learning is one of those things that's incredibly useful, and the fact that Apple has been advancing in this area so rapidly is encouraging. And now they've created tools for analyzing datasets which make it easier than ever to get information into a machine learning environment. The possibilities here are mind-boggling, and one of the few exciting things to be happening in MacOS X. Whether it will get put to good use is anybody's guess.
Here we go with "We love the Mac" again. This time in the context of the question "Is Apple merging iOS and MacOS?" The answer is "no," but Apple is bringing more of the tools from iOS to MacOS so that iOS apps can be ported to the Mac. Which is great for developers. If your app can run on a phone, pad, and desktop, then this is a big step forward to making it easier to get there.
And that was the end of that. No new hardware released announced for the MacOS X side of things, which is hugely disappointing. Apple used to absolutely rule this arena. Even people who had to run Windows were buying Mac laptops to do it because they were just that good. But Apple doesn't seem to give a shit now... releasing "pro" equipment that's not what "pros" even want. Instead of true innovation we get a "touch bar" or some silly shit slapped on, which is just a weak effort to hide the fact that the base specs aren't much better than they were five years ago. Oh well. Apple had a good run, but I guess it couldn't last forever. Hopefully Adobe will port their software to Linux so I can switch away from Apple before they hit rock bottom.
Where's the ghost of Steve Jobs when you need him?
Posted on September 13th, 2017
Apple started off their September Event video with sweeping views of the brand new Apple Campus, otherwise known as "The Donut" or "The Spaceship" or "The Mothership." It is, of course, a structure of sublime beauty. Then, as The Beatles' All You Need is Love plays, we fly over to the equally sublime Steve Jobs Theater as attendees file in.
Then, in a moment that tore at my heart, the voice of my personal hero fills the theater that bears his name. And, just far a moment, it feels like he never left us. Then Tim Cook walks out with tribute to Jobs and the moment is gone. The Keynote begins.
I could have watched an entire keynote devoted to Apple's new headquarters but, alas, all we get is a fleeting look. Happily, Tim announced that there will be a visitor's center! I will, of course, be paying a visit one of these days. An Apple Whore's life isn't complete until you've made a pilgrimage to The Mother Ship...
Aerial drone footage by Matthew Roberts
Oh gag me. Apple doesn't call their major stores "stores" any more... they are "town squares." I mean, yeah... they are beautiful spaces where people can gather but, come on. These are monuments to retail, not the cities they reside in.
There is no doubt that Apple "town squares" are beautiful inside and out... architectural marvels that capture my imagination like no other stores can. And the plans they announced for Paris and Milan are borderline destination-worthy, which is remarkable. These are STORES!
APPLE WATCH 3
Apple finally cracked the smart-watch after a stream of other companies tried and failed. And their efforts paid off... they now have the #1 watch in the world. What's interesting is how Apple has changed this space. Their smartwatch is more of a lifestyle piece than a tech toy, and they continue to push into fitness and health in a way that makes their wares a compelling purchase.
The big announcement from this segment is that the new Apple Watch 3 now has a cellular radio, so it doesn't require a phone to access the internet. Dick Tracy has just become real, y'all. You can make/answer calls... send texts... even stream Apple Music... all without a phone. On my AT&T plan, this functionality costs an additional $10 a month. I guess that's a fair price... though I don't picture using $10 worth of data every month, as my iPhone will still get the lion's share of my usage.
I would love an Apple Watch 3. It's a magnificent piece of tech and, given my elevated heart rate, would probably be a benefit to my health. And yet... I have small wrists. Even the small Apple Watch is a massive clunker on me. What I want... what I really really want... is an thinner Apple Watch. I'd sacrifice some features (like the cellular radio) just to have something I can actually wear comfortably.
The price of admission for Series 3 with cellular is $399. Given that the watch is "darn close to magic," this seems like a bargain. Available September 22.
APPLE TV 4K HDR
I have many frustrations with Apple. One of the biggest is Apple TV. The remote is shit. The user interface is shit. Streaming my Apple purchases (when I can even get it to work) has quality that is shit. And if my Apple TV struggles to stream HD content now, what hope is there that a massive 4K stream is going to get through? What's so frustrating is that the Apple TV apps FOR EVERY OTHER STREAMING SERVICE is fantastic. I never have a problem with Netflix, ABC, NBC, CBS, YouTube, Showtime, HBO, Starz... ANY of them. Just my Apple iTunes purchases. How messed up is that?
Assuming I could actually get the Apple TV 4K HDR to stream shit (I have a 4K HDR television), it seems like a great device. Mainly because Apple will automatically upgrade your HD purchases to 4K HDR at no charge. If only they would come up with a better remote.
My every day phone is an iPhone 6. It's a little slow to initiate with the newer OS and apps, but it works perfectly fine, and I didn't feel the need to upgrade to an iPhone 7. Yeah... 3D touch is cool and the nicer camera (especially on the 7+) would be great... but it wasn't worth the cost. Even once my battery started cutting out at 10%.
But it's time to upgrade, and the iPhone 8 looks like a great choice. FINALLY stereo speakers (in both orientations!). The A11 Bionic chip would be a quantum leap from the A8 chip in my current phone. The camera looks incredible, but I'm disappointed that the dual-lens model with "portrait mode" is only available in the giant iPhone again. I don't want to lug around a giant phone. And while I'm not a big "augmented reality" fan yet, I have to say, the AR star map app they showed off is right up my alley. Needless to say, wireless charging is a much-coveted feature. No more plugging/unplugging a power cord... just slap it on a charging mat. Kind of odd that Apple took so long to get here when other companies have had wireless charging for a while. Available September 22.
Let me just start by saying ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS?!?? Boy, that's a lot of money for a phone. But is it worth it?
The bullet points...
I am not going to buy a new phone until I get back from Antarctica. Heaven only knows how I'd end up destroying the thing while on that trip. No, my new iPhone won't be coming until tax refund time next year. Whether I will end up spending $300 more for the iPhone X over the iPhone 8 is anybody's guess. I mean... ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A PHONE?!? But, then again, I've paid $300 for a pocket camera that's not as good as the camera in iPhone X, so that's something to take under consideration. In the end, I compare my iPhone to a mattress. With a mattress, it makes sense to buy the best one you can afford since a huge portion of your life is going to be spent sleeping on it. The iPhone is no different. It's easily the most-used piece technology I own. It's also the most valuable considering what I can do with it while not in front of a computer. Especially when traveling. Ideally, I'd like to spend no more than $400 on a phone. That seems a good price point to me, and what I'm comfortable forking over. But, given how important the iPhone has become in my life, I think I can get comfortable being uncomfortable.
As to how uncomfortable? Probably iPhone X uncomfortable. I mean, that camera...