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Technology

Two weeks with the Apple Watch

Two weeks ago, I purchased my Apple Watch. I chose the Sport model in Space Gray, 42mm. Why the Apple Watch vs. a regular watch vs. wearing no watch? What are my opinions of the Apple Watch? Would I recommend it?

My past experiences with watches

I have worn watches off/on over the years, although I have not worn one since I bought my first iPhone, the iPhone 3G, in 2008. Generally I have had these problems with traditional watches:

  • It’s awesome not having to change the battery for long periods of time, until you realize the battery has died at the most inopportune time. I never have a battery on hand either, which meant finding a store locally that had one or waiting for Amazon to ship one to me. Additionally, some watches are quite difficult to open without the proper tools.
  • I loathe having to update the watch when changing time zones, for DST, etc. In fact, I have a growing dislike for any device (alarm clock, stove, microwave, etc) that requires manual time updates.
  • Outside of telling time, it is not that useful to me. I would frequently forget to put it on. And in 2008, I just stopped putting it on.

The Apple Watch is really different

Others have complained about a watch that requires a daily charge, but this doesn’t bother me on bit. No more worrying about the watch dying when I needed it most (when I’m awake), assuming it had more than enough power to get through the day and that I plugged it in every night. Plus never worrying about having to change the battery.

I like the looks of the Apple Watch and it seems it would fit for every occasion, from exercising to formal events. It tells time accurately and stays up-to-date no matter what time zone I’m in. I can add complications for different bits of info I’m interested in.

The intriguing possibility of not having to pull out the iPhone, iPad, or MacBook for certain bits of information such as the time and notifications really caught my eye. Similar to the classic saying of using a scalpel vs. a blunt instrument, little efficiencies add up over time.

How has the past two weeks been?

The remarkable part of the past few weeks is how effortlessly the Apple Watch has been integrated into my life. It truly does seem to make certain tasks a bit more efficient and it has already changed several behaviors of mine.

Fitness

I have been very bad about exercising the past few years, as life working for a startup has occupied a lot of my time and energy. But the gentle taps of the Watch informing me about my activity progress and the subtle indicator of my current activity goals for the day is addicting and has gotten me moving far more than I used to.

Tracking my fitness activity on the Apple Watch
Tracking my fitness activity on the Apple Watch

Now every morning I take a 15 minute walk outside before work that equals ~ 1 mile, something I never used to do. I find myself trying to stretch out my activity a bit longer to meet some milestone, such as 100 calories burned or 20 vs. 15 minutes exercising. I often go for walks every day after work as well, sometimes 3-4 miles, a lot more frequently than I used to. Not to mention that I use a standing desk at my work, which helps the stats as well.

I’m consistently above my goals most days, which likely means I should increase those goals soon. I’m contemplating how I can add a morning run to my routine and competing in more 5K’s. Additionally, I would like to get some strength training too.

Daily Calendar

As a Product Manager, my work life is ruled for better or worse by my calendar. So being able to view my next event at a flick of a wrist has been very handy. During work hours, I switch my watch face to a more text-based version that not just shows the next meeting on my calendar, but what room that meeting is in. This has become very handy at the end of a meeting, where I can quickly check where I am supposed to be off to next without making a scene.

With the modular watch face, I can easily glance at what's next on my day.
With the modular watch face, I can easily glance at what’s next on my day.

But on weekends and evenings my schedule isn’t quite as busy. As a result, I will often switch to a watch face that is much more minimal and traditional, with fewer complications turned on. For example, I typically remove the calendar complication and use the utility watch face. This intentional simplification and slightly fuzzier sense of time aids me a little bit with trying to relax and unwind.

Showing my version of the Apple Watch's utility face, which I use on weekends and evenings.
Showing my version of the Apple Watch’s utility face, which I use on weekends and evenings.

Smart(er) with notifications

Everyone reviewing the Apple Watch is right: notifications on your wrist are very handy, but be smart about which notifications you allow. Receiving notification taps too often becomes annoying and not a great use of your time. So immediately I began turning off notifications for various apps.

I’m not quite in a happy place with this yet, but I’m getting close. With these tweaked notifications, I seem more aware of when I feel a notification on my wrist. I can also sense the different tap/vibration styles a bit better as there are fewer of them. And it looks/feels more natural for me to check the time in social settings when I’m sneaking a look at a notification.

Saving time by more efficiently checking notifications (combined with fewer of them) is a nice win.

Apps

So far third-party apps haven’t been that exciting for me, with a few exceptions. I do use:

  • Dark Sky for weather notifications. This is probably my favorite Watch app so far. Every morning at 7am I am notified about the day’s conditions and I receive any alerts if precipitation is about to start/end.
  • 1Password is invaluable already, as I can put various codes (such as my garage door code) in an easy to find place.
  • MLB At-Bat for its glances. I can easily check the score of the Red Sox game.
  • I use Siri a lot for recording reminders that come to mind, which are added automatically by OmniFocus into its Inbox. Lots of quick reminders being created now that I would otherwise forget.
  • I put all of my 2FA codes on the Watch as well.
  • It was pretty neat to receive eBay notifications from their app when an item I was auctioning received a bid.

I’m really curious about what watchOS 2.0’s native app capabilities do to help increase my use of 3rd-party apps here.

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Technology

In the pocket

Still deciding if I am going to buy an Apple Watch on day one, but I’m really intrigued about  the small seconds of time not reaching in your pocket for an iPhone it could end up saving.

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Technology

Moment app

I’m giving Moment app a try on my iPhone, to see how much I use my phone over the course of a day. It’ll be interesting to see what data comes out of this and if I change my habits any.

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Technology

Disabling shared calendars & alerts on iPhone & iOS

I recently moved from using the Microsoft Exchange sync capability with Google Apps to IMAP, CardDAV, and CalDAV due to some bugs I was hitting. But this meant that all of the shared calendars began firing off alerts for my phone.

Turns out Google offers a page that allows you to toggle which calendars sync with your phone.

  1. Go to https://www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect
  2. And then select which calendars you want to display.
  3. Save the changes.

Once that is done, open up the calendar app on your iPhone or iOS device and go to the screen where it shows the list of calendars. You should only see (and receive alerts) for the calendars selected previously.

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Financial

iPhone replacement and how American Express saved the day

Extended warranties on Credit Cards are honestly something I never thought about. My mother and grandfather always told me “Don’t forget about the extended warranty,” but the truth is, I always forget about it. I often don’t keep credit cards long enough that the warranty is usable. But that may change thanks to American Express after my experience with replacing an iPhone 5.

I noticed recently that my iPhone 5’s power button would fail to register a press. Sometimes, it would take multiple presses to finally register. And it quickly became annoying and worse. Problem was, my iPhone wasn’t up for an upgrade until October, seven months away. The accessibility trick Apple showed me for enabling an on-screen lock button was driving me crazy and not a solution that would allow me to survive until October.

I had to find a solution. But $700 for an out of band replacement, knocked down to $269 by trading in the iPhone using Apple’s program, still is a lot. The lone good news is this didn’t affect my iPhone upgrade eligibility, but why would I buy two iPhones in one year?

Then I remembered…didn’t I buy this on my old American Express card? I searched and found the receipts. I did! But, that card was canceled a year ago. They wouldn’t honor a warranty claim, would they? I researched online and the results were inconclusive. Some folks claimed they successfully got paid on a claim despite a canceled card…well, it’s worth a shot.

I called American Express and submitted my claim. A couple days later, an email arrived saying it was closed and a check for $269 was being sent my way. No questions asked, even though my credit card had been canceled for a year. Today, just seven days after my claim, the check arrived in the mail.

I was so surprised, that I immediately signed up for a new American Express card. For now on, any technology purchase will go on this. And I won’t cancel the card again, I promise.

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Technology

Preparing an iPhone to be sold

With my wife and I both upgrading to the new iPhone 4, we decided to sell both of our old iPhone 3G’s to Gazelle.com. No hassle and nothing to worry about with scammers.

This made me to wonder, what is the safe way to securely wipe an iPhone? I do not want any of my personal data on the old phone to get in the wrong hands.

EverythingiCafe.com has a great article on how to do this. It essentially boils down to doing a restore of the iPhone and then using the “Erase All Content and Settings” setting on the newly restored iPhone to securely erase all of the data on it.

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Technology

New AT&T data plans

Last week there was certainly lots of talk about AT&T’s new data plans across the Internet. The reaction seemed to fall into two camps from what I could see: 1) heavy data users that absolutely hated the plans or 2) people who would save money and appreciated the plans. After doing some comparisons, I think I fall under #2. Here is my thought process behind it.

A quick look at my data usage shows that my wife and I could easily live with the 200MB data plan. Below is my data usage:

The next is my wife’s data usage:

The closest I ever got to the max that a 200MB plan would allow is 170MB. Closest my wife got was 143MB in one month and usually averages below 100MB.

We now have three options here:

  1. My wife and I could both drop down to the 200MB plan. Our phone bill drops about $30, which results in a $360 savings over the course of a year.
  2. My wife drops down to the 200MB plan, I use the new 2GB plan with the tethering option selected (for work and traveling reasons, it would be very nice to have). Her drop to the 200MB plan saves $15 a month, plus my drop to the 2GB plan saves $5 a month for a total of $20 savings. Then with tethering for me costing $20, we break about even with what we pay now.
  3. Keep our current “unlimited” data plans.

I am leaning towards option #2 here. I am not losing anything, since I never went near the “unlimited” data plan’s max of 5GB a month. I am gaining tethering and end up paying about the same monthly bill.

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Technology

A computer for most of us

I am really excited about the Apple iPad that was announced a few days ago. It seems like it would solve a lot of computing issues not just for me, but most every day people who aren’t computer experts. This appears to be the first computer that I would feel absolutely comfortable with my grandmother to use, yet powerful enough for me to use it often.

In the morning before I go to work or in the evening when I am relaxing, there is very few times where I do a lot of typing. During these times, my predominate use of my Macbook is for browsing the web, reading Google Reader, checking Facebook & Twitter, and checking my e-mail. Most of my e-mail replies are a couple sentences long at most.

Some times I do this on my iPhone, which works well at these tasks. For me, the iPhone is great for a quick run through of that list above, but not good if I spend more than 10-15 minutes doing this. The iPhone’s battery drains fast, the screen is too small to do a ton of reading, there is a loss of flexibility many of the dedicated apps for these purposes not having all the functionality I may need.

When I do it on my Macbook, I gain the most functionality, but I lose the simplicity and efficiency of the iPhone approach. I get a bigger screen, the ability to type incredibly fast with keyboard shortcuts, better battery life, the ability to run many applications at the same time. There is a price for this though. I easily get distracted with many applications running at the same time. The applications can be incredibly complex, buggy, and unwieldy at times, some with code bases that date back 20 years or more. I would argue that laptops themselves are bulky (even the traditionally very thin Apple laptops) and can have heat issues that can make using one uncomfortable.

How do I see the iPad solving these issues? By taking the best of both approaches.

The iPad gets the bigger screen but still extremely portable, as thin as many books or a new notepad. I can just hold it with my hands, not resting it on my lap. I gain the huge speed and simplicity benefits of an iPhone like touchscreen interface, yet with the bigger screen the applications can be more complex if needed like their laptop cousins. There isn’t the heat issues, the battery is far better than any laptop (10 hours),  a faster processor than phones that doesn’t have to worry about handling the complex desktop Operating Systems like laptops. There is even accessories so I can do camera imports and manage them on the device.

For those morning and evening browsing sessions that I do nearly every day, the iPad would be perfectly suited for them. Of course there will be tasks that my laptop with a full desktop OS would be better suited for. As beautiful as the new iWork apps are for the iPad, I wouldn’t want to work on a complex spreadsheet on it from scratch. I wouldn’t write this long blog post on an iPad (unless I used the keyboard accessory…hmm). Managing my music and video collections will still need that computer, as they would have a tough time fitting on even a 64GB iPad. Plus I don’t even know if an iPad can sync its library with an iPhone yet.

That is not even getting into the added benefits the iPad gives to common people, like:

  • Security: there hasn’t been one virus or high-profile security breach for iPhones (excluding jailbroken ones). This is despite the iPhone being an obvious target for hackers given its dominance.
  • App Store: one stop shop to finding applications, applications get updates easily, and reviews to know the apps are good or not.
  • No multitasking: What? A feature? For those who get easily confused about multiple apps running, sucking CPU and battery life, this is a feature. It took months for one family member of mine to realize that they should quit applications instead of just closing their windows and leaving them running. My grandparents have a hard time keeping track of one application, never mind 5. Keep it simple. In the end, I bet limited multitasking will be introduced, but not until Apple gets it right.
  • Flexibility: Apps make this device work far longer than any computer would normally last. Those special digital photo frames you can buy? Get an iPad, dock, and it doubles as one when you aren’t using it. Plus higher quality display and more storage.

I predict that the iPad will become the computer of the future for the common people, while being a valuable companion for geeks who really do not need to use a full desktop computer every time they need their Internet fix. I know I will be in line for one, my mother is also wanting one too.

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Technology

Apple Tablet event predictions

I freely admit that I soak up any Apple related news and I cannot wait to see what is in store tomorrow for what is rumored to be the big Apple tablet unveiling. Here is my predictions:

iPhone OS 3.2 released

Not sure what exactly would be in this update to tell the truth. The iPhone really needs a a revamped notification system. Perhaps with the introduction of the tablet maybe Apple will include an e-book app that automatically syncs with your e-book purchases, like the Kindle iPhone app does for Kindle Store purchases? Only obvious improvement to me worthy of a minor version increase, although I am sure there will be a bunch of small improvements they will throw in.

iLife & iWork ’10 released

Apple seems to do iLife & iWork releases every year or two in January, so this could be one of those years. The big obvious upgrade we have been waiting for is 64-bit support. It would be interesting if they actually made iWork.com useful (meaning editing files too) outside of viewing files you put up there.

Additional U.S. Carrier(s) for the iPhone (at least T-Mobile in the next few months, Verizon in summer)

Rumors have been going around crazy that AT&T exclusive contract for the iPhone ends in 2010. Some rumors say it even ends tomorrow (1/27/2010). Given that the iPhone is currently only GSM 3G, I think the most obvious new carrier is T-Mobile if any new carriers are announced tomorrow. A long shot is an announcement about Verizon getting the iPhone in the summer, but I don’t think that will be announced this far in advance.

The Apple Tablet (I love the name Apple Canvas, but I am guessing they will go with iPad or iSlate)

  • 10 inch “Tablet” device running a new version (4.0?) of the iPhone OS announced, for sale in March.
  • OLED Screen, incredibly thin
  • Wireless-N connection built-in
  • 3G Wireless that can be used either by subscription or content purchases will include the bandwidth costs. That way impulse book, movie, tv, and song purchases can be made anywhere, subscription or not.
  • Fully functional communication device (e-mail, web browser, apps, etc).
  • Built-in multitasking (iPhone OS 4.0 in action)
  • Tons of e-books, movies/TV content, music, etc.
  • Wireless syncing thanks to Wireless-N, no ports outside of power port, includes MobileMe subscription

Only way to find out: watch tomorrow!

Edit: Expanded on my original predictions.

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Reason #1040 why I love my iPhone

Amazon.com came out today with their own native iPhone application. In itself, you may wonder why did they do that? Amazon.com had one of the best web sites designed for the iPhone, a striking simple and easy-to-use site that allowed you to do everything needed to empty your wallet with just a single-click. Why bother with an iPhone app?

Well the Amazon app is somehow even faster then the web app. It is easier to use and even has some really unique features. Like the feature that lets you take a picture of any item, sending it to amazon where they have a human analyze it, and within 5 minutes getting an e-mail with a link to the item on Amazon.com, ready for purchase.

How cool is that? I can instantly see myself going to a store, finding an item that seems overpriced, send a picture to Amazon, and by the time I do the rest of my shopping find out if Amazon has it for cheaper. Or at a friends house, seeing an item but not knowing the exact name, and checking to see if Amazon has it.

Did I mention that I love my iPhone?