Tag Archives: apple

The 3rd and 4th Biggest Apple Watch Buzz Kills

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I’ve already described the two biggest buzz kills.  Now it’s time for numbers 3 and 4, plus a bonus.

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Several of my complications, including the native Apple Weather app one, work sporadically.  The temperature, which is supposed to be at the lower left, appears maybe half the time.  The sunrise/sunset, which appears at the lower right, does a little better.  The best thing about the watch is the ability to quickly get information by glancing at your wrist.  When two of the six items don’t appear, that’s a problem.

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It’s a good thing, ironically speaking, that third-party apps don’t really work on the Apple Watch, since around a third of my app icons are permanently stuck in incomplete, installation-in-progress mode.  Sure, you can remove them and reinstall them via the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.  And if that doesn’t work, you can reset your Apple Watch and start over.  But that is a needless and frustrating time-sink.

Whatever happened to “it just works?”

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Oh, and a bonus.  Sometimes the Apple Watch will simply disconnect from your nearby iPhone and refuse to re-pair. Usually, turning Bluetooth on and off a time or ten on your iPhone will fix the problem.  This happened to me in Austin the other day.  It took much effort and trial and error to force these supposedly and mandatorily complimentary devices to begin speaking again.

Need even more?  Lately, I’ve noticed that the text and email notifications on my watch (the most useful thing about the Apple Watch in my semi-humble opinion) lag behind the notifications on my iPhone, sometimes by 15 minutes or so.

I like my Apple Watch.  I really do, even though it drives me nuts at times.  And, yes, I know this is a version 1 product.  But I’ve bought a lot of those from Apple over the years.  This time it seems like more of a public beta.  Great promise, but very rough around the edges.

P.S. Yes, I have considered that my iPhone has a Bluetooth or other connectivity issue.  I’m hoping if we don’t drown in the next day or two (more flooding expected here in south Texas) a trip to the local Apple Store might fix some or all of this.  Having said that, I know that many others have experienced some of the issues described above.

OS X El Capitan: Initial Thoughts

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I downloaded the developer preview of OS X El Capitan onto my late 2014 Mac Mini, and here are my initial thoughts.

It’s largely an under the hood update, which means that many of the benefits will be less apparent than in some prior more cosmetic and feature-focused updates.  This is a good thing, because Apple needs to focus on the speed and stability that Mac users have come to expect.

During the keynote, I was most excited about the ability to split your screen.  In practice, at least initially, it doesn’t seem as useful and efficient as I’d hoped.  For one thing, it’s a little cumbersome to initiate a split screen.  For another, it doesn’t look like you can share a screen with two windows of the same app (e.g., Chrome).  Sure, I can do it via a third-party app like Divvy, but it would be nice to be able to have two browser windows open in split screen mode.  In sum, I’ll probably keep using some apps full screen and accessing them via left and right swipes, which has always been pretty efficient.

Interestingly, the most useful new feature so far has been the Find My Friends widget.  I am not a big Today view or widget user, but the ability to see where my family is without opening an iOS app or Messages is handy.

I’m also not a heavy Spotlight user, so some of the enhancements to Spotlight are lost on me.  Maybe I’ll come to use it more over time, but historically, I’ve used it to find files on my Mac, and for little else.

There are a lot of enhancements to the Mac Mail app and to Safari.  Unfortunately, the Mail app doesn’t play well (and never has) with Gmail, so I can’t effectively use it.  Even more unfortunate, the Safari non-sticky zoom level issue has not been fixed, which means Safari is a non-starter for me.  This is the most frustrating thing in all of Apple-dom.  It seems like a 30-minute job for an Apple coder.  Chrome has had sticky zoom levels for years.  My inability to use Mail and Safari prevents me from using many of the features that are embedded in the OS.  It really bums me out.

The updated Notes application looks good.  While I am a dedicated Evernote user, I also use Apple’s Notes app for some things.  Unfortunately, unless you install the developer beta on a Mac or iOS device, you can’t access your upgraded Notes via iCloud.  So until I have the new OS on all my devices, I’m sticking with the non-beta version.

I’ll all for upgrades to Apple Maps.  I don’t use public transportation, but I think adding maps for it is a good idea, as long as they are accurate.  It will take some doing to get me away from Google Maps and Waze (maybe my most useful iOS app; it has saved me from many tickets), but if Apple gets maps right, it could happen (especially, if CarPlay ever really gets legs, which still seems like a far-off dream).

The very best new feature?  The ability to easily edit photos in third party apps.  I haven’t tried this yet because I don’t have photos in iCloud enabled on my Mac Mini, bit if I can once again easily edit my photos with Pixelmator, the way I could with iPhoto, I will consider my move to the Photos app and photos in iCloud a resounding success.

The new font seems cool, but candidly it’s not very noticeable.

Overall, this looks like a good, incremental upgrade, and hopefully one that will bring speed and stability improvements, along with a few new features.  So far the beta seems stable, and the experience feels almost identical to the Yosemite experience.  I generally keep my beta installs off my primary Mac and my iPhone.  I’ll probably do the same this time.  Probably.

For more details, check out MacStories’ write-up and 9to5Mac’s list of features that didn’t make the keynote.

Apple WWDC: Likes, Hopes and Despair

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Here’s my relatively short take on today’s Apple WWDC keynote.

Like

By far the new feature set for both the new OS X and the new iOS that I am most excited about is the ability to split the screen on your Mac and iPad, and use two apps separately.  This will be huge for iPads and MacBooks.

Hope

I would really like to use Safari.  I hope, but so far see no evidence, that Apple will fix the custom zoom level issue that makes Safari unusable.

Despair

It would be very hard to overstate how underwhelmed I was with the Apple Music presentation.  Other than the potential to save a few dollars a month over the Spotify family plan, I saw nothing that would support a move from Spotify.  Additionally, anything that involves- or even reminds one of- the tangled mess that is iTunes is a non-starter.

My feelings are best summed up by a Facebook exchange I had with my friend Adrian during the keynote address:

Him: I feel like I’ve died and gone to a heaven filled with people who talk music industry bullshit.
Me: Yeah, I love Apple, but every bit of that Apple Music stuff was painful to watch.

Granted, I am not in the target demographic, because, while I listen to a lot of music, I am profoundly uninterested in current pop or mainstream rock music, and I have no interest in connecting with (which really means being marketed to by the managers of) mainstream artists.

Maybe the kids will make Apple Music what Tim Cook envisions.  Time will tell,  but I have some doubts.

The Two Biggest Apple Watch Buzz Kills

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As I mentioned the other day, I am enjoying my Apple Watch.

But it’s not perfect.  Here are the two biggest buzz kills.

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That screenshot was taken today, June 4, 2015.  If these apps and the corresponding Glances don’t automatically and seamlessly update, they are useless.  This is not an isolated problem.  It also happens with weather apps, among others.

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The only thing worse than old data is no data.  This is the rule and not the exception with some Apple apps (see above) and most third-party apps.  They rarely update before the screen goes blank.  I rarely have the perseverance to stick with it, and usually just give up.

And all of this happens within a foot or two from my iPhone.

Notifications are wonderful on the Apple Watch.  Phone calls are remarkably functional.  Apps, and most Glances, not so much.

30 Days Out: Thoughts on the Apple Watch

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As many of you know, it happened again.  After trying to convince myself not to buy an Apple Watch, I capitulated to the inevitable and ordered one.  I’ve learned the hard way that the least inefficient way to order a new Apple product on pre-order day is via the Apple Store app.  So, I set my clock for 2:00 a.m., and used my iPad to order a 42mm space gray aluminum model, with a matching black sports band.

Here are a few thoughts, after a month:

1.  Getting used to wearing a watch again is the hardest part.  Until my Apple Watch arrived, I hadn’t worn a watch for many years.  Now I wear one from the minute I get up until the minute I go back to bed.  Because I use the watch as a fitness monitor, I don’t want to miss any steps.  I’m getting used to wearing a watch again, but it takes an Apple Watch to get me there.

2.  The fitness tracking is good and accurate.  I’ve worn a Fitbit for years, and I’ve always known that it over-reports steps and, to a lesser extent, mileage.  The Apple Watch is very accurate on both.  Happily, it even measures my treadmill steps when I cheat and hold on.  This is important.

3. The battery is not an issue.  Period.  I’m usually at 50% charged or better when I take it off.

4. It’s all about the notifications.  Getting a quick look at incoming email, texts and other events is both the most useful thing about the watch and the thing the watch does best.  The app screen is a jumble of too small icons.  Glances work reasonably well, as long as you keep the number low enough.  Apps are slow to load.  I rarely use them.  Hopefully native Apple Watch apps, promised for later this year, will speed thing up.  I love the way you can delete all notifications at once.  I hope we get this on other Apple devices.

5. At least at this stage, the Apple Watch has not crossed over into the non-geek universe the way iPhones and iPads have.  I’ve never seen another Apple Watch in the wild.  In fact, even at the Apple Store (when I went to get yet another broken iPhone screen replaced for a family member), it was an ohh and ahh moment for onlookers when I paid my replacement fee with my watch.  The people who have noticed my watch so far have treated it as a curiosity, as opposed to something they can’t wait to get.

6. The sports band is a fine watch band.  The smaller of the two that come in the box fits my wrist perfectly.  Using the last notch, the end of the band tucks slightly into the slot, making for a very comfortable experience.

7.  It’s not so big that it seems clunky and burdensome.  I’m sure future models will get thinner (seen a first generation iPhone or iPad lately?), but it sits on my wrist pretty unobtrusively.  I’m starting to forget that I’m wearing it, which as a non-watch wearer is a very good thing.

8.  Apple Pay will be the defining feature.  I love the ability to pay for things in a second or two with my watch.  I can’t wait to use it at a third location (the Apple Store and Walgreens being the two current locations I frequent that accept Apple Pay).

In sum, I’m sold.  I wonder, however, just how far the Apple Watch will penetrate into the non-geek, non-athlete crowd.

Time will tell.

The New Photos App is an Incomplete Work in Progress

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Apple released the OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 update today, which includes the new Photos app, which will replace my beloved iPhoto as well as Aperture, for photo management on the Mac.  There’s a lot of coverage on the new app, so I’m not going to do a full review- just the conclusion.  I’ve been using the developer preview (on a secondary machine) for a while, and I think it’s a good app and a suitable replacement for photo management on the Mac.

Except for one inexplicable, deal-killing omission.  There is no longer an easy way to edit photos in an external editor.

In iPhoto, it was so, so simple to open photos in an external editor- in my case, the wonderful Pixelmator– edit them, and immediately save them back to iPhoto.  Just a few keyboard clicks, and the edited photo was back in its proper place in your iPhoto album.

The process for doing this in the new Photos app, well, doesn’t exist.  You have to manually export the photo, open it in the external editor, edit it, save it and re-import it into the Photos app.  This is simply unworkable.

In prior instances, Apple has added missing features to new or redesigned apps via updates.  They will need to add back the ability to easily edit in an external editor before the Photos app will be a candidate to manage my photo workflow.

Why I’m Not Sold on the Apple Watch as a Fitness Device

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Try as I might- and my love of all things Apple mandates that I try- I just can’t get excited about the Apple Watch.  Granted, I haven’t worn a watch in decades, but I have worn a Fitbit for over two years and track my exercise and sleep patterns daily.  So while I’m not a watch guy, I’m a prime candidate for a better and more powerful fitness tracker, with communication and timekeeping features to come along for the run.  The thing is, based on everything I’ve read, the Apple Watch (at least in the absence of an associated iPhone) doesn’t do much from a fitness tracking perspective that my Fitbit One doesn’t already do.  Sure, it tracks steps and stairs, but it has no independent GPS functionality and, because it is not waterproof, it doesn’t significantly increase the universe of activities I can track.  Let’s take a look at some things the Apple Watch can do all by itself, without relying on a nearby iPhone.

1.  It can tell the time.  Well, that’s great, but I don’t want a traditional watch and if I need to know what time it is, my  Fitbit One can tell me.  As an aside, I can’t remember the last time I was working out, didn’t know what time it was (or close enough), and just had to find out the exact time.  There are clocks, other people, and the sun, everywhere.

2.  It can play some of your music and show you some of your photos.  OK, I’ll admit the music capability is intriguing, especially if it includes podcasts, which comprise 95% of my workout listening.  The thing is, none of this streams.  You have to create some sort of playlist and store it in the 2 GB of space available on your Apple Watch.  Maybe, in theory, that would be awesome.  In actuality (based on my history with iTunes playlists), I might do it once or twice, and then never again.  As far as photos, if I were to list the things I want to look at while working out, my iPhoto library would be at or near the bottom.  And if I were to list the manner in which I want to view photos, on a watch-like size and form factor wouldn’t even make the bottom of the list.  It simply wouldn’t occur to me.

3.  It can track your heartbeat, steps, stairs, and stand-sit ratio.  Granted, my Fitbit One does not (at least as far as I know) have the ability to track my heartbeat or stand-sit ratio, but it tracks steps and stairs just fine.  If the Apple Watch had the ability to record and display my route (e.g.,  independent GPS functionality), that would be an improvement over my current process (my Fitbit can’t do that either, so if I want to I have to use my iPhone).  I suppose it would be nice to monitor my heartbeat, but that single additional feature isn’t going to get me in line to buy one.  I can see data that roughly correlates to my stand-sit ratio via my Fitbit dashboard.  In other words, these are relatively small and incremental gains that don’t seem like enough to warrant a third workout device (along with my Fitbit and iPhone).  Again, if the Apple Watch either allowed me to leave my iPhone at home or completely replicated and improved on the data tracked by my Fitbit, it might be a candidate to replace one or the other during my workouts.  But it doesn’t seem like that’s the case.  Sure, if enough third parties play ball, the Apple Watch will one day allow a lot of health and medical tracking, but that’s not something that affects my actual workouts, and by the time all the players are in place, there will likely be newer Apple Watches and all sorts of other options.  In sum, I can see how the Apple Watch would appeal to people who are really into traditional wristwatches (except, you know, for the obsolescence problem), but I just don’t see how it is going to revolutionize fitness tracking.

4. It can use Apple Pay and Passbook.  This is neat, I guess, but I’m a huge Apple geek and I have used Apple Pay exactly four times: twice in an Apple Store and twice in a Walgreen’s (and Walgreen’s makes you sign something, even when using Apple Pay, which is a huge buzz kill on the entire process).  Nevertheless, I think Apple Pay is the future of mobile payments.  So, if I were willing to bet my right arm on the future, Apple Pay might be the Apple Watch’s quickest route to my wrist.

Rene Ritchie, at the always reliable iMore, has an article today about the Apple Watch as your new fitness trainer.  He makes as compelling a case as can be made that the Apple Watch will evolutionize, if not revolutionize, personal training.  Maybe, but I’m not seeing any giant leaps forward, though I will admit that the potential for the Apple Watch to learn how to track your workouts more accurately over time is intriguing.  Mostly, I see some incremental gains, some sideways leaps, and the allure of Apple.  If  I could swim with an Apple Watch, that would be one thing.  If it could seamlessly manage my music and podcasts, that would at least replicate what my iPhone does now, on a smaller device.  The fact that you can only shower with it seems like a missing feature, as opposed to a benefit.

Having said all this, I am realistic enough to know- and years of Apple experience has taught me- that feelings can change.  It may be that when I see an Apple Watch in person, and put it around my wrist, I’ll conclude I can’t live without one.  A year or two ago I would’ve told you that I will always be primarily a desktop computer user (long live the iMac).  My retina MacBook Pro has since taught me otherwise.

But here’s what I do know.  With the large majority of previous Apple devices, I have counted the days between the event announcing and showcasing the device and the day I could pre-order one.  Alarms clocks were set.  That’s not the case with the Apple Watch.  I’m going to need some convincing.