Tag Archives: apple

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.

Apple and the Backwards Looking Advance

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The second biggest problem with the Apple Watch is that it’s a watch.  I get that there are a lot of people who (still) love wearing a watch.  I also get that there are people who (still) wear ties and high heels.  There are also people who still write letters.  Fifty years ago, almost everyone wore a watch and ties and high heels were the rule, not the exception.  Fast forward to 2015, and the trend line for ties, high heels and watches is not on the upswing.  Betting large on watches is a backwards looking advance by the greatest technology company in the world.

I haven’t worn a watch in close to a decade, and sadly not even Tim Cook can make me want one.  I saw some interesting stuff yesterday.  How much indispensable stuff is another question.

What I do wear is a fitness device.  I’ve worn my Fitbit (the pocket version) for over two years.  It is as integral to my day as my phone or my reading glasses.  I feel anxious on those rare but unavoidable days when I lose mine and have to wait a day for Amazon to deliver me another one.  Until now, the best hope for an Apple Watch to find its way onto my suntanned wrist was as an improved fitness device.  But, no.  The fact that you have to carry your iPhone with you to get the full benefit of the Apple Watch’s fitness tracking features is the biggest problem, and a deal-stopper for me.

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And while I am bemoaning the recent Apple announcements, as opposed to my more typical reaction of counting the days to preorder some new wonderment, I’m underwhelmed by the new Macbook.  I’m not moved by the tech specs or the single port (and associated, expensive adapters to come), and I worry that it may spell the beginning of the end of the beautiful MacBook Airs.  Yes, these new laptops are light and small and lovely, but they seem like the child of an iPad and a netbook. I want something more powerful.  Like my beloved 15 inch retina MacBook Pro- the most beautiful and productive computer I’ve ever owned.

I hoped to be blown away yesterday, but I wasn’t.  I’m still all-in on the Apple train, but I worry just a little about where we are headed.

The Problem with the Apple Watch

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Or, more precisely, the problem with the Apple Watch priced at five figures.  If someone buys a fancy iMac or MacBook for $2,000 and a year or two later it starts looking less than awesome when compared to newer models, that’s frustrating.  Paying $20,000 for a fancy Apple Watch and having it look less than awesome a year or two later when compared to newer models would be devastating.

Three iOS Photo Apps You Need Now

One of the best things about the new iPhone 6 (both models) are the improved cameras.  Like many iPhone users, I have largely abandoned my traditional video camera and my DSLR in favor of my iPhone.  iPhone photography has been great for a while, and it just got better.

In addition to better hardware specs, the iPhone 6 cameras benefit from the new extensions feature of iOS 8, which allows you to use third party photo apps from the native Photos app (e.g., your camera roll).  Not only is this quicker and more efficient, it solves the problem of having duplicate photos on your iPhone- the original one in your camera roll and the edited one, as modified by the third-party app.

I’m sure it will evolve as I discover more iOS 8 optimized apps, but my current photo tool box consists of the native iOS Photos app, plus three great third-party apps.

Camera+.  This has been the best iOS photo app for as long as I can remember, but now you can use its editing features directly from the Photos app (again, what you probably think of as your camera roll).  Simply tap on the photo, tap Edit in the upper right hand corner, tape the circle with three dots in it at the bottom.

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And you can edit that photo with your third-party photo apps.

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So I often experiment with my Camera+ filters before saving or sharing a photo.

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Paper Camera

I only recently  discovered this app, but I love it.  The effects are really well-done, and you can flex your creative muscle without a ton of work.

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DateStamper

I do not miss the early digital photo era phenomena of super-imposed dates in the corner of your photo, but there are definitely times when you need to note and prove when a photo was taken.  DateStamper does this, again right from the Photos app.

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There’s a lot to love about the new iPhones and the new iOS, and the ability to take, edit and manage your photos is near the top of the list.

Six Things About My iPhone 6+

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So I thought about it for a minute or so, as I was feverishly refreshing the Apple Store page at 2:01 a.m. that sleepy and frustrating Friday morning.  Should I get the bigger iPhone 6 or the huge iPhone 6+?  I got the big, honking iPhone 6+.

It came down to two things.  And unlike most things, neither of them was money.  The pro- I almost never actually raise my iPhone to my ear.  I have Bluetooth in the car.  I rarely get calls on my iPhone when I’m in the office.  When I’m at home or at the farm, I either use the iPhone’s built-in speaker, Google Hangouts (where I’ve been involuntarily tossed from the no-doubt soon to be shuttered Google Voice), or- and this will become the default- the ability to talk on my iPhone on my Mac via the forthcoming OS X Yosemite.  I rarely handle my iPhone in a traditional phone manner.

The con- I work out a lot.  And during many of those workouts, I listen to podcasts.

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Which means I have to carry this giant phone around in my pocket.  The fact that all of my pants have big pockets was the deciding factor.  So now I’m toting around my gigantic iPhone 6+, with the wonderful iOS 8 and 128 GB of space.

I’ll admit to second thoughts.  But in the end, I’m certain I made the right choice.  Screen size trumps physical size, at least for me.  I think it would, if given a chance, for most people.  But it’s an adjustment.  For sure.

Here are six things I’ve noticed.

One, it’s slippery and very easy to drop.  The size, thinness and smooth finish conspire to make the iPhone 6+ a drop waiting to happen.  In fact, within (and I’m not kidding) a second of taking my new iPhone out of its box, it sprang from my delighted hands onto (thankfully) the counter in my study.  No harm done, but it could have been much worse.  I haven’t used a case with my iPhone since Around Me was the hot app de jour, but I have been weighing the odds and thinking about getting one.

Two, the screen is large and wonderful.  I didn’t use my prior iPhones for much heavy lifting when I was near a Mac or iPad.  The experience seemed very much like working on a phone.  You can do it, but it’s a little unsatisfying.  Photos or texts, sure.  But anything more than that had me grabbing another device.  Not so much any more.  The iPhone 6+ experience is much more tablet-like.  The resolution is superb and the extra screen space makes a ton of difference.  When I was holding Cassidy’s beloved (because it fits in her pocket) iPhone 4S last night, it seemed tiny.

Three, extensions make a huge difference.  If you’re a geek, you already know what extensions are.  If you aren’t, they allow you to do more stuff on your iPhone.  Apps can interact with one another (e.g., you can edit a photo in the native Photos app with another app, without having to back out and switch apps).  In other words, you can have more creative, seamless workflows.  You can also add widgets to the Today view in the pull-down Notifications window.  This may seem minor, but it is a major productivity boost.  In sum, extensions allow you to have a more computer-like experience on your iPhone and iPad.

Four, the native dictation feature works.  It’s accurate and, best of all, you can see what you’re saying in near real-time.  Previously, you said whatever you wanted typed, and then waited for the iPhone to process it.  As a result, I use voice all the time on my iPhone 6+.  Again, a huge productivity booster.

Five, working with documents will, eventually, be much easier.  iCloud (and iCloud drive) will be more powerful.  Handoff, which lets you start a task on one device and finish it on another, will lead me to use Pages much more than I have in the past.  At this point, other than its mandatory use for work documents, I have little need for Microsoft Word.  I also expect that much of my non-work document flow will migrate away from Google Documents to Pages, etc.  I use the future tense, because much of this requires the forthcoming OS X Yosemite to work.  I’ve been using the Yosemite beta since the day it was released to developers, and I love it.  One caveat: I have found it difficult to get handoff to work.  Hopefully, it will be easier with the release version.

Six, while iOS 8 doesn’t look much different than iOS 7, much of the magic is under the hood.  Developers are going to have a field day adding features.  Some of my most-used apps (Evernote and LastPass, for example) have already been updated to take advantage of things like touch ID and widgets.  I use Drafts (a must-have app for anyone looking for an efficient workflow) many times a day, and am anxiously awaiting its update (would love a beta version, guys).  Over the next few weeks, many, many apps will be updated to take advantage of iOS 8.  The user experience will be vastly improved.

In sum, the new iPhones are big and beautiful.  iOS 8 is powerful and expansive.  The combination of the two with updated and optimized apps will be life-changing.  You’ll think I’m exaggerating until you [hat tip to my editorial board in the comments] experience it for yourself.

You’ll dig it.  I promise.

Apple Watch: The Musical

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This is excellent.

End of an Era: RIP Macworld Magazine

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Time is a funny thing.  It marches on, making us older and making many things we once enjoyed obsolete.

I laugh (sometimes to myself, unless it’s Fox News and then out loud) at people who design their evenings around the television news hours.  I haven’t watched traditional television news in a decade or so, and I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone under sixty reading a newspaper anywhere other than the restroom.  I didn’t mourn the obsolescence of television news or traditional newspapers- I was happy to have the internet to access information that interested me.  Faster, and on my schedule.

I didn’t even mourn the obsolescence of traditional records, even though I write songs for them and occasionally receive royalty checks.  The greedy, inept record label cartel led me to embrace the new era of Apple, Amazon and direct distribution, even if it costs me money (though I really don’t think it does).

But even though I no longer subscribe to any magazines, the death of two of them has led me to stop for a moment and reminisce over days gone by.

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The first was when Stereo Review became whatever it became, on the way to whatever it is now, if anything.  Stereo Review, back in the Julian Hirsch era, was a wonderful, wonderful thing.  Back in the day, I would go to bed early on the day my copy arrived, so I could relish the stories, reviews and analysis.

The second was today, when I read that the print edition of Macworld is ceasing publication.  I subscribed to Macworld for a long time, but I confess to being part of the problem, as I have not subscribed to the print edition in several years.  Nevertheless, I remember learning about some of the coolest devices I ever experienced in the pages of that now shuttered publication.  This copy has a permanent place on my bedside table.

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Sure, Macworld will continue online in a vastly reduced form.  And thankfully, Jason Snell managed to save Clockwise, one of my very favorite podcasts (Jason, if you need some non-paid help in keeping that wonderful podcast going, let me know.  I’m in.).  But knowing that Macworld, in its traditional, obsolete-or-not, hard copy form will soon cease to exist makes me sad.

Maybe it was inevitable, but it’s still sad.