New Apple Gear Coming Soon

Those who have been conscious today know that Apple announced a bunch of new and updated products this morning.  Updated iPhones, a bigger iPad, an updated iPad Mini, some new Apple watch bands, and a new Apple TV.  You can get all the details elsewhere, so here are my thoughts on the new stuff.

New iPhones

I like the better camera, and I think 3D Touch (think of it as a right-click for an iOS device) will be useful at some point.  I’m not sure Live Photos is more than a gimmick, but it might be.  Faster chips and graphics would be nice, but I don’t use my iPhone for much that taxes it.

I know I always say this and then change my mind, but I don’t feel a compelling need to upgrade from my 6+ to the new model.

iPad Pro

I am all about bigger screens.  I have a 27″ iMac and a 15″ MacBook Pro.  I think a larger iPad makes a lot of sense, but the whole time I kept thinking I was watching Apple invent the Microsoft Surface, a tablet I once stupidly bought on impulse and sold a few weeks later.  Adding to the confusion was the fact that the best part of the demo, and one of the coolest things overall, was the Microsoft Office apps.  The new iPad has an optional stylus (something I never thought I’d see) and a magnetic keyboard/cover combination.  Crazy.

I use my iPad every day, but much more for consumption than creation.  If I did a lot of work on an iPad, I would almost certainly buy an iPad Pro.

iPad Mini

The updated specs for the littlest iPad seemed like a tossed-in afterthought.  I have an older iPad Mini that I rarely use, so I don’t need another one.

Apple Watch Accessories

I don’t know anything about Hermes, and I buy my clothes at sports and farm supply stores.  So I literally couldn’t care less about designer watch bands and exclusive watch faces.  Apple seems to be marketing the high-end Apple Watches as a way for insecure rich people to show the rest of us how awesome they think they are.  In sum, zzzzzzzz.

I am interested in the updated watchOS, however, because without native apps, my Apple Watch continues to be more about potential features than actual working features.  I am sold on the Apple Watch, but it is very much a work in progress.

New Apple TV


Now, the best part.  I had high hopes for the new Apple TV, and Apple mostly satisfied me.  I’m not a big gamer, so the gaming angle is lost on me.  I like the idea of other apps on the Apple TV.  I was happy to see a new unified search, but it badly needs to search more than just iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO and Showtime.  Hopefully it will as other content providers create apps, but I’m a little concerned there aren’t more sources out of the box (do those sources have new Apple TV apps already?).  For the Apple TV to work as my only streaming device, it needs Amazon Prime, and the major broadcast and cable networks.  I’m still hoping Apple can pull the rabbit out of the hat with a cord-cutting content package before I’m too old to care.

I’ll definitely buy one- and probably two- Apple TVs on launch day.


They talked about Macs (my very favorite Apple product) for exactly zero seconds today.  Bummer.

Stay tuned for more as I dive into these new products and updates.

I Give Up: Apple Music Has Beaten Me

I tried to be diplomatic.

After a few more hours wrestling with Apple Music’s needlessly confusing layout and incomprehensible import and organization processes, and wasting even more of my time trying to create some semblance of order to my music, I gave up and am now officially done.  The indisputable fact is that the one and only reason to suffer Apple Music’s torturous interface is because it was made by Apple. Imagine just for a second if Microsoft or any other company had foisted this chaos on us.  Mac users would be having a field day crapping all over it.

In fact, many are, but the Apple-love deep within our DNA causes a lot of us to step back, put our heads down and keep trying.  After all, Apple made this.  It’s on all our Macs.  We get 3 months free.  It will get better.

And maybe it will.  I’m going to resist the temptation to wonder if tossing this confusing, disjointed mess upon us is a sign of larger problems at Apple.  I’m going to focus on how much I love my MacBook Pro and my iMac.  I’m going to assume all the display and touch issues with my iPhone 6+ are anomalies shared by the two people beside me with similar issues when I last visited the Genius Bar.  I’m going to keep on loving Apple, because that’s what I do.

But I am done with Apple Music, at least for the foreseeable future.  There were endless straws, any of which could have broken the camel’s back. But here’s the very last one.  A perfectly confusing, and unhelpful pop-up message, after I tried for the fifth time to import a playlist.

click for a larger view
click for a larger view

Perfectly confusing. Completely unhelpful. If I, a huge Apple fan who has been writing on tech since the 90’s, have no idea what this means, or how to fix it, or what the difference is between iCloud Music Library, iTunes Match and/or a buffalo fart, then I’m reasonably sure the typical user doesn’t either.  I want someone to do a feature-length documentary on how this message was written and who thought it was sufficient.   If it takes longer than a few seconds to figure out how to successfully import songs into your music app, your music app is not ready for public consumption.

I’m done.  I give up.  I’ve been beaten.

CarPlay Will Be a Requirement for My Next Vehicle


“The big question is, are the auto companies are willing to partner with Apple in this way?”

via Understanding Apple’s Car Strategy | Re/code.

I drive a 7-year-old Toyota Tundra.  I like it.  When my 14-year-old turns 16, she will likely inherit this truck and I’ll get a new one.  When that happens, there are two guarantees.  One, it will be another pickup truck.  Two, it will have Apple CarPlay.

I’m not the least bit interested in an Apple car.  It would be some super-expensive luxury model for rich folks, and I’m a truck guy.  But I am very interested in inserting the Apple ecosystem into my vehicle.  If Toyota sticks to this idiotic decision, I guess this one will be my last Toyota.

Car makers need to stop trying to hack together their own system, and treat CarPlay as a selling point.  Few will buy a new vehicle just to get CarPlay, but I imagine CarPlay will be a distinguishing factor for a lot of people comparing similar cars and trucks.

Why I May Ditch My Apple Watch


I don’t know that the Apple Watch is a flop.  I don’t know that it’s not a flop.  It’s probably somewhere in between.  I know that I’ve never noticed another one in the wild.  Maybe that’s because, like me, other early adopters prefer to use theirs inconspicuously.

But clearly, there are questions about whether the Apple Watch is ready for prime time.

For one, the apps continue to load too slowly to be useful.


Yet I find the complications and notifications to be extremely useful.  When they work.


And there’s both the rub and the reason I am considering throwing in the towel and relegating my Apple Watch to the drawer of shame, where I keep other things I bought and didn’t or couldn’t use.  There’s an Android tablet in there, and that early Samsung pre-tablet but handheld computer thing.  And my Instacube.

While I can do without the apps that never load, what I can’t do without is the information that’s supposed to appear on the watch face.  The complications.  In my case, these include the temperature and the sunrise and sunset times.  These two (of my five total) complications rarely appear on my watch.

This madness began not long after I received my watch.  A complete iPhone wipe and DFU restore solved the problem, for a little while.  Now it’s back.  Like Sharknado, but not as fun.

In fact, it sucks.  It should not be this hard.  It should just work.  But it doesn’t.  So far, the Apple Watch experience seems more like building a radio with some kit you bought from the back of a comic book than a traditional Apple experience.

I’m in wait and see mode.  Maybe an update will fix this issue, which is clearly a failure on the part of the watch and iPhone to reliably communicate with each other.  Maybe if I get to the end of my patience, I’ll make a desperate stab at the watchOS 2 beta.

Or maybe I’ll just go back to a bare wrist and a Fitbit One.

The 3rd and 4th Biggest Apple Watch Buzz Kills


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


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.


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?”


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


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.