Running without iPhones, Thin Pipes and Keyboard Hell

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“When I take my iPhone with me on a run, my Apple Watch’s pace and distance estimates are highly accurate. Without my iPhone, it became so inaccurate it was useless.”

Source: Running without iPhone makes Apple Watch inaccurate | Cult of Mac

This is a giant problem.  Apple makes great devices, but more and more, Apple seems to be counting on our love of Apple to blind us to the things that these great devices inexplicably cannot do.

Bling is great, but you need to be at least as good at the basic stuff as the other devices you are trying to replace.  Sure, fitness is just one component of the Apple Watch, but if you agree with me that apps are not fun to use on the watch, then fitness and notifications are the primary things differentiating the Apple Watch from the watch John Cameron Swayze was hawking to the ladies the year I was born (I wonder how my Apple watch would like that dishwasher?).

When people ask how I like my Apple Watch, my answer is I like it, but don’t love it.  I (still) have to carry my iPhone with me when I work out, and I almost never open an app on it.  At least in my neighborhood, the Apple Watch is making slow progress in its efforts to claim the wrists of regular folks.  I’ve seen less than 5 in the wild.  I offered to buy my wife one.  She said no, because there are a ton of other options that do a better job of accurately tracking her runs.

Similarly, the new Apple TV has a lot of bling.  But under the hood, it lacks basic functionality (including, but not limited to, all those content deals Apple couldn’t get, and Amazon Prime Video), and requires far too much credentials keyboarding on the pretty but frustrating new remote.  Some of this (Amazon and other content) may not be Apple’s fault, but some of it is.  For example, on a slower internet connection,  my year old Amazon Fire TV still loads much faster than my brand-new Apple TV. That beautiful screen saver is awesome, but it’s not  why I bought the device.

If Apple wants us to continue to pay the Apple premium for new devices, those devices need to be mind-blowing, like the original iPhone and iPad, and not meh-inducing, like the Apple Watch and much of the new Apple TV.

Apple Watch: A Nice Accessory

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“After six months of trying to log my runs with my Apple Watch, I finally gave up and bought a dedicated GPS running watch.”

Source: Why I’m cheating on my Apple Watch | Cult of Mac

For people like me, who just want to gamify their workouts, and roughly track steps and miles, the Apple Watch is just fine.  For serious runners, like my wife (who has been holding a “gift card” for an Apple Watch for months), it just doesn’t cut it.

I like my Apple Watch, but only for workout-tracking lite, as described above, and for quick notifications.  I never- and I mean never- use any apps.  They just aren’t fun.  Sure, updated apps are doing the best they can, but even native apps are limited by the lack of a GPS on the watch.

I keep waiting for it to get better, but I’m starting to think it will be a couple of hardware updates and several years before the Apple Watch becomes an indispensable tool instead of an optional accessory.

Don’t Get Too Excited About this Outlook on Your Wrist Business

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When the web goes nuts over some new app, device or feature that works, but only for a small portion of the potential universe of users, I wonder if the people going nuts are unaware of the limitation or just ignoring it for headlines.

Such is the case with the new Outlook app that might be able to give you Outlook functionality on your Apple Watch.  First a question:

What percentage of Apple Watch wearing, iPhone enthusiasts choose to use Outlook, and what percentage of such people have to use it because it’s on their locked-down, corporate Windows computer?  I’d say very few of the former and a ton of the latter.  In fact, find me a Mac user who voluntarily chooses to use Outlook, and I’ll devote an entire podcast to learning why.  The large, large majority of iPhone users who use Outlook are doing so because they have to.

And they have to because their companies require it.  And those companies lock-down both their desktop computers and the mobile devices used by their employees.  Which means that a whole lot of the folks who eagerly install the Outlook app on their iPhones and excitedly log-in in anticipation of replying to Outlook emails from their Apple Watch are going to get this:

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So, if you’re on a locked-down corporate system, don’t get too excited about Outlook on your wrist, because it’s probably not going to happen.

Apple Watch: River Test

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We spent the last week on the Frio River, in Concan, Texas.  We tubed the river, we swam, we jumped off rocks.  The Apple Watch handled two out of the three like a waterproof champ.  More accurately, the watch handled all of them.  The watch band had a slight problem (that could have been prevented, had I not spaced out for a moment).

For those who don’t know, tubing a river involves a lot of floating, a fair amount of backstroke paddling (during which your watch is dunked in the water repeatedly with every downstroke), and an occasional tumble down the rapids after your tube flips.  I wore my Apple Watch the entire time, and it was completely unaffected by the water.  In fact, after the first hour of the first float, I didn’t think about it again.  My watch spent a lot of time under water, and handled it perfectly.

There is a tall rock we always jump off near the end of one of the floats (Happy Hollow, for those of you fortunate enough to be familiar with the sacred waters of the Frio).  As I was climbing the rock, I thought “I need to hold my watch when I jump, so it won’t fall off.”  But when I jumped, I naturally forgot to do that.  Yep, my watch (sports band) came off when I hit the water.  Fortunately, my buddy Kyle performed some amazing Jacques Cousteau action and managed to find it 10 feet or so beneath the surface on the river bottom.  It was down there for a minute or two, and- no problem.

In sum, the Apple Watch seems pretty darn water-proof, and it is clearly fit for tubing rivers.  Jumping off tall rocks, not so much.

Why I May Ditch My Apple Watch

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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.