Missing my Apple Watch… 

In a sleep-deprived flurry of OMG this morning, I somehow left home without my Apple Watch.

I know, right? Talk about a First World Problem. Actually, someone did:

Anyway, as I waited for my DLR into town, I realised it was too late to go home to get it and hopped on the train without much more thought about it.

But wow – what a difference it made. I realise this evening that I’m a 100% Apple Watch devotee. I missed my notifications, I missed tracking my activity, I missed being able to (basically) check the time without getting my phone out of my pocket. Really, I lost count of the number of times I raised my wrist, only to be disappointed by the bare (if tanned) skin that I saw instead of a watch screen.

Effectively, by leaving it at home for a day, I moved from the hypothetical “How much do you really use your Apple Watch?” to the actual “I use it a lot and I miss it like hell.”

Panic over and it’s safely back on my wrist once more.

There’s probably a very deep philosophical point to be made about having to experience loss to know the value of something – I’m just still amazed I managed to walk out the front door without it.

And if that’s the worst thing that happens to me this week, then I’ll be a very, very lucky man.

Starting 2017 as I mean to go on…

I started today with a run. I haven’t run in a few weeks due to te damage I did to my shoulder during the final 150m of the Royal Park’s Half-Marathon in October. It still hurts when I run and now, when I walk briskly. So I made an appointment with my GP before Christmas and have an MRI scan booked in for tomorrow.

That said, the pain is annoying but not crippling. Like a toothache. And I really needed to do something to begin a fight-back against my Christmas over-indulgence. I planned a quick 5km around the neighborhood but ended up running over 13km. The sun was out and the streets were quiet, making it easy to just…keep going.

I completed my usual run, keeping it to a manageable pace – nothing like my runs pre-Royal Parks. And as I’ve basically given up on the Nike running app due to its disastrous re-design and tendency to crash, I used the Apple Fitness functionality built into my Apple Watch and iPhone. It was idiot-proof – one click on my watch to start and one to stop.

did miss the audio prompts updating me on pace and distance, but the watch ‘clicks’ as you pass each kilometre and it’s no great hardship to raise the watch to check pace visually. I’m not a professional athlete, so it doesn’t need to be accurate down to the inch, or even metre, if I’m honest. I just want to have some way of tracking my runs, taking the outputs and combining them with other info in other apps.

This means the data from the fitness app informs what’s in ‘My Fitness Pal’ and vice versa. This includes the terrible, terrible news from my Fitbit scales this morning that my weight has gone up 3 kilos over Christmas. I say that tongue in cheek, as it’s not disastrous and actually gave me more motivation to make a change. And I completely understand where it’s all come from: the non-stop consumption of calorific (yet delicious) Christmas treats.

I now stand (Hobbit-like) at 68.8 kilos. I’d like to get that back down to 60 kilos, a feat last achieved in the distant, distant past. But it’s possible. Continue the runs, cut out the crap from my diet and generally move around more.

I think I need to plan a trip to Sitges to give me something specific to aim for! 😉

Sad to see Pebble go

I only caught up on this news last night. It seems Pebble, maker of the super-useful and low-cost smart-watches, is gone. It’s been bought by Fitbit and will no longer sell its watches.

Although I’m an Apple Watch user, I’ve owned a Pebble in the past. I loved it – the battery lasted for days and days (compared to the roughly 24 hours of an Apple Watch), was easy to use and the developer community was great!

Continue reading “Sad to see Pebble go”

Some significant Android regret

2016-05-31 18.54.13-1

I’m going to admit something pretty difficult now. It’s something that’s been bothering me for a couple of weeks now, so this post will serve as a kind of confession.

really regret selling my Nexus 6P.

You hear that? I’m sitting here, listening to a podcast on my iPhone 7 Plus and I’m pining after a phone that Google doesn’t even sell anymore. W the actual F?

If I’m honest, it’s less about the Nexus and more about Android. I miss Android. I miss Google Now and how it understood virtually every single verbal instruction I issued. It worked. The interface was so much more usable than previous iterations of Android and the first I’d used that didn’t feel like an experiment.

So what the hell is wrong with my new iPhone 7 Plus then? Absolutely nothing. It has an amazing screen, a superb camera and is lightning fast. That said, Siri still sucks. Especially when compared to Google Now (or Google Assistant, as it’s now called on Google’s new Pixel phones).

I have a three year old Nexus 7 tablet, and it does a better job of understanding my verbal instructions than my brand new iPhone. That’s not right. And yes, I’ve tried may different combinations of speaking to the iPhone and even when it does understand me, its responses are very limited compared to Google.

I challenged it to tell me the names of some capital cities from around the world.

United Kingdom? London! France? Paris! Ireland? Mega-long pause and then “here are some articles I found for you on the web about ‘what is the capital of Ireland'”. Seeing as Apple makes all its billions in Ireland (the magic of accounting), I’d have thought Siri would know what its capital is…

I know this is probably some form of sacrilege, but I felt slightly disappointed when Google announced its new Pixel phones. Disappointed in that I wanted one so badly. Yes, they’re pretty much as expensive as a new iPhone, but with the power of Google built right in. The Google app on iOS is severely limited compared to its Android equivalent.

But, here I am. An iPhone, an Apple Watch, an iPad and two Apple computers. They’re not going anywhere any time soon. But I have to admit that in a year, I’ll be seriously considering walking away from iOS and moving to Android. It will of course depend on the state of Google’s handsets (I’m not interested in anything from Samsung – no matter how cold it gets in London each winter, I don’t need a mobile that sets itself on fire to keep me warm!), but given how I’m using my phone, the leap to another platform would be more like crossing the street.

The vast majority of my apps are cross platform. I use Google Photos over Apple’s photo service. I don’t use Apple’s Podcasts app. I use Google for my contacts, calendars and email. I use Spotify, not Apple Music. I could go on, but you get the picture…

As for the Apple Watch, it’s a thing of beauty. But I got almost as much use out of the considerably cheaper and more ‘fun’ Pebble watch. Its battery lasted for days and days and it didn’t pretty much everything I needed from a smartwatch.

So why the hell have I once again found myself knee-deep in Apple devices?

The impact of Apple’s marketing. Honestly. I was sucked in, hook, line and sinker. I don’t think I was mis-sold anything (apart from Siri, which really doesn’t behave as advertised), I just managed to convince myself that I had to go with the upgrades.

Yes, the old tech was sold and it took the sting out of my new purchases. Plus, my phone is a business expense, so didn’t come out of my personal pocket. But really, it’s about the principle of the thing. I didn’t need that upgrade. I simply lusted after it.

And if I had my time over again? I’d go for one of the new Pebble watches and a Pixel XL.

Boom. There you go. My confession for the week. And I feel better for sharing it.

In the year ahead, I think we’re going to see an arm’s race in terms of verbal interfaces with technology – or ‘speakables’. Apple has Siri, Google as its Google Assistant and Amazon has the Echo. So far, it looks like Google and Amazon are light-years ahead of Apple in this space. Earlier this week. Nilay Patel and Walt Mossberg discussed this very topic on their excellent podcast and Siri was found to be lacking in several areas.

I really enjoyed speaking to Google Now on my Nexus 6P – setting timers, setting reminders, adding appointments to my calendar, searching the net. Attempting the same with Siri is simply a chore and I’ve all but stopped doing it.

I think what it boils down to is this: my iOS devices mostly work as I need them to. I get stuff done and they’re there when I need them. They’re slick and beautiful.

But they’re not fun to use.

I miss Android.

Unboxing the iPhone 7 Plus

Excitement levels to the max! I actually got my iPhone 7 Plus yesterday, but it was delivered while I was working up in Birmingham and I was just too exhausted to even look at it when I got in.

Ten hours of sleep later, I backed up my iPhone 6s Plus to my iMac, then set up the new iPhone 7 Plus using that back-up. All in all, it took about 30mins from the moment I opened the new phone’s pristine packaging.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, some hastily-taken and bleary-eyed photos of the new objective of desire on my desk

I’ve made a few phone calls, listened to a couple of podcasts and done a bit of tweeting with the new phone. It’s good. No, it’s great. It’s super-fast and responsive and while it’ll take a bit of getting used to, the new ‘taptic’ home button is a nice idea.

I’ve had to use the lightning-to-wired headphone dongle that came with it (super light, but I’m worried it’ll break easily?) as I don’t have a lightweight pair of bluetooth headphones. And based on how much cash I’ve thrown Apple’s way this month, it’ll be a while before I buy any! It’s not a deal-breaker, but the fact that my phone is matte black and the adaptor is shiny white really makes it stand out. And, dare I say, look quite cheap and nasty.

The above pics were taken with the iPhone 6s Plus, so I’m looking forward to giving the iPhone 7’s camera a go this weekend to see just how much better it is. Expect a fuller review of the new phone in the coming weeks, once I’ve used it more and taken it on a few trips.

But so far, so good.

Apple Watch series 2.0 has arrived!

While I won’t be getting my new iPhone 7 Plus for a few days yet (le sigh), my new Apple Watch arrived this morning. What’s more, I somehow had the self-control to leave it in its box until I’d finished all my must-dos today.

It’s gorgeous, but hard to differentiate from the series 1.0 watch by looks alone. It is, however water-proof, faster and with built-in GPS. The differences will be obvious once I’ve been using it for a few days, no doubt. I’m especially looking forward to taking it into the pool with me.

It might get me swimming a bit more. We have a pool in our apartment building, but I don’t use it anywhere near enough. No excuse!

And now, some unboxing photos…

Set-up was a breeze and incredibly fast. Impressively fast and a lot easier than first time around. I’m looking forward to pairing it with the iPhone 7 Plus, when it eventually arrives. I’m experiencing real iPhone 7 jealousy today, as @FrankDJS’s new iPhone 7 arrived at the same time as my watch.

I should have mine by the 22nd. I’m sure I’ll survive 😉

iPhone 7 Plus: ordered.

Now the wait begins.

I ordered a couple of phones for @FrankDJS and I as soon as the online Apple Store opened this morning. Sat in bed, refreshing the iPhone app until the store opened, I used an old trick to guarantee we’d get what we want. Last night, I selected each of our chosen phones (and my new watch) and marked them as ‘favourites’. This morning, as soon as the store ‘opened’, the three items were ready to select and pay for in just a couple of steps.

@FrankDJS went for the iPhone 7 with 128GB in black and I opted for the iPhone 7 Plus with 256GB in black, as planned. No ‘jet black’ shiny shiny phones for us. (Or rose gold, but I would have thought that was self-explanatory…) I also got an Apple Watch series 2.0 in space grey.

The 128GB and the Apple Watch will arrive here next Friday, but I’ll have to wait until September 29th for my iPhone. Which ironically means I might be using my Nexus 6P for a week during the period between selling my existing iPhone 6s Plus and the 7 Plus arriving. I have an agreed price with one on the online gadget site and that price will only go down from this point.

More thought required to figure that one out. I really hadn’t anticipated a wait for the highest end model, especially as I ordered it at 08:05, just five minutes after the store opened! I guess stocks were low?

I’m really looking forward to putting the 7 Plus’s camera through its paces and enjoying all that iOS has to offer. That and adding swimming to my Apple Fitness regimen, now that the Apple Watch can track activity in the pool (or in the sea).

All in all (and putting the bluetooth/lightning earbuds to one side) it’s not a massive upgrade, but something more iterative. I suppose they’ll go for something more extreme to celebrate the iPhone’s tenth anniversary next year.

But let’s not get into that just yet.

iPhone 7 – taking the plunge?

og

I missed yesterday’s Apple Event as it was streamed, but followed it via the liveblog from the Verge and sporadic tweets, all the time on a slow-moving train from Nottingham to London.

There weren’t too may surprises (Mario aside) and the phone and watch announcements were as expected. Yes to new black colours, yes to water-protection and no to inclusion of a traditional audio jack. Harrumph. It’s digital or bluetooth from now on, folks.

While I was impressed with the new iPhone 7 Plus, I was initially so annoyed by the the change to the headphone jack that I dismissed all thoughts of upgrading. I was a lot more interested in what the Series 2 Apple Watch has to offer. (The ability to wear it in water, for a start!)

The inevitable

But here we are, 24 hours later, and I’ve read a lot more about it and listened to a few podcasts. And I’m leaning towards getting one. Before you descend on me with an overpowering torrent of “I told you so!”, hear me out…

Here’s what I think the iPhone 7 Plus has going for it:

  1. Better battery life, which you can never ignore. I’m never happier than when I have some fully-charged gadgets about my person and never more anxious than when I’m down on single-digit battery notifications.

  2. A superb camera, which is something quite important to me. I’m not a photography buff, but I use the hell out of my smartphone cameras. The advances included in the 7 Plus are quite something.

  3. More memory, which I fetishise quite a lot. I’m opting for the 256GB model, as the volume of music and videos I carry around is fairly significant. I will never fill it, but that’s the point.

  4. It’s water-proof, (or thereabouts) so I don’t have to live in fear of its destruction every time I enter a bathroom with it. You know you do too, so don’t be so judgemental…

And yet

On the flipside, the need to use either the bundled earbuds (bleurgh) or something bluetooth has me far from impressed. I’ve never been able to use Apple earbuds – they continually fall out of my ears and cause pain after even short periods of use.

The bluetooth airpods Apple announced look laughable. I’m as geeky as the next guy (geekier, if I’m honest) but I could never imagine myself walking London’s streets with those things hanging out of my ears. Public humiliation aside, they look insanely easy to lose and of course, represent just one more thing that needs charging.

apple-airpods

That said, I’m confident some third-party vendors will release some appropriately designed and suitably affordable alternatives. I’ll just need to use Apple’s ear buds for a while, or keep using my Bose earphones and the disgusting dongle Apple are packaging with the new phones.

Although it’s good to know I’m not the only one with strong views on these ear-monsters, as evidenced by this tweet e xchange I had with Jeff Jarvis:

But wait, there’s more

Unless I have a real change of heart overnight, I’ll also be getting myself a new Apple Watch. I’m opting for the space grey model again, as I like the one I have. But a faster, waterproof model with built-in GPS is too hard to resist.

I used my Nexus 6P and Pebble Time in combination for weeks and loved it. But the Pebble pales in comparison with the new Apple Watch. The above purchases will be in-part funded by the sale of my Nexus 6P, Pebble watch and existing iPhone 6s Plus.

This means, a little sadly, an end to my Android experiment. I’m still using Google Apps for business and personal use, but I’ve come to the conclusion (with some gentle…ahem…”encouragement” from @FrankDJS) that life is simpler with Apple, macOS and iOS.

I’m taking this as a sign of my inevitable age-related decline. Going with the path of least-tech-resistance.

Now. Let the inevitable mocking begin. Go on, do your worst…

Here come the shiny new Apple gadgets!

og

By this time tomorrow, I’ll have gorged myself on all the juicy details from Apple’s event, pored over the blog posts, zoomed in on all the photos and decided if any of it is of interest to me.

I mean, I’ll be interested in it all, but I won’t be buying it all. My iPhone 6s Plus is most definitely the best phone I’ve ever bought and with the addition of the upcoming iOS 10, it’ll surely be even better. What could an iPhone 7 (or whatever it’s called) do that would justify giving Apple even more of my money?

(Let’s be honest for a moment. I think we all know there’s a very high probability of me getting the new iPhone, but do bear with me while I go through this annual exercise of protesting that I won’t hand over my cash just as fast as Apple can take it).

I’d love a bigger screen, but that doesn’t look likely. I’d love if it worked with the Apple Pencil. Again, not that likely. More storage is always welcome and since Apple never went in for SD cards, the rumour that it’ll come with a 256GB model is most welcome. The rumour of a missing audio jack is less appealing.

Harrumph.

Putting aside the inevitability of my future purchase, I have to wonder: are we reaching “peak iPhone”? Not in terms of sales, but more in terms of what a phone can actually do. It’s come on leaps and bounds since it was launched, but I don’t think I’m the only one who’s noticed a slowing down in shock-level innovation.

I’d love to be proved wrong tomorrow evening, all the same.

I’m really looking forward to getting iOS10 on my phone and iPad though. It looks great and, if they follow through on their promises about Siri, I might actually start using it more regularly. I stopped using Apple Music some time ago, preferring to use Spotify, which comes free with my mobile phone contract. I’m unsure if any improvements will bring me back, but I’m willing to give it a go.

Any improvement to watchOS will be very, very welcome. All the reviews of the beta that I’ve read describes it as being incredibly faster, and that’s even before we’ve seen an Apple Watch 2 – which may also arrive tomorrow. I really like my Apple Watch, but sometimes the wait for it to respond or to activate apps is infuriating. Here’s hoping for a little more zip.

I’ll hold off on an upgrade to macOS Sierra, until the various bugs have been identified and zapped. I really can’t do without my laptop during a standard working week. Upgrading the OS, when every other upgrade in history has come with various issues, is not the best of ideas.

Tomorrow’s event will hold some surprises. I can’t wait to see what Apple are up to with health, home and fitness. And if they do launch a 6-inch iPhone with its own Apple Pencil, then you’ll be picking me up off the floor.