Tag Archives: apple

They Gave Me a Few Ponies

Minutes before the WWDC keynote last week, I posted this on Twitter, in reaction to the already growing cynicism (the show hadn’t even started yet) in my timeline about what was to be announced.

Listening to the Apple community gripe about what they perceive to be too little excitement in keynote announcements drives me insane. People either perceive some announcements to be more exciting and important than they actually are (a slightly faster MacBook Pro – Whoop-de-doo!) or they dismiss actually groundbreaking breakthroughs (ResearchKit) as boring.

I get that hardware is more exciting for the Apple faithful than software (though I don’t know why), but I can also see that Apple has more important priorities than giving geeks new toys to buy every few months. But people judge everything Apple does based on how it effects their personal needs, rather than looking at what actually might help the company long term.

I figured reminding people that WWDC isn’t custom tailored to their personal whims might help slow down the rate of disappointed tweets I’d see later in the day. (Oh, who am I kidding? I just wanted to take a jab at them for my own amusement.)

But boy was I surprised when Apple actually did give me a couple of ponies during the show.

First up: Raise to wake/revised lock screen behavior in iOS 10. Readers will remember that I pontificated a while back for a few thousand words about the lock screen, which had become useless since the iPhone 6s gained faster Touch ID. I went as far as to call the immediate dismissal of the lock screen a bug in iOS 9. Clearly, Apple felt the same way. Not only can you now simply raise your phone up to activate the screen (eliminating the need to make an awkward stretch to the power button or use your thumbnail on the home button like a barbarian) but you must also now physically press home button down to unlock the phone, so you can’t lean your finger on the home button and accidentally dismiss the lock notifications. I can now read my lock screen again, and yet my phone can be unlocked just as fast as before. I couldn’t be more pleased about this.

Second: Apple Watch. I made a list of what I was hoping for in the next version of watchOS. And Apple delivered on a good deal of it. New watch faces, more configurability on the current watch faces, auto-unlocking my MacBook, changing the power button functionality. But the most important thing they gave us all was speed. Keeping your ten favorite apps in memory so they don’t have to launch as often was a brilliant way to eliminate everyone’s biggest pet peeve with the Watch—and without requiring new hardware. It’s safe to say there will be a lot of happy Apple Watch users come fall.

It’s also noteworthy that Apple didn’t eliminate the home screen of app icons from the Watch, as some had suggested. Because that doesn’t make any sense. Some called the new watchOS an “admission that Apple’s first attempt was all wrong.” I say they took a look at what worked and refined it, while eliminating a few things that weren’t working. Or in other words, they iterated, like they always do. I’m very excited about the future of the Watch. If it can be improved this much this quickly, there are bound to be a lot more innovations coming in the next few years.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg on what was announced last week. There are tons of little tweaks throughout all four operating systems and built-in apps that will make people happy come fall. (Check out Mail.app on iOS in particular for a few great examples.)

Now about that macOS vs. MacOS thing? Well, I can live with being wrong about that one. Though it still irks me every time I see it in print.

Touch ID after 8 hours

A previously undocumented requirement asks for a passcode in a very particular set of circumstances: When the iPhone or iPad hasn’t been unlocked with its passcode in the previous six days, and Touch ID hasn’t been used to unlock it within the last eight hours. It’s a rolling timeout, so each time Touch ID unlocks a device, a new eight-hour timer starts to tick down until the passcode is required. If you wondered why you were being seemingly randomly prompted for your passcode (or more complicated password), this is likely the reason.

(via Glen Fleishman for Macworld)

Makes sense that I seldom bump into this on my iPhone, since I only sleep about six hours most nights. But I’ve often wondered why my iPads, which I don’t necessarily pick up first thing in the morning, need a passcode so often. I assumed it was a bug.

Texting Siri

No matter how enabling and useful Siri is, though, there will be times when it’s simply not possible or socially acceptable to talk out loud to our phones or tablets. In those situations, being able to type “Cupertino weather” or even “Text Georgia I’ll be late” would be incredibly useful.

(via Rene Ritchie, for iMore)

It took me a few days to realize just how spot on Rene is with his analysis in this piece. And what it implies for the future of voice-activated UI.

There’s a growing obsession with voice control of our computing devices. I remember the excitement around voice growing on a few occasions in the past. (Does anyone remember “My voice is my password”?) But now that the technology has finally gotten to be almost good enough, we’re hitting a fever pitch. Siri, Alexa, Echo—all of these products light up the pleasure centers of Star Trek geeks worldwide.

But here’s the thing: What makes the Echo or Siri useful is not the voice activation. It’s the (somewhat) intelligent response.

I have nieces and nephews, and I never see them talking to their phones. They text. Even when they are communicating with someone in the same room. They don’t even want to talk to their friends, let alone their phones.

I’ve never been comfortable shouting “Hey Siri” across my office to wake up my phone. I’m equally uncomfortable when she talks back to me. But I love typing “Practice, Tuesday 6pm at Rivington” into Fantastical. My favorite thing about having driving directions on my Apple Watch is that I can turn off the voice prompts on my phone, which disturb my music, anyway, and replace them with taps on the wrist.

What’s worse than telling everyone in the room to shut up for a second so you can tell your TV to find the latest episode of Game of Thrones?

And let’s not forget accessibility. Voice UI is wonderful for the visually impaired. But voice-activated-only devices like the Echo are fairly inaccessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

I think Greg is right; my generation, the one that grew up on Star Trek, may still be fascinated with voice UI, but I don’t think it’s going to become a primary input or output method. It will always make sense in certain niches, I’m sure. And I’m glad the technology is getting better for those who need it. But becoming the dominant way we interface with computers? Hardly. Ride the New York City subway sometime, and then imagine all of those phones being controlled by voice. Yikes.

Having an intelligent assistant that can respond to our prompts no matter how we address it is far more important. I’m with Rene. A Spotlight text field should be able to do whatever Siri does. Don’t get caught up in the trend of talking to our devices; concentrate on expanding how Siri, Alexa, etc. interpret our prompts, spoken or otherwise. That’s the future.

Apple Watch and the Future

So I’ve been writing a lot about Apple Watch lately. Obviously, you can figure out that I’m confident it has a bright future. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see some improvements, of course.

What would I like to see change in later versions of watchOS and the Watch hardware? Glad you asked:

  • New watch faces. I don’t care if they come from third parties. In fact, I don’t necessarily think that opening the faces up to third parties would be a good thing. (See Android Wear.) Apple has done a great job with the faces it already has; I just want more variety. Especially in the digital faces. It’s silly that Modular is the only digital face that has complications, for instance. Or, if they want third-party input, go directly to watch manufacturers and let them consult on some new designs, like they did for Hermēs. Apple’s design team spent years studying horology to get to the faces we have now. Opening faces up to random Joe developer is bound to produce lackluster results. I want a dozen or so more good watch faces, not a million junk faces to sift through with one or two gems.
  • More options on the current watch faces. More colors, the ability to use a third-party complication in the date slot. More fine-tuned removal and adding of detail. That sort of thing.
  • Always-on watch face. Battery life is obviously going to make this one tough for a while, but I’m betting Apple will get there eventually. In the meantime, improved wrist raise detection would be welcome. Works for me 90% of the time, but it needs to be 100%, even if that means erring on the side of turning on sometimes when it shouldn’t.
  • Contextual, or time-based complications. There are some complications I’d love to have just at certain times, or when I’m in certain places.
  • Pinging your phone from your Watch is great. I never use that function, but I know people who use it every day, because they are always leaving their phone in different places. What I’d like to see is a haptic warning on the wrist whenever you get out of range of the phone. I know there are apps that are supposed to do this, but they are unreliable. I want it as a built-in feature.
  • While we’re at it, apps like MacID are cool, but I want that to be built-in as well. Auto-lock my MacBook whenever get a certain distance from it. And I should never have to type my MacBook password when my Watch is in range.
  • Faster processor, more direct communication without constantly waiting for the phone. Speed, speed, speed.
  • More APIs for developers. Not so we can jam pack our apps with too many features, but so that new possibilities will foster new app ideas.
  • Standalone Watch apps. And a way to pay for them. Seems silly how many good watchOS apps occupy a space on my iPhone for no reason, other than Apple’s rules.
  • New sensors. More health benefits are always welcome.
  • Customizing the Power button to do something other than favorites. For those of us who don’t use messaging very often.
  • Get rid of Time Travel. It’s a gimmick, and I activate it accidentally more often than not.

I have no doubt that most of these and more are on the way for Apple Watch. In the meantime, take the negativity surrounding Apple Watch with a grain of salt, and if you haven’t taken the plunge yet, do some research and decide for yourself.

More on Apple Watch and its Appeal

I’ve worn my Watch every single day since it was delivered to my house on May 12th of last year. It has never been a question of whether or not I want to wear it. It’s a part of my daily routine, and it became that immediately for me.

The only day I haven’t hit my standing goal of 12 hours or more was the first day I received the Watch, since I didn’t get it until 3pm. My average for stand is 15 hours, with my best day at 20 hours. I don’t sleep much, and I like to get up and walk around often during the day. This one is not a challenge for me.

I average 691 calories a day, hitting my goal of 560 about 61% of the time. I still think 560 is too low, so I’m hoping to improve that further.

I average 47 minutes of daily Exercise, hitting my 30-minute goal about 76% of the time. Not bad, but again, I would like to do better.

The funny thing with these simple health stats are that I didn’t care about any of this before getting the Watch. Not everyone will be motivated by the Activity app, but for me, having this app alone makes the Watch worth wearing every day. I also enhance the experience with David Smith’s Activity++, which is how I got a lot of the above percentage stats. The fitness motivational aspects of the Watch are a small step toward helping me achieve better health for myself, and that’s better than any other gadget I’ve ever owned can claim. It’s not going to make me healthy all on its own, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Band Addiction

I now own four bands for my Apple Watch. I would not have guessed that a year ago, but having multiple bands does make wearing a watch more fun. I find myself switching bands almost daily, depending on my mood. I care about the fashion aspects of this gadget way more than I expected to, in other words. Another thing that isn’t bad.

Apple Watch Bands

The four bands I chose are the Link (in silver, my original band that came with the Watch), Sport (Fog), Classic Buckle (Saddle Brown), and Leather Loop (Storm Gray). I wanted to have each of the different kinds of clasps available, so I could make an educated guess as to which ones I preferred. To be honest, I like them all quite a bit. My original Link is still the favorite, though.

I imagine I will probably pick up a new band once or twice a year, as new styles and colors arrive in different seasons. Brilliant move by Apple, to constantly refresh the line of bands. Unlike many others, I’ve always assumed the current connectors will stay the same for at least another few years.

I tried two different third-party bands and found them lacking, to say the least. I’m sure there are good third-party bands out there, but Apple’s are amazingly well designed, so I don’t bother looking anywhere else.

Battery Life

I have never fully run out of battery on my Watch, though I’ve come close many times. I don’t sleep very much, and I tend to wear the Watch everywhere, including to bed. So I only charge it in the mornings while I shower and get breakfast. 45-minutes to an hour a day is all the Watch needs to stay charged most days. The few times it has run down, low power mode has kept it alive enough to at least show me the time.

I imagine battery life will improve in the next few generations. It’s just barely good enough right now.

Watch Faces

For the first couple of months, I used the Utility watch face exclusively. Now, I tend to change faces, depending on which band I’m using. Mostly, I use Simple, though.

It’s funny how some faces just make no sense unless you have a particular band. The Color face, for instance, looks horrible with the Link bracelet. But pop on a Sport band, and it works. Same for Modular. I would never use Modular with the Classic Buckle, but again, it looks fine with the Sport band.

The faces I never use are the ones with no complications. If I can’t see my Activity rings, I’m lost. Unfortunately, that rules out the very cool Solar and Astronomy faces. I also don’t use Mickey Mouse. Not my thing. Utility was ruined with the muilti-color Activity rings, so I now only use it very occasionally with the Classic Buckle. Chronograph, also, I only use occasionally, and only with the Classic Buckle.

I’m really hoping for many, many more watch face options in upcoming versions of watchOS. I’d like to change my watch face as often as I change my bands. And I want every face to be more customizable.

The Intangibles

The level of customization possible with Apple Watch surpasses that of any other Apple product by a long shot. I think that’s a huge part of the appeal. Apple is showing a much deeper understanding of the importance of self-expression when wearing technology than other tech companies trying to get into this market. I think tech enthusiasts, who are often clueless about the these things, miss this entirely when they assess Apple Watch.

No, Apple Watch can’t compete with a Rolex or Omega in terms of high fashion. But to the bulk of middle class customers who aspire to accessorize with something cool that raises their status and makes them feel special (Apple’s key demographic), Apple Watch is right in the sweet spot. Remember, Apple isn’t a luxury brand. It only acts like one. It doesn’t make BMWs. It makes Toyotas and brands them to make you feel like you bought a BMW.

Given that most mid-range wristwatches cost more and do far less, Apple Watch compares favorably to what most people are currently wearing. Features, whether present or not, whether perfectly implemented or not, have never determined success for this kind of accessory. I think how Apple Watch looks, and how it is perceived in the culture matters a heck of a lot more than whether there may be a few flaws in the software, in other words. And most experts in the watch field seem to agree Apple is doing very well on that front. As I’ve argued before, the iPod became popular because iPods were cool, not because they were the best music players. The question is whether or not Apple Watch can achieve that cool status in popular culture. I’m confident it will.