Tag Archives: iOS

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.

MacOS vs macOS

I’m sure we’ll be hearing tons of jokes about consistency from the spelling and grammar police, but I get why it would be MacOS, as opposed to macOS.

Mac is a proper noun. The Mac has always been capitalized. It’s a shortened form of a non-generic product: the Macintosh.

The “i” in Apple’s names over the years has always been lowercase, since the original iMac. So, of course it’s iOS.[1]

For tvOS, Apple is using tv as a generic term. It doesn’t refer to Apple TV, just an operating system for your tv. Apple could expand this operating system to include more than just that puck they call Apple TV.

Same goes for watchOS. While the current product is called Apple Watch, a watch is a generic thing that has existed for a very long time. Who knows where Apple will take watches in the future; the lowercase “w” gives them the flexibility to do expand the category into many other products.

With the Mac, there is no generic equivalent. All Macs are called Macs, and it’s doubtful that Apple would ever put this os on anything that wasn’t called a Mac. Thus, MacOS.[2]

  1. Originally, of course, it was iPhoneOS, but since the iPad and iPhone share an OS, it only made sense to shorten it to the more generic iOS.  ↩

  2. Of course, it’s all OS X underneath. But that marketing term has long outplayed its usefulness. I can see Apple never making an OS XI, or whatever, at this point. At least not as a publicly marketed thing. Apple is not in the position it was in with OS 9, where its operating system couldn’t handle the modern features computers needed. OS X can simply continue to evolve to meet the needs of the newest technology, which is a testament to just how solid a foundation it was back in the late nineties.  ↩

On 3D Touch and Long Press

If Apple declared that a 3D Touch was the moral equivalent of a long press, it would have to make some adjustments to the iOS interface (including changing how we reorder app icons), but in the end I think we’d have a more cohesive set of common iOS gestures. 3D Touch users would benefit by not having to wait for the OS to pause and see if you intended to long-press an item, but users of non–3D-Touch devices wouldn’t be left out of the party.

via Jason Snell, writing for Macworld

There was lots of talk about this last September with the introduction of 3D Touch. I don’t think it’s a great idea.

Long press is a purposefully slow gesture. It makes you stop, literally, and wait a second or so before you can move on with other things. Therefore, it’s suited best for tasks that you want to do very deliberately and only very occasionally, like rearranging the icons on your home screen. The nature of the long press makes it very unlikely you’ll do it accidentally, and so it’s perfect for these sorts of tasks. You have to think about a long press, and that’s a good thing[1].

3D Touch, on the other hand, is meant to speed you up. Application launching shortcuts take you directly to a spot within the app in one gesture. Pressing hard from the left of the screen helps you invoke the app switcher faster. It’s all about the speed.

Peek and Pop, of course, is supposed to be all about speeding you up, too. I agree with Jason; it’s more gimmick than useful at the moment. I just about never use it.

I also agree that Quick Launch shortcuts are limited (though already much more useful than Peek and Pop), and 3D Touch would be more useful if it were possible to use in many other places, like the Notification Center. These are all great suggestions by Jason. I have no doubt Apple will be adding many of these features and more to iOS this year and beyond.

That doesn’t mean, however, that long press and 3D Touch belong together as one gesture. They just seem to be diametrically opposed, from a user interface standpoint. Forcing non–3D Touch users to use a long press for all these actions that are meant to speed up the iOS experience will make those users feel like frustrated, second-class citizens. Their phones will feel like slugs.

Not having those features at all is better than having them at the expense of feeling great about using them.

I suggest Apple keep 3D Touch and long press separated. The problem of some people not having devices with 3D Touch will be solved by time. Touch interfaces need more gestures, not fewer, if they are going to become more powerful tools.

  1. Some people seem to have trouble invoking a long press on a 3D-Touch enabled iPhone. Seems like pressing long and pressing hard are equivalent in many people’s minds. It doesn’t help that for many years prior to 3D Touch, you could press long and hard to invoke a long press. It takes some practice, but eventually you manage to tap and hold for a long press without pressing hard by default.  ↩

Built-in Text Replacements vs. TextExpander

Yesterday, I mentioned I could probably replace TextExpander with the built-in Mac and iOS text replacements, given that I generally don’t use the more advanced features of TextExpander, anyway.

So this morning, I fired up my MacBook, opened System Preferences and TextExpander side by side, and created shortcuts for my most-commonly used TextExpander snippets in the built-in system. There were a few shortcuts I had created that could fill in forms, or put the cursor in the middle of the text replacement (two features that the built-in replacements can’t do) but I thought there was a good chance I’d get over that minor inconvenience quickly.

Then, a few hours later, I took a look at my iPhone’s text replacements. Given that these are supposed to sync over iCloud, I expected to see all my new replacements right there on my phone.[1]

Not quite.

Oddly, about half of them had synced, while the other half were missing. One duplicate that I had deleted was still there. As of this writing, the missing ones are still missing. On my home iMac, none of the new shortcuts have appeared. My iPad Air 2 seems to have one or two of them. My iPad Pro has none.

Maybe Smile wasn’t crazy to make sync the tentpole feature of its new subscription service, after all.

  1. Okay, I’m lying. I fully expected the iCloud sync to be a disaster, since text replacements have never synced properly for me on any of my devices. But I thought maybe there was a minute chance Apple had addressed this in the most recent updates. Nope.  ↩

TextExpander goes Subscription Only

TextExpander, a long-time utility for Mac and iOS, switched its pricing to a subscription service this week. Of course I have thoughts.

I’m a long-time supporter of subscription pricing. Subscriptions are going to be the primary way we pay for productivity apps eventually. It’s going to happen. It has to happen. Upgrade pricing has been rejected by most consumers[1], and many businesses tend to prefer the predictable monthly costs of a subscription. As Adobe and Microsoft have shown, subscriptions may be a hard sell at first, but the long-term benefits to the health of products based on subscription are obvious. At least for pro apps.

I have no idea what will happen to consumer software in the long run. For now, freemium seems to be the way to go. But that can’t last forever. I’m not terribly interested, to tell you the truth. Pro apps are more where I put my focus.

And that’s what makes TextExpander an interesting case. Is it “pro” software? Or is it more like a consumer product? I tend to think of it as somewhere in between.

The people at Smile are incredibly smart. They’ve been running a successful business longer than some iOS devs have been alive. So I’m sure they haven’t made this decision lightly. They know they will lose casual users over this decision.

Because I actually use TextExpander, I find myself in a position of having to evaluate this decision to go subscription-only from two different perspectives: that of a fellow developer, and that of an actual customer of the product.

As a developer, I completely understand and support Smile’s decision. I’m sure there are a number of hard-core TextExpander junkies who use the software several times a day. For these folks, it should be a no-brainer to fork over $5 a month.

As a customer, it gets harder for me personally. I’ve been using TextExpander for many, many years. I’ve upgraded to the latest version up until now. But I’ve never been what you’d call a “power” user. Basically, everything I do with it I could probably pull off with the built-in text shortcuts in iOS and OS X. TextExpander does way more than that, obviously, but I personally don’t use those extra powerful abilities.

So would I personally pay $5 a month to keep using TextExpander? As it stands now, probably not. If I were to make that investment, I’d want to start using the more powerful capabilities that TextExpander offers. Which, frankly, might be a good thing, both for me and Smile. One of the great things about subscriptions is that those monthly payments are an incentive to be a more active user of the product. That makes for happier, more engaged, if fewer, customers.

Whether or not I’d actually take the time and explore those more powerful features is a big question, though. I have a workflow that I like; I don’t often have an interest in digging into these higher-level geeky productivity tools. There’s a part of me that wishes I did, but if I’m honest with myself, I just don’t get that deep into power-user territory. I may not be a good customer of this product moving forward.

However, while TextExpander may lose me as a customer over this[2], the people who do become monthly subscribers are going to be more engaged, more devoted customers. Which is undoubtedly a good thing. Whether they get enough of these subscribers to sustain their business is the big variable. I wish them all the best.

  1. Long-time tech geeks and developers love upgrade pricing. But since the iPhone, the consumer base has grown by a couple of orders of magnitude. And the majority of those new customers don’t really understand why they need to pay for an upgrade. Read the reviews of any consumer app that has released a paid upgrade in the past three years if you don’t believe me.  ↩

  2. I can, of course, keep using TextExpander, so when I say they may lose me as a customer, I don’t mean as a user. The older version will keep working just fine. (Update: I had previously stated that the new version also works for free, only without sync. This is not the case.) But considering what would have potentially been $20 for an upgrade, they will likely not get that money from me. That’s fine. They will make the equivalent money every four months from every customer who does sign up for the subscription.  ↩