I bought a pair of Silver Strap Adapters Clasp Metal Axle Connectors for Apple Watch Sport from eBay for £10.99 and received them today. Very surprised at the quality, the fit and the ease of installation to use any strap with my watch. The 42mm Milanese Loop is £129 from Apple and the Link Bracelet is £379, but I am convinced that you can buy straps that look just as good, and likely are built almost as well, for under £50.
"It's also (at least in my case) $700. Given how it looks and feels, and the technical accomplishments that go on inside that shell, is that the right price? I like it, but it's not "hundreds of dollars" like. Maybe I'll love next year's model, or the 2017 edition -- but I'll likely be ill at ease to admit it, because I'll still have the original Apple Watch, depreciated substantially. If anything is going to make smartwatches a mainstream thing, given what's beating inside (and the HealthKit stuff, and Apple's sheer influence when it comes to app developers), Apple will be the one to do it.
But it hasn't yet -- and I wish I hadn't opened my wallet for this first effort. I expected that I'd be using it so much more than I am at the moment. The curse of a new product category, or an Apple product that I don't need in my life? I'll know one way or the other in the next six months. And if I change my mind, when I'm using Glances untold times a day, when the apps are perfectly attuned to a wearable, I'm willing to eat crow and tell you how it all changed..."
The above from engadget feels familiar. I don't regret buying the Apple Watch because it has paid for itself with writing work. If, however, I had bought it because I was excited by it, I would feel pretty downhearted by now. Every time I put my normal watch on it feels like a considered and carefully created product. The Apple Watch, on the other hand, leaves me cold.
It's rare that I see a watch which appears completely bizarre at first glance, but within minutes becomes an object of desire. The ELVIS80 AUTO is the perfect example of this. I really like what Hamilton is doing with their classic models at the moment and the prices they are building them to, and this is the best recreation yet.
"A stunning record collection containing every chart single made has been discovered crammed into the terraced house of its late owner.
Single-minded Keith Sivyer bought every new release that entered the UK single charts since their inception in 1952 until his death in February aged 75.
Every week, without fail, Keith visited his local record shop with a copy of Music Week and bought the latest songs that had entered the top 40 before going home and adding them to his archive... More at The Telegraph."
Some may think this to be rather odd behaviour, but I think it's kind of cool
I had one of those moments today which made me feel old, and it may feel similar for you when I explain why. When I started my first proper website, Clie World, my son was 18 months old and my daughter was not even born.
For those of you who remember Clie World and those wonderful Sony PDAs, my son will be 15 years old tomorrow. Feeling old?
"Android Wear 5.1 has reduced Google’s emphasis on talking to your wrist, which is a good thing. The new menu system makes it easier to get to apps and settings, and the simple swipe-based interface is intuitive.
The emoji-drawing support is excellent and being able to connect remotely to a smartphone using Wi-Fi is useful for when Bluetooth won’t stretch far enough.
Android Wear’s notification-handling and quick, useful interactions powered by Google Now make it the best smartwatch platform currently available, but only if your life is plugged into Google services such as Gmail, calendar and Play Music."
Looks like it has just got a whole lot better. More at The Guardian.
I don't miss it at all.
This is not to say that the device is poor in any way, but that perhaps the need for smart watches at this time (for me) is still not necessary enough to wear one.
It obviously has some advantages such as alerting me to notifications, but at no time has it 'saved my life' and told me something that I needed to know 60 seconds earlier or that my iPhone could not do anyway.
The fitness tracking is interesting, but not particularly useful to a sloth like me and for all other purposes, there is nothing here that makes me want to wear it, or that gives me the same feeling, over my traditional watch.
I did notice that checking the time on a normal watch suddenly feels like an upgrade without having to wait for the screen to turn on- it's just there and a glance is enough. It looks much nicer and feels more emotional, but that could be down to the fact that I am a watch guy so it's not important.
I am starting to wonder if we are already more than connected enough that a smart watch, in its current iteration, does not offer enough to make people switch. When they can truly do practical things that are beneficial, maybe the market will grow exponentially and even start to take the place of a phone.
Until that time, however, I see the Apple Watch as a curiosity, an example of what can be done in a tiny space and nothing more.
I don't think I have changed my mind so much on a mobile product in all of the years I have been writing about phones, tablets and the like, and to this day I am still somewhat perplexed by the Apple Watch.
It's been a bit of a battle and one that at times has been quite frustrating, but the need to write about it in detail for a freelance project has opened my eyes to much of what it can do, and the intentions behind why it does things in a certain way. I am going to cover each part of the Apple Watch experience in turn and at the end try to explain what all of that adds up to which is much harder than it may sound because so much of this is completely new.
I shall look at the competition first which in some ways is not important at all because of the very limited success they have had to date. Android Wear has been a bit of flop in terms of sales numbers and quality. I have used the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R and came away most unimpressed. With a clunky interface which is only suited to a square watch face and even clunkier handling of many of the functions, it screams version 1.0 all of the way through and is likely to change dramatically in the near future. Too many features have been added to the watch and in too many areas it mimics the Android experience far too closely. A clone on your wrist which does exactly what your phone does, only not so well, is little more than a gimmick.
I have also owned 3 Pebbles to date and feel that the software is far too one-sided to be of genuine use. It alerts you to the alerts that are already alerting you about 2 feet away and has the ability to run a selection of rather simplistic apps. The basic Pebble is a travesty of watch design, but the Steel has some merit in terms of aesthetics. However, from what I have already experienced with the Apple Watch, the Pebble platform is way behind in terms of functionality, usefulness and considered usability. Not one of my Pebbles lasted for more than 2 weeks because after a while I simply could not see enough benefits to make me wear something like this on my wrist.
So, the competition is not great at this time and there are a few reasons for that. Google rushed Android Wear just to get in early and does not appear to have considered how it actually works. Pebble has good motives and a clear path, but it feels a little like Palm OS did when the iPhone got real apps. The differences are stark and the Pebble solution appears to have aged in my mind by 5 years in the 1 week I have been using the Apple Watch.
"We take our passion for innovation beyond our products and into our practices. As part of our continuing mission to leave the world better than we found it, we’re partnering with The Conservation Fund to protect and create the type of forests we use in our packaging. We’ve developed a renewable micro‑hydro project to power our data centre in Prineville, Oregon. And we’re building a solar farm in China to offset energy used by our offices and retail stores. Because it’s our responsibility to make sure that while creating beautiful products, we’re also caring for our beautiful planet."
I will leave that quote from Apple and the photo of the Apple Watch packaging there for your consideration.
This leads me on nicely to how Apple is marketing and selling the Apple Watch, a process that has never sat comfortably with me. This is a small computer that just happens to be attached to your wrist- a selection of wires, a processor, a battery and whatever else is needed to make it work. The understated design of Apple products has always appealed to millions of people and the hyperbole can be largely accepted because it appears to feel genuine and the products back up the talk.
The Apple Watch, however, does not feel particularly luxurious to me and in many ways scream plastic all of the way through. On my wrist, it does not stand out and more importantly, it does not feel unique or worthy of the price tag. My iPhone does, my iMac does, my Apple Watch does not.
I had a look at the Watch (stainless edition) edition in store and it offers a completely different feel. The casing is lovely to touch and to look at, but at £519 it has an unjustifiable price tag for what it is. Maybe it is my fascination with real watches that causes this, but I have to say that the design feels lazy to me. It would indeed be lazy of me to suggest that it looks like a small iPhone, but it kind of does.
I love most of my Apple products, but have always felt uneasy with the marketing and the Watch has exacerbated those feelings a lot over the past few weeks. To me, it just doesn't tick the boxes of luxury and no amount of gold plating or fancy boxes will change that. Apple is a company that puts the best products in the hands of everyone, millionaires will use a £600 iPhone, but this departure into creating a sense of luxury from nothing does not quite fit.
Bands / accessories
I won't say much about these. The charger is nice and sits besides my bed waiting for me to drop the watch onto it. The bands are too expensive for what they are and bear no relation to the real world. I have a 'thing' for watch straps which sits nicely alongside my 'thing' for watches and I know what is out there. The Sport Band is actually rather smart (in black) and very comfortable. The Milanese Loop is very impressive, but feels expensive at £129. The Classic Buckle is wildly overpriced at £129 and the Modern Buckle (£209) and Link Bracelet (£379) speak for themselves. Finally, the Leather Loop just doesn't feel like leather and offered no feeling of quality when I tried it on, and at £129 is also very expensive.
The fact that Apple has made the bands proprietary is bad enough, but to limit the selection to only a few expensive straps is even worse and this takes me straight back to how the watch is being marketed. If I spend £80 on a handmade leather strap for my watch, I am buying craftsmanship, longevity and the knowledge that a human was involved in its creation. If I spend £129 on a leather strap from Apple, which doesn't even feel like leather, I am left cold.
The good news is that Apple has just announced 'made for Apple Watch' which should greatly increase the availability of cheaper bands, but I would be happy to use a traditional 22mm pin and swap whatever band I want each day. That feature was never broke and the Apple Watch set up is not a fix.
I haven't dropped below 30% so far no matter how much I use the watch and so have been pleasantly surprised by how well it lasts. The nightly charge has not proved to be too much of a bind and for the first time ever, I am happy with battery performance on an Apple product.
I still strap on another watch at night, but for someone like me changing watches during the day is not a new thing. My main concern before purchasing was the battery and it has turned out to be invisible in daily use which is exactly what any watch should be like.
So, what is it like?
All of the above is fluff because it is all objective, but how the Apple Watch actually works and what benefits it offers is crucial.
The way Apple Watch works is quite risky in terms of how people will feel about it in the initial stages. Apple has chosen to make the integration with the iPhone more than just a one-way process and more than merely mimicking the notifications on both devices. If you are using the iPhone actively, you will not receive a notification on your watch which makes perfect sense when you think about it. You can answer text messages using emojis or dictation and for many tasks, only the watch is needed. Calendar alerts, fitness notifications and so many other features work very well on the watch thus enabling you to not pick up your iPhone and turn on the screen. This system is not overly ambitious and it is obvious that much more can be done in the future, but at this time it does offer a sense of potential.
The risk in making a system that only notifies you when you are not using your iPhone is that you can go for long periods without using it. This then leads to a sense that it doesn't do a lot and could make the user question the purchase price further, but the reality is that this is likely the best way to work. If you think of it as a watch above all else, but one which also does some clever things on top you will appreciate what it can do.
The ability to receive calls on it and hold a conversation is a novelty and one which has surprisingly come in handy a few times for me so far. Checking the weather is useful as is Passbook, which brought out a confused stare at the cinema when I used it, and of course the Apple TV remote is there. Never again will I have to use a device that is not strapped to me to control the TV.
The fitness tracking is pretty impressive as well and a lot of information is presented on the associated iPhone app. It feels invisible because it is part of a watch and is probably the best I have used to date apart from the lack of sleep tracking. Throw in the controlling of music and offline playback to Bluetooth headphones and it all comes together bit by bit to make your day just a little better. The small things that the Apple Watch can do are on the whole worked out well and I have found myself starting to rely on them.
Third party apps
Seriously, I do not have one installed because they take forever to load and most have been programmed with an obvious lack of knowledge of what the watch is all about. The second point is down to Apple not having been able to give hardware access to developers in good time, but then again so is the first point. I understand why there is a delay and the way the information is handed off, but it is not a system that is working at this time because it goes against the whole idea of the watch. By the time the information loads, you may as well have picked up your iPhone.
From what I have heard, a handful of apps are genuinely useful (Uber is an example), but until apps are stored on the watch, I cannot see too many benefits.
Many question remain unanswered by the Apple Watch.
Is it the best smart watch to date? Yes, absolutely.
Is the idea of a smart watch fatally flawed? I still don't know.
Does the Apple Watch offer benefits over the iPhone that make it a must-have product? At times it feels like it does and the integration with the phone does make it feel like that are working in tandem very well. It also feels like the iPhone is more useful because of the watch, but I am still going through phases where one day I love it and the next I don't even wear it.
I feel that Apple has created a clever platform that integrates well with the iPhone and one that works more naturally and less invasively than Android Wear or Pebble OS, but I remain unconvinced that the design of the watch is anything special. There is no sense of wearing a special object, but every now and then it does something that makes me truly appreciate that it is there.
The success of the Apple Watch will be defined by what people think after 1 or 2 months of use and that is the boat I am in. It is not a product that can be assessed in a week of use, but it is one that will likely have to improve and which will require us all to understand what it offers over time.
I will come back to this subject in a month and we will see if it is still on my wrist or if it follows the short term route carved by Pebble and Google.
One thing that really irks me about the Apple Watch is the insane pricing of the straps and more importantly the fact that Apple has created a proprietary mechanism to attach them to the watch. With prices ranging from £39 for the Sport Band to £379 for the Link Bracelet, these are far from cheap. In between you have the Modern Buckle for £209 and the Leather Loop for £129.
This pricing is ridiculous and especially so when you see what quality of strap you can get for £80 elsewhere. The bigger problem with the Apple Watch at this time, however, is that you have to buy what Apple offers which is especially annoying considering I ended up with a bright green strap as it was an emergency freelance purchase.
Initially I bought a Baseus Leather Bracelet Watch Band for less than £10 which is not technically supposed to fit the Apple Watch Sport, but with the addition of a thicker than average pin it actually works quite well. I should stress that this is not, however, a completely secure solution.
My next solution was to spend £7.49 on the product below (from Hobbycraft) which has proved to work much better than I expected.
We don't actually know what the Sport Band is made of yet, but a copious covering of Plastikote worked a miracle and within an hour it was dry.
I covered every part of the front and sides, and the finish is black matt which works extremely well on this band. I had some concerns about spraying the latching mechanism, but it fits perfectly and with no loss of paint at all, or residue left on the watch itself.
I left the inside green as this is the part which will make the most contact with my skin and you would never realise that it was ever that colour before when it is worn.
So there you go- spend £7.49 and you can change the colour of your strap to any that you like. There are many paint colours available from silver to red to crazy combinations which will give you the change to be truly unique. Apple's ironic idea of unique is to purchase one of its expensive straps and to look like thousands of other people.
I have been experiencing a strange problem on my iMac for the past couple of weeks which has caused it to become almost unusable. For the work I do, I am constantly saving files and moving them between folders and Dropbox, but Finder has become unbearably slow with opening a small folder taking upwards of 30 seconds.
It all came to a point yesterday when I transferred 4 folders to Dropbox and only 2 arrived. The warning message that the other 2 folders did not exist sent a shiver through me because each folder represented approximately 3 hours of work.
Having tried every bit of advice I have read on the internet over the past two weeks, I panicked and started to look at Finder replacements. My presumption was that the hard drive was starting to wear out after 3.5 years of continual usage, but I decided to try a Finder replacement anyway to see if it would help.
The first one I found was Path Finder 7 which retails for $39.95. I noticed some free options, but decided to give this a try as the feature list looked long and extremely useful. Two days later and my Mac is working perfectly again, but I now have a myriad of features available to me that are extremely beneficial and which have completely changed the way I work.
I hadn't realised just how much I use Finder until now and the end result is folders that can be coloured the whole way through, not just silly dots that mean nothing, dual pane viewing of folders, incredible speed and an interface which feels very familiar, but a touch more intuitive than Finder to me.
It may be that there is a serious problem with my Mac, but I will happily put down $40 for a solution which should breathe a little more life into my ageing workhorse. I find it strange that I am now barely using any official Apple app and even Dropbox has started to dominate my online management of files, images etc.
Path Finder 7 is available here and comes highly recommended.
My son and I spent some time with the new MacBook today and I must say that we were both mightily impressed. The keyboard and trackpad are superbly engineered, but the casing, form and everything else comes together beautifully to create what appears to be the laptop of my dreams.
Obviously the lack of ports and underpowered specs would be a problem in the long terms, but aesthetically it is lovely and I can see many emotional purchases coming its way.
We also spent some time discussing the Apple Watch with one of the staff members and a lengthy discussion over why the straps were so expensive ended up with the comment "They just are..." and then he walked away in a most un-Apple like fashion. I will try to get my Apple Watch review up over the next few days, but it will be a lengthy one because there is so much to write about. Some good, some bad and some that I still can't quite understand...
For several years running, I had to call out a plumber every autumn; the central heating pump would quit shortly after I turned on the system. One year, I had a magnetic filter installed to catch the gunk that kept jamming the pump, but the next year it quit right on schedule. I called the plumber. He cleaned out the magnetic filter, restarted the system, and sent me a bill.
The next year, the annual breakdown of the pump coincided with a warm spell, so I did nothing for a week. One day, while I was staring into space, it occurred to me that YouTube might hold the answer to my problem... More at The Guardian.
I have used YouTube for countless DIY tasks at home and always go there first when a problem occurs. How about you?
I was in a coffee shop at the weekend and the above song was playing in the background. One Shazam and a purchase from iTunes later and the album was mine in seconds. Such a sweet song.
I don't think I have ever felt so conflicted by a new mobile product as the Apple Watch, but I suspect that I will have a lot to write about over the next week. Comparing it to the Pebble and a traditional watch is easy, but understanding what benefits it offers may be somewhat trickier.
"CUPERTINO, California—April 27, 2015—Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2015 second quarter ended March 28, 2015. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $58 billion and quarterly net profit of $13.6 billion, or $2.33 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, or $1.66 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 40.8 percent compared to 39.3 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 69 percent of the quarter’s revenue.
Apple is providing the following guidance for its fiscal 2015 third quarter:
revenue between $46 billion and $48 billion
gross margin between 38.5 percent and 39.5 percent
operating expenses between $5.65 billion and $5.75 billion
other income/(expense) of $350 million
tax rate of 26.3 percent"
How long can this go on for? Astonishing numbers...
My quite ridiculous watch experiment above turned out to be kind of practical, but ultimately looked amazingly silly. However, the idea of a traditional watch with some smart functions around the band has some merit and so the Kairos T-Band suddenly makes a lot more sense than before because it may ease the way for some into the world of smart watches.
I now have an Apple Watch arriving on Wednesday so it will be interesting to see what the experience is like. Part of me is expecting to hate the interruptions and the attention it draws from people, but another part of me is curious as to how well it deals with outgoing messages etc. For me, the Pebble feels far too much like a one-way device, at least on an iPhone, to be useful.