A Week Without My Apple Watch

I’ve had my Series 2 Apple Watch for nearly a year. I ordered it the minute that the preorders went live, and it has worked flawlessly ever since. However, my Watch recently developed a bright pixel. If the display was on, no matter its brightness, this blue pixel was stuck on full brightness. It wasn’t a big deal during the day, but was glaringly obvious at night – especially when I was using the Numerals watch face. So I took it to the Apple Store to see what they could do. After all, it is still covered by Apple Care, and I didn’t spend $500+ for something that’s defective. Unfortunately, I was told that Apple Stores aren’t equipped to handle Watch repairs, and that my Watch would need to be shipped back to Apple for them to attempt to fix it. This meant that I would be without my Watch for about a week. Not a big deal, right? Well, I am now 6 days without my Watch, and this has made me realize just much I actually use it.

A typical day for me starts and ends with my Watch. I have a dock that charges it in nightstand mode overnight, and all it takes is a gentle tap anywhere on the Watch to light up the display to show me the time. Then when the alarm goes off, it’s time to get up.

First thing in the morning is workout time, and Apple Watch makes it so easy to start and track my workouts. I usually do either an elliptical workout or a strength training workout, and all I have to do is remember to start and stop the workout on my Watch. It automatically captures the duration of my workout, and uses the heart rate monitor to help calculate the total calories burned. I don’t have to go into an app afterwards to record my data. It automatically syncs to the Activity app, and I’m all set.

(Speaking of Activity, something has to be said about the motivating factor of filling up those Activity rings. I usually have one of the Activity watch faces for most of the day, to make sure that I keep pushing to fill the rings. I’ve had days where it looked like I might not complete my Move ring, but a quick walk after dinner was enough to get the job done. A little more activity that wouldn’t have typically been done is always a good thing! As if seeing my rings fill up isn’t motivation enough, there is even more reason to do it when you consider the weekly and monthly badges that are available. Especially as I approach the end of the month, and I’m already working on a perfect month of filling the rings everyday, there’s no way I can not try my hardest to fill the rings on those final days! Those Activity rings are a simple and amazingly powerful way of getting me up and keeping me going! Without my Watch, it has been more difficult to stay motivated to do my workouts everyday. Obviously, I’ve worked out for years without my Watch, but nonetheless I’ve come to appreciate the simplification that it has brought to my routines. Now, I have to manually add my workouts to my Health app, which means I have to note times and calories burned off of the machine, or just estimate them. Having a heart rate monitor built in to the Watch makes these numbers way more accurate. However, much to my dismay, I discovered that adding workouts manually to the Health app doesn’t contribute to the filling of my rings. I investigated and determined that only the Apple Watch is capable of adding data to the rings. Unfortunately, this means that I will miss out on two Perfect Month badges, as I shipped out my phone on August 29, and it’s now into September.)

After my morning workout, it’s time to get ready for work. Frequently, I set a reminder to go off at some point before I leave the house. “Remember to take such and such to work”, for example. I’d always miss these reminders when they used to go to my iPhone, but now with a quick tap on my wrist by my Watch, I never miss them!

These quiet taps for Notifications are indispensable throughout the day as well. I have several that go off periodically: reminders to log my caffeine, to log my meals in MyFitnessPal, to do something on my Things list, stand notifications for my Activity ring, activity notifications for my social apps, email and messages notifications, game notifications. The convenience of having these delivered to my Watch, viewable at a glance rather than having to pull out my iPhone and potentially be a disturbance, is greatly missed while my Watch is in the shop!

Similarly, being able to view incoming messages from my Watch, with the ability to quickly tapback a response or dictate something more fully, is amazing. This is even better when the message contains a photo! Viewing a shared photo on your Watch truly is like we’re living in the future!

Back home in the evening, I use my Watch while preparing dinner. I frequently set a timer with Siri while I’m cooking, which has saved me from countless burned dinner or spoiled recipes. I can still do this hands-free with the Hey Siri function on my iPhone, but the convenience of it being right on my wrist means I can’t walk away from it and forget about it.

The music playback controls are super convenient as well, as I don’t have to use my iPhone to get some music playing. I can leave the phone on the table and control it from my Watch if it’s just me and I want something quiet. Or, if I’m having more of a gathering, I can use the Apple TV remote on my Watch to play some music through the stereo that everyone can enjoy.

Then finally, when it comes to the end of the night, I turn on my alarm for the morning and set the Watch on its charging stand,

Of course, there is one other, obvious thing that my Apple Watch does all day. It tells the time. I haven’t worn a watch for probably 20 years, having just gotten used to checking my iPhone. But now, I didn’t even realize how frequently I would raise my wrist to check the time until I have nothing to look at but a watch tan!

None of these small conveniences are critical. I can set alarms or get notifications on my iPhone, just like I did for years before getting my Watch. After getting used to all of these things, and now going back to how I was before while my Watch gets repaired, it is eye-opening to how important this little device has become to me.

iPad Air 3 featuring 3D Multitouch and Apple Pencil Compatibility – My Prediction!

Coming up on the end of 2015, it’s a good time to look back at all of the latest Apple gadgets released this year. Some of the technologies released across several products were groundbreaking and enabling, but what wasn’t released also tells a story and likely predicts what is to come.

The Apple Watch was released in the Spring of 2015, and by most measures, has been a tremendous success. Whether it is used as a watch, a notification system, or a fitness tracker, it has found widespread appeal. One of the most interesting and key technologies that it introduced was Force Touch. This enables the device to sense the amount of pressure with which you touch its screen, thereby opening up a whole new branch of interactions for shortcuts and settings.

Similarly, the iPhone 6S was released this Fall with an updated version of Force Touch, rebranded as 3D Touch. This allows shortcuts into app functions directly from the home screen by touching the app icon with pressure to open up a brand new menu. Other implementations of 3D Touch include pressing with force on the left side of the screen and dragging right, which opens the multitasking screen, or force touching on a link or photo to open a preview that just hovers over what you are doing. It’s a remarkable technology right now, and can only get better in the generations to come.

Following the release of the iPhone 6S, Apple came out with this year’s iPad. However, it was not an iPad Air 3, as many had expected (though given how powerful the iPad Air 2 is, it’s not surprising that they didn’t advance this quite yet), but rather it was the long-rumoured iPad Pro. While the obvious attraction of this iPad is its sheer size, under the hood is a remarkable feature that gives the Apple Pencil its power. The iPad Pro has a scanning system that tracks the position of the Pencil 240 times per second, twice the rate at which it senses your fingertip, allowing you to draw with virtually no lag between the touch of the Pencil and displaying the line. It is like you are drawing on paper with ink. And it is because of this scanning system, or lack of it, that the Pencil is not compatible with any other previous version of the iPad.

On the software side, iOS 9 was released, and one of its key features is Split Screen on the iPad Air 2. This allows compatible apps to run in a reduced-size mode on only part of the screen, but share the screen with a second app, so that you end up with Safari on the left and Notes on the right, or some other combination to enhance your productivity. This is a fantastic feature, and is only available on the iPad Air 2 because of the sheer power that it is capable of producing. What is obviously missing from this implementation of Split Screen is the ability to drag and drop from one app to the other.

And this is where I wrap all of this together into my prediction for next year.

The iPad Air 3 was not introduced because it is going to include bits and pieces from all of the releases this year. The high scanning rate that enables Apple Pencil is built into the iPad Pro, but not any other devices. Since I think that the iPad Air has always been a wonderful device for drawing, I have a hard time seeing Apple limit the use of Pencil to only the iPad Pro, so I think this enhanced scanning rate is destined for a future iPad Air as well. Similarly, the Apple Watch and iPhone 6S introduced us to Force / 3D Touch, but the force sensitive display was not included in the iPads (Pro or Mini) released this year, but given the enriched workflows that this enables, I think that is likely to appear in a future iPad as well. Furthermore, I believe that by this time next year, the next iPhone or Watch will have been introduced with an upgraded version of 3D Touch that support multi-finger force touch, or “3D Multitouch.” I think it will be this version of Force Touch that make the leap to the iPad, and I think it will be this ability that enables the drag and drop between apps in Split Screen. As it is now, touching on something selects it, 3D Touching is a shortcut to a Preview window, but I predict a 3D Multitouch will be the key to actually “pick up” something and move it as in drag and drop functionality.

So, in my opinion, here are the key features that the iPad Air 3 is going to include next year: 240 Hz scanning system to enable Apple Pencil compatibility, and 3D Multitouch to enable drag and drop and other pressure sensitive applications. Since these are new technologies this year, they have been slowly released and are not in use across all the lines, as with the Retina Display. Without those, there wasn’t anything sufficiently interesting to include in a new iPad Air this year. So, next year, count on these techs to mature and come together in the iPad Air 3.

I’m saving my money for one already!

iwatch concept

My Comments on the Apple iWatch Rumour

Over the last few weeks, the rumour mill has been heating up about Apple products again.  At this time last year, the Next Big Thing was the mythical Apple television set – or at least a revamped Apple TV set-top box that had the blessings of cable companies and had access to their content – which to this day is still nothing but a rumour.  People are still predicting this to be revealed to the public in the next year or so, but until something happens, that’s old news.  Essentially the same predicted hardware and functionality, that while great, is just the same repeated rumour over and over again.  Since the public’s appetite for all things Apple must be fed, the latest rumour to pick up steam is based on a wearable computing device, in the form of a so-called iWatch.

iwatch conceptWearable tech has been called the next leap forward in technology, but it has been around for years in various devices.  However, many feel that it is on the cusp of going mainstream.  Fitness technophiles will be the first to point out the usefulness of their Nike Fuelband, Jawbone Up, and Fitbit One.  These devices simply clip on to your clothing or wrap around your wrist, and then go about their business tracking your movement and reporting the analytics back to you in meaningful ways.  Not to sit idly by, Google, the masters of categorizing and presenting relevant data to you, have an ongoing limited public trial of their version of wearable tech, in the form of Google Glass.  This pair of glasses has a small built in camera and computer that interprets what you’re looking at and serves up data to you as you need it (such as reminders, or map directions, or contact info), displayed directly on to the lens of the glasses.  This has the potential to be a game-changer.  However, in my opinion, there are a few problems with this: it’s not discrete enough (nor stylish enough to go mainstream), and having a camera always on has inherent security risks.  This is why I think an Apple watch has the potential to be a hit.  It could be as subtle as a wristwatch, fashionable, and be much safer.

In terms of hardware, we can expect it to have the usual Apple elegance and lust factor.  One can imagine that it would naturally have a Retina-grade touchscreen to make everything it displays gorgeous.  Function-wise, you can’t have a Retina display turned on all of the time without it being a massive battery drain.  Maybe they would opt for the lower resolution display with a pixel density comparable to the iPad mini or pre-Retina devices, but that would still need a lot of juice.  Forgive my admitted ignorance of feasible screen tech, but I think it would be cool if the watch displayed an e-ink or LCD-like clock when at rest, and when activated, the Retina screen would overlay on top of this.  That kind of technology would be perfect for a watch, as it would conserve power when not in use, and only when required would the brilliant display kick in and start to drain the battery.  Of course, this watch isn’t going to have the incredible number of pixels found in an iPad, so there is no reason to think that it would require the horsepower of an A5 or A6 chip to run it, nor would it need large amounts of RAM.  Also, today’s battery tech would need to be improved in order to get a mandatory multi-day charge for the device, as consumers aren’t going to want yet another device they have to remember to charge every night when they go to sleep.  (For comparison, my Fitbit One gets nearly 7 days on a charge – though this has a minimal display, it is tracking movement 24 hours a day.)  I can see some modest amount of memory, alongside a new or potentially die-shrunk chip and relatively minuscule battery, all of which would have to be precision-fitted into a space that would fit on your wrist.  If they were to continue their reliance on Corning’s glass tech, it could utilize the new version of Gorilla Glass (I know I’ve nicked and scraped my old watches countless times!).  Alternately, one of the hotter developments at Corning is Willow Glass, a new kind of bendable glass that can be wrapped.  A wrappable glass could be used very well to form to the contour of a wrist much more nicely than a flat piece, which would be especially useful for smaller wrists.  A minimal bezel could surround this glass, with a Home/Wake button located on the edge to maximize the screen size – a departure from the usual iPhone/iPad/iPod touch design, though more akin to the previous generation square iPod nano (which itself was widely used as a watch with aftermarket watch bands).  One could imagine the body to made of brushed aluminum with the highly polished chamfered edges found on iPhone 5, though with reports of iPhones being easily gouged on edges, this may not be a good place for this design.  An intriguing idea would be to make the body or backing out of Liquid Metal, which has yet to make a meaningful appearance in any Apple product since it was purchased a few years ago.  A biometric sensor would likely be included for security and applications, potentially built into the underside like an optical heart rate monitor, along with low-power Bluetooth to facilitate connections with other Apple devices, rather than a Lightning connector.  Unless the watch had onboard storage for photos and music, which I highly doubt, I don’t see a need for a Lightning connection – all communications could happen over Bluetooth.  An accelerometer and gyroscope would likely be included, as well as a microphone, though I don’t think that a speaker would be necessary.

About the style of the watch, it would need to have an easily adjustable band of some sort.  I have a hard time seeing Apple incorporate a leather strap with holes in it, though that would be more acceptable than a traditional metal clasp band which requires you to go to the watch shop (Apple Store?) to have links removed.  The adjustability of this watch has to be simple and elegant, with some kind of proprietary locking mechanism, likely.  Having not tried a Jawbone Up, I would think that a wrappable lock-less design such as that would be less than ideal from a security standpoint – it could potentially be easily grabbed and pulled off.  Perhaps something like the Nike Fuelband might be more appropriate, where the band itself is a preset size, and for wider wrists, extension “links” can be inserted to fit better – another place for a proprietary Apple connection!  In terms of colour, you can easily predict that the watch face would have a black or white bezel, potentially extending to the band itself as well.

Now that we have an idea of what this Apple watch might look like, the next obvious question is “what will it do?”  Of course, a watch has to tell the time, so it needs a clock app.  As I referred to earlier, an always-on clock would be nice, and if my dual-tech screen were to become a reality, this would look like a traditional (albeit with Apple style!) digital watch display most of the time.  Alternately, with a more typical Apple touchscreen display, one could image the face to look like a sleeping iPhone display when inactive, requiring a touch or a button press to wake it up and show the time.  In fact, this wake-up action could display the watch’s lock screen, showing the time, date, and some version of slide-to-unlock to do anything more.  With an integrated biometric sensor, there would be no need to password-protect the watch either, though I think that would always have to be an available option.  Through its Bluetooth connection to your iPhone, iPad, and Mac, these devices would likely be able to push any updates that would appear in Notification Center straight to your watch, including new emails, missed calls, calendar appointment reminders, etc.  Apple may open up development to third parties in the App Store, though any apps would obviously be very limited in what they could do.  Fitness apps would be an obvious suggestion, especially if they could tap into the biometric and motion sensors.  Other than that though, I don’t know how many apps would find a home on the small screen of a watch.

Incorporating Siri into the watch would be an intriguing inclusion, though I don’t necessarily agree with general opinion that this would be needed, for these reasons.  For starters, Siri only runs on post iPhone 4S devices, with reasons provided that it requires the power of their CPUs to process the natural language recognition.  I doubt a watch CPU is going to be powerful enough to do this, especially if it hopes to get good battery life.  Secondly, as it stands right now, Siri requires an Internet connection for the Apple servers to process your queries.  While that would work fine on home wifi networks, what about being out and about during the day, where you require 3G or LTE connections to cell phone carriers?  Are they going to start offering subsidized Apple watches now as part of their cellular plans?  I highly doubt it, and having a device that only works at home doesn’t seem very Apple-like.  Any type of network access would likely be provided via Bluetooth tethering to your other iDevices.  This leads to my final point, that if we consider the watch to be a peripheral accessory, it doesn’t need to RUN Siri.  Rather, it needs to make use of its connection to your devices, invoke Siri there, rely on its data connection, and then provide you with the results.  That way, your iPhone does the heavy lifting, and your watch essentially becomes equivalent to your Bluetooth car mic – a very fancy I/O device specifically for your Apple product.  I think this makes way more sense for a watch than including Siri as a native application, especially if you consider the alternative is a hit to the battery life between charges.

To conclude, I would like to comment on it’s potential name.  While everyone seems to assume that this device will actually be called iWatch if/when it is announced, I don’t know if I complete agree with this.  So far, Apple’s iDevices include iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iMac.  An iWatch would have to be a pretty big thing to rank up there with the big boys, rather than be considered as simply an accessory to them.  If we assume that it would have a much more limited functionality than any of these devices, I don’t think that it would be a stretch to think of it as an accessory.  If so, I could see it getting a more playful name (like EarPods) or functional name (like Retina Display).  My idea would be something like CuffLink – it explains where it’s worn, and says that it’s a link to your other devices.  Both playful and functional.  You heard it here first!