Microsoft Redefines Surface

Microsoft has redefined their Surface Pro line of devices

The big Microsoft hardware announcement was 2015-10-06. Everyone and their brother was anticipating the unveiling of the two new flagship Windows Mobile 10 devices (the 950 and the 950XL) as well as a Surface Pro 4. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think everyone got a little bit more than we initially thought we were going to get.

The flagship class phones were desperately needed. Microsoft hasn’t released a flagship classed phone in – literally – years. So both the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950-XL are very well received. Features that include the Continuum Dock, provide for a complete mobile to desktop experience. Something like that might work very well in an existing desktop, and would make it a lot easier to use existing equipment with your current notebook setup.

Honestly, I have doubts about how useful its going to be, given that the current computing paradigm hasn’t completely changed over to Mobile… at least not yet; and at least not in the enterprise (where this may have the best opportunity for success).

surface book

The Microsoft Surface Book (shown off in a video by Microsoft on YouTube, here) is a really neat ultrabook. Unlike the Surface Pro line of devices, the Surface Book is marketed as a laptop, and not a tablet. In fact, the tablet isn’t called a tablet, it’s called a “clip board.” It has touch and while the device will come away from its keyboard, its clearly NOT meant to be used as a slate device, without its keyboard (containing extra battery and discrete graphics adapter – at least in the higher end models) for an extended period of time. It only has three (3) hours of battery life as a clip board device.

The table above compares the Surface Book to both the MacBook Pro and the Dell XPS 13. The Dell is a decent computer; but it’s clearly outclassed by both the MacBook Pro and the Surface Book. The only REAL thing that it has going for it is affordability, due in large part to the premium price tags of both the MacBook Pro and the Surface Book.

There’s something to be said for that.

Build and component quality on the Dell may be far below the other two, but it IS approximately half the price of both, making it much more likely to end up in a work situation near you. The MacBook Pro is a premium laptop. Its components and build materials are high quality, and Macs have been known to last for seven to ten years – if well cared for – before having to be replaced due to breakage or parts simply wearing out. The Dell doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of having that happen. Its components are composites and plastics.

The build quality on the Surface Book may be on par with the MacBook Pro; but I haven’t really had a chance to put my hands on one, so I really don’t know for certain. However, there are serious issues when it comes to the Surface Book and its price point.

  1. Microsoft is NOT Apple
    Bluntly put, there’s no way this device is worth a maximum of $3,200 ($3462.92 after tax in Chicago, IL). Microsoft products don’t have the same level of build quality or longevity that Apple products do. Based on this point alone, the Surface Book is seen by many to be grossly overpriced.
  2. The Surface Book is a New Class of MS Device
    The main idea behind the Surface line of products was for Microsoft to show the capabilities of Surface, hoping that OEM’s would build similar features into their own products. While that’s morphed a bit with the release of Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 – they’re more finished products than Surface RT/2 and Surface Pro 1/ 2 – Surface Book is a 1.0 product. If it follows the same product strategy, then the Surface Book is grossly overpriced. No other Windows PC (that I’m thinking of/ aware of) is priced this high (and those that may be aren’t selling well or aren’t targeted at the consumer market).

Microsoft needs to reevaluate the price points around Surface Book before the device actually hits the streets. It could have a much bigger launch and a vastly more successful product line if the price point was cut in half. I’d certainly buy one at half the current price without thinking twice… However, at its current price point, Surface Book will never see the inside of my office.

My original intent with this article was to discuss both Surface Book and Surface Pro 4, however, Surface Pro 4 is really nothing more than an evolutionary update of Surface Pro 3. From what I’ve been able to see, while it gets a nice performance boost, it’s really a “meh” kind of update. Surface Book took all of Surface Pro 4’s thunder. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.

Microsoft did, however, produce a cool vide on the new product. You can see it, here.

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The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock is Coming!

It’s the realization of a three year old dream…

henge_horizontal_dock1-100024094-orig

Earlier this year I made mention to a new docking station that I had ordered for my 15″ MacBook Pro Retina. The docking station is the Hendocks Horizontal Dock and as I eluded to above, the organization is now shipping those docks to its Early Adopter Team.

You’ll notice that the ship date/ timeframe I refer to in that article was, at the time of publication, about five and a half months ago.

Yeah… about that.

Boy, it’s been a long time in coming; and there’s a lot of background information here that you – and likely most of the internet – didn’t have access to. Some of this I’m going to relate in this article, as its going to likely come up in the review. Some of it I won’t divulge, as there are confidences with the folks over at Henge Docks that I’d rather not break.

What I will say about all of that, up front – because it’s VERY important – the folks over at Henge Docks are totally awesome. They’ve been all over the many issues that were encountered in bringing this product to market like white on rice, from the very beginning.

A Brief Product Lifecycle Review
Now, this isn’t going to be completely factual, in large part because I’m doing this from memory; but the project (at least publicly) kicked off in the 2011 time frame. I, and a number of MacBook Pro users who were looking for a docking station for their Macs had limited choices. There were one or two Thunderbolt docks available during 2012, but they were REALLY expensive and definitely NOT the form factor I was looking for. Much of what was available were things like the Belkin Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock or the Startech Thunderbolt Dock .

I hate any docking station that works like these.

These things look like meta bricks with a shoelace sticking out of them. With these, I have to plug a cable into my computer. I’d rather attach my PC to a stationary dock. Unfortunately, (until now) nothing like that was available.

When I heard about the Horizontal Dock from Henge Docks, I jumped on early. There wasn’t much on the site at the time, and honestly over the next year or so (into late 2012 and early 2013), you couldn’t do much more other than sign up for an email list that got you on an internal pre-order list.

I honestly think I signed up like three times… That was partially due to the fact that so little information was available on the product, and there were large gaps of time in between the times that I checked.

During this time, there were many milestone and availability dates that came and went with little to no reported progress. In fact, looking back at it all, (and I’m certain I’ll say this more than once here) this has really been a 4-5 YEAR journey from the point of dock announcement to dock shipping and receipt.

However, in late 2014, we were told that orders would open up in early to mid-January 2014. At this point, you had a choice. Henge Docks announced their Early Adopters program.

With the Early Adopters program, users could, for an additional fee of $50, join the program. The Early Adopter program got you the Dock at least three months before everyone else and also got you access to pre-release versions of the Dock’s firmware as well as its desktop control app. The Dock would also have a limited edition, customized base plate identifying it as an Early Adopter unit, and (I think) would be numbered.

I ordered my Dock on 2015-01-14. Early Adopter units were scheduled to ship in March of 2015, with GA units (general availability) shipping in June. Both of those milestone dates came and went. The date for Early Adopter units was pushed to May, then July, and then (I think) August. All of those dates came and went as well.

At that point, I had already started a very frank dialog with Henge Docks’ CEO, Matt Vroom.

Matt… is an awesome guy. He was frank, open and as transparent as he possibly could be. Henge Docks had opened their Early Adopter Portal and at the time, it echoed in there. There was little to NO participation there; and honestly, in retrospect, it’s not surprising.

The Portal was designed to be a gathering place for Early Adopters to share views, usage, insight, suggestions, etc., about the Horizontal Dock. With the Dock behind schedule, there was no need for any activity about the dock.

Where We are Today
However, without laboring too much on the issues and problems surrounding engineering, manufacturing and dock certifications (and believe me, there were challenges at nearly every step of the Dock’s journey, I instead want to fast forward to where we are today.

My Horizontal Dock is on a truck and should be delivered to me today (2015-10-20)!

This is a huge deal, as it is the culmination of a three year journey. After at least two trips to China, at least one year of brainstorming and preliminary design, and three years of engineering, design, reengineering and redesign, vendor selection and management, tooling, manufacturing, inspections, software design, coding, testing and finally product certifications with both Apple AND Intel, my Dock will be arriving today.

I will having an unboxing video shot this evening. I’ve also got a call scheduled with Matt Vroom and another executive at Henge Docks scheduled for Wednesday evening 2015-10-21. I’ll have write ups on both out as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I have to go and hit the tracking number on my shipping email again and look at the words, “on truck for delivery today,” again.

Are docking stations a big deal to anyone anymore? Do you really need one for your Mac or PC? Is the classic office setup – wired keyboard, wired or wireless mouse, wired LAN connection, wired speakers, and a full sized, desktop monitor (or two) obsolete? Is everything going wireless? Does the traditional office setup make sense to anyone, or has that gone the way of the local coffee shop?

Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and tell me about your computing set up and whether or not you use a docking station of any type?

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IPhone 6s Plus Unboxing

Let’s take a look at the new iPhone 6s

This is the new iPhone 6s Plus. The device comes in four color choices, Silver, Gold, Space Gray and Rose Gold. You have a choice of 16GB, 64GB or 128GB of on-board storage space. The 6s Plus, like the 6 Plus, has a 5.5″ LED-backlit widescreen display with 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution at 401 ppi, and a 1300:1 contrast ratio.

The new rear camera packs 12MP into its new sensor and features the same five element, f/2.2 aperture lens under its sapphire crystal lens cover. The biggest camera-based advantage in the 6s Plus vs. the 6s is the inclusion of OIS (optical image stabilization), that helps keep picture motion to a minimum while you take stills and more importantly, video. Since this is the camera that you have with you all day, every day, this is a huge addition and a clear advantage if you can live with the larger screen size.

The iPhone 6s/6s Plus also include 3D Touch. 3D Touch is an entirely new way to interact with your iPhone. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus can sense how much pressure you apply to the display. Based on the amount of pressure you apply, the phone assigns different system events to that pressure. You get all of the familiar multi-touch gestures that your used to like tap, swipe, pinch, etc.; but now, you also get Peek and Pop.

3D Touch completely changes the way you interact with your iPhone. It completely changes the entire iOS user interface. I’ll have a great deal more on this in the review that I will be publishing on the iPhone 6s Plus later in the Month of October. I will also have some information on it in the first impressions document that I’m currently compiling that will compare, to an extent, the iPhone 6 hardware to the iPhone 6s Plus hardware (excluding the size difference, of course).

Did you get a new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus? How did you purchase it – via the Apple Upgrade Program, from your Carrier, or from Apple, but via a carrier upgrade? Did you purchase it new or as an upgrade?

What are you most interested in with the iPhone 6s/ iPhone 6s Plus? Is it the camera, 3D Touch, the improved specs and performance, a combination of these or other features? Meet me in the discussion area below, and let me know what’s got you interested in the latest flagship smartphone from Apple.

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Rose Gold is apparently the Next Big Thing

Well… that’s what the stats from Apple preorders seem to state…

The iPhone 6s is supposed to be another huge hit for the iDevice maker. This latest iteration of Apple’s flagship smartphone is estimated to have sold between five and ten million units – and perhaps as high as thirteen million – during its opening weekend of availability. However, of those, nearly 40% are said to be of the rose gold variety.

rose_gold

(Mine – or rather, I should say, my wife’s YELLOW gold iPhone 6s Plus – arrived on Friday 2015-09-25, and I have an unboxing video with iPhone 6 comparison, that is currently in editing. Look for it to post on Soft32 in a few days.)

Supply chain sources who spoke with analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, the rose gold iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have been very popular, accounting for nearly 40% of all “tock” iDevice preorders. Most of the rose gold devices are said to come from Foxconn, who apparently is the only casing supplier who can satisfy the needed volume for this production version.
As far as what may be production manufacturing issues, aside from rose gold casing, items that may constrain the supply chain include the newest taptic engine (to support 3D Touch) and the new backlight module (to support the selfie flash on the front facing camera). Apple is expecting the 6s series of devices to track to record setting sales at launch.

This is largely expected due to day one availability in China, where many rose gold devices (gold is considered to be a huge status symbol in China, and the new rose gold case color will likely be seen as elite…) will likely be sold. Apple investors expect that including China in Apple’s launch day sales will likely set new sales records.

Last year, the availability of the iPhone 6 Plus as well as the yellow gold case, helped send iPhone sales through the roof. Both of these new features made the 6 Plus very difficult to get, despite the fact that – at least here in the States – phablets haven’t caught on as much as they have in both Europe and Asia. This year, I would expect the 6s Plus to outsell the 6s. There are a number of advantages to the larger screened device, including optical image stabilization in the new and improved 12MP rear facing camera. I know many people who are upgrading from the iPhone 5/5s/5c or even the iPhone 6 have seen the 6 Plus and are curious about how the larger device – with its larger screen and larger battery – may (or may not) fit into their lives.

Are you getting an iPhone 6s? Is rose gold a thing for you? Are you interested in that color casing? Are you interested in the iPhone 6s Plus? Will the camera improvements and the larger screen make it a choice for you this year? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and tell me why or why not?

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The Biggest Thing Missing in the iPhone 6S

Well, that’s a bit of a misnomer… Honestly, its missing on every new mobile device you buy.

iphone-6s-rose-gold-vs-nexus-5-20154

Working with mobile devices as long as I have, you get to learn a few things about how things really should go. I’ve been writing for a long time, and honestly, I’ve reviewed a great many different mobile handsets. Some of them have been PocketPC’s/ Windows Mobile devices. Some of them have been Palm devices. I’ve also reviewed Android, Blackberry, and of course iPhones.

In fact, I’ll be doing an unboxing of the iPhone 6s Plus as well as writing a first impressions document on it based on my wife’s personal interaction as well as my own when it arrives for her on 2015-09-25.

Funny thing there – I ordered my wife’s iPhone 6s Plus on Saturday 2015-09-12 at approximately 11:30am, well after the early rush after the Store opened online at 12:01am PDT. My initial ship WINDOW was between 2015-10-06 and 2015-10-26. As of Wednesday 2015-09-23, I was still looking at waiting about another two to four weeks before the device shipped. Surprise, surprise… I got a note from AT&T this morning indicating that it would arrive on iPhone 6s Day, 2015-09-25. (I got her the standard yellow gold tone model, by the way.

So now, the point of this column is even more spot on. The iPhone 6s – and every other new mobile device – is missing a huge, HUGE “thing.”

A “How to use all the new hardware and OS features” document.

Now, I know I probably lost a few of you there, and you’re likely looking to jet… but stick around for a sec. You’ve come this far. Its not gonna hurt you to see it all the way through at this point….

There are a lot of new features in iOS 9.x, some of which you get with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. However, a lot of them you DON’T get unless you get an iPhone 6s/ 6s Plus. However, without knowing what ALL of the new hardware is, AND without knowing what all of the new features are, AND without knowing what requires what AND how to use them, you’re kinda left to figure it out yourself.

Some people rise to the occasion and figure it out. However, most people, don’t even know where to start and a lot of what makes a new device new and great, gets ignored.

It’s a shame, too.

Most people will get their new iPhones and fumble around with the new hardware and with iOS 9, and try to work it out; but they won’t get it all. They’ll get some of it. They may even look to the web and find something about what they’re interested in, but they may not find it all.

How can this be rectified? Its fairly easy, really; but then again, it requires that people actually use the tools that may be provided to them. Apple… Google… Microsoft… and every other hardware manufacturer that modifies or enhances a mobile operating system can provide a startup sequence or other getting started app or setup process that shows you the new stuff and is required to be reviewed before the device can be used.

Apple does something like this already, but all it does it configure the device. It doesn’t review the latest features and how to use them. It just runs through the required configuration settings. If however, it peppered new feature tutorials in between the configuration settings, it could inform as well as configure. That would be one of the best ways to resolve this problem.

However, I’m not certain that something like that is ever going to happen. If it was likely, it would have happened already. This isn’t rocket science…

I’ve got an iPhone 6s Plus in the house. It arrived on 2015-09-25 – iPhone 6s Day – and I plan on building some how to’s and some fact finding articles on how to use some of its new hardware features and those of iOS 9.

So I invite you to do me a favor and stick around, close to Soft32 and give me a hand. Let me know what you’d like to see and hear about with the new feautres of iOS 9.x. Let me know what you’re curious about when it comes to the new hardware of the iPhone 6x and 6s Plus. I’ll do my best to provide a good intro to the latest flagship iDevices and we’ll see what we can come up with.

So do me a favor, please… take some time and join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you’d like to know about first. I’d love to hear from you. Give me your thoughts, please. There’s a lot going on with not only the iPhone and iOS 9, but the iPad as well. I’m certain that everyone would love to hear about both. Wouldn’t you…?

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The iPad Finally Goes to Work

It finally seems like the iPad can pay the rent…

I’ve been trying to bring my iPad to the office since its initial release in 2010. I’ve tried to write an “iPad at Work” series with nearly ever iteration of iPad hardware, but even with the iPad Air 2, the digitizer type hasn’t changed at all. …And that’s the big problem.

iPad

The iPad has a huge issue with palm rest technology. While you can draw or even write on an iPad screen, the digitizer can’t ignore your palm as it rests on the screen. It thinks that your palm and whatever writing instrument you’re using – be that your finger or some kind of capacitive stylus – are part of a multi-touch gesture. As such, you really can’t use the iPad to take hand written notes in meetings without hovering your hand over the screen, and that gets tired and old quickly.

I know. I’ve tried many, many times over the past few years with OneNote and Evernote, to name just a couple of note taking apps. Neither work well with handwritten notes on an iPad. And it’s a real shame and a huge pain. The iPad is popular, easy to work with and use, and with the right keyboard – now with the touch version of Microsoft Office for iOS, the iPad is a competent productivity tool… but no meeting notes, unless they’re typed, that is…

At least, that’s the way things USED to be with the iPad.

Apple introduced the iPad Pro on 2015-09-09 and that whole landscape has changed… potentially. I say potentially due to two major reasons:

  1. I’ve not used the iPad Pro and haven’t seen it, and I don’t know how well its palm rest technology works
  2. Little is known on how well it can be used as a writing instrument. I have no idea how bad the drawing/ writing latency is on this thing.

Drawing or writing latency is basically the amount of lag experienced on the device when you draw or write on its screen. You’ve passed over a certain area with the pen, and the ink doesn’t show up on the area you’ve drawn or written on for “X” amount of time after the pen has moved on. That’s latency.

This can be a huge issue if you’re trying to take notes in a meeting or in class, and you’re trying to keep up with the person who’s talking or teaching. If they’re moving quickly and your device (in this case the iPad Pro) can’t keep up, it can be a problem.

The palm rest tech seems to be acceptable on all of the demo video that has been played. There are a number of demos and videos out that show people drawing with the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro, and they have their hand resting on the device’s screen.

Just an FYI – the new 13″ iPad Pro starts at $799 (32GB model). With the Apple Pencil ($99) and the Smart Keyboard ($169), the whole thing is $1057. With 8.25% tax, the grand total is $1155.28. The high end iPad Pro is $1079 (with the same accessories and after tax, its $1458.13).

To put that in perspective,

  1. The entry level MacBook is $1299
  2. The entry level 13″ MacBook Air is $999
  3. The high end 13″ MacBook Air is $1199
  4. The entry level 13″ MacBook Pro is $1299
  5. The entry level 15″MacBook Pro is $1999
  6. The entry level 21.5″ iMac is $1099
  7. The entry level 27″ iMac is $1799

The new iPad Pro is as expensive or more expensive than the 13″ MacBook Air, the new MacBook, the entry level MacBook Pro and the entry Level 21.5″ iMac. For the price of the high end iPad Pro (after Pencil, keyboard and taxes), you’re just $50 bucks shy of the price of the mid-range 13″ MacBook Pro (before taxes).

The use case for the iPad Pro is going to be very similar to that of the Surface Pro 3 – a business user (be they corporate, SOHO/ SMB, or creative) who needs basic productivity (MS Office for iOS), the ability to take hand written or typed notes in a meeting, or perhaps needs to do some quick brain storming and quickly sketches something out (on what in the past, would have ended up being a paper bar napkin) to make a point or capture an idea.

Consumer based use cases for the iPad Pro are few and far between. However, many consumers may fall into this particular use case, if the iPad is their primary computing device AND they’re looking to buy a new computer. The iPad Pro with its new keyboard can function as a notebook computer – the A9X processor is desktop class in its performance – with a minimal footprint. The only issue that many users may have with it is that the device – like the Surface Pro series – isn’t very lapable. The design of the keyboard may not be sturdy enough to type on or support itself without some sort of firm, flat surface under it. A lap, just may not cut it, and that may change the way some people want or need to interact with the device… at least until Apple comes out with a different keyboard or allows 3rd parties to market keyboards for the iPad Pro.

Is the iPad Pro in your future, or is it too expensive? Does its new features and desktop class hardware mean that an iPad will finally find its way into your daily work process? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on it?

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Next Generation Apple TV Details Leaked

Apparently, its $150 bucks…

apple-tv-itv

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Apple TV. Its saved my sanity while working in Nebraska in 2013 and 2014; and its always been a favorite way of watching streamed content, most of which in my case, comes from my Apple library or Netflix. Now, a new generation device is scheduled to be announced at the September 9, 2015 media event.

Details of the new device apparently were leaked by John Paczkowski of Buzzfeed. Some of the big features include (but aren’t limited to)

  • Universal Search – You’ll be able to search across service providers like iTunes and Netflix for content.
  • Siri Input – You’ll be able to ask Siri to play content. You’ll also be able to use her to search for stuff via Universal Search, too
  • Remote with Touch Pad and Mic – The Apple Remote is going to get a much needed update in order to support both Siri and Universal Search. At least now, it won’t be so easily misplaced or lost… hopefully. The new remote is also supposed to support motion sensors that will allow it to be used as a game controller.
  • Prices “starting” at $149 – I don’t know if “starting” means there’s going to be more than one model of the 4th generation Apple TV or if “starting” is just a marketing word, but expect to spend at least a bill and a half…

The higher price point is a surprise. Apple TV started out at $299 back in the day when it was first released, but then dropped to $99 and stayed there for the longest time. At that point, it was affordable by nearly everyone. When Tim Cook reduced the price to $69 in March of 2015, it became a no brainer to everyone with an Apple ID and a TV. At $150, it’s going to make many stop and consider the purchase before pulling the trigger.

Universal Search will be a welcomed addition to Apple TV. With the ability to search across multiple content providers like Netflix and Hulu as well as iTunes, you should be able to play nearly everything you would want and need through the device. While I’d really like to see support for Amazon Prime here, I’m not going to hold my breath…

The Search functionality is further augmented by an improved input system – Siri. You can use Siri to search for content on Apple TV and have multiple sources for the content displayed on screen. This will be a huge improvement over the current search service, which is currently for iTunes only and is text based, via the Apple Remote. Yeah… it totally sucks.

The new remote will be a nice added improvement as well. While the current Apple Remote is nice, it’s very easily lost or misplaced due to its small size. The new touch screen and mic are going to require a total redesign of the device. It’s also going to make it very easy to pair with your iPhone or iPod, allowing you to use those for your remote as well. In fact, using an existing iDevice as your remote with a revamped Apple Remote app makes a great deal of sense.

All of this, coupled with a revamped interface and new, advanced processors, is going to make this a compelling purchase. I know I’m interested in this, and will be looking to get a new Apple TV for the Holidays. Both my birthday and the Christmas Holiday fall very close together for me.

What’s going to be interesting is if and how a new interface will be reflected in existing hardware, meaning second and third generation Apple TV’s. While they will definitely not have a new processor, and may not get the new remote, some of the search could be done by an iPhone or iPod Touch and the results passed back to Apple TV via a Bluetooth connection. If Apple will allow or enable that, however is a different story, though it would be a very interesting development.

Are you interested in a revamped Apple TV? Is this something that you’re going to consider purchasing either right after the Announcement on 2015-09-09 or for the 2015 Holiday Buying Season? Do you own a second or third generation Apple TV? Did you buy one after the recent $69 price cut? Will you buy more of those or a new Apple TV? Is Apple TV even an option for you or do you own a competing streaming device like an Amazon Fire Stick or Fire TV? Do you own a Roku box or Sling TV? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below and tell me what equipment you have and what you’re going to do with all of this new information? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch – Part 4

Introduction

Wearables are a huge deal today. In fact, it’s one of the hottest growing computing categories on the market right now. Nearly every place you look and every person you actually look AT has some kind of wearable tech with them. Smartwatches and fitness bands seem to the easiest to spot, and nearly everyone at the office is wearing one, too.

Perhaps the biggest and most anticipated entry into the wearables/ smartwatch category is the Apple Watch. Is it the nirvana of wearables? Is it everything that its hyped up to be? Was it worth the wait? These are all GREAT questions.

The Apple Watch is a much anticipated, much sought after wearable. In part one, I took a look at the hardware specifically. In part two, I took a look at usability. In part three, I took a look at the Watch’s software, both on the Watch and on the iPhone.

In part four of this four part review, I’m gonna wrap it all up – given the way the Watch works, is it the right device for you? Is it worth the investment? Will it last, or is it just a flash in the pan?

Is the Apple Watch the device for you? Let’s get into how it does what it does and find out!

Apple_Watch_official_logo.svg

Problems and Issues

Part 1 Conclusion Summary
The hardware is the thing!

You need to know what you’re buying, what options are available and how much the thing costs. Understanding what you have to work with before you get into what it does and how it does it can often help you figure out if there’s value in it for you.

The Watch is expensive. Apple branded watch bands are outrageously expensive… but man, some of them are really good looking.

Part 2 Conclusion Summary
Notifications need work.

Apple can do a lot here without reworking too much. They need to stop data coming over to the watch for notifications that are turned off, and they need provide a bit more control for the user.

Bluetooth connectivity is a bit of a challenge. The Bluetooth microphone needs help. Using either it or the speaker to make and place calls or listen to any kind of audio on the Watch is difficult. In “appropriate” locations, like an outdoor venue, the sound from the Watch is easily lost to background noise.

Part 3 Conclusion Summary

Big issues here were issues calculating and explaining the difference between active and resting calories. Most everyone is going to come from some other kind of fitness band exposure. Many of them, Fitbit and Microsoft Band included, don’t differentiate between the two. To them calories are calories. The Watch also isn’t as customizable as I had hoped. I’m hoping that WatchOS2.0 will bring more customization and software improvement with Apple Health and Activity on the iPhone as well as their counterparts on the Watch.

General Apple Watch Problems and Issues
Aside from other issues that I’ve listed so far – some of which are considerable – let’s face it… the biggest hurdle that Apple Watch has to get past is cost. The device appeals to nearly everyone with an iPhone. In fact, I don’t know anyone with an iPhone that doesn’t WANT an Apple Watch. However, the Watch itself is expensive, and the bands are simply outrageously priced. I have details on those, in the Hardware section of this review.

Skin Reactions to Rubber/ Silicone
I’ve been wearing the Apple Watch Sport for a little over three (3) months now. I have to say that I am very pleased with the way the Fluoroelastomer band has been wearing on my wrist. I have to this date had no adverse reaction to the band at all. Honestly, I’m really very surprised.

I had issues with the silicone band on the Fitbit Surge. In fact, I found myself removing it a few times to scratch and try to get rid of the dry, flakey skin, and to apply some kind of cream to it to help stop the itching. I haven’t had any issues like that with the Fluoroelastomer band on the Apple Watch; and honestly, I’m surprised. I actually expected to have problems because the Watch requires near constant skin contact to stay unlocked and working properly.

I’ve been wearing the Watch rather tight on my wrist with the Fluoroelastomer band in part because of the skin contact needs for locking and Apple Pay as well as heart monitor readings. I tend to like to wear my watches rather loose, more like a bracelet than anything else. However, I don’t have a metal band yet that really facilitates that style just yet. I also didn’t want to mess up any sensor readings during the extended review I’ve been working on.

Conclusion
First, let me say this – I love the Apple Watch. I use it every day. Now… let’s get down to brass tacks.

The Apple Watch is in no way an essential piece of hardware for anyone.

Period.

It’s a huge First World benefit; and that’s about it. It’s a great convenience provider, if you feel you’re in your iPhone too much; or would simply like to be in it a bit less, especially in meetings at the office. You’ll find that you definitely take your iPhone out to use it a great deal less than you used to… unless you’re a huge gamer, and then maybe not as much… but most people will find that they use their and check their iPhone less when they have the Watch. It’s great for managing iPhone notifications.

However, the Apple Watch is expensive. Everything about it is expensive. If you remember, I got the 42mm Space Gray Sport. It’s got a anodized aluminum case and a black Fluoroelastomer band; and it was still over $470 with tax. That’s the ENTRY level Watch in the 42mm size. You can buy a Mac Mini for about as much…

Let me be very clear – I love the Apple Watch. However, its WAY overpriced.

The Branded band options aren’t all that great. While they’re interchangeable, those are ALSO grossly overpriced. Fifty ($50) bucks for a rubber watch band is totally outrageous. … And don’t even get me started on the Link Bracelet. NO watch band, no matter how well designed or how good looking or comfortable to wear is worth $500 bucks on its own, especially one made of stainless steel. The market segment that that band is targeted to will pay that much, but I honestly think they can’t afford to, in all reality. The 42mm Apple Watch (not the Sport or Edition… this is the stainless steel version in either black or silver) with the Link Bracelet is $1100… and that’s before tax!

If you’re looking for additional bands and don’t want to spend a lot, check out Click, a Watch band adapter designed specifically for Apple Watch. With these, you can use any 22mm band you can find, and they’re totally interchangeable with other bands, so you’re not stuck with anything.

The Apple Watch handles notifications very, VERY well, but if you remember my Fitbit Surge review, I totally lambasted the device for sending over information from my iPhone to the device, even when the notifications are turned off. While its slightly different here, the same rule applies to the Apple Watch.

Off is off, guys; but unfortunately, while you can modify individual notifications, you can’t turn them off. What’s up with that?! You’re trying to tell me that after paying $17,000 for a Watch (it has the same hardware components as the Sport, just a different case, you can’t turn off the notifications you don’t want to receive and stop the data from being sent to the device? That seems a bit odd, don’t you think?

Here’s something interesting to think about – From a functionality perspective, the Microsoft Band does nearly EVERYTHING that the Apple Watch does… nearly EVERYTHING (except payments and the cutesy stuff…) and its nearly $300 cheaper compared to the Apple Watch Sport. If you’re looking for a fitness band that’s also a smartwatch but don’t have the dollars for an Apple Watch, Microsoft Band might be the way to go.

If however, you’ve got your mind and heart set on an Apple Watch, you’re going to need to make certain you understand what you’re buying and the associated costs with it. It’s a great tool, but due to cost and the limitations of WatchOS 1.x, you may find that you might want to wait until WatchOS 2.0 is released, until the cost comes down or until new hardware is released.

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