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.


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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Prediction – Windows Phone has about Two Years of Life Left

Boy it kills me to say this…

Windows 10 mobile

I’ve been a Windows Mobile guy since 1990-blah-blah-blah. I started using Microsoft mobile devices back in 1997 or so with the Casio Cassiopeia E-10/E-11 and haven’t looked back. I became a big WindowsCE and PocketPC guy and helped at least three or four sites get off the ground as either a guest reviewer or as a regular contributor. At least two of those sites are still around today (The Gadgeteer and pocketnow. I got into customizing extended ROM’s and into working with custom distributions of PocketPC and Windows Mobile builds. I was nominated as a Microsoft Mobile Devices MVP twice (that I know of) but came just shy of actually receiving the award (program politics…). Microsoft mobile devices and I have a pretty well defined history.

So, you have to believe me when I say this – and it kills me to actually vocalize it and write it down – I’d be very surprised if Windows Phone lived much beyond 2017. In fact, I really think its gonna die and disappear entirely before 2018.

The reasons for this are four fold

1. Ballmer Does Play into this
Whether you like him or not is irrelevant. Unfortunately for everyone that was a fan of the original Windows Mobile, Ballmer NEVER understood mobile computing and his ouster from the company can be traced to the fact that he NEVER got behind it.


Windows Mobile should have taken over the mobile market place when both Apple and Google adopted Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) as the synch engine for both iOS and Android respectively. It should have swung for the fence at that point, knowing that during that time (roughly late 2007 to late 2009) it controlled MDM (mobile device management) for three of the four major mobile platforms on the market (iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile)

Ballmer never stepped on the gas or green lighted any kind of mobile acceleration, and unfortunately, Windows Mobile died. At that time, Windows Mobile 6.5.x was out in beta and as such, never saw the light of day. Microsoft killed it, back peddled, and instead released Windows Phone 7 in response to the iPhone.

2. Windows Phone Development History (both OS and Apps)
Windows Phone has a huge history of – pardon my language… – screwing over its developer partners. Windows Phone 7 wasn’t compatible with any version of Windows Mobile and developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch. Windows Phone wasn’t compatible with Windows Phone 7 and again, developers had to rebuild current, popular apps from scratch.

Developers entered a wait and see mode on submitting new and recreated apps to the Windows Phone Store Many of the new devices at the time weren’t very popular and the new OS wasn’t attracting new users over other devices like the iPhone or the Droid and Droid X. Developing for Windows Phone 7.x and Windows Phone 8 also wasn’t as easy as it was to develop for iOS or Android; and the user bases there were better established.

At this time, Microsoft also didn’t enter any kind of marketing push to really try to compete with the iPhone or with Android (partially due to Ballmer not getting it, partially due to their own arrogance in thinking that Apple and Google would always use EAS to power their mail servers and mobile apps). Because they didn’t push their advantage appropriately and because both Apple and Google ended up dropping any and ALL support for EAS, they lost their strategic position on the backend of things.

Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 never took off with developers because they didn’t want to have to spend all of the time, money and resources to win their users back, who had, with them, moved on to other platforms.

The thought and hope with Windows 10 Mobile is that because of the architecture of Windows 10 Universal Apps, you develop once, and can have a single app on phones, tablets and desktop. That however, still has to be proven out, and I don’t know how willing many mobile developers are to give Microsoft a third try on a mobile platform that still doesn’t have any (real) users to speak of.

Speaking of which…

3. Low Market Share is still Declining
This is pathetic. According to the IDC, Windows Phone has a worldwide market share of only about 3%. iOS has about 14% global share and Android dominates the market with about 83%. Everyone I know of, including some major Windows industry pundits, say that’s a hole that Microsoft just isn’t going to be able to crawl out of. At best, Microsoft should be happy to hit 5% and hold that. If they can ever get it that high or that far…

Compounding the problem, Microsoft recently wrote down their entire Nokia acquisition, declaring all of the assets they actually retained, effectively worthless.

Microsoft also hasn’t released a flagship class Windows Phone since late 2013. Yes, they are supposed to have two others announced on 2015-10-06, currently code named Talk Man and City Man; but there are further considerations. For example, when will they release flagships AFTER that?

I don’t think they will.

Life is breathed into a platform by the hype and excitement generated by the best of the best. Both Apple and most of Google’s major hardware partners are releasing flagship class devices at least on an annual basis, with many Android hardware partners staggering and coordinating their flagship releases so that new devices are announced and released every 4-6 months.

Microsoft and Windows Phone doesn’t have that. The one major hardware partner that Microsoft DOES have – HTC – recently had their stock declared worthless, and they also haven’t released an M9 version of the HTC One for Windows Phone. I’d be very surprised if they did, too.

Microsoft has spent their engineering efforts introducing either low end or mid-range devices and has, unfortunately, saturated the market with them. The devices they do have are virtually indistinguishable from one another and no one knows why they should pick one over another, let a one over an Android devices that has a huge developer and accessory support base.

So… Microsoft doesn’t have the market share, and they don’t have the hardware releases to support a growth in market share. Worldwide, Microsoft seems to be fighting a losing battle.

4. Windows 10 Mobile Build Issues
Oh my Lord, what a train wreck this has been. This is almost as bad as the old Keystone Cops silent movie skits back in the day (and nearly just as pathetic…). Sorry, Gabe Aul… it just is, especially from the outside.

I’ve been a Windows Insider since the program was originally announced in October 2014, AND I’ve been active too. I submit feedback as often and as consistently as I can, on nearly every PC build I install on the Fast Ring. It can be a very labor intensive activity, but as software quality professional, I know I can give them the detailed information they want and need.

I also went and purchased a Windows Phone in anticipation of testing Windows 10 Mobile builds. I bought a BLU (Bold Like Us) Win HD LTE. it’s a very affordable, unlocked, upper mid-range dual SIM device that supports US carriers. However, there are issues here with this Windows Phone and Windows 10.

First and foremost, Windows 10 isn’t supported on it yet; and this is a HUGE problem.

Microsoft is only supporting their own Lumia devices and the HTC One M8 so far with Windows 10 Mobile Beta Builds.

Can someone – anyone really… I’d accept a logical explanation from anyone at this point – please explain to me WHY Microsoft isn’t supporting beta builds for any and ALL Windows 10 Mobile devices right now. With its release looming in the two and a half months left in 2015, you would think that Microsoft would be pushing this thing out to any and ALL devices on their platform… but they aren’t.

Worse yet, Gabe Aul (again… sorry for calling you out, Gabe) won’t answer any of my tweets questioning when other devices will support Insider Builds on either the Fast or Slow Rings. I also can’t get him to answer WHY other devices aren’t supported, either.

Worse than that, what the public has been able to see of the release and internal testing cycles for Windows 10 Mobile are effectively a huge cluster-bump. Earlier this week (the week of 2015-09-14) I got a notification from my Windows Phone that a Windows 10 update was available for it.


I got very excited. I even waited a few days and didn’t actually attempt to download or install the update until I had some time to spend paying attention to the update, the update process, and how things transitioned from one Mobile OS to the other.


After it downloaded, I did an internet search to see if anyone had experienced any problems. When I couldn’t find anything, I pulled the trigger.


The device restarted and I got the spinning gears screen. However, thankfully, as it turns out, the OS did not install. I got an error message from my device after about 20 minutes into the flash that the OS couldn’t be installed on my device. The screen flashed, and then it restarted on its own.

The next day, I saw on Neowin that a number of different devices got the same notice that I got and that it was a mistake, and Microsoft would need to push out an update to fix those devices that were now unstable and functioning inappropriately.

if you could physically see me as I’m writing this, you’d see that I’m shaking my head.

What the hell??

This isn’t the first time that this kind of problem has happened with the Windows 10 Insider program. If you remember, a similar problem happened on the desktop OS where users were seeing updates they weren’t supposed to see and couldn’t download or could partially download and the download would fail. MS had to shoot out an update to fix that.

Then there was an issue where some users installed an update that prevented them from seeing updates they were supposed to see. Microsoft had to shoot out an update to fix that. It’s clear that Microsoft is having a number of technical issues with their release management process. In appropriate updates are going out and needed updates are not.

Then, there’s an issue with build quality in Windows 10 Mobile. Most of the Fast Ring Builds are totally unusable, or have major flaws that make using the OS on a supported device very difficult. I only remember one build being released to Slow Ring Insiders a number of months ago. The testing process MS has in place for Mobile is the same that it has for Desktop – if a build passes specific testing miles stones on both their internal Fast and Slow Rings, then it is released to the Insider Fast Ring. If it passes testing mile stones there, its released to the Insider Slow Ring.

Not much is getting past the Insider Fast Ring. Windows 10 Mobile has the same (if not worse) instability problems that Windows 10 for desktop is currently rumored to be having.

This clearly doesn’t look good for Windows Mobile. It has a history of little to no internal support from either Management or Marketing. The Windows Phone development community doesn’t like it, because there isn’t a lot of money to be made selling software for it. The platform itself is having issues getting users to jump on and its market share has steadily declined over the past 2 – 3 years. Finally, it’s got release management and build quality issues.

When you look at all of this, you have to ask yourself – Why is Microsoft continuing to do this to themselves AND to their users? It isn’t reasonable to think that Microsoft is going to be able to generate enough market share to continue support for the platform. When you couple that with the cluster-bump that has been their release and QA processes for Mobile (and Desktop) over the past few months, you’re left with one REALLY huge question:

Why is Microsoft, one of the biggest and best software companies in the WORLD, having trouble getting this right? I have the answer to that (it’s a methodology and process problem…you can’t cut corners) but I don’t have the time nor space to go into that. I’d lose most everyone in the problem to TLDR (too long, didn’t read). So, I’ll have to save that for another time.


What do you think of this? Is Windows 10 Mobile going to make it? Will it be worth the wait? Will it provide any value to anyone in the mobile market? Will it live beyond 2018 or have all of the issues I’ve outlined bring about its demise (sooner rather than later…)??

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole thing. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on the whole issue?

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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.


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…


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


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!


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.

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.


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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FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch – Part 3


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 of this four part review, let’s take a look at what the software on the device and on the iPhone – how well does it all work together? What does it look like? How easy is it to use?

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

You’ll find that this one is long, kids, but mostly because of all the screen shots and descriptions. Hit all the sections; but if you need to skim over the pictures, you’re still going to get value out of the review.

Software and Interfaces
There’s enough information in this section that it could – and likely should – be a whole review unto itself. However, for the sake of continuity, I am not going to split this off by itself. Expect to find a great deal of information and screen shots in this section, however. There’s a lot to digest.

Aside from the interface on the Watch, which is not bad; the bulk of the control of what happens on your Watch is dictated by what you do on your iPhone. At this time, you can’t run an Apple Watch without either an iPhone 5/s or 6/+. (However, as I finish writing this, Apple has just announced their Fall 2015 iPhone Event, entitled, “Hey Siri, give us a hint.” One can only hope that means that you’re going to see more of her not only in the iPhone, but in the Watch as well. A better working, smarter, and more sophisticated Siri couldn’t hurt here. Obviously, for Siri to get better, the issues that I encountered with Bluetooth audio will need to be resolved. If you can’t hear her and she can’t hear you, then an improved Siri on the Watch ain’t gonna mean squat…

Aside from Siri, however, the guts of the functionality of Apple Watch rests in your iPhone and the Apple Watch app. The only thing that you really DON’T do here is pick the watch face and complications you want (see below). Nearly everything else is done in the app.

If you don’t have an Apple Watch, then you either haven’t seen the app, or if you’ve downloaded it, it likely hasn’t made much sense without having the actual hardware next to your iPhone. I’m going to take us through the major screens in the app and give a brief description of what each does.

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My Watch

This is the app’s main page. You get to every other screen in it from here

App Layout

Here you can place all of your Watch app icons in any order you want. To get to this screen, while on your watch face, press the Digital Crown. To run an app, tap it.

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Airplane Mode

As you might think, you can turn all the wireless radios in the Watch and on your iPhone on or off here.

Apple Watch

This is where you manage the paired relationship between your iPhone and your Watch.  Technically, you can pair more than one Watch with your phone, but not too many people are gonna have more than one Watch.

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Notifications (Part 1)

This is where you manage all of the notifications that you’d like to see on your Watch.  The top half has some universal switches as well as options for the native Watch apps currently built into Apple Watch.

Notifications (Part 2)

On the bottom part of this page, you configure notifications and alerts from third party apps that may also install glances or apps on your Watch.  You don’t have the same kind of options as you do with native apps. Here, it’s just on or off.

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Glances are apps.  Well, they’re a type of Watch app.  Here you get to determine which glances, automatically installed by apps you install on your iPhone, get listed.  Here you get to determine what glances are actually active.The only thing problematic about this is that you don’t get to choose if the glance installs or not. If an app has a glance and you install the app on your phone, you get the glance on your watch.

Do Not Disturb

DND mode for both your phone and your Watch can be managed on your watch. It’s a cool deal.

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General (Part 1)

General options are controlled from this screen.  Apple Watch also supports Handoff, so you’ll be able to pass data back and forth between your Watch and your phone. Apps that support Handoff will appear on the bottom left corner of the iPhone lock screen.

General (Part 2)

Here you get to specify wrist detection and whether the Watch will activate when you raise your wrist.  You can also reset your Watch.

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Brightness and Text Size

Here you can set the text size and brightness of the Watch screen.

Sound and Haptics

Here you can control if your Watch will make a sound when it receives a notification.  You can also control the strength of the haptic vibration it makes when notifications are received as well.

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If you want to use Passbook and Apple Pay, you’re going to have to put a passcode on your Watch. This is the screen that does that.


This screen shows the integration information between the Watch and Apple Health. This is simply simple demographic information on you.  Tapping edit will allow you to make changes to each data item.

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Privacy Settings (Part 1)

It’s a quick and easy thing, really.  Privacy settings are noted here. Everything noted here is also mirrored on your phone, so what you see is what you get.

Privacy Settings (Part 2)

On this screen you get to turn some health related tracking on or off.  You get to monitor your heart rate and fitness tracking.

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Here, you get to turn on or off a number of different options for all of the health tracking the Watch does.


Many of the options you see in this app will look like this screen.  If there’s a glance, you get to turn it on or off, and then you get to choose whether  you mirror your iPhone’s settings or not.  On this screen, you configure calendar options.

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If you want to customize your clock, this is the screen that you do it on. There’s a lot here…


Like Calendar, you get to make minimal choices here.

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Here you can include your friends list, and their position on the Friends Circle on your Watch.


You get on your Watch!  Here you get to determine what comes, how much of it, and how you get notified.

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Here you get decide if Maps will show in your glances and if you get turn alerts.


Please note that everything is turned off.

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The Apple Watch can hold up to 4GB of music synchronized from your phone.

Passbook & Apple Pay

Apple Pay on the Watch is an amazing thing.  The only bad thing about it is that you have to put cards on both it and your Phone if you want to use it with cards on your Watch.  If you remember, you’re going to need to put a passcode on your Watch to protect it from being used by unauthorized people.

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If you want to take and make calls on your Watch, this is the screen to configure it on.


You can also synch photos to your Watch from your phone. to determine what album and how much to synch, come to this screen.

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Like Contacts and Calendar, this is a minimal screen.


This glance shows you stock info from your phone.

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This is also a very minimal screen that lets you define your default city for weather data and forecasts


Here you get to define if you display a goal metric and if your Watch goes into power saving mode when you work out.

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Apple Store

Its either on or off…


This is a configuration screen from the Automatic app that I have on my iPhone.

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This is a configuration screen from the ETA app that I have on my iPhone.

Activity Monitoring and Health Integration
One of the biggest things that you can do with Apple Watch is track your physical activity. However, I’ve not had much luck with this, to be very honest. No… it’s NOT because I’m a fat slob (still). Its more because I’m really NOT certain how the Watch actually TRACKS activity. It’s all a bit confusing.
You’ll note from this screen in Apple Health that its taking activity and movement information from both my iPhone and my Watch. This is important to know, because they both measure things a bit differently (though slightly) and they internally reconcile things so there isn’t any duplicate data, especially since I often have both with me at the same time.
As you can see from this screen, I’m wearing my Apple Watch nearly every day. However, you’ll also notice that while I meet my Stand goal nearly every day, I don’t come close to my Movement or Exercise goals at all.

This is where I have a huge issue with the way that data is calculated and stored. Apple Watch is really counting Active Calories. Microsoft Band (and others, I suspect) are counting Total Calories.
According to Microsoft Band, I’ve burned over 11,000 calories this week. According to Apple Watch, I haven’t even come close to that.
The difference in my daily calorie counts is the difference between active and resting calories. I burn more resting calories than I do active calories. Apple Health doesn’t really give you credit for resting calories. You need to get off your fat behind and move to get the credit and achievements (of which I have NONE because I’m clearly not moving enough.)
However, I do seem to be standing enough…

At issue here is NOT that I’m getting credit for both with MS Band vs. Apple Watch. The issue is that you don’t figure this out until after you notice this kind of discrepancy. Many people that use Apple Watch may have moved to it from some other kind of fitness band. Those likely bucket active and resting calories together as well. The Fitbit, MS Band and Nike Fuel Band do.

You don’t figure this out because no one tells you and it really isn’t written down anywhere for you to read. If you recall my unboxing of my Apple Watch, there really wasn’t anything in the box except the Watch and an extra 1/2 of the watch band. The Apple Watch and Activity apps on iPhone also don’t tell you or give you any kind of a hint on this.

While not a deal breaker to any extent, it is a huge hole in the way you understand how the Watch works…

Apps and Glances
With WatchOS 1.0, Apps and Glances are pretty much the same thing. Currently, there aren’t any native apps for the Watch. All you have is a Glance, or a shortened, sort of “appling” that is related to an iPhone app. Glances are, in fact, an off shoot or a Watch version of an iPhone app.

The biggest problem I have with Glances is that nearly every iPhone app I have wants to install a Glance to my Watch. You do that, and you’re quickly fill your watch up with a lot of junk. Not every iPhone app well as a Watch Glance. For example, unless you’re walking somewhere and need specific directions, GPS based glances are highly unlikely to get used, at least on my wrist. Turn by turn directions pop up on my iPhone easily enough and honestly I’ve likely got the GPS app screen active on the device anyway while I’m driving. I don’t often walk to places that I don’t know directions to, so having step by step or turn by turn directions pop up on my wrist don’t help much (and can honestly be distracting…)

As I mentioned, some glances can be very powerful and very good – when they work. The Weather Underground glance, for example is really great; but I’m having issues getting it to retrieve information from its parent app under WatchOS 1.01. Under WatchOS 1.0, it worked without an issue.

Here are the Glances that I use and a brief description of all of them.

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This glance gives you control over your wireless radios in your Watch and even lets you ping your iPhone if you’ve misplaced it.


This glance allows you to measure your current heart rate and shows the value


This screen of the Heartbeat glance displays the measurement results

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This glance displays your movement activity


This glance displays your calendar and daily schedule


This glance displays information from the Stocks application

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World Clock

This glance displays the day/ night status of the city its currently configured to display and the current time in that time zone.

Weather Underground

This glance usually displays detailed weather information on your current location.

Weather Underground

Unfortunately, it decided not display ANYTHING  at all today.

Apple Pay
I’m not going to spend too much time on this for a couple of very key reasons. I know Apple Pay works. I’ve been able to use it on my iPhone, but only occasionally, as its not widely accepted by BRAND here in the area of suburban Chicago where I live. However, many “tap to pay” or NFC terminals do exist.

I’ve had a number of issues using the Watch to pay for things; and that’s either me or the infrastructure not being setup quite right and not Apple Pay. I say me, because of the way that Apple Pay wants to be activated on the Watch.

Like Apple Pay on your iPhone, if you hold your Watch near a Tap to Pay or Apple Pay terminal, Passbook is supposed to automatically open to the last active card you used and will prompt you to pay with that card.


The white bar in the shot above bounces at you and the words, “Double Click to Pay,” appear. What ensues next is a ballet dance as you hold your wrist near the terminal and you bouncing back and forth between this screen and your Friends screen as you try to pay with your Watch.

Most of the time I give up and either grab my iPhone and use it, or just forego Apple Pay and use the card reader. A Force Touch on the screen might have been a better choice here instead of the hardware button. It would be more accurate and easier to activate.

Out of the dozen or so times I’ve tried to use Apple Pay on my Watch, its only worked once. I also seem to have issues with Apple Pay and my American Express card. The number and transaction never transfer to AmEx correctly and I always get a fraud alert. I’m not certain what’s up with that. I’ve called AmEx about it a couple different times, and they’re at a total loss.

The Cutesy Stuff
There are a few unique things that the Apple Watch can do; and they kinda fall on the cutesy side. While kinda cool, they are in no way meant to be anything productive or value added. Like I said, they’re cute and that’s about it. These items are completely unique to Apple Watch, as no other wearable currently on the market does these things, or anything else like them. That’s either because no one else has figured out how to do something like this… or because no one wants too. Cute only gets you so far.
All of these items are accessed and sent via the Friends menu on the Watch. They show up as a Notification on another Apple Watch… and that’s part of the key. Not only do you have to have an Apple Watch to send them, you have to have one to receive them. They do not come across on your iPhone. They go straight to the Watch and are totally ignored by iPhone.


You can send any combination of Taps, Sketches and Heartbeats to a single user at the same time.


You can send a haptic tap to someone on your Friends list if they have an Apple Watch. Select the friend you want to tap with the Digital Crown. After selecting them, tap their picture or initials and a blank canvas appears. Tap the canvas again with a single finger and a round circle will appear in the color you’ve chosen. (Color can be changed by tapping the small color disc in the upper right corner of the Watch screen and then rotating the Digital Crown…)

You’ll see the circle, like a ripple, appear and then slowly decay inward until it disintegrates. If you think about it, Taps are really nothing more than digital sketches. (see below)


Among some of the most widely publicized things you can do with Apple Watch, Sketches are likely the most common things sent between friends who have Watches.. To send a sketch to someone, select the friend you want to tap with the Digital Crown. After selecting them, tap their picture or initials and a blank canvas appears. You can immediately start drawing on the face of your Watch with your finger. As soon as you stop, the sketch disintegrates on itself and is sent as a Notification to the Watch owning friend. The sketch’s color can be changed by tapping the small color disc in the upper right corner of the Watch screen and then rotating the Digital Crown. However, if you try to change colors, the first part of the sketch (before the color change) will be sent to the user. While you will be able to change colors, you won’t be able to continue the sketch with the new color selection before the color changes on you.
Using the same mode to identify the recipient of a Heartbeat (via the Friends menu), place two fingers on the blank canvas of your Watch and Force Touch and hold. You’ll pick up the beat of your heart. You’ll capture as many beats as are counted while force holding your fingers to the screen. When you let them go, the notification is sent to the recipient.
Watch Faces and Complications
One of the best things about Apple Watch is that you can customize the way it looks. With the Fitbit Surge, the Pebble Time, and the Microsoft Band, you have a single device display or watch face. Not so with the Apple Watch. With it, you have a choice of up to ten (10) different faces. There are also eight (8) complications.

Watch Faces

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Modular Utility
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Simple Chronograph
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Mickey Mouse Color
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Solar Astronomy
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Motion X-Large


Simply put, there aren’t enough of either of these. The Watch needs more Faces and more Complications. Again, One can only hope that with WatchOS 2.0, we’ll have a bit more choice and/ or flexibility here.

Part 3 Conclusion
The biggest issue I had with the software was with the discrepancy between resting and active calorie burn and count. That one really confused me. I’ve been wearing my Microsoft Band since Christmas Day 2014, and I’ve come to rely on it as a baseline for all smartwatch and activity band review criteria in this roundup. When the numbers don’t match up and it’s difficult to figure out why, things can become very confusing.

The Watch is currently running WatchOS 1.01; and its software functionality is definitely reflective of a 1.x revision level. There’s some low hanging fruit that Apple can quickly gain and provide value from in the anticipated Watch2.0 update that involves changes to Notifications, options for turning glances and apps truly on or off as well as adding additional watch faces and complications or by providing users with additional means to customize existing faces.

This area needs work, but it’s not a train wreck. Expect an update of some kind in late September or early October when WatchOS 2.0 is released. I’ll hopefully have some good news to report at that point.

Come back next time for Part 4 of my four part Apple Watch review. In Part 4, I’ll wrap it all up and put the Apple Watch to bed.

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FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch: Part 2



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 of this four part review, let’s take a look at what you actually get when you purchase the device – how wearable and usable is the Watch? What kinds of notifications does it send? How does it send them? We’ll look at battery life as well as connectivity options like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as well as making phone calls and using Siri.

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

Wearability and Usability

Regardless of what case size, type, or band type you get, the functionality of the Watch is consistent throughout the product. In other words, the 38mm Apple Watch Sport at $349 does the exact same things the 38mm yellow gold case Edition Watch with Bright Red Modern Buckle does. In fact, they do the exact same things, the exact same way. The only differences between any and all of the watches here is the case size, case materials and band. Their internals are exactly alike.


I’ve honestly put off writing this section of this review for a while as there’s SO much information and feedback that I have on it, that I can’t possibly get it all down in a reasonable amount of words. There’s good and bad here. Some is very good. Some is, “smack yourself in the forehead stupid.” (As in, “Really, Apple..?? I thought you guys were smarter than this!” stupid.) It’s been both exhilarating and frustrating using Notifications on the Apple Watch; but as many will tell you/ comment/ say, “what is a smartwatch for, if not to notify you of incoming events and activities?”

And honestly, they’d be right

So, let’s talk about notifications, and how they work on the Apple Watch.

First, let’s talk about what Apple got right. Notifications appear on the Watch when it’s being worn and is unlocked. Wearing a locked Watch doesn’t provide the user with any kind of Notification feedback. When Notifications come to the Watch, a Notification Indicator, in the form of a red dot displays at the top of the Watch screen, letting you know you have Notifications to address. If you catch the Notification in real time, you’ll likely skip over the red dot and just see the notification. The dot comes in to play after the screen turns back off. This is a good visual cue that you’ve got something to review and check out.

Now, let’s talk about what Apple didn’t get quite right.

Notification Classes

You wouldn’t think so, but from an end user perspective, there are really a couple different types of Notifications – those from native Apple apps and those from third party apps.

Native apps include the following:

  • Activity
  • Calendar
  • Mail
  • Maps
  • Messages
  • Passbook & Apple Pay
  • Phone
  • Photos
  • Reminders

With these apps, unless otherwise specified in each native app’s settings, you have basically the ability to mirror the notifications the app sends to your iPhone or (Mirror my iPhone) or Custom. Custom really only gives you the option to display (not reject …there’s a huge difference. See below…) alerts received from your iPhone.

Third party apps (including, in this case, Apple Store) simply give you the opportunity to mirror notifications sent from your iPhone or not. You also have the opportunity to turn Notification Privacy on or off.

Notification Privacy when turned on, will only display details of a Notification when the notice of that Notification is tapped when it is displayed on the screen.

The distinction between the notification classes is important. Let’s face it. There isn’t’ a lot of control here in the first place. The Watch works the way Apple wants it to. You don’t have a lot of customization routes, despite all of the options and switches you may see in the screen shots here.

Notification Issues

What you need to know here is that like the Notification issue I described with the Fitbit Surge, despite the fact that a particular Notification is turned “off,” the data comes across anyway. This is especially true for Native apps, as you really don’t have any other choice other than displaying the notification or not. You can’t reject or turn off notifications at all.

Like on the Fitbit Surge, this is a huge problem. You should be able to completely turn off Notifications AND stop the data from coming over to the Watch.

Off is off!

This in between shit has to stop!

The underlying issue here is that you really don’t have any control over what Notifications are and are not transferred over to the Watch, and you really should.

For example, I don’t want text messages and their notifications on my device. I can effectively stop the Watch from notifying me when my iPhone receives a text message, but the data still comes to the Watch. As I said in my Fitbit review, this is wrong. Off is off. No is no; and knock it off means stop it now. Honestly, if I could get the Messages app off my Watch entirely, I’d do it. I don’t want this (or data from other apps I’ve turned “off” coming to the Watch. There needs to be more granular control here. One can only hope that WatchOS 2.0 includes this.

Battery Life

Battery life for the Apple Watch is a bit of a love hate thing. If you recall from page two (2) of part one (1) of my Microsoft Band review, I encouraged everyone to find and establish a charging strategy. You’re going to need to do that here with Apple Watch, too.

Depending on how you use Apple Watch, you’re charging strategy is likely going to mimic mine, at least in some small way. It involves a nightly recharge. While many new users are likely to run through the battery of their Apple Watch in 24 hours or less, more seasoned or experienced users have likely gone through all of the Applications, Notifications and Glances and pared them down to just the stuff they know they’re going to use on a regular basis.

This activity is going to GREATLY enhance the battery life of your Apple Watch. As such, you’ll likely find that by the time you’re ready to call it a night, your Watch is going to have approximately 40-50%+ charge left to it.

I get up at 5:30am Central Time every morning. I’m usually out of the house between 6:15am and 6:30am and have put my Apple Watch on shortly before running out the door. My work day usually runs about 12 – 14 hours a day; and I usually take my Apple Watch off and put it on its charging cable between 9:30pm and 10pm every night.

At that point, depending on the amount of activity during the day, I’ve usually got somewhere between 42% to 55% battery life left. Theoretically, I could go about another 12 to 18 hours at least without HAVING to recharge the Watch; but between us… I don’t trust it. I never know how many email notifications I’m going to get or how much data is going to pass between my iPhone and my Watch, so there’s no way to tell how long it would last the second day; and I honestly am trying to not HAVE to purchase a second charging cable or to take it off during the day to charge it.

Watch wearers, myself included, are most active during the day, and I don’t want to be without my watch at the office – especially during a meeting – because its busy charging and I’m getting buzzed to death by my phone due to an influx of email.

While it’s clear that the Watch will have enough juice to get me through my day, you have to admit that battery LIFE on a device like this is very low, meaning that it doesn’t last very long. The Pebble Time has a battery that can last a week, and is about the same size as the Apple Watch. While it won’t do all the fitness or payments stuff that the Apple Watch does, it does do all the notifications, and it can still last a week. Microsoft Band has a battery that can last 36 – 48 hours. With the Apple Watch (nearly) requiring a 24 recharge schedule, it makes it difficult to use it for things like Sleep Analysis or anything else; or even to put it on and leave it for a while (as in more than a day to day and a half).


Current Apple Watch hardware requires at least an iPhone 5/c/s to work. If you want to use Apple Pay, you’ll need at least an iPhone 5s. This is important information to know as the Watch will not make a call on its own (it needs the phone for that). In order to function, it needs both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to work its magic…

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

The Apple Watch uses both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect to your iPhone, which I think is kinda cool. If you’re within standard Bluetooth range, your Watch and iPhone communicate that way. If you bug out of Bluetooth range, then as long as your iPhone can find your Watch on the Wi-Fi network ITS connected to, then you’ll still receive any and all notifications iPhone receives. This is a huge help in meetings, as there may be time when taking a phone in to a meeting isn’t the best course of action. In cases like these, you’ll still receive calls, txt messages, and all of your notifications from your phone, even if you’re a couple floors away. The first time this happened to me, I was really pleasantly surprised.

The inclusion of Wi-Fi in the connectivity equation, really makes it easy to keep your iPhone at your desk, in your jacket, in your purse – wherever – and just use your watch. However, there are a few gotchas that most everyone needs to hear about, and if you think about it, it definitely makes sense.

Phone Calls

The first thing that you want to do when you get the watch – aside with play with the Cutesy Stuff (see below) – is to either make or take a call with the Watch. This has you talking to your wrist, a la Dick Tracy; and its totally the coolest thing you’re likely to do with what is essentially, a Bluetooth headset. However, I have found it to be a total train wreck.

First of all, there are at least two Bluetooth audio streams active when you are on a call – incoming (the Watch’s speaker) and outgoing (the Watch’s microphone). The Watch is totally NOT a full duplex device; or if it is, its processor totally gets overwhelmed, and dual, same time audio doesn’t flow over the Watch as it does if you were DIRECTLY speaking on your phone. This means that you have to “walkie-talkie” your calls – you say something, and then I respond back – rinse/ repeat. This is fine unless you’re having a really good or passionate conversation and you can’t wait for the other person to shut up so you can get YOUR point across the line.

Secondly, I have found that even with my iPhone close by, there’s a lot of chop or break-up in both the incoming and outgoing audio streams. In other words, as a Bluetooth headset, the Apple Watch isn’t that great of a way to make and take calls. Something is always lost in translation, and you end up grabbing the phone and switching/ taking the call directly on the phone or putting in a more reliable headset. I ended up turning off call notifications entirely; but as I eluded to above, this doesn’t always make those notifications stop coming across the Bluetooth connection and appearing on your Watch.

I have also found that the speaker doesn’t work very well outdoors. The sound is swallowed up by background noise and its often difficult to hear the caller clearly. The same can be said for the microphone on the Watch. Your caller likely won’t be able to hear you very well outdoors, either. Both my wife and I stopped making or taking calls on the Watch after the first couple of days. This works well in an indoor setting, but I’m more likely to have my phone nearby and accessible when I’m indoors – like at the house or the office – as opposed to outdoors – like the golf course or on the deck at the house – where I’m likely to want to use it more.


Due to problems with Bluetooth audio, using Siri for much of anything is a bit difficult. I’ve found that even indoors or in the car, for example, she’s not as attentive as you want or expect. The Watch keeps tell me that I need to be connected to my phone to use Siri (and it is), or she tells me that she just doesn’t get me… which is depressing. I thought we were closer than that…

Part 2 Conclusion

I’m gonna say this a lot…, “there’s a lot here.”

Notifications are the life blood of any smartwatch. Honestly, it’s likely the number one reason why anyone who buys a smartwatch actually makes the purchase.

The biggest problem with the biggest feature though, is lack of control. You should be able to do a lot more with customization of notifications here than Apple actually lets you do. I should be able to turn alerts for any notification class on or off. When on, they should work as configured. When off, they should truly BE off and the data should not come to the device at all. That’s a huge security hole as well as a pain in the butt.

If Apple does anything with WatchOS 2.x, it needs to add in a great deal end user based control for notifications and data coming over to the Watch. No is no, and off is off. I can’t stand that unwanted and unneeded information is coming to my Watch when I’ve specifically tried to eliminate it.

Battery life – yeah… it still sucks. I’m hoping WatchOS 2.x makes things better, but I’m not holding my breath. When other smartwatches can last longer, you have to wonder what’s going on and why Apple made the choices that it did. Just because I may not put it on a charger at night doesn’t mean that I don’t expect the Watch to get me through the next day. Apple needs to solve this problem.

Connectivity via Bluetooth has always been problematic, but honestly its really much better than I thought it would be. With my Microsoft Band, having it connected to my phone interfered with the connection to my car radio as my iPhone recognized the Bluetooth microphone it has and expected me to always want to speak to callers through it, though it’s not supposed to support that functionality under iOS. I’m pleased to say that regardless of connectivity to my watch or not, my iPhone 6 communicates (as well as can be expected) with my car radio/ hands free kit.

If you want to try to actually make a call with the Watch, you can try it. I don’t know too many people that still do that after a couple of weeks of ownership though. The experience just isn’t all that great. Because the Bluetooth mic experience is a bit wonky, using Siri isn’t all that great on the Watch, either, I’ve found. As with phone calls, its hit or miss depending on your current environment.

Come back next time for Part 3 of my four part review. During part three, we’re going to get to the heart of the matter and we’ll talk about Software and Interfaces.

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FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch: Part 1



The world, it seems is getting larger.

My time is in constant demand. Billboards. Radio. TV. Ads everywhere!

Kids. School. After school activities for the kids. eMail. Text messages…

Calgon, take me away!

Wow. I’ll tell you what – The more I’m connected, the more I’m constantly nagged by a connected world. As a father of three, a grandfather of one and a husband, I’m usually all over the place. My schedule is a busy one and you’d think that I’d be moving enough to not have to constantly worried about my expanding waste line, but that apparently isn’t the case. Just ask my tailor…

When tools like the Microsoft Band (review part one and part two) and the Fitbit Surge are available to help you get a handle on not only the activities of your life and the notifications sent from your smartphone, life can often become a bit more manageable; and let’s face it… we can all use a bit of help there.

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 of this four part review, let’s take a look at the hardware that made the tech world stop and consider just what the ideal smartwatch could and should do.


The Apple Watch comes in three different styles – The Apple Watch Sport, The Apple Watch, and The Apple Watch Edition. I’ve got the Apple Watch Sport, and I’ve already given you my First Impressions of it.

Apple Watch Sport

The Apple Watch Sport is the entry level watch. It’s got an anodized aluminum case, and a Fluoroelastomer or synthetic rubber or silicone band. The Apple Watch Sport runs between $349.99 for the 38mm case and $399 for the 42mm case. With it, you get one Fluoroelastomer band in your choice of color – White, (Powder) Blue, (Lime) Green, (Coral) Pink, or Black.
Watch Sport
Apple Watch
The Apple Watch comes in twenty (20) different models. The 38mm or 42mm case is made of a high gloss, Stainless Steel in either silver or black. You have a choice of any of the following bands:

• Black Classic Buckle (black leather with a traditional buckle)
• Milanese Loup (silver only)
• Black Modern Buckle (black leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Black Leather Loop (black scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Midnight Blue Modern Buckle (dark blue leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Bright Blue Leather Loop (bright blue scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Pink Modern Buckle (Off white/ pinkish tinted leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Stone Leather Loop (Taupe-colored, scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Brown Modern Buckle (Medium brown leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Light Brown Leather Loop (Greenish-brown scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Link Bracelet (in either silver or black)

Note, that Apple is only offering the Black Stainless Steel Apple Watch in both 38mm and 42mm cases sizes with the Link Bracelet. Period.

The Apple Watch, depending on case size and band choice, ranges in price from $549 to $1099.

Apple Watch Edition

The Apple Watch Edition comes in eight (8) different models. Here, the case is made of a special, 18 karat rose gold or 18 karat yellow gold alloy. The Apple watch Edition comes with a choice of the following bands:

Watch Edition

• White Sport Band (White Fluoroelastomer)
• Black Sport Band (Black Fluoroelastomer)
• Rose Gray Modern Buckle (Reddish-Taupe leather with magnetic buckle in 18k rose gold)
• Black Classic Buckle (Black leather with a traditional buckle in 18k yellow gold)
• Bright Red Modern Buckle (Red leather with a traditional buckle in 18k yellow gold)
• Midnight Blue Classic Buckle (Dark Blue leather with a traditional buckle in 18k yellow gold)

The Apple Watch Edition, depending on case size, gold color choice and band ranges from $10,000 to $17,000.

Regardless of which Apple Watch you get, you have the opportunity to go through a Personal Setup session after you get it.

Regardless of case type, the Apple Watch really does bear a striking resemblance to the very first iPhone, released in 2007. The metal case comes up the bottom and sides of the case to about two thirds (2/3) of the way up, just as the edges begin to round in.

This doesn’t make the device look ugly, but it’s not as sexy, as say, some of the other devices in Apple’s more recent portfolio like the iPhone 4s, 5/s or 6/+. The rounded, square corners aren’t horrible, but they doesn’t do the Watch any favors, either.

Bands and Pricing
Most of the different styling for the Apple Watch comes in the form of different bands that are available for it. While there are a few different casing style variations, it’s really all academic there – the Apple Watch Sport comes in a anodized aluminum case in either silver or space gray, the Apple Watch comes in a 316L Stainless Steel case in either silver or black; and the Apple Watch Edition comes in either 18k yellow or 18k rose gold.

However, what makes the watches really different is their bands… and their associated prices. Thankfully, bands work with every Apple Watch, so if you simply MUST have a particular Apple Branded Apple Watch Band, you can likely get it; and it will cost you… a lot.

All bands available for separate purchase come in both 38mm and 42mm unless specifically noted.

Fluoroelastomer Bands
Fluoroelastomer Bands
A Fluoroelastomer band is $50, regardless of color; and you have a choice of five different colors– White, (Powder) Blue, (Lime) Green, (Coral) Pink, or Black.
Metal Bands
Metal 1
Apple offers both a Milanese Loop (a woven, stainless steel mesh with adjustable magnetic closure) and a Steel Link Bracelet.
Metal 2
The Milanese Loop is $150, is available in 38mm 42mm sizes and available in silver only.
Metal 3
The Steel Link Bracelet is $450, is made of 316L stainless steel, is available in 38mm 42mm sizes and is also only available in silver. The only way to get the black version of this band is to buy it with the black colored, Apple Watch is Stainless Steel.
Apple also offers a Link Bracelet Kit for $50. It has 6 additional links for wrists that exceed 205mm in circumference.
Leather Bands

Apple offers three different kinds of leather bands – the Classic Buckle, the Leather Loop and the Modern buckle.
Leather 1
The Classic Buckle is $150, is available in 38mm 42mm sizes and available in black only. All other Classic Buckle band colors are exclusives to the Watches they’re offered with.
Leather 2
The Leather Loop is $150, is available only in the 42mm size. The Leather Loop is offered in Bright Blue, Black, Stone and Brown.
Leather 3
The Modern Buckle is $250, and available only in the 38mm size. The Modern Buckle is offered in Black, Brown, Soft Pink, and Midnight Blue.

Part 1 Conclusion

The hardware for Apple watch is impressive, but as you’ll see in additional parts of this four part review, not without its quirks. It’s clear that everything here is VERY EXPENSIVE. The Watch in and of itself isn’t cheap – $349 to $399 for the entry level Sport model isn’t cheap. Once you factor in Apple Care + (another $50 bucks, and a MUST have for a device in this category) and tax, you’re pushing the $475 mark, which is close to the price of a Mac Mini.

Let’s talk about that Apple Care + purchase for a moment, too. Apple Care + for Apple Watch provides extended warranty coverage for a period of two years. During the coverage period, it gives you one extended replacement option per year with a $50 deductible.

So, if you break it during the extended coverage period, you can get it replaced for $50; but you’re limited to two (2) incidents. Apple Care + also covers other normal wear and tear defects. Extensive damage or scratching to the crystal may or may not cost you an extended replacement. It’s going to depend on how bad the crystal is scratched and the Genius you work with at Apple.

Wearables are meant to be used by those that are going to be active. You’re going to knock the Watch on something. You are. Get used to that idea now, before you buy. Get the extended warranty. For $50 bucks, it’s about 10% of the entry level cost, but if you ARE active with it and you break it, you’re going to want the replacement option.

So, stylish… but expensive; and if you do take the plunge, you’re going to want Apple Care +.

Come back next time and I’ll get into Wearability and Usability.

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