FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch: Part 2

Introduction

apple-watch-collection-1364x768

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.

Notifications

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).

Connectivity

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.

Siri

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

Introduction

apple-watch-selling-points

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.

Hardware

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
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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What’s in a Font?

Google unveils new logo – Internets burn down (story at 11..?)

Normally I wouldn’t comment on a company’s logo change. I mean, it’s not normally news or anything of importance. Unless of course, that company is Google, and then just about every time that company burps, its important. And honestly, that’s about what this logo change from most recent to new looks like.

It’s a font change.

That’s all… just a font change

Google changed their logo from this

Old Google

to this

New Google 02

They moved from a serif based font to a sans serif based font.

…Aaaaand again, the Internets lost their mind and burned down. Everybody is talking about it. Google’s perspective on this is that their new logo really spells out their mobile strategy. The font is easier to read on a mobile device. The four dots, four colors and four colored microphone speak to what you can do with Google on the desktop, on your phone or on your tablet with Gmail, Chrome, Docs, Maps and any of Google’s other cross platform, cloud based properties.

New Google 03

Where they get all that, from a font change is a bit of a stretch on my part, but hey… that’s just me, maybe.

However, I can’t doubt or make fun of the impact that Google has had on nearly EVERYONE in modern history in ITS 17 years of life. Their company’s name is now a recognized verb. It’s the biggest search engine on the planet. It powers more email than just about any other non-ISP based email provider, including Microsoft; and it has the number one mapping solution in both the desktop and mobile spaces in Google Maps.

Let’s face it – nearly everybody uses both of these tools. I’d be lost without both of them; and literally in the case of Maps… As computing has evolved over the past 25 years, Google came into being and then has changed with it to make computing more value added than you’d think.

And speaking of evolution, you really need to take a look at what Google has done over the past 17 years. This is one cool little movie…

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Apple Releases 8th Developer Beta/ 6th Public Beta of OS X 10.11

With Fall 2015 fast approaching, Apple has released yet another beta of El Capitan

el-cap-intro

Those computing individuals that like to live on the wild side should be a bit happier with the world today, especially if those users are also Macs as opposed to PC’s. Apple has released yet another round of developer and public focused beta releases of their next generation operating system – OS X 10.11, code named, El Capitan.

Given build number 15A279b, El Capitan Beta 8 is available to all users with an active Developer Account and is downloadable via a special redemption code in the Mac App Store. While quite developed as far as a beta is concerned, El Capitan still isn’t officially ready for prime time. Meaning, that if you’re looking to run it on your Mac in a production level capacity, you may be disappointed. It’s likely still got a number of different issues that may prevent you from really wanting to do that. If you simply must have beta bits on your production level Mac, you may want to download and install El Capitan Public Beta 6. It’s considered a bit more stable and end-user friendly.

Both beta releases arrive less than two weeks after the previous beta releases of both – Developer Preview 7 and Public Beta 5. So, things are accelerating and hopefully, improving in quality.

Its anticipated that El Capitan will hit the streets sometime in September or October. While Apple is likely to have an iPhone even in the next week or so – a press even is scheduled for 2015-09-09 where we’re likely to see new iPhones and a new Apple TV – El Capitan likely won’t be ready by then. Another even is anticipated – though currently unscheduled – for some time in October when new Macs will like appear alongside the long anticipated iPad Pro.

As with previous releases of their desktop OS, OS X 10.11 El Capitan is anticipated to be a free upgrade and will run on all Macs that ran OS X 10.10 Yosemite, which included MacBooks and MacBook Pros that were originally released in 2009. El Capitan is a spit and polish release, meaning that its largely meant to provide bug fixes and improvements to existing features – a stability release – rather than one that will provide ground breaking new features and functionality.

I’ve currently got El Capitan installed on a non-production based Mac and am working on a full review of the new and revised OS. With features like Metal, Split View and a smarter, deeper functioning Safari, you can expect El Capitan to be a version of OS X that you’re likely going to want to run on your compatible Mac. Stay tuned for the full review and a number of follow up columns about it.

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Keep caught up on the latest news with Next News Lock Screen

nextnews-logo-300If you’re like me, then you’re busy. Very busy. Down moments are either in between meetings, or often at night just before you go to bed. Yes. There are a few moments here and there, but there’s never really a chance to catch up on anything that may be happening in the world.

Often you have to make the most of those free moments of downtime between meetings, or during the morning or evening commute on a bus or train to and from the office. Its during these moments that I’m really glad I have Next News Lock Screen. Its an Android app that helps you catch up on the news in the world that interests you most.

Next News Lock Screen is a next generation lock screen that delivers the latest trending news, based on your reading and news category interests. You can choose news categories for sports, good, world news, technology, health, fashion, etc. You choose only the topics that interest you, and then you get the news, straight to your phone, complete with full screen color pictures.

Next News Lock Screen

There are some really cool features, here. First, the app displays a full screen pictures with a descriptive headline. The picture is digitally zoomed in so that it takes up the full screen. Depending on the size and pixel depth of the original, you may see some pixelation here, but every shot I’ve seen thus far has been big enough so that it doesn’t look bad. The picture, regardless of orientation is moved around the screen in some kind of “animation,” giving the display some life. If you want to see the whole picture, you can tap and slide up on the screen. You can cycle through available articles with a screen slide to the left or right. If you find an article you want to read, tap and hold it. Your default web browser will launch, with the article loaded. Its all very fast and very easy to use.

Next News Lock Screen is a really nice app. I’m very busy and often don’t have time to stop and check out news and other important information. However, I do often have a free moment to check mail and such on my phone. In those cases, I now can also scan the headlines without having to specifically do anything else – like start a new app – other than turn on my phone.

I did have a bit of trouble with this on my HTC One M8. I had some issues getting to the lock screen and then the app had issues downloading content when turning the device on at times. I think this may be Verizon or One M8 specific issue here in the States, however; and shouldn’t deter anyone from giving this app a shot. Verizon is a quirky US-based carrier, and they often make changes to device configurations that has been known to cause issues with some apps.

download NextNews Lock Screen

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Hell has Frozen Over – Android Wear for iOS Launched 2015-08-31

I am totally beside myself…

moto-360-iphone-hero

I’ve been looking at smartwatches all year. I started in January and haven’t looked back since. Here’ s a list of what I’ve published so far:

My latest entry in that series is the Apple Watch, and as of this writing, that four part review is currently in editing.  I expect it to be published in part or in whole over the week of 2015-09-01.

While in this smartwatch mode, I’ve been very cognizant of nearly every smartwatch announcement that’s hit the wire.  Most haven’t been too earth shattering.  This one, however, really shocked me because it’s one that I never thought would happen – Google has released Android Wear for iOS.

Yep – iOS users can now buy an Android powered smartwatch and can use it with their iPhone.

I… am beside myself. Hell truly has frozen over.

According to a new blog post published on the Official Google blog, Android Wear for iOS is rolling out on 2015-08-31.  This brings Android powered smartwatches to an additional 43.5% of all smartphone users in the US.  The only requirements seem to be you need to be running at least an iPhone 5 or greater (so, iPhone 5/5c/5s, iPhone 6/6+) with at least iOS 8.2.

If you look at the blog post on this, some commenters are wondering why people are surprised over this.  Honestly, that’s fairly easy.  A couple of years ago (as I recall) the going thought was that Google wasn’t going to provide support for Android Wear under iOS.  Part of that was because Apple made it pretty clear that they weren’t going to support Apple Watch on Android.  Each wanted a compelling reason for users to pick their platform and stick with it.

While Apple still seems to be pretty adamant about Apple Watch only for iPhone, Google seems to have come around.  They’ve included the following features in Android Wear for iOS:

  • Info at a Glance: Check important info like phone calls, messages, and notifications from your favorite apps. Android Wear features always-on displays, so you’ll never have to move your wrist to wake up your watch.
  • Fitness Tracking: Set fitness goals, and get daily and weekly views of your progress. Your watch automatically tracks walking and running, and even measures your heart rate.
  • Google Now: Receive timely tips like when to leave for appointments, current traffic info, and flight status. Just say “Ok Google” to ask questions like “Is it going to rain in London tomorrow?” or create to-dos with “Remind me to pack an umbrella.”

Notification support is apparently included, though it won’t be as tightly integrated as it would be on the Android side of the world.  However, according to Google, it should be on par with support for the Fitbit Surge and the Pebble Time.

If this holds true, then Android Wear for iOS shouldn’t suck.  Notification support for both of those smartwatches, while not totally ideal in my opinion, isn’t bad.  Android Wear should be pretty functional.

All that remains is to figure out which smartwatch might be the most compelling for me and then to see if it fits in the budget. If it does, I’ll try to  include it in the smartwatch round up before it all concludes.  Currently, I’m only one device away from completing all of those reviews.

I’m waiting on the Olio Model One to ship.  According to the latest information that I’ve received from Olio, I should have the device in my hands before the end of October 2015, if everything goes according to plan.  It’s a bit later than originally planned and anticipated, but according to them, the hardware and software have both been improved over the original specifications, so we’ll have to see about all that.  Not only have the devices been incrementally improved since their first and initial announcement, Olio has added both yellow and rose gold collections to the Model One.  As of this writing, all watches in all collections – Steel, Black, Gold and Rose – are sold out. Unfortunately,  due to their sold out status, you can’t see current prices for the newer collections.  If I remember correctly, the rose gold watch with the rose gold link bracelet was $1200 USD.  The yellow gold wasn’t quite as much, but was comparable; and prices for both of those included the $250 USD “friends and family” discount.

What do you think?   Should I cover Android Wear, now that it’s supposed to work with iPhone and iOS devices?  Will it make a good addition to our round up, or will it simply be gratuitous at this point?  Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts?  If enough people think it will be worthwhile, I’ll try to include it in the round up before I publish the series conclusion.

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