With Apple Watch Series 3, $10 Ain’t $10

If you have an Apple Watch Series 3 with active LTE service, you’re likely in for a nasty surprise.

apple watch

Back when the Apple Watch Series 3 first launched earlier in the Fall of 2017, carriers promised that LTE service for your new Series 3 Apple Watch, would cost only $10 USD per month; and it does.

Sorta.

In the beginning, carriers offered three months of free service and waived the activation fees. At this point, everyone that got their Series 3 Watch on the day it was first made available at the Store, is likely being charged for service. However, as I mentioned earlier, $10 bucks isn’t always JUST $10 bucks. Both AT&T and Verizon are charging additional fees. So, your $10 bucks is likely closer to $12 to $14 bucks per month.

In California, Verizon Wireless users also have an additional $1.55 fee on top of their $10 per month, service charge. In North Carolina, AT&T users are being charged an additional $4.39 per month, bringing their bill near $15 for LET service on their Series 3 Apple Watch. These fees can be higher in other states.

If you thought you might try to avoid all of the fees by deactivating your service and then reactivating it when you need or want it, you’re also in for a nasty surprise. There are activation fees that come with this activity. You’re going to get hit with the standard $25 activation fee every time you go to bring your watch back on line.

For example, when you cancel and re-add a line, on Verizon, you’re going to get hit with that $25 activation fee I mentioned. Suspending your service will hit you with a $10 per month fee (what the normal service will cost – so you’re paying for it anyway).

Because Apple Watch Series 3 uses NumberShare on Verizon, it’s not considered a prepaid device, so you can’t skip a month of service. Per Verizon, you really have only two options:
1. Suspend your service for up to 3 months at a time; but this is going to cost you $10 a month. This is the normal service fee, so you’re not saving anything here. You’re actually giving them $10 a month to NOT use the LTE service on the Watch, which doesn’t make sense.
2. Deactivate the Watch completely. That’s going to wipe it from the account, but you’re need to restart everything over again if you want to bring it back; and that’s going to cost you at least the (previously waived) $25 activation fee. There’s also a recurring charge. This means that Vs. will basically charge you for two and a half months of service every time you turn the Watch off and on again.

There’s also a possibility that you’ll run into activation issues when you start and stop service. The Watch has its own number; but shadows your phone’s number when placing and receiving calls. Sometimes this whole process can create issues, as reported by some; but why that happened to those that bumped into that problem, isn’t clear.

If you have a Series 3 Apple Watch and have bumped into issues like this, reach out to me and help me understand what happened to you.

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Apple Watch can Save your Life

New studies suggest that owning an Apple Watch can identify potentially lethal health trends

I saw this, and I thought this was pretty cool.

I have an Apple Watch and have enjoyed using it for just over two years. I use it mostly for notifications and responding to text messages. I also use it to keep track of my physical activity, as well, such as it is. As a tech and software development geek, having something remind you to move and to move more during your day is important, especially when your job has you sitting on your tush all day long testing software. Some folks, me included, forget to move without being reminded. Having a subtle reminder to stand every hour makes it easy for me to take a break, move, and to refocus my thoughts, if needed. Apple Watch has made me more productive, as a result, believe it or not. It’s not been an interruption.

In a new development, it’s been found that Wearables can be used to accurately detect conditions like hypertension and sleep apnea in users that wear them. The research, conducted by health startup Cardiogram and UCSF, cited claims that data from heart sensors when combined with machine learning algorithms can identify patterns that predict if a person is at risk of certain health issues. The study followed more than 6000 subjects, some of whom were known to have been diagnosed with both hypertension and sleep apnea.

Cardiogram cofounder, Brandon Ballinger wants to “transform wearables that people already own – Apple Watches, Android Wears, Garmins, and Fitbits – into inexpensive, everyday screening tools using artificial intelligence” into tools that can not only help keep people well, but drive the growth of the market. The study is headed for peer review, according to Ballinger. This will hopefully lead to wearables being validated as a screening method for this and other major health care conditions, like pre-diabetes and diabetes, which, appears to be next on Cardiogram’s hit list

Cardiogram’s study lines up very well with the direction that Apple has been taking Apple Watch and the apps that are available for it in the App Store. Patents have been developed that involve both health related wearable technology by Cardiogram. Apple is also involved in a heart rate study partnership with Stanford University.

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Fitbit Looking to Acquire Smartwatch Pioneer Pebble

The fitness tracker maker is looking to acquire smartwatch pioneer Pebble

fitbit-to-acquire-pebbleIn what is being touted as a really, REALLY cheap deal, Fitbit is close to finalizing a deal with beleaguered smartwatch manufacturer Pebble for a reported $40M. If accepted, its understood that the deal will be for IP – intellectual property and software – only. The Pebble brand would be slowly phased out, with its all of its products shut down and discontinued over time.

Pebble laid off 25% of its workforce in March of this year. Pebble has also been having some very serious product issues during 2016. They’ve introduced three new smartwatches in July of 2016 – the Pebble 2, the Pebble Time 2 and the Pebble Core. In August 2016, they released a software update for their Pebble Health feature. None of these moves has helped them get past the product issues they’ve been having.

While Fitbit has emphatically stated that they are unfazed by Apple’s dominance in the smartwatch space, Apple’s sales of its Apple Watch has declined 51.6% as of the third quarter of 2016, according to the IDC. Unfortunately, this development hasn’t helped Pebble sales one bit.

Fitbit’s reported acquisition of Pebble seems to be signaling their desire to move beyond the fitness tracker designation that most of their wearables have been labeled as. The company has introduced new leather bands and other premium accessories alongside two new smartwatches, the Charge 2 and the Flex 2. After announcing mixed third quarter results and a projected weak forth quarter, the company’s stock took a 30 percent hit.

If you remember, I reviewed both the Fitbit Surge and the Pebble Time as part of my larger, year long, smartwatch roundup last year. I took a very quick look at both and gave the Surge to my daughter (who put it on for all of 5 minutes before telling me she’d never wear it…) and the Time to a friend at church (who wears it every day). However, I know both of these devices have struggled to make any kind of showing in the smart wearables market.

While Fitbit is truly only looking at a technology purchase, I don’t see why they would want to chase after Pebble in the first place. Pebble didn’t really concentrate on the Apps market with its smartwatches. Their apps and app store never really took off, and the resolution of their displays really didn’t make for anything that looked any better than what you saw on an Atari 2600 back in the day. In other words, their graphics and their displays suck. Fitbit doesn’t have an app store, and even if they did, their perception by the market as a fitness tracker only wouldn’t draw any of the premier developers to their ranks.

I really don’t see the purchase of the technology or intellectual property doing anything for them.

What do you think? Is this a good mashup? Will Fitbit’s acquisition of Pebble’s assets provide anything of value, or are they just wasting their time and money? Talk to me, kids! Meet me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think!

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Smartwatches for Everyone!

You Can Turn ANY Watch into a Smartwatch with Chronos

Chronos

Those of you that know me and have been following me over at LEAST the past year know that for me, 2015 was the year of the smartwatch. I reviewed the following smartwatches in 2015:

Microsoft Band
Part 1

Fitbit Surge
Pebble Time
Apple Watch Sport
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Olio Model One

There were good and bad smartwatches in this list. I’ve really chosen the Apple Watch Sport as my daily wearable. I’ve been wearing it more consistently than any other smartwatch that I reviewed. Both the Microsoft Band and the Fitbit Surge have been retired. I gave the Pebble Time to a friend of mine at Church; and I’m still working with Olio on what I would still consider some issues with the Model One.

However, if you have a standard, non-smartwatch, watch that you are totally in love with and don’t want to give up or put into semi-retirement but really want a smartwatch, then you really need to take a look at Chronos.

Chronos is a 3x33mm disk that adheres to the back of ANY watch via micro-suction. Its water resistant , non-magnetic, and provides both vibration and colored LED light notifications. In addition to this, it has an accelerometer for fitness tracking, allows you to use your watch as a remote for your smartphone’s camera and music player. You can even use gesture controls to skip songs. If you’ve misplaced your phone, you can use Chronos to “ping” it to help you locate it.

Chronos on Watch

Chronos has Bluetooth 4.0 LE with a 50 foot range; and has a rechargeable lithium polymer battery with a battery life range of up to three (3) days. The device charges via wireless charging, so you can charge it while it’s still connected to your favorite watch of choice.

The best thing here is the price – at least at the time of this writing. Chronos will begin shipping in Spring of 2016 and retails for an MSRP of $129. If you preorder yours now, you can get it for $40 off, or $89.

I’ve requested a review sample from Chronos and hope to hear back from them soon, as I feel this would make a wonderful, final edition to our Wearables Roundup. Stay tuned to Soft32 for more information, and hopefully, a full review!

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Next Generation Apple TV Details Leaked

Apparently, its $150 bucks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch – Part 4

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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Problems and Issues

Part 1 Conclusion Summary
The hardware is the thing!

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

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

Part 2 Conclusion Summary
Notifications need work.

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

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

Part 3 Conclusion Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Period.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch – Part 3

Introduction

apple-watch-apps-540x334
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

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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Passcode

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.

Health

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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Activity

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

Calendar

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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Clock

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

Contacts

Like Calendar, you get to make minimal choices here.

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Friends

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

Mail

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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Maps

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

Messages

Please note that everything is turned off.

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Music

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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Phone

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

Photos

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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Reminders

Like Contacts and Calendar, this is a minimal screen.

Stocks

This glance shows you stock info from your phone.

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Weather

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

Workout

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…

Automatic

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

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ETA

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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Connectivity

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

Heartbeat

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

Heartbeat

This screen of the Heartbeat glance displays the measurement results

IMG_2004 IMG_2005 IMG_2006
Activity

This glance displays your movement activity

Calendar

This glance displays your calendar and daily schedule

Stocks

This glance displays information from the Stocks application

IMG_2007 IMG_2008 IMG_2009
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.

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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.

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

Taps

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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)

Sketches

IMG_1997
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.
Heartbeats
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
IMG_1954 IMG_1949
Motion X-Large

Complications

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

Introduction

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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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