FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch: Part 1

Introduction

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

I am totally beside myself…

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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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Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10162 to Fast Ring Insiders

Wow! It’s been a busy week in Redmond!

Windows 10 Build 10162

I am so behind in my writing projects it’s not even funny. I relayed the status of my big summer projects this week. I was fortunate enough that I was able to knock out my review of the Pebble Time just a short time after that. That… was a big win for me.

It was a big deal because both my Windows machines – my Surface Pro 3 and Dell Latitude ST2 – are in varying states of train wreck status, even though both of them are using Build 10158 or later. Yes… I’m still having all sorts of train wreck classification errors with the Dell. I just don’t know if this thing is going to be a good candidate for Windows 10. Dell is going to have a lot of optimizing to do in order to make certain that they don’t run into support related issues with it.

While things are a bit better on the Surface Pro 3, Windows 10 is still in a pre-release state, and there are some potholes still out there. However…

In that regard, Microsoft has released a third build of  Windows 10 Build 10162  to Fast Ring Insiders today. According to Gabe Aul – Windows 10 and Windows Insider Grand Poohbah extraordinaire – Insiders normally on the Fast Ring can now consider themselves on the faster, Fast Ring. Says Aul,

“We’re at the point in the development of Windows 10 where nearly every build is getting out to our internal rings, and passing the criteria for release to Windows Insiders. We’re focused at this point on bug fixing and final polish, so it’s much easier for each build to get all the way through than earlier in the cycle when we’re adding big new features. So now we find ourselves in a great situation, with an abundance of build candidates. We’re deciding how long to let each build stay with Windows Insiders so you can really exercise them and send feedback on any problems that you’re hitting. I know many of you have said you’d love daily builds, but it is actually important sometimes to get a few days on a build so that all of the code that does deferred work (like OneDrive sync, search indexing, background updating, etc.) can run and we can get feedback and error reports.”

According to Aul, it’s very possible that Windows 10 Build 10162 may get released to Slow Ring Insiders as well, as early as next week. This would also kick off the release of official ISO images of the build (so that I can get it on my Dell. Did I mention getting Windows 10 on that machine was a bit of a train wreck..??)

With the release and RTM of Windows 10 so very close at hand (T minus 27 days and counting…), it’s very possible that we’ll see many more rapid fire releases of Windows 10 between now and then hit the Fast Ring. If you’re on that ring, expect to see more of this in the coming weeks leading up to the release of the new OS on 2015-07-29.

I suspect that testers on the Slow Ring will also see an increase in build releases during the same time frame.

Are you on the Windows 10 Insider Fast Ring track? Have you installed any of the builds released this week? If so, what do you think of them? I’ll have some updates on the state of my installs next week. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below, though, and let me know how things are working for you.

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Pebble Time – Times Up

Here are my first (and likely last) impressions of the Pebble Time.
Pebble Time
Introduction

I’ve been a fan of Japanese anime and the like since I was a kid.  One series, however, Johnny Sakko and His Flying Robot was a favorite of mine when I was a kid, growing up in suburban Pittsburgh, PA for a couple of key reasons –

  1. It came on right after Ultraman
  2. Some of the tech it used – like a radio watch that allowed the story’s lead, Johnny, to control the actions of a towering, giant, defense robot – were pretty cool (especially for the late ’60’s and early ’70’s).

The concept behind the watch wasn’t completely new.  Dick Tracy has been using a radio watch to communicate with his team since the comic series launched in October of 1931.  However, it is a total geek-gasm, and it’s totally cool, especially since, we now possess THAT specific technology today.

In this light, I’ve approached my big writing project this summer – my Wearables Roundup – with a great deal of enthusiasm. I love gadgets, and I most especially love gadgets that I can take nearly everywhere with me.  Here’s what we’ve got so far in the series:

I’m still working through a lot of metal gyrations with the Apple Watch.  There’s good and bad there, and it’s going to take a little bit of time to work through a supportable position on it. (Yes, it’s totally cool, but why is it totally cool; and what (if any) is a compelling reason to buy one…?  I’m working on that…)

You may recall that I was – and in many ways still am – a big fan of the Pebble Steel.  Has that changed?  Does the Pebble Time improve on what Pebble and Pebble Steel introduced to the market? Let’s dig up our smartwatch review topics and find out.

Hardware

In many ways, the Pebble Time should be considered the baseline of all smartwatch hardware. It could be because they were one of the first modern smartwatches to hit the market, filling a gap vacated by the exit of the Microsoft SPOT Watch, first introduced to a short, four year lifespan back in 2004.  They continued to be supported three years beyond their death in 2008, finally losing support for their services on 2011-12-31. It could be because  – that’s all that it really does – the baseline of what many smartwatches really are capable of…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The hardware for the Pebble Time has the following basic specifications:

  • Dimensions: 40.5×37.5×9.5 mm
  • Weight: 42.5g (1.5oz, with strap)
  • Band: 22mm (compatible with all 22mm watch bands)

 

IMG_1372 IMG_1373

 

As you can see from the specs and from the pictures, below, this puts it in the same size category as the 38mm Apple Watch. The front casing has an Stainless Steel bezel, but don’t think that this device has a metal casing. It doesn’t, it has a plastic casing. The bezel is just that – a bezel, and while it may be made of Marine Grade Stainless Steel with PVD coating, it really looks more like anodized aluminum than Stainless.  I don’t think it provides much protection for the device.  It’s purely decoration only. However, it does have a nice matte finish and looks good. The watch body also has a thin, curved ergonomic profile, which is supposed to make it a more comfortable, long term wear than watches that don’t have the same type of bend.

 

IMG_1380 IMG_1381

The Time has a tough, 2.5D (Gorilla) glass crystal covering an always on, color e-paper display with LED backlight.  The display is clearly readable in both indoor and outdoor lighting, and even though it’s always on, the device comes with a 7-day rated battery life.  This improves on the Pebble and Pebble Steel which went about 5 or so days, depending on use. Seven solid days is pretty decent.  So, high marks to Pebble on this feature. I’ll have more on this in the Battery Life section, below.

However, it’s not all sunshine and daisies for the display.  The biggest problem with it, is that it’s difficult to read in low light situations.  You’d think that the backlight would help here, but it doesn’t. The backlight tends to wash out the display, so it looks more white than anything else, which is unfortunate.  Someone with not so great eyesight, like me, may have trouble reading it in low light situations, and that’s not good.

 

IMG_1589 IMG_1590

 

The Time also has a built in microphone for voice notes and quick replies, however, I don’t know how practical it is.  Yeah, I know, the whole Dick Tracy/ Johnny Sakko thing of talking to your watch is kinda cool, but I haven’t had any real luck with that feature in any other setting other than a quiet room or office; and honestly, if those kinds of places are the only ones that’s any good in, then having a microphone on the Pebble Time is a waste of internal space.

Finally, the Pebble time has a vibrating motor for discreet alerts and alarms, which allow you to silently notify or wake yourself, and not anyone else.  This is a great way of getting up in the morning without some ugly blaring, beeping noise going off in your ear, or the music on your clock radio sending you AND your cat to the ceiling because your kids are smart alecks and have turned the volume on it “all the way up to 11.”  The Time is also water resistant to 30 meters, insuring that an inerrant swim or shower won’t ruin the watch by having it come in contact with water.

On paper, the Pebble Time really looks like a cool smartwatch.  However, the hardware looks, well… campy, I guess is the best way to put it.  The original Pebble wasn’t very professional looking and while competitors like the Microsoft Band (Part 1,Part 2) and the Fitbit Surge are total dork magnets, their somewhat less than high-dollar look and feel can be completely excused due to their heavy fitness tracking functionality.

 IMG_1378 IMG_1381

Now, before everyone gets their compression pants in a knot, yes.  I know that the Time can “do” fitness related stuff too.  Yeah, but not really.  As with the Pebble, Pebble Steel and now the Pebble Time, all Pebble smartwatches can “do” fitness tracking. However, they are completely dependent on your smartphone or other device to count steps, track progress, etc.  What the watch can do is display data from your connected phone.

Yes, it has an accelerometer and a compass; but it doesn’t have an A/GPS receiver, so it can’t track your progress natively. If you forget your phone or leave it home when you go out on a run or walk, you’re not going to get any fitness data on your workout.  The watch also doesn’t have any heat or heart rate sensors, so don’t look to it to keep track of any physical attributes when you work out either.  The Time also doesn’t work with Google Fit, the Android answer to Apple Health (oh, and it doesn’t work with Apple Health, either…)

When you look at the device as a whole – plastic body and case, rubber/ silicone band, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed.  Maybe it’s because I’m also wearing the Apple Watch, and because I’ve also got an Olio Model One coming.  I don’t know. Honestly, both the Microsoft Band and the Fitbit Surge aren’t “high end” devices.so I know I’m not turning into a watch snob or anything; but I can’t help but be disappointed.

Wearability and Usability

So what is the Pebble Time like to wear and how usable is it?

Great questions.

Like the Fluoroelastomer band on the Apple Watch, the silicone band on the Pebble Time is just as comfortable and just as soft and silky feeling.  However, in long term wear, I had issues with it creating dry patches on my skin. I was not pleased with that at all.  The band simply doesn’t breathe very well, and it’s not surprising. It is, after all… a silicone band.

IMG_1374 IMG_1375

The curved hardware casing of the watch ads a level of comfort… I think. Honestly, it’s hard to tell, as with a device this small and thin, it’s difficult to know if a curved case vs. a standard shaped case – i.e. like any other watch – makes any real or noticeable difference.  Honestly, I can’t tell; but it is at least nice to know that the feature is there.

Notifications

Like its predecessors, the Pebble Time gets Notifications right.

Notifications are configurable on your phone and alert you when needed.  With the Time’s Timeline feature, you can even review them as part of your Present or Past Timelines.  The only caution I have here is that you take the time to configure your notifications correctly so that you don’t get bombarded by them . The idea behind the Time – and all other smartwatches for that matter – is to make dealing with them easier and less intrusive.  If you’re constantly checking your watch because you have your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. social networking accounts dinging your watch, then you likely haven’t improved on anything and have overloaded your ability to effectively and discretely address notifications with the Time (or, again, any other smartwatch).

Connectivity

I do NOT like how the Time interfaces with my iPhone.

The Pebble Time connects to my iPhone 6 the same way my Pebble Steel does – with a regular Bluetooth partnership and then with a Bluetooth LE partnership.  This type of relationship has proven to be problematic in the past.  If the Bluetooth LE partnership doesn’t link up after pairing (and because the LE communication uses its own partnership vs sharing the main Bluetooth pairing, it often can), then you aren’t going to get notifications.  This starts to become evident after things are “too quiet” on the notification front after a while.

I haven’t run into this yet on the Time, but it happens quite often with my Pebble Steel, and it’s very frustrating.

Battery Life

The Pebble Time has a Lithium-ion polymer battery that Pebble rates for up to seven (7) days of battery life.  This is both good and bad.  The good is obvious. The bad may seem silly, but you’ll get it once you hear it.

Seven days of battery life (I got about five and a half during this review, due largely, to all of the fiddling and playing I did) is awesome. I love not having to remember to charge my battery every night. It makes for a much more familiar watch wearing experience.   The magnetic charging port on the Time has been moved to the back of the device as opposed to the side on the Pebble and Pebble Steel. The magnetic port on the Time is also supposed to support future smart accessories, that may be built into a watch strap (hence the move to the back of the watch).

IMG_1375

 

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I have no idea what those accessories may be or when they may be available, so at this point, I wouldn’t worry too much about them or how much they may cost.  IF they show, they can be reviewed and commented on like any other smartwatch accessory for the Apple Watch (or other watch that may have available accessories…but right now, I can’t think of any others.  Can you..??)

Software and Interfaces

At the end of the day, while having a nice bit of hardware on your wrist is nice, what’s going to make or break the device is the software that it uses on device and on your smartphone.  Needless to say, yes… I have opinions on both the device software and the Pebble Time App.

At the end of the day, though, this winds up being nothing more than a shuffle of the cards and a coat of paint.  That is to say, yes… I’m calling the interface a total dud.  Let’s check out why…

Device Software

First and foremost, let’s be clear – from a software perspective, the Pebble Time didn’t bring anything new to the table except its color, ePaper display.

That’s all.

IMG_1380 IMG_1381

Yes, I know it has a new software interface. However, the interface on the Time is really nothing more than a reorganization of the information Pebble has had on their watches from day one (except now color enabled), with a new coat of paint.  Pebble Time now organizes your information into three different buckets Past (top, right, device-side button) Present (middle device-side button) and Future (bottom, right, device-side button).  You can review all of your notifications via your Timeline and see what’s most important to you “right now” by simply sticking to the middle and/ or bottom right buttons.  You can review anything you’ve missed by tapping the top right button.

The organization they’ve implemented isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it’s pretty cool; but tying it with the three right side, device buttons is very 2012; and with touch screens available on the Apple Watch and even the Microsoft Band, limiting how you’re reviewing notifications to actions and activities keyed off of buttons on the Time is (now) a bit clunky.  A touch screen implementation with swipes and taps would have been much better; and better received, too.

Finally, and I can’t put it off any longer – ‘cuz this is the right place to mention it – the interface itself is horrible. The screens look as though they were painted by my 7 year old son.  I am so upset about this, to the point where its infuriating.

Again, the word “campy,” comes to mind, and it’s such a shame.  While I know that the Pebble Time is a budget oriented smartwatch, it doesn’t have to look budget oriented.  I know there’s only so much you can do with a color ePaper display, but Pebble could have done so much more with the graphics and SDK to have the time present a more professional, much more mature interface.  With items like the Apple Watch and the Olio Model One out there, a little more sophistication out of the Pebble Time couldn’t hurt, and would have been much welcomed.

The thing that bothers me the most about this, is that UI design choice “A” vs. UI design choice “B” doesn’t necessarily cost more.  You still have to draft it all out, create the screens, review the designs, etc., and having a more sophisticated, more professional look couldn’t have been more costly during its initial development.  The Time is a budget watch, yes, but it doesn’t have to look that way, does it?!  I know I’ve repeated myself here, but I mean… COME ON, people!

The original monochrome UI elements on the Pebble and Pebble Steel looked better than this, I think. Unfortunately, the implementation of color into your UI can bring out its weaknesses as much as it can show its strengths.  The design language needs to be changed here to allow for a more professional look and feel.  It would be nice if Pebble provided that option to its users in a future firmware update.

Pebble Time App

I’ve found this to be yet another huge disappointment.

The new Pebble Time smartphone companion app is really nothing more than the ORIGINAL Pebble app with a new coat of paint to allow for apps with color screens to be offered. While I don’t think you can use the new app to connect to the original Pebble or Pebble Steel – you still need the original app for that – it’s clear that all of the familiar apps from the original monochrome store are offered and available for the Time.

IMG_1593 IMG_1594

New watch should have offered me a new companion app with a new UI and a new design and, as I mentioned above, a better app offering with much more professional graphics. I’ve got screen shots of the smartphone companion app below, and as you can see, and I think agree, this struck me as a “very familiar” (which isn’t necessarily bad) and “nothing special” experience (which isn’t good).

IMG_1595 IMG_1597

The new store and new watch do offer the opportunity to get a better set of watch faces, but as you notice by running through the store, many of them are really nothing more than the old monochrome faces, now colored for the new ePaper display.  Again, a huge disappointment.

As with the original Pebble and Pebble Steel, the Pebble Time works with both iOS (running iOS 8 and higher) and Android (running 4.0 ICS and higher) smartphones.  So this is about as cross platform a smartwatch offering as you can get.

IMG_1596 IMG_1598

The only downside to all of this is that if you really want to track any fitness info with the Time, you’re going to need a third party fitness tracker like the Misfit or Jawbone (recommended by Pebble) in order to do it.  Additional language and international character support for the Time is said to be coming soon.

Problems and Issues

I think I’ve covered most the of the issues that I’ve bumped into with the Pebble Time in other sections. I won’t go over them again here.

The biggest thing that you do need to be aware of if you’re upgrading to the Time from either the Pebble or Pebble Steel is that the bands are not interchangeable or reusable on the new watch.  Any favorite band styles will need to be repurchased for use with the Time. However, since the time uses a standard 22mm band, they shouldn’t be too difficult to find or replace.

Conclusion

The biggest problem that I have with the Pebble Time is that the device is a huge disappointment to me. It’s not a bad device, per se. There just isn’t anything here that would make me really WANT to upgrade from my Pebble Steel to the time – except its color ePaper display – and that certainly isn’t worth the cost of the new watch. In my opinion, the original Pebble Steel should have been introduced with a color display. It would have made much more sense, and honestly, would have totally negated the introduction or release of the Pebble Time. Perhaps we would have gotten something different or better if it had.

The Pebble Time should be considered the base line for any smartwatch.  It has all of the basic functionality that would be considered mandatory in a smartwatch.  The absence of any kind of native fitness tracking in the actual device, however, is a huge hole, and one that will really make individuals looking for a smartwatch stop and consider or reconsider its purchase.  Other devices exist for about or near the same cost that include the fitness stuff, and as such kinda make the Pebble Time a bit irrelevant even before it had a chance to make any kind of impact on the market.

The Pebble Time is currently available for pre-order (as of this writing) and will cost $199.99.

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Current Status – Where I’m at with the Summer Writing Projects

It’s been kinda quiet in “Christopher’s Corner” over the past few weeks. Here’s what’s been keeping me up late , with my summer writing projects.

Summer Writing Projects

This year has been an ambitious one for me. I’ve started a new job with a financial services firm in suburban Chicago in a senior leadership role. I’ve joined the Windows 10 Insider Team and am actively testing both the desktop and mobile versions of Windows 10.

In February of this year I began a smartwatch/ wearables roundup with the review of the Microsoft Band (that hyperlink is a link to Part 2 of my review. A link to part 1 can be found in the first line of that article). I followed that up in April with a review of the Fitbit Surge. I’ve also hit a couple of pot holes with Windows 10 that is really keeping me hopping. To be quite honest, things haven’t been very easy at all over here in the Windows 10 camp especially; and I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew…

Here’s why – I’m also looking at the Apple Watch, trying to decipher it (I was going to say, “figure out what makes it tick,” but thought the better of it…). I’m trying to look at the Pebble Time, which I have in hand; and I’m also beginning to look at OS X 10.11 El Capitan and iOS 9 (both of which have had Beta 2 versions released).

I’ve got a whole lot of beta in my life right now; and honestly, it’s really messy.

I honestly don’t have iOS 9 installed on any of my iDevices as I don’t want that train wreck to interfere with any of the reviews I’m doing in the Wearables Round-Up. I had El Capitan installed on my MacBook Pro, but nuked and rebuilt my Mac as I bumped into a adware/spyware element from some software that I didn’t get from Soft32 – a huge mistake, by the way… all of our software is certified malware free – and had to rebuild the machine in order to get rid of it. I’m still in the tail end of that, as the malware had also infected my Time Machine backups and I can’t use it to restore ANYTHING. After I figure out which apps I have to redownload, reinstall and then reregister (some, like A Better Finder Rename and ClamXav were downloaded, installed and registered outside of either the Mac App Store or any other self-downloading or updating system), then I have to blow my Time Machine drive and let it automatically reestablish its backup schedule.

There are also some really big issues with Windows 10 right now, that go beyond whether or not you’re going to get the software for free. Build 10130 is a bit of a turd; and to be quite honest, my Surface Pro 3 is very unstable. I’m also having issues wiping it and moving back to Windows 8.1 (not that I want to stay there, but if you really want to clean install a beta build, the best thing to do is to go back to the last RTM point for it and build forward). I’m not certain if that’s the recovery media I have, or if there’s a firmware or other system software issue, or what, that’s preventing THAT from working.

A new firmware update has come out for the Surface Pro 3, and MY device still wants to download and install the MAY firmware update (showing as Firmware (or Hardware) Update 05/14/2015, in Windows Update) over and over and over and over and over… you get the picture… even if it’s been successfully installed. …Very frustrating.

I also happen to be a bit impatient. This can be a bad thing during a beta software run or any other testing situation, as impatience can often lead to additional errors or support problems. However, seeing as my Surface Pro 3 likes to download the same firmware update over and over again AND seeing as how the latest firmware update was released three days ago (and my SP3 is still trying to download the MAY update), I decided to see if the firmware update couldn’t be downloaded manually.

Most hardware OEM’s have support pages for their devices. Dell is famous for all of this; and I figured Microsoft had to have something similar. I was right, too.

You can find all of the latest Surface and Surface Pro support software, here.

Simply navigate to that page and then click the download button. You’ll be taken to a page where you can select exactly what files you want or need to download for your supported device.

WARNING – Only download and install software meant for your SPECIFIC Surface model.

I know this seems like a silly thing to say; but ALL of the files for all six (6) Surface Models – Surface, Surface 2, Surface 3, Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3 – are mixed together. They’re all named appropriately, but the model names and file names are all similar and it’s very easy to miss a model number or a “pro” and download the wrong support file. Attempting to install a file not meant for your device can cause serious, perhaps irreparable, damage to it. You need to be very careful.

I was able to find and download the firmware file I was looking for for my Surface Pro 3, and get it installed. Problem solved.

Anyway… let’s take a moment and run down a check list of where I am with everything so that everyone knows what’s what –

Wearables Roundup

Microsoft Band Review – Completed (Part 1, Part 2)
Fitbit Surge Review – Completed
Apple Watch Review – In process (Latest article – Personal Setup of the Apple Watch
Pebble Time Review – In process
Olio Model One Review – Waiting on hardware
Final Conclusions & Round Up – Pending completion of all individual reviews

Windows 10 Coverage

Latest Fast Ring Build – Build 10130
Latest Slow Ring Build – Build 10130
Latest Article – Windows 10 Build 10122 Status Update
Latest Mobile Fast Ring Build – Build 10149 (Write up is pending)

Apple Coverage

OS X 10.11 – Waiting on Stability & Public Beta Release
Current Build – Developer Preview 2 (Build 15A204b)
With the Apple Watch Review in play, I don’t want to negatively affect any connectivity between my Mac, my iPhone and my Watch.
iOS 9
Current Build – Beta 2 (Build 13A4280e)
With the Apple Watch Review in play, I don’t want to negatively affect any connectivity between my Mac, my iPhone and my Watch.

watchOS
Current Build – Beta 2 (Build 13S5255c)
Likely will not install during the Wearables Roundup period. I don’t want to screw up the Watch while its being reviewed, as not everyone will have access to the beta bits until its formal release in the Fall of 2015 (or unless and until Apple releases a public beta).

So this, kids, is why you haven’t seen a lot from me this past month. I’m working… Oh, you can bet your babushkas I’m working… I just either don’t have much to report, or I’m busy trying to troubleshoot and dig myself out of a hole due to software (and/or hardware interaction) bugs. However, I do plan on providing coverage this summer for all of the items you see here.

Do you have a Windows Machine? Are you a Microsoft Windows 10 Insider? Are you on the Fast Ring or the Slow Ring? Which Build do you currently have installed on your Windows PC? How well (or not) is it working for you? Do YOU think they will be ready to ready to release to the public on 2015-07-29?

Do you have a Mac? Are you a Mac Developer Program member? Have you downloaded and installed OS X 10.11 El Capitan? Have you downloaded and installed the latest version of iOS 9 to your iDevice? How well (or not) is they working for you? If you’re not a Developer Program member, will you install any of the public betas on your Mac or iDevice(s)?

I’d love to hear from you to find out where you are and what your experience has been with all of this. What issues have you bumped into? What issues have you heard about, but not experienced? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your current status and tell me how things are (or are not) working for you?

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Personal Setup of the Apple Watch

Sometimes maybe, its just better to go it alone…

apple-watch-selling-points

Wearable computers aren’t as intuitive as you might think. In fact, the whole category is a bit confusing. Its so confusing, that you may have trouble figuring out what is and what isn’t a smartwatch vs. what is and isn’t a fitness band, and which ones really kinda “cross the streams” and are a bit of both.

When you constantly have new players making a splash in this pool full of offerings, its hard not to end up all wet. And that’s a HUGE statement, if you take a few moments and try to noodle that one through…

So, in order to try to make things a bit easier on my wife – who’s new to the whole wearables category – and to me – who knows a bit but not totally EVERYTHING on the Apple Watch in particular – I thought it might be a really great idea to have both of us. What I experienced wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be.

This whole post should be tagged with – your mileage may vary…The videos are also a bit long. So, you may want to skip through a bit. Apple’s Personal Setup process is free, and it takes you through the initial unboxing and setup of the device, right out of the box. You can, if you wish, have them take you through Personal Setup on any product you purchase, even AT time of purchase. I saw one person unbox a 27″ iMac and another, a 13″ MacBook Pro.

Initial Unboxing and Setup

Here, the unboxing has finished and the Genius is taking my wife through the pairing process with her iPhone. There’s a lot of clicking through that’s done here, and not enough explanation, in my opinion. The pairing process is interesting. You hold your phone, camera and Apple Watch app active, over your Watch, while the watch shows some sort of strange particle graphic on its screen. The active graphic’s pattern is supposed to uniquely identify the watch to your phone and silently pair both a regular and a Bluetooth-LE partnership (though only one partnership is listed in MY Devices under, Bluetooth Settings)

Pairing and Initial Setup

The pairing process is done here. My wife described the pairing pattern on the watch as looking like the Teseract from the Avengers. She wasn’t far off. After you pair the Watch with your phone, it wants to know where you’re going to wear it (right or left wrist) and then your Apple ID and password.

Configuring the Watch

Here, configuration choices are made for the Watch. Here, there’s a lot of tapping an OK button. The decision to put a passcode on your Watch is made. If you don’t want to put a passcode on your Watch, then you won’t be able to use Apple Pay on the Watch. Apple Pay = use a passcode!

Apps… here you have to be careful. Every app that you have on your phone that has a Glance, will automatically install that Glance on your phone. If you don’t be careful (I was going to say, “watch…” sheesh!!), you’re going to overload on Glances, and then, you’re likely never going to use ANY of them. You’re also going to get Notification overload, so you have to be careful about what you install on the Watch.

Oh, and if you’re stuck for a camera remote – so you can take a stickless selfie – you can use the Watch to snap the shutter on your iPhone’s camera. Its all kinda cool.

Its So Complicated

Changing your Watch face starts with a force touch. Right now you get about eight or so watch faces. All of the little information icons on any of the included Watch faces are called, “complications.” They can show you cool things like the phases of the moon, the current, local temperature, the time in other time zones, etc.

Some Watch faces can only have a couple complications on them. Others can have one in each corner, at least. What you can’t do, at this time, however, is construct your own Watch face from all of the elements available to the watch. You have to pick from preconfigured Watch faces and then only specific complications are available in each spot where one is placed. You also can’t move the complications to another location on the Watch face. There are a few options, but not many.

The Apple Watch is an amazing piece of electronic fare. It can do a lot, but can you get it to do what YOU really want it to do. I’m hard at work trying to crack this nut, and I’m close to the point where I can start writing this review. Look for it in the next few weeks!

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Yes, I got my Apple Watch Before it Sold Out

But it won’t ship on 2015-04-24…

w42ss-sbbk-selEarly adopters and tech journalists (which are usually one in the same thing, at least on my end) know the drill when it comes to ordering a brand new iDevice – you get up in the middle of the night, wearily shuffle your feet down the hallway, nearly tripping over socks, underwear (?!?) and a Tonka truck only to step on a lone Lego block hiding in some obscure location on the floor causing you to want to cry out and swear with every four-letter word known in your native language (but you don’t ’cause it’s the middle of the night, and you don’t want to wake anyone…). So… you hobble the rest of the way to the computer desk, with muffled words held back in your mouth and tears running down your cheeks

In my case, its 1:55am CDT; and orders for the new iDevice (in this case, the Apple Watch, but the same thing happened recently with the iPhone 6…) begin in six (6) minutes. By this time, however, I’ve got myself seated, wiped the tears from my eyes and have begun refreshing my browser that’s pointed to Apple’s Online Store, specifically at the Watch’s order page.

The site still shows that its down, and that’s ok, because officially, orders don’t start until 2:01am CDT. However, that time comes and goes with the site still showing that it’s updating. That’s when I really began to understand that there was a bigger demand for Watch than some – including me – had originally thought there would be.

Initially, everyone thought that the demand for watch would be high. However, since Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5 or later, many thought that it would be easy to get, including me.

Totally…TOTALLY not the case.

I got up in plenty of time, and I started refreshing my browser early enough in order to catch an available connection on the server when one opened up. The problem was that nearly everyone ELSE in the world was apparently doing the same thing.

I was able to order and reserve my Apple Watch Sport by 2:13am CDT; but I was shocked that my delivery time was pushed out 4 – 6 weeks (delivery will take place between 2015-05-13 and 2015-05-27.

Four to six weeks. FOUR TO SIX WEEKS!! REALLY??! OMG!

You know that means that the initial stock that Apple was able to secure for Launch sold out in less than twelve (12) minutes, right?

… In less than 12 minutes!

It also means that a great many people didn’t trust the whole, “reserve a time to try on and buy your Apple Watch” thing in order to make certain that they were able to actually secure a Watch. It also means that those that were able to actually get a Watch did exactly what Angela Ahrendts wanted them to do and bought Watch online as soon as orders for it opened up.

…OR

More stock of the device was actually allocated TO the brick and mortar stores offering Watch appointments than to the online store so that orders at try-on appointments could be fulfilled. It kinda makes me wonder how many devices were on hand and available to ship at both the online store.

However, I’m very lucky.

From what I’ve been able to see, if you didn’t get in and order one by 2:15am CDT, your order got pushed to a “June” delivery time. June. Inside of 15 minutes, your delivery date got pushed from 2014-04-24 to between 2015-05-13 to 27, to June (without any kind of date range). June..!

JUNE!

…and I got that delivery time frame at 2:15am CDT when I tried to see, just for grins and giggles, what the time would be pushed to for orders that got placed after mine. Delivery times have stayed at “June” since then, and are still listed as “June” as of this writing (11am CDT). It kind of makes me wonder if Apple did the same thing with Watch as Olio did with the initial manufacturing run of their Model One – create hype and a sense of increased value and desire due to rarity, as many devices aren’t available until 2-3 months after pre-orders open. However, I’m not sure that was an active strategy here for Apple. It happens a great deal with all of their latest, high-demand products like iPhone and iPad.

Apple Insider had the same thought, but quickly dismissed the idea. It is very “unApple-like.” However, when initial stock sells out in less than 5-10 minutes, you have to wonder if it might not be true. It does appear, however, that the supply chain for Watch is even more constrained than iPhone, which is really saying something.

I was hoping to have the review of Apple Watch available on Soft32 at least in part, during the month of April. Now it looks as though we’re going to have to wait until May or so for the unboxing. I’m a bit disappointed, too. I was really hoping not to have such a long period of time between the candidates in this round up.

Until then, keep checking back here. I will likely have a bit of news and other fun tidbits as we get ready for the arrival of Apple Watch (and a couple others…) in the next four to six weeks.

Did you order Apple Watch? If not, will you? Are you planning on it or waiting until either later this year; or will you wait until version 2.0 of Watch comes out (some time in the next year or so)? I’d love to hear your opinion and thoughts on the matter. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

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