Should I Upgrade or Not..? – Part 2

Based on the information at hand, here’s my take on Apple’s announcements from 2017-09-12…

So, if you’re looking for information on the new iPhones that Apple announced the other day, you should read this article. I cover both the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X pretty thoroughly.

To sum them up again, they’re expensive. Both phones come in 64GB and 256GB sizes. If you don’t buy the bigger one, and you have more than 64GB of content, you’re going to need to get a decent enough data plan to allow you to stream everything. The carrier is going to get your money one way or another… You’re just gonna have to get over it.

Apple also released some other products. Let’s take a quick look at those and see what’s what…

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Apple Watch Series 3
Apple has introduced four different models of the Apple Watch Series 3 smartwatch in two sizes, a number of colors, in two different case types for two of the models; and at least two different variations. I’m going to try to run everything down here, as quickly as possible.

In general, all models of every Apple Watch come in either 38mm or 42mm sizes. So you get every Watch in small and large sizes. Over and above that, here’s the break down on all of the Series 3 variations that are available.

Series 3 – GPS + Cellular
The Series 3 GPS + Cellular comes in two different variations – Apple Watch and Apple Watch Nike Plus. With the Apple Watch, you get two different case offerings and two different band options with each case type. You can choose from an aluminum or stainless-steel case. If you get the Apple Watch in the aluminum case, you can choose from either a Sport Band or the Sport Loop band. If you go with the stainless-steel case, you get a choice of either the Sport Band or the Milanese Loop band.

If you choose Apple Watch Nike+, you get an aluminum case with either a Nike Sport band or a Nike Sport Loop band.

The big deal here is the cellular capabilities in the new Apple Watch Series 3. The Watch will update itself and communicate with everything on the internet, letting you leave your phone in the car or at home. You can even take and place calls on the thing.

However, if you do use it for talk, you’re going to have to be very careful. The battery in the Watch, while technically a bit bigger, can’t sustain cellular phone calls for any length of time. I’ve seen reports on Twitter and on Facebook that indicate that there’s only enough power to last about an hour or so of any dedicated cellular activity.

Cellular calls burn through the battery like its bleeding water from a sieve. I’ve seen reports where a 10 minute cellular call on the Watch via its dedicated LTE radio (as opposed to via Bluetooth while connected to your phone) will eat through 10% or more of your available battery… potentially more if your battery is below 50%.

Just because it can, doesn’t mean that the Watch is MEANT to replace your phone for all things. It really isn’t. Its “all day battery” rating expects your phone to pick up most of the heavy LTE lifting, allow the Watch and your iPhone to swap data like a Series 0, Series 1 or Series 2 Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch Series 3 – GPS + Cellular and Apple Watch Nike+ GPS + Cellular start at $399.

Series 3 – GPS
The Series 3 GPS comes in two different variations – Apple Watch and Apple Watch Nike Plus. With the Apple Watch, you get aluminum case with a Sport Band. If you choose Apple Watch Nike Plus, you get an aluminum case with a Nike Sport Band.

The Series 3 – GPS can do everything that the Series 0, Series 1 and Series 2 can do. It can also do nearly everything that the Series 3 can do, except it can’t do LTE based data on its own. This edition requires your iPhone to do all internet based calls including communicating via social media, making and placing phone calls and text messages, and receiving notifications. However, it is $70 less.

What you’re going to get here in terms of an upgrade from Series 2 is a better processor, a slightly better battery and better water resistance. The battery life here is going to be very good, and you’ll definitely get the all-day battery that everyone is expecting.

The thing that you’re going to have to ask yourself is, is all of this worth the cost of the upgrade. The Series 2 is a decent watch. Everything looks the same, and the battery life in it is very, very good compared to the Series 0 and even the Series 1. What you’re going to need to determine is, how deep and how long will you dive or be under water? How much longer do you need the battery to last? The newer processor will make the watch a bit faster and more efficient; but given that you don’t see a lot of direct computing done directly on the Watch, you have to wonder how much of an advantage its going to be. That is a personal decision, and I’ll have my own thoughts on this, below, in the Conclusion.

The Apple Watch Series 3 – GPS and Apple Watch Nike+ – GPS start at $329.

Series 3 Hermès
The Apple Watch Hermés offers everything that the Apple Watch Series 3 GPS + Cellular does. Here, however, you default to the stainless steel case and of course, the branded Hermés watch face and signature leather band. You also get an additional sport band included with your purchase (which, realistically accounts for the last $49 you’re charged).

There are a number of things here that bother me with the Hermés editions. Mostly, it’s the bands and their outrageously high (and overpriced) price tags. While I’m CERTAIN that the bands are high quality and are superior to just about anything and everything like them out there, paying hundreds and hundreds of dollars for an inch and a half wide strip of leather with some holes punched in it just seems not silly; but stupid.

Those that can afford the Hermés edition will tell me that I just don’t get it and that this is part of the reason why the Hermés edition is not for me. I’d have to agree with them. I don’t really care how much money I have to burn, paying $340 USD for the Single Tour band and $490 USD Double Tour band is a horrible waste of money. Especially when you can find reasonably priced and just as comfortable knock-offs for a fraction of the price on Amazon or other online realtors.

Yes, you won’t have the designer branding or the custom watch face to go along with it; and maybe that’s the point – you’re paying for the branding… however, when the functionality is exactly the same on the Hermés edition as it is on every other Apple Watch with a stainless steel case, I have to look at what I’m getting for the extra dough, and when all I see is a watch face, a band and a brand name, I don’t see a lot of value added equity. What I see is vanity, and it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

I’d appreciate some help here, kids. If you’ve even tried on an Hermés band and settle for a knock-off, I’d love to hear from you and get your thoughts and impressions here. It might help make some sense of how folks that purchase this edition justify the cost. Fee free to drop me a line or leave a comment, below.

Apple Watch Edition
This is a far cry from what the Series 0 Apple Watch Edition USED to be. The original Apple Watch Edition went as high as $18,000 for a special 18k Gold version that wrapped the exact same Series 0 guts in an overly expensive, unbelievably priced gold watch case that only uber rich could even THINK of purchasing. Sales of this particular line of Series 0 Watch were beyond embarrassingly low; and Apple promptly moved past the uber fashion statement into something that was a bit more reasonable.

With the Series 3 Apple Watch, Apple is providing a ceramic case – in either Pebble White or Space Gray – with a White or Black Sport band. Ceramic is (supposed to be) very durable and resistant to both scratches and dents. For this combination of case and band, the Apple Watch provides you with all of the Series 3 LTE and GPS goodness you find in all of the other LTE based models; and that’s an important distinction.

The Apple Watch Edition doesn’t come in just a GPS version. Here, you get a choice of color, size (either the standard 38mm or 42mm cases) and that’s it. The Apple Watch Edition comes in the LTE version. Period. The Watch also comes with a similarly colored Sport Band. If you want another band or bracelet, you can shop Apple’s available watch band collection. As always, Apple Watch bands fit both case sizes of every edition Apple Watch, regardless of version or Series.

The Apple Watch Edition starts at $1299.

To Answer the Question
So, to answer the question, “should I upgrade or not?” doesn’t really require a lot of thinking. If you don’t have an Apple Watch, now is a great time to buy in. At $329, the fitness and smartwatch functionality you get is a GREAT value. watchOS runs well on the Series 0; but this will likely be the last version of watchOS that will run on the original Watch. Performance does take a minor – but noticeable – hit.

If you want to be able to swim with the Watch and would like to have its GPS functionality, the Series 2 can be found for some really great deals. I found a Series 2 Nike + version for $249 recently. That’s $170 off the Series 2 full price.

If you have a Series 2 and are considering a Series 3, then you should be considering the LTE version. The Series 3 GPS version doesn’t offer any compelling reason to upgrade from the Series 2 at all, even with the slightly larger battery, faster processor and more accurate GPS receiver. The Series 3 LTE version is really compelling IF you really want to run AND stream audio while you run; or if you’re looking to update your running or workout app with live data while you run or exercise.

Other than that, even with their current price structure, I don’t see a compelling reason to upgrade from any series Apple Watch to the Series 3. Every version of every Series Apple Watch is still very usable today; and I would expect them to last for a while, too. When non-electronic watches can last years – even decades – and cost about as much as the Apple Watch does, you’d expect Apple to build longevity into the Watch more than anything else… I’m just sayin’.

AppleTV 4K
Aside from the iPhone 8 , I think the news on the AppleTV was some of the most exciting news I took away from the September keynote.

The big news here wasn’t an increase in storage capacity, a better processor, or even improvements to Siri or even tvOS. This year’s big news was all about 4K HDR. According to Apple,

“4K gives you a crisper picture using four times more pixels than standard HD. High Dynamic Range (HDR) delivers brighter, more realistic colors and greater detail. From the hottest new movie to your favorite TV show, everything is more lifelike than ever.”

This means that everything that you watch on the AppleTV that comes in 4kHDR is going to look stunning. The colors are gonna pop off the screen, and the detail and resolution is going to be crazy accurate and high. However, there’s one additional point here that really sets this whole thing off – if you bought video content from the iTunes Store in HD, Apple is upgrading all of your titles to 4KHDR content… for free. 4kHDR titles will also be available for the same price as regular HD titles today, which, to be very honest, is HUGE.

My understanding is that you won’t be able to download 4KHDR files, but you WILL be able to stream them, and to be honest, the AppleTV is a streaming box. While you CAN store either 32GB or 64GB of content on the device, that small amount of storage won’t hold more than a couple files at most, and to be honest, you probably wouldn’t want to store 4KHDR files anyway. They’re likely going to require terabytes of storage to keep laying around.

If you don’t have an AppleTV, now is a good time to jump on board. This version is also a decent upgrade option if you have an AppleTV and are looking for a reason to get the latest version.

The big concern I have here, however, is cost. At $179, the 4K version is perhaps the most compelling of new model AppleTV’s, but its also the highest priced entry point into a streaming box that runs on the Apple ecosystem. The AppleTV still starts at $149; but only comes in a 32GB version.

However, the standard HD version still runs the current version of tvOS; so, unless you have a need for 4KHDR content, this should be a very good substitute. Unfortunately, you won’t get the benefits of the new versions enhancements; but it will do everything that the 4K version does.

To Answer the Question
So, to answer the question, “should I upgrade or no?” that’s going to depend on if you have or are planning on getting a 4K TV. If you do, then you’re likely going to want to spend the extra $30 bucks and get the 4K version.
If you don’t have a 4K TV, and aren’t planning on getting one any time soon, then you may want to hold off until you do. However, spending $30 to future proof your AppleTV isn’t a lot of money to think about or give up.

At the end of the day, it’s a little more than $50 additional dollars for the larger 4K HDR version; and that’s not a lot to ask for, but if you aren’t going to use it, then it may not be the best use of the extra money. That’s up to you…

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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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2014 Predictions Scorecard

I made some predictions back in early January 2014. Let’s see how well I did…

Predictions

The end of any year always has us taking a quick look back to see where we’ve been to help us figure out where and how far we want to look ahead. 2014 was no different; and in fact, after I assess my awesome skills of prior, predictive, prestidigitation, I plan to make additional predictions for the new year. Stay tuned to Soft32 for my technology predictions for 2015.

So, I found my predictions for 2014… and again, you have to understand that many of these are nothing more than a SWAG – a silly, wild, <beep!> guess. Technology is like water – it flows where it wants, and predicting just where and what gets wet is more of an art than a science. You’ll need to have a couple different browser windows open for this, for everything to make sense. To get the best idea of how I did, you might want to have this column in one window, and last year’s predictions open in another.

I’m going to run down how I did on a scale of 1-5, 1 being low, 5 being high. The best score I can get is 20, as I only made four predictions for 2014. Let’s take a quick look at how I did.

1.   Wearable Computing Still Doesn’t Take Off

Yep. This WAS an easy one; and I’m going to give myself 5 points here. While the Pebble Steel finally did make its appearance in 2014, it was 3-4 months behind schedule; and while it may be timeless, I’m certain many will agree that it didn’t hang the moon. The Apple Watch won’t be released until sometime in 2015; and with a $350 entry point, I’m not certain how many people will jump at the opportunity to own one. Other smartwatches like the Galaxy Gear and the Galaxy Gear S, again while nice, are also expensive and a bit too restrictive – you have to have a specific kind of Galaxy S smartphone for these to work. The Moto 360 also hasn’t sold well. Most everyone , I think, will agree that wearables are still, unfortunately, confusing.

2.  Blackberry Totally Folds – Sells off its Assets

Ok, I blew this one and take no points at all for it. Blackberry did fade, but didn’t fold. I haven’t heard or seen anything on it in the news in quite a while, and that may be their plan for right now – lay low. Regroup. Come back with a better strategy. I still think they should be looking for a buyer. Microsoft might be a good home for them; but I’ve also been saying that for a while, too.

3.  Apple and Samsung Still Can’t Get it Together

This is the love-hate relationship that everyone hates to love and loves to hate. These two still haven’t gotten it together, but tensions have at least cooled if not quieted down some. The trial isn’t over, the appeal is still up in the air; and while they may be resigned to working together, given the opportunity I think that there’d still be blood on the playground if left to their own devices. I’m going to take 4 points here, as I think I was really close, but not quite dead on.

4.  Microsoft’s Next CEO is

I had a bit more than half of this right. I had it down to either Allan Mulallay or Satya Nadella. I’m going to take 3 points here, as I couldn’t quite dope it all out, though I did pick Nadella as a finalist for the right reasons.

My final score is 12/20 or 60%. It’s not a great score… but it’s not a bad score either. The Blackberry thing totally did me in. Instead of dying, they kinda faded into the background. We’ll have to see where CEO Jon Chen takes them in the future. I still think the best thing for him to do is look for a buyer, and to look to Microsoft for that purchase. That might be a huge pill for Blackberry to swallow, however, as Microsoft and their Exchange ActiveSync has always been a huge competitor for Blackberry, and selling to a competitor may be seen as admitting defeat… I don’t know; but Microsoft’s money is just as green as everyone else’s.

Did you make any predictions for 2014? If so, how did you do? Did you bet on the wearables market taking off; or were you in a wait and see mode? Did you think Satya Nadella would be named Microsoft’s third CEO, or did you pick another candidate to take the helm? Did you think that Apple would not only release a larger iPhone, but release a complete phablet as well in the iPhone 6 Plus? There was a bit to choose from, and not everything came to light near the end of 2013 in time to actually make a prediction for the entire year.

How did you do on your predictions though? Were you close? Were you totally off; or were you dead on? I’d love to hear how you did with your 2014 predictions. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and tell me how you fared?

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iPhone 6 Day is Upon Us! Thoughts from Yesterday

Yesterday, Apple announced the iPhone 6…

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My diary thoughts from yesterday at :

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“As I sit here, I’m watching the countdown at Apple’s Live Event page. There’s about an hour and a half left until the start of the event. Today, is supposed to be a very big day.

My wife asked me what all the hub-bub was about and how did I know that “something magical” was going to happen today. I told her because “all of this was fabulous.”

She didn’t buy it.

I then told her that today was the biggest Apple announcement day since 2007 (the announcement of the original iPhone) because the event is purported to launch not only two different iPhone 6 models, but the iWatch as well.

Also on tap are update to iPad, though these aren’t supposed to be as big a deal as the iPhone and iWatch announcements.

Of all the days in history, Apple Day is the biggest day, ever…well at least according to @zackwhittaker

I’ll have more on this in the days that follow the announcement.”

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Pebble Steel is Timeless

Even at nearly 6 months old, PS is the shizzle.  Here’s my take on it…

There are a number of Smartwatches out there (or soon to be out there). In my opinion, Pebble Steel is the only one that really has a decent handle on the market at this point.  C|Net had an interesting article on this, too; but it doesn’t touch on all of the points I’m going to make here.  I’ll try to run down why, as quickly as I can.

140106C.Steel-Trio

The Right Size
One of the biggest issues with fitness bands and Smartwatches today is their size.  Too small, and you can’t get enough information on the screen to be of value. Too big, and you may as well strap your phablet to your wrist. Finding the sweet spot – i.e. the right size – has been an issue that most current Smartwatches have failed at.

Regardless of what the Pebble and Pebble Steel do or don’t do, they don’t look like anything else other than a watch, and that is largely due to the fact that the Pebble is watch sized.  Most Android based watches, including the second generation Galaxy watch from Samsung, the Samsung Gear 2 and they are large and bulky on your wrist, unless of course, you’re someone like Andre the Giant or LeBron James, and then you’re likely not going to look at the device and think, “man, this thing is huge.”

The Right Functionality

·    Apps and Watch Faces
This may have something to do with the amount of time that the Pebble and Pebble Steel have had on the open market; but there are a number of usable apps and watch faces available on the Pebble platform.  Android Wear is still very young, and while there are some apps available for it, the Pebble still has more.

However, I’m not making this bullet about the amount of apps available on one platform over the other. I think Android Wear will quickly close the gap over time.  My point here is the difference between platforms and apps.  Pebble is about telling time and putting usable, value-added information on your wrist where you can use it. Pebble notifications allow you to see the events pushed to your phone on your wrist, allowing you to check the notification(s) without seeming rude. Most other Smartwatches try to be a smartphone on your wrist and not a companion or extension of your phone.

·    Great, readable screen
The Pebble Steel uses an e-paper styled reflective LCD display that’s readable in all types of light, including – and most importantly – natural, direct sunlight.  If you’re in a dark room, Pebble supports a “shake to light” backlight. It’s not too bright, to be too disturbing to others, yet bright enough to see; and it doesn’t stay on too long, either.  Other smartwatch displays like those used by Samsung use OLED displays, and those appear black in direct and/ or natural sunlight. LG’s G Watch is the same way.  Both the Samsung and LG watches also sport color displays, while I’m certain they’re beautiful to look at, they also suck battery life.  The Pebble’s display is always on, and is always available.

·    Battery Life
Speaking of battery life, one of the best features of the Pebble Steel is that it lasts up to four to five days on a single charge (depending on how many notifications you get and how often you have it update weather, news and other info).  With Smartwatches, it’s all about data, notifications and update frequency. The more you have pushed to your watch, the shorter the battery life.

The Samsung watches can last up to two to three days on a single charge most other Android Wear watches require daily or nightly charging. There’s also a chance that you could run out of power during the day, and then what good is the device as a watch?

The longer the battery lasts, the better off you are. Even analog watches that require manual winding usually last a longer than two to three days on a single wind.  This is going to be one area that wearables in general are going to have to concentrate and innovate heavily in. If wearables require daily or nightly charging, I don’t see them getting used much in the long run; and they’ll likely end up being a category of devices that doesn’t last long.
·    Notifications
Notifications are the lifeblood of a smartwatch.  The Pebble app on your smartphone pushes any and all notifications received AND displayed on your device (a very important distinction, especially if you can control what notifications your phone does and does not display) to your watch.  This allows you to discretely check your notifications without having to take out your phone, turn on its screen.  In many cultures and countries, glancing at a watch is a much more acceptable action than interrupting a conversation to check a vibrating smartphone.

While Pebble and Pebble Steel don’t do much more than this, one has to ask if there’s much more that a smartwatch needs to do?  This is the great wearables conundrum. What should devices in this category do?  While fitness bands like the Nike Fuel Band can display the time as well as the fitness information it tracks, what the right balance of functionality and displayed information is, has yet to be universally defined or accepted by users and their most primary voting power – their money.

This part of the whole smartwatch field – what should a smartwatch really DO – has yet to be clearly defined by either a vendor or a demanding public.  As a result, the Pebble with its simple notification system, does a good job. It provides users with the information they want and provides for upgrades and updates via new firmware in the future.
·    Waterproof
The Pebble Steel is water proof to 5 ATM (about 160 feet or 48.77 meters). That being said, you could conceivably not only swim and shower with it, but you could go on shallow dives with it. However, I wouldn’t want to test how long each watch would stay water tight at depth.

Other Smartwatches, like the Samsung Gear watches or the LG G Watch are water resistant.  The difference is that you can get a water resistant watch wet, but it will need to be dried off as quickly as possible. It can’t be held under water.  A water proof watch can be held under water without fear of water coming in contact with the interior of its case.

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Did Nike’s FuelBand Run out of Gas?

Numerous reports have been seen on the internet recently indicating that Nike recently decided to exit the wearables market and has released or reassigned the members of its FuelBand Team.

If there’s one thing that I know, it’s that wearables are a hot market. Jawbone has one. Fitbit has several; and now Nike has none; or at least that’s what most of us have been lead to believe, if you lend credibility to some reports that have surfaced over the past couple of days. It was reported by a source close to C|Net that Nike has recently announced that it will be exiting the wearables market, leaving its FuelBand and FuelBand SE wrist bands behind to concentrate, it says, on health related software.

Nike-FuelBand-SE

Nike’s wearables division was 70 people big. It was originally reported that as many as 55 of those 70 had been released or reassigned.   That’s 78%+ of the members on the team. It was thought that some of those 55 people may take roles in other parts of the organization, though the specifics of those details were unknown.

Last week, Nike announced a new R&D entity called Fuel Lab. The group is said to concentrate its work on building out products that leverage the Nike Fuel workout metric.   Now, Nike has confirmed to Re/code that a “small number” of its people were let go. They have denied C|Net’s reports that it is closing its hardware division stating that the FuelBand and the FuelBand SE remain “an important part of [their] business.”   They have committed to continuing updating the FuelBand app as well as supporting it for the foreseeable future.

I bought a Nike FuelBand in December 2013 and have worn it every day since it arrived. I now have over 1.1M Nike Fuel in my Nike+ account. The band is comfortable to wear and does a good job of recording MOST movements.   It does a great job of recognizing arm sway while walking. It’s not that great about recognizing running arm sway. I spent most of November, December and January on an elliptical jogger. It did a horrible job of recording and measuring the activity. I’m told that it was the angle of the movement as read by its accelerometer that causes the problem.   For some reason, the Nike FuelBand/SE just doesn’t read the movement correctly. It’s very frustrating.   I run on an elliptical because I have knee problems (and therefore can’t jog…). Running is one of the best ways to lose weight and exercise. However, if my activity tracker can’t measure the activity correctly, then I may need a new tracker…

The iWatch is supposed to address this, if and when Apple releases it, and IF its even called that.   To an extent, the Pebble Steel may address this via Run Keeper (or other connected, compatible app). Either way, I need to eat less and move more; and measuring my progress isn’t as clear-cut as it was about 8 months ago.

Do you use an activity tracker?   If so, which one? Does it have a companion app on your smartphone of choice? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area and tell me about your setup and what you feel the best configuration is?

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Predictions for 2014

Here are my tech predictions for the coming year…

predictionsGazing into a crystal ball isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially in the tech world.   So much can change so quickly, that guessing what may or may not happen is, at times, nothing more than a SWAG – a Silly Wild <BEEP!> Guess.   Figuring out what is and isn’t possible vs. what is or isn’t probable, I try not to get into. It simply doesn’t make for good journalism in many cases, because so much can and usually does change so quickly in the tech world. In most cases you either end up with a, “well THAT was way off,” a “close but not quite,” or “keep trying… you’ll get it eventually.”   If some journalists DO get things right, it’s usually not because they made the right level of analysis, it’s usually because they were fed or had access to inside information, or the guess was so totally obvious that most anyone who follows the news could have guessed it and been right.

Well, I’m going to try to hit on all of those and I’m going to give it a go anyway. I figure that I haven’t got anything to lose. As I said, I’m either going to be way off, or I’m going to hit the no brainers.   Be that as it may, here are my tech predictions for 2014 in no particular order.

1.    Wearable Computing Still Doesn’t Take Off
This is really an easy one. The Samsung Galaxy Watch isn’t selling well. Having a wearable that does nothing more than pair with your phone and mimic some of its functionality when the device is in range of its Bluetooth 4.x radio hasn’t been received very well. In fact, the watch isn’t selling well at all.   Samsung may have gotten to market first on this, but despite being heavily anticipated, the watch hasn’t delivered much to its users except a high price tag.

Apple has hung back on this, and hasn’t released its highly anticipated wearable, popularity thought to be called the iWatch.   If it does nothing more than what Samsung’s wearable does, you can pretty much expect it to be a dud too.   I think this, more than anything else is why you haven’t seen Apple release this device yet.   If you remember, Apple released the iPhone in 2007, after it had been rumored to be in development for at least 4 years.   At the time, Steve Jobs KNEW that he had one shot at this. If he didn’t get it right, then the iPhone would have been an iDud, and the tech world would be very different today, indeed.   I think Apple is doing the same thing with the iWatch.

The iWatch needs to be innovative. It needs to be elegant. Most importantly, it needs to be affordable.   Having an additional $300-$500 iDevice accessory added on to your already expensive iDevice isn’t going to do your checking account any favors. Not only will it need to do everything that the Samsung Galaxy Watch does, but it will have to do much, much more.   While it might be nice to have fitness, activity and sleep monitoring built into it, it’s going to have to do much more than that as well. It may be that figuring out exactly WHAT else it needs to do is the key holdup in the device’s release – no one really knows exactly what else it SHOULD DO, especially since the Samsung product hit the market with a clear and solid thud.

It’s for this reason that I don’t think wearables take off in 2014.   In fact, it may be the end of the concept as well.   If Apple can’t figure this one out, then the whole device concept may just fade and –uh hem… – wear itself out.

2.    Blackberry Totally Folds – Sells off its Assets
I’ve been pretty bearish on Blackberry, formerly RIM, for quite a while.   I had a good feeling that the one serious buyout offer it had wouldn’t fly, and that its (former) CEO, Thorsten Heins, would end up on the outside looking in.   Like most of what its known for, the actions that the company took were too little, too late to garner any serious buyout candidates.   Blackberry’s new CEO, John Chen really has one chance to get it right, and if he’s on top of things, then he will act on the TRUE best interests of the company and forget the restructuring and rebuilding of the business and just sell the company’s assets off to the highest bidder(s) he can find.

The organization’s time is over; and while farming out the manufacturing of their handsets to FoxConn may have been a good idea, like the rest of what the company has done, it is also a development that is very late in coming to reality. If John Chen is smart, he’ll realize the company is too far gone to breathe serious life back into and will just sell off what he can to retrieve shareholder value back before the company has to declare bankruptcy and then its assets are worth just a fraction of their worth.   The biggest problem the company has is that it can’t afford another loss like its last quarter.   It doesn’t have another $4.0B to lose.

3.    Apple & Samsung Still Can’t Get it Together
I’ve seen a number of articles that point to the fact that Samsung and Apple are headed back to the arbitration table in 2014 before their trial is set to restart in 2015.   The two organizations don’t have a track record for cooperation or doing things on the cheap. Given this, and the fact that Samsung is totally on the hook for a HUGE wad of cash, I don’t think they’re going to agree to disagree, let alone agree on an appropriate settlement between them. Given all this, I think it’s a decent bet that Apple and Samsung will drag out negotiations up until the trial date and then put the bulk of the matter back in Judge Lucy Koh’s lap…and she’s prolly gonna have a cow.

To put it bluntly, this is going to extend well into 2015, and then it still won’t end well for Samsung. They’re going to have to come up with a great deal of cash to resolve the issue; and they aren’t going to be happy about that.   With extra scrutiny on them and their design processes, I think that many new devices that come out of Samsung will be viewed as Apple iPhone copies for many, many years. I also think they will likely have trouble coming up with new, innovative designs, as they haven’t really done anything original since just before the release of the iPhone in 2007.

4.    Microsoft’s Next CEO is…
Satchin Mulally.   I mean Alan Nadella.   Yeah… this one isn’t any easy call.

However, I believe it’s going to come down to one of these two candidates. Nadella has the history and familiarity with Microsoft and its products; and probably has enough juice within the organization and familiarity with the Board to get the level of support he would need to be successful. He also has YEARS of tech experience. The one thing he doesn’t have – experience turning a large company around…

Which Mulally has…   Ford was in an awful mess.   It took a lot not only to turn public opinion of the brand around, but a lot to get the company back on track.   Windows in and of itself isn’t a bad brand. Neither is Microsoft, for that matter.   They’ve got brand management issues to be sure, but with the right CEO, I still think Microsoft can turn it all around.   That’s what Mulally can do for the company.   Not only do I think he’s up to the challenge, I think it would be interesting for him to take on the role and see what he could do with it.   If he could do the same thing for Microsoft that he did with Ford, then the remainder of his career would be set. He could go where he wants or stay at MS and retire a very happy, VERY rich man.

Unfortunately for Mulally, he has absolutely NO tech experience what so ever, and would have to rely on his executive staff to provide him with the support he would need to drive the company.   This could also be a good move for Nadella, as his level of autonomy could grow and he could basically have his way with his divisions, providing ample evidence that he can run the entire organization once Mulally does decide to retire, marking him as the heir apparent. For Nadella, this could be a win-win.

What do you think will happen with these four issues?   Am I off my nut, or did I hit some of these on the head, or merely come close? Do you have any other predictions that you think might or might not come true? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion below.   Why not join us there and give us your thoughts on these and other tech predictions for 2014?

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What’s all the Fuss with Wearable Tech

…and why should you care? Great questions. I recently saw something on this and have something to add.

In the 2010-2011 time frame, the realization that a well-established ecosystem could make or break a mobile platform was all the rage.  Apple, or more specifically Steve Jobs, had figured that out a long while back, and had been moving towards that direction after capturing the digital music market in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Today, there seems to be a new market emerging, and like the early development of the ecosystem, there aren’t a lot of people who quite get it.

Wearable Technology is supposed to be huge.

indexMany are asking how, when C|Net pronounced the Microsoft Spot Watch dead on 2008-04-23; and newer reincarnations like the Pebble have been met with mediocre success. While things like the Nike Fuel Band or the FitBit have been out for a while, they don’t quite fit the intended paradigm. They’re only a small part of the picture; and I’ll get to why shortly.

According to ComputerWorld, “Wearable computing is about augmenting your whole life and taking advantage of fast-improving Internet services without being glued to a screen all day.” This is only partially right. It’s more about the ecosystem the wearable tech is compatible with and (more importantly) the services you subscribe to and use with that wearable tech.  Because, if the companies involved can’t lock you in and/or sell you services related to the tech… what’s the point?

Your smartphone is going to end up becoming the hub or, mobile router if you will, in a personal area network or PAN that goes where you go. It lives within an ecosystem providing access to multimedia content, apps and connectivity that can be consumed, projected; and where all of the related data will be initially cached before moving on to permanent storage in the cloud. You consume it all – you guessed it – on the wearable tech.

Your mobile carrier will allow you to communicate as you do today, but not via voice calls.  Think VoIP.  You’re going to have devices that all interconnect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and trade information back and forth, all at the same time.  Your Nike Fuel Band or FitBit will likely be replaced by a shirt or other piece of clothing that can display states of your workout, right on your sleeve or pant leg. Built in, washable sensors keep stats on your vitals and accomplishments as you continue to work out. You’ll pay – reasonable, nominal fees – for the tech, the apps, and the connected services. Vendors make money not on the tech per sell, but on the (licensing or reciprocal agreements and) services that you use and consume.

Wearable tech is all about integrating technology into your everyday life, and about selling the services that make it transparent.  This is why the iWatch (or whatever Apple’s gonna call it) and other items like the FitBit or Fuel Band are (at least initially) a big deal. The better job they do on catching on, the better chance the rest of the genre will have, and the less work vendors will have to do in selling the concept to the general public.

In my opinion, for this to work, wearable tech is going to have to be ecosystem and smartphone agnostic.  It’s going to need to work with every ecosystem and every “modern” smartphone, without issue, and without missing any “critical features.”

What I’m most concerned about at this point, is how carriers and hardware manufacturers respond to the “agnostic” requirement.  They don’t tend to be very supported of interoperability or sharing their networks and other services with those that don’t pay to play. I’m hoping by the time this really takes hold, carriers understand that they are a utility and not much more.

What do YOU think? Is your smartphone going to become a mobile router? As network speeds and liability improves will converged devices break up back into separate phones, music players and personal information managers or will that functionality melt away to something else more compelling?

Why don’t you sound off I the comments below and let me know what you think?

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