Olio Released Model One Firmware Updates 1.1.61 & 1.1.63

olio updateOlio recently released firmware updates to help address bugs and issues in their smartwatch, the Model One.

If you recall, I recently published a review of Olio’s Model One smartwatch. Unfortunately, I declared it pretty much one of the worst train wrecks I’ve ever seen in an electronic accessory, and most certainly, the worst product I’ve looked at in 2015. My initial reaction was so poor that I recommended everyone stay away from it for now.

Recently, I’ve received noticed of not one, but two, device firmware updates for the Model One, direct from Olio. Firmware version 1.1.61 was released on 2015-12-25 and addressed a number of different issues. You can see the specifics on those, directly below. Firmware version 1.1.63 was released to resolve a firmware update issue where the watch may get stuck in “update mode, ” and not recover. In this case, as long as the device is connected to power and showing connected in Olio Assist, Olio says version 1.1.63 can be passively downloaded to the watch and the watch updated, resolving the issue. Watches successfully updated to firmware version 1.1.61 without issue would simply update to 1.1.63, and would see no additional issues or new functionality other than what came with version 1.1.61.

Thankfully, I didn’t experience this particular issue. My watch updated to versions 1.1.61 and 1.1.63 without a hitch.

Bugs and Issues Resolved:

  • Bluetooth on your watch and phone settings should no longer randomly disconnect. If it does, it should automatically reconnect.
  • Improved gesture sensitivity and optimization.
  • Added tap only setting on watch so that if gesture sensitivity doesn’t work well, you can put it on tap-only mode to save battery life.
  • Bug fixed that can cause the watch to run out of battery in less than 4 hours.
  • Automatically setting all watches to medium brightness to prevent the ALS from causing some screens to turn off. A long-term fix to use auto brightness is in development.
  • Fixed accelerometer bug that can cause the watch not to turn on via gesture. The watch will reboot when the accelerometer is in improper state.
  • Implemented synchronization protocol to ensure all Android phones display accurate time within 10 seconds. Some Android phones don’t send notifications continuously over Bluetooth, so the time update takes a while to send.
  • Fixed bug that can cause the wrong caller to be displayed on the watch during phone calls.
  • Fixed bug that causes the “updating” screen to stay on too long when updating day/night.
  • Fixed bug where “auto” mode didn’t transition properly in day/night mode.
  • Fixed bug that can cause notification actions to not work properly when notifications first came in on watch.

Based on the information above, some of the big problems that have been causing the watch to run through its full battery charge in four hours or less has been resolved. I’ll be looking at this VERY carefully, as it speaks to how the device uses Bluetooth as well as power management.

Battery life still remains the biggest issue with the Olio Model One. Even though I’ve got the latest updates on my watch, I’ve still had to have my watch sit on its charger part of the day today. (and the thing still gets bloody hot when it charges…)

Honestly, things are getting a bit better, as the update from 1.1.61 to 1.1.63 for me happened over night as planned – and was the first firmware update to happen this way. Every other update I’ve had to babysit and try to coax along. The battery life does seem a bit better, but not much.

There seems to be a long interval of time between 100% charge and 90-85% charge, and then after that, the device’s charge level drops like a rock to the mid 40%’s, where it again sits for about an hour before dropping like a rock again to the mid 20%’s. From there, it’s a gradual and steady decline to the end. I’ve also noticed that when my watch hits one of these plateaus, I can often expect it to restart on its own, out of nowhere, and when it comes back, the charge rate is much reduced (by as much as 15%).

Olio is also working on other issues, and has other updates planned. Items up for release next include, but aren’t limited to the following:

Known Issues with Pending Fixes

  • The iOS app can show disconnected when the phone setting and watch settings say connected. If this happens, turn Bluetooth off on the watch, wait five seconds, and then turn it back on. If the issue persists, kill the Olio Assist app, turn Bluetooth off on the watch, restart the phone app, and turn Bluetooth on the watch back on.
  • In “gesture off” mode, the watch will detect some wrist turns as taps. We are tuning tap detection to prevent this.
  • Despite the watch being on the charger for a long time, it might show less than 100% charged. The wireless charging firmware stops charging the watch when the battery reaches 100%, and does not restart until the battery drops below 90%. We are working on an update to the firmware that will keep the battery topped off without degrading the battery health.
  • We have identified a state that can cause the watch to charge slower than it should (>90 minutes). We are working on a fix to prevent this state from occurring.
  • It is possible that your watch will enter a state where the screen does not turn on. This is a known issue with the ALS calibration and we are working on a permanent fix. In the meantime, if you notice this issues, shine a bright light (your mobile flashlight should work) to get the screen to turn on, and set the brightness to medium.
  • When entering a new time zone, watches paired to iOS can take up to two hours to update to the new time zone. We have identified a new way to update the watch time from iOS and are working to implement that change. Temporarily, restarting Bluetooth on the watch will reset the time.

I’ll keep everyone posted on how things go with some of these updates. I still can’t recommend this smartwatch to anyone, even those that are used to beta testing and to living on the bleeding edge of technology. It’s just a bit too cold and bloody out here…

Related Posts:

Review – Olio Model One

The last candidate in our Smartwatch Roundup is here – Meet the Olio Model One…

Introduction
Wearables are the thing for 2015. Nearly every major smartphone manufacturer, including Apple, Microsoft (who delivered MS Band and MS Band 2 in less than a year’s time), Samsung, Motorola, and LG to name a few; not to mention fitness and GPS companies like Garmin, Nike and Fitbit have released a band or smartwatch in 2015.

Wearables, and in particular, smartwatches, are a hot commodity right now. Those that have been successful have been hard to get. The Apple Watch certainly falls in that category. The MS Band, at least back in November and December of 2014, also qualify.

However, there have been a few new players enter the market. Some of these, like the Tag Heuer Connected represent the high end of the smartwatch market. Others, like the Olio Model One, however, also firmly fall into this category, but unlike the Tag Heuer, are smartphone agnostic. They don’t prefer a particular flavor of smartphone OS; and its here that we’re going to end our smartwatch journey; because… it has arrived.

The Olio Model One. Its luxurious. Its waterproof. Its simply stunning. Let’s take a look at it and see how it stands up in a new market, but one that is quickly maturing and see if it’s the smartwatch for you.

Hardware
This is perhaps the one and ONLY area of the Model One that Olio got right. The watch casing and the band on the Model One are really exceptional. If there’s one area of the product that is going to pull a lot of interest from current and potential customers, it’s the band and watch casing. If there’s one area that might make me not return the device to Olio and request a refund, it’s going to be the casing and the band.

In fact, its perhaps the only reason why I haven’t returned the device at this point. The device looks and feels great. It looks like a product that costs as much as it does, and it really just oozes luxury.

Nothing looks or feels cheap on the Model One. The screen looks great, despite the touch screen issues (see below). The casing is solid and well put together. The watch has some heft to it, giving the device the feel of something special.

Check out the pictures below. Once you see this thing, I know you’ll agree, this is an awesome looking device.

 

Unfortunately, that’s all the good I have to say about the hardware. Once you get past the surface, it all goes south.

I’ve outlined a number of different hardware related functionality issues, below. If you are interested in the Model One, please don’t order one until you have the opportunity to read through everything that I’ve outlined. Based on what I know about the device, the issues that I’ve outlined below, and the one customer-wide, web-based quality call that Olio has done to address customer concerns and issues, it’s clear that the problems that I’ve outlined are NOT isolated.

There’s also no way to take a screen shot of the device that I can see, as it has NO hardware buttons and no way to view the contents of the screen in Olio Assist. All of the device shots I’ve taken have been with a physical camera.

Watch Software & Complications
Olio’s product pages all show a continuous, moving second hand. It flows around the watch face with a sense of elegance that really shows off the luxury points of the Model One.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to make YOUR Model One’s second hand move in a continuous, elegant, sweeping motion. The second hand on my Model One “ticks” as a second hand would on a mechanical, analog watch. This is nice, but why the Model One won’t mimic this – when it should clearly be an easy get – is beyond me. According to Olio Assist, the watch face isn’t customizable. Each Bespoke watch face is preconfigured for your type and color (Steel, Black, Yellow Gold, or Rose Gold) of watch, and cannot be changed (other than day/ night settings and its activity streams that help create a unique face, each day.

Notifications
The Notifications complication is the default watch screen for the Model One. As you can see from this screen, you get the time of day, the activity bars and the date in mm.dd.yyyy format. When a notification is sent to the Model One, its most easily seen here. You can also most easily see both Temporal Streams (see Notifications in the Issues and Problems section, below), Early and Later.

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The Model One Notifications Complication The Notifications Screen
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Tap on an individual Notification and get the details Swipe to the left, and get the ability to clear the Notification; but be careful. If you don’t do it right, you can dismiss the Notifications without seeing the Clear button, or you can move to the next Complication, OR you can get the Earlier Temporal Stream

The UI here looks nice. Its modern. Its semi-transparent. It’s also difficult to get to and work with.

Schedule
This is an interesting view of your daily calendar. The only issue I have with it is that as appointments come and go, they fall off the complication. This is good and bad. Its good, because the complication is only good for up to 12 hours at a time. It’s bad, because once an appointment has passed it falls off the display. If you were looking to see how busy you were today, this isn’t the day-view that you’d probably go to first. It is, however, GREAT at the beginning of your day, and as your appointments progress. Eventually, you end up with a blank display until the next day.

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Weather
This is probably the most interesting complication in the entire cache of displays on the watch. It’s not animated, and you shouldn’t expect any kind of animation out of any of the model one screens (except the second hand movement); but it will change based on changing weather conditions throughout the day.

The Weather complication divides your day into four quadrants morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening, and gives you general weather info for the day. The active quadrant, based on the hour hand, is highlighted, white.

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Alarm
You can set a single or repeating alarm with the Model One on this screen. I haven’t played with this at all, because, to be quite honest, the watch has never given me the opportunity to want or need an alarm to be set on the actual watch, largely because I’m not expecting it to have enough power to actually ring the alarm later (see Battery Life, in the Issues and Problems section, below).

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Timer
You can set a countdown timer with the Model One on this screen. Like Alarm, I haven’t used the Timer complication at all, because, quite honestly, I haven’t had enough battery life or power on the device to actually warrant playing with this. I’m just worried about the bloody thing having enough power to tell the time while I’m wearing it. Its nearly always run out of power before I’ve been able to get home and plug it in.

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Stopwatch
You can use your Model One as a stopwatch with this screen. This complication has turned on once or twice due to issues with the touch screen not being sensitive enough, or too sensitive and I’ve had issues stopping it or clearing it back to zero. Again, I’m not very trusting of using this complication because it’s going to burn battery power (and yes… battery life really IS that big of an issue Keep reading…).

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Companion Smartphone App
Originally, I had plans of taking you through the entire app. Lord knows I have enough screen shots of the software on my iPhone.

I’ve been in mobile devices for nearly my entire software QA career. I know mobile devices like the back of my hand, and all of my experience is telling me that Olio Assist needs work, some time to mature and is currently buggy.

I’m not going to show you everything. After going through the cache of screen shots I have, there are simply too many of issues and bugs and quirks that I’ve found to display them all. I will, however, provide you with some screen shots so you can see what the software looks like, and then see where some of the rough edges are.

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You choose a DND range, ideally so the watch doesn’t receive notifications and will save battery power. However, your battery will likely never last long enough to see this happen You choose calendars to tell Olio Assist to only provide appointment notifications for the noted calendars. However, I have yet to have any appointment notifications fire on my Model One. The setup process attempts to use your home and work locations from YOUR contact record on your phone. However, location services in Olio Assist don’t work right and you end up with the error dialog you see directly under this caption. If you want Olio Assist to know where you live, you have to enter the location in manually
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After you enter in your location manually, it can find your location and pinpoint it on a map. After it asks about your residential address, it asks about your work address and goes through the same process. This is the error message you see when you try to have Olio Assist use either your residential or work address out of your personal contact record, as I noted above. Again, you have to search for your address manually.
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After you enter in your location manually, it can find your location and pinpoint it on a map. The only way to get out of the “add address loop” is to tap Skip, which doesn’t make any sense. I should be asked if I’m done with addresses, and then be given an opportunity to add more, or move on. Skipping a step makes it seem as though none of the data that I just entered, found and identified will be used. Olio Assist asks you what kind of transportation methods you use, presumably so that it can provide you with the correct navigation directions. I have yet to see any evidence of this outside of setup, but with the battery problems I’ve had, I really haven’t pushed my luck and tried. Setup is completed. Note that there is a finish button, even though the progress indicator (the 4th of four progress icons, below the finish button) has been on the last or 4th bar the entire process.

What you’re seeing here is extremely immature device software. It’s clear to me that the testing process here wasn’t as robust as it could or should have been. Olio has a lot of work to do here. For the cost of the watch, I expected a very finished software product.

Instead what I got was an unwanted opportunity to be a beta tester.

Issues and Problems
As of this writing, I’ve had the Olio Model One for a little over a month. During that time, I’ve been able to wear it for approximately one (1) – yes, just ONE, single, solitary full day. I have a number of issues with the Model One that I purchased, and I’ve been in nearly constant contact with Olio’s Customer Care Lead, Cristina Hall. With everything that you see documented below, Olio has decided that my Model One is defective. They are in the process of preparing (flashing the latest software update, which as of this writing is not finished yet) a new Model One for me and will send it next day air. I’ll turn around a return of my original Model One after I receive the replacement. I’m expecting my replacement to arrive sometime between Thursday and Friday of the week of 2015-11-16.

However, I can tell you with 100% certainty, I’m extremely disappointed so far in the Olio Model One. For $695USD, one expects a better out of the box experience than what I’ve currently received. Up to this point, I’d pretty much consider this to be one of the worst customer experiences I’ve ever had with a piece of consumer electronics in the last five to seven years.

UPDATE: As with everything that’s been happening with Olio, the organization failed to deliver on its promise of delivering me an updated and preflashed watch when they said they were going to. Just before Thanksgiving, Olio indicated that they were going to send me a replacement watch and that it should arrive no later than Wednesday 2015-11-25.

The watch didn’t SHIP until 2015-11-25. It was supposed to ship over night, so with Thursday being a national holiday, that means it should have arrived no later than 2015-11-27.

It didn’t arrive until Monday 2015-12-02, a full two business days after I was promised it would arrive.

On 2015-12-07, a new communication came out from Olio announcing a new version of Olio Assist – the watch’s companion app – and a new watch firmware update. Its 2015-12-07 as I write these words, and I’m still waiting for the watch to update itself to the new watch firmware version, version 1.1.47.

According to Olio, in order for the watch to update, it needs to be charged at least to 50%, must be sitting on its wireless charger and be connected to your phone via Bluetooth. According to Olio, it should update to the latest version within three hours of these conditions being met, so after three hours (or overnight at the latest), one would expect to see a new firmware version on the watch.

I’ve been sitting here all day, working, literally waiting for the watch to update… and… nothing.

That MAY be because even though my watch says its connected to my iPhone, and my iPhone’s Bluetooth page in Settings says that its connected to the watch, Olio Assist says that the watch is disconnected.

When I contacted Olio about this, I was told to go into Settings on the watch and restart it, and then to make certain that no other Bluetooth device was connected (like my Apple Watch). I was told that having another device connected to it could prevent the watch from updating correctly and that disconnecting other devices and then restarting the watch should immediately kick off the update.

It didn’t… but even if it did, it would be hard to tell.

Olio doesn’t want updating the watch to be something that the user ACTIVELY pursues. They want maintenance activities like that to be handled by Olio Assist and the watch and be totally transparent to the user. I like that… if it worked.

There’s no UI to push updates to the watch at all. There’s no way for me to know if the update has been found and downloaded by my phone, and then transferred to my device. Olio can see all of that from their backend… but the end user doesn’t have ANY way to monitor check, or troubleshoot that. So, if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, you’re screwed, as you don’t get ANY kind of notification from the software that there’s even a new firmware available for your watch, let alone a way to monitor, push or troubleshoot the transfer and installation.

I admire this type of update method – making it totally transparent to the user; but there needs to be a way to push it from the end user side, just in case things get stuck.

Charging Issues
The Olio Model One charges hot. It charges VERY hot. Dangerously hot. Like, burn your skin or desktop, hot. I initially thought that it was only the initial charge. I was wrong; but not in the way that you might think.

Yes. The Olio Model One can charge hot. It can get burn your hands hot; but it doesn’t charge hot all the time, and it can cool down to an acceptable or understandable level while charging. However, every time my battery gets nearly or totally depleted, the next time I charge it, it charges hot.

Every time…

The big issue here is that the device can get dangerously hot. The best thing for you to do is to set the watch to charge on a surface you know won’t burn or catch fire and then wait until the watch is fully charged. After that, you should disconnect it, and then wait for it to cool before putting it on.

The other charging issue that I’ve noticed with the Olio Model One is that even when sitting on its charger, regardless of its charging level, the level of charge can both rise AND fall according to both Olio Assist and the watch itself. How one is supposed to charge the watch so it can be used during the day, gets a bit confusing after this.

UPDATE: I’ve been using – or trying to use – the Model One now for a few weeks. This morning (2015-12-17), I woke up and the watch was at 61% charge after sitting on its charger overnight. In total, it sat on its charger for over 8 hours. However, it showed connected to my iPhone via Bluetooth in Settings, in Olio Assist, and on the watch.

When I got to the office, the watch was reading 1% charge. Yes… Just 1%. I put it on its charger and it immediately went to 10% and then over the course of about 90 minutes, 15%. I left it on the charger and went to a 30 minute meeting. When I got back to my desk, it was at 14%. Still on the charger and about 30 minutes later, it was at 11%, then about 5 minutes after that it was at 10%.

I pulled that watch off the charger and it was very hot. In fact, it was almost too hot to handle.

I restarted the watch via the watch’s Settings, and it took about 10 minutes to come back. The display was strange looking after that, as it was trying to display the Notifications complication, but was clearly having trouble; but the display righted itself. It clearing was having issues due to the high heat level it developed while charging.

Now… after about 5 minutes after restart, I’ve watched the charge meter on the watch jump from 10% to 15% to 22% to now 26%, again, in under 7 minutes.

I’ve been concerned about an insufficient amount of current coming through the charging disc and USB cable, so I’ve stopped using a powered USB port on my computer (a ThinkPad T420 here at the office) to using a wall wart and AC current. It’s made a difference, but the device also charges much hotter, much more frequently now.

Battery Life
This is probably the most disappointing feature on the device, and its clearly related to the charging issues I’ve noted above. To put it quite bluntly – the battery life on the Olio Model One just sucks. On the original Model One that I received (I was sent a replacement unit), the battery life was 2-4 hours.

Yes. That’s right, not 24 hours; but two (2) to four (4) hours. Just 2 to 4 hours, and then the battery would go dead and the watch would be dead weight. According to Olio, the Model One has a maximum of 800 charging cycles for the life of its battery. There’s a huge problem with this.

When the battery needs charging four to six times a day, just to get you THROUGH the day so you can use the watch, you’re looking at a life span of 133.33 to 200 DAYS

Days. Not weeks or months… Days.

That means that the useful lifespan of the Olio Model One is about 4.5 MONTHS to just over 6.5 MONTHS before the battery will fail to take and hold a charge.

At one full cycle a day, the Olio Model One should last 2.20 years before the battery will fail to take and hold a charge.

That’s not long enough.

When a smartwatch costs between $595 and $1395, this is truly unacceptable. The Apple Watch starts at $399 and many people – including me – are busting a flange gasket over IT not holding a charge for more than 16 hours before running out of power (when it first came out). With a maximum life span of just over two years, even THAT’S a hell of a lot more than the Olio Model One.

You can get a LOT of traditional watch for $600 to $1400, and it won’t expire in four and a half months to two years. It will last you – potentially – years to DECADES with the proper care and battery changes.

While a computing component like a smartwatch will quickly lose its relevance in five years or less, at $600 to $1400, I’m expecting the Olio Model One to last well beyond five years. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t.

However, I have serious concerns about it surviving past Thursday next week, at the way this thing runs through battery cycles…

UPDATE: I had the watch on the other day and had put it on my wrist at 8am. I had purposely turned the Bluetooth radio off, as my phone was downstairs in my jacket, and I was upstairs in my office, charging the watch…again. I didn’t want the watch’s battery to drain or not to charge, so I turned off the device’s Bluetooth radio. Then, we went to Church, and I left the Bluetooth radio off.

I want to make certain everyone understand the timing around these events.

1. 8AM – Took Model One off the charger and put it on
2. 10:30AM – Left for Church
3. 12PM – Arrived back home
4. 12PM – Watch was dead

That’s a span of four (4) hours. The Bluetooth radio was OFF, and the Model One still managed to run through its battery.

Touch Screen Issues
I’ve been having a number of issues with the Model One’s touch screen. I’m not going to belabor these, either, and I’m quickly going to run them down and detail them out.

  1. Sensitivity
    You have to touch it just right, and in the right spots (which aren’t very well defined), in order to get the screen to react to your touches. Right out of the box, the touch screen is both under and over sensitive. You can quite honestly tap and swipe this thing for days and the device will just ignore you. Other times, it will jet past three or four screens with a single swipe. The screen is very difficult to control, and I’ve noticed that you have to develop just the right type of touch in order to have the device not only recognize your touch, but to move the way you want it to. This is NOT easy to master, and honestly, you should have to try so damn hard to get the device’s touch screen do what you want or intend.This is a driver issue, and Olio has already issued two firmware updates to address it. No doubt others will follow.
  2. Display On/ Off

The watch is supposed to turn on when you raise your wrist. It doesn’t do that consistently. The watch is supposed to stay on long enough for you to look at it and mentally register the contents of the display. It doesn’t do that consistently. More often than not, it doesn’t turn on when you raise your wrist, requires you to tap it MULTIPLE (like four to five) times before it WILL turn on, and then won’t stay on long enough.

This is a driver issue, and Olio has already issued two firmware updates to address it. No doubt others will follow.

With both of these issues active all the time, interacting with the watch has not been easy. In many cases, I’ve given up, looked at the time, ignored the notifications I’ve gotten and just given up.

Bluetooth and Pairing
The biggest reason why the Olio Model One has the battery issues that it does have is due to problems with its Bluetooth radio. The Bluetooth radio in the Model One has serious problems staying connected to my iPhone.

Bluetooth pairing is not easy with the Model One. The initial pairing of my original Model One took me well over 20 minutes to complete. (See below for a bit more information on the initial pairing experience.) The Model One and my iPhone 6 apparently just don’t see eye to eye… or each other for that matter. I have no idea why, and no answers from Olio on this.

After getting them paired and connected, I have found that both the Model One and my iPhone 6 fail to see each other at all, though this has improved a great deal over the past week or so. If they do happen to “bump into each other,” they often drop the connection later.

And the initial pairing… oy what a painful experience that was. I’ve gone through the setup process with the Model One four (4) times. Connectivity problems have had me resetting the watch and deleting the partnership between my watch and my iPhone, as well as deleting Olio Assist on my iPhone to insure that any app information and device information have been deleted.

That usually clears things up with other products. Not always the case with the Model One. After putting Olio Assist BACK on my iPhone 6, I’ve also had to quit Olio Assist and restart it on many occasions to either get the initial pairing to work, or to get the device to reconnect to my iPhone.

The Bluetooth radio is one of the weakest parts of the Model One. It’s one of the main reasons that the battery tanks so completely and so often. While Olio has made some in-roads to this with device firmware version 1.1.47, they still have a LONG WAY to go.

Notifications
If I go back and gather the same notification criteria that I outlined in my Microsoft Band Review, I can honestly say that the Olio Model One MOSTLY gets notifications right.

That is to say, you get notified when you think you’d get notified.

However, the Model One addresses notifications with a system similar to the Pebble Time. Notifications are grouped into two basic time streams – Earlier and Later.

Notifications that come in now, are automatically deposited into the Earlier stream (it’s an event that happened earlier). Upcoming appointments, weather forecasts and conditions, etc. are shown in the Later stream. This would be fine, if not for the Touch Screen issues I outlined above.

Viewing items from the Earlier or Later streams requires you to swipe either left or right from the left or right side of the screen to the opposite end. Earlier events are seen by swiping from the left side to the right side. Later, from the right to the left… if you can get the screen to recognize the input.

If you do, then you can look at the notification. You can tap on it to get additional information, or swipe it to the left to clear it. Again, this all works if you can get the touch screen to recognize your touches. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t.

I’ve learned that the best way to use the watch is to ignore the notifications entirely. The haptics on the device aren’t very noticeable, and there’s a good chance you’re going to miss the notification when it comes in, anyway.

Conclusion
Geez… where the hell do I start..??!!

Put bluntly, stay away from the Olio Model One.

The device doesn’t work; and no amount of discussion or verbal or printed rhetoric from the company can convince me that it does at this point. It’s also way too expensive to have issues like this… EVER.

The company clearly has some huge, HUGE technology hurdles to get past; and I’m really not certain that the company is going to make it long enough to see the issues resolved. This is a HUGE disappointment.

When you’re a technology company, providing an expensive, electronic accessory that realistically has a life span of three to five (3-5) years (if and when it works as designed) and should have a lifespan that goes well beyond even THAT, I see no way that the organization will be able to survive the technology problems it has and the bad press they WILL generate, given the current state of their product offering.

The watch charges hot, has issues taking and holding a charge, has a Bluetooth radio that won’t stay connected to the most popular smartphone in the US, and doesn’t handle notifications right due to its touch screen issues. Top that off with a price tag that is clearly out of line with its battery’s usable life span, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Is it possible for Olio to get past all of this and be successful with the Model One..?

Yes. Yes it is.

However, it’s going to take a eureka moment on their end. They are going to have to make the current hardware work correctly. They’re going to have to fix the Bluetooth radio issues they have with the iPhone. They’re going to have to fix the charging issues they have. They’re going to have to resolve the battery life issues they have. They’re going to have to make their iPhone app smarter and more intuitive. They’re going to have to address device updates and pushing firmware to the watch. They’re going to have to handle notifications a bit better and make them a bit more actionable and recognizable.

That’s a lot to accomplish in what I’m seeing as a VERY short window of opportunity for them – months. Like, less than three (3) months short…

Why so short..? Well, if they don’t get all of their battery and charging issues cleared up by that time, most of the first shipment of Model One’s that were put into service will have surpassed or come close to surpassing their 800 charge cycle life spans, and the watches will be useless.

So… hang out with this one and let’s see how it goes.

Until then, you can admire the hardware. It’s gorgeous; but I’d admire it from afar… The default size of the band is a bit tight for me, and you really MUST go to a jeweler to have the band sized; but if the software was something that Olio totally struck out on, their hardware (case and band) was an out of the park home run.

It’s too bad, too.

With a device that’s just so gorgeous, so water resistant, so and well designed, it’s too bad that the software that drives it is such a dud.

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Feature Review – OS X 10.11 – El Capitan

Introduction

os_x_el_capitan_roundup

Security!

Stability!!

Give me these or give me, well… give me another operating system!

Out of the darkness and the despair, the cry of the people went up; and the benevolent wizards in the magic land called Cupertino heard them. They toiled long and hard. They worked day and night. They sent forth version after (public beta) version of their magic spells until finally on 2015-09-30, shortly after the final rendering that was heralded by the appearance of the blood moon… it was completed.

El Capitan… OS X 10.11… and the Wizards of Cupertino saw that it was good… and so, wishing to protect their progeny, they sent it forth…

If you have a Mac running OS X 10.10.x, then you can run Yosemite. Is it the operating system for you? Will it run well, even on a Late 2008 or Early 2009 MacBook? Does it offer the kind of performance boot and security enhancements that you’ve been looking for? Is it safe for you to upgrade, knowing that some apps might not be ready yet?

We’re going to take a look at these questions and others as we look at El Capitan and its natural progression and growth from Yosemite into, what Apple (and all the Wizards of Cupertino) hope will be the best version of their desktop OS yet.

Let’s see if we can wade through the hype (and yeah… my BS…) and take a look and see what El Capitan brings to the table. Is it worth putting on your Mac? Let’s find out…

Experience

It started with Yosemite; and Apple said it when they announced OS X El Capitan – they’ve called the name of the mountain; and given everyone a natural progression of what Yosemite was. El Capitan is what comes next.

I’m making a big deal about the name of the new OS and the name of the mountain that’s depicted as the default desktop wall paper in both OS X 10.10 and 10.11. The mountain is in the park; and the park’s most notable and biggest attraction is the mountain. By drawing this analogy between the mountain and both operating systems, Apple is basically telling you that OS 10.11 is a natural progression of OS X 10.10. And that’s basically true… at least from what I’ve been able to see of the new OS during the time that I’ve been able to use it.

Changes to OS X in El Capitan can really be divided into two different categories – Experience and Performance. El Capitan is a gives you even simpler, smarter ways to do the things you do the most with your Mac – Like working in multiple apps at the same time, searching for information, keeping tabs on your favorite websites, or checking email, or taking notes.

And there are some changes. All of them add value to the OS X experience. Some of them create issues and problems for users. I’ll touch on some of those later.

However, what you should take from this “tock” styled update, is that the El Capitan experience is familiar and something that nearly every Yosemite user is going to feel comfortable with; and (should be) instantly productive in (again, provided your core apps aren’t broken under El Capitan. I have more on that below…

Performance

Improvements under the hood make your Mac snappier and more efficient in all kinds of everyday tasks — from opening PDFs to accessing your email. And with Metal for Mac, you get faster and more fluid graphics performance in games, high-performance apps, and many other places.

In OS X El Capitan we’ve made all kinds of things run faster — like accessing email and launching or switching between apps. It’s these little things that make your Mac feel faster and more responsive. And we’ve brought Metal to Mac, so you experience more fluid performance in games, high-performance apps, and key system-level graphics operations.

Now things you do every day — like launching and switching apps, opening PDFs, and accessing email — are faster and snappier. OS X El Capitan makes your Mac feel more fluid and responsive.

  • Up to 1.4x faster app launch
  • Up to 2x faster app switching
  • Up to 2x faster display of first mail messages
  • Up to 4x faster pdf opening in preview

    Metal

One of the biggest developments and improvements in OS X 10.11 is Metal. Metal is a new graphics core technology. It gives games and apps near-direct access to the graphics processor on your Mac, allowing for enhanced performance and a richer graphical experience. Metal speeds system-level graphics rendering by up to 50%, as well as making it up to 40%more efficient on resources, compared with Yosemite, on equivalently speced Macs.

In a nut shell, Metal allows your Mac’s CPU and its graphics processor to work more effectively together, boosting high-performance apps. The most obvious benefit of Metal will be to games, but any high performance app – like Photoshop, iMovie, or any other graphic or video intensive app – will benefit from its up to 10x performance boost

Core Application Issues

When I say “core application” I really don’t mean apps that Apple has written, like any of the iWork components or Mail or iTunes. What I’m really talking about is Office 2016 for Mac. When El Capitan was released, it was released AFTER Office 2016 for Mac hit the streets. If you upgraded Yosemite to El Capitan with Office 2016 for Mac installed, you were – unfortunately and unknowingly – in for a very serious problem.

Office 2016 for Mac doesn’t run on El Capitan 10.11.0.

Since I started writing this review AND since the release of OS X 10.11.1, both Apple and Microsoft have released updates to the OS and to the suite to resolve the issues. However, it got dicey there for a while…

Features & Improvements

Security Updates

OS X 10.11 builds on the security model in Yosemite and takes it to the next level. Security is a big part of the El Capitan Update over OS X 10.10. Here, I’m going to touch on three of the biggest updates that Apple has made to its flagship OS’ security underpinnings.

System Integrity Protection (SIP)

Over the years, Macs have enjoyed a bit of anonymity. Hackers and malware writers didn’t target them because, quite honestly, they didn’t have the user base for most of these bad guys to bother with. That’s changing now.

In earlier versions of OS X, Apple introduced things like Sandboxing and Gate Keeper to help protect users from malignant code. Sandboxing requires programs to run in a defined memory segment, without the ability to write code to other parts of the computer. Gate Keeper effectively limits application installs from everywhere but trusted sources. In El Capitan, Apple is hardening its security model with System Integrity Protection (or SIP for short).

SIP prevents programs or users with insufficient security credentials to writing any files to /System, /bin, /usr (except /usr/local), and /sbin. This prevents malignant programs from In other words, it provides a type of root-level protection to the Mac similar to what the iPhone and iPad have benefited from for years.

Code injection and runtime attachments are no longer permitted, though expert users who really want to will still be able to access the system as deeply can still make system level changes that will allow them to do so. If you run apps like or TotalFinder, you’re going to find that they either do not work now, or you have to either fully or in part, disable SIP.

You can find instructions on disabling SIP here.

Some apps like Bartender, only need SIP disabled during install. After that, SIP can be reenabled.

System Integrity Protection helps keep your computer secure by preventing unwanted and malicious, privilege escalations.

App Transport Security

Web apps are gaining in popularity. Apps like Outlook.com and Gmail are hugely popular, and that TYPE of app are only going to become more prevalent. In order to insure that the data transmissions between your computer and the web server that the app is actually running on are secure, Apple added Application Transport Security to OS X. In El Capitan, that’s TLS 1.2, but as stronger transports become available, ATS will push everyone towards them as well. This type of security is insanely important in that without this secure layer, not only will productivity apps like Gmail and Outlook transmit data in the open for nearly everyone with a packet sniffer to see, but shopping apps that use the same secure transports will also pass insecure payment and credit card data back and forth.

Security protocols like this help make the future of online activity – whether that’s mail, or productivity (like Google Apps or Microsoft Office Online) or shopping apps safe to use

Privacy

El Capitan helps make computing more secure by protecting your privacy. Apple inverts the current cloud computing model by bringing the cloud down to your Mac, and not the more traditional model, which is the other way around. The easiest way to see a tangible example of this, is Spotlight.

When you search for data through Spotlight, you simply type a question and the search results are brought to your desktop. In a more traditional search model, you go to a web site – say Google or Bing – and search for something. You… go to the data, putting your security and your privacy at risk. In the Mac model, this is reversed. The data, comes to you, as it should be.

The best thing here is that when you use an Apple Online service, your personal data and the data you searched for and retrieved isn’t shared with any online service. You just get your results. This lowers the risk of your personal and/ or private data being inappropriately or inadvertently shared with other individuals or other companies. How well this works over time in terms of service quality and what you can and cannot search for based on what’s shared and retrieved, remains to be completely seen.

Feature Updates

El Capitan makes several updates to many of OS X’s key features. I’m going to highlight some of the more visible and more important feature updates in OS X 10.11.

Split View

Everyone is used to running multiple apps on their computer or laptop screens. I mean, we’ve been doing this really since 1990 blah-blah-blah and Windows 3.x. You get from one open app to the other by using ALT-Tab. Its very easy.

On the Mac side of the world, it’s the same way. We’ve been able to swap bits between apps since 1984 and Finder 1.0, if you really want to get down to brass tacks. You get from one app to another by using Command-Tab. Its also very easy here.

The big problem is that some times, all the other apps you might have open are nothing more than noise. Yes, you can try to Tile your open windows, but in many cases, if you don’t watch it, you can wind up with every open app window sitting next to every OTHER app window on your computer screen. When all you wanted was two apps side by side, this is hugely annoying.

Split View 01

In El Capitan, Apple takes a queue from Microsoft’s Snap feature and has given us Split View. With Split View, you can automatically fill your computer screen with two apps of choice. To get to Split View, you can either get there from Mission Control or from a full screen app. If you already have an app running full screen, you can drag another Split View compatible app to its desktop thumbnail at the top of the Mission Control Screen. Both apps will appear in Split View.

The other way is to click and hold the green full screen button with your mouse. The left half of the screen will become shaded in blue. Release your mouse button to open the current window on the left half of your screen. Any other compatible, non-minimized apps will show up on the other half of the screen as thumbnails. Simply click the other app you want to use in Split view.

Microsoft does this on the Windows side with Snap. You can get there in a similar fashion, and popping content back and forth between apps is just as easy via Windows Snap as it is with OS X Split View.

Mission Control

Mission Control 01

A streamlined Mission Control makes it easier to see and organize everything you have open on your Mac. With a single swipe, all the windows on your desktop arrange themselves in a single layer, with nothing stacked or hidden. Mission Control places your windows in the same relative location, so you can spot the one you’re looking for more quickly. And when you have lots of windows competing for real estate, it’s now even simpler to make more room for them. Just drag any window to the top of your screen, and drop it into a new desktop space. It’s never been this easy to spread out your work.

Mission Control 02

 

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Unboxing the Olio Model One

The latest – and last – candidate in our 2015 smartwatch roundup has finally arrived.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve been doing a very extended roundup of smartwatches. The final piece of hardware for the roundup arrived yesterday (and there’s quite a story wrapped around its shipment and delivery…). I present for your consideration – the Olio Model One.

As you can see in the unboxing video, above, the Olio Model one just oozes luxury from the very beginning. I knew I was unboxing something special when I saw that the packing material inside the shipment box was custom cut foam.

The box and packing materials are of the type that you’d think you’d find with the purchase of a luxury time piece. The watch box is bound in soft, black leather, and the watch itself is securely packed with a suede wrapped liner. The box has two small compartments on either side of the watch – the left one containing the micro USB power cable and the right containing a cleaning cloth, extra watch bracelet links, a safety and user guide and a getting started guide.

Here are my first impressions on the watch and my initial out of box experience with it.

Hardware
Olio Model OneThe hardware is flawless. It looks great, feels great, and is solidly made. The build quality is high and Olio gets top marks in this regard. Unfortunately, it goes straight south after coming out of the box.

The getting started instructions tell you to plug the charging cable into the magnetic charging plate and to attach it to the back of the watch. After that, the watch turns on and you’re instructed to run through the watch’s setup procedure.

That was fine, but the watch gets HOT when charging.

I mean it gets, “burn your hands and I can’t pick this up or hold it” hot when it is charging. I had a VERY difficult time completing the setup procedure because I had to put the watch down multiple times. It was simply too hot to handle. It took me over two hours to complete the setup because the watch was too hot to handle, and I made a few mistakes with it while trying to work with the watch.

After I was finally able to finish setup, the Model One wasn’t done charging so I placed it on my desk and left it to charge overnight. I actually wondered if the watch would get hot enough to burn my desk or cause a fire, it got so hot… and no. I’m not exaggerating.

Watch UI
So far, the UI on the watch seems about as intuitive as a nuclear missile silo. Moving through the available screens doesn’t seem to work very well, because for some reason, my touch screen doesn’t seem to do anything when I tap it. I have to give it the ol’ “hello…! McFly..!!” treatment to try to get the screen to turn on so I can even see what time it is. It doesn’t seem to have a “lift to display” feature like the Apple Watch does. There are no buttons on the watch and it doesn’t have a crown – digital or otherwise – to turn or push to try to get the display to turn on.

One of the first thing that Olio tells you to do is to go through its tutorials; and it’s a good thing, because the print on the getting started guide is very, VERY small and it was very difficult for me to read, even with my glasses on.

Once you know how to move through the watch screens and to get to its Settings and other function screens, there appears to be a particular “touch” that you need to employ in order to actually get to the screens.

This is not easy to master.

It takes a while to find just the right amount of pressure and just the right spot on the screen in order for the UI to correctly interpret your intent. I still haven’t gotten this right consistently.

Companion Software
I really need to spend more time with the Model One’s app. There are some initial items of concern here; but it’s entirely possible that those concerns may disappear after I become more familiar with it. I don’t want to comment too much on this just yet.

Conclusion
Yeah…

I dunno.

The jury is definitely still out on this one. Unfortunately, the Olio Model One didn’t hit the home run out of the box that I was hoping for; and I’m somewhat disappointed the morning after doing the unboxing.

I’m going to do my best to get through this as unbiased as possible, but out of the gate, while the hardware – the Olio Model One itself – is nearly everything that you thought it would be by looking at Olio’s product offering on their website, the hardware isn’t worth squat if there are UI, companion software or worse yet, charging issues.

I’m targeting the end of November 2015 for the completion of this review. If there’s anything in particular that you’d like me to look at specifically – device software/ UI, companion software, battery charging and battery life or hardware – I’d love to hear from you. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and post your questions or concerns. I’ll do my best to address them during the review and to keep everyone posted on how things go.

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Apple Releases iOS 9.0.2

Apple continues to swat at bugs with its latest iOS release

ios9

Wednesday 2015-09-30 saw the release of iOS 9.0.2, Apple’s latest update to its mobile operating system.  Released a week after iOS 9.0.1, this latest update comes just two weeks after the initial release of iOS 9.

IOS 9.0.2 is another minor update – a bug fix, really – and also addresses other performance enhancements.  The following were called out in the release notes for this update:

  • Fixes a screen lock vulnerability that allowed Siri to be used to bypass the lock screen to access photos and contacts on a locked device
  • Fixes an issue with the setting to turn on or off app cellular data usage
  • Resolves an issue that prevented iMessage activation for some users
  • Resolves an issue where an iCloud backup could be interrupted after starting a manual backup
  • Fixes an issue where the screen could incorrectly rotate when receiving notifications
  • Improves the stability of Podcasts

IOS 9 focuses on productivity and performance, with some major updates to both Siri and Spotlight.  Notable among its new productivity enhancing features is a split-screen multi-tasking view that allows more modern devices, like the iPad Pro, to share and pass information back and forth between apps (like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other productivity apps)  iOS 9.1, also due later this year, and anticipated during the month of November with the general availability release of the iPad Pro, is meant to focus on productivity for the new enterprise capable tablet and the AppleTV.

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The Biggest Thing Missing in the iPhone 6S

Well, that’s a bit of a misnomer… Honestly, its missing on every new mobile device you buy.

iphone-6s-rose-gold-vs-nexus-5-20154

Working with mobile devices as long as I have, you get to learn a few things about how things really should go. I’ve been writing for a long time, and honestly, I’ve reviewed a great many different mobile handsets. Some of them have been PocketPC’s/ Windows Mobile devices. Some of them have been Palm devices. I’ve also reviewed Android, Blackberry, and of course iPhones.

In fact, I’ll be doing an unboxing of the iPhone 6s Plus as well as writing a first impressions document on it based on my wife’s personal interaction as well as my own when it arrives for her on 2015-09-25.

Funny thing there – I ordered my wife’s iPhone 6s Plus on Saturday 2015-09-12 at approximately 11:30am, well after the early rush after the Store opened online at 12:01am PDT. My initial ship WINDOW was between 2015-10-06 and 2015-10-26. As of Wednesday 2015-09-23, I was still looking at waiting about another two to four weeks before the device shipped. Surprise, surprise… I got a note from AT&T this morning indicating that it would arrive on iPhone 6s Day, 2015-09-25. (I got her the standard yellow gold tone model, by the way.

So now, the point of this column is even more spot on. The iPhone 6s – and every other new mobile device – is missing a huge, HUGE “thing.”

A “How to use all the new hardware and OS features” document.

Now, I know I probably lost a few of you there, and you’re likely looking to jet… but stick around for a sec. You’ve come this far. Its not gonna hurt you to see it all the way through at this point….

There are a lot of new features in iOS 9.x, some of which you get with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. However, a lot of them you DON’T get unless you get an iPhone 6s/ 6s Plus. However, without knowing what ALL of the new hardware is, AND without knowing what all of the new features are, AND without knowing what requires what AND how to use them, you’re kinda left to figure it out yourself.

Some people rise to the occasion and figure it out. However, most people, don’t even know where to start and a lot of what makes a new device new and great, gets ignored.

It’s a shame, too.

Most people will get their new iPhones and fumble around with the new hardware and with iOS 9, and try to work it out; but they won’t get it all. They’ll get some of it. They may even look to the web and find something about what they’re interested in, but they may not find it all.

How can this be rectified? Its fairly easy, really; but then again, it requires that people actually use the tools that may be provided to them. Apple… Google… Microsoft… and every other hardware manufacturer that modifies or enhances a mobile operating system can provide a startup sequence or other getting started app or setup process that shows you the new stuff and is required to be reviewed before the device can be used.

Apple does something like this already, but all it does it configure the device. It doesn’t review the latest features and how to use them. It just runs through the required configuration settings. If however, it peppered new feature tutorials in between the configuration settings, it could inform as well as configure. That would be one of the best ways to resolve this problem.

However, I’m not certain that something like that is ever going to happen. If it was likely, it would have happened already. This isn’t rocket science…

I’ve got an iPhone 6s Plus in the house. It arrived on 2015-09-25 – iPhone 6s Day – and I plan on building some how to’s and some fact finding articles on how to use some of its new hardware features and those of iOS 9.

So I invite you to do me a favor and stick around, close to Soft32 and give me a hand. Let me know what you’d like to see and hear about with the new feautres of iOS 9.x. Let me know what you’re curious about when it comes to the new hardware of the iPhone 6x and 6s Plus. I’ll do my best to provide a good intro to the latest flagship iDevices and we’ll see what we can come up with.

So do me a favor, please… take some time and join me in the discussion area below and let me know what you’d like to know about first. I’d love to hear from you. Give me your thoughts, please. There’s a lot going on with not only the iPhone and iOS 9, but the iPad as well. I’m certain that everyone would love to hear about both. Wouldn’t you…?

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Prediction – Windows Phone has about Two Years of Life Left

Boy it kills me to say this…

Windows 10 mobile

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

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

The reasons for this are four fold

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

EVER.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of which…

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

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

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

I don’t think they will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WP-01

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

WP-02

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

WP-03

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

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

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

What the hell??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT..!

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

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

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Next Generation Apple TV Details Leaked

Apparently, its $150 bucks…

apple-tv-itv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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