Tech

Apple Watch – or not?

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I am an Apple fan – I just don’t ‘get’ or enjoy using Microsoft products. I have to use their Software at work but I view it as a ‘necessary evil’. I will use a Mac in preference to any other computing device – period.

So I am obviously a definite candidate for the Apple Watch – but I have been using a Pebble Steel for the last 15 months and have grown used to its way of doing things and really rather like it. Now Pebble are also launching a new watch, the Pebble Time, which is an improvement over my existing one, so which way should I jump?

Pebble Time Steel
Pebble Time Steel

My Pebble Steel has been great and has proved to me that a smart watch really does work for me. Its battery life is great (7 days) – this was my biggest reservation about the Apple Watch.

Earlier this month I thought I knew which way I would go and I backed the new watch from Pebble on Kickstarter  – the Time Steel, it wasn’t going to be as beautifully made as an Apple product and wouldn’t link as seamlessly to my iPhone. But, I took the view that it would provide what I am used to from my current Pebble, with the addition of a colour screen in a similar sized body to the Apple Watch. More impressively the battery would last for 10 days and the screen is always on and very visible in bright sunlight. It is also cheaper…

The three Apple Watch styles
The three Apple Watch styles

However, after watching the launch of the Apple Watch I cancelled my Pebble order – why?

As I say the need to charge the Apple Watch on a daily basis was a concern for me, however Apple confirmed at the launch that the watch will last around 18 hours – I already charge my iPhone overnight so I can live with this.

More relevant to my decision is that I believe the Apple Watch will be much better than Apples usual first attempt at a product. I have previously worked on the basis that Apple hit the ‘sweet spot’ on the second or third versions of their kit, but in this case the gestation has been longer and more considered. The positives that caused me to change my mind are as follows;

  1. It will work seamlessly with the iPhone (and Apple may limit access to other smart watches in the future).
  2. It is just beautifully made (like all Apple products) and comes in 3 configurable styles.
  3. The screen will be great – worth the shorter battery life.
  4. The Apple Pay system adds another dimension to its use.
  5. The battery will be replaceable – via Apple stores (the Pebble one isn’t)
  6. There will be a plethora of apps made for it.
  7. Its operating system will be constantly developed and improved.

I accept it is expensive and a luxury, but my guess is that the Apple Watch will do for smart watches what the iPod, iPhone and iPad did for their respective markets – both lead them and also grow them massively.

I’m in the USA this summer and will definitely be purchasing one. The only issue is which one to go for?

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The end of an era…

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Those of us who are of a ‘certain age’ will remember their first mobile phone – it was probably from one of only two manufacturers – Motorola and Nokia. It was almost certainly quite large and had a pull out aerial!

Nokia_7110As time went on Nokia became the ‘king’ of business phones, the 6210 was the phone of choice for business. It was thin (by the standards of the day), had a battery that just lasted for ever (you could go away for a week without a charger!), and most importantly – it just worked. We now take for granted the things that a smartphone can do – but in the ‘good old days’ texting was a really neat idea!

I still have one of my old Nokia phones and can’t bring myself to throw it out – it is the Nokia 7110 which has a sliding from cover – it was I believe used in the film ‘The Matrix’. It is a lovely tactile thing, it hasn’t been used for years but still works and holds a charge in its battery. Much as I love my iPhone I’m not sure old iPhones will hold such memories for me in the future.

It is therefore sad that Microsoft, who acquired Nokia a few years ago – have quietly killed the brand name off. We will no longer see this icon of the 80’s and 90’s on phone shop shelves – I for one will miss them….

 

Internet speed expectations…

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We all live on the internet now, be it for email, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, it is now almost as important as food and water to some people!

So when you go somewhere different, the speed or accessibility of internet access is an issue. I certainly have got to know over the years where the ‘dead spots’ are on the Vodafone network – sadly far to large and numerous in my experience! We have recently moved to EE at work so it will be interesting to see how this compares – I have high hopes!

IMG_2784Part of the reason for the move was to get the higher 4G speeds, and I have certainly seen 50mb download speeds since the move which is pretty impressive by anyones standards.

So, if the mobile networks can provide this for us on average for £10 a month (excluding the handset cost), why is paid wireless in most hotels etc so incredibly poor, and expensive?

This week I have stayed in a Premier Inn, the cost of wifi for 24 hours was £3 – not a lot on the face of it – but see the speed test screen shot, I wasn’t getting much for my £3! Surely it is possible to give a decent connection speed? At home I have 152mb download speeds through Virgin Media – I will let you do the maths as to how much quicker that is…..

My experience of wifi in the USA and even in Europe has always been good, why can’t we sort this out? The only place I have had really good wifi speeds in the UK is on the London underground platforms – and that is provided by Virgin (there is a theme developing here).

We need hotels and pubs to realise that simply ‘providing wifi’ isn’t enough – it has to be useable!

Apple ‘watch’ – will I buy one?

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As a hardy Apple fan you would be forgiven for expecting me to run out and buy an Apple watch as soon as it is released. However, I really don’t think I will, and there are a number of reasons;

Apple 'Watch"
Apple ‘Watch”

Primarily my Pebble Steel smart watch! It is now almost 12 months old and gives me all the  notifications from my iPhone really well. The software is constantly being evolved as well with the most recent including health tracking. However the most important thing for me is that I get at least 5 days use between charges…

Secondly, Apple products are invariably best from the second or third version (the iPhone being a classic example) and I expect this to be the case even more with the watch. Don’t get me wrong, it will still be great, but just not as good as it could (or should?) be.

Marrakech - very sunny!
Marrakech – very sunny!

Thirdly, as with many of the new smart watches it appears to me to be trying to achieve too much rather than doing a few things really well. That is great if you can pull it off – but again I come back to point two above.

So at this stage I will stay with my Pebble – in my view this is still the best smart watch out there, No it doesn’t have a flashy colour touch screen, but that is why the battery lasts as long as it does, and I can see it in very bright sunlight – try that with all the others….

Apple will be market leaders in wearable tech, but not yet – their watch will probably be the best of the rest in its first version…

Bet you never thought you would hear me say that!

Our increasing reliance on Apps

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We are all becoming increasingly reliant upon the world of Apps – be it in the Microsoft, Apple or Google eco systems. We run our lives in the cloud on mobile devices and with total reliance upon various software, apps or similar.

I am an unashamed Apple fan, our household is now totally Apple based and my working life is only partially blighted by the world of Microsoft! The recent update by Apple to OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) and its link to iOS 8 is brilliant so I am a ‘happy chappy’ at the moment.

However, what has become very clear to me in recent months is just how reliant we can become on certain apps on our phones or tablets, and what a pain it is when one (or more) stops working! Let me explain;

IMG_0366.PNG
I have for years run financial software on my phone and home computer, initially on Windows mobile and then since the dawn of the iPhone on that. I had to make a move when I swapped to an iPhone and had been very happy with a program called ‘pocket money’, it had a sister app called ‘mpg’ which allowed me to record my mileage and fuel economy and link fuel purchases directly back into pocket money. Sadly the developer of both apps died around 12 months ago, there was supposed to be a person taking on the development but this has not happened and now the apps are no longer bug free (or even available in the App Store).

So I have had to find alternatives – which you would think would be easy, but I can assure you it isn’t! Despite there being a huge number of financial apps available most are frankly poor, the same with mileage and fuel logging apps.

Luckily I have found two good ones; Account Tracker for my banking, and Road Trip for my mileage, but the upheaval of transferring data and setting it back up has been quite disruptive – not something I want to repeat in a hurry! We are about to have a move to the cloud at work, hopefully I am now well prepared for that as well!

The wonder of fibre…

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I have been a long term user of the Virgin fibre network in Nottingham (originally NTL), for both my TV and internet. It is fair to say that until recently their service has been brilliant, with downtime counted in hours over many years.

Sadly over the last few weeks there have been some issues – the majority national ones caused by DNS server issues – something that could happen to any provider but extremely annoying! Add to this the recent underground fire that completely took out much of South Notts as far as Virgin was concerned for days and you get the picture – I was ready to call the retention department at Virgin to vent my frustrations.

speed

So the other day I rang, was offered some deals to stay by the ‘normal’ call centre, but was then passed to retention and got a monthly reduction and a speed increase to 152mb for my broadband.

Now you read about fast connections and how quickly things download at this connection speed – but when you actually experience 152mbps it is really impressive! And my connection currently is slightly faster than that as you can see above! Very large downloads (GB’s) take a few minutes rather than half an hour or more. I am impressed and as long as the recent DNS issues are a thing of the past I will continue to praise Virgin Broadband.

Pebble Smartwatch – update

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Marrakech - very sunny!
Marrakech – very sunny!

Back in January I ordered a Pebble Steel smart watch (or more accurately my wife did for my Birthday). It took a while to arrive, but when it did I loved it, the question is after 6 months do I still love it (and is there anything yet I would swap it for)?

Firstly as a wearable watch it has at least a 5 day battery life, and because it has a black and white screen it is very easy to see it bright sunlight (it also has a back light which can be switched on with a ‘flick of the wrist’). I can also change watch faces to suite my mood – it can be traditional or more ‘random’ – and can include weather information, my next appointment – almost anything!

A more 'trad' face - with weather
A more ‘trad’ face – with weather

I do find the ability to see who is calling me or who an email or text is from without having to pull out my iPhone incredibly useful. Yes, I still have to grab my phone to speak to a caller (although I can drop a call from the watch) and I can’t speak to people via the watch – but it allows me to screen calls. Emails and texts can be screened in a similar way. It is great if I am in a meeting, I can look briefly at my watch and see what has hit my phone without picking it up. Much less intrusive on the meeting and not as rude! Plus the look on people’s faces when they realise ‘the watch’ is showing emails or callers details is priceless!

When I am on site and have my hands full of a clipboard, tape measure and camera it fulfils a similar role, if I am in a large empty factory it is often a pain to have to put everything on the floor to get my phone out – when I may not actually need to!

Next bus near me...
Next bus near me…

And then there are the ‘apps’ that can be installed on the watch. The most used one I have is Smartwatch+, this can do a variety of things, but I use it to put my appointments on the watch, my task list, the weather and the stock market (specific share prices).

I also have an app called PebbGPS, it uses the iPhone to provide turn by turn directions to my wrist – surprisingly useful when walking across London or a similar sized city. It can also link to RunKeeper and provides times, distances etc to the watch.

Using UK Transport I can find out when the next bus or tube is due (it finds where you are and provides the closest stops). I also have been using a World Cup app that gave me up to the minute scores in the big games, and an App for the cricket (similar to the World Cup one). So the main points are…

The good things;

  • I can ‘screen’ emails, calls, texts when otherwise engaged
  • It is clear to see in the brightest sun
  • I can swap to different watch faces
  • Using apps it can provide various information without pulling out my iPhone
  • It’s waterproof – handy for an electrical item!
  • 5 day battery life
  • It can control my iPod music

The less good things;

  • B&W display (not actually a big issue)
  • It works best with iOS rather than Android (not a problem for me..)
  • not much else

In a nutshell I am still as taken with it as when I goy it, it is still a source of interest / amusement from colleagues and clients, but it does I think add something to my life. It will be interesting to see how Apples iWatch compares when it appears but at the moment I wouldn’t replace it with anything else….