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….

This isn’t how it should be!

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20121106-205827.jpgSince Apple launched iOS6 the press has been full of the problems people have been having with the Maps app – until iOS6 was launched the maps (and aerial images in particular), on iPhone and iPad were provided by Google, and they were superb. At work we have all used the maps to great effect – finding properties, and getting an idea of the surrounding area was so easy. It was without doubt one of the ‘killer’ apps on the iPhone.

20121106-205852.jpgSo the change to the current poorer mapping was a great disappointment, it also caused heads to roll at Apple, so they are obviously aware they have screwed up – but are they improving it?

Well today I looked at the aerial photos on my iPhone for the first time for ages (I stopped when I upgraded to iOS6) – and they were good again – almost to Google standards!

I was so surprised that I told colleagues at work. But, and here is the weird thing – on getting home I decided to show my wife (sad I know) on an iPad, but they were as poor as before! I checked on my iPhone and they were still good. And yes, both devices are running the latest OS, so it appears that Apple are running two versions of the map data (the aerial pictures are different – see the screen shots here) – now that is so ‘un-apple’ and perhaps shows why they have changed things at Apple headquarters.

Now all I need is good aerial coverage in maps on my iPad – will Jonny Ives sort this now he also has responsibility for software at Apple – here’s hoping!

Perhaps Apple are right after all?

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The ‘anti apple brigade’ always make a big issue about how Apple maintain a closed and very controlled environment for their products. This extends to the Apps that are available for the iPhone, iPad etc. generally this means that if you download one of the apps from the app store it will work and not do anything ‘nasty’ to your machine – and more importantly won’t try and steal your details.

20120805-090221.jpgThis is wrong and too restrictive according to the users and developers of Android – until now;

Google is now attempting to crack down on rogue mobile apps on its Android platform with stricter guidelines for its developers. The measures include a ban on using icons that are “confusingly similar” to that of existing products. The search giant has also issued rules on how advertising should appear in apps.

The reason for this? Since its launch, the Google Play store has featured a significant number of malicious apps, or counterfeit versions of popular games such as Angry Birds. The new guidelines announced in an email to developers have 30 days to make sure their apps comply. Developers who do not comply with the measures could see their products removed from the store.

All sounds rather ‘Apple’ to me – although I am sure lots of people will disagree (until the next level of control is added by Google)

Microsoft and the need for tablets

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the keyboard/cover comes in a variety of colours

It could be argued that Microsoft have been in the ‘tablet world’ for a long time – all users need tablets for the headache they get from using their software – OK a bit unfair, but it highlights the fact that Microsoft do software and not hardware. Previous attempts at hardware have included their take on an iPod – the Zune, which many of you have probably never heard of…..

So the announcement that Microsoft are to produce a tablet is a worrying one, not for us, but them. On first impressions the Surface tablet (interesting name) looks quite good, the keypad cover is very clever and it appears to be very well-built. But it has one potential huge issue – its operating system (or its two operating systems to be precise). As I understand it one version will run Windows 8 RT (for tablet) and another (called professional)  will run full-blown Windows 8. I get the impression that as usual Microsoft just don’t get it! It also appears to be aimed more at the ultra book market – certainly the MacBook Air appears to be a direct competitor to the pro version – and we all know how good the MacBook Air is!

Also the Surface has been announced to the World, but no one has had proper access to a machine, no costs have been given (although the non pro version will apparently be similar in price to an iPad) and no date of availability is given. So in effect we have nothing. But the press etc will now have time to discuss and come up with their ‘wish list’ – and if it fails to come up with this it will crash and burn straight away on launch.

Apple are much cleverer in marketing terms, they announce and ship almost on the same day, unfortunately I think Microsoft have a lot to learn about being a hardware company. Why not leave this sector to Apple and Samsung with iOS and Android the market leaders in this sector by miles.

Microsoft have almost certainly just (almost) launched another pup!

Finally a challenge from Windows phone 7?

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The news that Nokia has decided to move away from its current operating systems and move towards Windows Phone 7  has mixed feeling for me.

Potential mockups
The death of what started as the Psion operating system and finished as Symbian is sad to see, it was years ahead of its competitors. However it has not been developed effectively for years – hence part of the reason for Nokia’s decline.
Timing is also important, with iPhone 5 and a host of powerful Android smart phones on the way by summer, Nokia and Microsoft need to crack on with making a competitive device. Ask most people you know what phone OS they have and most will be either Android or iOS, so Nokia need to hit the ground running with Windows phones. The mock ups in the picture suggest they may well be almost ready to launch something.

Hardware specs? Based on Nokia’s spin when announcing its new partnership, we know imaging is one of the key areas the Finnish firm thinks it can improve on in WP7 (and historically it has been strong), so expect the first Windows Phones to have a decent camera — possibly 8-megapixels and 720p HD video recording will be a minimum.
The partnership with Microsoft has to be good for all of us (and Nokia). Windows phone is supposed to be extremely good and will keep both Apple and Google on their toes with iOS and Android. But I am sorry to see the end of Symbian.

WM7 birth over hyped?

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Just seen this on the web;  

Microsoft have released Windows Mobile 7 to their manufacturers and to celebrate the birth of this new operating system, it threw a parade/funeral at its Redmond campus.  

Get a grip boys!


The funeral included fake hearses for the iPhone and Blackberry, in addition to a number of crazy costumes.  

(Oddly, Android seems to have been spared.)  

The end of iOS and the iPhone – I think not!  

Microsoft, Apple or Android?

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The world of mobile computing is an extremely ‘exciting place’ at the moment. Over the past few years we have seen the ascendance of the Apple iPhone and it operating system – now officially ‘iOS’, the massive decline of Windows Mobile (or what ever it is called currently) and the appearance of a young pretender called Android. 

Apple iOS


All are quite different from each other but are all after the same overall market – mobile computing in the form of smart phones and tablets – especially tablets. 

There have of course been other mobile operating systems, some of which had huge followings but have passed into the dusky world of machines long forgotten – many of them were excellent and could have offered a great deal if they had been fully developed. I am thinking of the likes of Palm (still around but hopelessly outdated), EPOC the psion system which was in my opinion way ahead of its time, but was not developed, plus its Agenda app looks like the iPad calendar app (I am biased as I loved psions – still do), . 

I am not including the follow-up system used by Nokia and the likes – Symbian, this grew from EPOC, but was never as good and is a poor imitation of the front-runners today – Apple iOS and Android. Also to be in my top league the device has to be something special for the OS to shine. Currently only these two OS’s have that support. 



The OS missing from here is Windows Mobile – I was a fan for a while after my psions stopped giving me the level of integration I needed for work and home. I had a number of devices that I ran my life on. I was I have to admit very sceptical of moving to iPhone in the early days from WM (the lack of multi tasking and integration being the main things), but am now a true ‘fan boy’ for Apple mobile products (still not sold on the Macbook etc – too expensive still in my view and Windows 7 is not actually bad!). 

Where am I going with this? Well WM7 (I think that is what it’s called) has been ‘being born’ for some months now – not even sure if its been launched yet. But allegedly it is a ‘big thing’ for Microsoft. But from what I have seen they have produced something that is heavily ‘locked down’ like the original iPhone OS – perhaps someone should tell them that Apple (and everyone else has moved on). I cannot see it being any more effective than a Nokia type phone – so no challenger to the main mobile OS users then! 



Which brings me to Android – this is an open source operating system (like Linux but not for geeks). I have had a play with an Android phone this weekend and have to say I was very impressed. It is intuitive to use, works quickly and is also ‘pretty’. The Samsung Tab is a competitor for the iPad – many will dismiss it, but on cost it will have a significant impact on the market. 

Apple this week release iOS4.1 for the iPhone and in around 6 weeks iOS4.2 for the iPad which will give the iPad all the ‘teeth’ it needs to take on the competition. But I do think that some of the Android competitors that are now appearing will take a share of the market – and good luck to them  – this market needs competition to keep everyone at the top of their game. It’s just unfortunate that Microsoft appear to have dropped the ball.