iphone

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?

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!

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….

Social Media – the importance of a good data connection…

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There are certain things in life that we take for granted – the sun rising in the morning and setting at night, England disappointing us at football – you get the idea. And as the world changes our expectations change also, who would have imagined 10 years ago that we would all expect to be able to access mobile data where ever we are to interact with social media (and collect email etc).

The smart phone has become an essential part of so many people’s lives now and we expect it to work all of the time 100% effectively. Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have done their best to facilitate this with their hardware and software – all of which still never ceases to amaze me with what it can do. However there is a weak link in all this…… and that is the networks.

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You can have the best bit of hardware in the world, but if you can’t get mobile data it is about as much use as a brick! My experience at the Test Match at Trent Bridge this week was a classic example. I was intending to twitter via the @InnesEngland twitter account from the match, and I did, but not to the degree I wanted to due to a lack of 3G signal from our carrier Vodafone. I know it wasn’t just me because my colleagues were having similar issues with data as well.

This is not a new phenomenon brought about by the increased use of mobile data, I have found Vodafone wanting on their coverage for many years. They have made some minor improvements, I actually got 3G in my home town of Malmesbury recently for the first time ever. But generally they lag well behind the other networks EE and in particular.

There was a time when the enterprise user was the most important user to a networks data provision, that may still be the case but for different reasons as Social Media usage explodes into that market. Perhaps it is time for the various networks to share their masts and provide the sort of service the rest of Europe already experiences.

My new toy…….. Pebble Steel.

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20140209-132924.jpgI blogged just before Christmas about the Pebble watch, I was in two minds about getting one to try. Basically it is a ‘smart watch’ that acts as an extension to a smart phone (such as an iPhone). It shows received emails, messages, calls,  it can use apps to give bus or flight times, show the weather, act as a gps, show my diary etc – you get the idea.

In the end I held off because I wasn’t keen on the plastic design which would have been rather large on my ‘small’ wrists. However, just after Christmas Pebble announced that they were releasing the Pebble Steel – a much more upmarket design made from steel (no surprise there) – it was more expensive but was also smaller and would arrive with the long-awaited software upgrade to version 2, which would bring further benefits and improvements to its abilities. That was enough for me, I ordered one on-line during the announcement (a Birthday present from my wife). Delivery wouldn’t until mid Feb but I was happy to wait….

Well, I must have been one of the earliest people to order one as it was dispatched on the day of release from the factory in China and arrived on the 31st of January (take note Royal Mail). The software update with the new app store arrived a week later and I have now been using the watch for a week and am rather impressed. I know some people ‘don’t get it’ and think it is just a novelty, but it has already proved its worth – let me explain;

If I am inspecting property as part of my work I tend to have my hands pretty full; clipboard, camera, tape measure as a minimum, my iPhone is consequently in my pocket. Any emails or calls received previously required me to stop, put things down and pull out my phone to see if it needed dealing with. Now I can see who is calling and decide to answer or drop the call from my wrist. I can also see if that email or text is important or can wait in the same way. This sounds a small thing but it can make a huge difference to my time spent on site.

pebble-steel-fb-7fad464e234d10349079e17c3a4b590f
An example of different screens…

This last weekend in London I kept my phone in a pocket to keep it away from any ‘undesirables’ – if I was on a noisy street that in the past would cause me to miss calls or messages as they came in. Not anymore – a vibration on my wrist and I can ‘filter’ them without having to pull out my phone and draw attention to it.

And the last and perhaps coolest thing is an app I have for the Pebble called Pebbgps, it allows me to get directions from the gps on my iPhone direct to my wrist, so walking across London from A – B was so easy (and it worked really well). Again no iPhone out for someone to snatch.

So all in all a very good piece of kit – it will be interesting to see what Apple come up with in their upcoming iWatch – it will need to be very good to better the Pebble.

Pebble – should I?

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I love tech and how it can help smooth the experience of running your life, the iPhone (or any smartphone) is an amazing piece of kit that can help you keep on top of things. I have run my life for years via one piece of kit – initially a Psion, then a Pocket PC and now an iPhone. There is an issue however that is becoming more off an issue as more and more people and businesses become ‘tech savvy’. And that is information overload – something that allows you to screen the information coming through your smartphone would be great (and prevent constant checking of the phone).

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I think I may have found the answer – but do I adopt now or do I wait for Apples take on this technology? I am of course talking about ‘smart watches’ – Apple are believed to have the iWatch in the wings (release is currently ‘expected’ in fall 2014). But there is a current option – the Pebble – it isn’t as flashy as Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, but it also doesn’t cost an arm and a leg!

UhV7vAFThe Pebble only has a black and white screen, but it does offer up to 7 days battery life and will link with an iPhone (running iOS7) and show all notifications of emails, texts, Facebook, twitter – you get the idea. It is this which interests me – the ability to screen out the many notifications with only a flick of the wrist.

Yes, it does perhaps currently lack the depth of abilities to make it a real ‘killer’ item, but it is constantly being updated via its software and has huge potential. In many ways it is a classic case of ‘more is less’ and almost has the feel of ‘Apple’ to it.

I am tempted – if Santa is reading this I would like a black one please…

Ok, so I am a geek – but I love this….

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Being a techy lad I have numerous apps on my iPhone to enable me to ‘keep up with events’ – what ever they may be! The world of mobile access still amazes me – I know I should be used to it by now, but I just love the fact that I can sit at my desk (or anywhere with a signal) and check up on things.

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A classic example of this is keeping an eye on my Son’s flight out of Gatwick the other morning – I have an app called Plane Finder that plots the live location of flights – so rather than just checking on the Gatwick departures board (I have an app for that as well) I can actually watch his plane leaving the UK airspace! The information provided and the way it is displayed is great.

I said it was sad!