Reminders on Apple Watch

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

Unless I'm missing something, it doesn't look like there's a for Apple Watch. From what I've seen, Apple Watch will let users set new reminders via Siri, but there doesn't appear to be a way to actually view those reminders in list form on the Watch. 

So, for instance, you could say, "Siri, remind me to turn off the oven at 6 PM" and at 6 PM Apple Watch will alert you to turn off the oven. My guess is these reminders will also sync to the on your other iOS devices where you could also view them. But there's no central place on the Watch to view all of your upcoming reminders.

Now it could just be that Apple felt it wasn't practical to display a list of reminders on a small screen. But it also raises an interesting question about the "correct use" of I tend to use the on my iOS devices both to set reminders, like in the example above, but also to store simple shopping lists, like grocery store and drug store lists. 

Since the Apple Watch announcement, I've imagined how convenient it would be to display shopping lists on my wrist so that I could have both hands free while in the store.

But maybe Apple sees this use as the "wrong" way to use the app. Maybe it's literally just meant to be used for reminders and using the app for list making is "off use."


Fixing Email

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

Remember when letters came once a day? Technically they still do. But the letters most of us receive these days are emails, and they come all day long, sometimes many times in a minute, filling up our inboxes and stressing us out.

I've tested just about every new app that promises to save us from email overload and have found three innovative features that can actually help.  Unfortunately, there is not yet one app that has all of them integrated into one cohesive solution. Below is a rundown of these three killer features and where to currently find them. 

SNOOZE TO LATER: This is the "feature of the moment" across a handful of new apps and for good reason. A lot of the email we receive isn't actionable right away or contains information needed at a future date. Snoozing allows users to temporarily remove an email from their inbox and then set it to reappear when it's actually needed. Mailbox, Outlook for iOS and Inbox by Gmail have all made snoozing a core function of their apps.

SEND LATER: Every time we hit send on an email we are contributing to the unending cycle of email overload. Scheduling emails to send at a later time helps us pile through our inbox while slowing down the pace of the conversation or making sure someone else receives our email at a time that works best for them. Boomerang has been the leader in this space for some time, but it only works with gmail, using the Chrome browser and can be pricey if you use a custom domain with gmail. 

PAUSE: Pausing email allows users to continue to respond to and reference their current emails, but without the distraction of new email streaming in by the minute. This is hands down the number one tool that saves me a great deal of stress day in and day out. And sadly it's barely on the radar of any of my favorite apps. The makers of Boomerang make a handy Chrome plugin for gmail called Inbox Pause, but so far this is the only solution I've found. 

While I love that developers are taking snooze seriously I'm hoping they'll realize it's just one piece of the puzzle to taming email.  To really take on the whole challenge of fixing email I'd like to see them embrace send later and pausing functions as well.


Has Apple made the case for Apple Watch?

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

I took an informal email poll to twenty or so friends and family members asking if they would be getting an Apple Watch and why or why not. Of the three people who got back to me, all said they would not be getting Apple Watch.

It would be silly to draw any conclusions from the percentages here. But I did find their responses instructive. My aunt wrote:

I hate the idea of having all my data on my wrist. I want some separation from my electronic life, even if it's my phone in my pocket. It's at least easier to ignore that way if it dings at me. I prefer my interactions face to face and don't want the temptation to be always to be glancing at my wrist.

My aunt’s thinking is quite logical - she has enough devices and doesn't want another, and she has enough distraction as it is and doesn't want to add more. 

But, as strange as it sounds, the promise of the Apple Watch is that it might liberate us from our devices and the distractions they create. It does this on the one hand by being so readily available. A simple glance at the wrist to read an incoming message is far less intrusive than pulling a phone from a pocket.

The Watch is also the ultimate gatekeeper or personal bodyguard to our attention.  Wearers of the Watch can restrict notifications to just the things that are really important to them: a message from a spouse or child or an alert that rain is on the way.

Meanwhile, the phone can remain out of physical and emotional view. You can throw it in your bag all day knowing that you’ll still get your most important notifications. 

The Watch may also one day replace much of what we already carry with us: cash, credit cards, public transportation cards, keys, and tickets. So we are subtracting far more than we're adding. 

What makes all of the ‘no’ responses from my email poll interesting is that they all came from iPhone owners. All of whom, if memory serves, were late adopters, all asking the questions that many other people were asking in the early days of the smartphone: Why do I need email everywhere I go when I can access it at home? Why do I need to send text messages when I can just call?

I say the “promise” of Apple Watch because it’s quite possible that Apple Watch might not live up to these expectations. Apple Watch could prove to be just another expensive gadget that further isolates us from the world and our loved ones. 

Or, it could prove to be the device that balances our desire to be both present and reachable. To ignore the noise and the clutter of our phones and yet connect on our own terms.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if Apple can make the case for Apple Watch any more than they could make the case for the iPhone in 2007. The early adopters sense the promise and, if it’s there, others will eventually follow. 

Why Pebble Can't Compete With Apple Watch

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

Mark Gurman: New Pebble coming soon with thinner design, revamped OS, voice recognition:

Pebble updated its website this morning to tease a new model of its popular smartwatch. The announcement is scheduled for 10 AM on Tuesday next week, but Pebble has not specified what exactly is launching. However, multiple sources tell us that a major update to both the Pebble’s hardware and software have been in the works and that these changes could be ready to debut next week. 

I like competition, and I’m glad Pebble is still in the game. And for some people, for whom price and battery life are essential, the Pebble will likely better serve them for some time to come. But, there are two key areas where I can’t imagine Pebble ever being able to compete with Apple Watch.

One, notifications on Pebble are crude. They are simply a firehouse of all notifications that your phone receives. But your wrist isn’t your pocket or purse, and most people will want to ensure that only their most important or critical notifications come through to a device attached to their wrist. For instance, you may want alerts from the NYTimes or Twitter on your iPhone, but not on your watch. Apple Watch will let you set notifications with this kind of granularity. As I understand things, Pebble simply can’t do this because they don’t have access to the same system level controls that Apple does. With Pebble it’s all or nothing, and I just don’t think most people want all.

Two, I think NFC and Apple Pay are going to be the breakout features of Apple Watch. Perhaps not right away, and maybe not even in the first generation of Apple Watch, but NFC and Apple Pay will fundamentally change the way you go about your daily life. Beyond payments, NFC will be used for boarding mass transit and planes, getting into movies and concerts and opening your car or home doors. 

It’s possible that Pebble will gain NFC down the road, but even if it does it won’t have Apple Pay. It’s still unclear if Apple will ever let third parties have direct access to the NFC chip or if they will first need to be registered Apple Pay partners, but my bet is on the latter. This means that beyond credit cards, Apple Pay will control an enormous swath of NFC interactions, making it nearly impossible for small competitors to gain the same ubiquity. 

How Much Will The Various Apple Watch Models Cost?

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

I'm about to do something against my better judgment, which is to say I'm going to take a stab at guessing Apple Watch pricing without having any appropriate knowledge with which to make such a guess. But guessing is fun and it will be interesting to see how wrong I am when actual pricing is announced. 

That out of the way, let's start with what we (mostly) know, which is that the base Apple Watch Sport will be $349. Next, I have to imagine that there will be a premium for the bigger 42mm size. How much of a premium? $100 seems too much - that's the difference between the 6 Plus and 6. 

At the same time, $50 doesn't seem quite enough. But Apple doesn't seem to mind throwing an extra $30 onto popular numbers like $50 and $100. Want LTE with your iPad? That's an extra $130. So $80 seems like a respectable Apple-like premium for an extra 4mm, landing the base price at $429 for the larger Sport model.

The pricing for the stainless steel variant is a little harder to gauge. Smarter people than me suggest it will be around $1,000 but I just can't see that happening. While Apple has proven that they don't need to compete on price, they notably lowered the initial iPhone pricing by $200 shorty after launch after encountering price resistance to what was then a relatively new product category. 

So I think Apple will be more cautious in their pricing of the stainless steel watch. A $100 jump from the Sport model probably isn't enough of a margin to cover the more expensive casing and sapphire glass, but anything over a base price $500 seems like a tough sell so I'm going to go with a starting price of $499. Add $80 for the 42mm for $579.

I also imagine some bands might be more expensive than others, adding another premium if, say, you want the stainless steel band. 

I'm not going to take a stab at guessing the price for the gold Edition model. The same smart person from above has suggested $5,000 though. He tends to be right about these kinds of things. 

Check back in April when actual pricing is announced and I try to back down from just how wrong I got it. 


A Display Ends And Its Frame Begins

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

The Apple Watch is designed to remain dark until a wearer raises his or her arm...under normal circumstances, the screen will then show one of nine watch faces, each customizable. One will show the time alongside a brightly lit flower, butterfly, or jellyfish; these will be in motion, against a black background. This imagery had dominated the launch, and Ive now explained his enthusiasm for it. He picked up his iPhone 6 and pressed the home button. “The whole of the display comes on,” he said. “That, to me, feels very, very old.” He went on to explain that an Apple Watch uses a new display technology whose blacks are blacker than those in an iPhone’s L.E.D. display. This makes it easier to mask the point where, beneath a glass surface, a display ends and its frame begins. An Apple Watch jellyfish swims in deep space, and becomes, Ive said, as much an attribute of the watch as an image. On a current iPhone screen, a jellyfish would be pinned against dark gray, and framed in black, and, Ive said, have “much less magic.”

Alan Dye later described to me the “pivotal moment” when he and Ive decided “to avoid the edge of the screen as much as possible.” This was part of an overarching ambition to blur boundaries between software and hardware.

- Ian Parker: The Shape of Things to Come

I must have noticed this in the pre-release images, but I didn't really internalize what it meant. Pull out your iPhone and open any app, it's drawn from edge to edge. Every pixel is being utilized, even if it's not needed from a user interface perspective. 

Compare that to the Apple Watch interface below. Every part of the screen that isn't showing text or a graphical element is simply black, blending so seamlessly into the frame of the watch that you can barely perceive the black bezel surrounding the screen. 

I've been sitting here for the past five minutes trying to find a word other than "magic" to describe this but I can't. 




What I Learned About Apple Watch's Limitations By Using A Pebble

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

I'm pretty bullish about Apple Watch. Back in November, when I started to contemplate the added conveniences and value of a wrist worn wearable, I bought the lower-end Pebble with a Black Friday discount. I figured it was worth $80 to start testing some of these conveniences in the real world.

As I anticipated, the Pebble made some interactions with my phone more pleasant or more easily accessible. But there were a couple of instances in which the experience did not live up to my expectations in ways that I hadn't considered.

One, I anticipated that reading incoming messages on my Pebble would be more polite than pulling my phone from my pocket when in the company of others. While it's certainly more convenient, it's really no more polite. Both gestures send a message to anyone I'm with that I am pulling my focus from them, no matter how briefly.

And two, the value proposition of wrist worn wearables goes down in colder months. Glancing at incoming messages while walking down the street or commuting will be effortless in warmer weather, but if you're wearing a jacket, gloves or multiple top layers, your watch is perhaps even harder to access than a phone in your pocket. 

These are by no means deal breakers, but they are worth mentioning as there tends to be a gap between how we imagine new technologies will solve problems, and how they actually perform when faced with real world challenges. I had imagined a dozen different use cases for the iPad in the three months between its announcement and actual ship date. Today my iPad largely sits at home. I still like having it in my life, but it's essentially a very expensive newspaper.  

I think Apple Watch is going to stick around longer than calculator watches, but, as an early adopter, I'll need to temper some of the magical powers I have imagined for it. 

Apple's Dependence on Google Services

Added on by Daniel Kuney.
It’s unfortunate that there are these handful of major area where Apple, And Apple’s customers, are still really dependent on Google for things, and obviously Apple does not really want it to be that way if they can help it...They need to get total independence from the need for Google services on their devices.
— Marco Arment -

This came from a conversation about Apple's maps platform, which is slowly catching up to Google's. It's not there yet, but Apple seems keenly aware that, sooner rather than later, they need to nail maps. 

But what about email? It's clearly not as sexy as maps, but does Apple really want to develop mail applications for iOS and OS X that most people use with a Google product? 

iCloud mail works fine if you're using a native app, but if you've tried to search for an archived email using and waited *minutes* to get a result, you'd see that it's not even in the same league as Gmail. 

[UPDATE] If Apple ever wants its iWork software to compete with Google Docs (and I'm not entirely sure they do, but let's say, following Marco's logic above, that Apple wants everyone using their devices to be less dependent on Google services) then they will eventually need to allow custom domains with iCloud email. Obviously that's not necessary for personal use of iWork, but if office workers are going to be collaborating on iWork documents they are not going to want to share them using their personal email accounts. 

Do we still need iPads?

Added on by Daniel Kuney.
Alex Lindsay: I find that with the larger phone I don’t use my iPad that often. I just noticed that anecdotally I don’t use it as often. I use my phone or I use my computer but I find that the iPad in general, the interface itself - we’re not taking full advantage of it.

I’m thinking of getting a Microsoft Surface specifically because there’s a lot things that every time I see the commercial I’m like that’s what I want to do. You know that’s what I want, I want to be able to do that. I’m probably in the next week or two buying a Surface just so I can do those things when I need to, rather than continually waiting for Apple to finally put touch on my laptop.

Andy Ihnatko: I’m in sort of a weird position because I have explicitly set aside this year some money to buy a new iPad. The one that I actually own is a third generation iPad, and it’s working just fine, and I find myself thinking a lot of the things you’ve been thinking, Alex, which is that if I’m going to buy one to use the way I used to use my iPad 3, and if I’m going to be spending $800 for an iPad, what else can I buy for $800? And the Surface 3 is actually very very good. I don’t think it’s suitable for my needs right now. But if Microsoft finds the car keys on Windows 10 and finds a way to make it really relevant, that could really change a great deal.

[The 13” MacBook Pro] is not as light as an iPad, but now it’s light enough — the battery doesn’t last as long as an iPad, but it lasts long enough. Frankly, using an iPad as a laptop replacement is enough of a pain in the butt that I’m willing to sacrifice those things and take a 13” notebook along with me.

So there’s a lot of moving parts and this is going to be an interesting year for the future of the iPad.

This is something we discussed a bit on last Sunday's podcast. And it seems like a lot of people I talk to right now aren't really sure how to get the most of out their iPads. 

Mine mostly stays at home. It's a glorified newspaper. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it also falls short of the role I imagined the iPad would play back in 2010 when it was first announced.

At its best, technology solves widely felt pain points. The initial promise of the laptop was that it allowed road warriors to get real work done while traveling, the iPhone solves a gazillion different pain points for a gazillion different demographics, and the Apple Watch will likely make mobile computing interactions far more convenient than we ever imagined*. 

To be fair, the iPad does solve quite a few convenience issues. It is probably the single best device for sitting on the couch and reading the NYTimes or watching YouTube. It's also not bad at responding to a decent amount of email - but if only if you purchase a third party keyboard and tote that around as well. And, finally, it has what I'll call "tossibility" - one doesn't worry about tossing it into a briefcase, backpack or gym bag and running around town with it. But is that worth the $800 price of admission? 

And that's the problem, at $800 it is still pretty lousy at getting work done. I don't work with large data sets or hundred page documents, but I do work with budget spreadsheets and contracts that are roughly five to ten pages in length. And I couldn't imagine trying to use my iPad to create or seriously edit these documents. 

One question I've been asking myself, and I think a lot of consumers are also asking, is how many and which devices do we need? I suppose there's a world in which the answer is four: pc (desktop or laptop), smart phone, tablet and watch*. 

Some futurists (and yours truly) predict that we're heading towards a day when everything is screens and this kind of device differentiation will be meaningless. Your tables, walls, desk, fridge, etc, will all be screens and you'll pretty much be able to look anywhere to interact with a computer. 

I don't doubt that day is coming, but let's look at the more immediate future. My hunch is that most people will want three devices in an ideal world: smart phone, tablet and watch. Power users, and even semi-power users like me, will likely still want four for the near future. But both groups are going to be looking at the tablet to do more of the heavy lifting to justify its cost. 

I suppose the rumored 12" MacBook Air could solve some of the pain points that the iPad can't yet address, but then I look at what Microsoft has done with Surface 3 and I think, just like Alex and Andy, that's kind of what I need. It has "tossibility", gets real work done and then, at the end of the day, the keyboard screen cover can be removed to read the newspaper on the couch.  

Now, if only it ran iOS.

*We can debate wearables another time, and I'm willing to fall on my sword if I'm wrong, but I do think it's only a matter of time before watches replace pretty much everything you're already carrying everyday: money, credit cards and keys most obviously.


"These included indoor GPS"

Added on by Daniel Kuney.
To understand what went wrong, we need to travel back a few years to Mountain View, Calif., deep inside the sleek offices of Google. There, amid the colorful campus logos and swaying sycamore trees, the company’s founders and a handful of trusted executives came up with a list of 100 futuristic ideas.

These included indoor GPS and a project called the Google Brain.
— Nick Bilton, Why Google Glass Broke:

Indoor GPS? Sounds like a product I would want. Has the added advantage of not making you look creepy or people wondering if you are recording them in the bathroom. 

Why I Downsized From The iPhone 6 Plus

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

As love affairs go, my relationship with the iPhone 6 Plus was relatively brief: about three months. You may recall that when I first fell for the 6 Plus I fell hard.

To be fair, there’s a lot I’m going to miss about the jumbo sized iPhone 6 Plus. The keyboard is downright luxurious, making typing anything longer than a paragraph a mostly pleasurable mobile experience. And the battery easily lasts longer than a day, almost entirely mitigating the need for a midday charge.

And yet, when I decided to experiment with the smaller sized iPhone 6 it was immediately clear that the Plus had been a mistake. When I need to skip a track on Spotify, use Apple Pay or glance at an incoming text I can pull the 6 in and out of my pocket in seconds. 

I just didn’t have the same experience with the 6 Plus. Sitting on the subway I had to perform a complicated snake-like contortion act to maneuver the phone from my pocket. And paying with Apple Pay just felt clumsy.

As a runner, I also began to worry that the Plus wouldn't be a suitable link for the Apple Watch, which depends on a nearby iPhone for GPS.  The 6 can still fit into a running pouch or side pocket, but not the Plus.

And now that it’s winter the Plus isn’t so hard to fit into a large jacket pocket, but summer is (hopefully) right around the corner. When I want to hop on a Citibike or go for an afternoon walk I’m not sure where or how I would stow the Plus.  

Like my 11” MacBook Air, my favorite mobile technology simply disappears when not in use. I’m not dismissing the 6 Plus for everyone, but, for me, the larger phone just didn’t fit into my life.

With Apple Watch, is Garmin the new BlackBerry?

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

Would you rather have an expensive fitness watch that tracks a bevy of health and performance metrics with pin point accuracy, or an expensive all purpose watch that tracks some health metrics but also let’s you communicate with your friends, navigate city streets, pay for groceries, unlock your doors and enter mass transit?

That’s the question a lot of athletes and weekend warriors, who are used to spending hundreds of dollars on narrow purpose sports watches, are going to have to ask over the next few years as multi-purpose smart watches gain in popularity.

When Apple Watch comes out this year it will offer some health metrics, but it won’t have it’s own GPS chip, nor will it be waterproof, essential features for runners and swimmers. But it’s nevertheless possible that Apple Watch will offer enough compelling non-fitness features to tempt the Garmin faithful.

When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, Treo and BlackBerry offered far superior mobile email solutions. But mobile Safari could display real web pages, visual voicemail was a breakthrough and there was suddenly no need to carry both a phone and an iPod. The iPhone solved enough pain points of mobile computing that users looked past its then subpar email client.

Similarly, the fitness metrics on the first iteration of Apple Watch won’t be nearly as comprehensive as those on a standard issue Garmin. But Apple Watch may just introduce enough convenience in other areas that athletes will look past that.

Garmin isn't sitting on the sidelines and waiting for Apple so steal its thunder. Some of their 2015 watches will pair with a phone to provide rudimentary notifications. But these notifications won’t allow users to respond or communicate back to the phone - one of the key selling points of notifications on Apple Watch.

Sports watches will continue to sell well for the near term, but I don’t think it will be long before athletes opt to purchase Apple Watch rather than upgrade their Garmins.

What’s the proper pace of innovation?

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

Marco Arment:

Apple’s hardware today is amazing — it has never been better. But the software quality has fallen so much in the last few years that I’m deeply concerned for its future. I’m typing this on a computer whose existence I didn’t even think would be possible yet, but it runs an OS with embarrassing bugs and fundamental regressions.

The problem seems to be quite simple: they’re doing too much, with unrealistic deadlines.

We don’t need major OS releases every year. We don’t need each OS release to have a huge list of new features. We need our computers, phones, and tablets to work well first so we can enjoy new features released at a healthy, gradual, sustainable pace.

It’s true, Mavericks completely broke Gmail for me. The one thing that I use my Mac for 90% of the time, email, was almost unusable for the first six months after I upgraded.

So there is a reasonable case to be made that Apple’s yearly release cycle is too ambitious, and that they should develop each new release until they can be sure it’s free of show stopping bugs.

The problem with the yearly release cycle however is that it’s yearly. And in some ways it’s already too slow. When Facebook, Twitter or Google have a new feature that’s ready, they ship it. They don’t save it for a massive release once a year when they unveil all of their new features at once.

If Apple slowed down their release cycle I would worry that features that allow Apple software to remain competitive would take longer to roll out (how long can Apple sit on transit directions for iOS?). But crippling bugs aren’t acceptable either.

I think there needs to be some middle ground here. Perhaps there’s a world in which major updates with significant code rewrites are released less regularly, but then user facing features that add competitive functionality should be rolled out on a more iterative basis.

My 2015 Apple Wish List

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

On last week’s podcast we took a look back at the biggest Apple stories of 2014. With less than one week into 2015, I’d like to take a moment to think about some of the hardware, software and services I’d like to see from Apple in 2015. 

I have an 11” MacBook Air from 2011 and it still performs like a brand new machine thanks to its rock solid SSD drive. It's virtually unnoticeable when I carry it in my bag, and yet it's a workhorse when I’m cranking out long documents or spreadsheets. 

There have been rumors for the last year that Apple is gearing up to release an even thinner, fanless 12” MBA with retina display. And, if true, would likely be a worthy successor to my 2011 model.

However, there’s a part of me that is growing intrigued by the concept of a hybrid tablet/laptop, and on this front there’s a lot that Microsoft's Surface gets right: a built-in kickstand, a keyboard/cover combo designed specifically for the device and apps that can run side by side.

The chances of Apple releasing something like this are pretty slim, but perhaps not as slim as they were two years ago. 

My prediction: the 12” retina MBA seems like a safe bet for 2015. An iPad that borrows elements from the Surface may be something they roll out gradually. Perhaps we’ll see a 12” iPad this year, and perhaps side by side apps in iOS 9 or 10, but kickstands and keyboards may be something they leave to third party manufactures for some time. 

Apple’s native maps app has been without transit directions since 2012. Third party apps, like CityMapper, have matured into capable replacements, but if Apple wants their mapping product(s) to be taken seriously they can’t ignore transit directions any longer. 

I’d also like to see Apple use their Beats acquisition to more fully develop a streaming music service. I’m a big fan of Spotify, but an Apple service has the potential to offer the best integration across their entire ecosystem, including with the Apple Watch and Apple TV. 

Some of Apple's own desktop applications are growing a little long in the tooth and could use some attention.

iWork needs to address real time multi-user collaboration. Pages and Keynote produce beautiful documents, but with the rise of remote working, Apple users shouldn’t have to turn to Google Docs to work collaboratively. 

And now that podcasting has gone mainstream, I’d like to see Garageband really up it’s podcasting powers. It would be great to record high quality multi-track FaceTime audio directly into Garageband rather than relying on Skype and third party apps.

Speaking of FaceTime, remember when iChat offered group video chat? I’d love to see that make a return to the Mac (and also iOS) platform.

Apple TV 
It’s been nearly three years since Apple TV was substantially updated, and while there have been rumors of a wild overhaul to the device, and possibly even an actual television set from Apple, I think we’re more likely to see more modest changes: additional storage, third party apps, and a closer relationship with iOS using Handoff and Continuity. 

Those are some of things I’ll be looking for from Apple this year. What would you like to see? Let me know on Twitter @danielkuney.  

John Gruber On Why Apple Pay Works

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

The one thing they have that nobody else can do is the way that [Apple Pay] works at the system level rather than the app level. I can just can’t emphasize enough for anybody out there who hasn’t used Apple Pay yet because you don’t have an iPhone 6 or because you don’t shop at one of the places that supports it yet. I just can’t emphasize enough how — instead of feeling like a one step process, it almost feels like a zero step process. Because you don’t have to unlock your phone. You just take the phone, even if it’s not on, get it within an inch of that terminal, rest your thumb on the reader and that’s it. Nobody else can do that. A CurrentC app on the iPhone - you would have to unlock your phone, open the app, and go from there. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but compared to Apple Pay, it is a lot. 

Gruber, on what makes Apple Pay unique, as quoted from the latest episode of The Talk Show.

For those who haven't tried it yet, it may be hard to understand why Apple Pay is not only a better experience than credit cards, but also other mobile payment options. But it is. 

If consumers aren't convinced yet, I think the magic of Apple Pay will become more apparent when the Apple Watch is introduced. Forget the phone, just hold your wrist up to the terminal and...well, there there is no and, that's it. 

And as NFC is increasingly baked into everyday transactions (mass transit, boarding passes, opening doors), it's going to become super obvious why Apple Pay has succeeded over dedicated payment apps like CurrentC and apps that we currently open before we then futz with our phones in front of scanners praying we catch the scanners at just the right angle.

Seriously, have you ever watched an Amtrak conductor on a moving train try to scan a boarding pass on an iPhone screen? It's not a pretty sight. 


Anticipating Apple Watch

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

When Tim Cook and colleagues introduced the Apple Watch this September I was pretty lukewarm about the device. As a runner, the lack of GPS seemed like a huge omission. And because most features of the Apple Watch only work while tethered to a nearby iPhone it can't do a lot on its own.

Do we really need to spend $349 on a device that is essentially another iPhone display to shave milliseconds from the process of pulling our phones out of our pockets, bags or purses to glance at incoming messages?

The truth is, we may not need a second screen for our phones in the way we really do need smartphones today to stay connected, but it could turn out that the wrist is a better place than a phone to conduct certain bits of mobile computing.

As I went about my day over the last couple of weeks I imagined scenarios in which it would be nice to just glance at my wrist or hold my wrist up to an NFC terminal. The savings in time or added conveinence are minuscule per instance, but over the course of the day, could add up to a compelling experience. These moments include:

  • glancing at incoming messages
  • making payments at a cash register
  • entering the subway
  • controlling music playback
  • boarding a plane or Amtrak
  • scanning a ticket for a movie, concert or live performance
  • walking directions with haptic feedback to indicate when to make a right or left turn
  • unlocking a car door, home door, ZipCar or Car2Go

Some of these features won’t be fully realized right out of the gate - just as it took a few iterations of improving hardware and app development to make the utilty of carrying a smart phone apparent to more than those of us self proclaimed gadget nerds.

It also remains unclear how many of the above interactions will initially take advantage of NFC - which is the real game changing technology that will make these experiences truly effortless. It’s already possible to hold our phones up to scanning devices to board planes and Amtrak, enter movies and make certain in-store payments.

But these scans are fairly primitive. If Amtrak or United release Apple Watch apps that merely produce images for scanning at their existing terminals there may not be a material time savings.

It’s going to take the widespread adoption of NFC for the Apple Watch to really show its full potential. But glancing at our wrists, rather than pulling phones from our pockets or bags, does seem like an improvement. And, in many instances, may be less distracting or even more polite, than how we currently interact with our phones.

I know not everyone is convinced just yet but, despite some of my initial misgivings, I am looking forward to Apple Watch.

T-Mobile Earned My Business, and They Want to Earn Your Business Too

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

In 2007 I switched from Sprint to AT&T so that I could buy and use the first iteration of Apple's newly introduced iPhone. And so partly because I had a grandfathered unlimited data plan and partly because the alternatives didn’t seem that much better, I had been an At&T customer ever since.

But I can’t say that I’d ever been blown away by AT&T’s network. Data speeds while walking around New York City seemed sluggish, even when on LTE, and service often went dead in peculariar places. I could never get service at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 38th Street, right in the heart of midtown Manhattan. And I often watched jealously as friends on other networks used their phones inside of buildings, notoriously a challenge for AT&T's towers. 

So when the iPhone 6 was released I decided to take a chance on T-Mobile, a carrier that seemed like it really wanted to earn my business. A month in, I have to say I am impressed, really impressed. I routinely get T-Mobile service inside of buildings, basements and elvators that were previously deadspots on my AT&T iPhone. 

And while I haven’t used testing websites to verify this, the data speeds seem to be remarkably faster as well. I do find that T-Mobile takes a bit logner to connect to a tower when the subway emerges from the underground tunnel onto the Gowanus overpass, but other than that, I have not had a single bad data connection outdoors in the city.

The improved service is a compelling enough reason to switch, but what really makes T-Mobile stand out from their bigger rivals are their policies that truly benefit consumers, policies that remind how you just how restrive AT&T and Verizon are. A few highlightes of what they call their “uncarrier” approach include:

  • no contract required; sign up and cancel anytime
  • no overage charges on data use; once you go over your plan’s LTE data T-Mobile throttles your speed down to 3G for the remainder of the billing period
  • streaming music services like Spotify, Pandora and Rhapsody do not count against data use
  • unlimited data and texting while travelling internationally (full list of contries here)
  • free texting and visual voicemail on planes equiped with Gogo Wi-Fi

Now, that’s a lot of reasons to give up your grandfathered unlimited data plan with Verizon or AT&T to sign up with T-Mobile (something I did), but there is one potential drawback you should be aware of. While I have had exceptional service in New York City, I am told that T-Mobile’s service can be spotty when travelling outside of major cities. When travelling south on I-95 to Washington, DC I did experience a few dead zones.

So as great as T-Mobile’s consumer friendly approach may be, you’ll want to make sure you can get service in the areas your frequent before makign a switch. Thankfully, T-Mobile also makes this easy. They will send you a free iPhone 5s to test their service for seven days.  

Since I’m not a road warrior, I made the decision that I would rather have exceptional service 99% of the time, than mediocre service 100% of the time. If you travel a lot you may not be able to make quite the same calculation. Although there is an additonal benefit to T-Mobile; so far they are the only U.S. carrier to route your calls and texts over any Wi-Fi network you’re connected to. So if you’re visiting the family farm and there are no T-Mobile towers, you can sitll make calls and texts using Wi-Fi. 

That won’t solve service issues while in your car, but it does open up T-Mobile’s reach to any location with a Wi-Fi network. And if that weren’t enough, T-Mobile will loan you a supped up Wi-Fi router that priotizies voice calls on your network. I have used Wi-Fi calling both with this router and on standard routers and the calls sound nearly impercetible from over the air cell calls.  

If, after reading this, you’re tempted to switch but don’t want to pay an Early Termination Fee with your current carrier, T-Mobile again has you covered. They will pay your ETF and buy your current phone when you switch and trade in your phone. 

As a consumer, I’m a big fan of companies that are willing to work hard for my business and that prioritize my intersts. T-Mobile, like Apple, has become one of those companies that make me very happy to be a customer.

How has your experience been with T-Mobile? Let me know on Twitter @QNYTech

PS. T-Mobile’s CEO, like their service, is carving a unique path. To see how hard he’s working to make T-Mobile the most consumer friendly carrier follow him on Twitter @JohnLegere

How to Get Away With Murder - Theory [Potential Spoiler]

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

WARNING: Don’t read further if you prefer not to read unsubstantiated and uneducated theories about fictional TV characters.

Having only just watched the first episode of How to Get Away With Murder and knowing absolutely nothing about anything, I have to confess that I’ve already worked up a pet theory.

I think Viola Davis’ character, Annalise Keating, is responsible for the murder of her husband. Only she isn’t the murderer. Instead she spends the majority of the season manipulating her four star students so that they carry out the murder without realizing they have been played. Keating is a woman who spends her career defending people accused of murder. But the best defense for murder is to not actually commit murder.

I have no evidence to support this and in fact I kind of hope I’m wrong. But the idea just popped into my head while mulling over the episode later in the evening. Oh, there is one small clue. Keating is away at the time of the murder. As a criminal defense lawyer she probably wants to have a rock solid alibi, or at least the appearance of a rock solid alibi.

So yeah that’s my little theory even though after one episode I really have no right to be speculating on these sorts of things. And I do hope I’m wrong and that the show does take me on an unexpected and surprising journey.

One more note about this and other shows involving long mysteries. After Lost and The Killing I think most viewers are weary of getting wrapped up in a drama that overstays its welcome. I am definitely willing to play this one out for thirteen episodes. But if after season one we’re still not sure who killed Keating’s husband, or who kidnapped the jock’s girlfriend, I doubt I will come back for season two.

Initial Thoughts on the Jumbo Sized iPhone 6 Plus

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

The great debate of 2014, at least for those looking to purchase a new iPhone, is whether to go with the big iPhone 6 or the even bigger iPhone 6 Plus. Even those of us who have already purchased one of the new iPhones remain conflicted if we’ve made the right choice.  

After the first 72 hours with the new jumbo sized iPhone 6 Plus I can say that the larger screen makes many iPhone tasks a more immersive and pleasurable experience.

Most notably, it is the best iPhone yet for reading. Whether I’m on my couch or commuting on the subway, being able to see almost a full page at once of perfectly crisp text is a much better simulation of reading a book or newspaper. 

It’s also far easier to type on the 6 Plus. The larger tap targets on the keyboard means greater accuracy and far less moments of agony when you just can’t quite seem to press the right letter.

The 6 Plus’s jumbo screen also makes long form writing a much more manageable undertaking. I am typing this review (almost) entirely on the 6 Plus while commuting on the subway. Being able to see multiple paragraphs at once is allowing me to much better gauge the structure and feel of this piece.

I will say, the new onscreen keyboard that Apple introduced with iOS 8 has done some of the heavy lifting, but the benefits of the larger screen while typing cannot be understated. 

Sadly, there are some drawbacks to a device this big. Mainly, it’s hard to transport from place to place without making some compromises.  The 6 Plus doesn’t fully fit into my jeans pockets and I can only just barely shove it into my coat pocket. I’m not sure how I’m going to carry this thing during the summer when I’m not wearing a coat with big pockets.

Further, the 6 Plus does present some etiquette problems. Personally, I don’t like to leave my iPhone on the table while out to dinner. It seems to suggest that I have more important things to do or that I’m not fully present. However, I cannot manage to sit down with the 6 Plus still in my pocket. 

And finally, I can no longer bring my phone to some of the places I used to, namely the gym, while on a run or biking. It just won’t fit into the smaller pockets of my workout clothes.

So 72 hours in, I’m both reveling in how much more useful the larger screen is and also deeply torn over the tradeoffs of carrying such a mammoth device with me.  And I’m as yet undecided on how this will all play out. I’d like to try to fit the larger phone into my life, but it will require accepting some compromises.  

Are you torn between the 6 and the 6 Plus? Let me know on Twitter which iPhone you’re contemplating or what your dilemmas are.