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Reminders on Apple Watch

Added on by Daniel Kuney.

Unless I'm missing something, it doesn't look like there's a Reminders.app 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 Reminders.app 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 Reminders.app. I tend to use the Reminders.app 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."

 

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 - http://atp.fm/episodes/103

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 iCloud.com 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.
— http://twit.tv/show/macbreak-weekly/440

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.

 

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.