Category Archives: iPhone

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My thoughts on Apple CarPlay, part one

IMG_1552So for part one, I wanted to just cover some initial impressions.

So CarPlay as it’s own thing is fine, but since Apple has no control over the head unit manufacturers (I actually think an “Apple Car” is more likely to be an Apple head unit) there’s a load of crap that makes everything janky.

Pioneer, being just like every other OEM, has their own thing, AppRadio. I’ve no idea what AppRadio is, because it doesn’t seem to work.

Despite it’s taking up a valuable icon space on the first screen of the CarPlay home screen, every time i tap it, it crashes the CarPlayIMG_1553 interface. Why Pioneer made their own thing, I can’t guess. Why it can’t be deleted or removed, I can totally guess. Why it seems like it should work, but doesn’t, who knows, this is why OEMs shouldn’t bundle their crap into things.

I found a setting in Waze (My Navigation app of choice) that said something like “let app be controlled by car unit”, weird but ok let’s see.

Turn on the car, connect the phone, launch Waze, and …. nothing. Both of these images are the screen shot of what I was seeing on both screens. Waze on my phone seemed to know it was connected and talking to something, but the head unit had no idea. Tapping that nice little AppRadio icon, crashed the interface. Assuming it’s an AppRadio thing, since Waze was like “Oh hi there Pioneer”

Apple Maps is ok, and I use it because it’s what’s there, but I’d kill to have Waze back. Knowing where cops are (or were) is of immense value. Knowing where there’s a road closure… Uh yeah!! Technically Apple Maps has that but it’s crap. “There’s a hazard ahead” that’s it. No details, no icon to tell me, just a hazard, good luck.

I could run Waze by running it in the background, and might resort to that since it’s voice announcements still seem to go through the car speakers. The reason it’d be in the background is that CarPlay is just a special type of mirroring your phone screen. Hit that cute little home icon, if your phone screen is on, the phone (and head unit) return to the home screen. Launch Maps, it launches on your phone. Launch Pandora, same thing, you see where I’m going.

If i pick up my phone, hit the home button and launch an app that isn’t CarPlay friendly, the head unit stays on the home screen. The moment i launch something from the head unit, whatever the phone was doing is replaced by what the head unit is doing. I think i get why, mostly, but it’s also annoying in many ways.

I started to write a single post about CarPlay but figured I’d break it down since there’s so much to talk about. Enjoy this one, I’ll post more in a bit.

So I think I’m close to done with Fitbit

Not because I don’t like it, I like my fitbit, a lot! I’ve had one since the money clip looking one (Ultra? One?), which i eventually lost and got a replacement for in the form of the new model, which i got $50 off courtesy of Fitbit support, which is a really cool thing they do.

I’ve got many family members using Fitbit, lots of friends, even my dog has one (how they haven’t made a dog specific one yet is beyond me).

So why leave?

Silo’s. I hate ’em. Mostly though I hate multiple silos (and am well and truly at the bottom of the Apple one), more so when they don’t play together, even a little. Like ’em, or hate ’em Apple is getting a better and better stack, and their silo, while a silo, is shiny and pretty awesome. My Mac and my iPhone talk to each other, my Watch talks to my iPhone. While not perfect, the nice outweighs the not so nice.

And then there’s my fitbit, which for no clear reason, still won’t talk to Apple.

I just got my Apple watch and I’ve been comparing it’s health features to my fitbit, namely step tracking. Right this moment my fitbit shows 11,549 steps for the day, my Apple Watch shows 11,706. Which is actually a bit odd, the other day it was about 100 less than my Fitbit. Point being they’re close. Close enough as to make not a big difference in my step tracking goals.

Each morning i get up and work out (weekdays) and after that I weigh myself. Normally i do this in the fitbit app. I used to have another app that read fitbit data, and then shared it among other apps (It wasn’t the sync bridge thing, just an app that could read/write both Apple and Fitbit info), and also shared with Apple Health, i don’t use that app so i uninstalled it, so now there’s a gap. I have to enter my body fat % and weight manually in to two apps. Not the end of the world for sure, but why? If Fitbit had a legitimate reason, I might be ok with it. Other things read and/or write to Apple Health, fitbit (still) doesn’t, and hasn’t provided any good reason. Protecting their silo?

I haven’t chucked the fitbit yet, and likely won’t for a few more weeks at least (mostly out of liking to compete with friends and family), but I’d be happy to keep on fitbit’in (is that a term?) if they’d un-silo their data. Heck don’t read in Apple Health data, just share yours. It’s not that hard, and I can’t imagine how you justify not doing it. It costs you nothing to let HealthKit read steps, calories, etc.

We’ll see. I’ve become attached to my Fitbit but double entry is the pits, and Fitbit doesn’t have much to push me it’s way, when ALL other data is in Apple Health.

Drawing a line in the sand is cool if you have a legitimate reason to, but “just because” isn’t a good reason.

I built an app.

IMG_0627Ok I didn’t. I guess I product managed an app :)

Tom and his team worked with me on “Edit Me“. I’ve helped get lots of apps launched (no shortage of 360|iDev and Flex apps out there, that I helped with), but this is the first “not a conference attendees app” app.

Edit Me, serves a real purpose. Ever had a text message, tweet, Facebook post, etc  that you wanted to run by someone before sending? Maybe you’re a bit too heated, maybe too sad. Maybe just to check your tone, or make sure it’s not wildly offensive, etc. Or just to have a friend proof read it for you. Well that’s what we set out to solve with Edit Me.

The idea is pretty straightforward, i’ve got some short form text i want to run by someone before sending it, (Flying Spaghetti Monster knows I often need it)

3-5_1You fire up Edit me, pick your friend who’ll be the editor, throw in a title, and add your text. Off it goes. What’s cool is you and/or the recipient don’t need to register, the exchanges and notifications are bound to device not yet another set of user credentials. When they get the email it’s got an app URL (if they don’t there’s a link to get the app first) and it’ll pull up what needs to be edited.

Something more robust like users may come later, same for more granular edits, right now you offer up your edits and they’re accepted or rejected en masse. There’s no (yet) “Change this word or sentence” it’s “here’s my version of the entire text you sent” even if the change is only one or two words. We wanted to launch what we thought was the most useful version one we could, with plans to do a lot more cool things to the app as we go.

4_5I’m really excited about Edit Me, and find it really useful.

We also want to make a Mac version, which I think is going to be even more useful. While I do often need short form editing/proof reading, I do that a lot more on my mac than my iDevices.

Price: Not free. We went with $.99 because well free isn’t a sustainable model. We think Edit Me has value and utility, and is worth something. Plus really, isn’t not saying something stupid on the internet worth $.99?

NO IAP. While I won’t use the blanket “IAP is the devil” I will say when I am looking for new apps and games, seeing the “Contains In-App Purchase” label makes me think twice before even tapping to see the details. We wanted to make an app that was useful as it is, and requires no extra purchase.

If you’ve ever sat and looked at your messages, twitter or facebook app, and wondered “Should I send this, is mom going to get mad?” Edit Me is probably worth $.99 to you. Because then you could easily ask your sister or friend.

A bit more on Smart Watches

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1. NFL updates are cool, if you’re into that

So I’ve been two timing my Pebble the last few weeks, with the Metawatch Frame. I could see my Pebble being second string really fast. This isn’t an in-depth review of either, more of a quick comparison of them.

The Frame is way nicer than the Strata which i kickstarted, and really didn’t like the look of. it was ok, but a bit too sporty. The Frame is damn nice looking, has a bit of weight to it like a real watch (real being the dumb variety) Nicer than pebble by far, even when using a fancy watch face :)

I’ve talked about Pebble vs. Metawatch before, and really, i think if these two companies merged, it’d be the perfect storm of non Apple smart watches.

I love that Pebble has a pretty active community making faces and apps. I love that Metawatch ships with some neat apps (if you’re a football fan, the NFL widget is pretty freaking awesome, i tried it last sunday just to see, See Pic 1).

I hate that Pebble uses Apple’s new notification center hooks, which basically push all notifications to the watch. I hate that I have to choose what goes to the watch by choosing what I see on the phone. Two very different use cases and experiences.  Very not fun to set up.

I LOVE Metawatch’s smart filter. Rather than bork around in the settings app, it simply watches every notification that passes through it and gives me a toggle to no longer see those. It’s quite nice.

I love that Pebble packed a ton of sensors into their device, i wish Metawatch had done that. I still flick my wrist to try and see the time, and nothing happens with my Metawatch.

I miss the apps like tabata timer, and camera button that Pebble has (third party), and will likely miss the things they’ve got planned like Yelp and Foursquare and the like. Metawatch from what I can see just doesn’t have that support yet(?) from third parties, which i think is a really big deal. I had hoped that in coming back to Metawatch after almost a year, the manager would be overflowing with widgets and watch faces, and that’s just not the case.

One of the things I think Metawatch does great is you get 4 screens to load up. It’s nice to switch between so much info so easily.

Some are neat, like the NFL stuff which does me no good. Some are (to me) pointless like the chinese lunar calendar stuff. Stocks, AND stock twits stuff, which again im sure cool if you like that info on your wrist. There’s still only three watch faces, one of which is useless unless you can read chinese (not sure which dialect or anything)

I’ve been thinking about what widgets i’d like; and really don’t have many, but here’s what I came up with.

  • watch faces, Pebble is dominating this, i miss LCARS, i miss all the ones i had that i used to cycle through.
  • full screen calendar.
  • full screen weather
  • Call log (full screen or half, something more than missed call counter)

I’m guessing it’s not possible, but copying Pebble’s flick to light would rock, the biggest downside of Metawatch is it’s choice of display. in certain lighting you can’t see the display at all, but with it’s backlight you can, having to push a button to do that is the pits.

So yeah I’ve now played with both devices for a good bit of time, Metawatch currently is enjoying wrist time, and likely will for a while. It definitely needs more but is a nice watch. I’ve been tempted to tap into my child of the 80’s roots and sport two watches, but well i haven’t yet.

iWatch Review: Pebble

Nice little touchI really hope Apple takes a while to deliver on their iWatch, at this point I have far more than I can wear without looking like i fell out of the 80’s with a few watches on my wrists. (Yeah I admit, i did that)

I backed the Pebble watch the moment i saw it, in fact only like 3500 people out of the 76,000 that backed it, backed it before i did.  Ok On to my thoughts.

It’s pretty damn awesome. the delays in shipping it (was supposed to ship in early September 2012) were worth it. Not only is it really polished, but they added a ton of things to future proof it. Accelerometer, magnetometer, etc. Things it didn’t need right now, but can’t be added once shipped.

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Overall the experience is really nice. The display is crazy readable no matter the lighting. A flick of your wrist turns on the back light, which is kinda cool. There’s a setting to make it automatic, but i didn’t see it working. I assumed that would mean it was just on all the time in the dark, and that isn’t what happened, so i set it back to wrist flick mode. The thing I like the most (which i liked the most about the iPod nano as a watch too)  is the cool variety of watch faces. I really liked the fuzzy time face. Kinda nice to have time in the same terms we usually give to people when asked for the time. In the end I went with the big time face which takes up the whole face with 2 rows of numbers. Hour and Minute.

Physically the watch is quite nice, falling somewhere in between sports watch and out to dinner in a suit watch. Dressing up, pick a more elegant watch face. The charging is really nice. A nice magsafe style connector on the left of the watch body. The connector just snaps on. There’s four buttons, the two on the top and bottom right are up and down, middle one is “select”

IMG_8301OS wise my two main complaints are 1. There’s no concept of just exiting the settings. I have to go and re-pick my watch face. I’d rather just press the top left button to go “home”, home being watch face. That’s what happens when you’re reading a text message. 2. the present faces (I assume the watch Face SDK will expose more things soon) are bare bones. I’d love a face that included the date, maybe the phone’s battery status or the watches battery status for that matter. I’m not actually sure if there’s a way to see the watch battery level, maybe way down in settings somewhere.

Reading Text messages is really easy. the font is user selectable; Large or Small. It’s really easy to glance down and read the message.

One thing that I found interesting, and awesome. You can answer or decline a phone call. The Metawatch doesn’t do that that I noticed. YOu can see the Caller ID, but i never noticed buttons for accepting or declining the call. It’s pretty handy.

The one thing i noticed that’s drastically different from my Metwatch (I’ll do an actual compare and contrast post soon) is that the Pebble stays connected to my phone way more reliably. What’s nice is the iOS app knows when it’s not connected and will bring up an alert that re-connects the watch. Even from the lock screen. so you’re never left wondering if you’re still connected. That’s really nice.

IMG_8387The iOS app itself is really basic. Which is good and bad. Good in that there’s no fluff, bad in that the UX is all kinds of crazy. Views slide side to side, top to bottom, it’s like a labyrinth. Right now it’s ok, there’s only 2-3 other screens, moving forward it could get goofy.

That said, what’s there is nice. You can see which faces you’ve installed, and browse those that are available for install.

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The only other screen is the connection/update screen. From this screen you can quickly see if the watch is talking to your iPhone. What I like is that this is where software updates are displayed as well. Under that green bar would be an update bar. Firmware updates are delivered of BT to the phone. It’s really q nice experience.

The Home screen of the app has two buttons (which do the same as swiping up or sideways)

a status light. Green is connected, Red is update available or not connected, and the watch face store. (i don’t know what you call it, and presume that’ll be the central repo of faces and apps and such). As things like twitter, facebook, etc integration roll out the UX might change to handle more settings, but for now it’s simple and nice. Kinda Apple-esque in only showing you what you need. I’m a fan of more detail, but oh well.

Pebble app home screen

Pebble app home screen

Over all I’m really liking the Pebble. It’s not as bulky as the Metawatch, but offers less handy info at a glance. I got really used to Phone battery and weather right there with time.

It’s a more attractive watch with easier to read display so that’s a big plus. It is water resistant, showers ok, not sure how far you can take it. I don’t wear watches in the shower usually so not something I care too much about.

Overall the Pebble does a ton of things right. Like the Metawatch, it’s not a complete package, and whether it will be or not is up to both Pebble and the developer community. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime it’s a great watch to wear and looks good on your wrist.

iWatch Review: MetaWatch

IMG_7994So a while back I did a review of my first iWatch (actually this was the first, but it was temporary). It was an ok watch, i had hoped for new features, and in the end the only firmware update that ever came out while adding new watch faces, didn’t do a ton more to make it an awesome iWatch. Of course now that form factor is dead and the new model is not “watchable” at all, so there’s that.

Now I have a proper iWatch, just no i. I’ve had the Meta Watch Strata for a while now, it’s a very cool smart watch. It’s more in the sport watch area, but they do sell a more dressy model. It connects over Blue Tooth Low Energy to the phone and shows you phone battery level, SMS messages, Caller ID, and… well right now that’s all. They’re still working out the bugs, so the emphasis has been on connectivity. I’m trying the latest beta firmware, and it’s come a long way from what shipped.

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Right now it tells you just the basics, but when some of the coming soon features roll out, it’ll be great. I’m hoping i can create rules around some of it, a buzz for every email would suck, a buzz for emails from my wife, or a conference sponsor, handy. Ditto twitter DMs and @ replies. Some i care enough about, others less so.

It has been really handy to glance at my wrist to see incoming SMS’s without digging my phone out of my pocket.

TheIMG_7995 calendar widget has been pretty handy too since you can have two; today and tomorrow. reading a busy day isn’t easy. I suspect future updates will include more readable fonts, or more configurable widgets.

As Smart Watches get more and more popular the differences in approach emerge. MetaWatch uses a central connected app to push data to the watch. App Developers will write their apps, and they’ll reside in the MetaWatch Manager app, giving the user a single place to control it all.

Others like Pebble (I should have mine in another 9 weeks or something) from what I understand, push the apps to the watch. The example shown at CES was pushing watch faces. If you’ve read the other reviews, you know watch faces is one of the things I most loved about the iPod Nano. Pebble made it a front and

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center feature as well. MetaWatch seems to have gone a different direction, at least to start. If you choose to have a full face watch face, you have A choice.

It’s not ugly, but I’m not really a fish person. I’d love to see more, and suspect as time goes on and developers begin releasing things for MetaWatch, we’ll see more clever faces.

Overall I’m really happy with the Strata. The Smart Watch space is still very much in it’s infancy so there’s a lot of room to grow for everyone in it. MetaWatch is clearly serious about it, since having the Strata they’ve gone from 1.0 firmware to 1.2 (yes three releases) but that’s in maybe 3 months?

Pros: Geek cred. pretty handy for basic stuff, way more handy in the future. Doesn’t make a noticable impact on phone battery. It’s connected so definitely does use battery, but not so much I’m carrying a car batter around.

Cons: Not much you can do with it right this second. Weather and phone battery at a glance are cool, and I find them quite handy, but that’s it. Unless you love stocks, it does ship with a stock widget.

A few more pics below just so you can see the MWM app etc.

Basic settings screen for configuring the watch functions.

Basic settings screen for configuring the watch functions.

 

Configuration screen for widgets

Configuration screen for widgets

Currently available options for apps

Currently available options for apps

Where future apps will live
Where future apps will live

 

Life with Nest

So My friend Tom gave me a Nest. Which is good because no matter how much I tried, Nicole wasn’t that keen on the idea… actually the expense. A Nest ain’t cheap. I definitely think it’s one of those products that once installed and in use for 6 months to a year pays for itself or at least shows the potential to, but until then it’s an expensive thermostat.

Photo Nov 03, 10 18 08 AMInstallation was pretty easy, though I did end up having to give in and call Nest support (which was awesome!) because my homebuilder was a moron. For whatever reason there was an entire extra wire bundle connected to the old thermostat. Nest support was great, I’d email them a pic and he’d immediately know what to do. Once he and I got that part tackled, viola!

(please ignore the gouges above the Nest, they were there already hidden behind the old thermostat.

Photo Nov 03, 9 27 22 AM

Once installed it walked me through the set up process on screen. Downloaded a new firmware update that was waiting, and showed me what I needed to know to get going. You can do all the programming and such on the device, but I found it quite a bit easier to do via the mobile app. (see the pics below)

 

Once you get things like a basic schedule setup (I set ours just like the old thermostat) you can start letting it learn. Since our Nest is located in the dining rom, I’m not using the auto-away feature.  We rarely eat in the dining room and since it’s a nook, we don’t pass thru it. So I don’t want the Nest trying to learn our patterns that way. I’d rather it learn from our adjustments.

Photo Dec 17, 1 46 49 PM

Our basic schedule. This was the starting point I wanted the Nest to work from.

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The main screen of the iOS app. Super simple and easy to use.

We’ve only had it about a month and a half or so, so I’m excited to see the results on our energy bill down the road. Especially in the use case of vacations. Before we’d have to remember to turn the old thermostat off or heat or cool the house when we’re not home. Now with the push of a button on our iPhones we can tell it we’re not there.

The other feature I really like is the leaf. There’s the training we’re giving the Nest, and then there’s the training it’s giving us. Now when I crank up the heat it tells me that it’ll be 25 minutes before I get there. I grab a sweater.

Photo Dec 17, 1 46 54 PM

The energy report. Over time this will be more insightful to me, but even now it’s cool to see how we’re doing.

All in all, i’m happy to have a Nest. For one thing it’s much more attractive than our crappy looking honeywell dumb thermostat. And since we’re always looking for ways to save a buck, i think in the long run the Nest will be more helpful in that goal.