Tag Archives: iPhone

I’m Slowly Adding HomeKit Automation to our Whole House

With HomeKit finally being pretty robust, and widely supported I’ve slowly started adding automation to the house. It started with replacing our Nest with an Ecobee, which has been awesome! Then recently I added a iDevices Outdoor Switch to the rooftop. We’ve got some nice patio lighting up there, that I hate plugging and unplugging. I used to just leave it on all the time, which is kinda wasteful during the day, but easier then going over to the plug and fiddling with the cover to turn it all on, etc. (yes, laziness rules the day)

img_0093With the Outdoor Switch not only can I just tell Siri to turn on or off the ‘rooftop lighting’, but also now the lights are on a schedule; sundown, on, 10pm off. Definitely makes it easy and more energy efficient.

The setup wasn’t super smooth, there’s an app from iDevices you use to get everything connected, and that’s a bit finicky, and you have to make sure the device is in wifi range, the phone is on the wifi you want to connect (2.4gHz only of course) etc. but once set up, it’s pretty straight forward, and then you can just use the Home app in iOS 10.

I changed my wifi password and that caused some havoc. About an hour later and many many cryptic errors, i was able to reconnect the switch. I basically (YMMV) had to completely remove it from my “home” and erase it’s existence, then fuss with the iDevices app a few times to get it back to connected, then all was good. I’m not sure there’s a better way than that either, which is a bummer.

If you’re looking to upgrade your outdoor lighting controls, etc, especially with holiday light season coming, I can’t recommend the iDevices switch any more highly! Set up hurdles aside once it’s set up, it’s great and reliable.

I gave in, Trying Bluetooth Headphones again

I had a pair of bluetooth headphones ages ago… It’s hard to remember how long but It was around the time of the iPod Photo/color. That’s what I used them with in fact.

They sucked.

Comfort was not high on their list of things to be, they weren’t very comfortable, in fact they hurt to wear for more than 2 hours or so.

Knowing what’s going in it kind of a big deal to me, they were a PITA to charge, or rather to know when to charge. There was some combo of light color and blink rate that would tell you the status of them; connected, battery low, etc.

The finally fell apart about a year into owning them. I never replaced them.

2016

Well whether I want to or not Apple is forcing my jumping back into the bluetooth headset pool. I didn’t have to rush, they kindly offered what’s likely to be the first of many Lightning to 3.5mm adapters I’ll own (I’ve already nearly lost mine more than once). That said, while the adapter is nice, it’s already frustrating. “Where is it?”, “Did i leave it at the office?” etc.

I have some nice headphones a friend bought me, so those will likely warrant keeping the adapter around, but for runs, I’m convinced I’d rather not deal with the hassle of the adapter, and honestly no cords would be nice.

So, what did I get?

I picked up a pair of Plantronics Bluetooth Headphones, they had high marks on amazon, better than many more well known makers. Plus it’s Plantronics, while not a sexy brand, they’re no slouch in wired and wireless headsets market, so I figured they know what they’re doing. The long battery life they claimed was also a nice feature.

For regular workouts I’ve always used an iPod shuffle (I even found one in the street, when mine started to die, yay me!) but I think with a nice pair of Bluetooth Headphones I’ll likely just use my iPhone for workout music. One less device to sync, and charge.

So, the review

img_0095Ok so this morning was my first run with this headphones. Here’s my thoughts.

The packaging was lovely; very nicely done and easy to open.

Once you get the headphones connected (quite easy, paired on the first try) you’re asking to download an app. I’m not a huge fan of apps for single uses, etc but this one is well done for what it is.

There was a firmware update, which this app handled and got me up and running. It’s now in my “useless ?” folder for things I need for very limited purposes. I’ll probably never need this app unless they update it and it has a new firmware. Oh well.

Thought this was just a useless carrying case

Thought this was just a useless carrying case

The headphones come nicely bundled in what looks like a weird sorta pointless carrying case. It was just the headphones, and a USB cord for charging.

But then i noticed what looked like an armband INSIDE the case. A few minute of fiddling with it and BOOM!

Handy little phone holder

Handy little phone holder

An armband!

I don’t know if I’ll use it as I prefer my phone on my fore arm, and I prefer to see the screen, use the onscreen controls.

Though it could be a nice pouch for storing things, we’ll see, pretty sweet idea Plantronics.

 

In Use

My first run felt weird, I’m so used to a cord flapping around and getting tangled on my hand, it was a bit disconcerting at first. That said I got used to it fast, and it’s nice.

The headphones have plenty of volume, but you can hear cars coming and such, which is great obviously if you’re running somewhere with cars. I’m a fan of not losing situational awareness.

Sound quality is ok. I’m going to have to experiment with where my phone is (was on the inside of my fore arm this time). Other than the occassional burp of static, the audio was clear. On some songs it was hard to tell if it was the song or the headphones. Not a deal breaker and possibly just situational until i find the right arrangement. Certainly I wouldn’t want that while I work, but as these are for runs and work outs, it’s not really an issue.

Not that I expected to, but I was pleased I never once lost connectivity, and even with the random crackle, it was never more than a second, and never interrupted the music or anything.

The headphones themselves, have some nice features. The voice prompt is to be honest lovely! Power them up, “connected, X hours of listen time” is the first thing you hear. A tap of the power button gives you an update on expected listen time, and battery percentage. Very handy at the end of a work out so you don’t screw yourself the next day.

Oddly (unless I don’t know what I’m doing) the volume control is only up. Not really an issue as I like my phone accessible for skipping a track and volume anyway. The Siri integration is nice, i haven’t played a ton with that but suspect a hold of the “phone” button and i could just ask Siri to skip a track”

The buttons feel nice, it doesn’t take much pressure to trigger them, which is nice since it’s sitting in your ear and all, no need to hurt yourself.

Overall, I’m quite happy with my Plantronics Bluetooth Headphones and expect to enjoy these headphone for some time. At the price, they’re hard to beat!

Thoughts on the iPhone 7, so far

tl; dr; 

It’s nice, a great update to a great device, with a few things I’m not a fan of. Want more details go to the verge.

That said, yeah it’s a good phone so far. Mine came on iPhonemas day, and of course I rushed home from Denver Startup Week, grabbed the phone started the recovery process then went back to basecamp (amazing Wifi), to finish, because yeah, who can wait a few hours?!

Unboxing

Unboxing an iPhone is pretty much boring now, there’s plenty of youtube videos so I’m not adding to it, plus all the think pieces have been written already. The things that stuck out to me are these.

  • The EarPods don’t come in a plastic case now, I use that case all the time. I practiced re-wrapping mine so they fit just right. The case was a great way to transport EarPods. Now they come in a one time use cardboard thing, you’re on your own to carry them without tangling… WEAK. Come on Apple, really? Oh and no, the new ones don’t fit in the case, at least that I’ve found, and I’ve tried
  • The Lightning to headphone adapter is definitely one of those “buy a few to have everywhere” things if you’re like me and have lots of headphones all over the place (office, home, backpack, etc) It’s small, and I suspect we’ll see lots of “lost my fucking adapter” tweets in the coming weeks, but hey, only $9 so go give Apple more money :)

Beyond that, the packaging was very similar to every other iPhone in the last few years. I was impressed that now the outer clear wrap was like the stuff inside, a pull tab undoes the whole thing, no more cling wrap to cut through.

Device

I’m not super sold on the home button yet, but suspect it’ll grow on me. The fact it’s capacitive didn’t really occur to me, and I think now most of my gloves are “compatible” so short of touching it through my t-shirt it should work (and that’s not something I do).

Being waterproof is likely (based on all my previous iPhone ownership) something I’ll never test (knocking on wood now), but I’m sure it’s a nice feature.

My biggest complaint, is the camera. Well that’s actually two issues

  1. It moved from 6 to 7, so all my cases are useless. Not a major issue and I’ve had them since my 6 so they’ve served me well, but still a bummer.
  2. same as always, Apple opted to leave a camera bump. Drives me up the wall. I hate things that wobble, etc. so a case is a must. I just don’t don’t get (and never have) why we can’t have no bump and a few hours more battery, seems like a win for all, since I’ve still never met someone who says “You know I love that camera bump, and just don’t care how long my battery lasts” Oh well, like I said, not a biggie, but just one of those ongoing niggles.

Black Black. I didn’t go piano, jet, iPhone 3G black. I went matte black.. original black, I dunno, whatever Apple is calling it. I’ve always like the darker colors, space gray, etc. So was eager to get matte black, and since the glossy one seems to be popular, I’m sure that made waking up like normal to order my phone easy to get iPhonemas day delivery.

So that’s really it. I’ve not noticed much of a huge win on power or battery life but it’s only been a few days. It’s a nice upgrade from the 6(s), and all that. I’ve never been a bluetooth headphone person (or rather was, it sucked terribly and never tried again) so not sure what my thoughts are on the whole headphone jack other than the terrible DRM implications.

HomeKit with an Ecobee3 Thermostat

I’ve had a Nest for several years, it was great. It’s still great, but my confidence in Nest as a company is waning, as is my interest in non HomeKit… Kit. As much as I dislike Silo’s I’m very much in the Apple one, so things that can’t talk to my gear just aren’t useful.

I knew I’d eventually have to replace it, HomeKit requires a special chip so there’s no path forward for older tech. I hadn’t put much effort into finding a replacement yet, since HomeKit has been so poorly executed.

EcoBee3 menuNo longer. Well, soon to be ‘no longer’ iOS 10, which goes live in the fall, has vastly improved HomeKit. So… Time to start looking.
I’d had my eye on the ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat for a while, it’s very nice to look at, the earlier model had great reviews, and since our thermostat is located in a part of the house we don’t frequent, the additional sensor unit was a great add. My biggest complaint about our Nest was that it was in a place that had very different temperature swings than the floor above it, where the home office is. The AC/Heat would cut out long before we in the office were comfortable.

The additional sensor (You can add several to one unit) allows the EcoBee to know that even if the downstairs is “just right” the office needs a few more minutes. It’s wonderful.

Siri and HomeKit

Siri and HomeKit integrationThe real killer feature isn’t the clean lines and nice UX of the device. It certainly isn’t the app, which while better than Nest’s has many failings. It’s HomeKit and Siri.

When I go to bed,  I can tell my phone, or my watch, “Good night” and HomeKit takes care of the rest, and I get a cute reply from Siri, as you do.

Apps

The ecobee3 app is actually pretty nice, especially the iPad version. The one thing I miss from the Nest app (which only went live in the last six months) was multi user. Why anyone making smart home devices defaults to a single user model is beyond me. While I’m sure plenty of single folks are buying smart home kit, I have to assume that number pales in comparison to families and couples, so why make things harder for them?

So for now, my wife is logged into the app on her phone in my account. I’m not sure how that will work long run, since the Ecobee has geofencing, and HomeKit, etc. which are all hung off my Ecobee iPhone AppiTunes account. We’ll see. I’d love to be able to tell my Phone “I’m leaving” but if my wife is home it’ll know that and not turn the AC off on her, etc.

Overall the apps are clean and pretty easy to use, you can quickly see the temp, and adjust it.

The iPad app makes for a nice kind of control center for managing the thermostat, as well as the HomeKit setup.EcoBee3 iPad app

In iOS 10 the HomeKit app (which never existed prior) is still a bit rudimentary, but it’s also the first Developer Preview, so there’s a lot of time and room to improve before it’s live in the wild.

Overall I’m really happy with our ecobee3, it’s been a great addition to the house, it looks nicer (to me) than the Nest, and it’s much easier to check on the house from afar, by simply asking Siri.

Managing HomeKit scenes from the Ecobee app

Managing HomeKit scenes from the Ecobee app

Managing additional Sensors is easy in the EcoBee3 app

Managing additional Sensors is easy in the EcoBee3 app

Carplay Thoughts, Siri

So Siri in the car is actually my biggest use case, for Siri. Ever since the launch of “Hey Siri” I’ve been an avid user when driving.

I enjoyed it prior to Carplay. I just had to shout a little to be heard over the radio, which wasn’t bad, she was surprisingly good at identifying my voice.

One of my gripes with after market tech in cars is that you end up duplicating so much. Case in point my car has a nice microphone in the roof, by the sun roof controls. Because Audi is Audi, the installer couldn’t tap into that microphone, so i have a cute little boom mic, poking out the bottom of my instrument cluster. It’s not terrible but it’s not very clean looking, which is almost always my biggest complaint with non OEM kit. Thankfully it’s dark, small and only the driver really sees it, but still.

Messages sucks

IMG_1610I’m sure the goal was to keep me from crashing but the messages app in CarPlay, even with Siri’s help, the messages app frankly sucks. For one, you can’t see messages. Maybe I’ve pulled over, maybe I’m at a light, too bad. You can see a list of most recents by name, but you can’t just quickly read a message.

IMG_1606The moment you go into Messages, you’re interacting with the car, voice only. It’s futuristic (i guess) but slow and janky, and not at all enjoyable.

 

 

Maps/Navigation

Siri does a reasonable job here. I’ve had 90% or so success telling Siri where I’d like to go and she finds it. Which is honestly more than I’d hope to get, so I’m happy. It’s not perfect, and when it’s not it’s frustrating, it’s nice to use.

My two big gripes are:

  1. IMG_1620Keyboard. I could swear I’ve seen one show up, but I’ll be damned if I can rely on that happening. Obviously typing on the dash isn’t what Apple wants, but as a “Well Siri is fucking crazy” back up i think you should be able to. (Update before i even hit publish, it appears it’s an option when the car isn’t running?)
  2. IMG_1612under destinations, would it be so hard to look at my calendar? Waze figured out how to do it, so I have to assume Apple could. I’m fairly diligent (because of Waze) about adding addresses to my appointments, and it’s frustrating to go into Maps on CarPlay, and seeing my history of destinations, a row of useless pre set up searches, and such, but no “You’ve got a meeting in 20 minutes, at X, wanna go there?” Really Apple? Are more CarPlay users wondering aimlessly looking for parking and grocery stores, than are heading to appointments?IMG_1614

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.

Nomad Pod Pro Review

IMG_0851This might be the perfect travel companion for iOS device owners. The Nomad Pod Pro. Love it!

tl;dr;

  • just under 4″ diameter.
  • just over 1″ tall
  • under a half pound in weight
  • 6,000 mAh battery
  • built in (mfi) lightning connector

Mine came the other day and I’m excited for my next trip, which sadly since it’s winter and camping/conference season has more or less wrapped up, but we’ve got a long road trip, might be a good test.

Never the less, this thing is cool.

You supply the watch charger, and for mine I just bought the shortest cable one Apple has, but there’s enough room to wrap a much longer cord if that’s what you’ve got. You pull the top off, held on by really strong magnets, wrap your Watch charger around it, and set the base in the center, then pop the top back on… MAGNETS!

On top of being a nice portable watch charger, it’s an iOS Device charger too. a 6,000 mAh battery gives it enough juice to charge your iPhone 6 and watch, 2x each (per the marketing copy). While in most scenarios my watch lasts all day easy, there’s been at least one time so far (I’ve only owned mine about 2 months so far) when something went sideways and drained the battery to 0 in about 5 hours. Charging your phone at dinner, not a huge deal, happens a lot, IMG_0853easy to be inconspicuous. Charging your watch at dinner, … less so. You can’t wear it and charge (I tried), and you can’t just shove it all in a pocket like you would a charging phone since the charger magnet isn’t nearly strong enough for that.

While I hope to never again have to charge my watch at dinner, at least this thing isn’t ugly and is pretty compact and easy to use.

This will likely replace my EDC battery pack, since most of my charging needs are iOS devices and the built in lightning connector makes it perfect. I’m not sure if I’ll fully commit, but I could certainly reduce my cable and battery carrying with this device. If you charge lots of older iOS stuff or non iOS stuff you’re kinda SOL. The Nomad has 1 port, micro USB to charge it’s battery. The lightning connector is built in. In a pinch you could open it up and plug something other than a watch charger into the USB port inside the unit, but it’d have to be desperate times for sure.

IMG_0852All that said, where this will really shine for me, is camping. A friend asked my thoughts on Pebble vs. Apple Watch (when i had a Pebble) and my only caution was at least with my Pebble i charge it up and have no worries that a 2-3 day camping trip won’t dent the battery.
This will work just fine next to the sleeping bag charging the watch at night just like at home. Keeping my watch and my iPhone charged when camping, while not life or death certainly is nice, and this will make it that much easier, and be that much less I don’t have to bring with me.

So yeah I’m pretty excited for this thing.