Tag Archives: iPhone

Why I backed the Pebble Time

Say what you will regarding Apple potentially/likely/already dominating or otherwise killing all competition in smartwatches, Pebble found 50,830 people (at the time I’m writing this) to contribute over 11 mil to the next Pebble. And no matter how you slice it they can’t all be “Apple Haters” or even “just android people”

In fact most Pebble owners I’ve met have been iPhone owners, many i know backed Pebble Time as well.

I think the success (I suppose 11mil, and 50 thousand plus backers is as good as any metric) of the Pebble Time is definitely in part due to Apple. All the rumors, sneaks, and baseless guesses, and all around hype around the Apple Watch have brought smart watches much more into the public eye, that’s good for everyone in the space.

Will Apple sell buttloads of watches, of course they will. Developers will all want one or two, because they’ll need devices to test on, whether they wear it or not who cares. Those who buy everything Apple makes will also buy one or two. Lots of others will flock to buy this amazing new watch (or gadget, depending on perspective)

I’d guess many of the 50,830 Pebble Time backers will also buy an Apple Watch. I won’t be (immediately) among them, but many will I’ve no doubt.

First why I bought a new Pebble. I’ve got a Pebble now, in fact I backed it the first time. I love it. I love watches, unlike so many sudden new watch wearers, I’ve worn a watch since i could tell time. I own a dozen watches, my most expensive easily cost more than the mid level Apple Watch. I don’t buy or wear shit watches. The Pebble isn’t the most pretty of things, but it’s a good watch. Tells time, date, weather (depending on face) and when I’m in more social settings and grabbing my phone isn’t acceptable, it tells me there’s something I should see (after lots of tweaking with notifications to get it right), or who’s calling without grabbing my phone.

The Pebble does most of the things I want, and it looks like will be adding the last thing I need. More interactive notifications. This assumes Apple exposes that API in WatchKit, I haven’t looked. Being able to send a few canned replies to things is a great feature. If I was a voice memo person, the mic would be cool, maybe it’ll be cool for Siri things, I dunno. Color E-Paper is awesome, color with 7 day battery life, very awesome. One of the things I love about my Pebble is not worrying about nightly charging. When I first saw “color” I thought, ok one color at a time or something else, but the fact that it’s many, is impressive. From the pics and video it’s not as vibrant as the AppleWatch, but that’s fine with me.

Pebble has also done an admirable job of future proofing. The first gen Pebble will get many of the features shown in the Pebble Time kickstarter video. Not all, but many. The current model has things that at launch weren’t active, but are now, like an accelerometer. They team behind Pebble has made sure that the watch i bought in 2012, not only is functional in 2015, but is still getting features. That’s kind of important in watches. Watches aren’t a buy-n-replace annually thing. My Hamilton is over 10 years old, and runs great, looks awesome. It needs a new battery every few years. My Citizen eco drive, is almost 15, runs like the day i got it. I’m not certain (at least for gen 1 and 2) that AppleWatch will have that ‘feature’.

Detractors often complain about the Pebble’s non classy looks, i can’t argue that. I have much MUCH nicer watches in my collection, and was tempted by the Pebble Steel just for a nicer appearance, but wasn’t ready to commit the funds for the same Pebble as I own, but wrapped in metal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eventually want an Apple Watch. Despite my overall love of things Apple, I’m not often pulled in early, and frankly the first gen gear is usually sub par.

First iPhone, not amazing and quickly surpassed by the 3. I didn’t buy a used first gen until we moved from iPhone OS, to iOS.

First iPad, not amazing, and quickly surpassed by the 2. Not terrible at all, but meh. I got mine on the first day, waited anxiously, and was done playing with it in 30 minutes. Things got better FAST, and I love my iPad Air 2. But in hindsight, should have waited for iPad 2.

Is there any reason to think the watch won’t be the same? That the first model will not be very powerful (we already have rumors the battery will be lucky to last a day), or very water resistant. Do I want to buy a new device for another $300-$400 in a year? Do I want a device that in 2-3 years (if that) won’t get new features? By the second or third year of the Apple Watch, it’ll be something to truly want.

Also, (of course this is speculation) the Apple Watch won’t have a ton of things I care enough about to warrant it over a Pebble. Sending morse code messages to people… cute. Useless unless my friends or wife have an Apple Watch.

health sensors, neat. I’m sure I won’t hate that info, but at the same time i don’t care that much. I care about steps, active minutes each day, all data I get from lots of sources.

Don’t get me wrong either, I’ll want to see and touch my friends first Gen AppleWatches. I’ll want to play with them and see how great they are, but I’ll be happy with my Pebble (and then Pebble Time) for a few more years I think.

I’d say my Pebbles will be welcome additions to my watch box, but in 7 days they’ll be powered down husks…

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.

I broke up with Verizon for 1 reason only

This.

And not even so much because they won’t be doing roll over data (which i find insulting as a customer. Even ATT found a way to do it that they liked, and wasn’t out of line with their goals). But the attitude of that executive.

“If you want better treatment for the money you spend, we don’t want you as a customer, go fuck off and die”

In the past changing networks was a nightmare. I remember number porting taking as much as 48 hours, this time it took 10 minutes. I remember when porting wasn’t an option at all, now it’s tremendously easy, the new carrier can do it all, i didn’t have to call Verizon, didn’t have to go into the store, etc. A few bits of info, and we were AT&T Customers.

I overlooked Verizon’s transgressions because their support was always very nice (except in store, where I was lied to twice at two different locations) and helpful. Their twitter support team is amazing, and single handedly kept me a customer a few months ago when i was ready to leave.

It’s one thing (not a good thing) to pull crap like the super cookies, etc. While i think that’s lame, it wasn’t so lame I couldn’t live with it. The network was strong, i had bars where ever i needed them.

But to come out directly with the attitude that me and my $187 a month were of no value because how dare I assume the data I pay for should be mine to use the next month. Yeah that’s new, i wasn’t expecting them to jump right in and was prepared to wait months for it, if they had said it was coming. But the attitude of that executive, was the final straw.

So now me and my 3 devices are AT&T subscribers. We also save $57 a month, which ain’t bad either. If you’re Verizon, I highly suggest you leave. You’ll get better prices and a network (whether you choose T-Mobile or AT&T or even one of the more fringe players) that wants your business and appreciates it.

Bye Verizon.

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.

IMG_8384

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.