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Whiskey Lately

Apple Watch Review Diary - Siri

Apple is on its third major iteration of Siri and the improvements seem apparent. While I use Siri on occasion for my phone, itís a critical component for the Apple Watch with no keyboard. So the Apple Watch should have made Siri an urgent priority for Apple. On the Apple Watch Siri is quick and responsive. It basically works as well as Iíd hope, and given how the Apple Watch is tethered to the iPhone and past experiences using Siri, itís pretty impressive to me.

Siri can be launched either by holding down the digital crown or the voice prompt ďHey, SiriĒ while the watch is active. Both work well, but the voice prompt works particularly well when driving or on the go. Just raise your wrist up to face you and start talking.

You can use Siri for basically the same things you can do with the iOS, but if an answer isnít baked in, Siri youíll direct you to your iPhone to do a web search. Iíve used it for unit conversions in the kitchen and general playing around. The form of the Apple Watch makes Siri pretty neat.

Another function that Iíve found very useful is using Siri to launch apps. For some reason I struggle to find apps on the home screen. Iím not sure if Iím just not familiar yet with app location and/or I tend to read app names more than icons on iOS. Since many app icons have similar colors and designs, without realizing I probably do more memorizing of app locations and tend to look more for app titles than icons. Launching apps using Siri is fast and easy, plus again handy when on the go when I donít want to be looking at a screen.

The last big area Iíve been using Siri is for text input. This is biggest feature and it works well. When writing texts you can either use an emoji, canned response, or Siri dictation. You can also send a recording of your message, but I prefer not to do that. You can disable this option to skip over that prompt when sending messages. Siri dictation is also a big part of whatís making apps pretty cool. Evernote will do note dictation from the watch, which is pretty slick. The dictation isnít perfect, of course, but the workflow is nearly completely voice controlled from calling up Evernote, pressing the big ď+Ē button on the watch, and then start talking. Similarly, Iíve been using it to create new items in OmniFocus and Trello. Iím sure there are countless other similar inputs that Iíll be exploring.

All of this makes Siri a major player for me with the Apple Watch. Siri has been a big feature for the iPhone with the promise of making input quicker and easier. By design, the Apple Watch is forcing a transition to a voice experience rather than a keyboard experience. Siri seems to be working well and it will be interesting to see how developers continue to utilize the voice-driven experience.

Apple Watch Review Diary - Maps/Navigation

The navigation link with Apple Maps is pretty cool. Basically you can initiate a trip on your phone and it will automatically display info on the watch. Similarly, you can initiate a trip on the watch, and the phone will run its map display. The difference is if you initiate on the watch, you wonít get voice guidance on the iPhone.

On the watch, the display offers the info I like to see when driving. It shows me my next turn, distance to my next turn, and ETA for arrival. Plus the time. You can tap/page to a new screen to see your position on the map.

When itís time to make your turn, the watch will alert you with a series of taps and a blinker turn signal sound.

Navigation seems to show the best strengths of the Apple Watch and iPhone integration. Thereís no sync setup to get it all running, they just simply not only work together, but complement each other for better navigation.

Watch-only mode does require you to take your eyes of the road to see your next turn, so Iíd probably prefer to still hear the iPhone. Still, the tap alerts are handy to grab your attention if youíve got kids in the car or something. The biggest thing though I like is the at-a-glance info. Often Iíll be just driving along and wonder how long to the next turn or how Iím doing on time. I pick up the iPhone to look at that info, but here I can just glance at my wrist.

Apple Watch Review Diary - The Controls

The Apple Watch is both familiar and different from iOS devices. The digital crown is interesting. I think I might wish to have some feedback in the turn, sort of like a mouse scroll wheel. So, maybe some ticks as it moves, or maybe not. it just kind of spins and Iím feeling like a little resistance would give the UX of it doing something. The crown can be pressed as sort of home button or spun to zoom or scroll. If you hold it down, it activates Siri. Whatís interesting is if you hold it down just enough to activate Siri, it will stay active and automatically shut down when it thinks your done talking, just like on iOS. But if you hold it down a bit longer, it works like a walky-talky. I dig that because sometimes I feel Siri isnít cutting off fast enough or too fast as my brain tries to formulate a Siri-friendly command.

The other physical button is a power button to turn it on and shut the watch down. If you press it once, itís a favorites/contacts button. If you press it twice, it activates Apple Pay.

You can also take a screenshot of your watch, just like iOS, by quickly pressing both the digital crown and side button. Screenshots are sent to your tethered iPhoneís photo library.

Another button of sorts is the the force touch on the screen itself. To do force touch, you press down on the touch screen. This is a contextual command sort of like a mouse control-click/right button. Depending where youíre at it will present different options. The trick here is thereís no UI clues, which makes it a learned vs intuitive command.

The final control is the touch screen, which offers various click and swipes depending on the situation.

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Apple Watch Review Diary - The Hardware

I had some concerns on size and weight of the 42mm models. After I realized the specs are actually slightly smaller and lighter than the Pebble, that changed my thinking a bit. Like everyone, my first impression of the Apple Watch was the promotional photos and videos. Thereís something about the marketing materials to me that make the watch look much bigger and clunky than it is. The design reminded me the original iPhone, which at the time was pretty impressive, but obviously tired and dated. In the photos and videos, it looked thicker and bulkier to me with the rounded design.

In person this is not the case at all. The watch appears modern, slick, and thin for a smartwatch. Certainly more could be done with the design, but itís not a negative. The watch weight is also perfectly fine and the 42mm size seems a natural size for my wrist. It looks a little big on my wife, so the 38mm would seem a more natural choice. The space gray Sport model I find to be not at all flashy to draw attention, particularly with all the smart watches and fitness devices out there over the past few years.

I think Sport band is fine. Itís very similar to my Pebble and Iíve had no beef with that. The design is kind of clever as it tucks in. Itís a little awkward for me to put on compared to more conventional buckle style, for some reason, but Iím getting the hang of it. The sport band is comfortable and I donít think it looks at all cheap. I think I might dig a leather band better, but for extra money Iím good with the rubber model. Iíll be curious for third-party solutions that might be more practical. Apple ships a second half of the band to change the overall size of the watch band. This is the size of the watch band with the notches The band slips out really easy and itís a nice design.

The magnetic inductive charger is great. Inductive charging is nothing new, but this is a cool and practical solution to charge the watch without having exposed charger ports. The 2 meter cable is quite long and should work well for cable routing from wall plugs around dressers and bedside tables. Iíve ordered the smaller 1 meter cable as a backup at work. The Sport model is a plastic charger where the more expensive models appear to be aluminum. Other than ascetics and presumable cost, thereís no difference.

The box is surprisingly large and heavy. Apple over the years has made efforts to decrease packaging size and weight, and here Apple seem to be going all out for the unboxing experience. The watch comes in a long plastic case. You could store your watch in this case, but Iíd probably prefer some kind of watch stand or simply setting it on the table.

The screen is very nice and basically what youíd expect from a Retina display. Graphics are sharp and colors are bright. So far, no real issues using the watch outdoors, but itís just my first day.

Overall the fit and finish meets what anyone would expect from Apple. My biggest takeaway is itís different than I expected based on the photos. The Apple Watch is definitely something people will have to try on to really judge.

Apple Watch Apps, shipping issues, pop culture reactions

While we're busy hitting refresh buttons, we'll talk about the first round of Apple Watch apps. Also some drama surrounding the pre-order shipping, and how is the Apple Watch playing out in pop culture?

Some practically useful early Apple Watch apps

Iíve been thinking of how the Apple Watch can transform how I do what I do. The big features Iím seeing in the early round of Apple Watch-enabled apps are apps that basically let you keep your phone in your pocket. Thatís attractive, and potentially powerful for certain uses, but feels gimmicky or not really an advantage over other smart watches.

So, here are some apps Iíve seen that I think will add unique functionality or is particularly helpful by keeping my iPhone in my pocket. There are only a couple so far for the iPhone launch, so Iíll also add in built-in Apple Watch features Iím looking forward to using.

Control your slide deck from your watch. This could be big, assuming itís responsive and reliable.

Same as a PowerPoint, you can control your slide deck on your iOS device.

SPG/W Hotels
Really narrow scope here, but still nifty. You can use your Apple Watch to unlock your hotel room door.

Dictate notes into Apple Watch and it will sync to Evernote. If I can quickly get into dictation mode, this could be really helpful for quickly making notes.

The iOS app allows you to listen to music and identify a song, but to me thatís kind of awkward. Youíll be able to do the same from the Apple Watch, which seems more practical that digging out the phone.

Apple Pay
Once authenticated on your wrist, the Apple Watch wonít require TouchID to issue payment. Should make a convenient payment system even better.

The iPhone will tap your wrist prompting you to turn. You can glance at your watch for directions or if youíre familiar with the route you can just follow the street signs.

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Ars: Inside Apple's ResearchKit

John Timmer:
More generally, simply opening up a large fraction of the smartphone-using population has some significant implications for research. "Typically, the number of participants in a clinical study are limited by geographical constraints and the cost of consenting and enrolling subjects in person," Bridges [CEO of LifeMap Solutions] told Ars. "With ResearchKit, data can be captured in real time from a far larger, more geographically distributed, and more diverse subject pool at much lower cost." Bridges said that in the first week of its release, an app he worked on with Mt. Sinai researchers was able to enroll and obtain informed consent from more than 4,500 participants.

ResearchKit may have a positive impact on Apple's bottom line by with the research community promoting the iOS ecosystem and Apple's hardware. Bigger impact, however, may be just making the world a better place.

Apple VP Angela Ahrendts sends video message on Apple Watch to retail employees

I like the personalized video to help get messaging across, but it seems a little weird. To me, it seems perfectly natural Apple would launch the watch exclusively online. Given it's a new product and very constrained supply, guessing how to deploy inventory isn't in anyone's best interests. Apple I think is better off just shipping exactly what people want directly rather than making people stand in line for a model they don't want, or more likely, going home with nothing.

I wonder if the Apple execs are feeling heat for the supply issues and long lead times? This might be a case of Apple without Steve Jobs because he normally would make the decision and take any heat for the team. Also, I wonder if skipping a retail launch affects sales incentives for employees. Ahrendts seems to be stressing the value of in-store launches for employees.

Anyway, seems like not that big of a deal to me to warrant so much messaging.

Exclusif : Angela Ahrendts évoque la sortie de... by mac4ever

Keynote, PowerPoint apps add support for Apple Watch

Apple and Microsoft updated their presentation iOS apps to support the upcoming Apple Watch. The feature allows you to control your Keynote or PowerPoint slide deck from your watch, which is pretty neat.

There have been a lot of app updates pushed to my phone the past week that feature Apple Watch functionality. Most updates seems to be basically remote screens and notifications for iPhone apps. In some cases these could be interesting, like when it's impractical to hold your phone, but I'm not seeing most of these early features really changing how I work. The updates for Keynote and PowerPoint, however, deliver some new functionality.

How Apple Watch measures your heart rate

Apple new support document details how the Apple Watch heart rate sensor works
The heart rate sensor in Apple Watch uses what is known as photoplethysmography. This technology, while difficult to pronounce, is based on a very simple fact: Blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs green light. Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light‑sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist at any given moment. When your heart beats, the blood flow in your wrist ó and the green light absorption ó is greater. Between beats, itís less. By flashing its LED lights hundreds of times per second, Apple Watch can calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute ó your heart rate.

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Recent Articles

AnandTech review of new MacBook

Always excellent deep reviews from AnandTech bring up some of the key tradeoffs of the new MacBook design.

Ryan Smith for AnandTech:
From an end-user standpoint then the focus on the MacBook is going to be on its size, especially its thinness. Itís how Apple is choosing to promote it and itís by far the laptopís most distinctive attribute. At the same time however is the story of how Apple got to this point, and what trade-offs and sacrifices they had to make to get a laptop into this form factor. The laws of physics enforce a pretty clear trade-off between size and performance, so in creating the MacBook Apple has not only created a new size category of Macs, but a new performance category as well. Itís smaller than even the MacBook Air, but it also follows a different performance curve, and ultimately is targeted at a somewhat different user base than the now-traditional ultrabook.

The new MacBook has a retina display, is thinner, and lighter than the MacBook Air, but also manages to do this about relatively similar battery life. Something has to give here and that is with the low-energy Intel Core M processor power management.

Ideally Core M will spend very little time at its base clockspeeds, and will instead be turboing up to 2.4GHz, 2.6GHz, or 2.9GHz respectively. This vast divide between the base and turbo clocks reflects the performance-bursty nature of the Core M design, but it is also why the base clockspeeds that Apple advertises can be deceptively low. In light workloads where Core M can quickly reach its top speeds to complete a task, a 2.4GHz+ Core architecture processor is nothing short of zippy. However in sustained workloads these base clockspeeds become much more relevant, as Core M has to pull back to lower clockspeeds to keep heat and power consumption under control.

Podcast: Apple Watch try-on experience, new MacBook

This week we talk about pre-ordering the Apple Watch and our experiences stopping by an Apple store to check it out. Also the new MacBooks.

1Password 5.4 for iOS brings Apple Watch support

1Password for Apple Watch helps you find the little pieces of secret info you need every day, quickly and easily. If you need the code to open your garage door, one of your one-time passwords, or to look up the Konami Code for those extra lives when playing Contra, 1Password is right there for you.

I've adorned 1Password with praise for a long time. Not too sure how this will work, but I can say that TouchID support has greatly changed how 1Password makes everything better. I'm curious if the Apple Watch will take that up a another notch.

Reddit Infographic visually describe Apple Watch UI

Kind of neat. I played around with the watch a little last week when it hit stores. I spent more time looking at the hardware simply because I think it might be difficult to get a good sense of things in a demo. I assumed the watch will depend on the my specific phone for the full experience, plus apps are still being developed.

Anyway, I found the UI to actually be a little confusing. What feels like a power button is really a dedicated favorites toggle. The crown is both a scroll wheel and home button, vs what I think of as a scroll wheel and click on a mouse. Plus you've got a touch interface that's more limited than the familiar iOS UI, plus the new force touch interface.

So, yeah, there's a bit of a learning curve. That's not to say it isn't intuitive, it's just that the controls seem familiar but work differently.

Andy Hertzfeld on latest Jobs biography

Andy Hertzfeld:
The agenda flips after Steve returns to Apple a few years later. Now itís time to obscure problems instead of waxing lyrical about them. The main strategy is to simply ignore unpleasant episodes, or to sweep them into a single chapter near the end, entitled ďBlind Spots, Grudges, and Sharp Elbows,Ē so they donít have to tarnish the main chronological account.

I think he makes a couple good points as I'm about half way through the book myself.

OWC Envoy Pro mini brings up to 480GB on a USB 3.0 stick

Other World Computing Tuesday announced its Envoy Pro mini storage device. Basically it's an SSD in a USB thumb-drive format. OWC is currently selling 120 GB and 240 GB models with a 480 GB model coming soon.

The Envoy Pro mini is compatible with both USB 2.0 and 3.0. Performance is up to 433 MB/sec on USB 3.0. The combination of capacity, size and performance opens a lot of possibilities for storage on the go.

Pricing is $119 for the 120 GG, 199 for the 240 GB, and upcoming 480 GB will sell for $599.

Apple sets June 8th for WWDC

WWDC will feature more than 100 technical sessions, over 1,000 Apple engineers, hands-on labs to help developers integrate new technologies and fine tune their apps, as well as the Apple Design Awards which showcase the best new apps in the last year.

Apple is accepting applications for tickets through April 17th. A lottery will be conducted to issue tickets rather than the mad free-for-all of recent years. Apple is also making up to 350 WWDC Scholarships available to students and members of participating STEM organizations.

Typically Apple showcases its next version iOS at WWDC. It's also not unusual to learn about OS X developments. Certainly this year will also likely highlight the new Apple Watch and how developers can jump on board.

Apple releases ResearchKit medical research framework

Apple Tuesday announces its open ResearchKit framework is now available. The framework enables doctors, scientists, and researchers to gather data from research volunteers using iOS devices.

The open source framework allows any medical researcher to take advantage of the initial modules in ResearchKit to study health and wellness and better understand disease. Developers can also build new modules based on the open source code and contribute them to ResearchKit. The initial customizable modules address the most common elements found in research studiesóparticipant consent, surveys and active tasks.

ResearchKit seems a pretty compelling initiative to assist in data gathering for any number of health research topics. Basically researchers can utilize already deployed diagnostic hardware in the way of volunteer's iPhones, for example. Also Apple's install base makes it easier to field participants for research.

The Apple Watch store appointment experience

I was curious to check out the try-on experience at the Apple Store both because I wanted to get a look at the new Apple Watch, but also how this system worked.

The store had a large table with a glass covered inset with all varieties of Apple Watches on display. This table was the front and center table everyone will see as they walk into the store. There was also little iPad kiosks on Apple Watch tables. These kiosks had a demo on the iPad and a functional watch secured in a holder. You could learn about the watch from the iPad and give the watch a spin, although this is limited to the screen and controls. To actually try the watch on, you needed a guided tour.

I was an early appointment on Friday, so the staff was still getting their footing in how to run these demos. It was a little awkward and the guy doing the demo seemed nervous. I donít think it had anything to do with me because really all I wanted to do was hold it to get a sense of the product. Iím going to guess there was quite a bit of training/drilling on how to handle this. He did get corrected a few times by another store worker lurking a few feet away. The corrections weren't about details of the watch or answers to my questions, but on protocols of how to handle the merch. I joked around with him just to not make me feel so awkward. Already feeling kind of bad for him, I didnít torture the young man further by asking for fashion advice.

The watches are stored under the table in a pull out drawer. This drawer is locked electronically and opened wirelessly with the staffís iPhone sales device. While a slick idea, the implementation seem clunky. The drawers are hidden, which means there are no visual clues as to where to place the device to trigger the unlock. All the sales people I saw seemed to have to hunt a little to find just the right spot. Also, the locks donít appear to be as nearly as responsive as everyone wants. Once opened, an assortment of watches are held in place with felt holders.

It seems the protocol is for the sales person to pull the watch out and either hand it to the customer or place it on a cloth/mat. One of the discreet scolding appeared when I directly handled one of the watches in the drawer, which I guess is a no-no. Another issue with the setup is the watches donít appear to be organized. My sales person and another were hunting around for specific models in different draws. Apparently also keeping two drawers open is another no-no and that was met with another disapproval from the lurker in an Apple t-shirt. Finally, after i smudged up each watch with my fingers, the sales person carefully cleaned them with a cloth and placed them back in a holder.

In the end I got my questions answers satisfactorily and got some hands on time with the watch. I feel like I walked out more positive about the hardware design than my impressions from the photos/videos. I look forward to getting mine whenever it gets here.

Podcast: Picking an Apple Watch, 1Password OTP

Apple Watch Pre-Order Eve, the latest update on 1Password for Mac adds one-time password support and it's kind of neat.

Apple Watch goes on pre-order Friday exclusively online

In a press release Thursday Apple reminded everyone the new Apple Watch goes on pre-order Friday morning at 12:01 AM PT. Interestingly, however, is the provided quote from Apple Retail VP Angela Ahrendts:

ďBased on the tremendous interest from people visiting our stores, as well as the number of customers who have gone to the Apple Online Store to mark their favorite Apple Watch ahead of availability, we expect that strong customer demand will exceed our supply at launch,Ē said Angela Ahrendts, Appleís senior vice president of Retail and Online Stores. ďTo provide the best experience and selection to as many customers as we can, we will be taking orders for Apple Watch exclusively online during the initial launch period.Ē

Apple is offering a two-week "preview" period between Friday and the 24th launch where customers can view the watches in stores. Presumably, Apple would be taking orders then, but it appears customers will be directed to the online store.

It will be interesting if Apple will have any watches available in stores on the 24th like other launches or if this is in fact a new way of handling new product releases.

Still shoppers are welcome to make appointment to check out the watches in stores. It would seem, however, those looking to browse first will likely not get their order on the 24th.

Apple VP Ahrendts tells staff best way to buy Apple Watch

Memo via Business Insider:
The days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers. The Apple Store app and our online store make it much easier to purchase Apple Watch and the new MacBook. Customers will know exactly when and where their product arrives.

This is a significant change in mindset, and we need your help to make it happen. Tell your customers we have more availability online, and show them how easy it is to order.

Youíll make their day.

For years Apple has basically exploited its customers for free publicity. People would stand in line for hours, local news would show up and that would help drive hype for new products. Pushing customers to use online systems not only makes for a better customer experience, but it must help enormously with logistics to get the most possible number of boxes to customers on launch day.

The iPhone 6 launch seemed to take an ugly turn with black market line sitters getting products to send to Asia. People were bussed to stores and it didn't appear they were really benefiting or even willing participants in the black market scheme.

Now if Apple wanted to provide an even better experience, they would deploy a system for pre-orders at a more reasonable time. 3 AM for the east coast customers to just start a process that usually slogs on for an hour or more isn't exactly a good customer experience either.

1Password for Mac 5.3 adds TOTP Password support

Agile Bits released the latest version of 1Password for Mac. The new version adds Time-Based One-Time Password to match functionality of the iOS app. This feature makes it easier to utilize higher security from sites such as Dropbox and Tumblr. The video below demos the feature.

A full list of features is available at their blog linked above.

Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection comings to iTunes

Disney is releasing its collection of all six Star Wars movies on various digital video services including iTunes. The HD versions of the movies will be release for the first time in digital form on April 10th.

In addition to the movies, there are extra content from each film.

HBO Now launches for iOS

HBO NOW is the new standalone streaming service from HBO, requiring only the internet to get every episode of every season of Game of Thrones, True Detective, The Jinx, Girls, The Sopranos, The Wire and so many more series, as well as exclusive movies. A limited time 30-day introductory free trial (then $14.99/month) gets you get instant access to the best of HBO: the original series, movies, comedy specials, documentaries, special events and smart talk shows.

As announced last year, the new stand-alone HBO streaming service is online. For the first time all HBO content is available without requiring a cable subscription. Just in time for this weekend's Game of Thrones season premiere.

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