Apple Watch's Annoyingly Aggressive Screen Sleep Behaviour

20 May 2015

Zac Hall:

I do wish there was a method (or even setting) that would allow the watch face to stay active for longer periods of time. Even the stop watch goes to sleep after 20 or so seconds without being engaged. Sometimes it’s handy if not necessary to be able to stare at your watch and see the time pass. To do this with Apple Watch, you need to tap the display or rotate the crown every 10 seconds or so.

iOS apps are allowed to disable ‘idle timers’ contextually, so that the screen does not Auto Lock at an inconvenient time. Video apps do this, for example, so you don’t have to to keep tapping the screen to stop the iPhone from dimming whilst watching a movie.

Apple Watch apps need to have a similar concept. Obviously third-party apps are gimped in ways far beyond the screen turning off too early but this request applies to Apple’s apps too. Timer is the prime example.

Start a ten minute timer. Check the timer. Wait a couple of minutes. Glance back at the timer. The Watch is back on the Home Screen. Get angry.

The Timer app should be able to tell the system that a critical activity is happening so the Watch knows not to sleep. On wrist raise, I should still be in the Timer app — not kicked back to the clock face. It’s a huge inconvenience for any important activity that lasts more than 17 seconds, which is how long the Apple Watch will wait for user interaction events before sleeping. Naturally, if a timer isn’t currently running then the Timer app doesn’t need to assert such privileges.

The Remote, Maps and Workout apps already work like this. They have elevated system privileges that take precedence over the clock face whilst in use. Maps and Workout are particularly good citizens, only overriding the clock face when navigation or a workout is in progress. Apple needs to make this behaviour universal across the OS, where contextually appropriate of course.

Apple Already Violates The Apple Watch Human Interface Guidelines Regarding Force Touch

5 May 2015

Apple Developer:

Firm presses on the Apple Watch display cause the current screen’s menu (if any) to appear. A menu can display up to four relevant actions for the current screen without taking away space from your interface.

Include a menu when the current screen has relevant actions. Menus are optional. If no menu is present, the system plays an animation when the wearer presses firmly on the display.

The HIG is a set of guidelines, not strict rules. Third-party developers cannot change what happens when you Force Touch the display as it is confined by WatchKit to the typical menu but some of Apple’s apps already violate the published documentation. For the most part, the Apple Watch UI is very consistent but there are exceptions.

For example, if you Force Touch on the Watch display when selecting an animated emoji in Messages, it changes the colour of the emoji. Similarly, Force Touch on the clock face to bring up a gallery of alternate faces. This is arguably still a ‘menu’ but it is very different to the circular button overlay menu as described by the HIG. These special cases are not addressed in the guidelines, unfortunately. It will be interesting to see whether the native SDK (due sometime later in the year) will include the ability to override the default Force Touch behaviour.

HBO No Longer Sending Out Review DVDs To Limit Leaks

4 May 2015

Variety:

After years of mailing out DVDs to critics and journalists, HBO is shifting to a streaming-only policy for advance reviews of its programming.

The move had already been in the works but was accelerated by last month’s leak of the “Game of Thrones” season five opener, which made its way on to online piracy sites from an advance DVD screener.

Streaming video sounds equally susceptible to being copied and redistributed. Game of Thrones is so huge I think leaks are inevitable, unfortunately.

Swapping Out Apple Watch Bands

4 May 2015

Michael Steeber, 9to5Mac:

remove the band, simply press and hold one of the buttons on the back of the watch while sliding the band itself out of the slot. To reattach the band, slide it back into place.

I wish there was an audible click to signify that you’ve successfully locked your band back into place. Currently, the band just stops moving at a certain point, and you have to assume that it’s locked in place. The process doesn’t instill a lot of confidence. Installing any of the bands which use metal connectors is also a little nerve-racking. I don’t really care for the metal-on-metal feeling of sliding the connector in place.

I haven’t tried removing the band from my watch yet, partly because I don’t have a secondary band to swap out and partly because the watch and the band feel like a singular unit. Even though they are designed for customisation, they feel very integrated. Apple has trained me for the last five years (maybe more) to not fiddle with the hardware they produce. I don’t want to detach my Sport band because it is uncomfortable, it feels like the wrong thing to do.

In fact, when I showed the watch to my dad, it didn’t cross his mind that the watchband is independent from the body. His preconception, validated by every other Apple product in recent history, is that Apple products are not to be tampered with. Although I haven’t popped the band out, I do know that it is possible. I bet a good portion of Apple Watch owners never realise that they can change the strap.1

1 Apple Watch Sport comes with another band size in the box, so maybe this last comment only applies to the gold and steel models.

Boeing 787 Planes Fail After 248 Days Of Being Powered On

1 May 2015

The Guardian:

The plane’s electrical generators fall into a failsafe mode if kept continuously powered on for 248 days. The 787 has four such main generator-control units that, if powered on at the same time, could fail simultaneously and cause a complete electrical shutdown.

Due to what appears to be an integer overflow bug, pilots will lose control of the planes after 248 days of being continuously powered on. The fix, literally, is to turn it off and on again before the 248 day mark hits. Typical of big-business timescales, Boeing are aware of the problem but the software fix won’t be released until the fourth quarter of the year.

Many Small Things

1 May 2015

I’ve had the Apple Watch for a week now, literally. Although a few quick software updates will drastically improve the device, I think I’ve come to terms with how the product fits into my life for the foreseeable future.

It’s not a necessity. It just isn’t. Even if it becomes an iPhone independent product, which I think is inevitable, its form factor limits its essentialness.1 Many tasks are too complicated to ever be feasible on wrist-sized displays. There may come a day when interacting with computers does not need physical input, maybe through some kind of technological telepathy, but that is really far off. As long as devices need displays, the watch will always be a companion product.

This means that the Apple Watch fills in niche roles in your life. Checking Twitter whilst on the sofa waiting for the kettle to boil. Replying to texts whilst you walk down the street. Controlling wireless music playlist in the kitchen whilst preparing dinner. Getting notified its about to rain when chilling in the park.

Enjoying the Watch revolves around finding enough of these small conveniences to justify keeping it strapped it to your wrist. These use-cases aren’t immediately obvious but I’ve found loads of these opportunities spring up in my week’s testing. As the product becomes more capable, more parts of my life will benefit in small ways. Once the watch can help do many small things for many people, it will become ingrained into society like the smartphone has.

I’ve seen a lot of analysis state that the Watch is about Glances and Complications rather than apps. I think that is a misguided line of thinking. The apps have a reason to exist and will become better at fulfilling that role once they don’t suck (which probably means a native SDK, although I have pondered whether a ‘better’ WatchKit SDK would suffice). You swap between the different features of the Watch as is required by the current task.

The watch face is part of this story too. A lot of the clock face customisation options offered is about personality and aesthetic customisation but there is some consideration of utility as well. Users with particularly busy schedules are going to lean towards using the Modular face with dense information display, for example.

Buying the Watch today requires a leap of faith. You have to believe that it will help you because it isn’t evident from Apple’s marketing or by playing with the device in the store. The fitness stuff is by far the easiest way to sell the Apple Watch 1.0. Through both the Workout and Activity apps, the Watch offers some very comprehensive fitness tracking. It’s not that you couldn’t go for a run before, but now that action is made better by wearing the Watch. It is a subtle but crucial distinction.

The other elements of the Watch are less tangible and much harder to explain. I don’t how Apple is going to be able to convey the feeling of frequent usefulness I expressed above in far fewer words to the general public at retail. Thankfully, as I don’t work in Apple sales, that’s not my problem to solve. What I do know is that I took a blind stab and bought the Watch sight unseen, albeit with a 14-day returns policy as insurance. A week later, I don’t want to take it off.

1 Surprisingly, that’s not a made up word.

More BBC Radio Employees Going To Apple

30 April 2015

Music Business Worldwide:

If Apple lands Yeates, it will perhaps be the most interesting new hire of all: he’s the exec largely responsible for orchestrating Radio 1’s up-and-coming talent programme, BBC Introducing.

“There’s no denying that there’s something of an exodus to Apple from Radio 1 right now,” a well-placed BBC source told MBW.

It is times like this when the vast reach of Apple can really be appreciated — an American technology company is causing a mass departure from a British radio station.1 Also note that Apple’s new music thing must either be really compelling and interesting to encourage these employees to defect or Apple is offering large financial incentives to switch over.

I don’t know how much BBC Radio employees get paid but I can easily see how a private company (especially one as large as Apple) can outbid the paycheques offered by a government-funded national radio station.

1 As an amusing coincidence, I was on BBC Radio on Friday.

Jony Ive And Marc Newson Vogue Fashion Conference Interview

25 April 2015

Vogue:

Since its announcement last September and subsequent release earlier this month, it is safe to say that the Apple Watch has caused less of a stir and more of a tidal wave, straddling the fashion and technology industries like no other product before it. So who better to open the inaugural Condé Nast International Luxury Conference – fittingly staged in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance – than man of the hour Jony Ive, senior vice president of design at Apple. Joined onstage by one of his most revered contemporaries and friends, designer Marc Newson, who helped to create the Apple adornment, Ive explained to the conference’s host, Suzy Menkes, how the company’s approach to 21st-century luxury compares with traditional luxury as we know it.

My prejudices about the fashion world made me expect this interview to be a dull slog. I was very wrong. Menkes asks bold questions that the typical tech interviewers who get access to Apple executives, almost all of which are Apple PR shills, don’t dare ask. She asks Ive questions he clearly wasn’t prepared for: ‘People, in this audience in fact, are worried that Apple is eating at our luxury world. You are now competing with fine jewellery. What do you say to that?’.

I’m paraphrasing — watch the video to see it in context — but what a great question.

My BBC Radio 5 Live Interview About Apple Watch

25 April 2015

The host, Nolan, sounds oppressively harsh but I don’t think he is playing devil’s advocate to provoke conversation on his show. His opinion is the same stance a lot of general public take when the first see the Watch. Shaking off the initial impression that the Watch is pointless and unnecessary is difficult, because in many was it is exactly that. It isn’t an essential gadget like an iPhone is.

The logistics of radio are interesting. I was asked to join the show at about 2pm over email. A screener assistant called me soon afterwards to get some thoughts off-air. I assume he was checking that I was actually going to be able to say something of interest on the real show. We exchange phone numbers and Skype information, as I had told him I have a professional mic (which I normally use for podcasting).

Then, at about 11:23, two minutes before Nolan introduces the Watch segment, the producer dials me in to the show. I had setup the Skype mic but I shouldn’t have bothered. They completely ignored the Skype arrangements and called my mobile number, which was supposed to be the fallback option.

When I pick up the call, the producer asks me if I can hear the other end of the line. I have no idea what would happen if I didn’t answer immediately or if something went wrong. There wasn’t any time allocated for problem-solving.

The first time I actually spoke to Nolan was live on the air. Once he says goodbye at the end of the segment I hang up the phone and that’s it. For BBC Radio, this must be standard practice but for me it was alien and a bit disconcerting. When I podcast, it takes ten minutes to verify if Skype is actually working.

Apple Posts Final Three Apple Watch Guided Tours

23 April 2015

Apple:

Apple Pay: Pay quickly and securely. And setup is simple.

Activity: Track your daily activity and stay motivated to sit less, move more and get some exercise.

Workout: See metrics like distance, pace or speed, calories burned, and heart rate during workouts.

Ignoring the ridiculousness that it took Apple the day before the Watch ships to complete these videos, the Apple Pay video is really cool. The Watch plays this animation as your preferred bank card appears, with light glare reflecting off the surface. It’s also timed with a slick 3D transform.

The Activity and Workout apps also look well done, with a logical navigation structure and cute accompanying animations to guide the user along. One oddity I did notice, though, is that at the end of a workout Apple Watch specifically asks the user if they want to Save or Discard the workout record. I’m not sure why this intermediary step exists — workouts should just be saved automatically without user intervention.

Apple Giving Custom Sport Band Colours To Some Celebrities

18 April 2015

9to5Mac:

Earlier today, images emerged of a red Sport band, and now Apple appears to be showing off several more exclusive Sport bands at tonight’s event in Italy. An image posted to Instagram shows dark blue, light pink, red, and yellow Sport bands. All of these colors were previously unreleased by Apple and never before seen.

I don’t mind that celebrities are getting free watches but I am annoyed that they are being given the choice of colours that aren’t available for general purchase. Some of the ‘exclusive’ sport colours look really nice and it is frustrating that I am barred from buying them because I am not a high-profile person.

KGI Estimates 2.3 Million Apple Watch Preorders

16 April 2015

9to5Mac:

In a new report from KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo, the usually accurate analyst estimates that global pre-orders for the Apple Watch will top 2.3 million units through May. A report earlier this week claimed that Apple Watch first day pre-orders were at almost 1 million units.

Further breaking it down by specific model, Kuo estimates that the Sport model of the Apple Watch accounted for 85 percent of pre-orders, while the Apple Watch accounted for 15 percent, and the Edition less than 1 percent.

At least according to KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo, who I tend to regard as reputable, the orders were overwhelmingly stacked towards Sport models. Although the Sport was always going to be the predominant model, 85% of orders is domineering with a practically monopolistic control of demand.

Another interesting point is that, under consideration of the raw financials, the stainless steel Apple Watch had the smallest effect on Apple’s bottom line. Even at just 1%, the Edition’s high profit margins will mean that the returns from this collection will exceed the profits from the Apple Watch models, which made up 15% of sales. Similarly, the Sport watches should exceed profits of the stainless models due to the volume shipped.

If the trends continue, the collection which shares its name with the product itself, Apple Watch, will be the most unyielding for Apple financially.

ICAAN Concerned About .sucks Domain Name

11 April 2015

Motherboard:

On March 27, one of ICANN’s advisory panels, the Intellectual Property Constituency, sent a letter to the organization asking it to step in and stop Vox Populi’s “predatory, exploitive and coercive” practices.

“ICANN is the sole entity in the world charged with the orderly introduction of new gTLDs in a secure, reliable and predictable manner,” president of the panel Gregory Shatan wrote. “If ICANN is unwilling or unable to put a halt to this, then who is?”

ICANN has since sent letters requesting an evaluation from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US and the Office of Consumer Affairs in Canada, where Vox Populi is based––a rare course of action.

The main issue here for me is that the .sucks TLD vendor is charging significantly higher fees ($2500 per year) for businesses to secure registered trademarks. It is clearly trying to exploit the fear businesses have about ‘hate domains’ springing up using the .sucks suffix. If the vendor charged the same fee to companies as they do individuals, I wouldn’t have any problem with it.

Apple Watch Lets You Add A Time Offset To The Clock

11 April 2015

9to5Mac:

In Watch OS, Apple has included the ability to manually adjust the time displayed on the watch face of your device.

Apple notes, however, that only the information displayed on your clock face is affected by adjusting the time via this setting. All notifications and alerts will still come in at the correct time. With this feature, users are simply moving displayed time ahead of the actual time in one minute intervals.

Apple Watch has some weird edge-case features. A thousand no’s for every yes was applied loosely here. It’s not necessarily bad but it is different to previous Apple product releases.

The New Photos App And iCloud Photo Library

11 April 2015

David Sparks:

I sat on my couch this morning and had my laptop and my iPad open simultaneously. As quickly as I was deleting, favoriting, and modifying images in one device, they showed up on the other. These photos are all large file sizes and this demonstration of cloud-based syncing is impressive coming from Apple. After we’ve all made Apple the cloud services whipping boy for so long, I’m actually surprised more people aren’t making a bigger deal about how stable Photos cloud sync is just a few days after launch.

I think this would be much bigger news if it hadn’t been drowned out by the Watch and MacBook launches. Also, a lot of the ‘tech circle’ have been testing the new Photos app for months so the appreciation has been diluted.

I only installed OS X 10.10.3 on Wednesday so it’s a new experience for me. Like Sparks, Photos is a fantastic iPhoto successor and iCloud Photo Library is rock solid in terms of reliability. It’s late in coming, but great nonetheless. It really fulfils the promise of iCloud.1 Unfortunately, the biggest roadblocks for adoption is iCloud storage pricing and the continued stinginess of Apple’s free tier.

1 When I originally tweeted that iCloud Photo Library is great, everyone thought I was dripping sarcasm. I think that speaks to iCloud’s reputation up to now, valid or not.

The Apple Watch Sport

9 April 2015

Daring Fireball:

The Sport Band is a downright revelation — I’d go so far as to call it the most comfortable watch band I’ve ever worn. I’ve rolled my eyes at Apple’s use of fluoroelastomer in lieu of rubber to describe the material of these bands, but it truly does have a premium, richly supple feel to it. The way the end of the band tucks under the other side of the strap — a design Marc Newson first used at Ikepod — is brilliant. Up until now, it struck me as odd that the $10,000 Edition models came with the same bands4 as the entry-model $349/399 Sport watches. Having worn it, it now strikes me the other way around — that the $349/399 Sport watches are equipped with straps that can genuinely be described as luxurious, fluoroelastomer or not.

When the Watch was first revealed in September, I misinterpreted the Sport model as the ‘cheap’ variant. As time has gone on though, I realised I was wrong. Cue and Cook wear the Apple Watch Sport, with sport bands. The Sport is a first-class piece of hardware. I jumped to conclusions and originally modelled the Apple Watch Sport as the iPhone 5c equivalent of the iPhone 5s, a pale imitation of the real deal.

Now, I see it more like the Sport being the main model — at least for this generation, the model I am recommending people buy. The steel and gold casings should be seen as luxury options, available for those that can appreciate the materials and higher-quality jewellery finishes.

If you want to stretch an analogy, you could position the Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the phone lineup, respectively. The iPhone 6 is the primary ‘new’ hardware that most people ought to buy. The Plus is the ‘added extras’ model.

The Edition doesn’t translate to the current iPhone range at all (although I don’t think you should rule out Apple making an ‘iPhone Edition’ in future). It is truly in the space of unnecessarily exuberant wealth, a field that Apple has not approached with any of its other products to date.1

1 I don’t think the Edition is a mistake. It has a purpose.

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