Tag Archive for ‘Wearables’

watchOS 5

I watched this year’s WWDC keynote live from the comfort of my living room. My plan was to take notes during the event and share my thoughts on the various announcements throughout the week. I didn’t expect to be completely blown away by the iOS 12 segment, which I shared my thoughts on yesterday. From that point forward, my plan to take notes went out the window. I just sat back and enjoyed the show.

As a result of that, I’ve decided to rewatch the entire keynote and actually take notes this time around. The following is my miscellaneous thoughts and commentary on watchOS 5 — the second most important Apple platform in my life:

  • Competitions seems like a great new feature. I can see my wife and I using these to keep ourselves motivated to stay in shape. And I really like how the progress updates are displayed, with points based on your move ring progress and small charts comparing each person by day.
  • I’m glad they’re finally adding proper support for Yoga workouts. I don’t do yoga as much as I used to, but this might be the motivation I needed to get back into it.
  • The Hiking workout will be a welcomed addition to the workouts app, too. I’m not much of a hiker, but I could see myself using this if my wife and I went on vacation to a mountainous area.
  • My wife loves running, but due to some health concerns, she had to take a break from it over the past year. But now that her heart is functioning properly again, she’s slowly started reintroducing running into her life. And I expect she’ll appreciate the new Outdoor Run features coming in watchOS 5.
  • Automatic Workout Detection is going to be an incredible feature. After owning an Apple Watch for nearly three years, I usually make sure to start a workout on my watch. But about 10% of the time, I completely forget. This solves that problem entirely.
  • Walkie-Talkie demos well, but I don’t expect I’ll ever use it. How is this better than just sending an iMessage?
  • Great additions to the Siri Watch Face including Siri Shortcuts and third-party apps. I haven’t used the Siri Watch Face during my day-to-day use because all of my most important information is kept in third-party apps. But now that third-party apps can populate the Siri face, I think I’ll give it another try.
  • Dropping the need to say “Hey Siri” sounds like a neat idea, but I’m worried that there will be too many false positives. What if I’m just checking the time or glancing at a notification during a conversation and it picks up on something I say?
  • More interactive notifications looks like a great improvement to the watch experience. Especially considering that notifications is one of the killer apps for the device. Giving developers more control over what notifications look like and what users can do with those notifications is going to be great.
  • WebKit on Apple Watch. This is kind of insane and I never thought Apple would ever do this. But I have to say, it’s really lame when someone sends you a link in Messages and you have to pull out your phone to read it. Being able to do that on your Watch is going to be pretty neat.
  • I think Podcasts on Apple Watch is going to be the next killer feature. It’s something that users have been clamoring for since day one and I expect it’s going to sell a lot of watches.
  • Background audio for third-party apps is a huge deal and will give developers of podcast apps the ability to compete with Apple’s offering. I just hope Marco Arment has it ready in Overcast on watchOS 5 launch day.

The enhancements in watchOS 5 weren’t as impressive as iOS 12, but the update is filled with solid improvements that will go a long way toward improving the experience.

Apple Announces Its Spring Collection of Watch Bands ➝

A lot of great options in this new lineup. The Tahoe Blue Sport Loop, Gray Stripe Woven Nylon, and Lemonade Sport Band are high on my list. If I could only buy one, I’d probably go with the Sport Loop, if only because I don’t own a Watch band in that style yet.

Apple Watch Series 3 ➝

The landmark feature is built-in cellular connectivity. Perfect for making calls, streaming music, receiving notifications, and interacting with Siri when you’re away from your iPhone. The Series 3 is available with and without cellular connectivity, starting at $399 and $329 respectively. Preorders start on September 15 with models shipping a week later.

In addition to the Apple Watch Series 3, Apple also announced a medical study, which will look at heart rates and arrhythmias. My wife, in particular, is really excited about this news. She’s been having occasional heart palpitations for the past several months and her doctors have been struggling to find their cause. This study, combined with the Heart Rate app’s notifications for unexpected elevated heart rates, might help her discover the cause of these palpitations.

Apple Needs a Watch Jailbreak

There was a lot of discussion in my Twitter timeline yesterday — mostly from Zac Cichy — about the importance of the Apple Watch, or lack there of. It centered around the idea that the Apple Watch is coasting, it’s a good product, but there hasn’t been any killer apps or radical new features introduced since the original model shipped in 2015. And while I agree that there hasn’t been much in the way of substantial improvements in the Watch, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

The neat thing about the Apple Watch is that the initial version shipped nearly feature complete. It had third-party apps, complications, a number of watch faces, activity tracking, and more. The device has seen two major iterations that smoothed out the rough edges, but all of the essential features were there on day one. Perhaps that’s the biggest problem.

Maybe Apple should have shipped watchOS 1 without the piss-poor third-party app implementation and spent their time focusing on robust notifications instead. That would have given users something to look forward to and would have allowed Apple to come out of the gate with a rock-solid product. Apple would have been better off if they kept a blow-away feature up their sleeve until watchOS 2 or 3.

Although Apple may have stumbled their way through the early days of the Apple Watch with less-than-stellar implementations of essential features, the Watch is in a really good place right now. watchOS 3 has been an incredible improvement over previous versions of the OS with features like the Dock, fast app launching, activity sharing, and the Breathe app. I don’t feel like there’s anything missing from the Watch.

In a typical day, this is what I use my Apple Watch for:

  • Checking the time
  • Tracking my activity
  • Setting timers
  • Checking the weather
  • Tracking my time performing deep breathing
  • making quick calculations with Siri
  • Quickly replying to messages
  • Controlling media playback on my iPhone

This may not sound like a lot, and none of these features are killer apps on their own, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I wouldn’t continue wearing a device just for a few of these features — which is why the Fitbit never appealed to me — but altogether, they make for a tremendous product.

There was one thought in particular from this discussion that had me wondering if there was some validity to the contrarian view:

I wish the Apple Watch got jailbroken. Remember the amount of ideas Apple was able steal from the jailbreak community with the first iPhone?

The jailbreak community was a treasure trove of ideas for Apple in the early days of the iPhone. Without this vibrant community building unsanctioned apps, the App Store may never have been developed at all. The jailbreak community was the first to develop Wi-Fi syncing, multitasking, custom wallpapers, home screen folders, and even copy and paste.

This leaves me wondering what a jailbreak community could do for the Watch. What new features could they develop — that I might never think of — that would feel absolutely essential the second I see them? One could assume that competing smartwatch manufacturers would be pushing the needle and encouraging Apple to develop new and interesting features, but Android Wear is just as stale and at least one major player is abandoning the platform. Without any competition, Apple needs something else to help them innovate, something that will force them to develop features that they never would have pursued otherwise. Apple needs the Watch to be jailbroken.

Apple Watch Optimism

Despite a recent report of a major decrease in Apple Watch sales this year, I’m still very optimistic about the future of Apple’s wearable. The company introduced new models last month, the Series 1 and Series 2, alongside watchOS 3. And a key feature of the new OS is what I believe to be the real killer app for the Apple Watch.

On Monday, IDC reported that sales of smartwatches in third-quarter 2016 were down 51% from the same quarter in 2015. What has more people concerned, though, is that Apple Watch sales were down 71%. But this shouldn’t be alarming. Remember, the original Apple Watch shipped on April 24, 2015 while the Series 1 and 2 didn’t ship until September 16, 2016.

IDC is comparing Q3 2015 to Q3 2016 — the first full quarter with widespread availability of the original Apple Watch and a quarter that included just two weeks of sales from the Series 1 and Series 2. Products naturally have a large spike of sales at launch that slowly dwindles until they’re either discontinued or replaced by a successor. This is what I’d attribute the 71% sales drop to.

I have no reason to refute IDC’s numbers, but I think they’re painting an inaccurate picture of Apple’s success with the Watch. If Apple sells less Watch’s in the first full quarter after the Series 1 and 2 introduction than they did after the original Watch’s introduction, that’s when you should start to worry. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

The Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 are tremendous products and both of them have important roles in Apple’s lineup. The Series 1 serves as a low-cost introductory device — $80 cheaper than the original — that will help Apple increase the size of their customer base. The Series 2 includes GPS, which is a must-have feature for many runners.

But not only is Apple offering much better hardware, they’ve also fixed a lot of the software problems with watchOS 3. Faster app launching, more robust messaging, and Breathe contribute to a better overall experience for Watch owners. And then there’s the device’s new killer app — Activity Sharing.

It may have taken me a month to realize it, but Activity Sharing is the most important new feature in watchOS 3. It compels me to wear my Watch.

Before watchOS 3, I wore my Watch everyday in an effort to close my Activity rings. But it was always just for me. I would launch the Activity app on my iPhone and see all those closed rings — it was neat. But who would even know if I took it easy one day and missed all of my rings?

Activity Sharing is important because it brings accountability to the fitness features. I’m not just filling my rings because it makes the Activity app’s calendar view look neat, I’m filling my rings to keep up with my friends and allow myself a little bit of bragging rights.

Because of Activity Sharing, the first thing I do when I wake up is put on my Watch and the last thing I do for the day is place it on the charger. I don’t want my Watch to miss a single step. That little bit of extra time on my wrist could be the difference maker that puts me ahead of my friends in the Activity app’s Sharing tab.

I also think Activity Sharing has an additional benefit to Apple that might not be immediately apparent. Apple Watch owners now have a really good reason to encourage their friends and family to buy one for themselves. Because once you have a couple of friends to share your Activity with, you want to share with everyone you know.

And again, the new hardware and these compelling software features didn’t launch until about two weeks before the end of Q3. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think the Apple Watch is going to sell incredibly well this holiday season. A 71% sales drop might sound terrifying to Apple Watch enthusiasts, but taken in context, I think there’s still plenty to be optimistic about.

Why I Think Apple Watch 2 Will Be a Big Leap ➝

Abdel Ibrahim, writing for WatchAware:

With watchOS 3, Apple rethought much of the user interface to make what is slow hardware feel much faster. That’s a huge step for those of us who currently own the Apple Watch. But when I think about the next-generation Watch, I think Apple will address a lot of the issues that make the Watch feel so first-generation. In fact, I think the Apple Watch 2 will be as big of a leap if not bigger than the iPad 2 was to the original iPad.

In the next iteration of Apple Watch, I expect thinner hardware, new bands, and a new system-on-a-chip with more memory, a faster ARM processor, and more robust wireless features. I don’t think we’ll see any differences in battery life, though. Apple hit the nail on the head with the Watch’s battery life and I don’t expect an improvement on that front for at least two more years.

Apple Previews watchOS 3 ➝

From Apple’s press release:

Apple previewed watchOS 3, featuring significantly improved performance with the ability to launch favorite apps instantly, enhanced navigation like the new Dock and all-new fitness and health capabilities for Apple Watch. Available this fall, this software update introduces the breakthrough Breathe app, designed to encourage users to take a moment in their day to do deep breathing exercises for relaxation and stress reduction. The Activity app now includes the ability to share, compare and compete as well as enabling wheelchair users to close their Activity rings.

When I wrote my WWDC wishlist last week, I only had one request for the Apple Watch — improved efficiency. There’s nothing too terribly groundbreaking about these announcements — all of it feels like natural progression — but these refinements will make using the device much more enjoyable.

Jawbone Stops Production of Fitness Trackers ➝

Steve Kovach, reporting for Tech Insider:

Jawbone has stopped making its UP fitness trackers and sold its remaining inventory to a third-party reseller, sources familiar with the matter told Tech Insider. […]

To be clear (since some people are interpreting this report incorrectly), Jawbone is not exiting the wearables business. You can still buy the UP fitness trackers. Jawbone just sold its remaining inventory to a third-party reseller.

They’ve offloaded their entire inventory of fitness trackers to a third-party, but they will continue to be available in stores. One question, what happens when those units are all sold? Sure, they’re still technically in the wearables business, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes soon.