Turning off Apple Music auto renewal

Now that most people who enrolled in Apple Music are near the end of their 3 month trial period, it’s time to decide whether to pay up or not.

http://9to5mac.com/2015/06/30/how-to-cancel-apple-music-subscription-auto-renewal/ will explain how.

Personally, I’m still on the fence. I like the selection of music on the service and the curation, but am not crazy about the ease-of-use. It’s still very confusing how to get content onto one’s iPod for offline use without having to just go and buy the tracks, and my experience has been that the streams don’t always launch promptly on my home network.

I’m not a big fan of Spotify, the only thing I like about it is that it’s free. It’s a nice service for looking up and listening to bands somebody mentions, but the ads are obnoxious, and the user interface is slow and dumb.

Digesting the new Apple Announcements

Was on my way back from Burning Man when the latest Apple announcements came out. The iPad Pro plus Apple Pencil combination looks like it will give Wacom some heartburn. The larger form factor of the iPad Pro combined with the 3D touch should enable some new forms of interaction; it will be interesting to see what developers do with this, but it’s going to take a while before the ecosystem gets comfortable.

Same goes with WatchOS 2.0 and the new tvOS. That’s a lot of stuff for devs to embrace, especially when they are scrambling to prepare for the iOS 9 release. I know I have a lot of woodshedding to do, including an update to iBuddha for iOS 8 compatibility, and perhaps an iBuddha for Apple Watch.

I don’t think the expansion of the ecosystem is a bad thing at all, and it’s likely to weed out a lot of casual hobbyist developers. The companies most able to take advantage of this explosion of alternatives will be bigger companies, but that also creates an opportunity for someone to provide smaller developers with tools for building apps that can run appropriately across all the platforms. Games are going to go crazy on the new Apple TV, especially if you can handoff from your iPhone or iPod. These announcements are the fruit of the Handoff work that was done in Yosemite; Apple is playing a long game, and it’s not obvious how any one move is supposed to stack up.

More when I’ve had a chance to digest the announcements further and look at docs on the new OS offerings.

How one Apple blogger lost 40 pounds with the Apple Watch

Jim Dalrymple from The Loop, an excellent Apple blog site, recently made a couple of posts about his experience with the Apple Watch as a fitness device. Unlike most of us, Dalrymple had early access to the device, and has been using it for 10 months.

His first posting explaining how the watch helped him lose 40 pounds spawned a second post with more details.

Health monitoring, diet, and fitness are very personal, so his experiences may or may not apply to you, but it’s clear that the health features of the Watch are very promising.

I’ve had mine now for about 10 days, and I am finding it much more useful than the Nike Fuelband and software. For one thing, it doesn’t look like some sort of house arrest bracelet. Plus the heart rate monitoring makes a huge difference in my awareness about how much ‘exercise’ I’m getting from my walks. The ‘stand up once an hour’ reminder is also very helpful. The gamification of this device is deeper in a lot of ways than that on the FuelBand, though the FuelBand achievements are more fun.

Apple Watch: after the try-on

Well, it doesn’t smell like burning feathers.

A lot has been written about how the Apple Store has set up their try-on appointments. They have a nice case showing all the models with non-working samples. They have very nice stations with a watch you can touch, and an iPad showing explanations of the different programs and modes, it was possible to figure out about 90% of how the watch works in a few minutes. Your actual try-on appointment is done at a special table, where they have drawers full of actual watches (though they are not free-range, they are running a demo loop) next to one of the stations you can use to interact. A sales person pulls out the models you are interested in and puts them on you, adjusting the bands if necessary.

Though some have complained that the UI breaks in some strange ways from iOS 8, the UI wasn’t particularly alien, and for anyone who has owned a few digital watches, it’s comparatively easy to set and configure compared to some.

As a watch, it’s not as heavy or clunky looking as some digital watches I’ve owned. The difference in size and weight between the 38mm and 42mm is fairly subtle in person. The fit and finish of the watch are excellent, and the elastomer band on the Sport Watch is very comfortable. The Stainless Steel watch is a bit heavier, but again very comparable to other watches, and has a look and feel of great precision. The link bracelet is very impressive, the Apple salesman was able to size the bracelet to my wrist in seconds due to the removable links. I think it’s unlikely you’d be disappointed with the watch as a piece of jewelry.

The software looks pretty good, it runs pretty quickly, though I suspect your mileage will vary outside of wifi. Maps can take a few seconds to load, but you know, you’re waiting for them to come down from space and all. The display looks great, and there are so many watch face variations to choose from. The fitness monitoring functions are attractive and look like they will add to my already exhausting bag of personal monitoring tricks.

The only thing this very choreographed sales presentation didn’t communicate to me was how the watch works for one particular function, which is wearing it on your wrist and seeing what time it is. Nobody at the Apple store has an actual working watch yet, though that should change when they are released next week. I’m hoping I can replace my Nike FuelBand with this device, so this is no small matter for me. So, I’ll wait a bit longer and research whether there will be a Nike app for the watch as well.

Since the watch now has shipping dates into June or July, there’s no hurry to act. Also, the sales force at the Apple Store are fairly new at this, the experience was quite good, but the sales folks don’t have as much information as they could, they really couldn’t answer some of my more specific questions about the fitness features (for example, does the Watch have an M8 chip, so it can count stairs climbed? I live in a ti-level, and would like to get that information before my next iPhone upgrade…), and none of them have actually used the real watch themselves. Might as well wait until they actually ship and someone can actually show you the real watch in action.

The demo watches, though, had smooth animations, the Digital Crown response is instantaneous and smooth, and most of the apps or Glances on the watch launched instantly, with the exception of Maps. The final released Watch OS software is supposed to have improved performance, so I’m not concerned about that. I’m more concerned about whether I will get the opportunity to see how the watch works when you want to check the time.

This is my biggest concern, the timepiece use case. Right now, it takes up to 3 button presses of the Nike FuelBand to see the time, depending on the mode it was in last, and that can take a few seconds of attention. I often grab my phone from my pocket instead to check the time rather than go through that. So, if the ‘raise your wrist to check the time, and it just turns on’ function really works as advertised, I’m probably in. The other functionality of the watch is mostly an add-on for me.

Seeing and holding the models in person, I have to say that the Apple Watch Sport is much less of a compromise than the cost would suggest. It looks great, the build quality is just as good as the other models, and the lower price takes the edge off of any ‘version 1.0’ jitters you might have.

So, the likelihood that I’ll end up getting one is fairly high, but I can wait another week for the real watch to come out before ordering. Anyway you slice it, it’s more of a ‘want’ than a ‘need’ purchase.

Apple Watch: Seeing for oneself.

(Tried to upload this yesterday before my appointment, but WordPress Mobile doesn’t like my ancient installation of WordPress. It’s definitely time to upgrade…)

I managed to snag a try-on appointment for the Apple Watch tonight.

After all this hype and speculation, really the only way to know if this product makes sense is to see it in action and feel it on your own wrist. I don’t care what it does if it’s uncomfortable or heavy or something unexpected like ‘the band smells like burning feathers.’

For me as a user, it’s not as expensive or frivolous as it may be for some. I use a fitness band that makes a terrible watch and lacks heart rate monitoring.

Withings makes a watch that costs nearly as much, but fails to understand the compulsive measurement aspect of health monitoring, with its analog activity dial. It also lacks the heart rate monitor. I have a Timex heart rate monitoring watch that sits in my drawer because it requires putting a huge rubber band across your chest. (Actually the rubber band isn’t huge enough for a big guy, which is even worse.) The Apple Watch solves these problems and throws in much more functionality, so it’s not an expensive item relative to the universe of health gadgets.

The proof will be in the wearing, though. I don’t care that much about the looks — I’ve owned clunkier and nerdier watches. But if it smells like burning feathers, or checking the time isn’t at least as seamless as TouchID, it’s a non-starter. Your mileage may vary, but that’s kind of the point with wearables.