Apple Watch: Initial ImpressionSunday, April 26, 2015
  • On April 10, Evan (my 16 year old) and I stayed up until midnight to preorder the Apple Watch. I ordered a 42mm stainless steel for myself and a 38mm sport for the wife as a surprise anniversary present using the Apple Store app. (It was ridiculously fast and painless, by the way.) Evan had trouble with the website so I did a third preorder for him using the app; a 42mm sport. On Friday, Evan's watch and Shannon's watch both arrived. Mine did not. That helped with the anniversary surprise, but now it means I can't do a very thorough review yet. 

    I was at work when the watches arrived, so Evan had already put the watch through its paces before I got home. But since Shannon thought the second box was for me, I got to watch her open her anniversary present. It was awkward because, ever since the iPod photo, I've never not been first to get a new Apple product! The wife was gracious and offered to let me open hers, but that would be rude. So I just watched with envy. 

    When you consider the watch is so much smaller than the phone, the box seems ridiculously large and it's heavier than you'd expect. (Not the watch, the packaging.) But in typical Apple style, the packaging is amazing and perfect. You feel like you bought something much more expensive. This is just one of the ways Apple knows how to make you feel valued. 

    One area I don't think non-Apple people get about Apple products is the absolute attention to every detail Apple pays. In the software you can point out how if everyone in the room has the Mickey Mouse watch face, his foot taps at the same time on all the watches. Sure that's silly, but no one besides Apple thinks of these things. But even after a few iPods, several iPhones, a couple of iPads, plus a few laptops, I was truly impressed with the build quality and the physical device. 

    The build quality is so perfect you really feel like you're holding a watch worth much more than you paid. The sport band is the cheapest one available, but it feels amazing. There are no ugly mold lines, the rubber isn't stiff and unwieldy. The mechanism to release the band from the watch is smooth, easy to do, yet solid and secure. The way the glass meets the aluminum is so precise and smooth, you find yourself wanting to touch the watch constantly. There's no better way to describe it than to say it just feels good! 

    The digital crown may sound gimmicky, but I think it's easy to underestimate just how genius it really is. And the feel of it scrolling is downright pleasurable. This "innovation" is very much like the scroll wheel on the iPod. Competitors didn't get it, but users sure did. 

    The 42mm watch is smaller than I thought it would be. I have several large face watches and I like the clunky look. I expected something like that, but it's no where near big and clunky. Evan has really small arms so the watch looks a bit big on his arm. (He says the 38mm is a girls watch, so he went with the 42mm.) On my wrist it looks very natural and feels very comfortable. 

    I tend to agree with Evan that the 38mm seems like the "girl's watch". I'll be curious to see how many kids will have Apple Watches soon. That said, the 38mm is noticeably smaller but never seems too small. I don't feel like Shannon got a lesser watch at all. 

    I can't tell a huge difference in weight in the two sizes. The watch doesn't feel heavy but at the same time it doesn't feel so light that it feels cheap. It feels very solid. 

    Battery Life 
    I don't think battery life is a problem. Neither Evan nor Shannon have run out of battery yet. And trust me, Evan is on his all the time! Sure, charging it every night is more of a nuisance than a standard watch, but the same can be said for smartphones vs old-school cellphones that could skip a night of charging. The two devices aren't even in the same league. 

    The Software 
    Evan gave me a quick tour of what the watch can do out of the box and how the interface works. It is everything you expect from an Apple product. Apple excels at subtle transitions and interactions. For example, how menus transitioned on the very first iPod, or the way the iPhone introduced "rubberbanding" when you scroll past the top or bottom. There's never gratuitous animations or transitions, just intuitive effects. 

    When you use the watch, it just makes sense. The only exception I could see was the force touch. In certain instances (like to modify your watch face) you have to press down hard to get customization options to appear. It's not that the force touch is hard to do or counter-intuitive, but it's a new way to interact with your device. We've never had the option to force touch on our phones or iPads, so it's easy to forget that's an option on the watch. (I'm convinced it will be in the next iPhone by the way.) 

    Third Party Apps 
    An app on the watch is really more like a remote control for an app on your phone. For example, if you use the Uber app on the watch, it's actually running the app on your phone and displaying the results on your watch. I was really worried about the speed and reliability of this. I didn't need to be. If I didn't know how they worked, I wouldn't believe you if you told me. Some apps take a second to get started, but I never felt the delay was any longer than the time apps take to open on the phone. 

    The number of third party apps available on day one was staggering. This is an area where Android people should be angry. I feel like every watch before this one was a notification device. It was designed to let you know when to get out your phone, whereas the Apple Watch prevents you from having to pull your phone out of your pocket. 

    There are definitely some silly apps (Evan downloaded a racing game that was very reminiscent of the old LCD games from the 80s), but a ton of the apps are really smart. 

    Remember when the iPhone came out and the naysayers were arguing that it's nothing special because there's already been touch screen phones? Welcome to 2007 again. 

    In a nutshell, I'll just say I am insanely jealous. I really cannot wait to get my watch. If Evan hadn't been patiently waiting four months to get his Christmas present, I think I'd just take his! 
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    Did Jesus Discriminate?Thursday, April 16, 2015
  • Brian Klawiter, owner of Dieseltec: 

    I am a Christian. My company will be run in a way that reflects that. Dishonesty, thievery, immoral behavior, etc. will not be welcomed at MY place of business. (I would not hesitate to refuse service to an openly gay person or persons. Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works.) 

    While his explanation of why being gay is wrong is quite funny, it bothers me to think I am compared with this guy when I call myself a Christian. This is not at all what I was suggesting in my earlier posts on the topic. 

    A Christian by definition should follow Christ’s example. What was His example? Jesus fed 5,000 people and did not turn away anyone in the crowd that may have been dishonest or immoral. (Judas was there, remember?) When Jesus healed the paralytic, He first forgave him of his sins and then He healed him. That means Jesus knew the man was a sinner and still healed him. Most importantly, Jesus didn’t die for the moral and honest. He died for me. 

    Imagine if Jesus only did business with people who were perfect. Now I don’t know Klawiter, but I suspect he wouldn’t have made the cut. 

    Assuming Klawiter is sincere, he is doing more to hurt the rights of business owners than to help. There is a huge difference in what he is doing versus refusing to promote a cause you don’t agree with. 

    It’s simple really. If I make a game like Flappy Birds, anyone who wants to spend a buck has a right to download it. But if a gay bar requests that I make an app for their establishment, I should have the right to decide this is not the right project for my business. Same can be said for a marijuana distributor, a democrat presidential candidate, or even a mega-church. I wouldn’t just be selling a generic product or service, I’d be promoting their cause. 

    Frankly this isn’t uncommon. All the while they complain about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the blogs and podcasts doing the most protesting are actively being selective with who they will or will not allow to advertise on their site. They are not going to help promote a cause or business they don’t agree with. 

    While Jesus would feed or heal all who came to Him, He never promoted the causes of the Pharisees, the Scribes, or the sinner.
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    Apple Popup DictionaryWednesday, April 15, 2015
  • I've been using the Dictionary shortcut on my laptop since it was introduced in Mountain Lion. The three-finger-tap (tap, not click) shortcut on the trackpad is indispensable when you need to get the definition or a synonym up a word. (You can alternatively right click and select “Look up” from the context menu.) In the most recent OS X update, Apple changed the display a little. If you've never seen it before, it looks something like this:
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    A Little Discrimination Here, A Little Discrimination ThereMonday, April 06, 2015
  • Late last week the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article regarding a policy at Apple that prevents construction workers with a past felony from working on the new Apple campus. Mark Ames contrasted this with Apple’s vocal disagreements with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana (“As Tim Cook Criticizes Indiana, Apple Imposes Labor Discrimination in Its Own Backyard”). John Gruber then criticized Ames: 

    [...] I feel safe saying that not hiring felons for construction jobs is not even in the same ballpark as a statewide law allowing for discrimination against people based on their sexuality. 

    Gruber is right. There is a huge difference between not allowing someone to earn a living and not allowing someone to have a custom cake designed that specifically offends the cake designer. 

    Today the San Francisco Chronicle posted a follow-up piece, which prompted another defense from Gruber: 

    Here’s my question that the Chronicle has not addressed: do other companies of similar stature to Apple — Google, Intel, Facebook, etc. — have similar hiring policies for construction work? 

    I’m not sure I understand the point of his question. My assumption is that Gruber feels Apple is being unfairly targeted. If that’s the case, I don’t feel that Apple is being unfairly targeted. Right now Tim Cook is using his position at Apple to combat a law he disagrees with in Indiana. And right now Apple is discriminating against ex-felons. There really isn’t any debate here. It doesn’t matter whether Google, Intel, or Facebook have the same policy is because Apple is the company who has put itself in the “discrimination” spotlight. 

    The other possibility I’ve considered, is that Gruber is suggesting it’s okay for Apple to discriminate because Google, Intel, and Facebook are also discriminating against ex-felons. I’d like to believe that is not the case. 
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    Apple’s Big Watch GambleMonday, April 06, 2015
  • It’s no secret that I love a variety of gadgets, specifically Apple devices, and I love the way Apple products all work together so well. I’ve been looking forward to an Apple Watch long before it was ever announced. Watching Tim Cook on the day of the announcement was really fun. His excitement was palatable, he was like a kid at Christmas! The last three years of his life were on display, and it looked very promising. You could really tell he was genuinely excited about the Apple Watch. And it’s easy to see this isn’t just another product that will hopefully make a lot of money for Apple; Cook believes in this product. 

    What Gamble? 

    If that was the end of the event – Apple announces the product, puts it on sale, and it does or doesn’t become a hit – then there would be little to no risk for Apple. But Apple didn’t do that this time. Apple made this a huge deal, and in doing so, requires that the Watch succeeds. Apple is promoting this product unlike anything they’ve ever done before. The odd announcement timing and subsequent release dates, opening their doors (and minds) to major media outlets, plus Apple’s own promotion and marketing. No other Apple product has ever been given this kind of media blitz. Apple’s other newly released products have been completely overshadowed by this one product, which is still weeks away from launching. 

    Nearly everyone who talks about the Watch mentions that it is a post Steve Jobs product. This is an important narrative in order to show the World that Apple can continue to innovate without Steve Jobs. But if the Watch isn’t a huge success, that will be the first thing every newspaper, magazine, blog, and comment troll will point out. “Steve is gone, Apple is doomed!” 

    With or without Jobs, the Watch is a whole new market for Apple. This is a market that is entirely different from any other area that Apple has worked in. When they launched the iPhone, mobile phone guys were convinced Apple wouldn’t be able to just walk in and succeed. But Apple was making a device that they fully understood. It was a computer with a highly intuitive interface, that just happened to also make phone calls. The Watch could prove to be the same, but watches are also fashion. It remains to be seen if Jony Ive’s industrial design skills can translate into fashion. 

    The definition of a smartwatch is still being determined, which is surely a benefit for Apple. Pebble was the first real mass-market smartwatch, and certainly the only success in that space so far. Pebble is both awesome and annoying at the same time. As much as I love my Pebble, I rarely wear it. The Pebble watch is more-or-less a notification device. It doesn’t help me pull my phone out of my pocket less, it actually causes me to pull my phone out more. Apple is promising that their watch will be more than just your phone’s notifications on your wrist. The gamble is whether it will actually succeed in this task. (Considering how well their continuity works between Mac and iPhone, my faith in the Watch is steadily increasing.) 

    Devil’s Advocate 

    One argument against the Watch is that few will want to pay $350 or more for a watch. Pebble, Motorola, and Samsung pile on that argument with products just under the cost of an Apple Watch. But I noticed something the other day in a Tilly’s. (I know... I’m too old to be shopping at Tilly’s. I was picking up something for my kid.) Tilly’s sells a number of watches that cost $400 and up. These are just watches. They only tell the time. Tilly’s target audience is teens and young adults. Not exactly the demographic with the most spare cash, yet Tilly’s has no problem pushing $400 watches out their doors. 

    On the fashion and trends front, Apple is already a desired brand with teens and young adults. Apple doesn’t need to persuade them to buy its products. If it was Microsoft that was trying to compete with Nixon or Neff, this would be a different story. 

    I’m not going to make any wild predictions for either side of the argument. It would be just a guess even if I did. But I’m more likely to bet with Apple than against. I am dying to get my hands on the Watch, but I still don’t know whether I’ll find it any more useful than my Pebble.
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