Apple Watch and it’s frustrating UI for runners

Imagine you created a product which in one of the main marketed use cases the UI became inoperable. That’s the Apple Watch.

A year ago this past spring I got myself an Apple Watch as a bit of fun for finishing a long contract.

My needs were very simple. It was primarily going to be a device to support my burgeoning running hobby – notifications and music control were an added bonus. GPS would be nice, but at the time I almost always carried my phone so it wasn’t a necessity. Originally I thought of a Garmin, but as things often are here, the model I wanted wasn’t available and others only came with super bright color combinations (it also took Garmin 7 months to reply to my email about when the watch might be available, and the reply was a non-answer).

So I went with an Apple Watch (Series 0).

Generally, using the Apple Watch is a pretty satisfying experience. There have been periods of frequent crashes, especially with the buggy Nike+ app., and the 38mm version’s text and UI is just a little too difficult to read and operate.

But my next watch will likely be a Garmin.

There are a couple neat use cases which I like the watch for, dictating a note into Evernote (which I hardly use) and replying to iMessages with voice dictation. Unfortunately dictation is not entirely accurate and without punctuation becomes just a stream of harder to read text. I do find it a faster experience than typing on the iPhone, which might be the point. Outside of iMessage all notifications are off as I find it annoying.

Otherwise, my primary use case is running, and under optimal conditions it’s fine. You can awkwardly see your key running data and stop and start your run. The lifting your arm to see the display is entirely unnatural. Optimal conditions are rare. If your fingers or the screen are at all moist there is no guarantee your touch will be registered.

More concerning, however, is the functionality of the watch when it gets wet or sweaty. Good luck changing screens or getting the watch to respond. This was an issue my colleague Brian Dalek dealt with while testing the first version of this watch. It’s still an issue. On one hot day, I wiped my forehead to get my hands good and sweaty, and the Watch failed to respond to any touches on its face. This is one reason you still find buttons on running watches.
Apple Watch Series 2 Is a Solid Option

If it’s raining or you sweat a lot like me you can forget any accurate interaction with the UI. It can be impossible to stop a run or pause a running segment. Pretty disheartening if you just ran a great race or completed a great segment. So how do you stop the watch from recording your run? Well, today I had to leave it running until I could get home to wash my hands and polish the screen. Ridiculous.

Like many I’m sure Apple has a vigorous testing program – both for software and hardware. I’d love to understand how this decision was reached – produce a device with a focus on activity but let the lack of being able to control the device when sweating slide.

There are 2 hardware buttons on the side, Apple should open those up to allow 3rd party apps. to use as basic pause/start controls. Until then the Apple Watch is only usable if you don’t sweat.


Apple Bluetooth Keyboard Hack

Apple’s Photos app crashed during export.

My old Apple bluetooth keyboard has been wonky for some time – I initially blamed some weird kind of wireless interference at my China office but realized when typing that either it or my desk was crooked. It wouldn’t be unheard of for wooden things to get all warped in my house in Taiwan, all my shelves are. It was the keyboard, which I guess got bent from my overstuffing my carryon, during one of my recent flights. While I would love to have a new Apple keyboard, the exorbitant prices make a little paper and tape hack far more acceptable.


UPDATING_LOCKED_TITLE

Screenshot 2015-07-02 20.56.44

In the annals of Apple error messages, of which lately their have been more and more, this must rank up there as one of the most developer centric. I can only imagine what would be going through a users mind when after clicking on iTunes this message appears. This update is rife with problems, testing must be taking a back seat at Apple. Or in the case of iTunes, this is what happens when you put a musician in charge of software product management.

Either way I can’t open iTunes.


Colour reproduction on a new MacBook

I’m exhausted today after a sleepless night and so decided to spend the afternoon setting up my mothers new MacBook with the goodies that she will need to keep in touch while we are overseas. I’m sitting here in the Confederation Mall food court looking a bit like a poser with two Apple laptops in front of me.
My mothers MacBook is such a pleasure to use, it’s much better than my little 12″ Powerbook. I’m starting to feel the pangs of jealousy.
But the default setting the screen uses reproduce color scares me. I dislike the glossy finish as well – I see all the overhead lights which over time must cause eyestrain.
The colour is way off. My Powerbook is certainly not as bright but the colour is very warm by default. My eizo monitor which I use when at home has been calibrated primarily for text entry over graphic design. In fact while all my monitors at home display colour with subtle differences in reproduction none to the extreme that I see in this new MacBook.
I’m sitting through the colour calibration settings now but it’s scared me enough to wonder if I don’t have to revisit every site I’ve designed these past months to check again for colour problems. I thought I had put those batty web safe palette days behind me.


Control-option-command-8

Thanks to Gary on Forumosa for this Mac OS X tip. Pressing the key combo “control-option-command-8” inverts the screen. It is cool in it’s own right (windows look like portals to heaven) but might also be useful for those staring at text all day.


Problems with iTunes Podcast submission


It seems on my inaugural podcast I may have spoke to soon about submitting my podcast to the iTunes podcast directory. It isn’t possible. Here’s why.
You need to be able to purchase music from the iTunes store in order to be able to list your podcast in their directory. That includes registering an account and submitting a valid credit card with a billing address from a country that has the “honour” of having an iTunes Music Store. I am a Canadian citizen living in Asia but have a permanent address in Canada. As I have been living abroad for 8 years all my credit cards originate from Taiwan and as such I can not list my podcast – though I do have a .mac account. It’s a bit of a bizarre twist I think. I want to list content on their site which could potentially bring them customers but they want me to buy something first.
This is Apple?
I’m a bit sleepy and unanimated today (up late playing) so this Podcast might have the unwanted effect of causing you too to want to sleep (might be a common effect of this Podcast).
Listen to: Problems with iTunes Podcast submission – Podcast 2 (4.52min, 3.35 meg)
My Odeo Channel (odeo/647d0a301a218729)


Apple Bluetooth Mouse

There is a neat little feature I noticed today where Apple’s Bluetooth mouse will first in a semi-opaque window and then a flashing icon on the menu bar that the mouse batteries are running low. It’s an especially nice touch since I forgot that there were even batteries inside.
Bluetooth menu icon
I like this mouse. The batteries inside give it some additional weight that just feels right in my hand. So many mice (mouses?) I have tried are so light I feel like I am slipping all over the desk surface. The extra weight seems to give me more accuracy. It also tends to make me slower but I’m playing game tournaments just accessing menus.
Bluetooth helps gets rid of all those wires as well. I hate wires. Wires are ugly and, even in the case of Apple industrial design, inelegant. My old Apple mouses’ wire (I’ve never used a two button mouse) always got tangled and in the way. Good riddance.


Dan Harden gets it

“If there’s anything anyone in this field is chasing, it’s Apple’s quality and simplicity. Pick up an iPod, and you get it, you feel it, you sense it. But let’s not forget that these things are made in China. It’s nothing different from what everybody else is doing. The difference is that Apple will spend a lot of time and a lot of money to train quality-control standards. Unlike smaller companies, it can afford to get to the microlevels and really think through how a button feels. As a result, it has made digital audio seem so easy, so fast, so seamless.”
Read the whole Fast Company article


Notes on Tiger

Judging by the volume of noise on news sites Apples Tiger release appears to be an exciting even among those of will little else in our lives to entertain ourselves other than an operating system release. Yes I got caught up in it and yes I spend far too much time sitting at a desk. It’s obvious I have to get out more since after a simple morning of walking on Saturday has left my body stiff and sore. And the Tiger excitement.
Yes it’s cool and I’m certainly digging the refinements to the look n feel of the UI. Other than Spotlight, I’m mostly psyched about the improvements they made to their bundled apps. , safari is much improved. The Wiki dashboard widget should be very useful.
The biggest impression the upgrade has left on me though is the hefty memory requirements. Opening activity monitor shows me that Safari eats up 140megs of ram – it’s a web browser for God sake. Each of those Dashboard widgets take up 30 and mail takes up 20. It’s becoming obvious that if you expect to run a few programs in addition to Photoshop you are slowly approaching 2 gigs of ram. Apple still sells computers with only 256 megs of ram so obviously their is money to be made creating software with bloated memory requirements.


The Joys of Shuffle

For music on the go and having fun creating mixes (again) the iPod shuffle was a great recent purchase. I don’t always buy into the “enjoy uncertainty” or “life is random” concepts that Apple preaches though and find myself creating a smart playlist to autofill my shuffle that pick from higher rates songs in a number of other playlists that have a list of my favourite tracks. I’m not alone in this and I have noticed a few others sharing there ideas.
Matt Haughey writes about the joys of a better


Wireless iPod patent

wifi-ipod.jpgFrom Apple Insider comes the news that a patent was published on Thursday that talks about a wirelessly-enabled handheld player that can beam music and information to multiple other media devices, a docking station for communicating with other devices, and something about wirelessly transmitting


Mac OS X 10.3.3 Update: Hallelujah!!

Finally they have fixed the ill functioning network browser – with the Panther update you lost the ability to store network passwords and browsing remote servers was a pain at best.
“Specific changes in Mac OS X v10.3.3 include the ability to see network volumes both in the Finder sidebar and on the Desktop; improved filesharing and directory services for Mac (through AFP), Unix (through NFS) and PC (through SMB/CIFS) networks; improved PostScript and USB-based printing; updated Disk Utility, DVD Player, Image Capture, Mail and Safari applications; additional support for FireWire and USB devices; improved compatibility with third-party applications; and the incorporation of previous standalone security updates and Bluetooth Update 1.5, if you’ve not already updated your system.” [Maccentral]
Mac OS X 10.3.3 Update


More Powerpoint madness

Presentations.com recent review of Apples keynote reinforces my perception of how Powerpoint has created a legacy of poor visual communication. The author of the review gives Keynote 3 out of 5 stars and states that it is worth it for beginning presenters but pros will not be satisfied. Obviously the review is uninformed but it is interesting to note what these people think “pros” need. The most glaring of which were no gradient-coloring features for text, the ability to edit multimedia within the program, and the amount of the control over transitions. What is with this perception that “pro’s” want products with enormous feature sets. I thought we would assume that people don’t have time for this type of complexity.
I have been using Keynote for a couple months and it’s fairly impressive. It’s simple, displays text very well and has cut ‘n’ paste import of all my media (vector graphics and pdf look superb). It helps reinforce the point of a presentation program – to support the speaker. The downside is a natural one. No one uses keynote and as such no one can read your file. Distribution via .pdf is impractical because of the horrendous file sizes and sharing it in Powerpoint’s file format seems painful as you loose all of the reasons you use Keynote in the first place.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that I create presentations that would make Edward Tufte proud – I don’t. But I am under different constraints. The constraints of language, and lack of paper, force me to put copious amounts of text on the screen. That’s my excuse.
Link: Presentations.com – Apple Keynote review