1 iPhone X, 15 months, 94%

I received my iPhone X on 7th November 2017 and have used it extensively since. I consider myself a power user who uses it for a variety of tasks and who consistently does the following each day-

  • Approx one hour of navigation using TomTom
  • Three to four hours of podcast / music playback
  • Many notifications and communications throughout the day
  • Some game playing
  • At least an hour of reading
  • Web browsing and a multitude of other tasks to complete the set. The screen below says a lot-

So, after 15 months of heavy usage I have 94% battery health which Apple classes as ‘peak performance’. If that rate continued the phone would last for decades, but that will obviously not be the case.

The thing is that the X is still as fast as it was on the first day, it has no damage and there is no reason at all to replace it. The camera may not be the best on the market, the screen may not be the biggest, but every feature is either ‘good enough’ or ‘excellent’.

No smartphone is as buttery smooth as the iPhone in day to day use and this is one major reason why I will be sticking with it. 100% reliability to date, no glitches at all, and the same super quick performance is why I will keep this iPhone, and why Apple may struggle to make as much money as before in this area. IT REALLY DOES JUST WORK.

“Give me back your Twitter, bitch”

I wasn’t. I felt violated – and furious. As someone who writes a lot on feminism and racism, I’m sadly used to being trolled. I’m often told to go and kill myself, and am frequently told how ‘ugly’ and ‘worthless’ I am. Those comments are always hard to receive, but I try not to read them. But this was the first time someone had hacked me and impersonated me. By deleting all my followers and tweets, I felt like they’d taken away my platform. I wanted to find it funny, but it was too raw. The worst part was when it started affecting me on a professional level… More at the BBC.

A scary read.

JUUL – building a new addiction

JUUL is the poster child of the vaping industry with a $38 billion valuation and teenagers hooked on the product all over the world.

I have vaped for a few years and use 6mg nicotine content which is more than enough for me. At times even that amount can feel too much at the end of a day, but nothing compares to when I tried JUUL out of curiosity.

The experience was terrible. I felt quite ill after one pod and was surprised at just how strong the pods are. The following from Wikipedia explains the problem-

Each cartridge (called a JUULpod) contains about the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes[28] and delivers approximately 200 puffs.[29] The amount of nicotine in each cartridge—5 percent, or 59 mg/ml[30]—is substantially more than the majority of e-cigarettes on the market.

These numbers are high, but it seems as though others are following the same route. Take the Vype ePen 3 as an example. The cartridges are 18mg strength, no alternatives, which is odd because you can buy Vype liquids in varying strengths and it is the Vype 6mg liquids that I currently use.

Pods are becoming more popular, despite the fact that they are more expensive than eLiquids, thanks to their simplicity and in some cases the cool factor, but it does seem as though the manufacturers are now pushing the addictiveness of nicotine in place of the traditional eCigarette line of ‘helping people to give up smoking’.

Building your perfect Apple Watch face

On the series 4 Apple has added the ability to include a huge amount of glanceable data in one face (Infograph). With nine sections there is a lot on view at one time, but with some time spent looking for the ideal apps for you the potential is truly impressive. Here is how mine is set up-

Having moved from many years of Fitbit use I wanted to be able to see data instantly that is otherwise not available so I opted for some third party apps to fill the void.

Bottom left is StepsApp which does a very good job of displaying the number of steps I have done each day. There is a slight lag, approx 15 minutes, due to Apple’s restrictions, but overall it does exactly what I need it to.

Bottom right is Nutracheck which is the best calorie tracker available from my extensive testing. The way it allows super quick food entry is impressive and you can even add previously consumed foods from the Apple Watch itself. There is an annual charge, but if you are serious about your food intake this is a very good option.

Top right is Carrot Weather which is possibly the best designed Apple Watch app I have seen to date. There are many different settings for the complications and within the app itself, but most importantly it is deadly accurate.

The left sub-dial shows Streaks which has proved invaluable to me for keeping good habits going every single day. You can add accomplishments on your iPhone or Apple Watch and they sync instantly. The design is completely obvious and it really does ‘just work’.

Better Day takes the top sub-dial spot and I use it because of the way it displays the date within a simply month grid. The day and date are above the calendar view and a simple tap will bring the date into view using the entire screen.

Besides the above I have the Activity complication to instantly check where I am in my daily fitness goals, the battery level and the Workout complication. As a set it works very well for me, but I would like Apple to change the following-

  • Give us the option to colour-coordinate every complication for a cleaner look.
  • Make the Infograph face more glanceable when it comes to telling the time. This could potentially be fixed with the above change.

The Future of Work Requires Investments in Human Capital

“The world is healthier and more educated than ever,” notes the World Bank in a new report, The Human Capital Project. “But a large and unfinished agenda remains. Life expectancy in the developing world still lags far behind that of rich countries… Worldwide, more than 260 million children and youth are not in school. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of primary school children in developing countries fail to achieve minimum proficiency in learning.” More at WSJ.

Definitely worth a read.

Embracing Apple’s Boring Future

But a careful read of Tim Cook’s letter to shareholders suggests the opposite. Instead, Cook seems poised to double down on boring services, like the kind that have helped Microsoft and Amazon. Once iPhones reach market saturation, Apple is far more likely to enjoy greater profits from selling add-ons for those devices to the customers committed to the platform. Apple Music offers one example, as does iCloud, a subscription that has become a begrudging necessity as families need to back up and store photos from their Apple devices. Apple has tried to turn the iPhone itself into a service, via the iPhone Upgrade Program, which takes a monthly fee and allows users to get a new device every year or two—Cook’s letter indicates a desire to make that service more appealing, too. There’s also been chatter about a Netflix-style Apple subscription program for newspapers and magazines, a service that Apple might be uniquely positioned to offer… More at The Atlantic.

Good article. One thing we don’t tend to consider is that Apple losing a little could give us consumers more in the future because they will have to try harder.

Avoiding tech?

I may have read this completely wrong, but two recent stories made my ears prick up. The first was the rise in paper book sales which follows on a continuing trend where paper is gaining a bigger share of the market and cutting the expected growth of the eBook market. If this was merely a case of paper book sales holding their own I would put it down to people who like paper being happy to stay with the format as it is familiar to them, but sales are growing which is suggestive of it actually eating in to eBook sales.

It goes against the expected wisdom that eBooks will one day dominate our reading and is in some ways quite refreshing.

The second concerns the growth of Swiss watch sales which have bounced back in numbers that were truly unexpected. At a time where much of the press likes to talk about the Apple Watch and smartwatches as the potential next big thing, it is another surprising dent to this theory.

It does not look like traditional watches are hampering smartwatch sales, but something is keeping the numbers high and whether that is consumers having more disposable income or a deliberate thought pattern on behalf of individuals to wear something simpler on their wrist, it is again refreshing to see.

And this brings me to a thought I have had for some time. Are we becoming jaded when it comes to new technology and almost bored because it is starting to feel too familiar?

Technology does not offer a sense of longevity or history and so it is seen by many as a purchase to do something with and is thus temporary. There is no emotional connection to the product, at least not to the level of a paper book or a beautifully crafted watch, and so it is easier to dispose of in our minds than a product that verges on being organic.

There will always be those who battle against what is new, but over time the early adopters become the norm and so we expect newer technologies to dominate. I’m just wondering if we have reached peak tech for this decade and if we are likely to see a drastic slowing down of new products as the market adjusts. Any thoughts?

The journey continues…

I think the slow decline contributed to me not noticing the effects as quickly or taking it as seriously from the start, but zoom out and I can see the downslide as clearly as my original progress — physical change happens over months from habits created by day-to-day decisions.

I’m not nearly as unhealthy today as I was when my fitness journey first started in 2016 after I originally decided to use the fitness features of the Apple Watch. I’ve still worn the Apple Watch every day in part for non-fitness features like quick access to notifications and information like weather data… More at 9to5Mac.

A superb article!

How This All Happened

If you fell asleep in 1945 and woke up in 2018 you would not recognize the world around you. The amount of growth that took place during that period is virtually unprecedented. If you learned that there have been no nuclear attacks since 1945, you’d be shocked. If you saw the level of wealth in New York and San Francisco, you’d be shocked. If you compared it to the poverty of Detroit, you’d be shocked. If you saw the price of homes, college tuition, and health care, you’d be shocked. Our politics would blow your mind. And if you tried to think of a reasonable narrative of how it all happened, my guess is you’d be totally wrong. Because it isn’t intuitive, and it wasn’t foreseeable 73 years ago… More here.

A great read.

Going smart feels dumb (moving to the Apple Watch series 4)

I have been wearing a series 4 Apple Watch for the past two months and I have not worn a mechanical timepiece since. It feels wrong, I feel like a fraud and the overwhelming sense that I am giving something special up does not leave me.

My passion for watches is not logical, it never is for anyone who sees what I do in the designs and mechanics of such objects, but it is most certainly present and is hard to ignore. Ask anyone who loves watches and they will give you many reasons for their passion, but none of these will make practical sense and very few can be evidenced, and this is why it is a passion for people like me. You don’t give a practical reason for loving your spouse or your children. You just do because, well, it comes from somewhere within and you just love them.

When I see a watch that speaks to me I can never explain why that is, but it does happen often which makes the notion of wearing a smartwatch so bizarre. A computer chip in a square piece of metal with no soul, no unique design traits and so common that you see it everywhere. It is the anti-watch to those who love real watches and it could surely not replace an object crafted by hand over time.

Well, it seems to have happened to me and it would appear that logic has beaten away the passion.

Perhaps this is why I am struggling with the notion of this change because logic is not as exciting as passion, it is just there being all logical and boring. In this case it is the process of buying an object to do a job and then having it do that job every day to an acceptable level. There becomes a sense of attachment because some features become habitual, but rarely do emotions come to the surface in those little moments when you need to simply check the time. There is no history, no sense of the experienced experts behind the watch, which you do get with new watches as well, and no emotional depth in a form which looks and feels factory made.

The problem with the above is that they are issues faced by those of us who like mechanical, and maybe vintage, watches. For the rest of the world they are not problems and instead advantages are overwhelmingly experienced. Apple’s brilliant strap changing system is a revelation in an industry that has relied on steel pin bars for a century. The way watchOS works is as buttery smooth as iOS and it comes together to slowly creep in to your life at the exact moments it is supposed to. If you are using your iPhone the notifications will not appear on your watch. If you are not using your iPhone they will. It’s so subtle as to not be noticeable, but it makes a difference. If I am wearing my Apple Watch my Mac will not require a password and it comes together to ensure that I miss nothing without it ever feeling intrusive. It is a difficult balance to strike, but Apple seems to have done that which is highly appealing for those who want technology to be a positive influence, which I guess is +99% of people.

Is the Apple Watch actually a watch? To many people it isn’t, but that is incorrect. It is no less of a watch than a Casio quartz model or an automatic Grand Seiko. In the real world if it is strapped to your wrist and it can tell the time it is a watch. An iPhone is no less of a phone than the one that is wired to a socket in your house (if you still have such a thing), it is just a more modern interpretation of the phone just as a smartwatch is a modern interpretation of a classic mechanical object.

It is only if you force yourself to wear the Apple Watch for a period of time that you begin to use it as a watch should be used. Of course there are the countless notifications, if you have not disabled the ones you do not really need, the fitness tracking and useful reminders on the small screen and the occasional app that offers a useful facility. Much has been written about the lack of apps available and the big names that have removed their Apple Watch apps, but this is absolutely not a problem. For a smartwatch to be useful without being overwhelming it needs to do certain things very well and to not overreach. Some wearOS watches overreach in every area and end up feeling like computers on the wrist which is not the way to pull watch purists over the fence. The Apple Watch, and in particular the series 4, appears to have accidentally struck a balance that works just about well enough to satisfy what people like me want.

Is it just a fancy fitness tracker?

The more I think about it, the more I realise that fitness is by far the most dominant use for me when it comes to the Apple Watch. I track my sleep with it, which does not work as well as a Fitbit in this area, I track my calories expended, my workouts, my steps, my calories eaten and it all comes together to help me improve my activity and thus lessen my weight and get fitter. For someone who topped the scales at 295lbs 18 months ago and who is now at 195lbs, it is difficult to ever consider going back, and I am someone who needs a tool to keep me motivated.

After multiple missteps with Fitbit (inaccurate tracking, software instability etc) and Garmin (good hardware, but not great software) I eventually discovered that the Apple Watch hardware is the most accurate and that the ‘rings’ system does actually work in the moment and over extended periods. Because of this it has become the one tracker I use for fitness and it is helping me reach a level of fitness I had given up on many years ago – surely that is more important than having a fancy well-made mechanical timepiece on my wrist? Again, logic over emotion.

The real problem with it being my main tracker is that I have to wear it all of the time. It is not something to wear just when working out because that defeats the object of using it for serious fitness and there is the main issue if you enjoy traditional watches.

Why not both wrists?

This is the dichotomy that afflicts those of us who want to wear a watch and a smartwatch. It, for whatever reason, feels ridiculous and close to socially unacceptable to wear both. You can get away with a fitness tracker on one wrist and a watch on the other, but not the former and that is proof that the Apple Watch is a watch after all. You should not wear two watches in 2018 and I can’t see a year in the future where that will become commonplace. I can, however, see a year where the traditional watch is a rarity and that is a real shame, but I am not exactly helping that situation.

It is still a watch

I feel like I am losing a lot by moving away from a traditional mechanical watch, but in the face of the following advantages I am struggling to see me going back-

  • Fitness and sleep tracking day after day and all of the benefits that offers.
  • Money saved because you can never have the perfect mechanical watch and thus you always end up with more than one.
  • A free wrist without the need for a fitness tracker on the other one.
  • Notifications are never missed, I can leave home without my phone and still be contactable, and I can change the look (strap) in seconds.

I am now sold on the series 4 Apple Watch and remain shocked that this happened, but I’m maybe not so sad about it after all.