May 14, 2015
I’ve had my Apple Watch for about a week. Here are my initial thoughts.
Size & model
I have the 38mm black sport watch. The size is good for my hand, and because it’s all black, it’s very inconspicuous. I haven’t had one person ask me about the watch; I don’t think anybody even notices it. The band is high quality plastic. I do have to wear it tighter than I normally wear a watch, so I can feel the haptic vibration.
- Attractive and understated, more so than I thought it would be
- Reminds me to stand up once an hour, and I’m actually doing it
- Great to receive text messages immediately, especially when I’m walking around and my phone is in my bag
- Our VoIP phone provider has a watch app, so I can immediately see when our office phone is ringing, even when I’m out of the office
- Pretty easy to use the iPhone app to set up what I want to appear on the watch
- Haptic vibration is sometimes too subtle for me to feel unless I’m really paying attention
- Screen is pretty small, as is the type!
- Not so easy to dictate a voicemail or answer a phone call if I’m out on a busy, noisy NYC street
- Not sure I need to see every single email on my phone; perhaps I need to investigate selective notifications for email?
- The animated emojis are hideously ugly; stick with the old-fashioned ones
- Activity app tells me I’m hitting my excercise goals (move, exercise, and stand) even though I’ve been mostly sitting at a desk all week (although I haven’t been wearing it when I actually do exercise)
- Not enough 3rd-party apps yet!
Jury’s Still Out
- Haven’t used the map feature for directions, the workout app, the Uber app, which all seem like they could be useful
Summary: It’s helpful and attractive, but it hasn’t changed my life. So I’m not recommending you run out and buy one. I’m looking forward to more 3rd-party apps that can really take advantage of its opportunities.
April 23, 2015
We went to the 3D Print Show over the weekend — one of the best items we saw was this Matter and Form 3D scanner that folds up for storage, and it’s only $600.
Why would you want a 3D scanner? Well maybe you have a broken part to a mechanical object, so you want to scan it and digitally repair it and then print a replacement part. Or you might want to scan a design so you can improve the design.
There are many scanners out there, but they are much more expensive than the Matter and Form scanner, or not suitable for an NYC apartment. Nor are they nearly as attractive. And this one is Mac-compatible.
When closed, the Matter and Form scanner is only 3.5” wide by 8.25” wide by 13.5” tall. So it definitely fits on a small table or in the corner of your closet when not in use.
It comes with its own scanning software, which is available for anyone on Mac 10.9 or above. Connects to the computer via USB. It says it can capture detail as small as 0.43mm. And can scan items as big as 7” in diameter and 9.8” in height.
We haven’t tried it ourselves; we’re saving up…
At the 3D print fair last weekend we saw 5 unusual 3D printers. Here they are, along with what’s interesting about each.
Unique One from Kwamb.io
This printer is very large (so it can print big objects) with an unusual design. The computer goes on your network, so you can print directly from your smartphone. No computer required! In addition, if you’re a 3D designer, you can sell “royalties” of sorts to your designs, so you make money every time your design is printed, even if it’s printed on someone else’s machine. Printer is about $800.
Tinkerine Ditto Pro
This printer is supposed to be very, very quiet. So you can have it on your desk without distraction. And it’s attractively designed, so you might not mind looking at it in your home or office. $1900.
Printrbot Simple Metal Printer
This small printer is one of the most inexpensive available; it can print an object up to 6” x 6” x 6”. $600.
BeeTheFirst from BeeVeryCreative
This small, elegant printer is specifically made to be portable; it has a handle and a case that can carry everything you need for printing. It can print something up to 7.5 x 5 x 5 in. $1700.
DeeGreen from be3D
This printer is a closed box with a door, so you don’t have to worry about something screwing up your print. It has a few features we haven’t seen anywhere else, including pausing a print, automatic bed calibration, and printing off of an SD card so you don’t have to keep your printer attached. $2000.
April 20, 2015
Over the weekend we went to the Apple Store on 14th Street and tried on the Apple Watch.
Normally you need to schedule an appointment ahead of time to try on the watches, but we just dropped by and the store had some empty slots.
The store has huge custom tables made just for the watches: Wood sides, with a dropped display section in the middle where all the watches sit under glass. Those watches are just for display; the watches for trying on are in special locked drawers underneath that same table. They put down a small leather pad on top of the table so that if you drop the watch while trying it on, it doesn’t break.
The models for try on don’t have full functionality—they just cycle through a display mode. To try out how the watches actually work, Apple has created custom mini docks with a watch and an iPad Mini next to each other. These watches are fully functional so you can test the
We tried on two models: The Watch Sport, 38mm aluminum case with black band ($350), and the Watch, 42mm stainless steel case with black classic buckle ($700).
The black plastic band on the Sport is much more attractive in person than the photos on Apple’s website make it look. It’s a nice rich color with a nice heft and no ugly seams. And the black aluminum case looks good with the black band.
The stainless steel model with the classic leather band is definitely a step up in terms of finish and elegance—the leather strap gives the watch a more traditional upscale look.
Display is super crisp. It will take some time to get used to when to spin the crown wheel, when to press the crown as a button, and when to press or swipe the screen.
We’re looking forward to getting our watches and seeing how they integrate with our phones and with our lives!
April 13, 2015
The M3D Micro 3D printer that I Kickstarted about a year ago just showed up!
It’s about 8” square so it’s much smaller than a standard 3D printer. This means you can only print items that are under 4-1/2” high. Cost is currently $350 — so it’s much cheaper than a standard 3D printer as well (which run about $1200 to start) — and orders are taking some time to ship.
Here is the very first item I printed — a test print of a Maker robot. It’s about an inch tall.
Pros for the M3D printer:
- Lots of free designs on thingiverse.com that can be downloaded and printed.
- Or make your own designs with simple, free software like Tinkercad.
- The M3D site has extensive user comments and a big community of people helping each other.
- The price and size!
- No software for Mac yet (they’re working on it) so I’m running the Windows software in Parallels on my Mac.
- Not quite consumer-friendly; people have had many issues with plastic getting stuck in the nozzle, temperature settings for melting plastic, calibration, and so on.
- It really needs a holder for the spool of plastic, to prevent the plastic from tangling on its way into the printer. I printed one myself, which attaches to the printer, and is working great (available from Justin PR on thingiverse). Here’s the photo of mine, attached to the printer:
Summary: If you’re interested in testing out 3D printing, and sending stuff off to Shapeways to be printed is taking too long to be fun, then this is a fairly inexpensive way to try it out (as long as you only want to print small).
April 9, 2015
Journalists have been given a sneak peek of the iPhone, about a week in advance of the order date (which begins April 10th at 3:00 am, East Coast time).
Now that they’ve played with the phones for a whole week, what do they think? Here’s a review roundup.
Wall Street Journal: Geoffrey A. Fowler
“What’s valuable is your time. The Apple Watch is a computer built to spend it better. And if you can tolerate single-day battery life, half-baked apps and inevitable obsolescence, you can now wear the future on your wrist….With the Apple Watch, smartwatches finally make sense….For now, the Apple Watch is for pioneers.”
New York Times: Farhad Manjoo
“It took three days — three long, often confusing and frustrating days — for me to fall for the Apple Watch. But once I fell, I fell hard….Indeed, to a degree unusual for a new Apple device, the Watch is not suited for tech novices….Still, even if it’s not yet for everyone, Apple is on to something with the device. The Watch is just useful enough to prove that the tech industry’s fixation on computers that people can wear may soon bear fruit….The first Apple Watch may not be for you — but someday soon, it will change your world.”
The Verge: Nilay Patel
“The Apple Watch, as I reviewed it for the past week and a half, is kind of slow….[The] haptic feedback system…feels wildly different from the fuzzy, cumbersome vibrations of other devices.…Third-party apps are the main issue: Apple says it’s still working on making them faster ahead of the April 24th launch, but it’s clear that loading an app requires the Watch to pull a tremendous amount of data from the phone, and there’s nothing fast about it….If you’re going to buy an Apple Watch, I’d recommend buying a Sport model; I wouldn’t spend money on how it looks until Apple completes the task of figuring out what it does.”
Yahoo Tech: David Pogue
“The Apple Watch is light-years better than any of the feeble, clunky efforts that have come before it. The screen is nicer, the software is refined and bug-free, the body is real jewelry….You don’t need one. Nobody needs a smartwatch. After all, it’s something else to buy, care for, charge every night. …In the end, therefore, the Apple Watch is, above all, a satisfying indulgence.”
March 19, 2015
Product designer Greg Koenig has written a great article on how the Apple Watch is made. He has looked very closely at Apple’s videos on the making of the watches and used his product design experience to make some educated guesses on how Apple’s manufacturing process works.
Apple has used some very sophisticated processes and has also designed some of its own solutions to create a watch of extremely high quality.
I found these tidbits especially interesting:
Apple is deliberately introducing controlled “defects” in the lattice structure of the gold that hardens it against impact. Their level of precision cutting is down to 0.01mm. Then they use something called immersion ultrasonic inspection to check for defects, a process that “is typically reserved for highly stressed medical implants and rotating components inside of aircraft engines.”
They are using a high grade of stainless steel that prevents nickel allergies. Then they are doing cold forging to create an exceptionally strong piece of stell, one where the grain of the metal matches the final shape of the piece. For polishing, Apple has created custom plugs to prevent the polishing from buffing down certain edges.
Apple has a long history of creating precise aluminum components for their MacBooks and iPhones. They seem to have gone even further for the watch, including using a laser to clean up finishing defects after the machining process. Koenig writes, “No company in the world is finishing and anodizing to Apple’s level.”
He concludes, “I see these videos and I see a process that could only have been created by a team looking to execute on a level far beyond what was necessary or what will be noticed.”
If you’re at all interested in design I highly recommend the article.
March 17, 2015
Print out the PDF at 100% size, then cut out the watch size and watchband model you want to try on. Wrap it around your wrist. Get a sense of whether you want the 38mm or the 42mm watch face, and the various sizes of the different watchbands.
They say it’s much more accurate than the sizing guide on Apple’s own website.
If you can, you probably want to go to an Apple store and try out the real thing before splurging on an Apple Watch (especially if you are buying one of the more expensive models), but this is a big help in the meantime (or if you can’t get to a store).
Say thank you to Exact Fitness by buying one of their apps. I’m particularly curious about the Fitness Spades, which makes working out into a little game. It’s only $0.99.
March 13, 2015
If I may offer a bit of analysis:
Over the last several years, Apple has had fairly understandable product naming. “MacBook” was the entry level model, “MacBook Air” was the small-and-light model, “MacBook Pro” was the expensive, powerful model. One of Steve Jobs’ significant acts upon returning to Apple was the simplification of the then-convoluted product line; and probably the most noteworthy change since his departure has been an erosion of that simplicity. This isn’t to fault, in any way, the quality of Apple’s products, which are higher than they have ever been; however, it’s more challenging for customers to choose among them.
The hardest buying decisions come when having to critically evaluate tradeoffs between different models in different product lines, and it’s even harder when the names of those lines change their previous meaning, or lose it entirely. The “Air” name had already lost clarity when it was given to the top-of-the-line 5th generation iPad, larger and heavier than the iPad Mini. With yesterday’s introduction of the MacBook, the situation becomes more confusing still, as the MacBook Air now represents a midpoint between the MacBook (smallest and lightest) and the MacBook Pro (most powerful). Apple might have retained some consistency had they called it “MacBook Mini,” or “MacBook Air with Retina Display”, but naming consistency doesn’t seem to be where they’re at.
And the product lines now have competing features. Rather than having each product represent a superset of capabilities over another one, customers now have to decide, for example, whether they want a lightweight model with multiple USB ports, or an even more lightweight model with a Retina display. As a power user who has always flocked to Apple’s smallest and lightest computers, even I don’t know how to make that decision, and am indeed torn as to whether I want to replace my beloved MacBook Air 11” with the new MacBook. If Apple is the technology company that makes technology friendlier, simpler, and easier to understand, they’d do well to clarify the distinctions between product lines in a way that is friendlier, simpler, and easier to understand.
March 12, 2015
Apple held an Apple Watch event this week, and allowed reporters some hands-on time with the new device (which is available for pre-order and in-store display on April 10, and ships on April 24).
What are the critics saying about what it was like to try out the Apple Watch?
Christina Bonnington at Wired
“I found the touch and software experience of Apple’s Watch certainly as good as, if not better than, any other smartwatch on the market today. The hardware quality is superb, the screen is sharp, and the software experience is surprisingly robust.”
Nilay Patel at The Verge
“It’s actually pretty complicated….It’s nicer than I expected….It still feels like an awful lot of interesting ideas without a unifying theme.”
Geoffrey A Fowler at the Wall Street Journal
“On my wrist, the Apple Watch feels natural….Learning to operate the watch will take some time….What worries me is that Mr. Cook and his executive team didn’t talk as much on Monday about how it will help filter the unnecessary alerts.”
Chris Velazco at Engadget
“There’s no denying that the Watch is elegant in its design and occasionally in its modes of interaction, but it’s just not as immediately easy to wrap your head around as an iPhone is. If you’re anything like me, you’ll occasionally find yourself pausing from time to time, wondering if you’re supposed to depress the crown or tap the Home-like button below to get where you’re going next….Apple’s Watch is ambitious in a way that few devices are.”
Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch
“It is expectedly intuitive….It’s fast and responsive….The Watch feels comparably at home on my wrist.”
Brian Fung at the Washington Post
“If we wake up a few years from now and realize we’ve just traded one attention-taking device for another, that won’t be a win for consumers. It won’t be a win for the watch. And frankly, it won’t be much of a win for Apple, either….The Apple Watch doesn’t feel like one of these transcendent products yet.”