Sunday, July 26, 2015

Weight Loss Is Evident After Two Months of Apple Watch - Need More Option for Rings

The goal rings from the Activity app on the Apple Watch should be familiar with many iOS (and Apple Watch) users who have seen it in action or read about and seen it online. It's effective to a point and most people find them useful. However, since I make it a point of getting of my desk a few times an hour at work, I rarely get a notification to get off my butt and move. I can see some people who do need to be pushed to move around a bit after sedentary for a while. The active minutes ring is also very important for those who do not move around enough. Neither of those are an issue for me. I find the active calories more important and trying to reach my 900 daily calories has helped me greatly.

What has been driving me is keeping up the streak of days that I have hit that goal. And while that has been important and helps me lose about 3-4 pounds since I started wearing the Apple Watch a little less than two months ago, I hope Apple will have other health and exercise related measurements and goals for users to follow - maybe even allow users to add a few rings or replace default measurements with user preferences.

I have found the Nike Fuel points to be effective when I wore the Nike Fuel Band. I have ben very disappointed in the lackluster support from Apple and Nike to integrate more Nike features for the watch. While 900 calories a day is nothing to sneeze at, I enjoined trying to reach my 4000 NF points daily (failing for the most part but I enjoy trying) when I used the Fuel Band. Adding a ring for keeping track of Nike Fuel points is a quick example I can think of. Perhaps, some users rather keep track of distance they walk or run each day would rather trying to go the distance every day than using other metrics.

Speaking of other metrics, it would be great for Apple to make this customizable.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Apple Car May Take On Nexus-Style Design by Working with BMW's i3 as Its First iCar

Here is a rumor that I find interesting enough that to speculate on what Apple's auto plans may be.  Supposed Apple isn't quite ready to build a car on its own or not in the time frame that it wants to push out an Apple car.  It would have to find a partner.  In this rumor (9to5Mac), Apple may be in talks with BMW (or had discussions) to use the i3 (wiki) as the basis for its own car. 

It's anyone's guess why Apple is talking to BMW and only a tell-all-book about Tim Cook, Jony Ives, or just the iCar in 2020 will answer that question and it may not even be definitive, suppose Apple is not build its car right away.  Supposed it only wants to showcase its own designs and technology in an existing car like the i3 for the world to see - this is an Apple designed car. 

And it is willing to work with different brands, perhaps Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, or any other luxury brand cars to co-develop showcase electric vehicles not unlike how Google is using the Nexus devices to showcase its Android OS.  And perhaps, years later, Apple may eventually unveil a car wholly designed by its team without outside help.

Now, it would not be like the Motorola ROKR, the first "i" phone that had a flaw iPod support thich later gave way to the iPhone.  While Steve Jobs hated that monstrocity, Apple will put it 110% of its effort into cars it works on with other brands and they'll love them as much as if they had developed them themselves.  It will give Apple the ability to dip their toes into the auto industry without a full plunge, learn from the mistakes and then develop the iCar much later.  Of course, such partnerships with car companies will still exist even if Apple does end up selling its own car because Apple is not going to be able to release line after line of cars immediately.  It would take years if not decades.  Look at how long Telsa has expanded to a second model, the Model X, after the Model S.  The Model X is still no on the road.

Why would an auto company be interested in working with Apple?  Well, it is Apple after all.  That is a good enough reason.  Some companies will not want to work with Apple for obvious reasons.  They are doing well on their own and may not be keen on giving up control to some aspects of the design to another company even if it is Apple.  And Apple will likely have draconian terms that they'll want auto partners to adhere too.  It's like that it will be a bit flexible in trying to get BMW onboard but that is about it.  Apple will likely be willing to share some information with auto companies. For instance, like battery technology. 

In the long term, even if Apple end up parting ways with auto companies and end up going at it alone, it is better for them to have had the experience of working with Apple than not.  This is one instance where if an auto executive said "the phone or PC guys are not just gonna waltz in here and make a car that people will want to buy", most including Apple friendly media and blogs will likely agree. 

Apple does have a long roadmap for its involvement in the auto industry.  There are some ideal routes that it wants to follow but there are also twists and turns that are drawn out depending on market and economic conditions.  This includes a turn that takes into the account of Apple even not getting into this market at all if it cannot build a car that is better than what is already out on the road or it is unable to make money on it. 

But a Nexus model for Apple's cars in the first few years is not a bad plan at all.  The auto industry is a competitive market but it is also one where many companies also cooperate with one another to source parts or partner in other ways.  So, if this rumor is true, we may be looking at an Apple-BMW electric car on the road sooner than expected.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mobile: Apple Watch Owns 75% of Smart Watch Market Means Not Many Android Users Use Wearbles

There is a report out today suggesting the Apple Watch commands 75% of the market.  And without Apple provide real sales numbers, no one knows for sure what its share of the market is.  However, even if Apple Watch share isn't really 75%, maybe say 60%, it does mean that a larger percentage of iPhone users are getting into the mobile wearable experience than Android users are.

And we know this because in terms of units sold, Android still dominate the market - between 75% to 80%.  You'd think if same percentage of Android users buy a compatible Android Wear device, they it would be Android Wear commanding 75% of the market instead of the Apple Watch.

There could be a couple of reasons why that is the case.  Early Android watch experiences were too raw and ahead of the time - most were not sanctioned by Google if anyone. Folks lik Samsung really jumped the gun thinking that be going to the market before its competitors, it could claim not only to be the first among its competitors including Apple and Motorola but ahead start on a large scape adoption.  That the early Galaxy watches were bulky and not as stylish as the ones on the market did not help.  Also, the features and UI appeared inelegant.  Essentially, Samsung ported the interface from the phone into a smaller screen.  In its defense, that was a natural thing to do.  As we know, Apple went with a different direction with their watch UI.

One other reason that affects Android wearable sales as well as Apple Watch is that missing killer apps or features that seem to be missing.  Notifications via watches regardless of any platform is nice but not a necessity.  This goes for Pebbles as well.  Again, the same can be said of being able to answer calls or returning messages.  Nice but not a dealbreaker.  So what are the must-have features?  That is perhaps what the market is largely waiting for.  It may be the case that as new features are added over the years, it will reach a point when having a weable device becomes indispensible. 

For instance, perhaps the wearabe devices in five years' time may provide us with more pertinent data about the user's surroundings and him- or herself help him or her make better decisions about routes, what to wear, and health-related informations.

Whatever the reasons are that users have yet to buy into wearables, deveopers and hardware designers have their work cut out for them.  As far as mobile is concerned, there is much more innovation in the phone market.  It's likely that even as the wearable market is trying to find its footing, its growth will depend on the phones are they paired with as well. 

Apple Makes more Than $10 Billion And Added $15 Billion in Cash But Wall Street Continues To Knock Down Stock

Yesterday, Apple reported an insane quarter - adding enough cash to push its total over $200 billion.  On top of that, it commands a market share in mobile profit that is just insane.  On top of that, Apple's growth in China and elsewhere in the world isn't done.  Still, Wall Street managed to knock down the stock price because Apple merely beat its own guidance but not ones that Wall Street "analysts" pulled out of their darkest reaches of their behinds. 

So, while this is how Wall Street works - a legalized manner to manipulate stock prices.

However, Apple itself probably isn't too worked up about it.  In fact, with tens of billions set aside for stock buybacks, it probably is pretty happy.  So, it makes one wonder if Wall Street is help Apple out.  A more conspiracy minded person may very well think that.

I'm sure Tim Cook and these so-called analysts would not comment about it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Apple Watch: I Too Like Mine But It Feels It Can And Needs To Do More

Source:  Macworld.

Yes, the Apple Watch is pretty good and the more I use it, the more I like it.  And this seems to be confirmed in the survey Macworld pointed out.  And what's interesting is the non-tech folks seem to be more impressed with it than the techies.  I think I land squarely in the middle but I do feel something is lacking.

Is it a deal-breaker?  Not really.  I had been hold off on the Apple Watch until I received mine as a gift.  So, I decided to keep it.  It has helped me in one significant manner:  I've lost weight and felt healthier since.  That's about it. 

Now that sounds like I'm being a bit flippant about it.  I'm not.  I only suggest that my Apple Watch was going to help me in other ways and the health feature was going to be secondary.  The survey noted in the Macworld post did not mention in what ways were people impressed with their Apple Watches so I cannot say for sure if their experiences are similar or different from mine.  Other than ease of use, no questions were asked about what functions that lead users to give the Apple Watch a 97% apporval rating.

Notifications are "neat" feature to have and I'm sure other smart watch users find them as useful as Apple Watch users do but I ended up dismissing most of them.  Occasionally, there are one or two that needed my attention that then require that I take out my iPhone to deal with.  When convenient, I sent my replies directly from the watch but that is rare.  Yesterday was the first time I received a call and answered from the watch.  It seemed to have worked fine.  The other party did not have trouble hear me and I was walking along side a busy street with a few cars going by.

But I cannot help but feel there has to be more than just the health features, which I'm sure will improve with each Watch OS and hardware update, notifications.  I don't know what could make the Apple Watch or other smart watches more useful and appealing but I'm sure smart folks in Cupertino are working on that.  Until then, my only complain would be the battery life.  I'm sure that is being worked on as well.

So like these other Apple Watch users, I've taken the new wearable device for what it is now, what it can do and how well it performs.  And it has performed as advertised.  And that is all we can expect at this time.  It has made my feel healthier and kept the iPhone in my pocket or bag.  Well done, Apple Watch! 

AI: Need PC, Tablets, Phones To Accept More Voice Commands And Understand What We Want

I think it's great that Apple, Google, Microsoft (rumored that Facebook as well) have been racing to outdo one another in the field of AI where Cortana, Google Now, And Siri are becoming more and more part of our mobile computing experience and striving to become more of a true companion.  It will be a multi-year if not perpetual AI race. 

But I do think there is something that is fundamentally feasible for these tech companies to do in the near future - having their current OS or AI understand more voice commands like switching between apps or tabs in the browser or even fundamental OS functions.  If there are such features, I have not found them to be adequate.  And it goes towards improving accessibility functions as well for users who are physically or developmentally challenged. 

What's interesting is that Apple has had Siri working on the iPhone and iPad for years and it is noticeably absent from OS X.  Only Apple knows why that is.  And there have been suggestions that Siri would appear in some format on Apple TV.  However, with Cortana playing at least a minor part of Windows 10 launch, it would make sense for Apple to follow up with Siri on the Mac in a year at the very least.

For Google, it does appear that it is going a different route than what Apple and Microsoft are doing with their AI.  Google Now is more (and much better) as providing information to make user lives better, more convenient and efficient, than before.  It's unlike we'll be able to speak into a chromebook to change tabs between its browser.  Any command via voice will have to take place on the Android.

There is the issue of how to implement such a feature.  It's likely Apple is taking a wait and see attitude, letting others like Microsoft go first with Cortana and seeing what it can learn from it.  Personally, I cannot wait to try it. And if Cortana's implementation is near flawless and can do at least what Siri and Google Now can do, it may have found a way back into the mobile hardware game. 

What about my fellow mobile warriors?  Do you feel it's time that the tech companies focus more on givng us new AI features like voice commands and being able to discern the context of what we are ordering it to do?  Voice commands have been around much longer than you realized but it is only recently that we can be optimistic about an AI working in the background trying to understand what the human operators want from it. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Prime Day Is Amazon's Garage Sale - Junk For Sale

One man's trash is another man's treasure as the saying goes.  Unfortunately, there is more backlash as it appears that Amazon and its partners are using Prime Day to unload junk inventory.  Don't take my word for it.  Take it from social networks (BGR).

The level of snarkiness on Twitter just says it all.  For Amazon, it may not matter in the short run as long as those who sign up for Prime forget to cancel later.  Otherwise, Prime is truly a great deal.  It's just unfortunate that Amazon thinks leaf blowers, wealth/real estate books, dandolions, and guitar picks for girls are what people signed up for.

Amazon's Prime Day Has Been Crap

I guess I'm not alone.  Many are disppointed by the offerings Amazon is offering to Prime users (CNN).  The only good deals, for some, are Fire devices that Amazon owns.  As for the rest, there are a lot of things that are kinda just fillers that people don't really need.  And while there are a few intresting items for sale, they're don't appear to be Black Friday prices.

Like leaf blowers?  Really?  Reflective vests?  No Thanks.  Ditto for the chef's hat.  And those external batteries?  Amazon has similar ones that are priced about the same for the same capacity.  No deal there. 

There are MicroSD cards that I might be interested in but we'll have to see what if the price is right. I'll be running an update all day to see if things change.  Oh, and you have to be fast.  Decend items sell out rather fast...last I checked, the leaf blower and Fire devices have not sold out. 

Update 1:  The PNY cards have sold out the moment they went on sale.  Wait list is full as well.  Only a couple of seconds.

Update 2:  Walmart is looking to spoil Amazon's Prime Day.  The website needs work.  Lots.  It is still stuck in the late-90s.  Not even going to bother.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No MacBook Until I See the iPad Pro

A couple of times during the past month, I nearly pulled the trigger on the new 12" Retina Macbook.  I've done as much research on it as anyone can possible do - what folks who have it are doing with it, battery life, portability, and general sense of how it fits as a replacement for their other laptops or Macbooks.  And I've decided that I can "try" to live without one for a few more months until Apple releases the iPad Pro that is very much real given the amount of smoke coming from that general rumor. 

So far, there is nothing beyond what we are hearing about the iPad Pro that is more than a bigger screen iPad with a pen running iOS 9.  However, I'm hopeful that given the Pro is supposed to be more of a productivity tablet, Apple may release some development tools for it as well.  And iOS device capable of developing apps for the iOS. 

Currently, the iPad works well enough for most productivity tasks with new features like split-screen from iOS 9 that will make the the iPad more appealing to enterprise users.  The pen will likely make artists and designers very happy.

But I like to see coders see some love as well.  And Xcode for iOS would be an awesome additionl.  As someone who has taken up programming, I love to be able to take my iPad Pro and just run with it.  I already have a 15" Macbook Pro that I am using but, folks, it is a big machine to be carry around all the time.

It's why the Macbook has been so appealing.  However, I do see some coders wanting even more portablity when they are on the go.  Furthermore, the iPad Pro wil likely have a longer battery life that makes it ideal for long trips than the Macbook which tops out around 8-9 hours. 

Okay, I recognize that this is a pipe dream on my part but I know there are mobile warriors who want to be able to do more coding on their iPads.  And the near-13" screen of the iPad Pro would be perfect.

iPhone Scored 92% of Phone Profit - Apple Is Doomed

Source:  Just google, it's all over the Web.

Okay, get this. Apple is barely scratching out a 20% share of the global smartphone market in terms of units sold.  And this is from Apple running with all cylinders firing and task masters at Foxconn factories whipping workers to churn out as many iPhones as they can.  Okay, minus the whips and the task masters but you still get the point.  Apple took months to meet demand and just as it had, we are now onto the next upgrade mere months away.

Still, all that work and Apple only managed to take one-fifth of the market.  Doomed, many would say.  Well, except for the fact that for every dollar of profit generated, 92 cents of that goes to Apple.  The rest goes to Samsung while others barely break even or are in the red.

Many would like to think that Apple's fortune is the result of Samsung's collapse in the high-end segment of the market but the truth is, Apple's iPhone appeal does not have a single competitor including the Galaxy S6 or the Edge.  Furthermore, this is about Apple's ability to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack as the only company that designed its own hardware and software packed into a beautiful design resulting in an appealing user experience. 

It is not to say that there are no trade-offs - for example, thin design that limit the battery life and Apple's exquisite walled garden but still walled off despite some limited openness recently.  On top of that, Apple's cloud services are still playing catch-ups to Google. 

It will be interesting to see whether Apple can continue its march towards 100% of the smartphone profit.  Personally, as an Apple fan, I'd settle for 95%.  Let's not get too greedy here.  Apple will release the next iPhone in September with innovations that is once again putting more distance between itself and its competitors. 

At this point, only Apple can stop Apple.  That could mean a couple of things.  Apple becoming complacent and loses out to a new competitor.  Not likely under Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.  Or the more likely scenario is that Apple disrupts itself with a new product and this new iDevice (probably not the Apple Watch) and end up cannibalizing iPhone sales.  The latter is the more likely scenario, one that is very scary for others.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Amazon's Predatory Book Practice? Some Wants The Government To Look Into It

Source:  NY Times.

It's ironic that a while back, Amazon requested the Department of Justic to look into possible collusion between Apple and major publishers over pricing and, now, a group representing authors and booksellers are hitting Amazon right back by requesting an inquiry regarding Amazon's possible anti-trust actions.

It really stems from Amazon's battle with publishers that at times become very public with Amazon trying to justify their actions, like removing books from publishers they have contracts disputes with from sale, to the public.  It has not worked out exactly as Amazon had hoped.  It do appear that Amazon usually end up accepting publisher terms.

Still, Amazon's actions do state to the leverage it has in the publishing world and terms it has offered to independent authors. 

One of Amazon's most controverial move is to price its books below market price to drive competitors like Borders out of business.  Even now, Barnes and Noble is barely surviving, having to reinvent itself time and time again.  Meanwhile, Amazon can make up for book losses with sales of other items and its growing businesses else where like cloud storage.

I cannot decide if it's a lawful thing to do:  driving your competiors out of business by lowering prices to destroy their core business and covering the losses with another part of your business.  I do kow that it feel wrong.

Beats 1 Could Be Start of Apple's Attempt To Disrupt More Than Just Music

It's interesting that Apple has supported podcasts and podcasting for years and, without much effort beyond updating the podcast app on iOS, the podcasting community has grown in sophistication and numbers of quality podcasts as well as tens if not millions of listeners.  And now with Beats 1, Apple may well be focusing and evolving at its usual pace when disrupting markets the whole streaming music and podcast market - creating a network not unlike SiriusXM with content that already exist.

In this Macworld post, it focused on how Beats 1 can be the start of something at Apple to take on SiriusXM There have been calls in the past that Apple should buy SiriusXM but I always found that to be a big unlike Apple.  After all, Apple had the podcast app that allowing users to curate podcasts to their own tastes and interests.  And yes, there are music podcasts already.  And more content than even Sirius can hope to have.

There was also a time when it looked like Apple was going to allow users to pay and subscribe to podcasts as well.  While that obviously did not happen, we can look for Apple to possibly create more "stations" or 'channels" along side Beats 1 and allow users to flip through them depending on what they want to listen to.

Also keep in mind that about a year ago, Apple integreated actual radio feeds from ESPN and NPR as well as some local public radio stations into the radio tab of the Music app and it remains there even now.

In response to Macworld's post, Apple does not need to take on SiriusXM directly.  Macworld suggests that while Beats 1 is free but additonal "stations" might not be.  It is debatable whethere they will be based on Apple's own produced shows or content or select podcasters invited to fill time slots that require subscriptions to access them.

Father of Modern Gaming: RIP, Dude!

Satoru Iwata passed away over the weekend.  If you don't know who he is, well, the dude is a giant in modern video games.  He lead the Nintendo to new highs and innovations.  He helped usher in the moble gaming industry that we know of today. Think Wii, Mario, and Pikachu.  That's him.

If it was not for him and Nintendo, gaming on your Androids and iPhones would be vastly different and quite possibly inferior.

Too young at 55.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Apple Music Nothing New (Yet)

I read this Gizmodo post about Apple Music.  Granted that I have not used it yet (waiting for iOS 9 beta to have it next week), when you get rid of the Taylor Swift drama and the will-they-or-won't-they-sign of the indie labels, I'm not sure Apple is offering anything other streaming services do not already have.

There is the Beats One "radio station" that Apple has that no one else does for now.  It could be the first step to something even better.  If Apple Music evolution follows other Apple product improvement, we can see annual improvements up to a point and where it makes sense.

So far, the bar is pretty low given the state of the streaming segment of the music market.  There are plenty of players so it is good to see there are competitors that will continue to push Apple foward.

Once I've gotten a chance to play with it, I will looking into what features I love to see that might be missing or improved.

Using Generative AI Has Given Me A New Appreciation For Siri and Excited For The Future of Apple Intelligence

I used generative AI this week to find the dimensions of a refrigerator based on the model number. I googled first because of muscle memory ...