Why the Apple Watch Fails

jar-jar watch

I looked forward to the relaese of the Apple Watch about as much as I looked  forward to George Lucas’ Phantom Menace. Both from companies that could do no wrong. Well, OK, there may have been a few misfires like Howard the Duck or the Mac Cube, but overall the products were good. Really good. Seeing the iPhone 4’s retina display for the first time was akin to seeing Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer coming onscreen for the first time after the opening credits. Breathtaking. There was never anything like it. The iPhone 4’s screen suddenly made every other screen look fuzzy and pixleated and Star Wars made every other Science Fiction movie look like their special effects department just weren’t trying hard enough.

Was there any of this wonder with the Apple Watch? I don’t think so. Oh sure it was polished. Polished like the Phantom Menace. The spaceships were all chromed and gleaming and Siri looked better than ever. But there was no heart. Despite the years of technological advances between  the two movies, a Bluray of the Phantom Menace just wasn’t better than an old VHS copy of Star Wars. I know which I’d pick if I were on a deserted island planet. Similarly, I’m here to tell you that a lowly iPod nano from from 2011, used as a watch, has more going for it than a modern Apple Watch from the same company. This comparison can be made because of the existance of awesome watch straps from iWatchz (now Kubxlab). They turn the 6th gen iPod nano into something that looks like a top-tier modern smart watch. Just look at the photo below.

nano plus band
iPod nano with ceramic wrist strap

Now let’s talk price. The nano plus strap is cheaper. The only problem is that Apple has stopped selling this model and has replaced it with a nano twice as big (ironic for something called a “nano”) – perhaps so it wouldn’t compete with its new watch.

nano 6th gen and not-so-nano 7th gen

But even when combined with the most expensive iWatch strap Apple used to sell in their stores, the package was less expensive than the Apple Watch is today. Although now long gone from their stores, there is always eBay.

Battery life? Nano wins hands down. According to Apple, you can play music on it for 24 hours straight before depleting the battery. The Apple Watch? Just 6.5 hours. In practice, I can go close to a week before my nano needs a charge. And it doesn’t deplete precious battery power from my iPhone either. Storage? The nano on my wrist has 16GB, the Apple watch? Only 8GB. And you can’t use the 8GB any way you like either. Want to fill it with music? Apple only lets you use 2GB for that. Which watch is thinner? The nano. Less likely to get snagged by a shirtsleeve.

fat watch
Apple Watch – Ironically, could use a workout

I could go on – the nano’s clip makes it extremely easy to snap new watchstraps on, the charging solution is much smaller for the nano – great for trips – and on and on.

But here’s the thing, I actually use my Apple nano watch for HOURS a week becasue it actually does something COMPLIMENTARY to my iPhone. The Apple Watch just duplicates the features of my iPhone in an inferior way. Why did I buy an iPhone 6 with such a great screen if I’m just going to keep it in my pocket and look at a postage stamp sized version instead. I’d rather look at a list of notifications all at once on a nice big screen than scroll through them while looking througha virtual pinhole. To be fair, there’s one feature of the Apple Watch I could see being useful to an iPhone 5 user – the NFC tap-to-pay ability of the watch.

Credit Card Sticker
Credit Card Sticker on Phone. Works even when the phone runs out of juice.

I probably could take the Mastercard tap-to-pay sticker I keep on my iPhone 6 and attach it to my iPod nano to do the same, but I’m happy to keep it on my phone for now (Why do I use the sticker instead of the Apple Pay on my iPhone 6 you may ask? Well, my Canadian bank doesnt allow its Mastercard to be linked with Apple Pay, so I just use their sticker instead. One benefit is that even if my iPhone’s battery runs out, I can still use it to pay.)

But I digress. Aside from the battery life, thinness, price and storage advantages of the nano, its raison d’etre for me is its unparalleled ability to play podcasts and audiobooks for hours at a time without affecting the battery life of my phone. If I played the same content on my phone, I know it would take a major hit to its battery level. If I played the content from the watch, I would ALSO use up battery life on my phone by streaming from it to the watch since there is not much storage on the watch itself for audio as mentioned above. Listening on the Apple watch is not very energy efficient either, since it only has about 1/4 of the battery life to play audio as compared to the nano – i.e. it burns through its battery life 4 times quicker than the nano and then if you add the power needed to receive the stream from the phone, that battery depletion increases even more and if you use a blutooth headphone, there is the power needed to power those as well! Not very environmentally friendly Apple. On my nano watch, I just plug in a small set of earbuds and that’s it! I’m set for 24 hours if I wanted to, with no worry about my phone’s battery.

So why am I comparing the Apple Watch to a product four years older from the same company? To show that they should and could have done better.

Google Loses its Halo

I bought a Google Nexus Player set-top box and now I hate Google. Why? Because Google no longer cares about its customers. Well, I don’t know if they ever did, but now they aren’t even pretending to. For a few days my Nexus Player was awesome. The included remote with built-in microphone was just what I wanted. It performed just as advertised. My 2 three year old twins loved being able to search Youtube for  for “Peppa Pig”, “Paw Patrol”or “Solar System Song” and I was happy to look up stuff without having to resort to a clunky onscreen keyboard. It had some quirks, like not being able to display the weather in Celcius but I forgave them and figured they’d iron out the wrinkles soon enough. But then voice search stopped working. And now many months later, it still does not work. Oh sure I looked up the issue online and found countless others with the exact same problem, but strangley, no word from Google. The online community had narrowed down the problem to an update that broke the voice search. Rolling the app back to the previous version fixed the issue, thus showing that it wasn’t a harware problem. It seemed to be an easy fix for Google since all they had to do was reissue the old version with a newer version number and all would be good. Or they could spend some of their billions of dollars to pay an engineer for a few hours of time to fix the issue more properly. But guess what? Google forced an update of the OS to all Nexus Players with no option for the customer to refuse it. And did the update fix the issue? No, and even worse, now there was no longer a way to roll the software back to a working version. Now there wasn’t even a hack available to keep the device operating. Google remained silent on the issue, not worried about how this might tarnish their image. I phoned Google’s tech support and they offered to exchange the device for a new one. I explained that it wouln’t fix anything since it’s a software issue, but, of course, Google’s tech support is no better than Comcast’s or ATT and I got nowhere. Somehow they were not aware of this issue even though it has existed for months. Here are some quotes from one forum on the issue:

  1. Same Issue here. Doesn’t execute the search after voice input. Why is this taking so long.
  2. Nexus Player is great except for this glaring issue google help
  3. I have the same problem, i cant use the voice search with android 6.0
  4. Just purchased a new Nexus Player, updated to 6.0 straight away, voice commands don’t work. Microphone is fine, and the input registers on the search bar, but no results are shown.
  5. Google won’t even say “we’re working on it”
  6. Same here. When I tried voice search, words are shown on screen, but it does not search. Will google fix the bug in next update?
  7. My Nexus player updated and Google voice stop working as well
  8. I brought a nexus player about a week ago and it immediately updated out of the nox to 6.0 and the search has never worked from new. Has anyone resolved this issue?
  9. Scary part of all of this is that Google is a software company, a company that is testing autonomous vehicles driven by software in the real world where mistakes could mean real lives. But they can’t fix or put out proper software in the first place for a media player, makes me suspicious of what they can do properly… It’s the very trust that they are breaking now that they will need in the future for their big products. They underestimate the impact this issue has on their brand and their trust relationship with the public.

And on and on and on for months. You can see https://productforums.google.com/forum/m/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=footer#!msg/nexus/tAp7UyevToU/8PaBSvdbAAAJ for more.

So would I buy a Google Nexus self-driving car? Like the poster of point 9 above so elquently stated, They are breaking their trust. This is not free ad-supported beta software we are talking about here. This is Google branded hardware that customers have paid real money for. I loved my Nexus 7 tablets (I bought both iterations) and I loved my Nexus Player for a few days when it still worked. But my trust in Google is gone. They took $100 out of my wallet refuse to give it back. Not even a “sorry” for the trouble. You know what Google, or Alphabet or whatever the heck you decided to call yourself today? I’m no longer going to recommend gmail for my non-techie friends. Outlook.com is looking pretty good last time I checked. And next time someone brings up autonomous vehicles at a party, you know what I’m going to bring up? Yeah, you bet I’m going to bring up your microphone “update” I wouldn’t trust you with my life. Not anymore.

Origins of the Apple Watch and Android Wear

Apple didn’t invent the smart watch. Neither did Google. In fact, before the the Moto 360, before Samsung started turning its Gears, before any Android Wear devices were even a gleam in  Larry Page’s eye, go back a year. No, make that 10 years and you’ll see Bill Gates on stage showing off his SPOT Watch running a Microsoft OS. 

It was quite amazing for the time (no pun intended) and, in many ways, was more advanced than what’s available today. Don’t belive it? Well, think about this – when was the last time you flew in a supersonic jet? Oh that’s right never. The past called and woukd like to point out that at least it had the Concorde. Sure, you had to be rich to afford it, but at least the past had a plane that could travel from New York to London in 3 hours. The present? Not so much. Travel to the moon lately? No, it was more of a 60s thing. Get the picture? The SPOT watch was ALWAYS on – no flicking your wrist required just to see the time. No dimming of the screen to save batteries. Just always on. You know – like a watch. Was it connected to the internet? Yup. But you didn’t need to keep a bluetooth connection to a phone in your pocket. You didn’t need to worry whether you had an iPhone, Android or, heaven forbid, Windows phone. You didn’t need to be in WiFi range. It would just work. Well OK, as long as you were in a decent sized city in North America. Why? Because the internet was brought to you via radio waves. FM radio to be precise. Inside each SPOT watch was a little FM tuner receiving data transmitted from local radio stations to your watch.

To be continued…