My Apple Watch after four months: burn, baby, burn!

Much has already been written about the Apple Watch, so I decided to highlight one specific topic.

Medical research in Korea earlier this year confirmed what I already knew: I was overweight and I had to change my lifestyle. I’m an IT Consultant and I do most of my work sitting. So far I tried to get my daily exercise by an occasional visit to the beach or forest in my spare time. With only minimal success, I was hoping the Apple Watch would help out.
End May 2015, after one week with the Apple Watch the Activity app reported:

“Dae, you have successfully reached our daily target to burn 420 calories exactly once during the past week. Would you like to lower your target?”

I really wanted to change my lifestyle and I decided to finally make it happen. I was time for action!

A wise dietician once said: “I you want to lose weight, eat less and work out more”. As simple as that might sound and be, a little help never hurts. Make no mistake: the Apple Watch is not going to do the workout for you – you have to do it yourself. The hardest part in running is the distance between the couch and the front door. Eating less is a matter of habit and perseverance. If you weigh less, working out gets easier and you need less food 🙂

The Watch features an Activity app, displaying three circles: the outer circle (red) shows your daily calories burnt. This is, of course, an estimate. My Fitbit Charge estimates calories burnt solely on the number of steps I’ve taken. The Apple Watch also involves my heart rate and measures the effort it takes for my body (heart) to perform during workout. The slightly smaller circle stands for workout, or intense movement. A simple walk around the block is workout and so is running. There is a list. The inner blue circle reflects every hour of the day in which you have at least stood up for one minute. Apple says sitting is the new cancer. I’m not a scientist, but I can imagine a healthier life standing up every once per hour as opposed to sitting on your lazy butt the whole day. “I’m not going to be told by some stupid watch what to do”, I’ve heard. I decide to just try it an base my opinion on experience.
If you place the three circles on the start screen of your Watch, you can easily keep track of your progress throughout the day. Of course it’s very tempting to close the three circles every day! Afterwards you can use your iPhone to check your progress over time. There are gorgeous graphs, that you can enrich with data from other apps. The Apple Health app ties everything together.

Blue: standing
When the time has come to stand up, your Apple Watch vibrates and reminds you. I admit: at the beginning it’s a bit weird, but you’ll get used to it. I notice I do sit a lot and only when I really focus I can close the blue circle. Of course you cannot stand up in the car, but you might consider stopping over for a quick fuel or toilet break, which will give you the opportunity to stand up for a little while. Remember: this is not just about standing up, but changing your habits. At restaurants, theatres and events it’s easy to identify the Apple Watch owners 🙂
In my office I have a height adjustable desk, that allows my to work sitting or standing.

Green: workout
The green circle stands for 30 minutes of intensive movement every day. I do that without thinking about it, but it does encourage me to do more. This morning I saw I already earned ten minutes of workout, leaving about 20 more for today. During the past weeks I felt really inspired to go running, so I went out for the first kilometres. Before noon I have reached those 30 minutes and the rest of the day is a bonus!

Red: exercise
I started with a daily exercise target of 420 calories. After a few weeks, the Watch asked me to raise to 460 and currently my daily target is 500 calories. I like the tiny increment, although you could manually raise the bar to your own liking. The real challenge is to keep small improvement over time and not revert to old behaviour.

It’s been a while, but I started to enjoy running again. Working out more and eating less has brought me to my weight goal and I still have enough fat margin for face that tough winter (that is never going to come). The Activity app on the Apple Watch is nice and reliable. Cool: during running you can leave your iPhone home and the app will keep track of your steps and burnt calories. Apple advises to bring out your iPhone every now and then to calibrate the process and make it more accurate. I like to see where I ran on a map and the Watch has no GPS, so I’m using Strava and take the iPhone with me around my arm. I’m also using Nike+ and Runtastic Pro. Before leaving the house, I’m starting no less than four activity apps on my tiny Watch screen. Strava, Nike+ and Runtastic Pro automatically pause when you’re not moving or haven’t started moving yet. I’m starting Apple’s Activity app last and I’m stopping it first when I get back. While the Activity app measures your workout, you can see the green light on your wrist, underneath the Watch, which looks super cool in the dark!

Little insights can help you move more. I consciously park my car a bit further away than necessary. This is not a huge deal, but results in a few extra steps per day. If there is an elevator, there must be stairs. Unfortunately the Watch doesn’t keep track of stairs, but my Fitbit Charge still does. Even walking down stairs will give you extra steps. Public transport always results in more exercise than using the car.

Added value
So, what’s the added value of the Apple Watch in this story? I like to start, track and stop those apps around my wrist and not reach for my phone. The Watch gives me a convenient overview of my progress. I’m using my iPhone or laptop for more extensive analysis. It’s a pity Apple has not yet released access to the heart rate monitor to third parties. The non-Apple apps can only track your heart rate using separate Bluetooth monitors or special running watches. I’m hoping this will change soon. watchOS 2 allows app developers to run their app on your watch, instead of your iPhone. Unfortunately not many developers have rewritten their apps, but they will soon. All in all the (current) Apple Watch reality is not shocking, but I can feel the potential of the tiny computer around my wrist. Did you already get one?

The Apple Watch is not a watch (and what it is instead)

On April 10th 2015 Apple started taking preorders for the long awaited Apple Watch! Unfortunately for me, The Netherlands was not on the list yet, but France, Germany and the UK were.

A few years ago, when the Apple TV had not yet been released in The Netherlands, it took me a specially crafted American Apple ID to watch American content. I had to top this American Apple account up with US iTunes gift certificates, because Apple would not take my Dutch creditcard. My US mail address did not help, nor did my PayPal account, because Apple knew the main financial source was The Netherlands instead of the US. Apple has had an extensive history of artificially limiting availability of international products and services.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Apple allowed me to buy an Apple Watch using my Dutch Apple ID. It did have to be shipped to the UK, though.

Instead of ordering one, I could have made an appointment (abroad) to carefully inspect the different models instead. Choosing my model would not be easier with every available model in front of me, so I decided to choose based on the videos and reviews that were available to me. But what did I order? What is the Apple Watch, anyway? To answer that question, let me start by saying what the Apple Watch is not.

The Apple Watch is not a watch. There, I’ve said it! Of course, it is worn around the wrist and it tells the time, but the same goes for my fitness tracker, that I wouldn’t call a watch.

A watch tells the time. Its price varies between several tens and thousands of euros. Within this price range they offer a variety of characteristics. My love for watches began when I was a little boy. My first watches were digital and cheap. As I grew older, my watches became more sophisticated and more expensive. Nowadays, I own several special watches, not to speak of the many watches that are no longer with me. I have always been fascinated by mechanical automatic watches. You can wind them by wearing them around your wrist. In difference to a battery powered quartz watch, its second hand moves fluently in tiny steps, that can hardly be noticed by the human eye. My kintic and solar watches are using a battery to store their energy and their second hands don’t move fluently. The charm of a hand made automatic watch is what watches are all about and the Apple Watch is no watch in that traditional way.

Apple has presented its Watch as a watch, which is very confusing. Its price ranges between $350 and $17,000 for the most expensive model. They are all digital and far from cheap, especially if one considers this is the first model of a brand new concept. Within this price range one can buy many watches of well established manufacturers and proven technology. Watch maker Patek Philippe advertises with the following slogan:

“You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation”.

Herein lies the biggest difference with the Apple Watch. Will the Apple Watch still exist in five years? I think it will, but not in its current shape.

After Apple changed the world forever in 2010 with the iPad, they produced over five models in five years time. Of course, it won’t take longer than a year before they release a new model Apple Watch and my next generation (six year old son) won’t really be interested in the old 1.0 model of 2015. I do still have my first 2010 iPad and I cannot throw it away for sentimental reasons. But it hardly runs any app, although its hardware is fine. The new software won’t run on it anymore, so it has basically become an expensive frisbee. The Apple Watch is heading for the same direction.

With my passion for “real” watches and a very limited product life expectancy of the current model Apple Watch my purchase is doomed for disappointment. I do, however, value continuous improvement over delayed perfection. The perfect model will never be launched and I look forward to witnessing how the Apple Watch will change the world. How it will change my world. So, if the Apple Watch is not a watch, what is it, instead?

I’ll be using the Watch as a fitness tracker, to keep track of my physical activities. My other wrist hosts a Fitbit Charge, which I will continue to use (for now). Fitness wise, Fitbit has been around for much longer than Apple and they offer much more functionality than Apple. The Charge is connected to my weighing scale and it keeps track of my sleeping activity. It automatically registers when and how much I sleep. The Apple Watch, on its turn, has a built-in heart rate sensor, which by itself is not that interesting. We’ll have to wait and see how software will turn this sensor into something that actually has meaning.

The Apple Watch has the potential of being really useful around your wrist, provided it is correctly configured. If your wrist vibrates upon every single email you receive, you’ll go mad in less than a day. I’ll be very selective in which apps I allow access to my wrist. The iPhone supports the use of VIPs, allowing you to select which messages and/or calls you want to receive on your wrist. Tuning these notifications requires granular settings, that should be provided by Apple. This is where Apple can make or break the future of the Apple Watch.

The first information about the Apple Watch mentioned it would not be waterproof. Newer articles mention water resistance instead. Apple’s website states very clear: the Apple Watch is IPX7 rated, which means it can resist water at 1m of depth for thirty minutes without any water getting in. This allows for regular swimming at the surface. I would stay away from diving into sea or even a swimming pool. Fortunate enough IPX7 makes the Watch suitable for regular daily activity, including the shower. I’m very surprised to see a lot of websites with wrong information about this very important subject. Without IPX7 I never would have bought an Apple Watch. When I want to go swimming or diving, I will leave my Apple Watch at home and instead wear a real watch with pleasure.

The Apple Watch can only be used in combination with an iPhone 5 or newer, meaning it is just an expensive iPhone accessory that happens to show you the time! The communication between your Watch and iPhone uses both Bluetooth and WiFi. This means you can have your iPhone charging somewhere at home or in your office and take incoming calls and/or messages on your Apple Watch via WiFi. Taking calls on the Apple Watch uses the built-in speaker, which may not always be desirable with other people around. It’d be interesting to find out whether you could pair your Bluetooth headset with the Apple Watch, which would significantly extend its range.

Apple Pay
I have seen various trendy videos of your people flashing their Apple Watch to pay for stuff. Living in the conservative Netherlands, I don’t expect to see Apple Pay implemented for the near future. Apple Pay might be nice to see some time when traveling abroad, but that would probably require my Dutch Apple ID to be prepared for Apple Pay, too.

Apple was very early to announce its Watch. This has put the market under enormous pressure. Several vendors have tried rushing their smart watches to market, ahead of the Apple Watch. The big difference between their watches and the Apple Watch is in software: apps. Android hardware is not uniform enough to guarantee long term software development. If you develop and app for a particular Android smart watch today, that watch may not be available anymore after a year and hunderds of other Android powered smart watches will have difficulties running your apps due to their differences in hardware. This is where Apple has shown a very different track record in upward compatibility for apps than Android. Apple apps run on hardware that only Apple produces. On iOS, there are no other hardware parties involved, whereas for Android there are many. Hardware develops rapidly, yet the oldest iPhone apps can still run on the newest hardware. I hope that this will be the case for the Apple Watch, too. The first apps for the Watch look very promising, going from newspaper headlines to controlling your lights at home, opening the garage door remotely, monitoring surveillance cameras and scanning the barcode of your boarding pass when boarding a flight. There is a hotel chain that no longer requires its guests to visit the front desk for check in. You can simply use your own Apple Watch to open the door to your hotel room! The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to be amazed by creative apps. The Apple Watch offers software developers the opportunity to show to the world that they mean serious business. Any 2015 app that refuses to benefit from the bigger screen of the iPhone 5, 6 or 6 Plus will be discarded as soon as a competing app does. Users of the Apple Watch will find apps and services that work with their Watch. They will stop using platforms that refuse to play ball.

Many websites are telling you to buy the cheapest model Apple Watch, if you have any doubts. This may sound like a good plan, but even the cheapest Apple Watch isn’t really that cheap anyway. Besides: the cheapest Apple Watch Sport is made of aluminum instead of steel (or gold!), making it less heavy and less strong. Its glass it not sapphire glass and the cheapest model is 38mm, which is not only a smaller display, but it has fewer pixels: 272 x 340 versus 312 x 390 for the 42mm model. My advice: if you are not sure, just don’t buy an Apple Watch and if you feel you want one, you might as well get the model you’d like to wear every day. If you have $17,000 to spend, try to imagine how long this device will stay current. My guess is that the 38mm model is the first to become obsolete. A subset of apps may only be able to run on the 42mm model and history indicates that only few of the software developers will continue supporting every display available, just like the good old days before the launch of the Apple Watch.

Modern hardware keeps amazing me. Apps will continue to define the functionality of that hardware, which to me is a very exciting idea! Of course the English word Watch is not only a noun, but a verb, too. I will definitely be watching my Apple Watch a lot. Apple just should not have called it the Apple Watch, but rather: The Wearable iPhone Accessory That Tells You What Time It Is, Amongst Other Things. That probably won’t fit on the box, but would have saved a lot of discussion 🙂

The future is smart and wearable. Are you getting an Apple Watch, too?

iPad Mini

Today I’m getting my iPad Mini!
There’s a bit of history to my excitement. Initially, I used the Apple Store app on my iPhone 5 to preorder my iPad Mini on October 26th at 08:01. I was abroad for work and I was hoping it would be waiting for me once I got home. Last weekend I checked my order and I saw that Apple wouldn’t ship it until November 14th! With the iPad Mini available in the shops starting November 2nd, I called Apple and canceled my order. Our Apple Store in Amsterdam “had plenty of iPad Minis on stock” so my four year old son and I went to get ours.
The hunt for the iPad Mini
Continue reading

#CitrixSynergy – Day 2

Well, Citrix certainly know how to throw a party! This morning I woke up a little bit later than usual (interesting interhuman after party interaction until 03:00) and just before entering the elevator, the view was a bit foggy:

This is exactly why the first big thing today, the plenary CTO Super Session started at 11:00 🙂
Seven CTOs (Chief Technology Officer – geeks) explained step by step Why The World Needs Citrix (And Cisco) and they managed to do that in a very entertaining way. Some of the presentations had a lot of slides and lots of really small text, but there were enough demos to make it a lot of fun! My personal favorite was, of course, the Kinect Meets GoToMeeting Knight Rider Demo:

LinkedIn tip: If you were here and if you’re on LinkedIn, be sure to tell LinkedIn you were Attending, so the other attendees can find you and you can find them – even after the event! Click here (log in if you have to) and click on the yellow button I’m Attending.

And if you’re after the pictures (and video), here they are: