I Bought an Apple Watch and Returned it

apple watch logo

I was one of those people who pre-ordered the apple watch at 12 am on April 10 and still got the shipping estimate of June. I had bought the Space black stainless steel with link bracelet. It cost a whooping $1195 with taxes here in California and I was praying that it better be god damn good to justify that price. Sadly, it wasn’t. When I got it on June 2nd, after the usual adrenaline rush of unboxing an apple product subsided, and after using it for about a week, I came to the conclusion that this is a product that Steve Jobs would never have let to be launched in its current state. But then again, he let 1st generation iPad to be launched. So I am not sure. Surprisingly, battery is not the problem.

Looks

One of the first things that I noticed is that it does not look as good as Apple shows it in the ads and on apple.com. Those are enlarged and processed images with reflections that make it look like something from out of this world. Turns out, its not. Don’t get me wrong. It still looks awesome and way better than all other smartwatches out there. Just not as good as it looks in official photos. Having spent a huge sum of money based on these images alone (the exact model was not available in the store I went to try it on), I was disappointed.

apple watch

Screen activation

The second thing that bothered me was that the screen won’t activate in a lot of highly probably real world scenarios. I understand that Apple needs to keep the screen off to preserve battery life and activate it when you tilt your wrist. But for me, it did not activate in a lot of scenarios:

  • While biking when I tilt my wrist just a little while still holding the handlebar.
  • When working on a desk (sitting or standing) and I tilt my wrist a little to look at the watch.
  • When my arms are folded and I want to glance at my watch by tilting my wrist a little while still keeping my hands folded.
  • While lying down, playing a game on my iPhone and trying to glance on my watch by tilting the wrist a little.

All the above scenarios are so common that the watch started to annoy me by not working in those. This is when I never look at my watch for finding out the current time. Imagine the horror if I do.

Slowness

I read in the reviews that the watch is very slow. I still wanted to see it for myself what they are talking about. And the reviews are not lying. This is 2015 and you expect a product being launched during this time to be super fast and reliable. Apple is going to allow native apps in the next watchOS. This should have been taken care of at the time of the release. And I don’t even know if its going to solve the problem. The Watch’s processor seemed too slow to me to take the load of what we want it to do. A lot of the widgets crashed for me. That just reflects poor coding. The next release of iOS and watchOS is going to focus on performance and bug fixing. If Apple has to focus a release on performance and bug fixing, that itself is not a good sign. These two things were considered as default in any software that Apple shipped. It just reflects that the leadership team is focussing on aggressively releasing stuff even if it is poor in quality.

Digital Crown

I rarely used the digital crown. I think it is a great invention and incredibly precise and accurate. However, with people used to touching screens so much, the 1st instinct is to always use the screen to scroll or tap buttons. And with Apple’s super accurate touch (and force touch), the digital crown is basically redundant. A problem which arises due to using the touchscreen instead of the digital crown is that you end up smudging the watch screen with your fingerprint a lot. And given that its a tiny screen, the finger prints are far more visible on it than on your phone’s screen.

No use for thumb

The primary finger I use on my iPhone is my thumb. It is also used a lot on my MacBook’s keyboard for hitting the space bar. Unfortunately, the thumb has no use in the apple watch as there is no button on the left side of the watch. Atleast in the orientation I wear my watch (on my left wrist). This left my thumb stranded a lot of times. And its a weird feeling.

Siri

There is no way to correct Siri’s speech to text errors on the watch. With an Indian English accent, its difficult and frustrating a lot of times even with the correct accent selected in your iPhone’s settings. I also noticed that Siri did not have good enough ambient noise cancellation. When outdoors on a busy street, Siri on my Apple Watch continued to listen (the noise) long after I had stopped speaking. The iPhone’s Siri worked perfectly in the same environment. It might be because of the microphone design on the watch, but its super annoying.

Another intermittent issue I faced was that the touchscreen did not register my taps while walking or biking. So if there is an incoming call, tapping on the answer button wont do anything unless you are standing still. It looks like the watch software focuses on preserving the battery and avoiding erroneous taps and inputs which are bordering on some edge cases which need to be perfected and tested thoroughly before it is ready for power users.

There are a lot of good things like seamless handoff, quick replies, health tracking etc., but they were not enough for me to keep the watch. Even the features introduced in the WWDC keynote failed to impress me enough to buy this version again. The apple watch to me, feels like a product rushed to launch before it was ready and I will likely wait until the next iteration(s) to get my hands on one.

Review: Nomad’s Portable Charging Products

nomad-logo-new

We earlier reviewed Nomad’s Chargekey – a key shaped USB lightning charger you can put in your keyring to always have a charger handy. The company – Nomad, has rebranded itself and have come up with an updated version of the Chargekey (now called NomadKey) and 2 new products which they claim are tools meant for the modern nomad. Essentially targeting the segment of customers who are mostly on the go. They sent us a review kit with all 3 of their latest products. I have been using them for the past few weeks and so far, they have proved to be delivering on their promise. Lets look at each one of them.

Nomadkey

nomadkey

The updated version of the ChargeKey (now called NomadKey) now has a metallic USB plug and feels much more robust than its predecessor. It has a super strong and flexible stem which can literally bend in any direction. I tried twisting, turning & bending this thing and it took it all. This image should tell you what this thing is capable of:

nomadkey-flexibility

As you can see, this thing can bend, still charge your device, and retain its shape. That is some serious tensile strength there. The idea behind shaping the charger like a key is that you usually never forget your keyring. So you will always have a charger with you wherever you go. The NomadKey measures 6.6 x 0.5 x 1.9 cm and weighs just 7g. It is also 2.5A ready. So if you have a high speed charger that outputs 2.1A, you can use it with NomadKey to charge your device faster.

The NomadKey is priced at $24.95 (Apple Lightning version) & $19.95 (Micro USB version). You can buy it here.

NomadClip

nomadclip

Carabiners are awesome. They are not just for climbing. They are useful everywhere to hold things. And people use them a lot to hold keys – lots of keys. NomadClip is a carabiner with a hidden USB charging cable. Weighing at 53g, the NomadClip is sized at 8 x 4.2 x 1.3 cm and is 2.5A ready. It is made with some really tough materials and has an amazing build quality. The USB & charging plugs are located on the opposite side of the clip and you have to pull the corners out to reveal them. They are connected via a tough flat cable, so you can move them in case you need to plug them to a recessed port.

Keep in mind that taking out the ports will require some strength. But that’s a good thing considering what this thing is meant for. You do not want to have your USB port pulling out every time your carabiner is dragged against a wall or something. This thing is tough. And thats what makes it awesome.

NomadClip is available in Apple Lightning & Micro USB versions and is priced at $39.95. You can buy one here.

NomadPlus

We have all seen portable chargers. They are battery packs shaped like cigarette lighters or portable USB drives which you have to charge using a USB cable. Most come with a pouch to keep the charger and all the cables together. Nomad has thought out of the box in making their version of the portable charger. Apple’s USB chargers are iconic in shape. You insert your Apple USB charger in the NomadPlus which has an appropriately sized compartment with a male USB port. Once the charger is inserted and flush leveled with NomadPlus, you can plug it in any wall outlet.

nomadplus

The NomadPlus is a 1800mAh portable charger weighing only 60g. Its decently sized with dimensions measuring 5.3 x 5.3 x 3.1cm. Its slightly larger than the Apple Charger that comes with the iPad and outputs 5V/1A. When its plugged into a wall outlet, it charges your device first and then charges itself. When not plugged in, you can use it to charge your device on the go. The Nomad logo next to the USB port doubles up as indicator of the amount of charge remaining in the battery.

Note that NomadPlus is built to house the Apple Charger tightly so that it doesn’t come out accidentally or while pulling out of the wall outlet. This means that its rather difficult to take out once you get it inside. You will need to insert a paper clip in the holes in the pins and then pull it out. In my last few weeks of usage, I have actually never felt the need to take it out. Its overall small size lets you easily carry it around wherever you go.

The NomadPlus is priced at $39.95 and is available here.

Huawei Announces the Best Looking Android Smartwatch Yet

Huawei has announced its Android smartwatch at the Mobile World Congress and it is the best looking android a yet. Huawei claims that they surveyed various potential customers and based on their feedbck of the current smartwatch options in the market, they have come up with one that looks like a luxury watch and caters to what people are looking for in a smartwatch.

The watch has a round display and comes with some beautiful watchfaces which does give it the sophisticated look of a luxury watch. It works with Google Now to let you issue voice commands.

Here is how the watch looks:

huawei-smartwatch

huawei-smartwatch-reminder

Yup that dial is a beautiful watch face rendered on the screen. The watch sports 4GB storage, 512MB RAM and a Qualcomm 1.2 GHz processor.

Here is a video Huwaei has release detailing the design process:

IRCTC Ties Up with Dominos Pizza to Deliver Pizza to Your Train Seat

irctc logodomino-s-pizza

Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has tied up with Domino’s Pizza in India to deliver pizza to your train seat.

The service is being run as a pilot project in 12 Indian cities – Agra, Alwar, Ambala, Jaipur, Jalandhar, Mathura, Muzzafarnagar, New Delhi, Pathankot, Vapi, Bharuch and Vadodara and is only available to passengers travelling in trains which do not have apntry car.

To avail this service, passengers will need to make a meal booking via IRCTC’s e-Catering service (ecatering.irctc.co.in, 1800-1034-139 (Toll-free), 0120-4383892-99 (Toll) or SMS MEAL to 139) using their PNR number. Given that these pizzas have been added as standard menu items to the e-Catering menu, all the standard rules of the e-Catering service apply to this service as well.

IRCTC plans to extend the pizza menu to more cities gradually.

[via BGR India]

Pebble Announces new Smartwatch

 

pebble time

Pebble – the company which built the first usable smartwatch has announced its next flagship product. Pebble Time – a next generation pebble with a colored screen and a redesigned operating system is now available via kickstarter.

Pebble started its journey with a successfully funded kickstarted campaign and has never looked back. They surely did not need another kickstarted campaign to get this project funded, but I guess they did this in nostalgia. The project surpassed its funding goal within 17 minutes of going live on kickstarter.

pebble time - design

The new watch is thiner than its predecessors and has a curved design to better fit on your wrist. It also fits on most 22mm watch bands – so you are not limited to what the company offers.

The new interface follows a timeline approach to display information. You scroll forward or backward in time to get the info you need – whether its that score of the just ended game you want to check or the weather in the city you are traveling tomorrow.

pebble time - colors

The watch will ship in May 2015 at a retail price of $199. Kickstarter backers can get it at a reduced price of $159 (gone as of this writing) and $179 (going fast). There are distributer level tiers also available for anyone who wants to buy them in bulk.

Here is the link to the kickstarter campaign.

Thoughts on Apple Pay

Apple-Pay-icon

Apple Pay is a revolutionary payment system. I have used it a couple of times since it has launched and just love the way it has been implemented. It works just as it was shown in the keynote. You basically bring your iPhone close to the payment terminal which is waiting for payment and your cards stored in the passbook will automagically appear on your screen. If you have your finger already on the Touch ID, it would just go ahead and authorize the payment with your default card. The little chime and a subtle vibration in addition to the short animation on the screen let you know that the payment was authorized.

More and more banks and financial institution have been joining the Apple Pay bandwagon since its launch. Its like the next big thing (pun intended). And Apple’s master plan of letting banks promote the technology is working out well. We see more ads from banks for this thing than we see from Apple. Why? Because its super secure. And all banks want a payment system which is super secure. It will massively cut down on their fraud detection budget. I was impressed to see that every bank has a dedicated Apple Pay helpline to help customers activate their cards over Apple Pay. People say that Apple should have added NFC to previous iPhone versions as well. But if you think about it, they launched the iPhone 5S with just the Touch ID sensor in order to test its usability and gather usage patterns and data. They perfected the key piece of the puzzle before getting into the game.

But Apple Pay is the beginning of what the NFC technology in the iPhone can do. It is going to be the poster boy of what Apple is going to do with NFC, but there are several other awesome things that can be done. Imagine checking into your hotel room from an app on your phone and getting the NFC based soft key delivered to your phone. With contactless locks, you can directly head to your room and open it by just bringing your phone close to the lock. NFC also has massive potential to replace regular cards. Think transit passes and starbucks gift cards. All of these can be stored on your iPhone and used with next gen hardware. And since everything is authorized by your fingerprint, its super secure. And you can certainly rely on Apple to deliver the simplest implementation possible. The mere ability of the phone to wake up and spring up your cards when its brought closer to the payment terminal is the epitome of intuitiveness.

The potential is huge and I am sure a dedicated team of creative + engineering is right now working at Cupertino to design protocols and workflows to make that a reality. This is why Apple is succeeding where other have failed. Apple not only delivered the technology, they also designed a very efficient and secure way to make it work. The Apple Pay system is being praised by various security firms as one of the most secure payment systems yet. If Apple can design systems with the same level of security, efficiency & ease of use for other NFC potentials, the impact is going to be huge.

There are few glitches of course. Like with any new technology, adoption is one of the biggest challenges Apple Pay is facing. And I am not talking about consumer adoption. Apple is covered there. There are enough people in the world now to buy whatever Apple makes and make it a successful product. The real challenge is making merchants to invest in new equipments which support the payment system. Most merchants in the developed countries have the contactless payment enabled terminals installed. But there is still a big chunk of small to medium scale merchants which use the old swipe terminals and will not upgrade unless there is a new regulation in place or they see some irresistible deal which makes the investment worth. I am talking about those neighborhood stores which do not belong to a big chain. These are individually/family owned businesses which form a big part of our daily transactions. Apple is relying on the banks to do this job as well.

Apple Pay is being advertised as a replacement for your wallet. Well, you don’t only keep your money (paper or plastic) in your wallet. There are 10 other things. Granted that those membership cards can be added to Passbook in future and, well, what better place to keep your kids’ photos than an album on your iPhone? But still, think about payment transactions in places like restaurants & gas stations. Not all restaurants have those fancy wireless payment terminals which the waiters can carry to your desk (although they are becoming increasingly popular in countries where EMV chip based cards are mandated). Also, mobile phones are generally not encouraged to be used at gas stations as the batteries can ignite the fumes coming out of gasoline. And what about those quarters you keep to pay for street parking? Not all cities have meters with card readers, much less contactless card readers.

But even with all these hiccups, Apple Pay is going to succeed and is here to stay. Even if Apple does not come up with any of the other NFC based use cases, it is still a super awesome contactless payment system which will give you a short adrenaline kick every time you use it. And that’s what we live for, right?

Online Reservation Now Available for Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum

The Rashtrapati Bhavam Museum in India is now offering online reservation for booking tickets in advance. The ticket prices starts from INR 25 per visitor. There are discounted rates for larger groups and school children. Also, accompanying children under 12 years of age enter free.

The reservation system uses a SBI payment gateway to process the payment. You can reserve your tickets here: https://presidentofindia.gov.in/rbvisit/rb-visit_booking_status_museum.aspx

How to Fix no Audio Issues with FaceTime Video on iPhone 6

iphone 6 back

If you are making a FaceTime call on your brand new iPhone 6, and the other party is not able to hear you properly, it is quite likely that you have not taken the plastic wrap off the phone. The noise cancellation microphone between the camera and the flash is covered with the plastic wrap on a new iPhone 6. This causes the iPhone’s noise canceling algorithm to malfunction when you make a FaceTime call (or any call with the speakerphone on).
In order to fix this issue, just take the plastic wrap off, or, if you don’t want to take it off until you get a case (totally understandable), use a sharp pin (very carefully) to punch some holes in the plastic wrap over the microphone. This should not obstruct any audio waves from entering the microphone and the noise canceling algorithm can do its magic.

Contract Free iPhone 6 is Factory Unlocked

iphone 6

This year, Apple is selling a contract free iPhone 6 from day 1 of its launch in the US. This contract free iPhone comes bundled with a T mobile sim card which is creating a lot of confusion about whether the phone will be locked to the T mobile network. Apple support executives are further adding to the confusion by saying that only T mobile customer care can confirm this. And T mobile reps say that one has to get unlock codes from them to unlock the any phone on their network, however, they are not 100% sure about the iPhone 6.

I bought a contract free T mobile iPhone 6 on launch day and have tested it on Straighttalk wireless in the US. Well, technically its the AT&T network as I have an AT&T compatible sim from Straighttalk. The contract free (T mobile) iPhone 6 works perfectly fine out of the box on the AT&T network. So if you are looking for a factory unlocked iPhone 6, go for the contract free T mobile version from the Apple online store or the Apple retail store. We are still not sure if the contract free ones being sold at the T mobile stores are unlocked or not. They should ideally be unlocked too, given that you are paying full non-subsidized price for them. However, to be safer, if you want an unlocked iPhone 6, get the contract free T mobile version from the Apple online store or the Apple retain store.

This is the Apple Watch

apple watch logo

In addition to launching the iPhone 6, Apple also introduced its brand new product line – the Apple Watch.

apple watch

The Apple watch is a wearable device which comes in 2 sizes – 38mm and 42mm. The crown, or as apple calls it – digital crown, is the new way of interacting with the watch without blocking the screen. The watch also offers a touch screen – so don’t worry, you are covered there. The touch screen is an advanced capacitive & resistive screen which can differentiate between a tap and a press. So you can use different modes for different actions.

apple watch straps

In addition to offering various watch faces, the watch will be capable of making and receiving phone calls, Sending and receiving text messages & providing some Siri functions. Apple has also built in an intelligent algorithm that can figure out the message context and give you pre-populated replies to tap onto instead of having to type them in – which is really cool.

The watch also features something called as Digital Touch which allows you to communicate with your selective friends in weird new ways. You can read more about them here.

apple watch sensors

The watch is also an always on fitness monitor with various sensors on the back that monitor your heartbeat. Coupled with the inbuilt accelerometer and GPS and WiFi from an iPhone, it can record various types of physical activity data that you can use to track your fitness activities. There are various fitness apps that will be available on the watch for all kinds of users.

The watch will also be able to give you a tactile feedback similar to a tap on your wrist. And there can be different types of taps for different types of notifications. This is going to be great as we definitely need some filtering when notifications are coming to our wrists.

In addition to the above features, the watch will also support the Apple Pay features and you can do merchant transactions by brining your watch closer to the mobile enabled merchant terminals.

The Apple Watch will be available in early 2015 at a starting price of $349. At this entry price, it is certainly going to be a premium product, however, it does look like the first smart watch which seems to have understood the concept of how smart watches should work. In Tim Cook’s words – we have not shrunk an iPhone into a watch. This is really important as no one wants to interact with their watches (or fitness trackers) the way they interact with their phones. A new, innovative way to interact with such devices was needed and the digital crown coupled with the advanced touchscreen seems to be the right way to do it. 

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