Tag Archives: App Store

WWDC 2015: Key Takeaways from the Big Event!

WWDC-2015-invitation

Aside from Apple’s hardware unveiling events, the World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) is the big event for Apple. Their pretty hardware can woo all the customers they want but if the software powering them is poor then those products lose the buzz normally attached to carrying an Apple product.

With that said, Apple certainly came into 2015 needing some good answers in response to hard hitting questions like iOS 8’s shoddiness, music streaming dominating the audio listening landscape and the Apple Watch. They did answer a few questions and this article will look at how effective those answers were, particularly for the three big topics of the day.

I Promise... to not suck like last time
I Promise… to not suck like last time

Apple’s iOS 8 was, from personal experience, the most buggy mobile OS Apple has ever released. From lazy native app resizing to apps closing to transitions taking ages (for an Apple software release), iOS 8 felt like the numerous additions were finally taking their toll on the hardware. In a world where most flagships have 2gb/3gb RAM, Apple has stuck with 1gb but it was okay because of how iOS ran. 2014 proved different so it was positive news for me to hear that iOS 9’s core mission to run smoother and faster than last year and to also run on older hardware exactly like it runs on new hardware (some feature being removed based on hardware limitations of course). Microsoft has aimed to do this and succeeded with Windows Phone for years, so it can be done. Microsoft also has experience in releasing a flop OS (Vista) but managed to win customers over with the follow up so here’s hoping Apple can do the same. Other features like Maps, News, Apple Pay and multi-tasking on the iPad are areas where Apple has managed to catch up to the competition or improve an experience which is usually neglected like News. Formally Newsstand, it has a special place in my ‘Apple Shite’ folder however Apple showed off an app which could streamline my news reading experience instead of having 4-5 apps doing the same job. Good on them for that. Maps gets Transit information that nearly every other platform has had for years (better late than never) but an update is an update. Great.

Regarding productivity over consumption, multi-tasking on the iPad is so overdue. Windows has shown how to do multistasking on tablet/hybrids with Windows 8 and for all its critics, has been the market leader in allowing users to properly multi-task on a computer. Apple’s multi-tasking is not that deep, probably due to the hardware constraints, and instead takes the approach that Samsung takes with its Android tablets and phablets by allowing two apps to be placed side by side and used at the same time. People will mock as usual but if it’s a useful feature, there’s no shame in ‘borrowing’ it to improve an experience on your own platform.

Hello... Rest of the World!

With Google unveiling their Android Pay service and promising to release it worldwide, this was something that had to be echoed by Apple. Already having a reputation for not providing certain services worldwide like iTunes Radio, Apple Pay coming to the UK is huge news (for us here at least) and some of the services being offered here are great too. Paying for transport in London via Apple Pay is a brilliant move and partnering up with multiple banks and thousands of outlets ensures that this won’t be another Ping. On top of that, syncing with the Passbook app on the iPhone means another bit of bloatware gets used which is a good thing because you can’t delete the damn thing!

Watch OS 2
Watch OS 2

The latest update for the Apple Watch brought a faster OS that is said to be less buggy and more feature packed. Bringing in customisable watchfaces, permissions to use the microphone and accelerometer for speech and more accurate health/fitness data and finally, proper app support for the Apple Watch rather than glorified app extensions taking its sweet time to stream on your Watch from your iPhone. Does this make me want to buy an Apple Watch? Nope. I would still recommend waiting for the next generation Apple Watch and also keep an eye out for Google’s inevitable ‘Android Wear on iOS’ bombshell which will open up a massive range of smartwatches to iOS. In fact, Android Wear has shown that it is worthwhile waiting a few months to allow a platform to mature, just look at the first Wear watches compared to the most recent… it is night and day folks.

Spoti-what?
Spoti-what?

And last but not least, Apple’s competitor to the various music streaming services on the market was unveiled. On the outset, it isn’t much different than its competition with its vast library and price (note… there is not a ad-supported option). Where it does differ is how the content is presented. Drake came out to showcase iTunes Connect, a Soundcloud competitor if you will, showcasing an insight to artists music creating process. I think this has potential to take off if it means Apple Music subscribers get bonus singles, acapella recordings, ideas that artists are coming up with when creating their new album and so on but time will tell. Most of the attention was given to Beats 1, Apple’s worldwide radio station where artists and radio personalities like Zane Lowe, The Weeknd and Drake will provide curated playlists, personally created by themselves. To be honest, it sounds a little gimmicky to me and also forced. Curated playlists like those created by Spotify where the songs liked by the users are used as data to smart engineer a playlist feel much more personal to me and constantly evolving too, in line with tastes in music. Fixed playlists seems a little counter intuitive when a user could easily just make a playlist themselves but time will tell. Overall, as a service it looks like a solid option and a 3 month trial is ample time to make a decision on a service. It could’ve been worse (looking at you Tidal).

What are your thoughts on WWDC 2015, mainly regarding these issues? Has Apple missed a trick somewhere? Feedback is appreciated through the usual channels.

 

Withings: Smart Body Analyzer, Pulse and Health Mate App

Gyms are not me, treadmills are not me, spinning is the work of satan and I hate Gym Nazis. OK, so I will admit that when I was once a member of a Gym I used to totally cane it on a cross trainer for about an hours worth of a Hed Kandi or a trance album.  However, in recent years and a move away from the only Gym I ever liked, the only thing I have remotely used to track my health was a pair of analogue scales and recording my weight on the Weighbot app which  while functional did not really add anything to my overall desire to be more healthy.

Now here is where I make a distinction. There is a difference between being fit and being healthy. Fit is when you are capable of enduring runs and marathons and uber sessions in a spinning class and being healthy means being in control of your body, knowing what you put in and generally sorting yourself out before your GP (health practitioner) tells you to sort your shit out.

Partly through getting married and partly because my 11 year old daughter looked at me one day and informed me I had moobs, was a sure way to make me kick start a healthier lifestyle. Certainly hitting 40 puts things into perspective particularly as you realise gravity is a burdensome bitch that adds its own influence on how you look. Realising that perhaps I should get healthier I started to look at what was out in the market. Certainly Nike fuleband and the Fitbit were big names but to me they were aimed at the fitness market rather than the more mundane healthier market. To this day I am still not sure how the name Withings popped onto my radar but certainly Amazon fuelled the purchase of the Withings Smart Body Analyser. Now at roughly £120 its not something that you buy and then toss aside without a second thought, its a purchase that shows and warrants intent.

To anyone who has visited an Apple store it makes perfect sense that Withings products are sold there. Design is a key component of Withings and really thats ‘beautiful design’ in the Apple scale of producing and boxing products. Arriving from Amazon the analyser was in their generic cardboard box but on opening it I was presented with a white slim box with coloured parts to it that are infact reminiscent of iOS 7 and their colour scheme.

IMG_4252As the box shows, the analyser is tied heavily into the app and while it shouts out its an iOS app its also a quieter android app too. I guess the loud dominance of the iOS app is part of the reason Withings features in the Apple retail stores.

The packaging is well thought out, and there is clear definition of what the analyser can do for you from the minute you get it out of the box but again the back makes an overture to iOS fans and iPhone owners.IMG_4253

What you get straight out of the box is a quick start guide and the analyser held in a soft plastic bag. For anyone who has ever opened an iPad box the reveal of the analyser is very reminiscent.

One thing I will say though is that the analyser is quite pointless without the app and the app is really the hub of information and the point of which the analyser communicates to the phone over the wireless network. IMG_4254

The quick set up guide is very much that, a quick seamless setup that allows for you to name who you are and setup the first session on it so it recognises you.  From here other family members can step on and use the app on their own device to set themselves up and the analyser from then on knows (through some technical wizardry) who is stepping on.  What happens when two or more family members are the same weight I don’t know and there is no mention in the set up guide as to any issues that this may create.

English: The WiFi Withings Bodyscale
The WiFi Withings Bodyscale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What also makes you want to come back to the analyser on a daily basis is its sure beauty in its design, its a blue/black square of succinct gorgeousness with the cross of lighter grey cantering out of the middle silver disc.  At the top of the analyser (the word scale is really doing it a disservice) is the LCD panel that shows the readings of weight, fat %, BMI, the average temperature and Co2 quality of the room that the analyser is based in. It now also tells the weather for the forthcoming day. Yes I had to put a question out on twitter to Withings to find out why a picture of an umbrella with falling rain onto it had appeared on the screen. Firmware updates are brilliant but on a smart body analyser on seeing an umbrella and rain made me panic thinking it was foreboding my own funeral given the state of my body. I am grateful that they were quick to respond telling me that they had updated the analyser and this was a new feature.

The main part of the analyser is the app with its 4 points looking like a butterfly showing how well your health is doing. IMG_4255The aim is to fill the wings as much a possible and as the picture shows I was measuring my heart enough, sleeping almost enough, maintaining my weight but clearly being a lazy bugger and not being active enough. However, here is the thing, the analyser only tells you your heart rate and weight and fat mass %/BMI to get the most of the app and sleep tracking and better activity measurement you do need to buy the Pulse but more of that later. What I should also point out is that while there is the app the information is also available on a web based dashboard that does allow for deeper analysis of your health. What is also a brilliant feature is that Withings have made the Health Mate accessible to other health tracking apps, so for instance you can add runkeeper and myfitnesspal information to the mix that shape the information you provide to gain a better overview of activity and nutrition. The latest update to the app now takes advantage of the (2.1) iPhone 5s M7 coprocessor so if you do not have the pulse there is now an alternative to tracking activity by using the app itself.

IMG_4201

So lets be clear, the picture on the left is not a regular occurrence for me. This analysis was based on one day of my stag weekend at the DGTL dance festival in Amsterdam. I burnt a total of 2,826 calories that day so screw you spinning classes!!

But it shows the level of data that the app holds, based on daily, weekly and monthly totals with options to see the information in the app as a dashboard for the latest information and a timeline for larger historical data too.

I’m impressed both with the analyser and the app, with the app now moved out of a health folder and placed onto the home screen of my iPhone. Using the analyser and the app has helped me lose just under 9lbs since February 2014 and I am far more aware of what is good and bad for my body and what I need to do to maintain the healthier lifestyle that I have developed.

This high level of satisfaction with Withings meant I again turned to Amazon and for £79 I happily bought the Pulse which now through a firmware update has been relaunched as the Pulse O2 as it now not only tracks:

  • Activity – both moderate walking and running paces
  • Heart rate and now Blood Oxygen levels (hence the O2 name)
  • Sleep:
        • How long it takes to fall asleep.
        • How many times you wake up.
        • Length of time in light and deep sleep.

Once again too the packing is gorgeous and praise goes out once again to their design team.

IMG_3921Note that they don’t ram anything down your throats, the suggestion is subtle to track and improve your activity, sleep and heart rate. Its not telling you to get out there and run until you fall down or throw up. It is as I said at the start more concerned with your overall health as opposed to being a fitness tool.

Information is very clear on the box and the clarity and succinctness that was seen on the analyser box is seen here on the Pulse too.

IMG_3923

The app once more features heavily and the Pulse connects to the app via bluetooth. Charging the Pulse is via micro USB and the charge lasts for around 3 weeks. Out of the box, you get the Pulse, a rubbery clip that you can slide the Pulse into and then attach to your clothing for daytime monitoring and then at night there is a soft wrist strap that you slot the Pulse into and then attaches around your wrist via a velcro grip.

Thankfully the Pulse is light and does not feel uncomfortable to wear and is largely unnoticeable during the day but at night if you are not used to wearing anything like this at night then it does take some time getting used to.IMG_3959

The back of the strap has a small gap to it that allows for the sensors to do what they do during the night and I presume they activate to measure your levels of sleep by having the sensor measure your blood flow or something like this. Granted this is not a scientific explanation but really there has to be a reason for why the strap on the side that touches your body has the gap in it.

IMG_3960

Its also a lovely shade of orange which against the black other side shows a nice design cue.

The Pulse O2 also sports a touch sensitive strip with a green OLED display that is response but you need to press the physical button on the top right to cycle through the sections, which at times can be a slight pain if you want to check the time or the battery condition. This here is the slight oddity with the Pulse as Withings has recently introduced a watch strap accessory to add to the clip, and wrist strap.  Now for €12 it is a no brainer to include this into your Withings based life, but its not a smart watch and to get to the watch function is more than three clicks away. The other small gripe I have is that on the website there is only the blue and black plastic strap shown, yet in the promotional video that CNET have below there is what looks like a red tan leather stap that does look more stylish than the plastic one.Withings_Store

Certainly the new strap does bring the Pulse O2 into the wearable tech category but its more of a very clever and advanced fitbit than a pure smart wearable accessory.

I’m not alone in loving this device as CNET Top 5 gave the Pulse O2 the number one spot in their review of fitness trackers (yes I know the f word is used here but even Withings make more reference to health than the f one).

In conclusion, if you are after a fully fledged health companion to your busy or moderate life then the Withings Smart body Analyser, Pulse O2 and companion Health Mate app are highly recommended and when used in conjunction with other apps can make a difference to a healthier lifestyle.

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