Tag Archives: IOS

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.

 

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Episode 37 – We are back

Apple_-_iPhone_6 2

So I got the iPhone 6 two hours before leaving for the airport for my honeymoon. Two hours was not enough to set up a new phone from the old backup from the 5. For two weeks limped through a Mexican beach resort with a phone desperately trying to update itsself over free hotel wi-fi.

Listen to the woeful tale and more as we return to the pod after a long break.

Episode 30 – What’s up with Microsoft?

Microsoft that giant of the tech world appears to be having a case of the wobbles which has not been seen by any of the big players in the tech arena.

First up is the job cuts, the huge ranging slice across the bow of employment with around 18,000 jobs going. Not fully unexpected as with the takeover of Nokia, some jobs were bound to go but this amount was something of a shock particularly as it was the largest amount of job cuts in the history of the company.

Secondly was the closure of the Xbox Entertainment studios, which rumour had prevailed that the studios was disorganised and had no real structure. Coupled with a supposed lack of strategy that could not compete with Netflix as it wanted it’s originals series to push the hardware side of the business.

Change, change and more change

Ok!so fairly straightforward business decisions you may think. But lets look closer at what we, as a consumer driven tech blog see. The Xbox One launched to major derision and immediately Microsoft back peddled away from the negativity and rapidly changed its mind over the price and the always online requirement. Almost a year later they strip off the paywall feature that had Skype locked behind it to name but one point. Change, change and more change to decisions that a tech giant has put in place is something quite shocking and not really seen before. The Entertainment studios get canned before they have really had a chance to produce anything is more of example of panic almost being written into the DNA of the Microsoft.

Its is genuinely hard to think of Apple, Google, Samsung or even Amazon (make a profit quick, please) rushing to market without being really sure of themselves or even panicking at the launch and then changing their minds and products to satisfy the market. And here is the thing that I firmly believe. Consumers, like wild animals sniff out and support the strongest company/pride member and similarly no wild animal or human would support the weaker part of the pride or a company.

Microsoft is showing weakness

Microsoft by showing its weakness to make good decisions or even adhere to the ones they have made is not good for the company and they really do need to buck their ideas up fast. The days of there being no alternative to them are long gone and they cannot simply rely on the existing behaviour of the market to allow them to continue. Consumers will remember that it was Microsoft that brought Vista and Windows 8 to the table and that the bad experience was their fault.

Microsoft too seem to have forgotten that we are part of a consumer society now and its not all business and enterprise. Their new ads in the UK centre around the windows phone and its function within a business for the man that set up own company.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world IBM has got the hint and the scent of weakness and has rocked up to the Apple camp to make enterprise apps for iOS. No mention of the Mac in this deal? no of course not, Apple does not need to worry about this as the plan to work with IBM is genius and a very shrewd one and shows that Tim Cook knows how to run a business.

Tim Cook knows how to run a business

Let me explain my thought. Here I am writing this up on a Macbook Air the latest Apple purchase of a journey that started with the iPod, to the iPod touch and 3 generations of iPhone and 2 iPads led me to the Air. Why? Simple, its the ease with which they all operate together and with Yosemite later in the year it will get even easier and it’s this which I am thinking Apple are banking on. In enterprise, directors and managers are the consumers of the IT department. Supply these people and the rest of the staff with iPhones and iPads and assist with enterprise apps that have the IBM and Apple seal of goodness then it makes very little sense for these people to return to a Windows PC. Microsoft had better wake up soon as its crazy panic laden decisions are not helping it to react to genuine threats like this. Office is the tool which drives business but with Microsoft writing Office for the Mac and iOS are they really writing their own swangsong?

Would Gates and Ballmer have allowed this?

This is not what I would have expected from the Gates and Ballmer era of Microsoft and the speed with which Microsoft seems to be unravelling is quite shocking. Businesses grow by making a decision and running with it. Look at the speed with which Netflix has grown and to an extent the way Apple has made itself one of the largest profitable companies ever when prior to the iPod it was close to bankruptcy.  Google is now synonymous with search and the term Bing is not likely to soon replace it. Companies are made strong by the decisions they make and stick to. Evolve a product but don’t publicly panic to negative social media. Microsoft, we need you as a player for competition sake, but come on get out of this funk you clearly are in at the moment.

Hear our debate on the latest pod

Episode 30

 

 

Debate is what we would love to hear from you so please feel free to drop your own comments here.

Episode 29 – The one in which I may go a bit ranty over the BBC iplayer

Ok so one thing we do not have in the UK is much of a competitive market when it comes to TV suppliers and the cord argument does not really apply here. Hell,one of our major suppliers is Sky, the satellite broadcaster so I’m not even sure if that counts as even being able to cut the cord.

However, there is a growing global trend of traditional media delivery systems as coming under threat and the term cord cutting has crossed the Atlantic from the states, but to many has little relevance. Certainly what we are watching with interest is the updated argument of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Netflix is blamed by Verizon for hogging the bandwidth, yet Netflix

counter argues that its the networks that are shit and they are the ones to blame for the awful connection quality. Clearly I paraphrase, although it would be great to hear major companies bandy the odd swear around an argument now and again.

http://www.theverge.com/2014/7/17/5913291/level-3-verizon-congestion-netflix

So in this week we debate the issue and what goes on around the world and what happens here in the UK. It was here that I stumbled and hit the rant button as the argument the BBC has over why the iplayer cannot go on the Apple TV is an argument that you could steer the largest American aircraft carrier through.

Let me explain: The argument cited by the BBC’s Chris Yanda as to why they went Chromecast, and not Apple TV goes like this

One of the reasons we decided to support Chromecast was that Apple TV currently works only with Apple devices. Chromecast has SDKs available for a number of different platforms including iOS, Android, and the Chrome browser for laptop and desktop computers.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!! Of FFS Chris, your logic to this argument would go like this in the boardroom. “Er! Sorry folks we cannot have the iplayer app running on iOS as that system only works on iPhones and iPads” You total dick Chris! Any child would look at the iplayer app and then correctly attest that you are wrong and clearly the wrong man for the job if you can place an ill judged argument into the media like that.

Oh and for those outside of the UK let me share some info for you. The BBC within the last year, in a bid to become more youth friendly decided to cancel an entire channel. Yes thats right you heard me, an entire channel and not just a show. BBC3 to be canned and moved to the internet. The decision to do with moving this entire channel and its shows to the iplayer where people can watch what they want,when they want and not be concerned when a show is on.  Thus but leaving it off the Apple TV, the lovely Beeb has managed to snaffoo a section of the potential audience. Honestly, I could run the place better than these over payed prats.

Anynoo, this resulted in an off kilter rant which you can all listen to here:

Episode 29:

We hope you enjoy the podcast and blog and love seeing how many people around the worldview the blog. And, because we are rather happy with you all you get the pod tonight whereas the rest of the world will be getting it tomorrow morning.

Don’t be shy and feel free to comment.

 

Episode 25- WWDC14

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WWDC14 is now over and it truly was the developers time, all software and no hardware and not even a sniff of what’s coming later this fall.

Around the blog you will find our review of Yosemite and iOS8 and if your ears can stand it we manage to discuss for just under an hour what WWDC14 means to us consumers, the developers and Apple’s rivals.

Yosemite

https://tektalkv101.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/yosemite/

iOS8

https://tektalkv101.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/ios8/

Episode 25 

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iOS8

Apple_-_iOS_8

Well its been almost a week since the keynote and by now iOS8 has been ripped apart by eager developers and people with more brains and talent of tinkering with a beta release. This is perhaps more polite than me saying that they have far more time on their hands than I do to get to that level of tinkering. Hey, if I wanted to tinker I would be an Android man through and through.

Huge for Developers. Massive for everyone else

In my own personal view Yosemite was the main star of the keynote and in general Apple is now making the mac the centre point. Previously, with an iOS you could live quite happily with just the phone or the iPad, what computer you had had very little to do with these handsets.

Apple_-_iOS_8_-_Overview

But now with airdrop, icloud drive and continuity/handoff working between iOS8  and Yosemite its almost like just having the mobile handset will not be enough and there will be a fairly obvious hole if you don’t own a mac and this is I guess Apple’s strategy for the long term as it does make ruddy good sense.

Also, when they demoed the mac calling out and the messages app the phone was made to feel very much the poor relation in that the poor once lauded device was considered ok to be left in a bag or away from the mac, so long as the mac could take a connection to it.

This year though iOS8 could not be as big as iOS7 was last year. 2013 was a complete redesign whereas 2014 is seeing an evolution of the look, feel and functionality.

So what did we get that really really matters to most and as I’m writing this what really really matters to me? Yes, spotlight may be a nice feature but its not what interests me the most. Messaging, however is getting to the point of playing catchup to other messaging apps which did result in sour messages coming out of Whatsapp and Snapchap. Understandable from their point of view but I’m not the right age group for snapchat and whatsapp lives unloved on my iPhone as my friends and I are too lazy to use it, sms/imessage rules or Facebook messenger dominate. This is the other thing in the UK in that we largely have very generous text/calling plans with most contracts giving unlimited text and calls per month so the question of having to use another message app rarely comes up. I accept though that messaging apps will have a sweet point per age group and demographic but what Apple has managed to do with iOS8 and messages is to streamline the process. Being able to tell photos and messages to self destruct is the reason Snapchat whinged loudly, but if you look into it, messages actually take one hell of a lot of space up on your phone and unless you clear them out regularly, the phones memory will get eaten up. Self destructing although is a mimicking stance of snapchat, does actually have a sensible purpose.

It now handles easy threads in group messages, voice messages in a push to talk kind of way.

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Sharing of location for a set time is a really convenient feature too. How many times have I lost my friends around London when I am trying to meet up with them. This takes the find my friends function and puts it in a viable and useful function.

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So what does a messaging app also need for keyboard warriors? Well for a start and with a huge nod to Android, Apple opens up iOS8 to third party developers, so hello swift key and other keyboards that confound me. Thankfully, Apple have seen my fear in this and have updated their own keyboard to become more intelligent with a learning system that knows (how successful this will be remains to be seen)IMG_4369how you interact with different people and can adapt the suggestions to your prose.

In iOS8 messages are able to be accessed from the notification screen with access either via the swipe from the top or from the centre of the screen if you dictate where you want your notification to appear.

Photos and the camera function get better editing features that we have seen with camera+ for years.

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Light balance and colour saturation levels are baked into the camera and photos app and with the developments in iCloud drive,

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Apple handling your own photos will be set as the main location.

I have a wife and a child. Finally, we get what iOS owners have been asking for years and thats the Family Sharing feature in iOS8 in which up to 6 family members can share iTunes purchases provided the purchases are linked to one bank account. Kids can now request through the store a parents permission to buy an app so no more vocal pleading but a polite message to win little hearts and minds or crush them and save your bank account the hammering its going to get.

Healthkit & Homekit

What perhaps was really interesting is that this is THE iOS for developers. Both Health and Home get their own API kits and all Apple is doing is creating the safe playground for others to come and  develop their hardware and apps in.  All healthkit does is take data from other apps and present it in a central format.

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However, this is the bit that made little sense for me in much the same way passbook has in the past. As readers of this blog will know I am a fan of Withings and their Health Mate app. At the time of the keynote, Withings were not mentioned so I for one am interested to see how this develops.

Thats about it for iOS8 or at least the parts that are easily accessible to normal everyday users. However, Apple brought so much more to the conference that as usual were not mentioned.

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Metal and Swift

So Metal is a new technology that aims to significantly reduce the demands put on the A7 processor by the OpenGL 3D graphics standard.

 

http://www.polygon.com/2014/6/2/5773128/metal-ios-gaming-wwdc#ooid=VldzE1bjoVTRN4Gnef0LpO8tAz-xf-NV

But while it looks amazing the part that frustrates me and makes very little sense to me is that surely the next iPhone will have an A8 chip and therefore presenting Metal, the new technology, running on an old processor makes very little sense. Give us more common sense Apple, we all know that iOS8 will launch in the fall and will launch on the next iterations of iPhone and iPad so showing what Metal can do on the A7 is a daft thing to do. Tease us, showcase the hint of what Metal can do with the  A8. Movie companies are increasingly giving trailers of trailers and making audiences excited that way.  Please take note of this and next year tease the hell out of me, you naughty minx.

So Swift, ah Swift, the code that Apple toyed with us about. Swift, the source of Apple and developers sharing a smug (rightly so) joke at the expense of the consumer side of the audience who were lost at the start of the introduction to the new programming language.

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What will it mean for new apps, with the power of Metal assisting I really don’t know but as I predicted a few months ago we are heading fast into the realms of console quality games on a mobile device.  I was deliberating over purchasing a Sony PSP or Nintendo 3DS but now I’m not sure. Convergence came a few years ago with phone and music player and then mobile computing but now we are at the dawn of console gaming being added to the convergence.

So thats it for WWDC14. Apple showed flare, humour and a confidence that had been absent for a while. Some developers will feel ripped off but others will see the new potential and money making opportunities that Apple is offering them.  Yes iOS 8 will work on my iPhone 5 but I’m due an upgrade this year and I can’t wait to see how it looks on a hopeful bigger screen.

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Yosemite

Write the code, Change the world is as we now know the very apt description Apple hinted at last night. This was the conference for the developers and the people that put the backbone into what Apple produces, the creatives and creators behind apps that now account for millions in the app store. Hell this was a conference that Apple knows will pull in the eager consumer buyers but when they got to the meaty section of describing their new programming language “Swift” there was even a joke that people at home would not know what the hell they were talking about. still at over an hour and a half into the keynote it’s likely most consumer fans will have become slightly bored and drifted away.

Apple keynotes are regularly becoming a point of confident humour such as the marketing journey (looking for new names to replace Mavericks ) getting a little lost around California and becoming slightly irregular after their visit to Weeds, with a joke aimed at the developers that was met with rapturous applause. Some jokes fell slightly flat but in a 2 hour show not everything will hit the target. Piss take jokes between the Apple team and self piss taking jokes from Craig Federighi with a mashup of his hair and Jony Ive’s face and later him experiencing a hair disaster backstage. Dr Dre. was phoned into via the mac but here was a sense of awkwardness and one that made Dre was now definitely an Apple employee. the conversation seemed rehearsed and not as a conversation would take place. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat at home so god only knows what people in the audience felt.

However, this is not a review of a standup routine, but it is nice to see that Apple can bring the event to life and not be stuffy and overly geeky (Microsoft) or OTT (Samsung)

So what did we get:

As to be expected Tim Cook gave it by the numbers:

  • 12% mac growth in a declining PC global market
  • In excess of 40 million installations of mavericks since October, the largest in Apple’s history. With more than 50% on the install base working on their latest version of OSX.
  • A dig at Microsoft and some may even argue a well placed dig with only 14% of Windows user running the latest version.

The thing is Mavericks was given away free so its no surprise really that so many OSX users are on the latest release. Yosemite, the successor to it will also be given away free, so it will be interesting to see how Microsoft handles this now established free handout by Apple. Its one thing to have the argument over which OS is better, but at the moment if one company is giving away its latest OS then consumers of the other are going to feel somewhat and extremely pissed off if they have to pay yet again to update. Also, if price is a hindrance and if Microsoft continue to courageously plough on with a very different feel to their OS, consumers may not feel much brand loyalty and bugger off to somewhere else.

Yosemite

More of a visual update than anything else to bring it inline with iOS and the flat lines and translucent panels. Guys!! We get it, really we do, enough with the “its translucent and gorgeous” We know, we have heard for over a year and have seen it via iOS so enough already.

Notifications become more iOS like too with a Today view being added to Notification Center, but the big change has been with allowing for third-party widgets and apps. Is this a toe dip into a more customizable future landscape for Apple?                           IMG_4353Certainly this was a slight change but a welcome one and does hint that if they become more comfortable with how third-party widgets interact with them then more could be seen in years to come.

Spotlight and Safari were updated, but Spotlight is just a handy search tool so I’m bypassing this.

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Safari however, has been radically changed with the address bar borrowing from Google with its suggestions of relevant articles from Wikipedia. Share articles is easier and more like the iOS version with a menu popping up of recent contacts for you to share what you want. Tabs, get a translucent feel but if you have multiple tabs open you can smoothly scroll through. maybe its because I use Safari more on my iphone and ipad that when they showed the “birds eye” view of all open tabs I felt a little underwhelmed as if you have these devices you already have seen the feature.

What followed was more interesting; Mail promises ( I will believe this when I see it in action) more reliable syncing across devices, always spot on between iOS devices but awful between iOS and OSX. Markup in mail is a brilliant feature where you can “markup” images straight in the mail message, think Skitch but with limited photo editing features too.

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What was impressive was when the hand drawn arrows and speech bubble were recognised by Mail and corrected to look more professional. its a feature that I know I will be definitely using and one that I hope comes to messages in the future.

Maildrop is another feature I know I will use in that it allows you to send messages with attachments up to 5gb in size. basically, you send the mail, the attachment gets moved to iCloud and replaced with a link to it when the recipient opens the mail.

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Speaking of iCloud we saw the introduction of iCloud Drive the Apple version of Google Drive, Dropbox etc. Finally Apple are getting nearer to what I want from iCloud, an ability to find my documents through finder including any files from an iOS app. Folders and tags are available as is the ability to sync across Apple platforms but also with Windows too.

Handoff and Continuity

Now here are features that really started to impress me and is Apple directly saying that there is sense and ease of having both iOS and OSX in you life. Start a message/document on one device and when other devices senses the proximity of one device with it it will prompt you to carry on with the message/document there. Smart and simple and hopefully as elegantly simple as it was shown at the keynote.

Airdrop between iOS and OSX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you are going to sell the message of continuity and ease of life between all devices then having the ability to easily share files between a mac and an iphone/ipad was something Apple needed to address and thankfully they have too. Instant hotspots for your mac to use your iphones connection are now an easy feature but what I want to know is will carriers charge more for this data connection if they see it as a hotspot connection as they have been prone to do in the past between mobile devices.

OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD

imessages on my macbook are a feature that I really love but its always been a pain to return to the phone to answer SMS text messages (the sad friends who chat via  green bubble) but now through Yosemite macs will have the ability to have these messages shown on screen.

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As mentioned at the start of this post, Macs with Yosemite will have the ability to start and receive phone calls with Dr Dre being the embarrassed recipient of such a call. Briefed for the call? Sure was as he did not have to be warned not to swear. Click on a telephone number from a website and away you go, calling on the mac – seamless.

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So what we were presented was a very nice update to what had been delivered through Mavericks. This is the start of a tighter link between macs and iOS and does show a clear destiny of them becoming tighter and more closely linked in the future. What is perhaps surprising is that Apple is opening up the beta programme to everyone, public and developers alike. Now I do love my Apple gear but I don’t think I will be rushing to sign up. In my work life I have been part of beta progs before and if you are doing it right its long and often laborious to find and report back all of the glitches that you find.

All pictures from Apple WWDC14 Keynote

Next up iOS 8

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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