watchOS 7/iOS 14 Wish: Better Notification Behavior

Ok, so this is a kinda vague request, but it’s something that’s bothered me more since I’ve adjusted my watch notifications while going through this COVID-19 mess. Let me try to explain…

Default Notification Behavior

All notifications are mirrored to your watch. This means that everything that buzzes your phone will now tap your wrist. Effectively, you will never feel your phone vibrate because your watch is doing it all for you.

I like this because it makes it so that when I’m wearing my watch, I have one place to get notifications, and when I take it off to charge, my phone seamlessly takes over.

Getting Watch and Phone out of Sync

In order to stay a little more disconnected, I’ve turned off watch notifications for a bunch of apps. Twitter notifications, for example, are not important enough to tap my wrist, but I still want to get them, so I show them on my phone.

The problem here is that now my watch taps me for some things and my phone buzzes for other things. This is not what I personally want, as this introduces two devices that are trying to get my attention.

What I Want

What I would love is for any app that I do not have sending notifications to my watch to switch to “deliver quietly” while I’m wearing my watch. Still send them to my phone and let me see them on the lock screen, but don’t buzz for each one. Then when I take off my watch, start buzzing for all notifications again.

I could accomplish this by making all the notifications I don’t put on my watch deliver quietly, but that’s a decent amount of up front effort and ultimately isn’t what I want all the time, so I don’t think it’s quite right.


This is not a fully formed idea, and there are surely complexities around this, not to mention people who like the current behavior just fine, but for me this is something that annoys me and I wish I could improve more easily.

My Apple Watch is Making Social Distancing and Work-from-Home Easier

My Apple Watch is Making Social Distancing and Work-from-Home Easier

I’ve been home more in the past 2 weeks than any point in my adult life, and in that time, I’ve come to appreciate the Apple Watch more than ever.

I love the activity tracking for helping me make sure I maintain a healthy amount of activity throughout the day.

I love the stand notifications, yes the stand notifications, for letting me know how much less I get up from my desk chair while working from home. Office work is not very aerobic, but apparently it’s a workout compared to sitting in one’s office all day.

I appreciate the breath notifications because yeah, despite being pretty darn calm most of the time, there have been a a few times these weeks where a couple minutes to collect my thoughts was a welcome reminder.

I love having weather on my wrist and being able to see a t a glance that “hey, it’s pretty nice out now, I should take a walk to get some air and maybe fill those rings.”

I love being able to partially disconnect from Twitter and the news more easily by leaving my phone in the bedroom while I go about other things around the house. If an important notification comes through, I get it on my wrist and can reply either right away or go get the phone if it’s going to be more than a quick reply.

I love being able to have a productivity-based watch face that I can look at at any time and see my next task in Things available if I just need a reminder of what I can work on next.

I love that if I don’t want to have all that productivity stuff front and center then I’m a simple swipe away from my numerals duo watch face that just tells me the time in the most beautiful digital numbers I’ve ever seen on a watch.

Maybe this isn’t fair, but I love seeing notifications of messages from friends and family on my watch. I know, they’re also on my phone, but there’s something about seeing them on my wrist that makes them feel more personal somehow. I can’t logically explain this one, but it’s a thing.

And as an odd thing, I of course enjoy seeing the time on my Series 5 model without raising my wrist. You can lose track of the day when you’re outside your normal rhythm and while many devices in my life have clocks on them, none as as readily accessible as the one on my wrist.

The currently world is a mess, and we don’t know when things will get back to normal. There are also so many things more important than a watch going on right now, from doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, scientists, couriers, mailmen/women, delivery drivers, grocers, pharmacists, police, firefighters, retail workers, and more all making sure that the world keep functioning. These people are doing more than my watch will ever do for me, but my niche is the Apple Watch, and even with all this going on, my appreciation for it continues to grow.

First Impressions of Mouse Support in iPadOS 13.4

Apple made a lot of iPad users very happy yesterday where they unveiled mouse and trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4. A someone who has been asking for more full featured mouse support for a while, this got me really excited and I immediately installed the update and tried it out.

Pairing Process

Pairing your mouse is super simple. Just hold down the pairing button on the mouse, open the Bluetooth settings page on the iPad, and tap your mouse that appears in the list of available devices.

That’s it, the next time you move the mouse at all, the new cursor will show up on screen.

Movement and Scrolling

Basic mouse support was added in an accessibility feature last year, and that was okay, but it was clearly a hack on top of iPadOS. It was aimed at simulating the same touch events you did with your fingers. This mouse support is much different, and it’s absolutely not a tacked on feature.

First, the cursor itself looks much nicer, and it adjusts its form depending on what you’re hovering over. The way it animates from circle to cursor to buttons is really slick, and immediately made the Mac/Windows style of moue feel a little old to me.

And moving the mouse feels perfectly normal, which is that say it feels like using this mouse on my Mac. Additionally, scrolling with Logitech’s awesome scroll wheel is a delight. This all feels more fluid and more natural than doing these same things with the accessibility version of mouse support.

And if you prefer different settings, there are options to change the tracking speed, the scroll direction, and what the right click button does. Interestingly, there are no options to configure the other buttons on the mouse to do anything. So my back, forward, and scroll wheel buttons all are now left-click buttons, which is weird. Right-click does indeed work as you’d expect.

Where Did the Cursor Go?!

This first implementation is not perfect though. The first thing that throws me is that when you hover over certain elements, the cursor goes away and the thing you’re hovering over gets highlighted. It’s not always obvious what you’re hovered over, especially on things like home screen icons because the difference between the hovered icon and all the rest is super slight. Can you tell where the mouse is in this screenshot?

You might have been able to tell it was Deliveries, but you had to think about it.

Also, because the cursor turns into the thing you’re hovered over, you lose some context on excactly where inside that item the cursor is. This made moving the mouse elsewhere a little odd because I didn’t know exactly where I was starting from. One of the things that’s great about the mouse is how accurate you can be with it and this makes it so you feel less accurate than you’re used to being. Conveniently, you can turn this behavior off by going to Settings > Accessibility > Pointer Control and turning off pointer animations.

I’m leaving it on for now because this is how Apple thinks it should be and I may get used to it and come to love it, but I’m keeping this escape hatch in the back of my mind just in case I never come around.

Unexpected Behavior

iPadOS has always been a touch-first operating system, and over the past decade of using iPads, I’m very used to how things work with my fingers and Apple Pencil. I know how to drag files around, pull up multitasking, and do all the little things with the iPad.

The mouse doesn’t simulate touch interactions, so you kind of have to figure out how to do everything with the mouse. For example, I wanted to select multiple items from the Files app this morning and drag them into Safari. With touch this is incredibly simple. but I could not figure it out with the mouse. I tried CMD+clicking around and could not do it, and eventually gave up and used my meaty fingers in 2 seconds.

Also, things like bringing up multitasking is a little tricky, as are pulling down notifications or accessing Control Center. You can do them, but the actions you perform with the mouse are a bit different and are taking a little time to get used to.

Overall

I think using a mouse with the iPad on its own is nice, but is not something I’m going to do all the time. I did find using Working Copy to edit code and Affinity Designer to edit images to be a little nicer with the mouse, but most things are either the same or more difficult. The iPad’s touch-first UI is really fantastic and I often felt like direct manipulation of the stuff on screen was easier than using an old fashioned mouse to do the same thing. After all, this is one of the things that makes me love the iPad in the first place!

I do think this makes the use case for a larger, desktop iPad (or even an iPad hooked up to an external monitor) to be a much more compelling use case going forward. I also wish I had a track pad to try this out with. I think a track pad + keyboard + touch would be really nice, and I look forward to trying that out in May when the very expensive, but very cool looking iPad Magic Keyboard comes out.

My Short 2020 iPad Pro Wishlist

I am currently using a 12.9” 2018 iPad Pro and I truly love it. We are a few weeks (maybe) away from a new model coming out, and I thought this was a good time to get a few ideas out there about what I would want in an upgrade.

As far as I can tell, neither of these have been mentioned in the rumors, so if they come to pass, remember you heard them here first. 😉

New Webcam Placement

The current webcam is at the top of the screen if you’re holding the device in portrait, but this is the iPad Pro, and I would guess most people use it in landscape most of the time. With this configuration, the webcam in on the left, middle of the screen, and that’s just an awkward angle for conference calls.

I’d love to see Apple move the camera to the top of the iPad when it’s in landscape mode. Sure, leave the normal iPad, the Air, and the Mini where it is, but this pro machine needs a better webcam position.

New Premium Keyboard

Ok, hear me out, but I want Apple to sell a more expensive keyboard than the Smart Keyboard Folio. With rumors that trackpad support is coming, and my wish from January that Apple release a laptop-style iPad, I think I’d love to see something like the Surface Book, where the iPad can click into a keyboard/trackpad/battery combo.

This would give us the stability of a laptop form factor in our laps, the freedom to tear off the iPad whenever we want the freedom the iPad allows, and potentially a lot more battery life with a second battery housed in the keyboard.

On the battery front, not only would this be a welcome improvement to the already great battery life, but that heavy battery will help add some heft to the base, making it easier to get the weight ratio right so the screen doesn’t want to tip the whole thing over.

Market Share, Profits, and Other Poor Arguments for Product Quality

Apple financial announcements are a real mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it’s interesting to see how well the company is doing, but it also makes some people take odd positions when talking about Apple products.

I’m not going after anyone specifically, but let’s imagine someone debating whether or not a feature that should come to the iPhone. One person eventually says something like, “the iPhone works for 1 billion people, so I guess they don’t think it’s needed.” Or imagine something like, “Apple needs to grow services revenue, so you can’t be that made that they’re pushing them in ads throughout iOS.”

Comments like those are pretty representative of the commentary I sometimes see online. Hell, I even get into the game sometimes when I celebrate Apple Watch sales continuing to rise! But as an old-school Apple fan who got into the company in the mid-90s, this ability to reference Apple’s financial success or market dominance as evidence of their products’ quality is a relatively new phenomenon.

In the 90’s I didn’t have the luxury of falling back on the “lots of people buy Macs, so they must be good” argument that I see about iPhones, iPads, and AirPods today. And if someone told me that Windows must be better because it owned 98% of the PC market, I would have told you to GTFO with that weak argument. Whether it’s computer brands, movies, or music, just because something is the most successful does not mean it is the best version of that thing.

Even today, Microsoft’s software runs on about 94% of personal computers, but you certainly wouldn’t use that as evidence that Windows is good. Similarly, Android controls 86% of the smartphone market, but I bet even fewer of you would say that’s a reason to say it’s better than iOS. And finally, Amazon and Google’s combined 53% share or smart speaker sales has no impact on what you think about letting those speakers into your home.

Maybe you don’t think this applies to you, and many of you will be right, but I think that much like Microsoft fans in the 90s and 2000s, there are a healthy number of Apple fans these days who use the company’s success as the ultimate indicator of their products’ quality.

Oh, and remember this the next time you see someone complain about people talking at length about the new Pixel phones which “aren’t even that popular” or “get disproportionately more coverage than their market share warrants.” ✌️

watchOS 7: A BirchTree Concept

watchOS 7: A BirchTree Concept

It’s no secret that I think the Apple Watch is a great product and that I believe Apple has done a very good job of evolving it over the years to be the premier smart watch on the market. Frankly, if you are using an iPhone, I think there is no question on which smart watch you should get. And if you’re on Android and are debating which smart watch to get, I suggest converting to the iPhone and getting an Apple Watch instead of dealing with that mess entirely.

But this lead isn’t permanent, and it’s not something Apple can hold onto by standing still. We’re obviously going to get watchOS 7 this autumn and Apple will have an assortment of new features they’re pushing to all of our wrists. Below is basically what I would pitch to my boss if I worked on the watchOS team at Apple on what I thought we should be doing. Since I don’t work there, though, this is my public wish list for the platform and I hope you agree and pass this along so it’s more likely to get in front of someone on the actual team as inspiration.

Also worth noting here that this is the 5th year I'm doing a concept like this. Check out the past versions below!

Fitness Enhancements

As has been clear since the very beginning, the Apple Watch thrives as a fitness device. As most Apple Watch users what they like about their watch, and almost everyone will tell you something about filling their rings, losing weight, or learning how little they stand throughout the day. As they do every year, Apple should work on enhancing the fitness offerings of the watchOS platform.

As a quick note, there could be more they can do here by adding hardware to the Series 6 hardware that surely will come out this fall, but this article won’t hypothesize about those features.

Sleep Tracking

I’m going to keep asking for this until it happens, but I think Apple should add native sleep tracking into watchOS. Apps like Autosleep and Napbot already do this, but there is so much headroom to do more in the space. I think Apple did an amazing job of moving the conversation from steps, a fine, but often unhelpful measure of health, to that of activity tracking. Their red “move ring” isn’t perfect either, but it’s a whole hell of a lot better than steps.

I’m simply going to resubmit my idea from last year since Apple did nothing since then and the requirements for human sleep have stayed, well, the same.

Customize Your Activity Rings

Since the very beginning, the Apple Watch has had 3 rings:

  1. Move: user-customizable number of “active calories” burned everyday
  2. Exercise: 30 minute goal of “active” minutes
  3. Stand: stand for at least 1 minute during 12 different hours

I think this year not only will Apple let you customize these rings more than before, but they’ll also add more rings. Want to add sleep or mindfulness: go right ahead.

The Apple Watch face is only so large, so I think they’ll have all 5 of these rings available, but you’ll have to choose which 3 show up in your rings. Maybe you want the traditional 3, or maybe you want to swap out the stand ring for sleep. Maybe you find 30 minutes to be too easy to hit each day, and setting your activity ring to 45 minutes might be more useful. Any combination would be possible in this new Activity app.

Manage Workouts from the iPhone

One of the things I run into on a semi-regular basis is forgetting to stop a workout after I’m done, and then getting a 60 minute workout on the books when I actually just walked for 20 minutes. Auto-stop should catch this, but it doesn’t always, and if you miss the notification that confirms you’re still working, then you can have an abnormally long workout.

Other times, I wish I could tell my watch I started walking or running a few minutes ago. There is a workout detection feature that was added a couple years ago, but it waits up to 10 minutes to ask you if you’re working out, so sometimes I’m 5 minutes into a walk, want to get credit for the walk, and have to decide, “do I start the workout now and lose the last 5 minutes, or do I wait and hope it asks me in a few minutes and potentially lose even more?”

I should be able to start a workout and tell the app that I started X minutes ago. it should use either my GPS data or extrapolate from my average speed/intensity to tell how much distance and calories to add. Along the same lines, after a workout I should be able to go into the Activity app on my phone and chop off the start or end of my workout to capture only the time I want.

Finally, and this is a small one, but I would love to be able to perform the basic mid-workout actions from a notification on my iPhone as well. I’d have this live as a persistent notification on my lock screen with some interaction, similar to the Now Playing controls. This is rarely an issue since the watch is already on my wrist, but sometimes it would be easier to use the phone.

A Web UI and Data Export

I don’t think Apple will do this, but it would be great to have a way to see my activity data from iCloud.com, and while I’m there, how about a way to export my activity data into a CSV? Again, probably not something Apple has any interest in doing, but it would be nice to not feel like my workout data is so tied to Workouts. If I want to download my data as a CSV and run my own analytics on it, I should be allowed! If I want to start using RunKeeper and transfer my run history over there, I should be able to do that too.

A Damn Day Off

This has been a request for a long time as well, but the Apple Watch should allow us the ability to be human and take a day off every once in a while. People get attached to their streaks, and breaking one because you’re either sick or in a situation where you can’t work out should be more okay. Activity++ addresses this by giving you a rest day every week so you can take a break on Sunday and get back to it on Monday and not lose any active streak. This would be completely fine by me, but any solution that makes it so streaks don’t terminate after a single bad day would be great.

Communication Optimizations

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you:

I feel a tap on my wrist, I look at my Apple Watch, and see a new iMessage has come in. I read the message and immediately drop my wrist to grab my phone so I can actually respond.

I feel like this is how 90% of my message interaction is on the Apple Watch and I think it’s a huge opportunity for improvement. In terms of interacting with a 2 inch screen, I get that there are limitations, and Apple has done a good job of expanding the number of ways you can input text into it, but I think it’s still too hard and they could make things better in both easy and exceptionally hard ways.

Better Response Suggestions

At the bottom of every iMessage thread, there are dozens of options to reply with a single tap. I love these sometimes, but they’re not always useful, nor do they match my style of speaking in messages. Here’s a great example: my wife just texted me “my head hurts” and the top reply options are:

  • Thank you
  • Thanks
  • Ok
  • Yes
  • No
  • Talk later?
  • Hold on a sec…
  • BRB

None of these are right, and some of them are going to result in a conversation with my wife later if I accidentally chose one of them.

First, watchOS should look at the last few messages in a thread and offer suggestions that are tailored to what is going on. I’d expect to see something like:

  • I’m sorry
  • Oh no!
  • I’m so sorry
  • How long has it hurt?
  • Feel better!
  • 😞

All of these would be more helpful than “Thanks!”

Second, watchOS should tailor the style of these messages to how I typically write messages. If I never capitalize my first letter or call my wife by a nickname, it should know that. Maybe that changes the responses to:

  • I’m sorry, boo!
  • oh no!
  • I’m sooooo sorry!
  • aw, boo, how long has it hurt?
  • hope u feel better!
  • 😢😭😤

This is obviously really hard to do right, and I might be asking too much, but I don’t think it’s wildly out of reach, and I think a lot of what Siri does with context detection must be useful in determining messages’ intents better than the totally generic stuff we have today.

Scribble with Autocomplete

One of the nice things about iOS’s keyboard is that it suggests words to you as you type. Want to type “suggestion”? Type out s-u-g and the keyboard will almost certainly have the word there so you can tap it to finish the work quicker. Scribble on the Apple Watch is the fastest way to type something into the Apple Watch, but it still isn’t quick enough.

Apple should start suggesting words on screen as you scribble out your letters. Once you see the word you want, tap it and start scribbling the next word.

Battery Life

You may be asking, “how can we improve battery life without new hardware?” I’d answer that the Apple Watch needs a “low power mode”.

The simple truth is that the Apple Watch does far more than most people ever use it for, so I think there is room to cut functionality without creating too detrimental an experience for many people. Additionally, while I’m generally fine with charging my watch everyday, there are some cases where it would be nice not to have to worry about charging for 2, 3, or even 5 days.

There are currently 2 power modes on the Apple Watch:

  1. Normal, which is what we all use
  2. Battery saver, which turns off everything and shows the time when you click a button

Normal mode promises 18 hours and typically gets a bit more than that for most people . Battery saver mode effectively makes the watch useless, even as a watch since it takes about 2-5 seconds for the time to even show up after you press a button, which feels like an eternity. There should be a new mode between these that makes the Apple Watch useful, but sucks up a lot less power.

Introducing Weekend Getaway

This middle mode would make the Apple Watch function with most capabilities disabled, but would allow a few things to happen so that it still felt like a smart watch.

First on the chopping block is of course the always-on screen. This only helps the Series 5, but I don’t see how a lower power mode exists without this getting cut.

Second, I think we disable the ability to launch apps from the watch. Complications can continue to work, but you can’t tap them to launch into their apps, nor can you go to the “app honeycomb” page to even see anything else installed.

Third, all activity tracking is disabled. This one is going to be a hard hit, but I think disabling the pedometer, GPS, and heart rate monitor is a big win in terms of making the overall watch last much longer.

Fourth, kill all other watch faces, so you can’t swipe between them anymore. Maybe there is even a watch face you are required to use when in this mode.

Fifth, disable all iPhone connections and notifications, with the exception of messages (iMessage, SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.) and phone calls.

With these things removed, that basically leaves your watch face and essential notifications. You will be able to raise your wrist and see the time, basic complication data, and messaging notifications are they come in. It’s pretty basic, but for many people I bet it wouldn’t be too big of a change from how they use their watch most of the time. The biggest hit would come from activity tracking disappearing, but if you’re going to be out of town for a few days (and you’re not obsessed with your streak), that might be worth sacrificing.

The use cases for a mode like this are plentiful. I was out of town for 4 days recently, and it would have been nice to be able to leave my watch charger at home. If I’m going out of town overnight, it would let me keep the watch alive without bringing a charger. Camping for a couple days would be really nice to leave the charging puck and external battery pack at home. Or maybe I’m just at home, but forget to charge my watch daily and would like a little more room for error.

Maybe the ideas above don’t move the needle too much when it comes to conserving power, but I think there is a lot of potential here to make the watch more than a 1-day product.

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I think Apple could do everything above and have a killer release in watchOS 7 this year. But there is more that I’d like them to do, so here are a few other ideas for making watchOS better across the board.

Always-On Improvements

The only real new feature in the 2019 Apple Watch was the always-on screen. As I wrote in my review, I think Apple has the best implementation in the game already, but there is definitely room for improvement.

First off, I’d like to drastically cut down on how often I see the generic always-on screen; aka the “a random app is on screen so I’m going to blur it out and put a white clock in the top right” view. Currently, you get a nice always-on mode when:

  1. On the watch face
  2. In the middle of a workout (in Workouts only, not Strava, for example)

That’s it, and that seems like a major missed opportunity. I get the argument for privacy and that you don’t want a notification showing to the world when you lower your wrist, but at the same time I feel like I see it far too often. My fix would be to add always-on support for a few more apps, and I think that would go a long way.

First, let’s add it to the timer and stopwatch apps. If you’re timing something, then you probably want to be able to see it at all times. Next, I’d add it to navigation in the Maps app so that I can see my next move on the always-on screen and not have to flip my wrist to see the next direction. Now Playing and all other media apps should get it so I can see what’s playing, as well as how far along in my book/podcast/song I am.

Along a similar line, I often get a notification, raise my wrist to read it, and then lower my wrist. When I do this, the weird “white clock on blurred background” mode stays active for about a minute, so when I go to look at my wrist again it looks janky. I’d like it to change so that if I raise my wrist to see a notification and then lower it, dismiss the notification in 5 seconds and return to the watch face.

And the other change I’d like to see is a bedtime mode for the watch. I use the always-on screen all day and love it, but I kind of hate it in bed. It’s quite dim, but in the pitch black of the night, it’s way too bright and it’s woken my wife up on a few occasions. I’d love it if it could get even darker, but in lieu of that, I’d be content with just being able to toggle a bedtime mode (link it with the downtime feature on iOS, even) that turns off the screen and only lets certain apps deliver notifications.

Third Party Watch Faces

How many times do we need to ask?! You know the reasons this would be good, so I won’t bore you with those, but if Apple wanted to breath some life into watchOS development, letting developers make watch faces (aka the main thing most people use) they could make opportunities for tons of people to express themselves in fun and interesting ways. This is their “most personal device ever” after all.

As an alternative, Apple could also ship some sort of “build your own watch face” tool on the Watch app for iPhone. While you can kind of do that already with the existing watch faces, maybe Apple could make a tool for dragging whatever complications and other elements around the screen to your heart's content. I don't know how useful this would be, but it could help people get closer to their perfect watch face.

At the very least, let's make it easier to share our watch faces. If I make a watch face with a certain color combo and complication set and let me share that on Twitter so anyone else can get that instantly.

Quicker Interactions

This one is pretty vague, but Apple should make a run through of the things you do on the watch and try to remove one tap from the process. This “one tap less” initiative would look at analytics for what people do on their watches most and would simply try to remove one tap from the process. We’re not rewriting the whole OS yet, but optimizing flows so people are more likely to do them on the watch than pull out their phone would help a lot.

Oh, and whatever is going on with Siri needs to be fixed. Most of the time Siri is great on my Series 5, but even now I get some occasions where I get the dreaded “I’ll tap you when I’m ready” messages. I’m not sure what the technical limitations are here, but they need to be sorted out so that Siri can be as fast as it should be.

Better Wireless Speeds

This is another technical issue that has plagued the Apple Watch forever, but for whatever reason, the Apple Watch takes forever to transfer data. Updates take forever and syncing podcasts and music is an exercise in frustration. Even the cellular watches that just talk to the cloud directly take much longer than my iPhone to download everything. This update may require hardware, but if there are any optimizations they can make on the software side, I’d love to see them.

Shortcuts

Currently, I’m not able to do anything really with my Apple Watch from Shortcuts. I’d like to be able to have actions like:

  • Toggle theater mode
  • Silence notifications
  • Open a specific app
  • Start a specific workout
  • Turn off the always-on screen

iPad and Android Sync

The Apple Watch has had a good run with the iPhone, but much like the iPhone and iPad broke free of the Mac, I think the Apple Watch should get some more freedom from the iPhone. I don’t know if it’s ready to run entirely on its own, but it would be great to be able to pair it with different devices.

First, and more likely, is the iPad. There is no reason I couldn’t see my watch data on my iPad, especially if I have a cellular Apple Watch that doesn’t need an iPhone around at all times to handle the cellular connection.

The more pie-in-the-sky option would be to have Apple release an Apple Watch app for Android that let you set up and manage your watch from the Android device of your choice. Samsung’s devices show how deep into Android you can hook into, and while this will never be as good an experience as it would be when paired with an iPhone, it would instantly be the best option for Android users the world over. If Apple is interested in giving Apple Watch sales a shot in the arm, then this is how they could do it.

Oh, and making the Apple Watch work with Android sure feels a lot like Apple making the iPod work with Windows. It’s a “halo device” that gets people in the door with an Apple Watch purchase this year, and maybe an iPhone the next…

Conclusion

There’s a lot here, and if you made it this far, thank you! Please share this as far and wide as you can so that Apple sees some of these ideas and takes them into account as they continue to work on this platform that so many of us love. Apple is full of smart people and they do great work, but I can’t help but put my thoughts out there. Mocking up these concepts helps me think critically about the Apple Watch as a platform, and I hope it gave you some of your own ideas for what the future of this product can be.

History suggests I’m going to be let down on getting the exact things in this concept. Apple has their own plans and I hope that the actual watchOS 7 has a handful of features and enhancements that surprise and delight me.

In my review of watchOS 6 last year, I said:

The Apple Watch is at its best when it’s helping you do things quicker than you expect, so I’d love to see a whole UI redesign that focuses on this concept. The current app-centric model has served them well, but I think the platform is ready to do more.

I guess what I’m saying is that Apple is moving the Apple Watch forward, but it feels like it’s advancing at a comfortable pace right now, and maybe that’s just a cost of being a successful, 4 year old platform with very little real competition.

I still think there is a chance for Apple to make a bigger change to the Apple Watch’s fundamental interface than what I proposed here. My concept is an evolution, not a revolution in smartwatch design. If Apple decides to make a more dramatic change this year, I’ll be on the edge of my seat, just like you.

My 10 Year Review of the iPad

My 10 Year Review of the iPad

10 years ago the iPad was "about to replace the personal computer."

Today the iPad is "about to replace the personal computer."

10 years from now I suspect the iPad will be "about to replace the personal computer."

Meanwhile, people like me and millions of others will continue to work on an iPad, not really trying to prove a point, just trying to use the best tool for us.

When Steve Jobs debuted the iPad in 2010, he described it as a device that would live between a laptop and a smartphone. By that measure, I think the iPad has more than lived up to that positioning, and I don't think anyone would disagree. It's more capable than an iPhone, but not as capable as a Mac.

The thing that still bothers people is the idea of the iPad replacing the Mac for all people and I just don't know if that's going to happen. The Mac debuted in 1984 and evolved into what we have in front of us today. The iPad is 26 years younger, and it was conceived and grew up in a completely different era, and as such, has much different priorities and design philosophies. Of course it doesn't work just like the Mac!

We live in interesting times, where the personal computer is not being replaced by anything, but instead is growing into a collection of devices. Your data lives in the cloud, you can do tons on your watch, and you likely do most of your "computing" on a 5 inch screen in your pocket. Within 10 years we will likely have another major platform that we will get to see grow from fun tech demo to relevant and useful mainsteam products, and I would not be surprised if we have the same conversations around "is it a success if it doesn't totally replace something else for everyone?" that we continue to have about the iPad.

I'm writing this, as I have the last 1,000 or so posts on this site, on an iPad. It's the best tool for the job, and I genuinely love this hardware/software combination. By that measure, the iPad has been a massive success in its first 10 years. And based on sales, it looks like this platform is going to be around for quite a while longer, and those are the most important measures of success for me.

"33 Million" Apple TV+ Subscribers

"33 Million" Apple TV+ Subscribers

The Wall Street Journal reports (via 9to5Mac, if you don't subscribe to WSJ) that there are about 33 million acitve Apple TV+ subscribers. That makes is half as big as Netflix, and about 9 million smaller than Amazon Prime, but larger than Hulu and Disney+ (all in the US only, not counting international at all).

These are estimates, so they're up for debate, and Benjamin Mayo suggests the number is likely closer to 10-15 million users.

As 9to5Mac points out, rivals will point out that everyone who bought an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, or Mac got one year for free, so while most of those Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ users are actively paying for the service, the number of Apple TV+ subscribers who have spent a cent on it is likely much, much lower.

But this all gets to the point that comparing these things is really difficult because it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Apple TV+ and Amazing Prime Video customers may not be spending a cent on the services, but they use them because they get them "for free" for buying something else. There are also deals and packages that get you other services like Disney+ for free as well.

These are analysts' predictions, not hard numbers, nor are they neccessarily indicators of how much people enjoy these services. They're interesting, and can give you a ballpark idea of how things are going, but don't get too married to any of these numbers.

Great Experience, Unfortunate Pricing: My Apple Books Trial

Great Experience, Unfortunate Pricing: My Apple Books Trial

Apple Books is the best Apple service and store that I will not be using again anytime soon. It pains me to say it because I really do enjoy it, but I’ve listened to two audiobooks in it this year and there is one reason I won’t be using it for my next book.

The Good

The Books app on iOS is surprisingly good. It has a generally nice UI with some really excellent use of serif fonts to make this app feel decidedly more “bookish” than their other content stores and apps.

I like how the store is laid out and the curated collections on offer. I like how the chapter times and “time remaining” times change based on the speed that you’re reading (i.e. if it’s a 10 minute chapter and you’re listening at 2x, it will show as a 5 minute chapter…brilliant!). I like the cool animations when you launch the app. I like the support for basic iOS features like dark mode.

The list goes on, but the ultimate point is that I enjoy reading books in this app. It feels good from top to bottom and it’s a very pleasurable experience.

By comparison, the Audible app feels like an app that was updated for iOS 7 and then never changed after that. Yes, that’s selling it a little short as they have made some nice upgrades over the year, but their iconography and material work is all custom and looks like it’s several years out of fashion.

The Bad

Pricing.

That’s it, but it’s a big one. My wife and I read a lot (maybe 50-75 books per year) and at that scale, pricing matters. Without getting too in the weeds, we pay for the 2 credit-per-month plan ($23/month) which essentially means two books per month. If we run over, we can buy 3 extra credits for $36.

Let’s say we have a big month and read 5 books this month because we’re amped up for the new year.

  1. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  3. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
  4. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
  5. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Those 5 books would cost $89 on Apple Books and $59 on Audible. At 50% more per book, the math simply doesn’t work out. That’s $30 per month we could be losing simply by using this service, and for me that makes it a non-starter.

Before anyone asks, you own each Audible book you buy even if you cancel your subscription. It’s not like you lose everything if you want to take a break or go somewhere else.

Best of Both Worlds?

Audible lets you download your books and import them into Apple Books, which is nice, and for a second I thought this would give me the Audible pricing with the Apple Books experience. It sort of does, but there are two major downsides.

One, Apple Books will only open these files in the Mac app, not the iOS or iPadOS ones, because uuuugggghhhhhh. To add insult to injury, these books do not sync over the cloud like Apple Music imports, they instead sync using the good old fashioned “plug you iPhone into your Mac” method, which I had not done in like 5 years or more. If I want to listen on my iPad too…go on and plug it in too.

Two, and I think this one is on Audible, there are no chapter markers so you just get one 20 hour file to listen to with no indicators on good places to stop or use the “sleep at the end of this chapter” feature in Apple Books.

What I’ll Be Doing

I’m back to Audible with my tail between my legs. I’m not totally happy to be back, and if the difference was less significant, then I’d be more inclined to say “it’s worth it,” or if I didn’t read many books the absolute price difference would be too slight to matter. But with the quantity of books we churn though, it’s just not economically viable for us.

Maybe Apple will have some sort of Apple Books+ service I can subscribe to and get more books for less, but until that happens, Audible gets me so much more bang for my buck that I can’t use the app I prefer right now.