First impressions of Air Pods

I went into my local Apple Store the other day just to try the demonstration pair of Air Pods. With the 6 week wait time I thought there is no way I want to order them, wait and then end up returning them. Well, luckily they had them in stock and the fit was really good with my ears so I got them.

I've had them awhile now and I'm definitely sold on them. My only other experience with wireless headphones is with the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones and the Bose SoundSport earphones and in both cases they've been great. In fact I'm using the QC35 headphones right now.

In both cases their range isn't as good as I get with the Air Pods which in the case of the QC35 headphones that seems sort of illogical. They're much bigger and therefore should surely be able to broadcast a strong better signal but apparently not. Oddly enough the SoundSport headphones also have a superior range to the QC35 headphones. The SoundSport ones allow me to mostly get around most of my home without cutting out.

So I'd have to say where I use them they're generally fine with regard to range. Battery life on both is certainly fine for my needs too. The QC35 headphones are not really an outdoor headphone and certainly shouldn't be sweated on. So when I'm active that leaves the SoundSport headphones and while they are wireless from the phone, which is great, they're not wireless from each other. They'll catch on clothes or my backpack and some times it's just that there's enough friction on my skin and maybe it's the weight of them but that's enough to some times pull them out. My ears just aren't very compatible with the range of ear pieces they give and there.

So that's how I got where I'm at and decided to give the Air Pods a go and the benefits in my mind are

In fact the only reason I touch them is to make sure they're actually there. It often feels like you've got nothing in your ears. Siri also appears to work better. Though I must say I generally don't have issues with Siri outside of using her/him with my Apple TV and Apple Music.

I don't know what it is with Siri but I can talk about the same things and I get the correct results unless I'm asking for said thing from apple music and then it goes comically wrong. It's just embarrassing.

Of course should they ever come out there is a much higher risk of them going in the drains or becoming lost if I were cycling though really I shouldn't be listening to music and cycling anyway.

The ability to pause and play the music just by taking one air pod out is just so handy and convenient.

If there is one downside I'd say double tapping them seems a bit hit or miss at times. I use that for siri (resorting to just pulling one out for pause / play). Aim I meant to aim for the black part at the top or more at the bottom or shouldn't it matter? I'm not sure to be honest. It usually works but it will fail at times.

And it should be noted they're not entirely magical. Being further away from the music playing device and, as an example bending down so the signal has to go through my watery mass, plus multiple concrete walls and not being more or less lined up with the device (height seems to matter more at further distances with all bluetooth devices) does cause it to start cutting out. However, that's just the nature of wireless headphones. Sending signals through water or bodies made mostly of water just seems to be quite hard.

All in all I'd have to say they are the most satisfactory bluetooth headphones I've ever had. Other need to look at what Apple has done and replicate it.

I think the best thing will be for Bose to do something similar to the W1 chip added or at least something similar.

Posted on 16 Jun 2017, 10:04 p.m. by toadwarrior

new hardware and software from apple

Both iPhone 7 and Apple Watch 2 look really good but I will likely pass on them for one reason really. My iPhone 6 and Apple watch 1 work perfectly fine. I'm trying not to be wasteful and replace my items too soon. In terms of Apple watch it's easy to feel that way. With iPhone 7, it's much harder. The jet black colour, superior screen colours, camera and waterproofing are very, very tempting. As someone using strictly bluetooth headphones with my iPhone I don't mind the lack of the headphone jack and welcome it if it will push companies to improve wireless headphones. It is so much better without the wire. I think I would find it hard to go back to wired headphones even as they currently behave.

So with the things I can and have been using - iOS 10, macOS Sierra and watchOS. I am generally happy.

  1. macOS is generally a solid upgrade. So far the only thing that bugs me is the white notification centre while using the dark theme. It looks very much out of place.

  2. iOS 10. Changing things around is ok and generally it's all ok. I'm not sure how I feel about the whiteness of everything. I'm also not sure about making many of the fonts larger. But the things I use the most are generally quite good. I do think the music app is improved but to be honest it was a bit of a mess before so it would be hard to not improve it. However on that note why is not so hard to "heart" songs? It's hidden from the lock screen and requires digging through menus when in the music app too. Someone should be told off for that. When listening to music I don't want to unlock my phone and certainly not dig around menus to heart a song.

  3. watchOS. In so many ways it's almost like a new OS. it's so much faster, the new layout of the activity app is perfect. The improved data from the workout results. It's all good. However there is one move that was down right awful. You used to have numerous items in the "swipe up" menu which included a now playing screen which always held the right context for podcasts and music and worked with 3rd party apps like spotify. Which ever screen you used last would be there when you swiped up again. It was perfect. Now "swipe up" reveals a bunch of buttons many of which I'll never use on a daily basis. Seriously, airplane mode needs that sort of prominence? If I want to access the sort of apps that were there before I need to click the side button which used to have your friends list. That would be fine but on top of clicking it I need to then click the app to focus it. Getting to "now playing" is downright painful now. I've alleviated some of this by creating a watch face that has the music app but that means it only works on music. Not podcasts. It needs to be far more effortless. if I am using that now playing screen there's a good chance my hands are full and I want to only work with a minimal number of single finger flicks.

All in all there are regressions amongst the three aside from watchOS' painful issue with "now playing". I'm pleased to have updated across the board. That said seriously apple, sort the "now playing" portion of watchOS. I'll help with the suggestion. Swap the functionality of the button and swipe up. Putting swipe up back to what it was and putting the screen of useless buttons behind the button.

Posted on 22 Sep 2016, 11:15 p.m. by toadwarrior

My thoughts on Google IO

It's been awhile since Google IO and having some time to think about it I have to say I don't think there is anything I can be happy about. I'd even say it feels like Google has nothing to offer but to steal away privacy from its users.

The two key items Allo and Duo (see the verge video on Allo / Duo for more info) which is their messaging and video apps.

Duo, if you're an android user just turns the phone camera on as it rings. Does no one at google take their phone to the toilet? Why would anyone consider this a good idea?

Allo wants to listen to your conversations which I'm sure the government is happy about and to be fair there's nothing strictly wrong about simply encrypting on the wire and having helper bots At least they're open about it.

What is concerning about Allo is that it does offer end to end encryption and in my opinion it presents it really poorly. It's not the default option and worse yet it's called Incognito mode, it has a black background with a shifty looking guy in the background. Yes - that's how incognito more or less works on Chrome but the implication is that you're doing something wrong. You're the bad little spy hiding in the dark.

Why not call it privacy mode and drop the shifty looking man? It doesn't have a negative connotation and arguably privacy is more simple language.

Oh and of course these chat / video applications aren't compatible with previous Google chat / video applications. Google isn't a contender in chat and they're not going to be if they keep burning their own loyal customers. To go slightly off topic we need chat to be like email. People shouldn't need 5 or more chat applications to talk to all their friends. XMPP is there but obviously companies won't touch it. They want a monopoly.

Lastly there's Google Home. I'll just say I'm not happy to have an advertiser listening to my every word.

But disregarding that what can Google really offer me? Unlike Amazon Echo which comes from a company with plenty of good and services I would want to use Google doesn't really offer anything. Yes there are services like Google Music but I'll be honest investing in Google services just seems like a recipe for disappointment. They still kill their services a bit too quick to trust them.

The services where Google has been a leader they still fail at. Telling me obvious things like where the local Tesco is something I don't need maps for and if I did any provider does that just well. Something I'd need Maps for are things like local businesses which Google maps still fails at. The business you see in that link is not on that side of the street and certainly not inside a courthouse.

Is that the sort of quality I can expect from Google Home when I step outside of Google lowest common denominator expectations? Again to be fair, You can't blame google for not getting it right. Trying to provide AI is a near impossible task. It's still largely smoke and mirrors and works off of assumptions which make it only work if you're like everyone else. Where you can blame Google is for trying to convince customers it's anything but that.

Marco Arment is implying that apple could mean BlackBerry's fate by not going doing this route. I don't think he entirely understands what the implications are or he doesn't care. I'm personally happy that Apple values my privacy but also I'm happy they don't just throw things at the wall to see what sticks and kill off what doesn't. I've got better things to do than to signing up to yet another take on messaging by any company.

Posted on 22 May 2016, 11:09 a.m. by toadwarrior

My wish list for Apple

Now that everyone is taking time to explain what they want from Apple I felt ir was time to give my exceptionally short list.

Do away with the idea of 'pay once, update forever' in the App Store. If some companies would like to continue selling their apps that way it's fine but it's unsustainable and, I imagine, why the App Store is full of clones and unhelpful toy-like apps. If you go ahead with this then when I search for scanbot I'd imagine seeing one result from the scanbot author. Leaving me only capable of purchasing the latest or, after clicking into its page, seeing a version listing.

Start taking copyright infringement, scam-like apps and other App Store dreck more seriously. It's starting to feel like a shithole. I think we're only lucky that Google is worse in both these respects so developers have no choice.

We have a pro iPad so give us Xcode for iPad or some other means to write code. Compiling isn't necessarily a must but we're long overdue for some useful apps for programmers.

That's it, that's all I'd want.

Especially with a supposed pro iPad coming out its time to start looking after professionals. Having a 'pro' iPad and using it to play with fashion apps would just be sad.

Posted on 24 Mar 2016, 10:08 a.m. by toadwarrior

Apple watch mini review

Since the announcement of the Apple Watch I've been interested in it but I've never been entirely sure if I would see any real benefit. It is admittedly a bit pricey. But then two weeks ago I had a demo session in the local Apple store and that was it. I knew I had to have it. I was unsure which one I wanted so I meant to put off the purchase for a month. To give me time to think about it. I lasted a week and it arrived the end of last week.

I went with the larger Watch Sport. I think that was the best choice. It's not even so much about the price but I'm very interested in the fitness features and the others either look worse with the sport band or just don't work as a sports watch with the other bands.

So anyway, I've had it nearly a week now and I have to say I'm glad I went ahead and bought it. I expected there to be a manual - there wasn't really (at least not in the box). The iPhone app points you towards one but to be honest it's pretty straight forward. You can just play around with it and it's largely operates in a very natural way rendering a manual almost redundant.

I will say the setup process is long. Not so much in a bad way. It takes seconds to sync the watch to you phone and it's working straight away. But there seems to be a lot of background syncing that can take some time. Perhaps it's partially because of all the music on my iPhone and moving all the thumbnails over and stuff like that but it felt like it took a good 30 minutes or more to make it complete. Not that it rendered useless in anyway. It's just that you might find, for example, it's not syncing activity data just yet. Your steps and all that will eventually make it's way over though.

The ability to control your music from the watch and get notifications alone makes it very handy but easy to use activity and work out tracking really seals the deal. For me at least. Perhaps if you're just flat out against doing anything physical there's not much of a reason for you to have one but I find myself make the extra effort. So it's a positive effect on my health and in my mind even for £350 that's not that much if my health is improved even if in some ways it's just a pricey toy.

The battery life is certainly good enough. Admittedly I don't take calls on it but it's not because I think it's bad for that - actually I don't know. It's just not my thing to be taking calls in a more public way like that. Messaging works quite well. It seems to recognise what I say more than my iPhone had done itself in the past. I'm in an awkward position of being an American in the UK. While my accent has changed some I think the iPhone originally had some trouble as it may be slightly tweaked to in this region to consider speech difference which actually I don't want / need. But whatever it works though again it's a bit too public I can't see myself using a lot. I'm sure that factors in a lot to the battery life. Not making calls easily would give me perhaps a day and a half maybe a bit more out of the battery. I've fallen asleep with it on and it's not really been a problem. I'm just not going to want to sleep with it on (just as I never slept with any watch on in the past) so having to charge it every day isn't an issue.

I suspect transferring music onto the watch and playing it from the watch will affect the battery life. If that's your thing go for it but I struggle to see why I would want to duplicate my music that's on my phone. It feels like wasting space.

The apple watch and activity app on your phone are the key apps for interfacing with apple watch. Both are great in my mind. I like that the watch app gives you a filtered view on the app store to make it easier to browse watch related apps.

So over all I'm really happy with it and I would definitely recommend it. It is a bit expensive and it is worth looking over the features to see if it benefits you but if it has features you want and especially if you're into fitness and exercise I'd say go for it.

Posted on 24 Jun 2015, 10:45 p.m. by toadwarrior

iOS app idea

My Mac Mini serves as my media centre for my TV. I'm sure Apple TV is nice but I want a little more and the Mini is so small anyway. It just makes sense.

I have a wireless mouse and keyboard. It works well enough and I'm generally happy with it but what I'd love to see Apple do is come up with an app that let's me use my phone ideally as a keyboard and mouse. At least as a trackpad at the very least.

I feel there would be other reasons this would come in handy (presentations as an example) but it's basically the best way do a remote for a PC based media centre.

What you do is say when the app is open and the phone is in the normal vertical position is acts as a trackpad. I can drag my finger around the screen and control the mouse cursor.

I then rotate the phone into a horizontal position and the screen becomes a keyboard allowing me to obviously use it as a wireless keyboard.

If Apple makes this happen I would be a very happy person.

Posted on 24 Jun 2015, 9:43 p.m. by toadwarrior