First of all, I know: shame on me for using Calendar. But simply put, it’s free, it works pretty well with Google Calendar (my calendaring service of choice), and it’s integrated with Apple’s ecosystem.
That doesn’t make it a great app. It’s improved in fits and starts, but for someone like me, who’s a light calendar user—I tend to have very few meetings, a few recurring events, and a handful of shared calendars—there are really some ways that it could get even better.
One of those is hiding or collapsing hours that are unscheduled. I’ve seen this implemented well in other calendaring apps1, but here’s the basic issue: there’s a lot of time during the day when I’m not scheduled. Most obviously, when I’m (generally) sleeping. And yet Calendar still decides it needs to show me all of those hours, in both the day and week views. That’s a whole lot of white space that I end up scrolling past.
Yes, it’s nice to have a context. Heck, it’s nice to know that my day isn’t booked from end to end. But it’s not exactly an efficient use of space. So why not simply give me the option to hide big chunks of time? Calendar already gives me an option to set the beginning and end of my “day,” and how much it can show at any given time. It even fades out the time outside of my “day”—so why show it at all?
I recognize that this might be mainly the way, with all the caveats from above, I use Calendar, and not the way most people do. It’s also far from the only improvement that I’d wish to see in Calendar (especially in the iOS version, which has improved but is still kind of lackluster). Calendaring in general is kind of a necessary evil for many of us, given today’s hectic life—if we can’t make it less necessary, let’s at least make it a little less evil.
I cannot for the life of me recall which app this was now, but it essentially collapsed non-working hours. One of you dear readers will remember, surely. ↩
It’s kind of mind-blowing to really understand how much hardware is packed into that tiny module, which itself is only a small part of what’s inside the Watch. Not only a processor, but RAM, flash memory, wireless controllers, sensors, and specialized chips to deal with charging, the touch interface, and power management.
Tiny computers already get embedded in plenty of places, but this gives you an even better idea of how far wearable technology could go.
I never really wanted a cell phone. Back in college, I bought the only PDA I ever owned, a Handspring Visor Pro. I really coveted a Palm VII, with its built-in networking capability, but I settled for the Visor as it was cheaper and had the Game Boy-like expansion slot, and I thought at some point I might be able to afford the modem add-on. Because even then what I really wanted was a way to stay connected to the Internet, no matter where I was. Now I not only have that in my pocket, I have it on my wrist.
It’s been years since I wore a watch, but I noticed something funny the other week when I was at the Star Wars Celebration out in Anaheim. While we queued for the opening ceremonies, the convention staff handed out paper wristbands indicating that we’d been in line. Nothing fancy, just those adhesive ones that you’d get at parties to indicate that you’re over 21.
Despite those years of not wearing a watch, the muscle memory was ingrained so deeply in me that even that minute tactile sensation on my arm had me checking my wrist easily half a dozen times to see what time it was. The wristband, unsurprisingly, did not provide that information.
When I last gave up wearing a watch, it was in part because I didn’t like that I ended up checking it constantly; it had become a sort of non-verbal tic. In more recent years that has been replaced by feeling too beholden to pulling out my phone, but that’s a much more involved process, so it’s easier to check myself before reaching into my pocket.
During the past week, I have found myself fiddling with the Apple Watch a whole lot. Part of that is sheer novelty—I’m still trying to figure out the how and why of this device. I’m still getting attuned to the different patterns of haptic feedback, though I can now recognize when the Watch is telling me “it’s time to stand up” and “incoming text message.” But in the same way that novelty of the phone wore off as it became a fact of life, I expect the Watch too to fade into the background as time goes by.
A few stray observations:
I keep the Watch exclusively on silent mode. To me the entire point of the device is to be unobtrusive, a goal that is completely undermined if it starts chiming and beeping all the time.1 The Taptic Engine is, simply put, genius. Far more subtle than even a vibrating phone, it’s also a surprisingly powerful way to send different types of messages. I’m kind of dumbfounded that tactile feedback has been so under-utilized to date.
Glances feel like they have potential, but their slow update speeds and the annoyance of swiping through any more than three or four of them negate almost any utility. Having to remember where various Glances are in your ordering is a pain, as is having to swipe all the way back to the first one from the last one and vice versa. (My Rebound co-host Lex Friedman compares them to Today widgets, which is pretty much spot on.)
So far, I’ve pretty much stuck to the Utility face, with a green second hand and complications for activity (top left), weather (top right), date (middle), and calendar (bottom).2Like Jason, I wish that the calendar line would go blank rather than telling me that there are no more events, but I understand why Apple made that choice. I’d actually like to have the timer widget on there too, because it would be handy to have one-tap access to it, but right now I fall back to Siri.
Speaking of Siri, the Watch version is really, really good; I’ve only had a couple of transcription errors. But it sometimes feels slow to respond; like on the phone, you kind of have to barrel through and trust that Siri is listening, because if you say “Hey Siri” and wait, sometimes it gets confused. And sometimes it doesn’t respond at all, for example when you’ve raised your arm, but the Watch’s display turns off before you can make your query.
The lack of a Reminders app seems like an odd oversight, even though you can get notifications for reminders and view or add to them via Siri. I’d like a full-fledged Reminders app that lets me view my list and check off completed items.
The Calendar app is not the best. I appreciate the scrolling list of events, but the individual detail view isn’t super useful, and even weirder is that when you go back up a level to see the monthly calendar, it only shows you the current month (the event list shows you the next week or so). So if I just want to know what day of the week May 17 is, for example, I’m out of luck if it’s not currently May.
I like the “raise arm to turn on Watch display” option, but when combined with the Watch’s aggressive display-off mode it can be irritating. Sometimes it flits on and off depending on how I move my arm. If your arm is already up, you have to shake your hand or press a button to turn the screen on. I appreciate the battery savings, but I think a future version of this device is going to be able to keep its screen on all the time and we’re not going to look back.
The friends interface is just bizarre. Again, I understand what Apple’s trying to push here, but a few things: I rarely initiate texts or calls from my Watch. Those are tasks that I go to the iPhone for. Which means that the only reason to go into the friends screen is to send sketches/taps/heartbeats to people. And none of the people who the Watch automatically added from my Favorites also had a Watch, so I had to go through and add people I knew had a Watch to test the Digital Touch features, because otherwise there’s no way to access them. In short: the interface itself is a fine idea, but devoting an entire button to it? Wishful thinking on Apple’s part. But a week in I’m also not sure what else I would devote a button to.
This week on Clockwise, Dan Moren and I are joined by Allison Sheridan and Scholle McFarland to talk Apple Watch first impressions, sympathy for Microsoft, iPad sales on the wane, and Dropbox getting social-ish.
Today we released our very first App Camp app! The Quiz Compendium includes 15 personality quizzes created by camper project teams. You’ll learn so many things about yourself, such as what your superpower is, where you should go on vacation, and even what your breakfast choices say about your personality.
The app is 99 cents. It’s a fun way to support a good cause.
I find the transcript valuable. Not everyone has the time or inclination to listen to a conference call, and yet amid the boredom of analysts asking for more color about foreign exchange headwinds, there are often some very interesting tidbits about how Apple’s business is working and what Apple’s priorities are. People seem to like reading them, and they’re a convenient reference for writing follow-up stories.
In any event, although I am now “fast-typing Jason Snell” according to John Gruber1, I can’t type as fast as Tim Cook can read the prepared remarks that open the analyst call2.
To keep the turnaround between the analyst call and the posting of my transcript as short as possible, I use Rogue Amoeba’s excellent Audio Hijack, which I reviewed here in January. For past calls, I’ve taken notes during the call and then played back a recording in iTunes later, filling in the gaps. This time, I just started transcribing when the call started. A few minutes after the call was complete, I had a full transcript.
In order to make this work, I use Audio Hijack’s Time Shift block, which lets me pause and rewind the audio I’m capturing—TiVo style!—as I listen. During Cook’s prepared remarks, I ended up several minutes behind the live stream, but by skipping over Apple CFO Luca Maestri’s remarks and the questions of analysts, I managed to catch up to nearly live before the end of the call.
I’d love it if Rogue Amoeba could add some keyboard shortcuts to Time Shift, so I didn’t have to keep clicking the back button manually every time I failed to keep up with Tim Cook. But even with all the clicking, Audio Hijack made my job a lot easier—and got the transcript out much faster.
I type 120 words per minute, which I’ve mentioned a lot lately because I’ve been writing about the new MacBook keyboard. Someone tweeted at me that they felt it came across as a boast, which I find bizarre. My typing speed is what it is, more a personal trait than some sort of accomplishment. I mention it because my perspective of what’s good and bad about a keyboard might be very different from someone who is not fast-typing me. ↩
When Tim’s speaking a bit more extemporaneously, answering analyst questions, I can usually keep up with him. He speaks more slowly then, and pauses a lot to consider how he wants to phrase his statements. My fingers thank you, Tim. ↩
The Release Notes conference—about “the business of being an independent developer”—is October 21-23 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tickets are on sale now, and speakers include Myke Hurley, Jim Dalrymple, Jean MacDonald, Georgia Dow, “Underscore” David Smith, and many more! (I’ll be there too, not as a speaker but as an attendee.)
This week, Myke and I recount their first weekends with the Apple Watch, answer your Apple Watch questions, talk about my trip to the Yosemite by CocoaConf conference, and do a little follow-up about Photos for Mac and iCloud Photo Library.
Apple financial results are out. In the second fiscal quarter covering the first three months of calendar-year 2015, Apple sold 61 million iPhones, 12.6 million iPads, 4.6 million Macs. Total revenue was $58 billion, with $13.6 billion in profit. Apple’s cash balance is now at $194 billion.
More charts after the jump, and of course we’ll be liveblogging the analyst call at @sixcolorsevent on Twitter and also right below…
It’s that time of the three-month block of time where a young person’s heart turns toward corporate documents. Yes, Apple’s quarterly financials will be released this afternoon, followed by a sometimes-informative phone call between Apple execs and financial analysts! Thrill to hear Gene Munster try to get Tim Cook talking about a new Apple television set! Fear at the analyst requests for “more color” from execs! Snooze as the classical music plays before the call begins!
We’ll cover them here and as always, you can get a blow-by-blow on the @sixcolorsevent Twitter feed.
My Apple Watch came Friday. Well, not my Apple watch. I ordered the space gray Apple Watch Sport with the black sport band, and it was back-ordered until mid-May. Fortunately, a friend of mine ordered a watch he didn’t want, and decided to let Six Colors purchase his Apple Watch Sport with a green sport band. After a quick exchange on a little street a couple of miles from my house, I was in business.
I spent two and half days with the Apple Watch without writing a word about it. I was talking to my mother on the phone today, and she asked what I thought of it—and I told her I couldn’t really say. It’s complicated.
This is a new product. Like, a really new product. It’s not like any product I’ve used before, though it has echoes of my old Pebble and of iOS devices, of course. But my built-up skills in using iOS were no use to me when I started using the Apple Watch. This is not a tiny iPhone on my wrist. This is something new.
It might be good. It’s certainly impressive. But it’s new, and it’s going to take some time to figure out quite what it all means.
So, in the absence of that sort of revelation, what am I to write about? Let’s take my rapid-fire observations and present them in a hail of bullets…
Thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring Six Colors this past week. Squarespace is a website publishing platform that makes it easy to create beautiful websites, portfolios, blogs, and online stores without touching a line of code.
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Over at The Incomparable, our Comic Book Club returns this week. One of my goals with talking about comics is to pick things that are accessible, that you can buy a book or two and get an entire story.
This time we’re talking about “Marvels” and “Kingdom Come,” both readily available in single trade-paperback editions. These are two ’90s stories featuring gorgeous art by Alex Ross and intriguing themes about the relationship between superhumans and regular humans.
I have taken possession of an Apple Watch Sport. So, any questions? Send ‘em to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them at @jsnell and I’ll try to answer them. More impressions later today…. in the meantime, iMore’s Apple Watch anticipation/arrival live blog is a fun read.
As Six Colors reader John Buck noted to me via email, “modern nonlinear video editing is almost certainly based upon the work of three people and their teams,” Adrian Ettlinger in the 1970s with CMX, Bill Warner in the 1990s with Avid, and Randy Ubillos with ReelTime, Premiere, KeyGrip, Final Cut Pro, and iMovie. (Thanks to John for the perspective.)
My Ubillos story is a little more personal: When the all-new iMovie came out, there were a lot of complaints, as there always are when something changes a lot. I complained somewhere (on Macworld? on Twitter?) about how losing the keyboard shortcut to the Split Clip command really ruined my iMovie workflow.
Later that same day I got an email from Randy Ubillos thanking me for my comment (!) and asking if there were any other keyboard shortcuts I’d like to see. And sure enough, in the very next update to iMovie, there was a keyboard shortcut assigned to the Split Clip command.
I can count on one hand (with fingers left over) the number of interactions like this—directly with key people who are creating software at Apple—that I’ve had in two decades of covering the company. That Randy Ubillos himself cared enough about his product and comments about it to answer and ask for more feedback… it blew me away. It still does.