Sunday, November 20, 2016

Wake Up Alarms (part 2)

Back in January of 2013 I wrote about wakeup alarms and compared the difference between Android and iOS.  That was back on an iPhone 5 and a Droid RAZR M.  I haven't thought much about it in recent years since I've been mostly using an iPhone but I've been thinking about it every morning since iOS 10 came out.

iOS 10 Alarm Lock Screen

In previous posts I have mentioned that I have pretty bad eye sight without my glasses and on top of that, the years are making it even more difficult to focus up close.  The screenshot above is about what my alarm lock screen looks like to me in the morning.  That tiny white smear at the bottom is actually a button.  It's one of those new beautiful iOS buttons that look nothing like a button.  It just looks like text that says Stop until you learn that if you tap right on the text it actually stops the alarm. In order to turn off the alarm every morning I have to pinpoint that button while being very groggy and without my glasses on.  It normally takes me five or six taps if I'm lucky.  About twice a week I have to pick up my phone and aim with my other hand several times to turn off my alarm.

Since I compared the screens between iOS and Android previously, I thought I would check out Android N and see what they are up to.  Here is are the two screen shots next to each other.

iOS 10 - tap Stop
Android N - Swipe left to snooze, right to stop
Prior to iOS 10, iOS had a swipe option and Android had a tap to snooze and a tap to stop option. Three years later and Apple no longer has a swipe option and Android N is only swipe. Below is what my blurry morning vision would do to the Android alarm screen.

The Android N version is not as easy as the previous versions of iOS but definitely easier than the iOS 10 version.  Just pull that white dot in the middle of the screen to the right and it will turn off. It's not obvious when looking at the blurry screen but learnable.  iOS 10 also has to be learned but still has the problem of the impossibly small stop text button.  It's funny that the iOS screen has a big snooze button that looks like a button.  Apple really wants people to Snooze.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Apple Watch Battery Life

I've had a 42mm Apple Watch Sport for about a week now and I've seen a lot of talk about battery life.  I'll admit the first couple of days I had it I was really worried the battery was not going to be enough and I was going to grow tired of worrying it.  After a week I don't have that same concern.  I now think the battery drain of the first few days was a combination of me playing with the watch constantly and giving demos to everyone I met.  That died off after a few days and my usage moved to what is probably more "normal".  I wear the watch all day and get notifications on it, but I'm not constantly playing with it now trying out everything.  I also typically log a one hour workout either trail running or road biking.  All of the workouts involve using the GPS and constant heart rate monitoring.

On Thursday of last week I was up early wearing my watch because I had to run my oldest son to school for an early morning project.  I got in to work early and wore the watch all day in the office receiving notifications.

Side Note: I find that I hardly take my phone out now during the day unless I'm away from my desk and need to write something longer than a simple dictation through the phone.

I left work early because I wanted to ride up the canyon  before it got dark.  I had plenty of battery left on my iPhone 6+ and the watch for the ride.

My boys and I were also going to the midnight showing of the new Avenger's movie (it is terrible btw) so I knew it was going to be a longer day than normal.  I thought about charging it up between my ride and going to the movie but decided I'd really put the watch to the test and not give it any additional juice.  Right before I went to bed at 3:30am I took a screen shot of the battery life and it was at 14%.

After 21 hours of continual use with a 1 hour bike ride using GPS and the heart rate monitor, the watch was still at 14%.  Not bad.  Keep in mind, I don't get a lot of notifications or interaction after 10pm so the last 5 1/2 hours didn't need a lot of power.  So far I'm satisfied the battery is sufficient.

Bonus:  I discovered tonight while out on a walk that if you double tap the crown, it will switch between the last two apps you have run.   I often want to jump between the music and the workout app, now I have a way to do that!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Left Handed Apple Watch

Apple Watch on my right arm
My good friend Randy Cook was checking out my watch today and asked how left handed people use it.  I told him there was a setting to make it work on the right wrist.  He said too bad you can't move the crown.  For fun I just tried out the setting and was surprised to find there is also a setting to choose which side of the watch you want the crown on.

Apple Watch on my left arm with crown swapped
I immediately moved it back to my left arm and found I like it a lot better.  In fact one of the problems I had with the crown is it was difficult to rotate using my index finger.  It was also always against my wrist.  With the crown on the left side I can use my thumb and it's a lot easier (maybe I'm all thumbs?).

Using my the crown with my thumb!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

First Day With An Apple Watch

Yesterday was my first whole day wearing an Apple Watch.  Besides being a gadget freak and a mobile developer, my main interest in getting an Apple Watch was to replace my current workout watch.  I haven't worn a watch for a number of years except when I'm out running or riding.


Toma and me above the altar
Workout Results
The first thing I did with the watch was take it up on a trail run to see how much I like it to track workouts.  I can't tell you how many times I've been running or biking and I get a text message or phone call and I can't tell who it is because my phone is tucked away. With the Apple Watch that won't be a problem and I can tell you it wasn't a problem on my first workout.  I could easily see who was texting me and respond or ignore until later.

Toma (my black lab) and I went trail running up to the Altar.  The watch notified me at each mile with a pleasant pop/click noise that seemed like it was mechanical because it vibrated slightly at the same time.  The display seemed a bit dim at times in the sun (with my sunglasses on especially).  I'll have to see how that plays out in different conditions.  It did rain a little on my run too and I was wishing for some kind of protection on the watch.  Someone should produce a rubber sleeve (something like what the Go Pro cameras use) to make the watch more weather resistant while working out.  I have no idea how weather resistant it is but there are slots on the side where it has a speaker and mic.

Apple Pay

To use Apple Pay on the watch you have to set it up even if you already have it set up on your phone. None of the cards will transfer to your watch, you have to re-add them.  I'm guessing it's because Apple never actually sends the card information anywhere and it is only store on your phone.

Unlike the iPhone, you have to activate Apple Pay on your watch.  I'm guessing that is to conserve power but you simply double click the side button and then hold it up to the NFC payment device.  No finger print needed with the Apple Watch.  I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not.  It's nice because it's faster than the iPhone but seems less secure.  You do have to unlock the watch any time it is take off your wrist so someone can't just take your watch and start paying with it.  Still, a fingerprint is more secure than a 4 digit code.

Stand Up!

While writing this post my watch notified me that I've been sitting too long.  I sort of like that.  I'm an engineer and sometimes I sit for hours working on a problem and sort of forget that my body needs to get up and move around a little.  This is probably old news for people that have used fit bits or other types of activity monitors, but for me it's a pleasant addition.


Here is a comparison with picture between my 48mm Apple Watch and previous watches I've had.

Fossil Watch
Polar F11

Garmin 310XT

Garmin 610
Keep in mind, some of these watches (like the Garmin 310XT and Garmin 610) have a GPS built in so they don't need a phone to determine how far you've gone.  At the same time, all of the watches (except the Fossil which was the last real watch I ever wore) require an external heart rate chest strap to keep track of your workout. The Apple watch doesn't require that but if you really want one, you can pair it with a third party bluetooth strap. As you can see, the Apple Watch is a lot smaller and is also a lot lighter.

Update- I forgot I actually had an Earlier Garmin that was smashed on a bike ride.  Let's hope this doesn't happen with my Apple Watch!


This is the first Apple product I have purchased since I can remember where I really don't know how to use it out of the box.  You think I'm alone on this?  Why would Apple feel the need to include instructional videos in the Apple Watch App.  I have watched every one of these videos, not because I sequentially went through them trying to learn all I could about the watch, but because I could not figure out how to do things I had read that the watch could do.  I have also consulted the iMore website more times than I care to admit to figure things out.

A lot of it has to do with the crown.  The crown is a cool thing and very useful, but also confusing and not very intuitive.  It may be because I'm not a watch person but I think it has more to do with the fact that the watch has a touch interface and I just expect it to be able to do everything (which it can't).

It may be that this interface is so different from what I have grown used to that it's more of a learned experience and with time it will get better and better.  I haven't found anything I don't like about the experience, but it's taking longer to pick up than other products.


The one unknown is the battery life.  It's 6:30pm on a Sunday and I just took that screen shot.  Seems impressive since I've had it on all day but that was not the case yesterday.  When I went on my workout and it was tracking my heart rate and location (via my phone) it was at 53% after the run and my day was just getting started.  By 5:30pm it was down to 29% and I was worried because I knew I'd be away for the remainder of the night.  I threw it on the charger while I showered and by the time I left it was up above 60%.  I didn't have any problems but I wonder if there is always going to be a re-charge period while I shower after workouts.  BTW, my phone didn't need a charge and one would think it did the heavy lifting on the workout, but it didn't ever have to display anything.


I've only had it for two days but so far I like it.  I haven't really integrated any third party apps yet and that could expand what it's able to do quite a bit.  I'll have to see how it does in the coming work week.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Nest Protect

4:51 AM: I'm woken up by the sound of a loud chirp.  I roll over and pretend I didn't hear it.

4:52 AM: No luck, it's a smoke detector chirping from low battery.  Why can't this happen in the middle of the day?

I lay in bed for a while pretending that I can fall back asleep and ignore the chirp, I start thinking about the four Nest Protect systems I purchased and installed and how much I wish I had replaced all of my smoke alarms.  The only reason I hadn't replaced all of them is they are $99 each and I wanted to give them a test run before I completely replace them.

4:55 AM: I'm out of bed standing in the hallway at a strange angle hoping that on the next chirp I can determine which room has the chirping smoke alarm.  It's one of three because the hallway and one bedroom both have Nest Protect units in them and "they don't chirp!"

4:56 AM: The chirp comes from in front of me so it has to be the other bedroom.  I open the bedroom door, hear my teenage son stir and wonder how he can sleep through the chirping.  I open the battery compartment, yank out the battery, test it on my tongue (it seems strong) and then hear another chirp coming from behind me.

4:57 AM: I have opened every smoke detector on the floor and removed the battery because I simply want to get back to bed.  I will deal with this in the morning.

Then I heard another chirp.

How is that possible?  I don't have any more of these "old school" smoke detectors that chirp.  Is there something else in my house that makes a sound like that?

I stand very still and wait for it.


It's coming from the other bedroom.  The bedroom that has a Nest Protect in it.  I walk up to the door and crack it open trying not to wake my other son.  I look up at the Nest Protect unit on the ceiling and I'm stunned.  It chirps again.

Why am I stunned.  Let me quote from the Nest Protect website (italics added):
What is Nightly Promise?
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night because your smoke alarm was chirping? Nest Protect has a better way: Nightly Promise. Each night when you turn out the lights you’ll get a quick green glow which means the batteries and sensors of Nest Protect are working. It also means no dreaded chirps at midnight so you can sleep safe and sound.
 I pull the unit down and disconnect the power and tell my son to go back to sleep.  I take it in my office and it chirps again.

Problem Reported in my Phone

I decide to look at my phone and see that the Nest app has an indicator.  Above is the message reported for the Next Protect in that room.

5:05 AM: I find a phillips screwdriver, take apart the Nest Protect and remove the batteries.  

The chirping has ended and I can go back to sleep.

From Nest's website:
"We all know why smoke alarms are torn off the ceiling or missing batteries – because every time you make stir-fry, the smoke alarm cries wolf. Or just as you’re falling asleep, you hear a low-battery chirp. They’ve become annoying."
Nest Protect torn off the ceiling AND missing batteries

I have contacted Nest to send me a replacement unit.  What else can I do, it says right in the app "You need to replace Nest Protect".  Well, it's only a few months old but has a two year warranty so I'm assuming they are going to replace it.  I'll updated this entry when I find out.

I really do like these units.  I like how they talk to you when there is an issue (it's happened a couple of times with some kitchen incidents) but I have to be honest.  When it really comes down to it, there are only two reasons I purchased these very expensive smoke alarms.

1. I never wanted to wake up to a chirp again
2. I wanted the unit to notify me on my phone what was wrong.

(note to Nest: you failed both of these)

Am I going to replace the rest of the smoke alarms in my house with Nest Protects?  I don't know, we'll see how they handle this situation and I'll probably continue my evaluation another year and see how they do before I spend the money.

UPDATE:  I contacted Nest and they sent me a replacement unit.  I have it installed.  I sure do like the way these work when they do work.  We'll see how it goes for the next few months.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple Pay vs Google Wallet

Apple released Apple Pay yesterday with the iOS 8.1 update.  Randy and I went out at lunch to try it out and compare it to Google Wallet on his OnePlus One Android Phone.  We visited three locations: Maverik, McDonald's, and Macey's Grocery.  Both phones were able to make payments without any network connection however the Airplane mode on the OnePlus One also shut off the NFC radio.  The iPhone 6+ was able to pay even in Airplane mode.

Here are the steps to pay on the two phones:

Apple Pay
NFC Payments
  • Place the iPhone up to the payment terminal
  • Use Touch ID to authorize
  • Done
Google Wallet
  • Unlock your phone
  • Place your Phone up to the payment terminal
  • Enter your 4 digit Google Wallet PIN
  • Done

The steps above look about the same but what isn't mentioned there is it took a while to figure out how to make Google Wallet work.  If I were to write the steps it took the very first time we tried Google Wallet they would look like this:

Google Wallet (the first time)
  • Place the Phone up to the payment terminal
  • Wake the phone up and then try again
  • Unlock the phone and try again
  • Wave it around for a little bit hoping the people behind are not getting too upset
  • After a few seconds, finally enter your PIN in Google Wallet to unlock it
  • When no network is available, get a confusing message that sounds like the payment didn't work when in reality it did.  It was trying to tell you it cannot show the details yet because you are not connected, but it sounds more like the payment failed.
What's the point?

You may ask why even bother with the stuff?  Why is this easier than just using my credit card?  Last week I was mailed new credit cards.  I didn't ask for them but they were issued along with a letter about how Home Depot was compromised and these cards were sent to protect me.  Had I been using Apple Pay or Google Wallet every time I went to Home Depot, it wouldn't have mattered.

When you set up a credit card in Apple Pay a unique card number is generated that will only work with that iPhone, and only with your finger print.  When you shop at a store, the only number they get is the one generated for your phone.  To use that number someone would have to have your phone and your finger print.  When Home Depot or Target are compromised in the future, no useful information will exist on their insecure systems.

Look for the NFC Payments logo (above) and it's likely that you'll be able to pay using Apple Pay or Google Wallet.

-- Just a quick followup...  We went to lunch today at JCW's.  They had the NFC Payments symbol.  I was able to pay with Apple Pay.  Randy tried with Google Wallet and it wouldn't work.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why I pay full non-contract price for phones

I read an article today about how expensive the new iPhone 6 will be if you buy it off contract.  I admit, it's a lot of money but it's actually less money than what you'll pay if you buy it with a contract.

I recently switched back to AT&T from Verizon because they introduced a new plan called the Mobile Share Value plan that offers non-subsidized pricing if you own your phone.  There are two rates for each line on this plan. If you own your phone the rate is $15/month for the line.  If you buy a "contract price" phone that rate is $40/month for the line and you have a 2 year contract.

In case you didn't get that, they will charge you and extra $25/month for 2 years to pay for the rest of that phone.  Over 24 months that ends up being $600.
With that, here are the actual iPhone 6 Plus costs:

Contract Prices:
iPhone 6 Plus 16GB: $899
iPhone 6 Plus 64GB: $999
iPhone 6 Plus 128GB: $1099

Non-Contract Prices:
iPhone 6 Plus 16GB: $749
iPhone 6 Plus 64GB: $849
iPhone 6 Plus 128GB: $949 

The other thing to consider is with non-contract plans you don't have a 2 year contract.  I know that seems obvious but let me just say it once again... you don't have a 2 year contract.  You are free to terminate your service any time you want with no cancellation fees.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Back on my iPhone

I have posted a bunch of times about switching between phones.  Because I develop apps I have various devices and switch between them depending on what I'm working on.  I like to test out the software I'm currently working on.  Last night I switched back to an iPhone 5s from a Samsung Galaxy S4.  If you properly set up your "cloud" data it's fairly easy to switch between devices (how I do that probably deserves it's own post).  I was really surprised this morning when I took Toma for a walk at the quality of picture difference between the two.  Look at the full resolution version of that picture (at the leaves).  I have never been able to get a photo like that out of the Samsung!  Toma's face in the photo isn't as clear but he was moving.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Wake Up Alarms

I use my phone as my alarm clock and I have to wonder what the people were thinking when they designed the screens to turn off the alarms (shown above on an iPhone 5 and a Droid RAZR M).  For the benefit of the younger and less experienced readers (I'm starting to find some sick pleasure in saying that) I'd like to explain the problem here.  As you become older, or as Brian my youthful employee likes to say "become more brittle", you'll find that you need corrective lenses for almost all you do.  I'm now to the point that when somebody hands me something to read I find myself pulling a "Dr. Gaisford" move where I hold the item at arm length from my face so I can actually read it.

There is a reason why most alarm clocks have a single physical button on the top of them to turn them off.   Simply slam your hand down on the top of it and you'll most likely hit that button and turn off the alarm.  At 5:30am when I am suddenly thrust out of my deep sleep into a very dark room lit only by the seemingly ultra-bright screen on my phone, it is very difficult to make sense of these screens.  The iPhone screen is not as bad as the Android screen because the slide at the bottom of the screen is fairly easy to do.  Of course when the room it pitch black and I'm groggy from sleep and I don't have glasses on the screen looks more like this (except it hurts your eyes more and there is a loud sound that won't stop):

Most of us could probably figure out how to turn the alarm off even when the screen is that bad.  How about the Android screen:

Now imagine having my vision being half asleep squinting as hard as you can to make out the text on that screen (which I never could due to the extreem brightness) trying to turn off the alarm.  A few days ago I hit what I thought was the right button because it went silent.  When I turned off the water from the shower I could hear it going off again.  I obviously guessed wrong and hit the snooze button by mistake.  That or I guessed correctly but since the two buttons are so small and right next to each other I may have actually hit the wrong button.

I would suggest that a wake up alarm screen needs to have two simple large buttons, one to snooze and the other to indicate I'm up.  Here is a very quick and dirty mockup adjusted to my early morning perception:

This is by no means a perfect and beautiful, but for the purposes of turning off my alarms at 5:30am, I don't need perfection, I need function!  Note that the two huge buttons are on opposites ends of the screen so you won't make a choice and hit the wrong one.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Pigs Fly

I was chatting today with Boyd and he discovered he hasn't blogged anything since January 1, 2009.  The shocking part came when we realized that was four years ago.  While it hasn't been that long for me, I've been pretty inconsistent and most of my recent entries have been about biking.  Since I can't bike right now (27˚F) I thought I'd write about some technology.

A little more than a month ago I began work on Todo Pro for Android.  I have a very limited working version that I can use and syncs with the Todo Pro service.  BTW, the answer is no you can't have it yet, only I know how to tip-toe through it so it doesn't have problems.  

Galaxy Note 2
Just before Christmas I decided I needed to really experience life with an Android phone so I went shopping.  I was limited to the Verizon models available and spent half a day researching and going to the Verizon store to play with the devices.  The first device I was shown was the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  I stick with my first observation in that this device is not a phone.  It is a very small tablet that works to make phone calls and is only good for Women who can place it in their purse.  As if calling something this large a phone isn't enough entertainment, it comes with a stylus!  

For the benefit the younger and less experienced reader, a stylus is a stick that looks like a pencil that you use for input on a device.  It's sort of how you use your finger on your iPhone, but think Soviet Military from the 80's.  Steve Jobs was right.  My top desk drawer tends to collect items at the back of it that were useful in their day but have now been replaced.  Under a collection of foreign money not worth the time or effort to exchange and an old wallet I never used is my old worn out collection of styli from devices years ago.

Back of my desk drawer
Lost Styli Revealed

The thought of going back to a stylus is frightening, but the sales guy at the Verizon store assured me the Galaxy Note 2 was the most advanced phone made.

Samsung Galaxy S III
I spent a lot of time looking at the various Android phones available and even called up Android users I knew and asked their advice.  The Galaxy S III seemed like a logical choice.  It's Verizon's most popular phone from what I could tell and it had the best Calendar App (an exclusive app to Samsung) of all of the devices.  I use my calendar a lot!  It also had great specs and I was fairly confident it would get the next few Android updates which would prolong it's usefulness to Appigo.  I bought the phone and had them connect it to my plan replacing my iPhone 5.  That night I went through all of the apps on my iPhone 5 and downloaded the Android versions of them.  Dropbox, mSecure, Mint, Chase, Dictionary, eBay, Kitco, Gospel Library, LDS Tools were all available for Android and I had them up and running quickly.  I of course also had Todo Pro!  All of my calendars and contacts were in iCloud so I found an app called SmoothSync for Cloud that will sync iCloud calendars and contacts to Android.  I was amazed at how easy it was to still have access to everything on a completely foreign device.  I didn't need the Reeder app since Google Reader is available for Android and I could get all of my notes from Appigo Notebook directly from Dropbox.  Dropbox on Android is more like Dropbox on OS X.  It syncs even when it's not running and will let you edit files and upload them.

For the first time I was actually beginning to think I could switch to Android and be happy about it.  My previous experience was with a Nexus One from Google and Android has certainly come a long way since then.

Twelve days later I was back in the Verizon store returning the Galaxy S III.  It took just over a week for the novelty of this shiny big new phone to wear off and I started to focus on it's faults.  

The first fault I noticed right away but it took a week for it to really frustrate me.  It was the location of the power and volume buttons on the phone.  They are directly across from each other on opposite sides of the phone.  It's not apparent why that's a problem until you wake in the middle of the night and reach over to turn on your phone to see what time it is.  The Galaxy S III is so wide you have to stretch your hand out and squeeze both sides to turn it on.  When I would do this, I would always, always, always turn the volume up on the ringer and it would make a noise.  Of course I want the phone silent at night so I would then have to fumble and turn it back down all the way.  Then I noticed this volume changing was happening all them time when I would try to turn the phone on and off.

The next fault I also noticed right away but it took me longer to figure out what was happening.  Actually, it took me going skiing for several days in a row.  The lift going up the mountain at Sundance is not exactly what I call quick so there is some time to burn.  I often will pull out my phone and keep in touch with people.  Well, it's also cold so I one hand operate my phone.  No reason to get both hands cold unless of course you bought one of Samsung's new ginormous Galaxy Note 2 phones.  You can barely hold that phone in one hand let alone use it.  Well, turns out the same is true of the Galaxy S III.  It's too big for one handed operation.  Every time I would try to reach my thumb to the top or bottom left of the screen, my palm would touch along the right half of the screen and "palm-launch" an app.  It was also precarious to handle when sitting on a ski lift thirty feet above deep soft snow.  I decided I needed to return it and either go back to an iPhone 5 or find a smaller phone that didn't have the power and volume buttons on either side.

When the woman at the sales desk in the Verizon store found out I was returning a Galaxy S III she looked like I was calling her baby ugly.  She was stunned.  "I have never had anyone return this phone, I don't understand" she said.  I tried to explain the button thing and the one handed stuff on the ski lift but she was not very understanding and still stunned I was returning it.

Motorola Droid RAZR M
I replaced the Galaxy S III with the Droid RAZR M from Motorola.  The only thing I liked better on the Galaxy was the calendar app but I'm making due with the default Android calendar app.  The M is nearly identical in size to the iPhone 5 and one handed operation is excellent.  It also has the power and volume buttons on the same side so there is also no volume changing when turning the phone on and off.  I've had it longer than I had the Galaxy S III and I still like it.

Todo Pro for Android running on my Droid RAZR M

I showed Jack Young that my new phone was an Android on Sunday.  He looked shocked and asked me if he should make an announcement from the pulpit.