Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How I have my Apple iDevices configured

A colleague recently asked me how I have my Apple iPhone, iPad, Mac, AppleTV and Apple Watch configured. While there are lots of ways and everyone will have their personal preferences, here are mine:

iTunes - I use a single iTunes id for all my Apple devices so all my purchases are accessible.  While I was initially excited with the prospect of Family Sharing, it doesn't support iTunes Match (see below) and wasn't an option for me.  I use the same iTunes id for work and personal, for iCloud and iMessage.

Apple Music - I'm not a fan and I don't subscribe. I have a large music collection that I own and I also subscribe to Sirius/XM in my two cars and listen to on all my devices

iTunes Match - I'm a huge fan and for $24.99 a year, it's a bargain. Our family has a huge number of playlists which are available on all our devices.  Unfortunately, Family Sharing isn't supported so each of our devices (maximum of 10) needs to log into the same iTunes account.  I hope Apple addresses this limitation.

iCloud - Each of the members in our family has their own iCloud account in their own name.  My family makes due with the free 5GB account. I pay $1 a month for the 50GB plan so I have enough space to backup all my devices.  We synchronize our all data across devices.

iMessage - Each of the members of the members of my family uses the same Apple ID for iCloud and iMessage. While I prefer to get all my messages and phone calls on all my devices, my

OurPact and iOS Restrictions - I use OurPact and native iOS restrictions to limit my kids access

Find my iPhone/iPad - enabled on all my devices

Find My Friends - installed on all our devices and we share our locations. We also have "Notify Me" alerts set (e.g. when the kids arrive home)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Riega Apple Watch replacement band - thumbs up!

I own a space grey 42mm Apple Watch Sport with the black plastic sport band. It's a great watch but I've been wanting to purchase a replacement band for a dressier look. The bands that Apple sells are very nice but also expensive. I was looking for something more affordable (e.g. aftermarket bands)

My first attempt was the $40 Happy Cell blue leather loop which I purchased online from Amazon. The band's biggest problem was that the magnet wasn't strong enough and didn't hold the watch on my wrist.  The second problem was that the leather wasn't durable and after one day of use, it started to show signs of wear.  I promptly returned the band to Amazon for a refund.
My second attempt was the $30 Riega black stainless steel Milanese loop. The band looks great, is comfortable, matches my "space grey" Apple Watch perfectly and the super-strong magnet keeps the watch securely on my wrist.  I've also noticed that unlike the stock plastic band which can sometimes get sweaty, my new stainless steel band is "ventilated" and doesn't get sweaty like the stock band. In addition, the magnet closure on the new band is infinitely adjustable, unlike the stock band which has a fixed number of settings, which allows me to get a perfect fit.

Apple did a great job designing how the bands attach to the watch simply and easily without tools so its easy to swap out bands.

I remain a fan of the Apple Watch  - particularly now that Apple has released WatchOS 2.0.1 which re-enables the ability to view my work calendar.

I've decided to pass on the new Apple magnetic charging dock for $79.   I'll stick with my $15 Spigen stand which has served me well for the past several months.

A few of my favorite Apple Watch apps/features:
  • Apple Pay. However, I wish more retailers accepted it
  • Microsoft Powerpoint.  For advancing slides from the Powerpoint app on my iPhone
  • Delta Airlines boarding pass
  • Fitness tracking
  • Calendar
  • Text notifications and responses using Siri and default messages
  • Navigation.  Apple Maps running on my iPhone will give gentle taps on my watch when it's time to make a turn

Monday, November 02, 2015

Apple TV generation 4 - thumbs down!

I preordered the new Apple TV generation 4 ($149, 32GB model) and it arrived as scheduled at my home on Friday via UPS on Friday.  The new Apple TV is also available for purchase in Apple retail stores.  I'm a longtime Apple TV user (and fan) and I've purchased each new Apple TV the day it was released.  I had high hopes for the redesigned Apple TV with the new app store, Siri support, touch remote and more but ultimately I was disappointed.  The new Apple TV is still very much a "hobby."

First impressions
The first Apple TV I received had a defective remote control and I returned it to my local Apple store for a replacement.  I wasn't off to the best start but this can happen with any product.

Automated setup didn't work for me - it stopped midway through the setup on two different Apple TV's and I had resort to manual setup after rebooting.  While not a big deal (manual setup isn't difficult) it should have worked out of the box.  I finally gave up and setup the Apple TV manually which resulted in more onscreen typing as well as having to enter my Apple ID and password twice - once for iTunes and once for iCloud.  Apple should have provided the option to use the same id for both.

Up and running
Finally, I was up and running.  The new AppleTV runs a new tvOS based on iOS and includes a new users interface which is well done. The same familiar apps for watching TV and video are available (Hulu, Netflix, CBS, ABC, Crackle, etc) as well as new games.  Like previous versions of Apple TV, it's a pain to register for each app individually, open a browser on my Mac or mobile device and activate the app.  Apple has to do a better job of improving the user experience.

Games look fantastic on the Apple TV but unfortunately, the new touchpad remote isn't great for most games since its not precise enough.  One game, Asphalt 8, allowed the remote to be rotated like a steering wheel.  Only one Apple TV remote can be paired and the remotes are $79 each.  Third party game controllers should offer better game control and multiplayer action.  I'm interested in the Nimbus SteelSeries.  The new remote is rechargeable via an included Lightning cable but there isn't a corresponding USB port on the back of the AppleTV.  I needed to use a spare power adapter.

The new Apple TV lacks an digital audio output like it's predecessors which means I needed to connect to my receiver via HDMI and power up my receiver.  With the digital audio out, I liked the flexibility of listening through my TV speakers and only powering up my receiver when I wanted to in order to use my subwoofer and surround sound speakers.

A nice new feature is the ability to Siri to search for TV shows or movies in addition to "what's the stock market doing today?"  However, I was disappointed that I had to hold down the button on the remote to use Siri and I couldn't use Siri to search for apps.  Siri couldn't search for music.  I'd also like to see the App Store organized better to make it easier to find apps.

Ultimately, the new Apple TV disappoints but if Apple make content deals and improves the user experience it could ultimately be a winner.  I still like the previous generation Apple TV and always keep one in my bag for delivering wireless client presentations and demos.  A key advantage of the previous "Rev A" model is the ability to stream content wireless without connecting the Apple TV to a wifi network as shown in my YoutTube video.

Update 21 Nov: I purchased a SteelSeries Nimbus game controller at my local Apple store and it's a must have for game play.  Well made and includes a built-in rechargeable battery that charges via an Apple Lightning cable - same as the out of the box controller from Apple.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Apple's September 9 announcement - what I'm looking forward to

At this time tomorrow, Apple is hosting an event where they are expected to launch the new iPhone "6S."  The event can be watched live, online at Apple's website or on Apple TV.   While we don't know exactly what will be announced, the following are the most popular rumors and my take:

  • iOS 9 and Apple Watch 2.0.  I've been using the iOS 9 beta on my iPad and I love the new and improved multitasking feature which allows two apps to run side by side and even watch a video in a third window. As an Apple Watch user, I'm looking forward to the new native apps capabilities that should make apps more responsive. I'm also looking forward to more watch faces.  Read my review of the Apple Watch
  • New iPhone 6S with a faster processor, ForceTouch screen (like the Apple Watch), improved camera. Since I bought an iPhone 6 last year, I'll probably skip the 6S and upgrade to the 7 instead.
  • iPad Pro.  Lots of rumors and it appears likely that they will continue without an announcement from Apple 
  • New AppleTV with Siri integration and a new remote control and app store.  I'm a huge fan of the AppleTV and I've owned every model since its release.  I will definitely be upgrading.
  • Apple HomeKit.  Available since last year, partners have been slow to embrace the platform.  I'm eager to start adopting the technology in my home.  My thoughts in an earlier blog post.