Some iOS 9 and Apple Watch Stuff

September 22nd, 2015

So Apple announced Monday a surprising record, that over 50% of activated iPhones are already running iOS 9. It was surprising because third-party web metrics were showing a much lower figure. Mixpanel Trends, for example, which often reports a higher number than Apple, was displaying just under 37% as of the time I wrote this article.

Indeed, there were predictions, ahead of iOS 9’s release, that fewer people would upgrade if only because there weren’t any major changes. That’s a matter of perception, and certainly the most visible change is the use of a new system font, San Francisco, which happens to make smaller text more readable. Well, at least to my tired eyes.

But there is one key reason that the adoption rate has soared, and that is evidently due to the fact that Apple eased the over-the-air download process for those with space-challenged gear. Space requirements are less than a third of what was required for iOS 8. The latter forced you to use iTunes on your Mac or PC. But that option wasn’t especially clear at the beginning, so the adoption rate languished way behind iOS 7 for quite a while. By the time iOS 9 came out, however, the adoption rate of its predecessor was only a few points behind the previous version.

I’ve already covered some of the early problems with iOS 9. In addition to freezes during the upgrade process, and reports of crashing apps, it appears that performance doesn’t strike most as any better than iOS 8. What that means depends on your expectations, but even if it’s no different, it doesn’t mean the upgrade isn’t worth it.

On Monday, Apple released the delayed WatchOS 2 upgrade. Its appearance was supposed to coincide with the release of iOS 9, but it was pulled at the last minute to fix an unmentioned bug. Clearly it was a show-stopper, and no doubt Apple has been working overtime to make sure there are as few glitches as possible with its new platform.

WatchOS 2’s improvements aren’t said to be major, although performance improves somewhat because apps can now run native on the device. You can also respond to emails via a canned message or via Siri, and you have to hope the virtual assistant will get your text right. That the Apple Watch is taking on more independent functions presages the day, possibly a year or two from now, when it will be liberated from your iPhone. But if that happens, it would no doubt require having a version with a built-in cellular radio. Don’t think that’s possible? Consider all the technology that’s packed into it now.

Predictably, tech pundits who dismissed the value of the Apple Watch haven’t changed their tune. The New York Times is typical. The newspaper of record concludes that, while it may deliver notices, fitness, and other information in a more convenient and digestible form than a smartphone, it’s not a must-have, at least not yet. Such statements generally don’t consider the fashion factor.

But the article did make one sage observation, which is that, when Apple releases brand new products, such as the iPhone and the iPad, it may take a while for its true potential to be realized. The iPhone has hit a peak now, and some suggest it can’t possibly get any more popular, although Apple keeps confounding the skeptics. The iPad remains a work in progress, and perhaps the iPad Pro will show the way towards greater productivity.

So obviously Apple Watch is a first generation product. The original reviews revealed a compelling if imperfect gadget. WatchOS 2 addresses performance and other issues, while fleshing out the feature set. That apps can directly tap additional hardware features is a good thing, and will make it all the more useful.

It may take a few years to gauge its potential, however. Again, I think freeing it of dependance on the iPhone might be the key factor. But it also depends on whether users perceive it as indispensable, and that’s not something I would be able to predict.

In my case, I continue to use a $12.88 Walmart stainless steel calendar watch. It runs well, the face doesn’t bear any visible scratches, and it keeps reasonably accurate time. Right now, it’s about seven seconds fast after several months of use. That’s close enough for me, and it’s noticeably better than my previous watch, an old Guess chronograph.

I’ve been using wristwatches since I was a preteen, and, after washing up and eating breakfast, the watch goes on my wrist and usually stays there till after dinner. That would, I suppose, make me an ideal candidate for an Apple Watch, and perhaps I’ll consider one some day when the features are fleshed out. That assumes that I’d be willing to pay the price of admission, but if it takes on the function of a mobile handset, no doubt you’ll be able to buy one using a wireless carrier’s financing plan — or one from Apple similar to the new iPhone plan.

And wouldn’t it be interesting to learn that the Apple Watch may end up being, in part, a precursor to the future of the smartphone?

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One Response to “Some iOS 9 and Apple Watch Stuff”

  1. dfs says:

    I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch for several weeks, and I must say that the love affair is pretty much over. Besides all its obvious problems (the battery, the dependence on iPhone, etc. etc.), one important fact about it really puts me off. The reason for the iPhone’s success is its amazing flexibility. By picking and choosing from the huge number available you can assemble a lineup of apps that suits the needs of your personal lifestyle. The Watch, on the other hand, is designed by Apple to cater to the needs of those who live just one particular lifestyle (for some reason I don’t quite understand they settled physical fitness fans as their target audience), and if you don’t share this enthusiasm you’re basically out of luck. So far I’ve found only one third party app (Dark Sky) which has earned a home on my Watch.

    Another thing that bothers me about my Watch is that its display normally sleeps in the interest of saving battery power and is woken up for a few seconds by a flick of the wrist. Except half the time I flick and nothing happens, and pretty soon this gets very annoying. And anyway, there are some times you want to look at your watch discreetly without calling attention to what you’re doing, which is downright impossible with the Watch.

    And I’m not exceptionally crazy about having this spacey and very non-watch looking thing on my wrist (and on the subject of its looks, since it has a rectangular case why are all of its available faces round??)

    And don’t get me started on the Watch’s extravagant price points (and that four hundred dollar stainless steel bracelet). As more realistically priced rivals begin to show up in the market place, Apple is going to get blown out of the water if it doesn’t drastically lower them.

    So my Watch is about to take up permanent residence in my sock drawer. What mostly attracted me to the Watch is something not often mentioned in the press, its phenomenal prowess as a timepiece: it’s accuracy (which, via the iPhone, ultimately depends on an atomic clock somewhere, with a rated accuracy of plus/minus one second every 120 million years) and its ability to adjust automatically as you pass through time zones. But of course this timekeeping excellence is a feature of the iPhone rather than the Watch itself (presumably Android smartphones are equally good in tis respect) and is equally available to any other watch that can be linked to your smartphone via Bluetooth. So I’ve ordered another and very different watch I think I’m going to like a lot better, a Frederique Constant Horological model, which has the traditional look of a handsome Swiss watch and promises a battery life of 25 months.

    Maybe I’ll rethink my Watch when and if a reasonably large smorgasboard of apps becomes available and I can find a few that do worthwhile tings which can’t be done just as well or better with my Iphone.

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