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Some iOS 9 and Apple Watch Stuff

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?