Education, Technology

My First Month With My Apple Watch

IMG_0806As an Apple Store employee, I was fortunate enough to purchase one of the new Apple Watches and receive it about a month after it first started shipping.  Over the past four weeks, I have tried to observe closely the benefits and disadvantages of the new device.  Here are my top five takeaways:

    1. As Matthew Inman (of The Oatmeal) pointed out in his much more entertaining piece about his Apple Watch, it is a passive device that is not designed for creating content.  In fact, the spectrum from most creative (but least portable/convenient) Apple device to least creative (and thereby most portable/convenient) would have the iMac or Macbook on one end and the Apple Watch on the other.  But that tradeoff doesn’t make one device better than the other, only better suited to certain purposes.
    2. It is unnecessary gadget for almost everyone.  No one needs an  Apple Watch.  Let’s just get that out of the way.  But, as a timepiece and a tool for making my iPhone more useful, it is really handy.  As a teacher, I don’t like to pull out my phone even to perform professional duties, like adding Experience Points in Classcraft or sending an email to a student.  In truth, I want to model for my students how to engage with other people despite my own unhealthy obsession with electronics.  The Watch lets me feed my desire to stay connected without drawing my attention for long periods of time.
    3. The Taptic Engine that provides Apple’s brand of haptic feedback is amazing.  Until you actually wear an Apple Watch, it is difficult to understand how subtle and effective the notifications are.  No one around me knows that I have received one and it doesn’t interrupt nearby conversations.  This has led to the odd (for me) experience that many of my close friends and co-workers don’t even know that I own the Watch.  It’s not something that asks for attention.
    4. Digital Touch is a fun and interesting way to interact with others.  Unlike text messages (and much more like Snapchat) the taps, sketches, and heartbeats don’t remain on the watch after they are viewed.  It is an ephemeral yet personal way to communicate and I see a lot of potential as more people purchase Apple Watches, in the same way that AirDrop and iMessage became killer tools once iPhone adoption reached a certain level.
    5. I am a lazy dude.  That is a fact.  I have tried using a Fitbit to track and thereby encourage more physical activity, but it didn’t work for long.  For me, the tradeoff between getting exercise feedback and having other benefits of a true watch was a difficult one.  Now that I can get all of that on one device, I find myself sticking with it a little bit more…. for now.

That’s right, I went to bed like this. #selfcontrol #littlejoys #365project

A photo posted by Paul Cancellieri (@mrscienceteach) on May 23, 2015 at 9:44am PDT

 

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Do you have an Apple Watch?  Share what you’ve learned from it.  Have another wearable and want to share your opinion? Use the comments.

Technology

My Favorite iPhone Apps

It has really tickled me to see the cost of owning an Apple iPhone decreasing, and their prevalence increasing, as it has meant that much of the device’s cache has subsided.  Many more people are seeing it the same way I see mine: a nearly perfect convergence device…AKA the “One Thing in My Pocket.”

As more of my friends and the members of my PLN get iPhones, I have been asked more and more what my favorite and most used iPhone applications are.  I decided to blog my answer to the masses, and I hope that you will add your opinions in the comments.

Disclaimer: The following list is just the opinion of one tech-obsessed, pathologically extroverted, middle school science teacher.  Also, I have left off the list any built-in Apps that I use regularly, such as Calendar or Mail.  Your mileage may vary.

iPhone Apps

Evernote: I’ve posted before about how critical this application is to my state of mind and my “outboard brain”.  The bottom line is that I can capture anything (except, perhaps, webpages) with my iPhone and then search for and access it all from anywhere (web, iPhone, Mac).

Price: Free  [iTunes link]


Google Mobile: This slick little app direct from Google used to just be another way to search Google (without using the search bar in Mobile Safari), but the addition of Voice Search in the latest version makes this the killer search app.  It can include Contacts in my search results and can utilize the GPS in my iPhone 3G to search nearby.

Price: Free   [iTunes link]

Byline: There are many ways to read RSS feeds on the iPhone, but for those of us who use Google Reader as our desktop feedreader, Byline stands above the rest.  It synchronizes to Reader, so my unread count is always accurate, and it downloads articles for offline reading.  The interface is pretty good, and it has an optional landscape mode that makes reading even more of a pleasure.

Price: $4.99   [iTunes link]

Twitterific: Isn’t it amazing how quickly Twitter has taken off over the past few months?  I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t spend as much time in the Twitterverse as I would like to, but when I do dip my toes into the endless stream of conversation this is the tool I choose.  I actually prefer its ease-of-use even to the Mac desktop version.  Its creator, Iconfactory, has a knack for beautiful interfaces.

Price: Free (Ad-supported)  [iTunes link]

TouchType: There is a growing number of applications like TouchType that allow text entry (including email and twitter composing) in landscape mode for its larger keyboard, but I prefer the ability of this one to save snippets to use later.

Price: $0.99   [iTunes link]

WeatherBug: There are basically three choices when it comes to high-quality weather apps for the iPhone.  The best looking is the built-in Apple Weather, but I prefer the local info available through WeatherBug’s network of weather stations mounted on schools all over the country.  The iPhone app uses the GPS receiver to find the station closest to you and give you all the usual data like current/high/low temperatures, wind speed/direction and weather alerts, along with radar maps and video/images.  Plus, you can’t beat the price.

Price: Free   [iTunes link]

RTM: I am a to-do list junkie, and I finally found a complete system that worked for me when I switched to Remember the Milk’s web service.  Their iPhone app completes the package by giving me local access to my tasks in a gorgeous interface.  Now, the best part of finishing a task is the cool “swipe” effect that you use to mark it as complete.

Price: Free (w/Remember the Milk Pro)   [iTunes link]

Texas Hold ‘Em: This is one of those iPhone games that isn’t just a port of something that originated elsewhere.  It taps into the strengths of the accelerometer by switching from a top-down view in landscape mode to a face-to-face view in portrait.  It helps that the level of play is not beyond the reach of casual gamers.  Top-of-the-line graphics are the icing on the cake.

Price: $4.99   [iTunes link]

Mint.com: The web interface for Mint.com is an incredible free resource that will coordinate all of your finances in one simple screen.  The iPhone application give you a snapshot for all of your accounts and the current state of your budget (which the program sets up automatically).  It keeps me honest on the money front.

Price: Free   [iTunes link]

The cumulative effect of all of these applications on my iPhone is that I’m using my MacBook less and less often outside of school.  I really can do everything I need to with one device in my pocket, and all while listening to my favorite music.  Any suggestions?  Put ’em in the comments.