Apple Watch Series 3 (Non-LTE) – My User Experience

After the “heart attack” incident in early January, I decided that I need to have a change in my lifestyle and start tracking my daily activities. I wanted a fitness tracker to assist me and was contemplating between a Fitbit or Apple Watch. After much consideration, I decided to go with the Apple Watch for a few reasons:

  1. I’m already in the ecosystem of Apple and I can assured that I’ll get the necessary support I need when required.
  2. Apple Watch allows you to run apps on it, which most Fitbit (except the newest Ionic perhaps) don’t support such feature.
  3. GPS built in for run tracking. Fitbit do have some trackers that provide GPS built in. For me I just don’t want to carry my phone with me when I go for a workout.
  4. Expansion. Apple Watch is more likely to get future expandability via software update and etc as compared to a Fitbit which probably is as-it-is out-of-the-box.
  5. Accessories are easier to obtain for Apple Watch as opposed to a Fitbit.

I didn’t consider other offerings such as Garmin, Polar and so on for various reasons. I heard a lot of good reviews on the new Apple Watch, and in the end I decided to go with the Series 3 instead of Series 1 for the additional features, performance and battery life. Since I stayed in Singapore and there was no support of e-Sim on Apple Watch at the time of my purchase, I bought the non-LTE version. Though LTE version is currently available on sale, I don’t think I’ll get that even if it’s available during that time.

The watch I bought was the Series 3 Nike+ Edition, Space Grey with 42mm case size. First of all, I’m glad that I managed to get a good fit with the band on my tiny wrist. The sport band is surprisingly comfortable, and I really like the material they used to make the band. It’s very soft, breathable, and very wearable for daily use. Pairing the watch to my phone was easy but the process was kinda lengthy. This was expected as all information was transferred via bluetooth or wifi between both devices. Once done, I made some changes to the watch face and setup some goals and rules for fitness tracking.

My first day with the watch was rather disastrous. I left everything at their default settings, which means all notifications will mirror from my phone to the watch, and all compatible apps from my phone were installed on my watch. I picked it up at 6am or so in the morning, and the watch battery just went flat by 12pm. After tinkering with the settings, I managed to squeeze more juices out from the watch.

Currently, I’m only allowing some apps to mirror their notifications, and I have only installed a few apps on my watch, and the battery can easily last me through 2 days or even 3 if I stretch it further. Not too shabby I would say. For those who have issue with battery life, changing the notification settings alone can save you a ton of battery life. For me, I only allow apps such as Google Maps, some utilities app like calendar, reminder etc to push me notifications. Social media related notifications were all switched off.

I do like the activity app, I have been using it to keep track of my daily activity level and ensure I’m hitting my target as much as possible on daily basis. The heart rate monitor is decent, but I would prefer Apple to allow constant tracking for every 5-10 second or so, just like how Fitbit is doing it. This way, I’ll be able to monitor my heart rate more accurately as I’m having some concerns on my irregular heartbeat. I’m willing to sacrifice some battery life in order to achieve this.

Apple also needs to really work on the apps for the watch. The apps currently available on the app store are just… sad. Most of them are just too similar and some are even pointless to have in the very first place. Hopefully with more users and developers, things will get better in the future. Using the Apple Watch also solved one of my long standing problem… which is using Apple Pay. It’s common for me to run into issue authorising Apple Pay with my finger print on my iPhone because I have sweaty and greasy fingers. With Apple Watch, I just need to double tap and pay. Also, I can now easily control my music without using my phone.

There are some other nifty features that makes the whole “ecosystem experience” that much better, such as automatically unlock my Mac when I’m wearing the watch and using the Mac. I can store some workout songs on my watch and play it while I go for a run, all without the need for me to bring my phone with me. Speaking of not bringing your phone with you, that’s perhaps what Apple has envisioned when adding the LTE function into Apple Watch, but there’s still a long way to go to make it useable.

What else can be improved? Well, first of all, the battery life. Even though I have no issue with battery life at the moment, but to unlock all features and the battery just lasted for half a day is simply… a joke. Besides that, more apps (and useful apps please) should be added to the watch app store, also more nice looking watch face please. Currently the watch faces designed by Apple are just ugly. The future Apple Watch would certainly benefit from additional sensors and features, perhaps measuring body temperature and other vital data? And like what I had mentioned earlier, more frequent heart rate tracking and also a prompt to user when the watch failed to capture the heart rate would be nice.

All in all, I’m happy with what I had spent. Did Apple Watch motivates me to be healthier? Well, yes and no. I do get more conscious in closing the activity ring, reading through the stats collected and so on. I would say it is a good catalyst for me to live healthier. I don’t want to make my spending a waste down the drain at the end of the day. Do I recommend people to buy one? It really depends. Currently smart watches are good in collecting data, sending notification to user from time to time, nudging you, motivating you and so on. But when comes to really running apps on the watch, it’s still a far cry from being useful. You really need to ensure that you will use those features currently available before you make the purchase.

That’s all for now. Till then.

Herschel Little America Bag – My Point of View

My Herschel Little America and matching Anchor sleeve for my iPad Pro

My work bag, which was a Samsonite laptop backpack, was deteriorating. In search of a replacement bag, I figured that it should serve not just as my work bag, but also my go-to daily bag. I have evaluated a few options from Timbuk2, The North Face, The Invisible Backpack and so on, but was ended up purchasing the Herschel Little America Backpack in the end as I managed to get a rather good deal.

I’ve been using the bag on daily basis for work and study, and here are my thoughts about this bag:

  1. It’s a good looking bag, but in terms of practicality, there’re still room for improvement.
  2. The front pocket is a little too small and couldn’t fit much stuff in it. If they can increase the size a little will be good.
  3. The bag as whole needs more pockets for organization purpose.
  4. Appreciate if they can have a quick access pocket near the back for wallets or passport. Also, add some slots for pen or other stuffs in the front pocket.
  5. To access your stuff, you will required to open the top flap all the time to go to your main compartment or laptop compartment. Suggest to have a zipper access from the side of bag to direct access the laptop compartment. Also, another small zipper on the side which allows quick access into the main compartment to reach for small items without the need to open the top flap all the time.
  6. The two stripes look good and offer functionality for adjustment on bag size. However, the stripes of the main compartment will get in your way when you try to open the front pocket. Some redesign is required here.
  7. Redesign the top flap of main cover to have better looking shape even when the bag is empty. Now the bag looks sloppy when it’s not being filled up with stuffs.
  8. Straps for the shoulder has dangling end which may get in the way at times. It would be great if they can find a way to hide the excess straps and tuck it away.

All in all, I still enjoy carrying this backpack, just need to get used to it and adjust some of my habit accordingly. If there’s a chance I’ll try to travel with this bag and see how well it fares. For those who are looking for this bag, if you can live with the downsides mentioned above, I would highly recommend you to get one. Till then.

12 Things About the Apple AirPod

1.Does it drop out of your ears?

Yes and no. My left ear fits very well, but not my right ear. Though, after some adjustments it seems to be able to hold it in for daily use. I survived daily commute of bus and train, squeezing in the crowd, rushing through the shutting gate, climbing up and down the staircase and so on.

2.How does it sounds?

Good. Much better than my expectation. Clarity is there, bass is not too heavy, very balance sound overall, which is what I like from a piece of earphone. However, that sound quality can be appreciated if and only if… you are able to hear what its playing… which brings me to the next point of…

3.How’s the noise isolation?

Poor. Up the volume, that’s all you can do.

4.Does it make you look like an idiot while wearing it?

Yes.

5.How’s the battery life?

So far I would rate it as superb, especially coupled with the dental floss charging case. Easily last me over a week of use per charge. I use it mainly during daily commute listening to songs and sometimes at home when watching videos.

6.But it got no physical buttons?

Yes, after new software update, you can choose what action to be performed when tapping on the left and right AirPod. I set mine to play/pause on the left, next song on the right. Good enough for my use except volume adjustment need to be done via iPhone. How about Siri you ask? You mean you use Siri? Really?

7.Does the call quality sounds good?

It’s okay. Not to say good or bad, but fairly acceptable and that’s about it.

8.Does it drop its wireless and bluetooth connection?

So far I have no issue yet. I saw some early adopters have issue with bluetooth disconnected occasionally, but so far mine was working okay. Seems better than my previous Plantronics BackBeat Go 3, which can get interference from other wireless devices at times and disconnect.

9.You are on your way to become Apple Fanboy?

No. I don’t like everything that Apple produced. The new MacBook Pro sucks. Apple Watch still sucks in everything other than fitness tracking. I enjoy a complete ecosystem for all my gadgets. I was hoping Microsoft Surface Pro and the rumoured Surface Phone will be the saving grace for me to leave Apple, but too bad everything was flushed down into the drain. Goodbye Microsoft. Hello Apple.

10.Should I buy it?

Probably no, unless you are heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem and would like to have the seamless experience across all devices.

11.Then why you bought it?

  • I’m running an iMac at home, iPad Pro on the go, iPhone for everything else. The seamless transition using the same pair of earphone will be a plus point for me.
  • My current wireless earphone, the Plantronics BackBeat Go 3, has a wire connecting both earpieces, and the rattling sound it produced when the wire brushes over my clothes is annoying.
  • Looking at other market offerings and all the reviews, the AirPod is likely to give me less trouble overall, and perhaps the best balance between sound quality, usability, appearance, functionality and so on.
  • It surely isn’t the perfect earphone, but I made my decision after considering and weighing all the options and requirements, pros and cons. Hopefully this will be a right decision for me moving forward.

12.What can be improved?

  • Perhaps Apple should release an in-ear version with better noise isolation and fit. Maybe under the Beats branding as its geared towards a more sporty style.
  • Allow swiping motion for volume adjustment on AirPod.
  • Auto volume adjustment based on ambient noise level. If AirPod will adjust the volume automatically when I’m in crowded and noisy area, it will certainly be brilliant and I no longer need to fiddle with the volume myself.
  • Limited edition or special edition AirPod can milk more cash for Apple in the future.

My impression on the Fujifilm X100F

DSCF0032-5I have been using this camera for awhile, and here are some of the thoughts and findings I would like to share:

The Bad

  1. The ISO dial is gimmicky. It’s good to have, but it’s hard to turn to get the actual setting that you want. It’s even more odd if you want to change ISO while holding the camera to your eye. You need to preset it before lifting your camera, or assign the ISO function to be controlled by the front command dial.
  2. Exposure compensation dial is a bit hard to turn at times, perhaps too much torque was given when securing the dial, or perhaps things will loosen up as time goes by. Sometimes I do wish the dial was flushed with the top plate instead of protruding out.
  3. I am still unable to make use of the optical viewfinder, which makes me use the EVF all the time. This could be my problem, but I do feel that Fujifilm can improve on this area.
  4. Auto focus speed is of course better than what I can remembered on the X100S, but it’s really not that fast when compared to the competitions. The size of AF point does affect the speed significantly, larger AF point gives faster focusing, but you are risking it over focus accuracy. Overall accuracy is acceptable, however it will still fail at times so better be careful.
  5. Still the same old lens, which means you are going to expect soft image when shooting wide open especially when shooting close up, and I suspect the lens is dragging the focusing speed as well as it seems like the whole lens group will need to shift together to achieve focus.
  6. Need to turn on camera to view pictures, could have allow long press on the playback button to activate image review without the need to turn on the camera. Even a disposable compact camera has this feature, I really don’t understand why this can’t be implemented?
  7. EVF magnification is rather small, there’s room for them to improve here. EVF can be set to rotate and display information according to the orientation of the camera (portrait or landscape), but sadly this does not apply to the rear LCD. I wonder why, am I missing something?
  8. AF point does not follow when you rotate your camera from portrait to landscape mode and vice versa, which can be annoying at times.
  9. Only horizon level available, it would be good if Fujifilm can add in lens angle level too to aid panoramic work.
  10. I constantly lay my thumb on the Q button, which is very annoying. I’ll see if I can get my muscle memory programmed to avoid it. A cleaner design like the new X-E3 will solve this problem altogether.

DSCF0636-3

The Good

  1. Front command dial is extremely useful as it can be used to replace the flawed ISO dial. It can also be used to set exposure compensation. The tactile feeling to the front command dial is solid.
  2. Almost all of the buttons on the camera can be customized, which is a good thing for users to make things work for them. And the front lever now incorporates another function button on it, which is a clever design move.
  3. The improvement in battery life is welcomed, but not that I had issue with the previous version. USB charging is also possible.
  4. AF joystick is a good addition, but the design of the joystick is a bit hard to fiddle at times, and I would prefer the position of it to be slightly higher and slightly to the right, but this is just my preference.
  5. Revamped menu layout is reasonably easy to access, but some features can be messy and hard to find as more and more stuffs are being added into the menu. Make full use of the Q menu, My menu and buttons customization to avoid being lost in the menu.
  6. “EVF only” view mode which is activated only when eye sensor detects your eye. I think this is something new and is a nice addition for EVF only shooter.
  7. Rear buttons now are protruding out with solid tactile feel when pressed, which is good. The bad is when you wrap your palm over you may accidentally pressed them at times, but this is only minor issue.
  8. 24 megapixel is good enough, giving you a little room to crop when required. RAW file is finally usable as compared to the old files from X-Trans II sensor. High ISO noise control is pretty good.
  9. Digital teleconverter is a nice addition, but only usable when shooting JPEG. Fujifilm should implement something like what the Leica Q did, which crops in the picture in order to achieve the zooming effect while leaving the original uncropped RAW files available for you.
  10. Acros film simulation gives very nice monochrome rendering.

DSCF0041-7

X100F, F for “Final”?

I think a lot of people are wondering what will the next X100 be named, as the current F stands for Fourth, the following fifth, sixth, seventh which denote by F and S were already in used. So it will end up as X100E (Eighth)?

The question is probably whether will there still be any further improvements that are able to squeeze into the X100 body. There are a few areas which I think can still be improved in the coming iteration:

  1. Fujifilm needs to find a way to make the OVF work better (or maybe I need to find a way to adapt to it and make it work?).
  2. Some would ask for a weather sealed body, but I’m neutral on this.
  3. A new and improved lens, please.
  4. Auto focus still need improvement, this might be due to lens design and sensor design, so Fujifilm really need to find a way to engineer something here.
  5. Flip out LCD would be handy, but I can live without one.
  6. Some may ask for touch screen implementation, but I don’t think it is necessary unless this camera can performs better in terms of video recording.
  7. Improve on the ISO dial and exposure compensation dial, please.
  8. Software improvement on some of the quirks mentioned above, there are still room for improvement on Image Quality and video output.
  9. Built in filter thread to the lens itself while leaving the hood as optional items.
  10. Allow user a way to export all the settings made onto SD card, so we can easily backup our favourite settings and do not need to spend time diving into the menu all over again should we ended up resetting the camera.

DSCF0201-11

All in all, I’m very pleased with the X100F. It certainly isn’t a perfect camera. However, it’s perfect for me to toss it into my bag and carry it on daily basis. I was amazed that my muscle memory can still be recalled quite easily despite haven’t really shoot with a Fujifilm camera for the past two years. That means Fujifilm has really developed a very well designed platform as a base for all their camera design. If they can start to work harder to improve further on some of the quirks mentioned above, I believe the next X100 camera will be even more awesome. Yes, I do think there will be another successor to the X100F. As for now, I’ll shoot more with my X100F and hopefully being able to create some pictures that I can be proud of. Till then.

From 7 to 8

First and foremost, I was using an iPhone 7 and yes, I watched the Apple keynote announcement and was not particularly excited about the new iPhones. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, same design, improved specifications and that’s about it. The iPhone X on the other hand was the limelight for the show.

In many ways, the iPhone X is the iPhone that I had always dreamt about. I had always wanted Apple to reduce the bezels and size of the iPhone, a phone that houses a screen of around 5” size is ideal for me (4.7” can be a little small at times). I’m probably the few people who applaud Apple for getting rid of the home button. I have sweaty palm and greasy fingers, so Touch ID doesn’t work well for me at times. All in all, it ticks all the boxes for me. But sadly, I am not getting one this time.

As great as Face ID looks, I am skeptical and reserved about its effectiveness. The phone design does look a little ugly, but I can probably get used to it. The OLED panel used is sub-standard compared to others. Ditching the home button means Apple needs to engineer a new way to interact with the phone. From the demo showed, those swiping and pausing actions doesn’t seem fluent to me at all. I’m one of those who want maximum speed and fluency in navigating through my phone and apps, so I’ll probably wait out for the next generation until all the tiny bits of issues are ironed out.

Anyway, Apple has its fair share of history in releasing subpar first generation product. The first generation MacBook Pro with Retina display had so many issues especially on its screen (and I’m one of the victims). First generation Apple Watch was equally flop with painfully slow performance. And Apple has also screwed the first generation iPad Pro 9.7” user big time by introducing a much improved version while discontinuing it altogether.

So, just as I had decided to wait for next year, my Telco strikes me with a hit by increasing my monthly charges because my current contract with them has already expired. Damn. Anyway, so happened that my mom is looking to replace her iPhone as well, so I decided to pass her my old iPhone and re-contract with the iPhone 8 Plus instead. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this phone, it must be since its almost identical with the 7 Plus right? But I was wrong…

This piece of heavy and bulky glass-metal… object is much more than what I thought. Performance wise, you won’t feel a big difference between the 7 and 8 despite what the benchmarks figure suggested. Perhaps some apps will launch a fraction seconds faster and that’s about it. What makes the experience in using the 8 different lies on other stuffs.

For instant, the camera is a step up from 7, and its noticeable, really. Especially low light and high dynamic range scene, the 8 really shines with Apple’s “deeper pixels”. Focusing is also much snappier, and now there’s a little haptic feedback when you press the shutter button, which is pretty neat. The portrait mode is better according to others, but I have not used it as I didn’t owned the 7 Plus so no comment. The portrait lighting effect though… seriously what the hell is Apple doing to even include it in… perhaps they just run out of “selling point” to sell their iPhones… Video capabilities on the other hand received some big upgrades by giving 4K at 60fps and 1080p at 240fps slow-mo. I didn’t spent too much time on videos all along, so I can’t comment much here but it’s all good on paper. Slow sync flash is also an awesome addition if you do use the flash a lot on the iPhone.

Next, wireless charging. I can’t believe I’m actually kinda “clicked” with it. I have always commented that it is useless because technically you still need to place your phone there to charge. But after playing with it myself, I can see the potential for it. Well, if you use a charging pad separately, it is indeed not really “wireless”, but what I can see is in future, more and more furnitures and appliances will incorporate wireless charging into them, and it will eventually be very convenient indeed. For example, your office desk has a corner where you can charge your phone by just laying it there, the side table lamp in your room which also charge your phone and so on. The charging speed is still the bottleneck for this technology, and hopefully this will be addressed in the future. Another “plus” point is that you will now be able to use the lightning earphone while charging your phone wirelessly.

Another seemingly big upgrade to the new iPhones are the AR capability. Although the old iPhones that run iOS 11 should also support AR, but it is said that the new hardware will give a better experience. I can see some use of AR such as the Ikea app that scale the furniture and fit virtually into your space and some measurement app that measures and map room size in real life. However, beyond education and such uses, I really don’t see AR as a big hit yet. I don’t see why it’s fun to game in AR (other than Pokemon), and why one want to add some fake object into your picture or video. Sony has been pushing such AR in their phone all along and it’s just crap.

All in all, as many reviewers have said, if you are coming from iPhone 7, the upgrade is not huge, but I would still say it’s noticeable. For those who came from 6 or 6s, it’s worth to grab the 8, unless you want to save some money by getting the 7. Let’s see how the iPhone X performs when it’s released, and we’ll see what Apple has to offer for next year’s iPhone lineup. Till then.