Ecosystem… Good or Bad?

I am rooted into Apple’s ecosystem, though I wouldn’t say I’m deeply rooted in it. I don’t have Apple TV, I don’t use Siri, but I do have the “basics” of iMac, Apple Watch and iPhone (I still have an iPad but I don’t use it that often anymore).

I enjoyed using them, they may not be the best device individually (and there will never be “the best”), but the fact that all devices I use on daily basis can interact and linked with each other closely, work seamlessly across each other really makes a whole lot of difference. Apple has refined and pushed the envelope on ecosystem more than anyone else, and that is something which I valued, and I understand not everyone will value the same.

Being able to send a message from my iMac without the need to grab my phone, opening a tab on my iPad and have the same tab shown on my iPhone if I want to, copy from one device and paste your from your clipboard to another device are just a few of the features proved useful when you are being tied down to an ecosystem. Not to mention the seamless connectivity of AirPods to any Apple devices has shown what kind of efficiency a locked down ecosystem can actually deliver.

Well, depends on how you look at it, it could be a curse or a blessing. There was once I felt concern for tying myself down and be in the mercy of one company. I made a switch back to Android, I was waiting patiently for the Surface Phone to arrive (which promised Apple-like integration with Windows), but in the end, none of them turned out to be a viable option or materialized. Ever since Surface Phone was dead, Microsoft promised better integration with Android will arrive, but we have yet to see it until today.

In the end, I’m back to the Apple’s ecosystem and been happy to stay there ever since. One may argue you don’t need to have your phone to be in-sync with your other devices, well, it may not mean anything to you, but it meant a lot for those who are really using it. I value the convenience, and I’m willing to even pay a premium for it.

Of course it’s not all good and rosy for the Apple ecosystem at the moment. There are many other things they can do to improve further. Apple Watch still requires an iPhone to work, app experience across platform (iOS, iPadOS and macOS) could still be better and so on. But I believe some of this will sure get iron out in the future.

So is ecosystem a good thing or a bad thing? You be your own judge.

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.