Apple Watch for Fathers' Day 2015

I got an Apple Watch for Father's Day. It was a complete surprise because my sons were heavily involved in the gift choice, and they kept absolutely silent about it in spite of many opportunities to spoil the surprise.

I was prepared for a few aspects of Apple Watch functionality, such as the translation of notifications on the iPhone to the Watch. But one thing I was not prepared for was the effect that Apple's Activity app is having on my lifestyle.

Some of you know that I played hockey at a competitive level through college. This meant that I trained like a professional athlete until my early 20s. I worked as an IT consultant on Wall Street after I graduated, and resumed serious athletics in my early 30s, this time as an amateur and college ice hockey official.

As a result, I am no stranger to hard physical training or trying to maintain a reasonable diet. This website (Operation Gadget) became a venue for a lot of discussion about the use of heart rate monitors and other fitness gadgets to measure athletic performance in the late 1990s.

For many years I've thought that the best way to train was to measure all of your workouts with as much detail as possible. This meant wearing a heartrate monitor, such as a Polar S-Series or the RCX5 that I wore as a wrist watch for the last couple of years before I got the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch has showed me almost immediately that I didn't have a good sense of my physical activity level on the rest days between workouts, and, my activity level on those rest days was lower than I thought it was. Perhaps this shouldn't have surprised me, since my work keeps me at a desk for most of the day, even on days where I am doing pretty strenuous workouts.

During the time I was learning the less obvious features of the Apple Watch, I was listening to many different podcasts by other technologists who had become Early Adopters sooner than me. One of those people was Jim Dalrymple of The Loop.

Jim has written about how he lost 40 pounds as a result of noticing the effect that walking had on his physical health (see the section "Fitness: information is power") thanks first to HealthKit on an iPhone 6, and then the Activity app on the Apple Watch. He followed this up in a second article on his site, which talks about what works and doesn't work for him in terms of motivation.

Jim has become a real inspiration for me, not because I can do what he did and achieve the same result1, but because he took a device that came into his life for work purposes (the Apple Watch), observed everything it did, and in the process discovered a dimension of the performance of the Watch that revealed something about himself and his motivation. This lead to a major quality of life improvement. I could learn a lot from doing the same sort of diligent review of the fitness apps on the Apple Watch.

After continuing to read and listen to all the information I could get about Jim's weight loss, I promised myself that I would focus my use of the Apple Watch on the Activity app, and complete the three rings (the major daily goals in the Activity app) on every day I possibly could. Recently, I've achieved all three goals for 10 days straight, and in spite of missing out on active calories one day this weekend, I've completed the rings on 16 of the last 18 days.

"You hit all 3 goals!" On the Apple Watch Activity app.

This is making me much more active on the days between my heaviest workouts, and has certainly made me more aerobically fit. However, as I expected, I haven't lost very much weight so far.

Hearing about Jim's progress, and factoring in my own new-found commitment, leads me to the conclusion that the Apple Watch's greatest impact may be the incremental changes in lifestyle that Watch users experience by being open to following the recommendations of the Activity app, and making a significant personal commitment to following those recommendations.

1I don't think I can achieve what Jim Dalrymple achieved simply by following the recommendations of the Activity app. I am a more conditioned athlete at this point in my life than Jim was when he began his miraculous losing streak. So the weight I want to lose probably won't be lost at Jim's high rate of initial loss.

I have tons of respect for Jim Dalrymple. He is an inspiration to me.1

When he says what he said in Apple Music is a nightmare and I'm done with it I certainly take notice:

It's not unreasonable to want to listen to an album in the context the artist wrote it, and then other times, just listen to their greatest hits. It's my choice to make.

However, if I decide I really want those songs, when I click the "Add" button, nothing happens, which seemed odd to me. If adding the songs is an option, why won't they add to the library. I went to my iPhone and tapped "Show Complete Album"--when I tapped on the song to add it, the option was to "Remove from My Music." This means that my iPhone thinks it's already added, but the song isn't showing up. What I had to do is go through all of the songs, remove them from the library, and then click add to get them back in the library.

Based on what happened to Jim, as he reported in his 1200 word piece on The Loop, I am worried about how Apple Music will work out for people who are true music fans. He is highlighting what I (as someone who merely likes music) would consider edge cases. But I know from talking to him and listening to two of his podcasts that he truly loves music, and his interest in curating his music library is much keener than mine.

Jason Snell on enumerated the key points of Jim's critique:

  • Adding music to his library was inconsistent
  • This inconsistency seems to be related to mismatches between Apple's cloud library and Jim's existing music collection
  • Songs were sometimes duplicated in the Music app
  • The library couldn't differentiate between tracks on source albums and greatest-hits compilations
  • Albums Jim owned didn't show up in his library
  • He got bad music recommendations

I hope that Jim gets the attention of senior executives at Apple who can mobilize the resources necessary to make his digital music collection what it once was.

1I understand that my reasons for saying that Jim Dalrymple is an inspiration to me are not clear. I haven't stated them here on Operation Gadget. I will have more to say on why Jim Dalrymple inspires me in future posts.

Forgive the sarcasm implied by this post's headline, but I cannot believe the reflexive way that the market reacts to quarterly results for companies that are lapping the field in their industry.

Yesterday Apple reported sales and earnings for their fiscal third quarter that were fantastic. To use a phrase that some of us have heard before, insanely great results. Yet somehow analysts compare the actual financial performance to their back-of-the-envelope estimates, find the results slightly less than they feel they should be, and the stock drops by 5 percent. Here's an example of what passes for analysis these days:

"Where are you going to find growth in the world?" {Colin Gillis, an analyst for BGC Partners} said. "You've done an amazing job sucking all the smartphone profits into your balance sheet, but smartphone sales are slowing. What's going to happen when the industry matures, just like PCs did?"

If you ask me, comparing the smartphone industry to the PC industry is a non-starter, because the PC industry includes companies that are a lot less innovative than Apple and the Android consortium (Google and its hardware followers). The PC industry is shrinking at the moment because nobody in the PC industry makes anything compelling in terms of a new product design or a compelling new application; Not because the folks around the world who already own PCs couldn't afford to replace them if they saw a compelling device that did something that their current PC doesn't do.

Let's talk about what the real constraints on iPhone sales are likely to be going forward. One big one, as far as I see it, is the change in the way carriers in the United States allow their customers to finance smartphones.

I am looking to replace two iPhones in the Fall, once Apple releases the successors to the iPhone 6 line. AT&T and Verizon are no longer willing to allow me to renew my two-year contract and purchase subsidized phones without charging me more for service than they would if I held on to my current phones.

It used to be that you paid the same amount for mobile service regardless of whether you were paying for a subsidized phone or not, and both AT&T and Verizon consider this change to the two-year contract model to be a new "feature" of their billing plans for customers, that they argue saves the customers money.

I think a large number of existing U.S. smartphone customers who are coming to the end of their contracts with the big-two U.S. carriers are in for a shock when they realize that they can't buy the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S phone for a subsidized price without increasing their monthly bills for wireless service. And they may not want to pay for their phones over 18 to 24 months as part of their wireless service fees, in the fashion that AT&T Next and Verizon Edge service plans currently dictate.

Watch the video of this incredible empty net goal by Eric Cole from the Dallas Stars - Boston Bruins game on February 10.

The puck curls left from the boards into the goal in a way that cannot be explained by any rebound off of the sideboards. The only explanation was that the puck was rolling on its edge, resulting in a "Bend it Like Beckham" style swerving trajectory.

Motigo is currently an iOS-only app that was initially released in June 2014 to provide in-race motivation to endurance athletes. This app allows you to record, manage, and play at specific points in your race motivating audio clips from family or friends. I know I'd get a big kick out of hearing my son Jimmy say, "Come on Daddy, you can do it!" at the 2-mile mark of a 5k race.

Motigo is free to download, but currently has in-app purchases associated with each cheer that you want to have a friend record (one cheer is $1.99, five cheers is $7.99).

Motigo has an Indegogo campaign going to fund the development of a subscription mechanism, which I think is a better revenue model for this app than purchasing blocks of cheers, especially if you run multiple races per year.

I love the idea of this app, and can't wait to try it after hockey season ends and I get back to running races again.

As a RunKeeper Elite subscriber who is also working on his first iOS app, I've often thought about apps that would complement RunKeeper or MapMyRun. I think Motigo is clearly that kind of app. More power to them!

Earlier today, Troy Vincent, the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the National Football League, tweeted a good deal of information about new video and wireless networking technologies that the NFL will test at the ProBowl.

I don't know if this is the first time that the NFL has used Twitter to deliver a message in this fashion, but it seems like they are using Twitter as a vehicle to present information in almost a slide show format.

More information about NFL Football Operations and the technologies they use is available at

I have to see the documentary Red Army, a documentary about ice hockey in the Soviet Union, which is about to be released by Sony Classics.

According to USA Hockey Magazine, Red Army will open in New York and Los Angeles on January 23, in other cities shortly thereafter. (In Philadelphia and the "New York Area", where I arguably live, the movie will open on February 13.)

Hopefully Russia and its neighbors that used to make up the Soviet Union, don't decide there's something in it they don't like, and decide to hack Sony again.

Leatherman Tread Multitool

This summer, Leatherman will begin selling a bracelet that doubles as a multitool, called the "Leatherman Tread". Every link has multiple uses, if it's disassembled.

Yes, Leatherman apparently has a version of this already in the pipeline that includes a Swiss-made watch component. But Apple-- I need a bracelet like this for the Apple Watch Sport, the aluminum version of the forthcoming Apple Watch, or the Apple Watch itself, which is stainless steel. Seriously, if they made a deal with Leatherman to make this happen, they'd sell a ton of them, and it would be a total win-win.

"Each link on the {Leatherman} Tread is a fully functioning tool that can be removed, used and replaced -- hopefully with minimal fuss. The company even designed it to be fully customizable, so you can include different screwdrivers instead of the box wrenches, or skip the carbide glass breaker in favor of a cutting hook." {via Engadget, photos courtesy of Leatherman}

Drawers in the Storage Box, showing the selection of ear tips

Earlier this fall, I decided to spend some gift money on a pair of good in-ear headphones to use for exercise with my iPhone. I chose Sol Republic Relays in the Black/White color scheme. When you are wearing the Relays, they look very much like the Apple EarPods that come with the iPhone. But these headphones come with four different sets of Ear Tips that provide many semi-custom fit options.

Although the Apple EarPods were a significant improvement over the old iPhone headphones in terms of reliability, they have been badly received because they have unusual teardrop-shaped ear buds that don't fit everyone's ears by any stretch of the imagination.

The Sol Republic Relays, by contrast, have a low-profile design which the manufacturer calls FreeFlex Technology, consisting of a rubber ring surrounding the outside parts of each of the sound drivers.

The sound drivers allow you to mount any one of four different-sized ear tips to them for an almost-custom fit.

I use these Relays when I exercise and for all daily iPhone headphone use, other than podcasting and on-line meetings. I think their sound response is better than the Apple EarPods, and they definitely fit my ears more snugly.

The microphone / volume switch is rubberized and appears to be significantly more water/sweatproof than the EarPods. The only differences between the microphone / volume switch on the Relays and the EarPods other than the rubberization is that the microphone unit is black rather than white, and the Relays' microphone switch is located on the left headphone wire instead of the right one.

The proof of their utility and customizability is that I changed ear tips and gave made them work for Jimmy's appearance as the WXTU Weather Kid last week. Jimmy also got great use out of them, he could hear the radio show hosts well, and his voice came through loud and clear on the air.

The Sol Republic Relays debuted at $79.99, but are regularly available for around $60. They are definitely worth it if you are looking for an upgrade from your Apple EarPods that sound better all day long and work better for listening during workouts. I can't recommend them highly enough.