Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Apple Watch

If you know me, you know I'm what the Register calls a fanboi. I bought my first Apple IIfx in 1991. I own more Macs than I can count, including a relatively rare Apple XServe cluster. iPhone, iPad, you name it, I have it. So, of course, I was going to buy an Apple Watch; I ordered it on April 10, and it came last week. I bought the big one, with the 42 mm face. Not the gold one, of course. And I've been using it for a week, so here's my review.

First, the bullets, pro and con

Pro

  • The battery life is way better than reported. I charge it on getting up in the morning. It takes about 1.5 hours, via an inductive coil that sticks magnetically to the back of the watch. It doesn't need to be charged again until the next day. People who claim 5 hour battery lives are nuts; I suspect they're simply playing constantly with it. Under normal use, I find it has about 20% left at 6 a.m.
  • It's not complicated to use. It took me about an hour to get the hang of 90% of the functions, and maybe a couple of days to get the rest.
  • It's surprisingly useful. It reminds me to walk around every hour, to get exercise; it shows me my grocery list, lets me access Twitter, tracks my exercise and airplane flights, wakes me at 5:30 a.m., and of course tells me the time. It does all the notifications an iPhone does, except it jogs your wrist to tell you to look at them. There are enough of them to keep you up to date, but not enough to be annoying. And there's a 'do not disturb' button.
  • Apple Pay is great. Since I'm a chronic loser of credit cards, I expect over a year it will save me twice or three times the hassle of reporting one missing. I haven't yet dared to go into a store without a wallet yet, but it's fun not to have to take it out.
Cons
  • There aren't enough 3rd party apps yet. I have Microsoft Notes, United, Twitter, eTrade, and TripAdvisor.
  • Not enough stores accept Apple Pay. Notice to merchants: I shop at Walgreens now, because CVS won't accept Apple Pay. I was actually the first person use use an Apple Watch to buy something at the Apple Store in Clarendon Square. I had to show the "Genius" how to do it. :-)
  • There is a significant bug in the Activity software (more below).
I've actually been wearing an activity tracker watch for the last 15 months, partly because of the recommendation of Dr. David Agus. Humans can do amazing things if they're given feedback of the right type; a surgeon, for example, can operate on things he can barely see, if he's given a microscope that lets him see what his scalpel is doing with micron precision. Activity watches track your heart-rate, steps and calories; mine, the Basis Carbon, will even analyze your sleep, and sets all sort of goals for activity, with little 'self-esteem' messages when you meat them and slightly naggy messages when your in danger of missing one. It really has increased the number, level and regularity of my workouts. And the Apple Watch does all that too, although their software is nowhere near as good as the Basis software yet. (Their heart rate sensor seems to be better, though)

More importantly, I've calibrated the Basis watch over the last year. If you count calories, you can see if your intake equals your output; over an extended period, if the two match, you should remain the same weight, and with the Basis watch's calorie figures, that is correct. I've been wearing the Basis watch and the Apple Watch for a week, and the Apple Watch's numbers are significantly off.

The Apple Watch is reading way too high. Basically, it gives me 2802 resting calories a day for doing nothing (far too much for my height, weight and age) and then too few calories for exercise (about 24% too few). The net result is that it estimates 250 - 450 too many calories, depending on whether I've been active or a slug.

Thousands of people have been complaining about this, and Apple is supposedly promising there will be a fix, though it wasn't in the 1.0.1 update. In the meantime, it's not hard to simply use the regression equation in the chart to adjust their number. But it's surprising they got this so wrong, given that health/activity monitors were supposed to be the device's strongest points.

Anyhoo, it's a toy, but a quite entertaining toy, and if you have an iPhone (it's needs an iPhone to talk to) I'd recommend it.