Apple Watch update, Day Six

I’ve been wearing the Apple Watch all day for six days now.  I have to say that the advanced reviews I read that said it took a few days to get used to were true. I do feel like we’re still in the early days of courtship, as we get to know each other better.  There are pros, cons, and things that need to be tweaked over time to get the watch to work best for you. I’m not particularly surprised, since this happens with any device, including phones, as you learn new features and ways to get things done efficiently.

Word to the Wise. Watch the Videos.  I’m serious.

I’m usually not one to sit through “intro to your new gadget” videos, so I skipped them at first with the watch.  This is a bit of a mistake, since the hints they give you will really make learning how to use the watch a LOT easier. Save yourself some frustration, and watch the videos.

One of the first things to know is that most of the adjustments to the watch apps actually takes place on the iPhone watch app, including adjustment of where the app icons appear, and which ones are shown.  Watch versions of apps I already had on my iPhone were automatically downloaded, but many of them I don’t need to see on a daily basis.  For example, several travel apps, including a map of the London Tube system and currency exchange apps, I don’t use every day, so those can be safely “not shown” on the watch. I can always add them in right before a trip.

High Points:

Some apps, designed especially for the watch, are wonderful.

  •  For example, I have to keep time on several projects I work on, so the watch/phone app Hours, is perfect.  I can set up a few categories, and then as I start to work, just tap the timer, and then tap it again as I finish working on that particular project.  It is so much easier than opening and closing other time keeping programs.
  • The Activity app is doing a great job reminding me to stand and move around more with a gentle nudge, and I love that.  When we moved mulch yesterday, it recorded all of that activity, and steps exercising on the treadmill- it is like the Nike Fuelband with more two-way communication.
  • I downloaded the Water Balance app, and that’s helping me keep track of water vs. other beverages and is encouraging me to drink more water, so that’s a plus as well.
  • I haven’t had a great opportunity to use Apple Pay yet, but I am excited to try.
  • Messages has been a useful way to quickly dictate a text or send a quick reply without digging out the phone.  The voice recognition seems a bit better than on the phone alone.
  • I’ve enjoyed messing around with the different watch faces, but I have to say, I love the flower face the best.  I also have another face customized for more business purposes.
  • Only one of my friends currently has a watch, that I know of.  Sending sketches/nudges, taps from here to Boston is fun.  However, I think you could find this “silly” feature very useful in meetings, where you want to let your coworker know something without being obvious about it. Think drawing a circle with a slash like a no smoking sign to let them know an idea is a no go…I can see this being useful when there are several folks with watches around the office.
  • The maps app is really useful, but the ways to interact with it through hard pushes, etc. aren’t always intuitively obvious.  This is one of those examples where watching the video is incredibly helpful.
  • The To Do list app called Clear works well on the watch and is one of my favorites as well.

The ability to quickly ping the phone when it’s somewhere in my purse, making it easier to find is a nice, simple touch I appreciate.

Because the watch keeps track of events and sets those little physical reminders before meetings, it’s causing me to be better about keeping all of my calendar dates written down, rather than counting on my memory alone to remind me.  It’s also super easy to add things to the calendar with Siri on the fly.

Glances are little information screens you can see without launching the whole app.  You can add and re-prioritize the order of Glances on the iPhone watch app, and it will be reflected on the watch itself.  I’m still moving things around to find the perfect set of glances for daily use, and I’ll get there soon.

Low Points:

  • Mail- don’t think you are going to get anything useful out of having email notifications on your wrist.  You will get a snapshot of your email, but other than letting you know whether something important has been sent, any real interaction is still going to need the phone itself.
  • Do not think of web browsing on the watch- that’s not what it’s there for.  You can get Siri to fetch sports scores for you, or even look for a restaurant and provide directions, but web browsing is for your phone or tablet.
  • You will need to adjust your social media notifications so your wrist isn’t buzzing all the time.  I had a bunch of notifications I just didn’t take the time to adjust on the phone because it wasn’t important, and they were easy to ignore.  On the wrist, harder to ignore, but on the plus side, I am saving battery life on both the phone and watch now by getting rid of all those useless pings.
  • I love the look of the milanese loop band, but I think I’m going to appreciate the sports band for most day to day use.  Also I think the lighter, aluminum model, while less stylish, is actually a great choice- the stainless steel version seems a bit heavy sometimes.
  • You can quickly answer phone calls on your wrist, but the sound is horrible.  It’s good for quick triage of incoming calls but you’ll want to use your phone for longer conversations.

Overall impressions:

I do like the watch, and it’s clear we’re forming a long term relationship. I’m not all the way to love, because we’re still getting to know one another.  But I find that I’m not grasping for my phone all the time because I’m getting updates on the watch for important reminders and nudges, and I feel like I am already a little more active and more productive as well from this new “wrist coach”.  I’m more likely to check my activity level, or make sure I calendar everything, because it’s just easier, with less steps, with the watch than the three or four screens on the phone to do the same task.

I’ll keep you updated, but so far- much more useful than Google Glass, less socially isolating, and has lots of potential, especially with travel.

What questions do you have about the Apple Watch? What do you think?

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First Thoughts on the Apple Watch

IMG_5217I just got my Apple watch this afternoon.  While it’s early to give any sort of formal review, I thought I would share the first thoughts after having it on for a few hours now.

1) If you get a notice your watch is shipping, update to the latest iOS version on your phone now.  This will save you time and headaches when the watch prompts you to update your software first.

2) Many of the apps you already have on your phone can be added onto the watch.  Some of these you may or may not want on the watch, so keep this in mind- editing your iPhone apps in advance might be a good idea.  A great example of this for me is WebMD- I don’t mind having the app on my phone, but I would never use it on the watch, so having to go through the process of removing it is just one more step.

3) Think about the notifications on your phone.  The watch will nudge you when you have a notification.  I let my phone ping me about some things like Twitter updates, for example, but I don’t need to be pinged on the watch, so I had to go back and turn notifications off.  I am sure the battery life on my phone and watch will be grateful.

4) Do watch some of the set-up videos.  I watched a few, and I have been messing around a bit, getting used to things. How to change the watch face, for example, is not immediately obvious, but once I got the instructions, it was simple.

5) You are limited with the number of friends, so choose wisely.  It looks like you are initially limited to 12 friends you can contact easily through the watch interface, so choose carefully.  Obviously, my family is there first, and then close friends who I can “signal” through the watch :)

6) Making calls is possible, but the audio isn’t great.  While driving, I made a call from the watch.  My phone usually “hands off” to the bluetooth hands free speaker in the car, but it didn’t automatically do this from the watch, so I will have to figure out if this a setup error on my part or not.  The other party could hear me, but it was not crystal clear.

7) Apple Watch vs. Google Glass  I bought Google Glass, in part to see what the future of wearables was all about, and to experiment a bit.  The watch notifications with the taps are a much better and subtler attention getting mechanism than the changes in the Glass screen.  Both technologies depend highly on the phone as the work engine for set up and main functions.  In many ways, the phone as the main interface for the device is very reminiscent of Glass.  However, the watch is certainly less “obvious” to everyone else around you than a face full of technology, which is a plus.  There are fewer fit issues with a watch than trying to get glasses that adjust to an individual’s eyesight and facial structure.

Am I saying the Apple Watch is Google Glass on the wrist without the camera? Maybe.

The fit and finish are amazing.  The packaging is top notch and incredibly special.  I like being able to adjust the milanese loop to get a perfect fit, where I would find my Nike Fuelband would end up being too tight or too loose from time to time, making it slightly annoying.  The haptic nudges are adjustable in terms of strength, so I will have to play with that as well to get it to optimal strength to notify but not distract.

I’m looking forward to getting the know the watch, and further adjust and customize the settings until I get it optimized for me.  However, my first favorite feature is being able to leave my phone charging across the room, but still get notifications, without scrambling to go check the screen.

I’ll let you know how the experience is as we go along- I’m eager to try out Apple Pay, and eventually, the ability to use a boarding pass or hotel key with a flick on the wrist.  The first impression overall is that I’m intrigued by the possibilities, but I also know that it will take a little time to become in sync with all the features and possibilities.

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Bragging on our Local Schools

We’ve lived in Kennett for over a decade now.  Like most people who move across the border from Delaware, we did it for a list of reasons, including the schools.  We also said to ourselves that if we ever felt the need, we would move our kids to private school- whatever was best for them.

Both of my kids have attended Kennett Consolidated schools- James starting in fifth grade, John starting in first.  John is finishing his Junior year at Kennett High School, and we only have one more year as Kennett Parents left.  I have to say, I really could not be happier with our experience.  James, who needed an IEP during school, had great support from the learning support specialists along the way, and overall, most teachers worked very well with the accommodations he needed – especially substituting typing for handwriting, which was critical.  John has found teachers at every level who have mentored and guided him along the way, and he found a real home in the music department at the high school.

John wasn’t interested in music lessons in elementary school, and as a victim of forced piano lessons myself, I wasn’t going to revisit that issue.  However, freshman year, he decided to take music theory and keyboards (the piano).  Rapidly, he fell in love with the instrument, and I found myself with a kid asking for a piano for his birthday when other kids were asking for an Xbox.    Fast forward a year, and John had joined jazz band and at the urging of the band director Mr. Romano, started playing in a jazz trio with his friends Jake and Dennon.  They were good, and now a year later, they are frankly, great.  They have started playing paid gigs in the community as well- a statement of how far they have come in a short period of time.

Where many parents are worried about how much screen time their kids have, my kid has largely given up video games for music.  When we went to London, John wanted to go to TiN Pan Alley and we went to the Steinway store where he played the pianos for about an hour.  His favorite music on his iPhone is Louis Armstrong and Cole Porter tunes.  His friends say things like “All the best music is from the 40’s.”  Now they also like a bunch of other eclectic music- they are still teenagers- but I would never have thought in a million years that this would be where we would be now.

I have been incredibly happy with our experience with the Kennett schools.  I’m not sure John would have gotten the opportunities he had to discover piano or have a jazz trio had he gone to a private school in Delaware.   Academically, both boys were challenged and had teachers that took a genuine interest in them as people, as well as students.  That kind of caring is rare, and really can’t be bought.

I sit on the professional development committee and tech committee for the school district as a parent/community member.  Even behind the scenes, I see faculty and staff trying to make thoughtful and forward thinking decisions that look at continuous improvement in a fast paced world.  For example, the District is looking at the scope and sequence of skills like online research and understanding plagiarism, so that it can be taught at the earliest stages and reinforced over time, now that kids can access so much more information online and need to parse quality resources with a careful eye, long before they would ever have a course on critical literature.  The decisions being made look across the whole curriculum, so as much as possible, skills are introduced early and mastered over longer period of time, not isolated to Elementary School, or Middle School or High School.

There are always challenges.  Not everything is perfect, and in a world where technology evolves almost daily, keeping up and on top of things is difficult in the best of circumstances.  We are so fortunate to have administrators and teachers that are taking a look at the big picture as well as the day to day, and making thoughtful decisions about everything they do to make sure our kids are as prepared with foundational skills that will serve them well, even when things are in flux.

I’m incredibly happy with the education both of my kids have received at Kennett schools, and I’m amazed at the opportunities they have both had to meet inspiring teachers and staff who take an interest in the kids beyond the classroom.  That’s what makes our schools so special.

Thank you to everyone- parents, teachers, students, staff, administrators- we’re all in this together, and while there are always challenges, it’s important to also remember how very lucky we all are to be in this together.

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5 Years of Acorns

Five years ago, 9 friends spent a weekend in Boston together.  No real agenda, other than getting together and talking about the things that were most important to them, with the hope that it would spur them all to do better, be better, and grow from the experience.  It was the Mastermind/Not a Conference micro-conference.   And, due to a bad joke made on the eve of the first Podcamp Philly, it got nicknamed Zen Acorns.

A lot has happened in the past 5 years.  Out of this group, members have gone on to publish books, find new jobs, found a successful startup, and even run for political office.  We became good friends that weekend, and learned more about each other and ourselves than I think we could have anticipated.

What I got out of this weekend of introspection and sharing is still relevant today.  I learned to embrace my strengths, and how to challenge my weaknesses (I’m still working on a couple of those).  I got a sense of how other people saw me, and instead of feeling defensive in that vulnerability, I feel I’ve gained insight and more direction, as well as how to listen to that inner compass.

We planted a lot of seeds that weekend, some which are still waiting for their chance to bloom.  I will never forget taking a chance and saying yes to spending unstructured time with a group of friends, without knowing what would come out of it.  It’s so rare, as adults, to get agenda-free moments with people we’re not related to- other than those brief dinners or lunches, or hallways during a conference.  Those aren’t always the times when you will be your true self, and open up about what worries you, or discuss questions about where you’re going and what you’re trying to achieve.

I wish we had more opportunities to do this sort of thing.  Small groups, without outside demands or distractions, talking and resolving to make the world a better place, based on our own best contributions.

Thank you, fellow Acorns.  Hope to see you soon!

 

blogging, community, friends, happiness

Running For Office- Township Supervisor

As many of you know, I am running for Kennett Township Supervisor.  There is a primary on May 19th, but the main election will be on November3, 2015.

Why Township Supervisor?  You just ran for the State House after all, you might be asking.

My goal in running for public office is to try to help my community.  I’ve volunteered on many school district committees, in many roles, and I have been amazed at how many decisions made by elected officials seem to be made in a vacuum regarding their effect on   day to day life.

I’ve been working most of my adult life in positions that are about building and improving communities.  Whether it was helping to design the Americans with Disabilities Act access program for the Super Bowl,  working with the Junior Board of Christiana Care as treasurer and managing their funds and grants, or working with Edutopia to manage online communities, my experience has been geared towards making progress and ensuring that people have access to what they need to move forward.

While I’m disappointed I lost in November, I have had the opportunity to work with Representative Barrar’s office on several issues lately.  Rep. Barrar has come and supported Kennett High School’s After Prom, and his office is currently working on making sure recent changes in a law about background checks for volunteers is implemented in such a way that it does not discourage or prevent parents from getting involved in their children’s school or classrooms.  His office, and Steve personally, has been incredibly responsive, and I’m so glad we’re getting a chance to work together.

During the campaign, I spoke with people from all across our area.  Many of the issues we face, from infrastructure planning and repair to looking at our goals for long-term growth and development, start at the Township level.  When you look at other townships in our area, you find some, like Concord Township, who actively encourage growth and development, and others who seek to maintain the status quo.  In Kennett Township, the goal is trying to achieve a good balance between sensible and sustainable growth, without turning our area into a strip mall.  The balance between maintaining what makes Kennett special, how to preserve open space, and how to balance growth and preservation are critical, and we need someone to help ensure this balance is maintained, now and as we look into the future.

In Kennett Township, we’ve made great strides in recent years, and I believe I can use my skills to help further enhance community engagement and interaction.  For example, at a local community group meeting this week, a conversation came up about the new library. Everyone seemed to have strong feelings about it, and given that over 55% of Kennett Township residents have library cards, this is not surprising.  The concerns came down to trying to make sure there was easy access to everyone and that the new building reflected the charm and history of the area, and that we weren’t losing the past in the change to something new and exciting.

This sums up the challenges we face together as a Township.  How do we look at things like making sure our roads are wide enough for emergency vehicles, yet not so wide that they simply encourage more traffic and development?  How do we approach land conservation and managing our natural resources?  How do we ensure that the development of trails benefits everyone in our community?  How do we make sure people know where the trails are, so they can enjoy them?  How do we make sure people feel welcomed into our community, and know about opportunities to get involved?

My experience in building communities online and offline, designing programs that ensure access to people with disabilities, and managing finances for a non-profit all give me the experience we want in a Supervisor. However, it’s my experience with helping businesses to adapt to the world of digital communication and commerce that may prove most helpful.  As we move forward as a Township, we will have to look for better and more efficient ways to communicate and do business, and we’ll need to do this while balancing the need to preserve everything that makes our Township special and outstanding from many of its neighbors.  Progress and preservation need to live comfortably side by side.  This is what I hope to be able to achieve as a Supervisor.

Please feel free to contact me anytime by leaving a comment here on the blog, or dropping an email to me at hoffmandigitalmedia@gmail.com, or contacting me on Facebook, or just give me a call.  We all live here together, and it’s only by talking and understanding how you feel that we can plan for a successful future together.

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