Author: humanv2 (Page 1 of 11)

Are the AirPods really worth it?

Which looks less hassle to you?

I consume plenty of media around tech and one thing I kept hearing again and again from the tech community was that the AirPods may well be pricey but they were one of or even the best new devices Apple had released in a long time.

They seem very expensive for a pair of headphones as well which look like EarPods with the wires cut off. Then there is the look of them which as always is loved by some hated by others. The EarPods don’t fit me well without a skin fitted to them either so they probably wouldn’t fit me well and that’s if I could even get hold of them.

Of course I chose to ignore all of these possible downsides as I had to find out what the fuss was about.

Setup

One of the features raved about the AirPods is there very simple set up and that they then pair across all your other iCloud devices once they are set up.

My experience was not as smooth as I hoped. Pairing with my iPhone was brilliant. Flip open the lid on the case, a picture pops up of the AirPods on my iPhone, tap Connect and that’s it! Be gone vile Bluetooth horrors. No more number codes! No more spinning wheels and Pairing prompts!

Sadly that was where the magic ended for me. In theory I should now have been able to connect to any of my devices signed into the same iCloud account ( why do I feel so tempted to type iClod?…hmm ) but no. That would have been too easy.

My problem was that the AirPods were just not appearing as a device to pair with on anything other than my iPhone. It was as if they weren’t there.

So after much forum reading, checking iCloud accounts, turning things off and on again eventually I did get the AirPods to pop up. I still don’t know what step eventually made them appear as a choice. Connecting to my Apple watch was the worst of the lot but I’ve always found connecting bluetooth headphone to the watch a poor experience.

One thing I suppose is that when they did appear there was no need to pair or input Bluetooth codes but frankly I was getting so fed up I almost wanted those dark days back again!

Day to day use

In daily use the AirPods are hands down the best headphone experience I’ve had. There are a number of reasons why which I will come back to.

Let’s get the negative point for me out of the way first. They don’t fully fit my ears much as I suspected they wouldn’t. If I am just pottering around the house they aren’t too bad but if I tilt my head to one side they could easily fall out. I certainly wasn’t willing to go outside with them as they come. The EarPods were never a great fit so I was prepared this might be the case.

A while back I found a company called EarSkinz that make soft moulded plastic covers for the EarPods which work brilliantly for me. Sadly they at the time of writing the new AirPod covers are not available on Amazon. I reached out to EarSkinz and they said they hoped to start selling them on Amazon sometime in July.

A little bit modification of my original EarSkinz covers is working for now.

AirPods with modified EarSkinz covers

They now sit in my ears very comfortably and don’t move at all. I’ve done some 30+ minute runs and been through typical gym workouts with weight machines and free weights with no issues. The secure fit has improved the sound quality and the design of the EarSkinz is meant to channel the sound down your ear canal better and I do think it helps. The only downside is I have to remove them to store them in the case but that would be true of any make. The fit is so precise they will only fit in the charging holes “naked”.

The sound quality of these is really quite excellent. The bass is improved over the EarPods and the sound stage feels fuller somehow. I read others say that they swap to over ear headphones whilst watching a movie and whilst I may do that in the future I find the convenience factor means I tend to end up using them for everything.

It’s not just that they are Bluetooth which is great in headphones if you haven’t already got a pair. Removing the wires altogether makes them even less of a hassle as they NEVER get caught on anything. I’ve even pulled jumpers on over my head and they have stayed in.

The way the AirPods fit perfectly in the charging case which is so small you can easily take it everywhere in your pocket and because it charges them they are always ready to go. I cannot stress how much this alone is a selling point as anyone who has ever owned Bluetooth headphones will tell you the whole issue of knowing if they are charged and will they be ready when I need them is a real pain. Now when I go to the gym they are ready to go every time. The pop up on the screen when you open the case tells you instantly the charge of the headphones and the case so you always know when the case needs a top up charge. It’s a lighting connector too so no doubt if you own some Apple devices you already have a charger in your home.

Then there is auto-pause. We’ve all been there. You’re listening to your favourite music or podcast and someone is trying to talk to you regardless. Nothing can top the ease of the AirPods for just taking one out of your ear, playback stops and you listen and then pop it back in and playback resumes. It is such a great feature next time you wear headphones without it you get confused why it hasn’t stopped for you!

One of the big criticism of the AirPods was having to control playback with Siri even to skip to the next track. Thankfully in iOS 11 thats gone and now you can change them so each AirPod has it own command on double tap. I am on the public beta of iOS on my iPad and even though my iPhone is still on iOS 10 the feature still holds and works. My personal set up is left AirPod is Siri and right one is skip forwards. That’s all I’ve chosen for now but it may change over time.

Looks

Personal choice but I don’t think they look too bad. I can’t stand how I look in a mirror anyway so this addition takes nothing away from me. I’ve seen others out and about wearing them and they look OK I think.

I’ve not had any funny looks from anyone nor been quizzed about them.

Price

They are expensive. At £159 they are not a impulse buy for most. They are not just a pair of EarPods with the wires cut off. They are more than that for all the reasons listed above and when you consider how many clever features they bring and the improvement in day to day headphone use I feel they are well worth the investment.

If you are considering them, go for it.

 

 

 

Apple Watch Series 2 is now a serious fitness device

Apple yesterday announced the latest update to the Apple Watch. They have decided to call it Apple Watch Series 2 for reasons that may or may not become clear in the future. It could be that in the future they have a new form factor for it and are waiting to release that and only then will it be called Apple Watch 2.

So what new features does it bring? Well no surprises if you’ve been following the rumours but the fact that the watch is now is fully waterproof and features GPS means this makes the Watch a compelling device for the sports enthusiast.

Waterproofing

Now waterproof to 50m the Series 2 Apple Watch should make a good swimming companion. I know there are some YouTube videos out there of people swimming with the Series 1 version but personally I’d never take that risk with something so expensive. 

Apple have now worked on sealing everything tight shut to water and during the keynotes they showed a video demonstrating the thrashing these watches took in the testing phase to make sure everything remained waterproof after prolonged use in water. It looks to me like it should hold up well in the pool. I love that they have redesigned the speaker so that after the workout is complete you rotate the crown on the side and the speakers vibrate to expel any remaining water!

There are now two new workouts Pool swim and Open water swimming. Below is a very brief but informative Youtube video on how these modes will work.

Swim demo

It remains unclear whether GPS tracking will work whilst doing an open water swim. I’ve reached out on social media to see if I can get an answer to this.

GPS Tracking

This was the big shock to me that as well as waterproofing the watch also has GPS tracking. This is superb. My idyllic vision of my runs with my music on my Apple Watch streaming to my Bluetooth headphones and not having to care if the watch gets soaked in the rain is perfect. Whilst some might bemoan a lack of LTE I think in someways this is a good thing whilst out running. The whole point is to escape, to get away from the noise of life and feel free. That is not going to happen whilst bombarded with messages nagging for attention. Now I’ll no doubt be happy when LTE eventually comes but I hope Apple finds a way to easily turn off notifications automatically whilst working out or having a priority mode perhaps.

Early reports say the battery can last upto 5 hours with GPS on. Now for serious athletes, say out on very long bike rides, this isn’t going to be enough but for the vast majority it will be just fine. I do see me popping it back on the dock whilst I shower however for a top up and this is no different to what I do now with my Tom Tom watch. There is nothing worse than finding your watch is dead just as you want to nip out for a run.

The addition of these two features means that for lots of us we can ditch dedicated fitness trackers. I know I plan on doing so once I’ve confirmed it all works as advertised. 

Performance 

The watch now features a S2 system in a package chip with a dual core processor that promises 50% better performance, a new GPU that delivers twice the graphics performance. With WatchOS3 this should be a very slick device to use.

Display

Nothing earth shattering but a boost in brightness upto twice as much as before makes the Watch much easier to read in bright daylight Apple say.

So what’s not to love really? Perhaps sapphire glass on all models would have been good as the Ion-X Glass is iffy for me. My wife fell off her bike onto a stone path her watch face is badly scratched. Still fully functional though.

I’ll be picking one up for sure and trying desperately to pre-order so watch ( pun intended ) this space for more content and hopefully some more video soon.

Everybody’s free for Tech Geeks

Inspired by a take on the Baz Luhrmann song Everybody’s Free ( to Wear Sunscreen ) but rewritten for triathletes I thought I would have a go at a version for tech geeks. So relax and imagine the chilled out vibes of the song as you read..

Ladies and Gentleman of the class of ’16
Wear Sunscreen

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and simplicity of your apps, oh, never mind
You’ll never understand the power and simplicity of your apps
Until 2 years from now and many updates later
You’ll look back at them and recall in a way that you can’t grasp
How they evolved into the confusing mess they’ve now become

Don’t worry about having the latest tech
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to explain to people
Why they should use a password manager
The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things
that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4pm when a software update bricks your system
On a day you need it most
Change your passwords, it’s been too long

Saying, don’t be reckless with other people’s hardware
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours

Back up

Don’t waste your time on defragging
Sometimes your upload is fast, sometimes it’s slow
The process is long and in the end there’s not much you can do about it
Remember the retweets and likes you receive
Forget the abuse
If you succeed in doing this tell me how
Keep your old USB pen drives, throw away your VGA cables

Switch off

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to share
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22
What they should blog about
Some of the most interesting 40 year olds still don’t
Update your apps
Be kind to your phone
You’ll miss it when it’s gone

Maybe you’ll upgrade, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll change OS, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll stick with Android all your life, maybe you’ll swap
To iOS on your 40th birthday
Whichever you chose, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are fine, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your computer, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own
Try VR, even if you have nowhere else to do it but your own living room
Read the privacy statement, even if you click yes anyway
Do not read YouTube comments, they will only made you feel bad

Get to know your Google products, you’ll never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be smart with your cloud storage, they’re your best link to your past
And the hardware most likely most likely to stick with you in the future

Understand that followers come and go
But a precious few hundred, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps between friends online and in real life
For as the older you get, the more you’ll value real human contact
Live in New York but leave before it makes you hard
Live in Silicon Valley but leave before you form a startup

Browse

Accept certain inalienable truths
You are the product, robots will have your job and
you too will get old
And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
You weren’t their product, robots were dumb and Facebook was a nice company

Never rely on one backup solution
Maybe you’ll have a local one, maybe you’ll have an off site
But you never know when each one might fail

Never mess too much with your system files
Or by the time your system is 1-year-old it’ll run like a Dell laptop on Vista

Be careful which forums you use for advice
Forum advice can be a form of torture, fishing through endless discussion threads
Avoiding scary command line solutions
And the eventually deciding after several hours or days just to leave it alone
It’ll probably sort itself out eventually anyway

But trust me on the sunscreen

Atlas Wristband is finally the device gym users need.

Atlas Green Jpeg

Price: £200 including international shipping

Atlas website

If fitness trackers and sports bands are anything to go by all you’d think people do is walk, run and swim. Those who like to stay fit by doing high intensity training or pressing weights have to usually select an option like “freestyle” which might detect some general movement and change in heart rate but never really detect the level of exertion the user was undergoing or what movements they were making. The Atlas Wristband aims to change all that.

Hardware

It pairs two ARM M4 processors with a 3 axis accelerometer and 3 axis gyroscope and an optical heart rate monitor. The creators of the device use the data from these sensors and feed them into their Atlas Engine. This engine has been trained to recognise the unique 3D movements that occur in the arm and wrist as the person is exercising and match this to the 50 exercises ( for now ) stored in its database. There is Coach mode which you select a pre-set routine on your phone and transfer it to the device or Freestyle mode. In Freestyle mode you can choose up-to 15 different exercises from a list of 50 and transfer them to your device. You can then do them in any order you wish and the Atlas will detect what you’re doing and how many reps.

The device should be worn on the left wrist as this was the way the programmes were created. In time it’s hoped the option to wear on the right wrist will come and if you buy the band you’ll be given the option to send your data to Atlas Sweat Lab which will gather user data to further improve tracking and exercise recognition. It’s a great feature that should see the product improve over time.

atlas green with module out

The central module containing the sensors is detachable and must be removed from the band allow charging via micro USB.

Whilst the design is a little odd the style aspect isn’t as great a problem as most trackers or smartwatches as this isn’t designed to be worn all day. You can keep it on your wrist to tell the time but currently it won’t be tracking your movements, steps and heart rate throughout the day. The intention was always that it works for one hour workouts and it should last for 7 days if used like this. Turning it off in between will further conserve power.

Software

Most of the time whilst working out you’re interacting on the fly with your device. Maybe you’re skipping a set as you know you’ve maxed out or perhaps increasing the weight with each set. You will still need to use your phone to sync your activity to the Atlas app before and after a workout. The app interface looks nicely designed. It’s focused on the exercises you are doing, and the map of your body and muscles lets you see what you’re working out. Perhaps more importantly it lets you see what areas you are overlooking.  The app also contains videos of how to correctly perform all the exercises and following these correctly will help improve the accuracy of the tracking too.

The fantastic thing is that you can try out the software and get a feel for how the device will work using a separate app called Atlas Engine. It’s currently free in the Google Play Store and App Store and all you need is your phone and an armband to strap it securely to your left bicep.

The company is looking to add other common exercises like running too which will make it much more flexible as a general fitness device.

The future of this device is interesting as if it’s a success I would not be surprised to see this company snatched up by one of the tech giants. Incorporating this software and hardware into the Apple Watch or Wear devices would bring us one step closer to a genuinely useful universal health tracker.

 

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