Tech

Apple Watch Series 2 vs Series 3

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If you are in the market for an Apple Watch, whether it is your first Apple Watch or you are just upgrading, you may be asking yourself:

Should I buy a Series 2 or a Series 3 Apple Watch?

Up until a few days ago I would not have been able to give you much advice on that topic. But now that I have upgraded from a Series 2 to a Series 3 I can tell you there are 3 main differences to consider when trying to answer that question.

The 1st Difference: Siri has a voice

All Apple Watches before the Series 3 reduced Siri to a visual text-based interface only. If you raised your wrist and gave Siri a command or asked a question you would need to then look at the screen of your Apple Watch to get confirmation that Siri acted on your command or to get the answer to your question. That all changes with the Series 3 Apple Watch. Now Siri has a voice. At first glance this might not seem like that big of a deal, especially if you have been using an Apple Watch since they first came out. But in practice this a really big deal. One of the biggest advantages of having a computer strapped to your wrist is that you can access it in situations where it is simply not possible to sit in front of a full computer or even pull your iPhone out of your pocket. But in many of those cases it also isn’t possible or practical to look down at the screen of your Apple Watch. This is especially true if you are asking Siri a question. Maybe you are walking down a flight of stairs or across a parking lot and in either of those cases you really shouldn’t be looking down at a tiny screen and trying to read a bunch of text. Siri’s voice pouring out of your Apple Watch really is a great new feature but you don’t realize how handy it is until you have it and use it.

The 2nd Difference: Cellular Connectivity

This may not be a feature you need, but for some this really handy. I like to go outside on walks and runs for exercise and listen to music and be able to use my phone if I run into trouble. Until I bought the Series 3 this meant I needed to take my iPhone with me on my run or walk. Walking isn’t such a bid deal, but if you are running an iPhone in your pocket isn’t feasible and strapping one to your arm is just a pain. Now all I do is pop my AirPods into my ears and head out the door. If I get a phone call or I need to call someone I can do that right from my watch. The cellular feature also means I don’t have to carry an iPhone around in my pocket at work all day. I leave the iPhone in my bag in my office. This is nice in a couple of way in that I don’t have an iPhone in my front pocket (not always attractive especially in dress pants) and it eliminates the temptation to pull my iPhone out and start checking email or news. But since I have cellular data on my watch I still get important texts and phone calls.

The 3rd Difference: Processor Speed

I saved the best for last and that is a faster processor. I can’t stress this enough, the jump in processor speed from the Series 2 to the Series 3 is staggering. There is nothing worse that lifting your wrist to quickly do something only to have to wait on the watch to catch up. With the Series 2 this would happen almost every time I went to start a workout. I was always waiting on the watch to “unfreeze” the interface so I could select a workout to start. This simply doesn’t happen with the Series 3 watch. There is no delay. Double-tapping the side button to quickly switch apps is also lightning fast and fluid with the Series 3 and with the Series 2 it was very sluggish. All of this might not seem like that big of a deal but you don’t realize just how much it bothers you until you realize you weren’t using the watch to its full potential because it just wasn’t enjoyable to use when it did these things. With the Series 3 I am now using my watch more than ever because it works so much more fluidly now.

Better Change Your Twitter Password

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Just in case you have been living under a rock this week, Twitter had a bit of an "ooops" and left a bunch of user passwords unsecured. How did this happen? Twitter uses a technology that keeps Twitter's sysem passwords secure but this past week it was discovered that this system generated an internal log that spit out these passwords in a format that anyone who had access to the system could read them. Most likely there wasn't anyone that accessed this data for nefarious purposes but you never know. So if you use Twitter go ahead and spend a minute or two and change your password.

Read Twitter's official press release about the whole thing here...

Is Workflow For iOS Dead As We know It?

Is Workflow For iOS Dead As We know It?

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Ever since Apple bought the iOS app Workflow in March of 2017 it has lead many of us in the Apple community to speculate about the future of the app. Will Apple continue to update the app or will they spend all of their time integrating the underlying technologies into iOS? This “unknown” future hanging over the Workflow app has driven many people to stop using the app all together. The thinking is...don’t rely on powerful automation features that might go away any day now.

The other side of that argument is that we shouldn’t be ignoring powerful automation when it available to us. The Workflow app is still being updated by the original developers (who I believe are now Apple employees), so why not continue to use Workflow? This was exactly my take on the whole situation, but all that changed this past January.

I attended CES this past January in support of the other blog I write for (GeekDad.com), so I was covering the event as press. One of the things I was doing was publishing a daily article about some of the highlights I saw at CES that day. That meant I needed to take an hour or so out of an already jam-packed day and write and publish an article. The best way for me to do this was to use my iPad Pro. After all, the iPad Pro is my main computing device when I am at home so why wouldn’t I use an iPad at CES?

As I was getting ready to publish my first daily highlights article while at CES and I ran into a bit of a problem. When you publish an article for a website you tend to have to format your images a certain way, both for consistency across the site as well as for compatibility reasons. So as I was formatting the images I wanted to use for the article the app I used to do this editing kept crashing on me. Yup, you guessed it...I was using the Workflow app. Workflow is great to use for this purpose because it can take a photo you have taken with your iPhone, crop it, re-size it, rename it and put it in any location you choose. Except this time when I ran my photo editing worflow in the Workflow app the app would crash. No problem. I figured I must have done something to workflow I had written for this specific task, so maybe I will start from scratch. No luck. Creating a brand new worflow and doing just a basic image edit still resulted in an app crash. So next I downloaded a basic example workflow from the app’s worflow gallery. Surely a workflow that is published as an example in the Workflow app example gallery would work right? Nope. That’s when I knew something was definitely wrong. So I first emailed the developer and then after a day or two of not getting a response I reached out to Apple (after all Apple bought Workflow and the Workflow developers work for Apple now).

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You have to give Apple credit here as they reached out to me right away. They directed me over an Direct Message on Twitter and we continued to communicate:

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So Apple essentially pointed me right back to the Workflow developers. So I emailed them again and heard nothing. I went through the rest of CES without the ability to do what I needed to do to my photos to prep them for publishing. Luckily the people I work with at GeekDad are awesome and they did my photo editing for me while I was at CES.

Finally on Feb 11 (exactly 1-month after my initial email to the developers) one of the Workflow developers emailed me back and said the crash was due to an issue with the “Edit Image” action and that they were working on a fix. It is now March 2nd and the Workflow app has not been updated for 3-months. I took a look at the history of Workflow app updates and the app was updated 3 months ago, 6 months ago, 9 months ago, and 11 months ago. So it looks like they are on about a 4 times a year update cycle. That’s ok for minor bug fixes and feature additions but when you have a major component of your app like the Edit Photo action that not only doesn’t work but actually causes the app to crash you would think they would push out a fix as soon as possible. Nope.

I don’t know what the right answer is as far as whether we as a community of iOS automation users should be using the Workflow app going forward or not. For me personally, I can’t continue to use the app for work critical items anymore. I just can’t. I choose my hardware and software tools very carefully because my time is very constrained. My day job as an engineer is enough to make most people claim that as a full plate, but in addition to that I maintain this blog and I am a core writer for GeekDad.com. So every little bit of my time counts. I like using apps that have a revenue model that supports long-term usage...meaning the developers are making money and I can count on the app being around for a while. Workflow is no longer one of those apps for me. If you publish an example usage of your app in an example gallery that crashes the app and it does this for 3-months you are sending a pretty clear message that maintaining that app is not the priority. I’m sure there will be an update coming very soon for the Workflow app and that it will fix this particular issue. But as we all know Apple tends to cater to the average user. The average iOS user is not a “power user,” so if we as a community of iOS automation users are hoping that Apple is going to take the engine of Workflow and give us powerful built-in automation in the near future I fear we will be disappointed. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Apple will do just that, but with Apple all but abandoning the Automator app on the Mac and getting rid of Sal Soghoin (the Product Manager of automation) I think it is safe to say that the future of automation at Apple is in flux.

Right now I have about 30 custom workflows inside the Workflow app and I will continue to use some of those workflows going forward. But there are several workflows that I rely on to get work done. They are critical to me being productive. The next Workflow app update may fix the Edit Image action but break something else and I can’t afford to lose another 3-months of productivity to that kind of uncertainty. For me the Workflow app is no longer a “go-to” tool. It can’t be because I can no longer trust that it is going to work for me. I will continue to use the app for small automation tasks that are not work critical items, but for important tasks I will be looking elsewhere even if that means a less efficient solution. Because in the end it just has to work.

iPad Pro Smart Keyboard Connection Issues

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I’ve had an on again off again issue with my iPad Pro Smart Keyboard not wanting to stay connected. Sometimes it will just disconnect and the on-screen keyboard will pop up and then at other times I will get a pop up message saying “This accessory is not supported by this device.” At first I would only have keyboard connection problems every once in a while (maybe once a month) and then it started happening once a week and eventually multiple times a day. At first I could just disconnect the keyboard from the smart connector and re-connect it and it would solve the problem. But as the frequency of the issue increased this no longer worked. So it was time to get to the bottom of the problem.

I did a little digging and one of the most common fixes is to clean the smart connectors on both the iPad and the Smart Keyboard, but in my case that didn’t help.

 Pictured above are to two places where cleaning the contacts to the keyboard can help (at least in some cases)

Pictured above are to two places where cleaning the contacts to the keyboard can help (at least in some cases)

After a little more digging I found out that Apple had issued an internal memo that acknowledged the problem and extended the warranty by 1-year. So I took a trip to the Apple Store. I explained what the issue was and the Apple Store Genius didn’t even want to see the problem in action, he just started the process of getting me a new Smart Keyboard. The hardest problem about getting the Keyboard replaced was waiting on the Genius to extract the serial number off of the keyboard. The serial number is printed on the Smart Keyboard but it is on the felt surface which makes it pretty much impossible to read. So they have to do a diagnostic on the iPad to get the diagnostics report to spit out the serial number of the attached keyboard.

Bottom line, if you are having connection issues with your iPad Pro Smart Keyboard go into an Apple Store or give Apple Support a call. It’s a known issue and you should be taken care of.

Apple’s iPhone Battery Replacement Program

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I’m sure all of you have heard by know that Apple is offering reduced iPhone battery replacements for iPhones that are an iPhone 6 or newer:

  • iPhone 6/6 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 6s/6s Plus
  • iPhone 7/7 Plus
  • Even the iPhone 8/8 Plus and iPhone X (but only if the battery is truly degraded)

It is normally $79 to have an iPhone battery replaced out of warranty and now Apple is doing it for only $29. If you are someone that holds on to iPhone for 2 or more years before upgrading then I highly suggest you take advantage of this limited time program. Apple is offering these $29 iPhone battery replacements through the end of calendar year 2018. Right now there is a pretty large rush on these batteries, which means there is a wait. So don’t expect to just walk into an Apple Store and have them be able to replace your battery. In fact, I have some personal experience with this...

My Dad, sister and I were in Vegas this past week (I was there for CES). My Dad was passing down his iPhone 6 to my sister (since he recently got the iPhone X). Let’s just say he uses his iPhone a lot, so his iPhone 6 battery was pretty much shot. So he wanted to get the battery replaced before handing it down. My Dad doesn’t have any Apple Store anywhere near where he lives (the closest one is over 3 hours away) so he figured he would take advantage of being near an Apple Store while in Vegas and get the battery replaced. He made an appointment with Apple specifically for a battery replacement a couple of weeks in advance. But when we got to the Apple Store we got a couple of surprises. First, Apple did a diagnostics on the iPhone. Maybe I missed it, but everything I read early on about this battery replacement program was that Apple was replacing the battery irregardless of whether the battery was showing a degradation in performance. Turns out that is not the case. Not a problem, the diagnostics showed his battery was shot. The problem was that Apple didn’t have any batteries in stock and it would take a few weeks before they could get one in. Well, we weren’t going to be in Vegas for several weeks and my Dad doesn’t live close to another Apple Store so that wasn’t going to work. But then Apple did what they normally do...they went above and beyond. They went ahead and replaced the entire phone for the cost of the $29 battery replacement.

I am sharing this experience because I’m sure there a lot of you out there that are also thinking of taking advantage of this battery replacement deal. If so, just be aware that making an appointment is just step 1. You have to go in and have a diagnostics run on your iPhone and then once it is determined that your battery is in need of a replacement you will need to wait for a battery to become available. This is also the case if you take your iPhone in to a Apple Authorized repair center. One of my co-workers had the same experience at a local place here in Melbourne, Florida (their online appointment made it sound like the appointment was for the battery replacement instead of it being just the diagnostic test). So be prepared to wait in line for a battery. Although, some smaller repair centers actually have batteries in stock so you might just get lucky.

Also, if you aren’t having battery issues right now I suggest you wait until later this year. Get the most time out of your new battery and avoid the current rush on these cheap battery replacements. Make yourself a calendar reminder for Oct or Nov of this year to get your iPhone in for a battery replacement. iPhone batteries will last about 2-3 years on average, so waiting until later this year means your iPhone battery life will be extended out 3-4 years from today.

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