July 29

It looks like the Apple Watch is launching in a certain big box retailer soon. Also, big changes may be coming to third-party Apple Watch accessories. Along with that, Zac and Benjamin discuss some issues with iTunes and Apple Music. The Happy Hour podcast is available for download on iTunes and through our dedicated RSS feed.

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Apple has published a behind-the-scenes look at Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 studio where Apple Music’s streaming radio station is broadcasted … on Snapchat of all places. Apple snatched up the ‘applemusic’ username on Snapchat earlier this summer, and now the company is using the account to promote its subscription music service and Zane Lowe’s radio show with short videos of the DJ broadcasting. expand full story

I asked back in May whether you thought the Apple Watch Activity app would lead to a leaner, fitter you. At that point, more than 80% of you said that it either would or already had.

A Wristly survey yesterday suggested that the reality perhaps hadn’t quite lived up to this promise, but still contained some pretty impressive numbers. More than 50% of Watch owners said that they were exercising more and were making better health choices, with around 40% reporting weight loss.

For those of us who were lucky enough to take delivery of our Apple Watches on day one, we’re now three months in. Plenty of time for the novelty to wear off – and to see whether the anticipated benefits really have shown up on the bathroom scale, in our waistlines or in the gym …  expand full story

July 28

When Apple and HBO announced the launch of the HBO Now streaming service, they said that their app would be exclusive to Apple devices for three months. Now, a quarter year later, that agreement has expired and other providers are looking to distribute access to the television network’s streaming app.

One of the biggest names looking to get into the HBO Now market is Verizon. The mobile carrier and FiOS provider announced today that it will be bringing the service to its 100 million customers…

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Earlier in my reviewing career, I always tried to estimate the likely audience for products I tested: was an accessory likely to be universally appealing, somewhat popular, niche, or poorly received by virtually everyone? Many reviews (and reader comments) later, I learned there was at least a small audience for virtually anything, and conversely, that some people found reasons to dislike even the best-designed and best-reviewed products. I eventually concluded that there is no such thing as “universally appealing” or “universally bad” — just products for different audiences of different sizes.

SwitchEasy’s Blocks ($20) and Colors ($15) are as close to a test of my conclusion as anything I’ve covered so far for Apple’s $350-$17,000 Watches. Blocks lets you build your own Apple Watch dock from 92 plastic pieces that just so happen to be “compatible with Leading Manufacturer building blocks,” code for “works with Legos.” Colors is an inexpensive Apple Watch case designed to match three Apple Watch Sport bands. Toy-like in appearance, the designs are clearly not “universally appealing,” particularly for owners of expensive Apple Watches and Editions. But it’s possible that one or both of them may appeal to you, anyway…
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Summer for T-Mobile this year has meant announcing a series of promotions and plans dubbed #UncarrierAmped. Today, the company launched the latest, and last of these moves. This time it’s all about Apple. John Legere announced in a blog post that the company is adding Apple Music to its Music Freedom free music streaming service and is going to offer this year’s — as yet unreleased — iPhone to anyone buying an iPhone 6 over the next couple of months. expand full story

Music site Hits Daily Double cites “inside sources at some of the major labels” as stating that Apple Music signed up more than 10M subscribers in the first four weeks, saying the number was shared with them by Apple.

The site says both Apple and the labels were surprised by the speed of adoption, noting that streaming figures for some tracks – which include “a couple of cutting-edge hip-hop titles” – are on a par with Spotify, which has around 75M subscribers …  expand full story

Following the launch of Apple Pay in the UK two weeks ago, Apple is continuing the rollout with the addition of two major banks, HSBC and First Direct. Customers who have credit cards or debit cards with those banks can start using Apple Pay now. As with other UK Apple Pay transactions, there is a £20 transaction limit at most retailers apart from those with upgraded payment terminals that support higher-value contactless purchases. The £20 limit is getting raised to £30 in September.

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July 27

Apple today, just a week after debuting a new set of videos showcasing Apple Watch apps, has revealed three new TV advertisements again showcasing the various apps of the Apple Watch. The first video, seen above, showcases the music applications that Apple Watch supports. Apps showcased include ones such as Shazam, Instagram, and Apple’s own Music app.

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Screenshot 2015-07-27 16.09.34

Less than a week following the previous beta, Apple has released OS X 10.11 El Capitan beta 5 to developers. The update is available via Software Update in the Mac App Store. The previous beta did not add any noticeable new features, but it instead focused on bug fixes. It is likely that this new beta has a similar focus, and we’ll update this post with enhancements as they are discovered.

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Pad and Quill, one of our favorite Apple accessory makers, today introduced a set of Apple Watch bands with their trademark quality leather and stitching combined with two options of metal: Stainless Steel and Polished Black. At $86 (save 5% w/code 5forSUMMER), this turns an Apple Watch Sport into something you can wear with business casual to formal attire. Paired with a standard Apple Watch, it adds more color options to your Stainless Steel arsenal.

Not just any leather, but the luxury full grain leather used to craft all of Pad & Quill’s handmade goods. So we turned to Victorio, a 4th generation italian leather tannery artisan. His tannery uses  legendary soft-tumbled method to transform full grain American steer hides into a luxury leather watch band that will hug your wrist with pliable comfort, while being as rugged and durable as your active life demands.

We’ll have a review in the next week or so but if you can’t wait, you can order yours in 38mm or 42mm today for delivery starting in mid August. Check out our hands-on impressions with each of Pad and Quill’s full lineup of Apple Watch accessories in the meantime. expand full story

Most of the accessories I’ve reviewed for 9to5Mac require little explanation — they’re the second, third, or tenth iteration of a concept we’ve seen many times before. Marked with “Carte Blanche” branding, Boostcase’s new Bloc ($60-$100) is something new… and as such, it mightn’t completely make sense at first blush. It’s not just an Apple Watch stand like the many others I’ve covered: it’s actually a standalone charging dock. With its own built-in power source. Made from your choice of wood ($60 preorder/$80 regular), aluminum ($80), steel or gold-colored aluminum (each $80 preorder/$100 regular).

It’s as minimalist of a design as docks can get: a big, solid-feeling box hiding your Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable and a 2000mAh battery inside. And it’s available in colors matching nearly every Apple Watch, even including gold and rose gold. You’ll have to decide whether or not it makes sense for your personal needs, but one thing’s for sure — there’s nothing else quite like it on the market, or likely to appear any time soon…

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Summary

  • Without intruding in the way we live our lives, the Apple Watch is helping make it:
    • Richer, through the intuitive experience it provides
    • Productive, due to the significant number of things we can accomplish right from our wrist
    • Healthier, in the way it provides feedback on our workouts or lack of it
  • Above all, it is giving us our lives back by allowing us to live our lives naturally while our digital assistant, the Apple Watch, tracks, monitors and, when our attention is needed, gently taps us with a focused message or reminder.
  • As a sophisticated wearable device, the Apple Watch is positioned to be a quarterback of your digital world.

While I am not one of the few who received an Apple Watch to try, show off, and share the experience back with Apple, I am a lucky Dad to receive one from my son, just days after it became available. A couple of months into continuous usage of the Apple Watch, I have yet to run into someone else wearing it. Surprising and puzzling? Possibly there is merit to the rumors that Apple has some supply issues and is not able to fill the backlog of watch orders it has. For, clearly, the watch is a marvel! Packed with functionality, it is designed to make its users’ life easier and richer. How you may ask, and why are more people not wearing this watch I ask? So let me share with you my impressions of this sleek and amazing time piece.

First and foremost, let me declare that this watch has given me my life back. It has moved me from living in the virtual world back into the real world. ­­­­­This is one social media tool that allows me to be social while being personable. I am now able to live in the moment while being fully connected and aware of my social media/network.

Prior to owning the Apple Watch, any time I lost interest in a meeting, or an activity I was engaged in, I would reach out to my iPhone and start checking for messages, emails, Facebook updates, etc. What exactly was I looking for? I really did not know. It just became a habit. Anticipation of receiving something became a part of me. Nothing in particular, but when my mind drifted off from what I was doing, it would start to wonder if someone saw my post, or if there was a message waiting for me.

The Apple Watch has changed all that. From the very first tap I received on my wrist by this gorgeous watch, I realized I am in full control. I would know when I received something from some app and there was no need for me to constantly go through the cumber some process of finding the phone, waking it up, and navigating through the myriad of apps that can push a message or note to me.

The tap feature on the Apple Watch is a fantastic innovation. When a message comes in, it gently taps me on the wrist. I can chose to glance down or continue doing what I am doing. The person across from me will not even realize that I was discreetly notified of a message that had just come in.

Next, the multiple faces option available makes the watch exciting and interesting. For instance, each time my grandson is over, either he or I will switch it to the foot tapping, hand rotating Mickey Mouse face. Changing from an elegant to funky faces available for Apple Watch can be done through “force touch”, yet another new feature added to the device world by Apple. Most of the time I have it on the Modular face, which, while boring, gives me just the information I want to see. On a single screen/glance, I am able to see date, time, local temperature, time at a second location, how I am doing on my physical activity for the day and probably the most important — right there, in the middle of the screen — my next appointment. All that on one screen, placed strategically to be reader friendly.

I was happy with just these functions and features on my sport watch — and possibly Apple should have just stopped there for this first release. But when I pressed the crown, an entire world of apps was revealed! They floated up, down and across my watch intuitively. Several of the icons, which I am familiar from the iPhone, danced right in front of my eyes enticing me to tap and open them.

I scrolled over to test the remote picture taking app — “the do not extend my own arm to take a selfie”. Once I got the iPhone camera placed facing me and opened the camera app on the Apple Watch, I felt as if I had gone back into the early days of television. The watch went through a static frenzy but within moments was synched with the iPhone and I was seeing the exact image as on the iPhone. All I had to do was to simply touch the screen on the watch and bingo, a picture, or multiple pictures were taken. I no longer need to edit pictures to cut out the extended arm from it.

Exploring Siri on the watch was a joy. It was “Apple” simple and amazingly easy. Even in a crowded area, I was able to have Siri fetch me the scores of my favorite team or show the latest price of Apple stock. The Stocks app also works nicely on the watch as it scrolls through stocks of my interests and pushes out the latest quotes and related details. I can deep dive on any of the stock and see everything from stock fundamentals, to charts, to latest breaking news.

Oh, and when my phone rang, I did not have to stumble and reach into my pockets. I answered the call on my Apple Watch! Wonderful functionality for when your phone is out of immediate reach and answering the phone is of importance.

What about the health & fitness tracking on Apple Watch, you ask? Frankly, this key function of the watch deserves an entire article on the way it intuitively captures real time health data while allowing manual input of data such as vitals (blood pressure, etc.), nutrition, sleep analysis, etc. It alerts you to get up and move around if you have been sedentary for too long. The health and fitness tracking capability promises to be a gateway for innovation in medical applications allowing tracking of key health indicators.

Without intruding in the way we live our lives, the Apple Watch is helping make it richer, through the intuitive experience it provides; productive, due to the significant number of things we can accomplish right from our wrist; healthier, in the way it provides feedback on our workouts or lack of it. But above all, it is giving us our lives back by allowing us to live our lives naturally while our digital assistant, the Apple Watch, tracks, monitors and, when our attention is needed, gently taps us with a focused message or reminder.

Many people spend $300 to $500 for a decent watch that look nice, besides telling accurate time. Now if you are like me and travel a fair bit, each time you move into a new time zone, you have to adjust the time forward or backward. Not a fun thing, and if forgotten, could be embarrassing when you arrive late at a meeting, or even disastrous in say missing a flight. Changing dates is even more complicated and the process differs from watch to watch. The Apple Watch, like the iPhone, automatically adjusts to the current time zone you are in. Magic, no, just the way how simple these basic things should be.

Over two months with the Apple Watch, I am a believer. While it has its drawbacks: it is tethered to the recent version of iPhone, and hence is a drain on your phone’s battery; it has to be charged every day, something I have found easy to get into the habit of doing; the apps don’t all work as seamlessly as they should, but this is the first version, and improvements, I expect, will be distributed via subsequent software upgrades. The main feedback I would have for Apple is that perhaps they packed too much into the first version of the watch.

As a sophisticated wearable device, the Apple Watch is positioned to be a quarterback for your digital world. With the right set of yet-to-be-created apps, you will be able to connect, monitor and control your environment – physical, virtual and social, by just a flick of your wrist.

Apple Watch is worth its weight in gold. Now I am not sure I would say the same for the pricey, gold Apple Watch. Maybe if my other son gave me the rose gold watch as a gift I may have a different opinion and be back with an update to this article…

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