Pre-Ordering the Apple Watch

In the categories of “no one cares” and “first world problems”, I thought I’d share my experience today–which began in the wee small hours of the morning–of ordering the Apple Watch.

Everyone knows I’m a huge Apple fan.  On my confidence and enjoyment of their products, I have pre-ordered the watch even before I ever saw it or touched it in person.  Pre-orders started today at 2 am CDT.  I guess I was excited, because I planned to do it as soon as my alarm went off, but I actually woke up shortly after 2 am and so I thought “might as well”.  The process was simple enough using the Apple Store app.  Experience has gone to show that trying to use the website is terrible because everyone is hitting it and it drags.  But the app was very smooth.  Unfortunately, those few minutes after officially going on sale was enough to delay the shipping time from release day on April 24 to May 13.  I was much grieved by this and after debating whether I should settle for another model, opted not to and placed my order.

I do have a couple hesitations with the Apple Watch.  One, I’ve never worn a watch.  I don’t know how I’ll feel about it.  Heck I’ve never even worn a ring until recently when I got an OBU class ring, and quite frankly sometimes I’m like “get this thing off my finger with all haste” because there are times when I can just constantly feel it.  (Like right now as I’m thinking about it.)

The one I ordered but not the one I got to try on. 38 mm space grey sports model.
The one I ordered but not the one I got to try on. 38-mm space gray sports model.

Two, it IS a version 1 product.  I am very aware of technology’s upgrade cycle.  (Like v2 I could easily see having a FaceTime camera.) So the model I really wanted was the steel with modern buckle at a whopping $749.  But at that price, I would have to keep this model for at least 4-5 years and I just don’t see that happening.  So the $349 entry level sports model with rubber–er fluoroelastomer–band it is for now.  And it will arrive two weeks later than release day.

(I’m also very aware of Apple’s desire for a headline and the conspiracy theorist in me questions if this was an intentional short supply so they could say “look, we sold out in minutes”.  But hey, maybe it IS way more popular than all the tech sites were predicting.)

Fortunately, I WAS able to get a try-on appointment for today and took my lunch hour to go do so.  But that’s where all the fortune ends, because my experience was not great.  Yes, I know it is day 1, but as much as I’ve read about Apple’s training and expectations, not to mention the kind of experience I expect for these premium products, I expected better.  It was completely disorganized and chaotic.  Let me walk you through it.

All the pretty watches! Sports, regular (what do you call this?), and Edition.
All the pretty watches! Sports, regular (what do you call this?), and Edition.

I walk into the store and to a group of chatting employees.  I let them know, “I am here for my watch try-on appointment”.  Worker A takes me to Worker B back near the door.  Worker B says I need to see Worker C.  Worker C checks me in, asks Worker A if she can do the try-on, she replies that she cannot, and then I’m told someone will be with me shortly.  My concierge arrives a couple minutes later as I glance at the display table.  We go over to the try-on table.  Now, this table has six stations each with a display model and iPad for looking at info, and a foam mat.  Under each station is a hidden drawer that can only be opened by the worker placing his iPhone/store contraption against a particular and well hidden spot to unlock it.  All of the employees were fiddling with it, not quite being able to get it right, but eventually the drawer would come open.  Inside were various models.  They were told they could take no more than two out at a time.

Looks and fits very nicely on my wrist. 38 mm was a great choice. Glad I didn't get white!
Looks and fits very nicely on my wrist. 38 mm was a great choice. Glad I didn’t get white!

I told my guy I had pre-ordered the 38 mm black sport model.  He started looking for it but it wasn’t in that drawer.  So he went to others.  Didn’t find it in any of them.  He found a 42 mm version.  So for the look of it, I tried it on.  For a split second I thought I should have ordered the bigger one but I think in the long run I’ll be happier with the smaller.  The bigger one was just too bulky looking.  The black color looked good but I needed to feel the size model I ordered so I just tried on a random 38 mm sports model.

The fluoroelas—oh forget it, the rubber band is way more difficult to get on than it should be.  I found myself pressing my arm against my chest or the table and contorting my arms to try to get the peg into the hole.  Once that’s accomplished, the excess band goes neatly into a little slot.  It feels comfortable but was a pain to get on every time I tried.  I even had my guy do it once and he took several tries at it.

The display model that could be played with.
The display model that could be played with.

Each try-on watch had a demo running, so they weren’t able to be manipulated.  (The one on the table display was.)  But wouldn’t you know.  I double tap the side button to access the demo and right after I feel the taptic feedback of an incoming message, the thing crashes.  At least I got to experience the tap!  It was just flat out dead.  The guy had no idea what to do.  My intuition told me to hold down the crown and side button together to reboot it.  That worked, but when it did, it came back up to a WiFi screen that we couldn’t get off.  So I gave up.  Sigh.

I had a couple other bands I wanted to try, including the Milanese loop and a modern buckle.  The loop was not at all what I thought it would be.  Very thin and not very sturdy feeling, nor as good looking on my arm as I wanted.  I eliminated it as a choice very quickly.  Then the search began for a modern buckle.  ANY modern buckle.  Back around the drawers he went.  (And keep in mind they are fumbling with the unlock mechanism every time.)  Finally a pink one was found.  I really liked this strap (sans pink); it snaps right into place magnetically and felt secure.  But at $249, I have to pause before considering it.  I mean, who’s to say that two models from now (because I feel certain not the next one) Apple starts tweaking the body of the watch such that none of these straps work any more?  Now I have a $249 useless band.  No thanks.

Trying watches on. I guess the two-watch limit was more of a guideline than a rule.
Trying watches on. I guess the two-watch limit was more of a guideline than a rule.
The difficult to open, apparently secret drawer of try-on watches. In no particular order.
The difficult to open, apparently secret drawer of try-on watches. In no particular order.

Even though I was past my limit of two–which apparently not only applied to how many could come out at a time but how many I could try on total–I tried a classic buckle and knew pretty quickly that if I were to buy another band, that would be it.  The leather was a little stiff but I think long-term it is the better choice over the rubber.  So we’ll see.

As all this was going on, I’m constantly being told “excuse me” as other workers step in hunting in drawers and allowing walk-ins to do try-ons.  It was my understanding from tech sites that try-ons were appointment only, but there was a significant crowd around the table.  I feel like I stood away from the table more than I stood by it.  And I started getting conscientious about trying too many because every time I took one off, the employee had obviously been instructed to wipe the watch down and immediately place it back in the drawer.  I could also hear whispers between employees akin to “we aren’t supposed to do [this or that]”.  When I had questions and the employee didn’t know, he’d go to the iPad on the display to search, but, on par with how this was all going, it was frozen.  I snapped some photos, including the one of the drawer open, and the store manager happened to be there and passively aggressively said “I guess we shouldn’t be allowing people to see this”, then immediately closed it.

In the end, I never actually tried on the exact model I pre-ordered.  I chatted up another employee and we discussed the possibilities and excitement of the new product.  I told her I was most eager to get to use Apple Pay, since I’m not eligible for a phone upgrade for 8 more months.  And I’m really still not sure how this will fit into my life.  But figuring that out, as well as working through the kind of day 1 issues I was (and probably will be) experiencing is part of the gig of being an early adopter.  So I’m not complaining per se, but I do wish it had all gone different.  I wish my watch was getting here on release day–and maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised with an email that says it is shipping sooner–and I wish I had felt like I’d been treated better in the store.  But my enthusiasm for trying the Apple Watch out has no less waned.

The Apple Watch Edition. $10,000-17,000. As close as I'll ever get.
The Apple Watch Edition. $10,000-17,000. As close as I’ll ever get.
Pre-Ordering the Apple Watch

Whole Foods Photo Journal

I ventured out to the new Whole Foods Market in Little Rock.  What an amazing store.  For the most part I’ll let the photos do the talking.  (I wish I had a better eye for photography, though.)  Click any of them to enlarge.

Opening Ceremony
Store Leader with the opening ceremonies.
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A small crowd and employees. In the background is a brewery and coffee bar with indoor and outdoor seating.
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Some places open with a bottle of champagne. Whole Foods opens with breaking bread.
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A really neat feature of the store is the re-use of shipping containers into the structure of the building.
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One of my favorite aspects of Whole Foods Market.
Supporting  Pay. Now I just need to upgrade so I can do that.
Supporting  Pay. Now I just need to upgrade so I can do that.
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Here begins the colorful and delightful tour of the store.

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Say cheese! I know, that’s a cheesy thing to say. Okay, I’ll stop.

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Cafe, salad bar, buffet bar, bakery, pizzeria.

It’s a beautiful market and obviously I’m very excited about it being here!  Definitely more convenient location and the size is so much better than the cramped space they were in before.  Support healthy, fair trade, and local!  I’m looking forward to it!

Whole Foods Photo Journal

Upgrading

I converted to the world of Macintosh back in 2006.  Then I was an aspiring home videographer, just getting into podcasting for my church and having been making some silly little clips for student ministry.  I wanted to up my game a little.  And besides, Windows Vista sucked.  I had also just quit World of Warcraft.  So it was a tumultuous time in my life to say the least.  LOL

All that to say I got my first hardware upgrade from Apple and went the desktop route this time.  The unfortunate need for me to teach 5 courses paved (and paid) the way for this upgrade and I certainly went all out.  I got a 27″ iMac, with the 3.6 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB DDR3 RAM, 256 GB SSD, and 1 TB HD.  /evil grin

Here’s a little photo journalism of the unboxing.  My mouth was hanging open at this thing and when I got it in place I was almost overcome with emotion.  Almost.  /wink

I spent about 6 hours working on it after unboxing.  I immediately wanted to move all my files, music, videos, etc to the secondary HD.  I found a tech article that explained how to do it but it ended up going very wrong.  I called AppleCare and the support guy sounded pretty pissed I would do such a thing.  He said I’d have to erase and install.  Oh well.  Nothing lost but time at that point.  I did want to try again though, so I started a clean install and set up the storage path again.  It worked this time, so there must have been some setting in the pre-installed OS. I proceeded downloading updates, installing software, etc.  At midnight, being a work night and all, I decided to stop for the night.  All that was left was to install Final Cut Studio, which I’m doing as I write this.  🙂

Seriously though…this thing is BLAZING.  The SSD upgrade is epic.  Every program opens before an icon even has a chance to bounce in the dock!  LOL  Can’t wait to produce some movies to see how that’s going to go.

To change the subject just a bit, as I was installing things, I was perusing my RSS feeds and ran across several stories about Apple possibly upgrading their AppleTV.  Rumor is it will run the iOS that is currently on the iPhone and iPad.  Okay wow!  I mean, this could change the face of TV and entertainment.  Think about it.  Here are two scenarios I immediately thought of.  1)  Why subscribe to expensive higher tier cable packages?  Want HBO?  They could just bypass cable providers and create an app for purchase and you’ve got it through the AppleTV.  2)  How fun would it be to buy, say, the Monopoly or Scrabble app and have the board on the TV screen, then everyone with an iPhone or iPad controls their pieces from their own device?  There’s already a model for this…now it can be on the TV.  This is certainly very exciting and if it proves to be true, I hope that the older hardware will be able to support the new iOS.

Upgrading

iPad vs. Kindle: Is It Fair to Compare?

I’m very indecisive when it comes to new technology. It took me a long time, for instance, to finally start purchasing my music solely as a digital format simply because I couldn’t do without the CD cover. I think the same can be said of books. Can’t do without that tactile sensation of lounging back with a book? I’ve accepted that, given time, I’ll get over that and enjoy an ebook reader.

The problem is, the market is so young for e-readers, it is difficult to decide what to buy. The forerunners are the Amazon Kindle and Apple’s iPad. But both are so completely different, it almost feels unfair to compare them.

In this corner, we have the Kindle. A device whose sole purpose is to read books. Its display is made of a new technology called e-ink. The screen does not require back-lighting like computer monitors. It reads like paper. It is only currently available in grayscale. This leads many people to think it is antiquated technology, but if you really look into it, it is quite a remarkable screen. The refresh rate is a little sluggish and the contrast is arguably difficult on those with poorer eyesight. The screen is about the size of a paperback book; the bigger version is about the size of a hardback book’s page. The Kindle itself is very light. Books are available through only Amazon’s store, and in the tumultuous new market, e-book prices are on the rise slightly. Books can be downloaded in seconds at no data cost; an embedded dictionary lets you look up words as you read.

In the other corner is the iPad. A multifunctioning, revolutionary portable device. Its limits are in the hands of developers. It has a backlit screen, just like a computer monitor. Some say this leads to eyestrain. I say staring at ANYTHING too long leads to eyestrain. Brightness and color can be adjusted in the ebook apps available. And that’s another “pro”: you can shop around…Amazon Kindle app, Barnes and Noble Nook app, and Apple’s iBookstore. You get color covers and images. The Kindle app doesn’t have the dictionary. It would be difficult to read in sunlight, and the device is heavier than a Kindle, albeit still lighter than most hardback books (which is what I prefer to read). Around 8% of people buying an iPad said they bought it primarily to be an e-reader. That’s really not many and makes me wonder why. Seems like the reading aficionados go for the dedicated e-reader.

I guess there is room for them both. The Kindle for heavy reading; the iPad for everything else. But I don’t want to carry around two devices. I remember how silly it was to cart my iPod and iPhone until I got enough memory in the latter to sync all my music.

Another side note, a recent article said that reading on an iPad in bed can cause insomnia. Melatonin is a hormone in the brain that influences our biological clock. Its release is induced by light. The light of the iPad’s screen could cause melatonin’s continued release and thus throw off your sleep cycle. (That also goes to show why it is not good to watch TV right before bed, and why many parents choose to not let their kids do so.)

I go back and forth between the two, but all I know is I do want an e-reader. I’ve been patiently waiting for the market to resolve into some semblance of order, just like I did back in the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD war days. I know I would want the bigger Kindle, which weighs in at $489….$10 shy of an iPad. And that’s why I’m like “why don’t I just get an iPad and get multiple functions”? Then I think “will I like reading on a backlit screen?” I don’t suppose I’d get that much extra use out of an iPad having an iPhone. I don’t watch TV/movies on computers; my phone can check email just fine.

I wait for Amazon to release a new hardware version of the Kindle or at least drop the price…but no word is coming about that any time soon. At some point, one just has to buy into a technology, realize there will be upgrades, and commit to not buying again for a certain period of time. I get that. But the indecision in my mind about the two devices–again it seems unfair to compare them–keep me holding on. I’ve just about saved enough for either one. I may buy the smaller Kindle to see if I like it, then if I do, either keep it or possibly return it and upgrade to the bigger one. If not, return it and go iPad. They give a 30-day return guarantee.

Anyone have an opinion?

iPad vs. Kindle: Is It Fair to Compare?

Sleep Cycles

Flipping through the top selling apps on the iPhone, I ran across an app named “Sleep Cycle”. I checked it out. This app uses the phone’s accelerometer (motion-sensor) to monitor the degree of movement while you sleep. You set an alarm time and, based on what stage of sleep you are in, it will wake you within 30 minutes of that alarm. The idea is you aren’t woken during a deep stage of sleep.

As a physiology instructor, I was interested to see how well this app worked and how much of it was just novelty. So if you’ll indulge me, let me speak briefly about sleep cycles.

We alternate between “non-rapid eye movement” (NREM) and “rapid eye movement” (REM) sleep during the night. For the typical person, it takes about 45 minutes to slip through the first two stages of NREM and into the latter two, when true deep sleep occurs. (Incidentally, nightmares tend to occur in the latter two stages of NREM.) After about 90 minutes, brain activity changes dramatically, our muscles become inhibited, and our eyes start flicking around (thus the name of the sleep). Most dreaming occurs in REM; the muscle paralysis keeps us from acting out our dreams, even though the eyes are following what is being seen. The brain activity is “more awake” during REM than when we are actually awake. The typical adult will re-enter REM about every 90 minutes; each time, REM lasts a little longer. NREM is thought to help physiological processes “reboot” (if you will), while REM is thought to work through psychological needs.

So in trying this app out, the graph is a little misleading. Since no motion occurs during REM sleep, the part of the graph that says “dreaming” is a misnomer. Perhaps a better term would be “wakefulness”. However, “deep sleep” works okay for the lower portion, but keep in mind that REM is when we are dreaming the most, and true “deep sleep” occurs in the latter two stages of NREM. More motion likely means you are not in REM, but for deep sleep you could easily be moving or not. Being woken from deep sleep is what makes for the groggy feeling, so motion is not the best indicator. The app builds on ideas that actigraphy utilizes–where sleep technologist monitor motion–but should be used for novelty purposes only and to get a GENERAL idea of how you tend to sleep. The fact is, you could lay still during NREM just as you do in REM, so motion is not a true test of sleep cycling; only a brain monitor can do that. However, if you are really having sleep issues, a true sleep study is the way to go.

My first night with the app did show fairly consistent time frames for the typical sleeper that I described above. I entered a state of no-motion (which is REM) about every 90 minutes. I apparently had two such stages during my 7 hours of sleep, which by the way is arguably not enough cycles through REM, and the second was longer than the first. (I started to enter a third, but about that time my pet woke me up. Ha ha.)

Sleep Cycles

Unprecedented Movies of the 2000’s

I loooooove movies. I’ve invested quite a bit in my home theater and enjoy a good experience in the theater (of which I’m quite picky about.) I guess I’m an escapist at heart; I love to get involved in a good story. So I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the game-changers in movies from the last decade. I probably won’t remember all of them, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind and why. Random order.

1. Batman Begins/Dark Knight – I put these movies together because they spawned the “reboot” era of movies and added that word to our movie lingo, once it was shown to be a success. Thus we get such successful franchises like “Star Trek” once again. “Dark Knight” is there because it was one of the first–if not THE first–feature films to be shot with IMAX film, albeit just parts. But it was those parts that made going to see a movie in “IMAX” cool…even though nothing has really be shot in IMAX since. The actual cameras to do so cost several hundred thousand dollars and only 4-5 are in existence. (They accidentally destroyed one in the making of “Dark Knight”.)

2. Lord of the Rings trilogy – this was the first time a studio foot the bill for THREE movies to be filmed at once. It was a massive undertaking. I believe the typical movie can shoot in a period of 3-4 months. These guys filmed on-location and in studio for about a year. Not to mention the 7 or so years it took to plan the movie, then do post-production work. There hasn’t been anything quite like it since, though some successful first outing movies have filmed two sequels together. Also, their revolutionary detail of a complete CGI character in Gollum spurred the technology to make movies like “Chronicles of Narnia” possible. (We won’t give that credit to JarJar Binks, okay?)

3. Harry Potter franchise – it is unprecedented for one main reason, in my opinion: they kept the same actors for all 8 films. Okay, well Dumbledore’s actor changed but that was because the actor passed away. But this is seriously unheard of…actors don’t like to be type-cast or nailed down to one project for so long, typically. (Of course, Daniel Radcliffe is doing his best not to be type-cast by appearing in the play Equus between filming.) But not only is this fact unprecedented, but the turn-around time for such a special-effect driven film pretty remarkable. They were turning them out about once a year in the beginning, then lengthened it to once every 18-months. And now the last film (due Nov. 2010) is coming out in two-parts (2nd part July 2011). They say it is because they can’t get it all in one film. Bah. They did okay with books 4 and 5…they just want to milk that money. Hopefully the Blu-Ray will have them together? (Yah right.)

4. Avatar – Come on, you really didn’t think I’d leave this off? The 3D craze was a gimmick to draw in crowds until this movie. But James Cameron just did “something” different here that made 3D viewing the only way to see this movie. That’s amazing, but at the same time Hollywood is going to make EVERYTHING in 3D now which is really gonna suck…because without a visionary person like Cameron, it will still be only one thing: a gimmick. But Cameron shot Avatar with this new 3D tech that made you feel like you were there. You seriously can’t get any closer than actually going. It is hard to put into words, but I have never visually experienced something like that ever. And it just wasn’t about the 3D, it was about the new, innovative motion capture technology. The facial movements for speech and expression is unsurpassed and sets a new, high bar in motion capture. And it begs the question, who should win an award for motion captured roles? The actor; the special effects team? This is new territory.

5. Shrek – I thought of this one late into this post. Actually, I wasn’t sure it was from the 2000’s, but it is. I think this is the computer animated movie that put computer animated movies on the map. Hardly anything has been hand-drawn since. Pixar and Dreamworks exploded on to the scene after this movie.

If I think of others, I’ll add them. But chime in with your own and why you think it changed the movie industry.

Unprecedented Movies of the 2000’s