My First Alexa – And Getting It To Work on Hotel WiFI

Remember this scene from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home? They’ve gone back in time, Scotty tries to work a computer by talking to it? Funny stuff. Science fiction then, science fact now thanks to major advances in voice recognition technology.

For legacy users like myself, it requires a bit of a mental reset. I’m someone who is so used to opening a new tab in a browser and typing a few words and looking at the result. It’s just in the past year that I started getting into using Siri on my i-devices.

I’ve been very curious about Amazon’s line of Alexa-enabled devices since the first reviews started coming out – was it a year ago? I wasn’t sure how useful it would be to me in Manila or Hong Kong – a lot of it seems to be tied into being an Amazon Prime member, which I’m not. I was also very curious about the sound quality if I was going to use the Echo as a bluetooth speaker for music.

(Amazon Echo 2nd generation)

Continue reading “My First Alexa – And Getting It To Work on Hotel WiFI”

Headphones I’m Using Now, Music I’m Listening to Now

Headphones are another addiction of mine – an addiction that I have (mostly) conquered. I used to buy several sets a year. (Most of them have long since been sold off.) I bought so many that the guys in one of the headphone shops in the top floor of the Wanchai Computer Centre knew me well.

I wouldn’t say I’m an audiophile. Some of my ability to hear high frequencies is gone with age and I have tinnitus (probably a result of doing rock concert security back in my college years).

On the other hand, I have a good idea of what music should sound like, or at least how I want it to sound. I listen to a broad variety of genres. And thanks to the increased storage capacity of the iPhone 7+, I’ve now been filling up that storage capacity with Apple Lossless files rather than MP3’s, more than 3,000 songs so far.

Continue reading “Headphones I’m Using Now, Music I’m Listening to Now”

Getting G.A.S. Again

One of my “thinking by writing about it” posts ….

Many photographers suffer from G.A.S. I myself suffered from it for many years. G.A.S. of course stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

I cured myself of G.A.S. by not looking at gear review web sites and not reading photography magazines. But lately I’ve been thinking …. I may not need to buy a scooter (for reasons that I won’t go into) so maybe I would have the money to finally upgrade my camera.

My Nikon D800 is now 5 years old. It has served me well. But it’s big and heavy and the lenses are also big and heavy and imaging technology has moved forward by 5 years.

Continue reading “Getting G.A.S. Again”

Sony MDR-1000X Bluetooth Headphones

So, dealing with listening to music on the iPhone 7+.

For the last couple of months, I’ve had the Dragonfly Red DAC and Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 and been quite happy with the sound, not to forget that I now have more than 2,000 songs in Apple’s lossless format on the device. But to be honest, this set up was a literal and figurative pain. Literal, because the MSR7’s grip my head tightly and become uncomfortable after an hour. Figurative because I’d have to plug in so much stuff and then deal with the cord dangling down (and sometimes getting the cord stuck on stuff in crowded situations).

I do have one pair of Bluetooth headphones, the original Parrot Zik 1.0, which I’d bought used several years ago and had fallen out of love with. Since I was in Hong Kong, I thought I might get myself a new pair of Bluetooth something but was hoping to get away without spending very much.

Continue reading “Sony MDR-1000X Bluetooth Headphones”

Some Quick Thoughts on the iPhone 7 Plus

I got my iPhone 7 Plus (256 gig, black) on Tuesday. I’ve had it for exactly a day and a half so haven’t had much time to play with it yet. Overall I’m happy with the decision I made. Of course, I don’t get my phone for free like some reviewers, so I’m pre-disposed to liking it after having spent so much money.

I’ve never had the “Plus” before. It’s a lot heavier than I expected and that will take some getting used to. I appreciate the larger keyboard to type on and the screen is amazingly sharp. With my regular sized iPhone 6, I was frequently reaching for my glasses for tasks like reading and responding to text messages – I don’t think I’ll need to do that as often now. I expect the larger screen to be useful for Waze (which is one of my most frequently used apps) but haven’t driven anywhere in the last 2 days to test it out.

My 128 gig iPhone 6 was almost always full. Now I have a lot of empty space and I’m filling it up with FLAC files (from CD’s I’m ripping myself using Exact Audio Copy and some stuff that I have, um, downloaded). I’m using a free app called FLAC Player+ for playing the music on the phone and so far that is working quite well. There are ads on screen – but how often does one look at the screen when listening to music?

(Time saving tip: Since FLAC Player+ loads files via iTunes’ file sharing interface, the first time I loaded files I had 20 files that started with 01., 20 files that started with 02., and so on. I deleted everything, batch renamed files so they had the album names first and reloaded the files. Otherwise it would be a long and painful process to delete individual albums later on. It appears that playlists need to be created on the phone. I’ve been using MusicBee to make sure all files are properly tagged.)

The sound quality is just blowing me away. I’m using the Audioquest Dragonfly Red DAC and the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 headphones and I’m hearing details that I haven’t heard in a very long time. This alone makes the upgrade worth it for me!

I have not yet tried the Lightning/Headphone adapter with any of my wired headphones. I’ll get to it eventually.

My first phone call received was a spam marketing call! The first photo taken was of my wife and it’s very sharp, colors are great.

Here’s a test image taken my iPhone 6:

img_4884

That’s straight out of the camera, no processing aside from resizing it when loading it here.

Here’s a crop – JPG loaded into Picasa, cropped, no other adjustments, exported:

img_4884-001

Now here’s the shot I took moments later with the iPhone 7 Plus:

img_4885

And a similar crop:

img_4885-001

Nothing very scientific here. Do the iPhone 7 photos seem sharper? That could be, or it could just be that I was doing both shots handheld, relatively quickly, and can’t say with any certainty that I was in the exact same position for both photos. I have not had time to try out any apps that allow for RAW capture and editing.

The 7 Plus screen is definitely sharper. So when I compare the two images side by side on the phones, of course the one on the 7 looks better than the one on the 6. That should come as no surprise. DisplayMate tested the iPhone 7 display and said it was “visually indistinguishable from perfect”.

Some people have been freaking out over the new home “button that’s not a button.” So far it hasn’t bothered me even a tiny bit. I didn’t feel much of a difference between the three different settings for the “Taptic” response so I just left it set at “1”. Setting up my fingerprints seemed to go a lot quicker than on the iPhone 6.

The iPhone came with iOS 10 already installed, but Apple had released iOS 10.0.1 almost immediately after the initial 10 release to fix upgrade issues people were having. My upgrade of the 7 Plus from 10 to 10.0.1 surprisingly may have been the most painful iPhone OS upgrade I’ve ever done. During the first attempt, response from the Apple servers was so slow (32 hours to download 2 gig?) that I aborted just a few minutes in. Second attempt, downloaded at normal speed, but some how the data on the phone got corrupted and it needed to be recovered before I could proceed.

Also pairing my Apple Watch took a long time as I had to first un-pair it from the 6, pair it with the 7, restore it from a back-up and reload the apps. Not difficult, just time-consuming.

Overall, so far I’m quite happy with it and glad I upgraded from the 6. It feels like a major upgrade to me.

 

Which iPhone Will I Buy?

You all know I’m an Apple fan boy. And yet last year, for the first time, I did not automatically upgrade my iPhone when Apple released the 6s. I still haven’t gone for it.

I believe I will buy the iPhone 7 though. I think the differences from the 6 to the 7 are substantial enough to convince me to pull the trigger. Longer battery life, better screen, much improved cameras, faster CPU, waterproof-ish.

iphone7-plus-select-2016

I’m not at all bothered by the lack of a headphone jack. First of all, there kind of is one with the adapter cable. More importantly, ever since I bought the Dragonfly, I’ve been connecting my headphones to that and then connecting that to the Lightning port via the camera adapter – a little bit kludgy looking but sounds fantastic. Any of my wired headphones will work this way (although the mike and volume controls on the cords will no longer work)(and presumably the new way of connecting wired headphones to the iPhone 7 will have the same impact) and I do have one set of Bluetooth headphones, the Parrot Zik (version 1).

Here’s one of many round-ups detailing all the new stuff. Here’s another.

There are just three things I have yet to figure out. First, the color. Black or jet black? Hard to tell the difference from photos but the Apple web site notes that the back of the jet black model will be more inclined to show scratches.

Second, I have the 128 gig iPhone 6. 96 gig of the available 114 gig is filled with music – 9,423 songs at the moment. Isn’t that enough? Would I ever really need more than that? Well, I would if someone ever releases an app that played FLAC files. (VLC does, but with a horrendous interface.)

And then, do I need the larger Plus model? One huge use of my phone is running Waze whenever I drive anywhere. The larger screen would definitely help there. And I’m definitely intrigued by the dual camera set-up on the back of the Plus.

Pre-orders start at 3 PM HK time today (September 9th). If you’re buying one, which one are you getting … and why? And any readers who have the 6 Plus or 6s Plus, how happy with that are you compared to the standard sized model?

P.S. I have the Apple Watch and I wear it almost every day. I saw nothing that makes me think I need to upgrade to the Apple Watch 2.


UPDATE: I went for the iPhone 7 Plus, 256 gig, black. I want the bigger screen, I’m intrigued by the camera set-up, you can never have enough storage, and I think the “black” (as opposed to “jet black”) looks cooler.

The online confirmation that I got when I placed the order said delivery between September 28 and October 4. The email confirmation I received an hour later said delivery between September 19 and 21. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Stereo Shopping in the Philippines Sucks Con’t

I’ve taken my B&W P6 speakers to the repair shop. I’m waiting for them to call and tell me how much that will cost and I suspect it will be a lot.

Meanwhile, I’ve been looking at A/V Receivers and got a bit of sticker shock.

I’ve been thinking about the Onkyo TX-NR646. (Right now it’s between that and Denon, but I’ll use the Onkyo as an example.)

front_large

I went to a shop in Quezon City, official distributor, manufacturer’s warranty, all that. The price there is P41,999. That’s almost US$900.

In Hong Kong the same unit sells for HK$4,184 (according to price.com.hk). That’s roughly US$540. Slight difference.

Meanwhile Amazon is selling it for US$400, or certified refurbished ones for US$350.

$400 vs $900 is just completely fucking insane. But Amazon won’t ship this item to the Philippines, which means shipping it to some mail forwarding service in the U.S. So shipping fees x2 plus the handling fee plus the customs fee when it gets here. And having to buy a fair-sized step up transformer since the one Amazon is selling is 110 volts. Still has to be cheaper than paying $900 for it here.

In search of cheaper options, I found on Lazada, someone is selling new ones discounted at P33,500. Over on OLX someone has a used one in “almost new condition” at P25,000.

“Home theater in a box” seems to be extinct in Manila. The Sony Philippines web site features the BDV-N9100W, which isn’t even the latest model. I went to two “Sony by Avid” shops and in each I was told that it was discontinued, that Sony doesn’t sell HTIAB any more, only soundbars. (Someone over at the PinoyDVD forum commented, “home theater in a box is for pussies anyway.”)

Side note #1 – Sony makes 2 or three soundbases. They’re well reviewed and I thought that would make a good option for the bedroom. But they don’t sell the Sony soundbases in the Philippines at all.

Side note #2 – At the Sony shop in Eastwood yesterday, a relatively upscale neighborhood, they were featuring the Sony A6000 as the latest and greatest Sony mirrorless camera. This camera was released almost 2-1/2 years ago. The Sony A6300, released 5 months ago, doesn’t seem to exist yet as far as they are concerned.

I’m almost thinking that I should do my stereo shopping on my next visit to Hong Kong, then bring the box to LBC and take my chances on customs fees.

Meanwhile, on my last trip to Hong Kong, I went a little crazy and bought the Audioquest Dragonfly Red DAC.

aq-dacudrar-inset1

Even my crappy ears could hear a major difference with and without it. (I listened to an odd combination of stuff while checking it out – Steely Dan, Michael Kiwanuka, Talk Talk, Supersonic Blues Machine. But I’ve been playing tons of stuff through it since I got it.)

The website for the Philippines Audioquest distributor lists the two year old version and not the latest Red or Black models.  Rather sad but apparently typical. In Hong Kong, price.com.hk was showing prices somewhat higher than the US$200 selling price, but I was able to find it at exactly that amount.

The next day I thought to myself, hmmm, maybe I need new headphones to go along with this. I decided that I had to set HK$2,000 as my upper limit, which ruled out the Astell & Kern Layla II model, which sells for US$3,000.

layla2_01_1

Talking with the guy in the shop, he told me the most expensive headphones they are current selling go for over US$5,000.

Anywho, after reading through a lot of different reviews online, I settled on the Audio Technica ATH-MSR7.

hqdefault

A lot of really good reviews on these. Also a lot of comparisons to the Sony MDR-1A, but the Audio Technica seemed to come out ahead each time. I compared both in the shop (without using the Dragonfly). The Sony ones were a lot lighter which probably meant more comfortable to wear longer but also felt cheaper. The bass was a lot different between the two as well. On the Audio Technica, the bass felt a lot sharper, a lot more well defined – though a bit on the light side, so this probably wouldn’t be the first choice for people into hip hop or EDM. Some reviews have noted that despite the soft memory foam around the ear cups on the Audio Technicas, they are quite a tight fit, and that’s the case for me as well.

On the airplane ride home that night, the Dragonfly plugged into my iPad, the Audio Technicas plugged into the Dragonfly, watching Mr. Robot, I was struck by the increased clarity and definition. Mr. Robot probably has the most unique audio design of any show currently on TV and that really came through with this combination.

One drawback of using the Dragonfly is that if your headphone cable has volume and pause buttons, they will be useless. But problem solved for me as I can still leave my iPhone in my pocket and control it from my Apple Watch.

Anyway, back where I started when I sat down, waiting to find out the cost of the B&W repair. If they’re repairable at a reasonable cost, I will do that and get a new receiver and figure out the subwoofer later on. If it’s too expensive to repair them and home theater in a box isn’t available as a reasonably cheap option, then I might end up getting a Yamaha soundbar and see how that goes.

The Frustration of A/V Shopping In Manila

(Writing this because I’m hoping for advice!)

When I was younger I was an audiophile on a budget. I had friends with very expensive audio systems (one had a system that cost over US$100k) and I’ve heard every kind of music live, so I know what things should sound like.

But now I’m over 60, a lot of my high frequency hearing is gone and I have tinnitus, so my requirements are much more basic. These days most of my music listening is either in the car, through headphones (and I have some nice ones) or my computer speakers (Harmon Kardon Soundsticks). But it would be nice to watch movies with decent sound, and I haven’t really had that in awhile.

The set-up in my living room includes an Onkyo A/V receiver that is at least 5 years old (HDMI but no HDMI 1.4, no network features). I have two B&W P6’s and a B&W center speaker that I bought almost exactly 20 years ago. Given that the speakers were bought in Hong Kong, brought to the U.S., brought back to Hong Kong and then to Manila, one of them is kind of beat up but they still sound like the well-reviewed B&W’s that they are. I have a pair of MB Quarts for rear speakers but haven’t wired them up in ages because I don’t have an easy way to run wires for them. I have no subwoofer at all because my last one gave up the ghost a couple of years ago and I never got around to replacing it.

The current generation of home A/V equipment features all sorts of bells and whistles, some of which I would actually find useful. I just haven’t wanted to spend the money.

One thing that you have to have in your home – by law, apparently – is some sort of karaoke/videoke set-up, and we have the Magic Sing. My wife loves it. Even my 95 year old mother thinks it’s nice. (Me, I hate it.) The other day my wife was showing it off to my mother and there was a terrible amount of distortion coming out of the left speaker and my wife said she saw smoke coming out of the speaker. The Onkyo receiver kept shutting itself off too. (No jokes, my wife actually has a pretty good singing voice.) Plus the blu-ray player has been screwing up lately, adding distortion to disc playback (and I try the same discs on the bedroom player and they play fine).

So, win!!!! I can finally upgrade my system. The first problem is what to buy. The second problem, which turns out to be an even bigger one, is where to find it in Manila.

This is, after all, a poor country. A lot of things that one might commonly find in Hong Kong either don’t make it here at all or are extremely rare. As one admittedly minor example, I have yet to find a place that sells Criterion Blu-Ray or DVD discs. These are pretty much the only discs I still buy. I have to email a shop in Hong Kong and ask him to hold things there for me for my bi-monthly visits.

So finding hifi or even mid-fi here turns out to be something of a challenge. People use their TV speakers. Others are going for soundbars over any sort of hifi system now that they’ve dropped in price.

My first thought was the old reliable “home theater in a box” approach. I looked around and saw that Sony has this BDV-9100W that has pretty much everything I could possibly want for around US$800 and I figured the sound would be good enough. Among the features:

  • 6 speakers – rear speakers are wireless
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth music streaming
  • Upscale video to 4K (not that I have a 4K TV or am likely to buy one)
  • WiFi (for streaming Spotify and other internet music sources)
  • 3D Blu-Ray
  • SA-CD and DIY DVD’s with multiple computer formats
  • Dolby True HD & DTS
  • DLNA
  • Smartphone app

Not bad.

So it’s a holiday today and we’re out running errands. We’re near Rockwell so I go over to the Power Plant mall, which is a pretty upscale mall. There’s an SM appliance store in the basement and the only home theater systems they’re selling are crappy little ones with DVD players and speakers the size of a pack of cigarettes.  Elsewhere in that mall is a super high end audio store and a Bose store.

So, okay, have some lunch, walk around, back in the car, head to Megamall. This is, I think, the third largest mall in Manila. It’s on the border between two relatively wealthy areas (Mandaluyong and Pasig). Despite it being a holiday, or perhaps because of it, traffic on EDSA is horrible, of course. But finally we reach the mall and park without killing anyone (I think road rage may be one reason foreigners can’t legally buy guns here).

I head up to the 4th floor, to the Cyberzone, which is a sad version of the computer shopping malls in Hong Kong. I recall there is a huge store there that just says SONY on the sign. I go there. They have one soundbar. No home theater. I tell the guy the model number I am looking for. He tells me they don’t stock obsolete models. I ask him how it can be obsolete if it’s on Sony PH’s website. No answer. I ask him if it’s obsolete, tell me what the new model is. No answer. I ask him where I can find it. No answer.

I go down to the third floor, to a store called Listening Room that has some stuff and a reasonably knowledgeable staffer. There is a Pioneer, the MCS-838, which also has everything I would want except the rear speakers aren’t wireless (a biggie for my wife). They don’t have it in stock anyway (but they can order it).

Then I look at A/V receivers while I’m there. They’re big on Onkyo. There’s a mid-range model, the TX-NR545 that has everything I could want inside the box. I’m thinking to myself, well, if my front speakers are still okay, I could get this and get a sub-woofer and live without the rear speakers. They don’t really have any other brands of A/V receivers in stock. What about Yamaha, I ask? Onkyo is our bestseller is the answer I get back.

Also, when I get home, I find some news that makes me less than happy. This shop tells me the 545 is P35,000 or cash price P30,000. That’s just over US$600. On Amazon it sells for US$345, but no shipping to Asia. In Hong Kong the price is HK$3,588 which is around US$465. I think to myself, well, I am going to be in Hong Kong in 10 days, I could buy it there and schlep it back with me, probably get stuck with customs charges in Manila but possibly still come off cheaper in the end.

So at the end of the day, back home, empty-handed (well, one more stop, at Tiendesitas to get dog food). And still the same questions.

What should I buy? Do I go home theater in a box, everything at once, or go for separate components (perhaps purchased over the span of a few months)?

And where do I buy it? Where are stores that stock this stuff? Where I might be able to actually hear it or at least look at it and ask some questions?

 

Three Days With the Apple Watch

apple-watch-customize-watch-face-hero

One thing I bought on my recent trip to Hong Kong was an Apple Watch. I realized that since the watch has now been on the market for more than six months, it would be easy enough to find a used one relatively cheap on DC Fever and I was correct.

Why did I want one?

I’m less of an Apple fanboi than I used to be. I feel zero need to buy the iPhone 6s or the iPad Pro. But I like “wearables” and find them useful.

I started off with the Nike Fuel band but that only lasted on my wrist for a few weeks. Next I went to the Jawbone UP, and after about a year I still wear it sometimes (these days I mostly use it for sleep tracking).

Millions of people around the world are obsessed with watches. You see this especially in Hong Kong – but it’s a global phenomenon. People pay thousands, tens of thousands for luxury brands for many reasons. Me? I’ve worn the same Casio solar G-Shock for about ten years now. I’ve never needed to change a battery and the watch looks about the same as the day I bought it. The downside is I can never remember how to change the time when I travel; I end up leaving it alone and computing in my head each time I look at it. I don’t think I would buy a Rolex or Patek Philippe even if I could afford one.

The Apple Watch intrigued me because I’m the kind of person who pulls his iPhone out of his pocket 67 times a day. Half the time I think I felt a vibration and pull it out to check the screen but there’s nothing new. And half the time I don’t feel the vibration and miss calls and text messages. So the idea of being able to get a “buzz” on my wrist and simply glance at my wrist to see what’s going on was appealing to me.

I read through a bunch of reviews, especially looking for ones that were written by writers after they’d lived with the watch for awhile. The consensus seemed to be that while the watch hadn’t become an essential piece of gear in their lives, most were still wearing it and loving it. One review (sorry, can’t find the links now) said that while the Apple Watch wasn’t a great smart watch, for the money it was a pretty great watch.

So which one to buy? There are several different configurations, starting with the materials used for the case and the “crystal.” The internals (CPU and memory) are the same across all of the models. When this first came out and I went into an Apple store to check them out, I’d thought I might go for one costing around US$800. What I found was that the only ones selling used on DC Fever were the bottom-end Apple Sport Watch. I decided I didn’t need anything more than that. My used one came with a second band and a screen protector (since the Sport edition uses cheaper materials for the crystal).

The Apple Watch is notoriously slow to load apps. Watch OS2 brought about apps that run natively on the watch, rather than just beaming information from the iPhone. Still slow but not quite as slow. The number of apps is quite limited compared to what’s available in iOS, but there are still plenty of useful ones.

The clincher for me is that one of the apps will allow me to control my GoPro Hero4 camera from the watch. I bought an all-black housing for the GoPro to make it less visible. I have a mount that allows me to put it on the strap of my backpack. And now I can walk down the street and take photos simply by tapping on my watch. I think that’s pretty cool.

The other thing that’s proven useful?  My wife messages me a hundred times a day. (Sigh.) It used to be that I’d have to pull the phone out of my pocket, unlock the screen, read her message, type a reply. Now all I have to do is glance at my wrist, scroll through her message using one finger, and then tap the little “thumbs up” symbol to send her a quick reply.

The Apple Watch is not as immediately intuitive as some other Apple products. I had to use Google to find out how to change the watch face – and there are a lot of options, many of which are almost infinitely configurable. There’s an animated version of the classic Mickey Mouse watch face, which is nice for about 13 seconds. One really cool one is the “Timelapse” – you can set it for one of 6 different cities (Hong Kong, New York, London, Paris, Shanghai, Mack Lake). For Hong Kong you get a view from The Peak which changes according to the time of day (and has some animations in it). Mostly I prefer a simple watch face, but I have added in the date, the current weather, a world clock, battery status and a button for the GoPro.

It’s also quite cool that I can make and receive calls directly on the watch. (I can only call out to those on my favorites list, which is fine.) I don’t know how often I’ll actually use it, but what the heck. I can control my music from the watch, get turn-by-turn directions as I’m walking down the street via Apple or Google Maps or Waze, and a few other things.

The Apple Watch is extremely light weight and quite thin. It’s big on my wrist because I bought the 42mm model (instead of the 38mm) because I wanted the bigger screen, but it’s so light that I barely realize I’m wearing it. And it’s a pleasant surprise that my crappy old eyes are able to read the screen without my needing to reach for my reading glasses.

One thing I don’t like is the watch band. The guy I bought it from had the basic black plastic band that comes with the Sport Watch model, along with what I think is a knock-off version of their “Milanese woven steel loop”. Apple makes a dizzying variety of bands and they’re expensive. Apple being Apple, the band attaches to the watch in a proprietary fashion. There are cheaper third party options, but I suspect they are not widely available in the Philippines. I need to find a thicker metal band or a leather one.

Battery life has proven to be better than expected. My day Friday started at 8 AM and I didn’t get home until almost 2 AM that night. I did use the battery pack I carry around to charge the watch around 5 PM but I think it would have lasted until 2 AM even if I hadn’t done that.

As the title of this post says, I’ve only had the gizmo for three days. Of course I’m happy with it so far. How will I feel about it in 3 months? How will I feel about it after the inevitable release of Apple Watch 2? Stay tuned.

Apple Scruffs

Here’s the deal. In case you’re new to my blog, every time Apple does one of their new product announcement dog and pony shows, I write a blog post about how the new stuff is crap, how Apple has totally lost it and how I won’t be buying any of it. Then three months later I go out and buy almost all of it. This post won’t be terribly different.

I stayed up last night reading one of the live streams from the Apple show. I’ve had a little more than 12 hours to think about it and read some of the online punditry. What do I think?

Apple Watch

applewatch

I’m very into the whole wearables concept. (I have a Jawbone UP24 that I quite like, when I remember to wear it.) I like the idea of being able to glance at my wrist rather than dig my phone out of my pockets to get some quick information. I don’t like the idea that every year or two Apple will try to sell me a new watch and that my old one will become obsolete because eventually Apple will release an OS version that’s not compatible with my watch. I worry that I’ll need to go digging for my glasses any time I need to use the watch for something other than telling time. I’m not crazy about needing to charge my watch daily. (I have worn a Casio Pro Trek Solar for more than 5 years. I’ve never needed to update an OS and I’ve never needed to change a battery, much less remember to charge it. It’s got huge white analog hands against a black dial and I can read the time from across the room.)

I guess the biggest change here is that the watch will soon have native apps that don’t require connectivity to the same app running on your phone. This is a good and necessary upgrade for them, and something that has been expected for months.

Verdict: I haven’t bought one so far. I almost succumbed when I was in NYC in July but managed to resist then, and I think I can manage to resist now.

Apple TV

appletv

The addition of apps and voice control strike me as major innovations here. The idea that you can just talk into a remote and get the weather or a baseball score to pop up on screen while you’re still watching Mr. Robot seems useful. More useful is that you can say “I want to see a comedy” or “Robert De Niro movies please” and it will, if I have this right, throw up on a screen a menu of choices – and that menu will be source agnostic.

I’ve got a Western Digital WD-TV Live and a Roku stick. I like them both but they both have very clumsy interfaces. They’re a pain to use but I use them a lot (especially the WD-TV) because the services I receive through them are important to me. They’re worth the pain that these devices put me through. Eliminate the pain and that’s a nice improvement in my life.

There are two things that would keep me from buying an Apple TV. The first is that much of the stuff I download is not in formats that play nicely with Apple. Yes, I can get any format I have to play on my iPad via VLC. I don’t know (yet) if there is or will be an Apple TV equivalent app. Right now I can download anything I want in any format I can find it in, stick it on a USB drive, plug it into my WD-TV, and it just plays (well, it plays after waiting two minutes for the WD-TV to start up each time). If I can’t do that on an Apple TV, that would greatly reduce its desirability for me.

And second, the Philippines is not a priority country for Apple. There’s no Apple store in this country, just authorized distributors. The Philippines doesn’t get the new equipment as quickly as, say, Hong Kong or Singapore. So how much material would be available to download or stream from a Philippines iTunes tvOS store? That remains to be seen.

Verdict: Interested but not in any rush.

iPad

ipad

No upgrades (that I can recall) for the iPad Air or iPad Mini. The big news was all about the massive iPad Pro. An iPad with a 12.9 inch diagonal screen weighing a pound and a half. Yawn. “You didn’t buy the smaller iPad, what about a bigger one?”

It has four speakers. Nice. You can buy a keyboard and stylus for it – I can do that (and have done that) for my regular iPad already.

Some are talking about this as a laptop replacement. For me, iOS needs to get a lot better at multi-tasking before I can consider it. And I’d need to be able to connect big USB drives to it, ones that I could also easily connect to laptops or desktops.

Last but not least, this is not a cheap solution. A 128 gig model with LTE and with the optional keyboard and stylus will cost far more than a 13 inch MacBook Air, which as far as I’m concerned is currently a more capable machine.

Verdict: Zero interest

iPhone

iphone

Better cameras, yawn. Aluminium body, yawn. Faster Touch ID, bfd. Rose gold, really?

I was falling asleep and thinking about shutting down my computer and heading to the bedroom when they got to the bit about the improved screen, haptic feedback, and pressure sensitive gestures. This is innovative and might prove to be actually useful. I suppose it’s a matter of how soon the 3rd party software companies take advantage of this, how they implement it, and how they will continue to support their software running on older model iPhones that don’t have this capability.

Verdict: Definitely interested but not something I need to rush out and buy. As of now it is a “nice to have” but not “essential.”

So what are your thoughts? Are you going to rush out to buy any of this stuff? What new features are the most meaningful to you?