dotunderscore by Brian Hough

The iPhone Turns Ten 📱

My original iPhone

I’m not the first person to be writing an iPhone 10-year introspective today - a day later, and a dollar short. I absolutely won’t be the last, but I can’t stand to miss this chance to say a few words.

I wasn’t planning on buying an iPhone. Far from it - I wasn’t even sold on the benefit of smartphones yet. In January of 2007 I was dead set on getting what I viewed as the successor to my Motorola RAZR V3, the RAZR V3x. But by the time Steve Jobs ordered a thousand lattés with the prototype iPhone onstage (in what has to be my absolute favorite Stevenote moment), I was convinced.

I bought an original iPhone exactly a year from today, one day after its release. A friend of mine at the time bought it on day one, and to say I was excited to get my hands on one was an understatement of epic proportions. You have to understand, those days the simple thought of manipulating objects with multitouch on a touchscreen as gorgeous as Apple’s was unheard of. Pinch-to-zoom. Dragging your finger across the screen to scroll. Typing with your fingers. Swiping to advance to the next photo. All of these simple, natural gestures that we take for granted, these gestures that an entire generation are growing up with, seeing them as natural as the English language. These literally did not exist on June 28th, 2007, and then one day later, on June 29th, they did. Now virtually every smartphone in the world has these features.

The original iPhone was a lot of things. It was beautiful - one of the finest industrial designs to ever come out of Cupertino, period. It was comfortable in the hand, far more so than the big-screen smartphones we use today. It was also frustrating at times, with its limited feature set, and weak battery life.

I remember the day after buying mine I headed up to Maine for a family vacation, only to be gobsmacked to be nearly out of battery by 4PM or so, a far cry from my RAZR’s excellent battery. There was no video camera, there was poor lowlight performance on the camera, garbage web applications, no games, and slow 2G data. Absolutely none of that did a damn thing to hinder my excitement for the iPhone as a device, and as a platform. I was not only in love with the device I held in my hands that day, but especially with the thought of what it would be able to do a year from then, two years, three years.

Here we are, ten years later. I’ve sold every iPhone I’ve ever owned to pay for my next upgrade, except for that original iPhone. I’m sure it’s worth a ton now, and I’m sure it’ll be worth a ton more ten years from now. It hardly matters. I’ve kept this iPhone to remember how far we’ve come, and as a testament to the revolution it ushered. The original iPhone is one of the most important pieces of technology ever built.

Happy birthday, iPhone! Here’s to the next ten years.

⌚️: One Year Later

Casey Liss on Liss is More, in respect to the one year anniversary of the Apple Watch:

Increasingly, I feel like I’m the only one.

I still really like my Apple Watch.

Many of my friends and peers seem to be getting rid of their Apple Watches. They’re either no longer wearing watches at all, or are switching to mechanical watches instead. I can’t help but feel like it’s trendy to be smug about the Apple Watch.

I’ve been an Apple Watch owner since day one, almost exactly one year ago. I couldn’t agree more with what Casey Liss is saying. I was going to write essentially the same on the Apple Watch, but instead I’ll advise you to read his full piece. I agree with every word of it.

The Apple Watch is not perfect. But it’s imperfect in extraordinarily similar ways that the original iPhone was imperfect. The battery life is only so and so for a device of this category, true – that will get a little better, and we will adjust the rest of the way. The app situation is not good, and apps on the original iPhone were limited to Safari pages circa 2007. Sales are not massive, with impressive Watch sales unable to compensate for the decline in many of Apple’s other product lines. It’s slow, in the same way that the original iPhone was slow. And yet, the Apple Watch has not only sold more in its first year than the original iPhone, but it’s sold more than any other smartwatch, and still more than Rolex in the last year.

I still wear my Apple Watch every single day. It’s effortless – I don’t even think about it. The way that the Watch handles notifications alone makes the device completely worth it, and the convenience of using it to quickly accomplish small tasks that I would have otherwise had to delegate to the phone buried in my pocket seals the deal. I’ve even amassed a small army of Watch bands, and changing them out depending on my mood and apparel is a blast.

The Apple Watch may not be the best product that Apple has ever made, but that was never the point. Today’s Watch is a foundation that will be built upon, improved, and tweaked over time. I can’t wait to see what watchOS 3 and the Apple Watch 2 brings to the table later this year.

What to realistically expect at Apple’s iPhone SE & iPad Pro event

I’ve published my annual list of what to reasonably expect at this Monday’s Apple Media Event over at Haverzine.

Apple is a company of cycles. Traditionally, Apple has been bound to the calendar like Christmas to December; WWDC in June, new iPhones in September, and new iPads in October.

But Tim Cook’s Apple has been considerably more open to switching things up, forgoing expected events or making announcements at unexpected times. Today we find ourselves on the verge of one such aberrations with the announcement of Apple’s “Let Us Loop you In” Media Event scheduled for next Monday, March 21.

Apple hasn’t ever held an event quite like this, and that means no one is one-hundred percent sure of what to expect. Even so, there are a few smart bets to make. Let’s loop you in – here’s what you can realistically expect.

CES 2016 thoughts from afar

One of the most fun I’ve had blogging in previous years was during CES week. Getting off the “holiday high” and landing face first into the tech-gadget-heaven that was Los Angeles during the first week of the new year has always been something I’ve looked forward to. But for whatever reason, this year has been different. When CES began earlier this month, it took me a little by surprise. Something that I’ve always actively looked forward to suddenly snuck up on me, instead.

Still, I put my nose to my browser and consumed what felt like hundreds of articles, read dozens of hands ons, and watched a few amazingly produced videos from the showroom floor put together by the ever excellent video team from The Verge. It was only once I was in the middle of my deep dive of the glamorous world of consumer technologies, it began to hit me why my interest in CES had waned to this point.

CES may well home a few snippets from the future; ultra high-definition “4K” televisions that were hundred of thousands of dollars of prototype machinery just a few years ago, nearly reaching impulse territory for many at Sam’s Club today. But for every 4K television that’s managed to transcend their prototype tag, there are seemingly a thousand more instances of nothing more than a cool tech demo, mere vaporware that’s all but gone by the next year’s CES rolls around. At its worst, CES can be like looking through a window into a future that could be, but probably won’t be.

Truly groundbreaking technology isn’t something that can be scheduled and showcased. Not every CES is going to have “killer tech”, and perhaps it’s okay that CES is ultimately just a show full of some very cool, but largely impractical ideas. Occasionally, however, the problem becomes evident when a product transitions away from mere prototype to the retail. Take the darling of nearly ever CES of the early 2010s – the Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift became famous in 2012 for presenting what many thought would remain science fiction for the foreseeable future: honest to goodness, working, affordable virtual reality for the home. Every gamer’s dream. For years we’ve tuned into the Oculus booth at CES, and for years we’ve been woo’d by the ever improving technology.

Oculus did everything right: they even proved they were more than mere a one or two shot prototype by providing developers with early, but functional development kits at an affordable price. For the most part, to this point, Oculus Rift has been the success story that CES so desperately needs. But all of that came crashing down earlier this month when the company opened up pre-orders for the initial retail version.

Oculus had been saying and doing all the right things when it came to price, but the company has nearly destroyed all of that good will by releasing the first version with an astronomical price tag of $599. Not only significantly more than what was expected by the press and fans alike, but also significantly more than the two prior Oculus Rift Development Kits. At best, this was a gross miscalculation in the otherwise impressive launch of a potentially revolutionary technology product. At worst, this was a bait and switch: a choice by Oculus to cash in as much as possible with little regard to the loyal fans they’ve justly earned. Perhaps things would have been different if Oculus hadn’t been purchased in 2014 by Facebook. But perhaps the Facebook deal was a necessary evil to even get the Rift out the door.

It may sound like I’m poo-poo’ing on CES, but really, I’m not. I still spent countless hours this week visiting the fantasy land in my mind that all of the press releases and tech demos have helped create. I love the idea of CES – a trade show about the future, today. I’ve merely just grown to wish that companies would be more truthful about what sort of technology is tangible in the relatively near term. I wish that this industry was better at expectation setting, that I could expect to implement some of these amazing advances into my own daily workflow.

Maybe next year.

2015’s most useful gizmos and gadgets

Like most people in our modern day society, I don’t go through a single day without in some way using a gizmo or gadget. There are hundreds of little tools that we all use day in, day out to make life a little more enjoyable, maybe a little more tolerable, and even just a little more convenient. As is the custom this time of the year, I figured it may be useful to someone out there to put together this little list of my most used and abused of these tools, just in time for the new year.

Late 2014 was really when I got hooked on podcasts, but for me, 2015 was the year of the podcast. From relay.fm’s excellent catalogue of podcasts (Connected and Upgrade being my two favorites), to Alex Albrecht and Allison Haslip’s laugh out loud worthy Half Hour Happy Hour, there was no shortage of amazing content. And they were all made better by my first pick, Marco Arment’s extraordinary podcast application for iOS, Overcast (free). Overcast makes it dead simple to find, add, sort, and listen to the content I want to hear. And when I want to save some time, Overcast’s built in Smart Speed functionality removes dead air without making anything sound funky or unnatural. According to Overcast, Smart Speed has saved me 30 hours, simply by removing dead air, which is just insane.

While going through my seemingly never ending cue of podcasts waiting to be listened to, I’ll often brew myself a cup of coffee to wind down after a day at work. I’m a huge coffee fanatic, but I’m a New Englander, so I only ever really drink iced coffee; substantially harder to get on demand at home than the traditional hot stuff. In the old days, I used to simply pour the hot coffee over ice to cool it (like some kind of animal), but I grew to despise how watered down my coffee would become. My Zoku Iced Coffee Maker ($30) solved this. It does one job, and it does it shockingly well - pour fresh brewed, steaming hot coffee into it, wait just a couple of minutes, and boom, you’ve got instant iced coffee. After you’ve enjoyed your coffee, give it a quick wash and put the cup back into the freezer to get it nice and cool for your nice cup. Really, really recommend it for fellow iced coffee addicts.

One my goals for last year that I was (mostly) successful in following through with was my daily outdoor activity. I tried to get at least a 45 minute walk in multiple times a week, and my RHA MA450i ($50) in-ear headphones really helped get me motivated. I love going on quiet walks around the neighborhood, but I think I would love them less without some good music to go along with it. Now, I’m no audiophile (in fact, I have pretty significant hearing loss), so take this recommendation with a grain or two of salt. But I’ve found these headphones to have absolutely excellent sound quality, a great built-in microphone for phone calls, and perfect build quality. In fact, I’ve actually owned these headphones since early 2014 and have used them almost daily, though you’d never know it. They’ve also got a great fabric cable that really does reduce tangling, and they’re an absolute steal at $50 - I paid nearly $100 for them way back when.

Perhaps the most useful addition to my life this year is the most expensive item on this list, but also one that’s infinitely simple and yet remarkably complex; the Apple Watch Sport Edition ($349/$399) has become the first thing I look at in the morning, and the last thing I set to charge at night, every single day. While smart watches are yet to really break through “useful” territory and into the “necessary,” I can honestly say that wearing an Apple Watch has made me more in the moment in my daily life, significantly changing my habits. I look at my phone far less, it’s encouraged me to be far more active (filling in those three activity rings really do become addicting), and it’s just insanely fun to use. Apple Maps on the Watch makes getting and following walking and driving directions almost fun (which is a weird sentence to write), controlling Overcast and Music playing on my phone from my Watch is convenient, and the built in Remote app has even replaced my Apple TV’s remote control. I’ve also become somewhat of a collector of Apple Watch bands - over the holiday season, I mixed and matched red and green sport bands to make it a little more festive. The Watch isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination; third party applications are incredibly slow to launch and the apps aren’t nearly as useful as their iOS equivalents. But the Apple Watch has made a watch wearer out of me; something I never thought possible.

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