Apple AirPods – One Month Later

It’s been a little over month since the AirPod First Impressions post (and a month since I’ve updated the Blog, wow!) and the AirPods have earned a place in my Every Day Carry kit.

I was a little concerned about the battery life at first but it’s turned out to be a non-issue.  I’m only charging the case about once a week and rarely have the actual AirPods in my ears for more than an hour at any one time.

For some reason the AirPods seem to feel ever so lightly larger in my ears than the wired EarBuds but without ay kind of precision measuring tools I can’t confirm that’s the case.  Once thing I did start to notice is the seams where the halves come together had an ever so small sharp edge to them that I could start to feel after about 30-minutes of use.  I was able to smooth the ridge out with a very fine sponge backed emery board and now it’s not an issue at all.

As far as sound goes they sound better than the EarPods with just a little more bass that’s noticeable with most types of music.  Microphone pickup is very sensitive and I was told during one of my tests the other party could hear me breathing.  Sound quality on both ends is more than acceptable and is similar to what you would find when using the phone.

I have an iPhone 7 Plus and occasionally find it hard to line the phone up with my ear to get good sound.  That’s where the AirPods become my favorite method for making and receiving calls.

Evidently the AirPods are sill in short supply and as of this writing Apple is still showing a 6-week lead time on shipping.  I have yet to see another person wearing a pair of AirPods which I find surprising.

If you want to spend the $150 on a set of truly wireless headphones and you’re willing to wait a few weeks I still think these are a good purchase.

First Impressions – Apple AirPods

After purchasing Christmas presents for everyone on my list this year I decided to get myself a gift.  After 3-weeks of waiting the package finally arrived…  Apple AirPods!

I love listening to music (mostly Spotify) whenever I can and after seeing the AirPods announcement last fall I was curious about how they performed.  Thanks to a lot of media outlets getting advanced units the reviews were out there before the AirPods were even available for order. For the most part they were very positive.

I’ve tried the inexpensive Bluetooth earbuds connected with a cord that is supposed to go behind your head and I’m not a fan.  The cord gets caught up in your clothing and makes the entire process rather uncomfortable and annoying.  Now, with the AirPods, you can actually go completely wireless and it addresses all the issues I was frustrated with.

The AirPods sound better than the EarPods that come with the iPhones.  They are just slightly larger and, in my case, fit very comfortably in my ears.  The bass is noticeably improved and the overall sound is very nice.  Battery life and bluetooth range is very impressive too.

These are not going to replace my Bose noise canceling over-the-ear headphones that I use when I want to tune the world out but they will be part of my daily carry for those times where I need a little music to make the day go a little better.

It’s to early to say if they were worth the $159 asking price but so far I haven’t regretted the purchase!

Goodbye Pocket, Hello Instapaper!

apps-pocket-iconAlways looking for interesting online content (and a place to capture it) I’ve been using the Pocket application since 2012.  I even upgraded to the Premium version for around $5 a month which gives you some nice auto-tagging, searching, and archive functions.

I was actually preparing to return to the free version of Pocket because I wasn’t using the advanced features as much as I thought I would.  I save the articles I want to keep long-term in Evernote so the archiving features were not a benefit.  I’m still trying to adopt the whole tagging concept too so that was another feature that was wasted on me (I’m a Folder organizer, always have been)…

instapaper-logoThen Instapaper decided to eliminate the cost of their Premium services… (Whoah, game changer right?)…

Well I had to at least try it out.  I’ve seen the Instapaper icon as a “save for later” option all over the Internet for a while now.

I’ll have to admit I’m pretty impressed with how Instapaper works.  It does a MUCH better job saving articles in their original format than Pocket did and it beats Evernote hands down with inline videos and graphics.

Other features include “Speed Reading” where each word flashes on the screen at a speed you select.  It’s a little awkward at first and causes me to read out loud, for some reason, but it does what it’s supposed to.

Another option I just discovered allows you to tilt your phone to auto-scroll the article you’re reading.  The more you tilt the faster the scrolling rate.  It takes a little bit to get used to but works great when you’re sitting in your favorite chair relaxing.

If you’re a fan of offline archiving/reading of online content you should really check out Instapaper.  You can even import your Pocket library into Instapaper and not miss a beat.  It’s a really solid product and you can’t beat the price!

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below…

TVShow Time!

I officially “Cut the Cord” on Cable TV last November and haven’t looked back.  With subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go, I get to watch pretty much anything I want when I want (and save a lot of money in the process).  I’m finding a lot of shows that have been around for several seasons and it can be hard to keep track of what you’ve watched and when new episodes are made available.

Tvshow-TimeThis is where TVShow Time (TVST) comes in.  This is a free service on the web that also has apps for Apple and Android.  TVST helps you mark what you’ve watched and has a worldwide fanbase who have running commentaries about the shows you’re watching.  It’s a big community of people who are doing exactly what you’re doing!

Community members make and upload GIF’s of important scenes in each episode to post in the comments and they’re usually very entertaining.  Be warned though there are spoilers in the comments so it’s best not to view until after you’ve watched a particular episode.

TV-Show-TimeOne of my favorite features is a calendar of upcoming shows that goes out about a year in advance.  Wondering when the new season of Walking Dead is going to return?  As of today it’s 48 days away!

To get started you just search for your favorite show and click the “+” sign to add it to your list.  After that you can view show details, season info, episodes, and community comments.

In the settings you can setup push alerts to let you know when new shows are available.  If you’re a Hulu user you can even delay the notifications by 24 hours so they’ll actually be available for you when you get notified.

The basic app is free & they just added in-app purchases that will allow calendar access and some additional customizations (I haven’t tried these yet).  TVST has been a really great resource to help me keep track of my TV viewing and it’s worth checking out!

Belkin Qode Ultimate Pro Bluetooth Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2

Wow, that title is long!  I’ve used the Belkin Qode Ultimate Pro Bluetooth Keyboard Case (Qode for short) since last December and it’s been put into service on a daily basis.

I get pulled into a lot of meetings at work and client sites and I always grab my iPad to take notes in Evernote.  Having a fully functional keyboard makes that task so much easier.  I can type pretty well with the on-screen iPad keyboard but the physical alternative is so much better.

The Qode offers good protection of the iPad, front and back.  One of the things I really like about the keyboard is it’s a separate piece so you can easily detach it and use the iPad on its own.  You can also attach the Apple Smart Cover as an alternative while leaving the back of the iPad covered and protected.

As with any portable device there are usually some compromises.  The only one I can think of with the Qode is the keys are a little on the small side, but nothing drastic.  Switching back and forth between the MacBook Pro and the Qode is pretty effortless.

The Qode offers multiple backlight levels as well as two angles of viewing for the iPad screen.  Battery life is rated at 1-year with normal use and I can honestly say that claim is conservative.  9-months of regular use and I’m sitting at around 50% battery capacity.

When activated (by propping the iPad into one of two magnetic slots) the Qode instantly connects to the iPad.  It has a lot of shortcut keys you can program as well as dedicated keys for cut/copy/paste/volume etc.  You can even pair it up with a second device (phone?) and toggle back and fourth with dedicated buttons.

All in the Qode ads about 1-pound of additional weight to the iPad.  not bad when you consider you are getting a nicely padded rear shell and a fully functional backlit and aluminum clad keyboard on the front.

This has been an awesome addition to my daily carry and you can pick one up yourself for around $100 on Amazon.

My Week With The Apple Watch

Thought it might be a good idea to take some time out on this Friday night*** and post a much-needed update to the Blog.  Amazing how life gets in the way and posts end up being weeks apart…  You should see the number of drafts I have queued up so it’s not like I’m not thinking about blogging!

I stopped in the Apple store a few weeks ago just to look around and all the new toys and get a hands on demo of the Apple Watch.  The employee assisting us was very helpful and he did such a good job I ended up making an impulse buy of an Apple Watch Sport (and a night stand dock).

I’ll admit it, I fell for the hype and it was totally an impulse buy (happens more than I like to admit).  I justified the purchase to myself as an updated FitBit that did a lot more than just track my steps.  Yeah, that’s the ticket!

If youu_10138874 haven’t checked out the Apple Watch it’s worth it just to see the design, fit, finish, and how it looks on your wrist.  It’s a beautifully designed piece of electronics (as most Apple products are).  The watch/band combinations are numerous and I’m a little surprised they didn’t package the watch by itself with the bands being an add-on accessory.
There are 3 watch models (in several colors) and 2 watch sizes all with the SAME internal components.  The prices are all over the map when you pair the watch with the various bands.  I opted for the $399 “Sport” model in brushed gold with a dark blue band (my shopping companion quickly identified it as the Notre Dame model).

l_10138874_001

After arriving home I had to charge the watch for about an hour before I could fire it up.  Initial setup takes about 20 minutes while the companion apps are loaded from your phone.  It took another 24-36 hours before things are totally synced and you are able to get all the alerts you would normally get on your phone (way longer than I expected).

The idea of having a mini phone display on your wrist, instantly accessible, is a good one in theory.  My biggest problem was holding my arm at the viewing angle for an extended period along with the issue of being able to focus on the small screen.

I’ll admit I’m getting older and my arms are sometimes not long enough to properly focus on things like books and menus without a little help from Foster Grant.

Tl_10138874_002his was an immediate problem that I didn’t really notice during the in-store demo.  I’m not going to whip out my reading glasses every time I want to look at my wrist candy (Strike 1).

Another issue I ran into is the information actually presented on the watch screen.  I get hundreds of emails a day and more times than not the message was unable able to be displayed on the screen because of the format.  Not to mention viewing attachments is out of the question (Strike 2).

Battery life during the first day, like with any new toy, was not impressive because I was fidgeting with my new toy all day long.  It improved in the days following as I used the watch less and less.  Apple advertises a full day of usage between charges and I was getting that (Ball 1).

The final issue was the fact you have to make a specific flip of your wrist to get the display to wake up.  Raising your arm works 50% of the time.  Other times you have to rotate your wrist in a weird way to get the watch to activate.  Hard to describe but anyone who has one of these devices knows exactly what I’m talking about (Strike 3).

seiko-divers-pepsi-bezel-blue-dial-automatic-stainless-steel-men_s-watch-skx009Apple offers a 10-day return policy on the watch and I ended up taking advantage of it 7 days into the experiment.  Returning it was totally painless and when I mentioned the viewing issues to the employee processing the return she indicated it’s not an uncommon complaint (and reason for return).

So my Apple Watch experiment is over (for now) and I can honestly say I don’t miss it.  I continue to enjoy my Seiko Automatic Dive Watch for its simplicity (no batteries) and I look forward to the next version of the Apple Watch that’s rumored to be announced sometime this year.

Do you have an Apple Watch?  What’s your experience been like?  Hit me up in the comment section below.

***While listening to The Very Best Of The Violent Femmes on Spotify

The New (and Improved?) Apple TV

apple-tv-remoteApple has finally released the first new AppleTV model in several years.  What was once considered a “hobby” by Steve Jobs has finally matured into an impressive multimedia device!

The 4th version of the AppleTV has a familiar shape and footprint but it’s at least twice the height (and heavier too).  The remote has undergone a major upgraded to include a touch screen and Siri integration as well as an internal, rechargeable, battery that is reported to last up to three months of regular use (charged by the now Apple-standard lightning cable).

I ordered the 64GB unit for $199 on the first day it was available for pre-order (Apple also offers a 32GB device for $50 less).  Being impatient I opted for the next day shipping option in the hopes of receiving a new toy in time for the weekend.

Well it didn’t happen.  My package was stuck on a loading dock in Tennessee and didn’t leave until sometime on Sunday.  Apple refunded my overnight shipping cost which was appreciated (I had to call them to get this done though).  I love the ability to get detailed tracking of packages but this had the reverse impact as the shipment didn’t get updated for days.

While reviewing the Apple forums full of other people waiting for their shipments I learned about a carrier in Europe that not only tells you the status of your package but you can see the progression on a real-time map.  If that wasn’t cool enough you also know the name of the delivery driver along with a 30-minute delivery window (also updated in real time).  Talk about stalking the delivery Guy!

AppleTV 4 Ports
Being an early adopter can be fun but it has its frustrations as well.  Physical setup of the new Apple TV was relatively smooth once I figured out a work around for the missing “optical audio-out” (S/PDIF) I was using with the last model.  The App Store, which is one of the big selling factors of this new model, was not very exciting the first couple of days.  Not a lot of “must have” apps and nothing was categorized so finding apps to download and try out was not as easy as it should have been.

Now that things have been up and running for a few weeks the store is getting better and more useful apps are starting to become available.  The Siri remote is the real star here.  With it you can basically ask for a particular movie, actor, or genre and a list of options magically show up on the screen complete with a list of where you can view the content and pricing (if any).  Right now this search is limited to Netflix, Hulu and the Apple Store but it’s supposed to be opening up to other services soon.  This is a similar feature that Roku has had for a while but dictating with your voice is the new (and better) input method.

App StoreI’ve written two posts about my Cord Cutting project and how it’s been going.  The new AppleTV has made the transition from Cable to Over The Air (OTA) content and streaming media a lot easier and the App Store keeps getting better every day.  I think as this platform matures there could be some interesting capabilities surface that will make the 4th generation AppleTV an integral part of the entertainment stack.

It’s time to start thinking about the next electronic purchase and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a TV upgrade. My 38″ Plasma has served me well for many years but 55-60″ of UHD (or 4k) video sounds very appealing.  And the prices keep coming down to the sub-thousand level which makes it a more attractive buy.

I’m wanting to get a bigger screen and possibly install it over the fireplace.  I’ve heard good and bad things about this mounting location but after seeing an articulating wall mount that allows you to pull the TV down in front of the (unlit) fireplace for a better viewing angle I think that’s the way I’m going to go.

I’d love to hear from any of you who have feedback on the over-the-fireplace mounting option.  Is it that bad?  I’m going to be 15+ feet away from the screen so that makes the viewing angle relatively flat (that was the main complaint from people who chose the higher mounting position).

Thoughts?  Please leave them in the comments section below.