Thursday, September 17, 2015

Apple Pay in the UK

In the last 4 days I have used Apple Pay here in London more times than I have in the U.S. in the last 4 weeks. 

When I was last in London in July, hardly anyone took Apple Pay as it had just launched. But this week, largely thanks to Verifone taking contactless payments, I used it for just about everything--coffee, a black cab, sandwiches, my Heathrow Express ticket, dinner, etc. 

The irony is that because the U.S. Cards are still 'chip and sign' vs 'chip and PIN', they are frankly a huge pain in the ass here, requiring the waiter or barista to run off and find a pen most times, delaying the transaction, etc. In other words, using the Apple Watch or iPhone requires no signature and is MUCH faster than not using it. 

Now if we can just get a similar widespread deployment in America...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How a flat tire made me love #Tesla more

I had a slow leak in one of my tires over the weekend. Filled it up, but two days later it was back down to half of the right pressure. I was anticipating a nightmare challenge to get this fixed the day before a long trip to Europe because there is NO SPARE for the Tesla Model S. 

So I called Tesla Service. 

What an awesome experience. A tow truck came to my house and put a loaner tire on my car. Took 8 minutes of my time.  I never even heard of this concept. 

The next day I got a call from Tesla Roadside assistance. They are coming by the house again to swap the original rim and new tire for me at my house. All for $395. I never - and I mean NEVER - got out of my BMW Service Center that cheap. Ever. That price included the service on both ends and the amazing tires they use. My BMW tire were at least 50% more per tire, etc. 

Wow. If I wasn't already a fan...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Apple Watch after 3 months

I have to say first that I am an early adopter and "tester" of most gadgets - and many of them don't pan out, but the Apple Watch is on the right path.

I was a Kickstarter backer of the Pebble. Loved it for a long time and upgraded to the Pebble Steel. The 7 day battery was great and I had even been scuba diving with it - a REAL watch. But then they had a major software problem in April that caused the watch to constantly reboot unless I turned off Blu-tooth--making it a dumb watch until my Apple Watch arrived in early June. 

By that time I was wearing a FitBit as well to track my sleep. So I had a strange number of weeks where I would wear the Apple Watch during the day and the Pebble while I slept for the silent alarm. 

Then I left my Pebble Steel on a plane by accident. And I had 3 fit bits in a row "break" inexplicably (without much support / help from FitBit themselves, I might add).  I was hoping my Pebble Time Steel would arrive in mid-July, but that is delayed now until September or later I am told.  So having resigned myself to using the Apple Watch during the day in my experiment and some other device at night as a silent alarm, I was now forced to push forward with the Apple Watch.

Here is what I found:
  • It is great for notifications.  One of the "smarter" developments over the Pebble is that if you have seen the notification on your phone (i.e. unlocked the phone or were viewing it), they do not go to your watch.  This was a real frustration with Pebble (double alerts).
  • It also respects your "Do Not Disturb" automatically, meaning there is no need to disconnect the watch from your phone while you sleep (something that was required with Pebble).
  • It automatically installs "Watch Enabled" apps when they come out.  Now this is a blessing and a curse, but better than hunting for new things if you like trying the apps.  They just need to set the bar better for the watch apps themselves.  FaceBook for example just tells you to open the app on your phone -- #FAIL.
  • The native fitness apps are great, especially in hear rate tracking.  But Apple needs to hurry up and give access to those features to RunKeeper and other apps who could do so much more than tracking (i.e. interval training between two heart rate levels).
  • The Uber app is actually really well done and is a value add on the watch.
  • The native music app is terrible...and way behind any of the 3rd party apps-- a bit surprisingly.
  • The "modular" watch face is very productive, but there needs to be a better way to find "cool" watch face apps than there is today (perhaps a trial mode where you get to test a new one every day).
  • The Weather app sucks and is broken.  The number of times I have selected my cities on the iPhone only to have something (the watch, Apple, iTunes, the phone) turn them all back to how they were set previously.  I have given up until they are updated.
  • The TripIt watch app is VERY helpful while traveling.
  • The Passbook app is pretty good.  While paying is still too difficult (to many buttons to press and select to arrive at it while at the register), it does work for boarding planes, movie tickets, etc, which is pretty cool.
  • The speech to text "Siri-like" capability it pretty good (i.e. start a time for 4 minutes).  It works well for dictating texts as well.
  • The messaging app is pretty good at predicting useful short responses to texts you receive.
  • Even the Wunderlist app is pretty good at arranging your priority actions right where you want the reminders.
I think this category will continue to improve and reach mass adoption, but only when the batter problem (i.e. 7 days minimum) is solved and the water proof capability (i.e. at least swimmable to 10 ft) is solved.  The reality is that while most people complain about the $350 entry price tag, it is cheaper than most watches that people already own who also own an iPhone...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

MacBook Air Battery issue -- easy

I took my 2011 MacBook Air to Apple Sunday and was told I would need to surrender my laptop for 5 days for them to fix the battery. FIVE. 

The tech said replacing it was easy.  So I took the challenge--I went home and ordered a replacement battery on Amazon (came with the right screwdrivers, etc). 

I googled how to replace it online and found an "" set of instructions with photos. 

Took me 15 minutes. Saved me $75 in labor and FIVE days of using a loaner. 

Who would have thought?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pebble stumbles

I have had a Pebble Steel watch now for nearly 2 years. I was an original Kickstarter backer of the first model. I am a Kickstarter backer of the Pebble Steel Time model (ships in July, plastic one already shipping). 

However, since their late March update (2.9.1) for iOS 8.2, the watch has been "combat ineffective". Essentially, they 'improved' its ability when missing updates to figure that out and ensure you have them. However, in practical reality if confuses itself, reloads all of the updates that I have already seen, which both frustrates and bores me. Then when I stop looking, it overloads the buffer and reboots. After 3 re-boots it goes into re-pairing mode (which also kills the battery quickly). 

I have reached out to Pebble multiple times but they keep telling me I need to remove a "buggy app" loaded into the watch. Having removed all apps, I know it is the 2.9.1 update. In fact, the "hot fix" or "work around" is to turn-off BluTooth - which keeps it from overloading...and makes it just an ordinary (dumb) watch. 

My Apple Watch arrives next week, so my guess is that this is an untimely error from Pebble (and poor customer support) which will remove the dilemma I worried about (which watch to wear). 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Tesla 6.2 Update arrives

I was all excited this morning when I saw the update notification. I was hoping for autopilot as a delivered feature. 

Not nearly so exciting. Primarily an update around charging planning (ie to reduce range anxiety) and minor updates to improve blind spot warnings and automatic cruise control (and collision avoidance). 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

No Ubers in Vancouver

I had the awkward experience of taking a taxi to the airport last night. First I had to ask if the taxi took credit cards. Then I had a horrible drive experience while the taxi driver yelled at some of the other drivers in traffic. Then when I went to pay for my taxi he told me he didn't take American Express (had he told me that upfront, I would not have gotten it in the taxi). And then when I went to pay him he told me that most people tip more than 10%. 

Is there any one in the Taxi industry who really thinks this is a better experience than an Uber?