I have lived with two brand new Apple device for the last 4 days and I have a growing list of annoyances that I don’t believe will work themselves out with time. These are truly things I’ll have to live with. This might seem out of order but I want to at least preface this with the reason I continue to upgrade to new technology despite my growing discomfort with where tech is going.
My tech use was ahead of the curve for years but I think after a lot of spilled ink on this blog, I’m finally realizing why I am anti-tech these days. Prior to 2010, I was ahead of the technology world. People were still buying point & shoot cameras, grandparents had just discovered email or were at least getting comfortable enough to forward chain letters to everyone they knew and most of us were still using full fledged desktop operating systems which were becoming overkill. The nation’s Internet speeds were still pretty shitty for everyone outside of cities and if you wanted something right now, you’d rent it from a video store, steal it off the web or purchase from iTunes and wait for a while. You could always buy the DVD or Album physically.
I sort of envisioned we would all learn how to responsibly use technology and all become semi-experts. I never really thought being an “IT Expert” could be a career because this was temporary. Eventually, everyone would be an expert. Because experts built the computers, networking equipment, mobile phones, I didn’t think things would be come simpler to use and if they did, attainable for people making normal wages (Macs were simple but un-affordable). Despite tech being complicated, I assumed there’d be two ways of thought on non-techies. They either die of old age having never figured it out or they completely bow out of using technology and just avoid it entirely but I failed to relate this to automobiles. Everyone with basic means can afford a car but the amount of people that know where the oil drains out or how to see if they need new brakes or where to replace the air filter is a very small percentage of people. You have 350 million car owners with a generous 50 million at most that know where their wiper fluid reservoir is.
This is where tech went. It went to everyone in spite of almost everyone not knowing how to do anything but open a web browser click the “Yahoo! Mail” photo and forward bullshit chain letters and prayers to everyone in their contacts list.
Why mention any of this? The tech people like me who ran web servers, configured routers, leaned about Double-NAT and infinite loops the hard way are now severely stuck in two worlds. There’s a world where the primary computing devices are phones that can’t be upgraded, modified or hacked into being our own…there’s not even a command line and the other side where we have computers that are losing desktop applications, forums, communities and innovation (just look at Intel’s desktop CPU innovations since mobile took off). Using a computer is something you do for work or you’re a real tech nerd and if the movie isn’t on Netflix, oh well there’s a lot of other things to watch instead of just going and buying it or gasp stealing it. When someone’s book or music or movie disappears from their device that they paid for, oh well that’s just the world we live in. Accepting that technology is just sort of a thing that happens is how everyone is now and this really pisses me off. No one became better at technology and the tech world in hardware, software and web companies like Facebook can just give you whatever and you’ll put up with it because you’re not an engaged or active population of users. You need tech but you have no idea what is possible or how to harness it. Facebook is why President Trump was elected, not because we elected him. People are blaming technology and don’t fully understand it but EVERYONE uses it.
I really do not like the iPhone XS or Apple Watch Series 4 because of everything I’ve written above. I feel as if we got way off tangent but being the owner, editor and only writer of this blog gives me that ability to ramble as I have without fear of comments, downvotes or dislikes on social media sites for which you won’t find this blog.
The iPhone XS didn’t ship with a Lightning to Headphone Adapter. This was the first infuriating thing I experienced when unboxing the device on Friday morning. I listen to my music on my decade old SRH840 Headphones or Shure SE530 Earphones. These require a headphone jack. Luckily, my MacBook Pro still has a headphone jack. It’s clear Apple thinks we don’t need those anymore first with the removal of the port and now with the removal of an adapter. Luckily, they’re happy to sell you one but as people buy these accessory less and less, Apple will stop and Amazon sellers out of China will sell terrible versions of them and at what point do we lose wired headphones completely? I’m writing this at a cafe with my SE530s plugged into my iPod Classic. Not eating up my cell phone bill, not having to download music I own over the air since iTunes now won’t let you sync music from your Mac to iPhone if Apple Music is enabled. Forcing your 512GB iPhone to download all 25,000 songs you own from apple and missing the live versions because you also want Apple Music is annoying so I just don’t subscribe to that at all. I didn’t buy the biggest iPhone this year and instead will just use my iPod for music when on the go…a device Apple no longer sells.
The reason I purchased an iPhone 8 Plus in 2017 isn’t because a $1000 phone was unattainable. I’m lucky to have the means to have a maxed out iMac, brand new MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, Apple Watch Stainless Steel and iPhone. I am not ignorant to how much of a minority I am as an Apple Customer now.
- I grabbed an iPhone 8 Plus because I didn’t subscribe to the notion that FaceID was going to work for me. It’s apparent after 3 days that FaceID is great when it works. Having iCloud keychain auto-fill a password without any delay is really cool. Every application I own that supports TouchID locking of the app has always been enabled such as banking or credit card apps. Not having to relocate my thumb and just have the app let me in after a quick FaceID prompt is nice.
- FaceID doesn’t work all of the time. Here are the scenarios where it has failed multiple times in the last 3 days:
- The iPhone is docked down low in my car. I had to look away from the road, put my face 18” from the phone as if I was leaning over to my cup holder to sip a cola from a straw just to have the phone expand a text message. This is unsafe but Siri had just finished getting my reply wrong via CarPlay so the only choice was correcting it right after the message already sent OR pulling off the road. TouchID allowed me to unlock the phone with my thumb and then touch the microphone button to re-transcribe the corrected text
- In bed, I grab my phone while on my side and on my side with pillow covering half of my face, the phone won’t unlock. I had to sit up and stare directly at it as it’s dark in the room and the iPhone’s screen is backlit to the lowest setting.
- Even when laying flat, FaceID repeatedly fails to recognize me in bed and the fix has been asking HomeKit to turn on the bedroom lights which then triggers “you have to unlock your iPhone first” and so I just give up.
- The next day, I usually kill my alarm with TouchID. I have to sit up, undock the iPhone and then stare at it to cancel the alarm now. By that time, snooze is pointless, I’m already upright. Time to buy an alarm clock?
- I grabbed my phone and let out a yawn, I kept swiping up and it kept failing until I was then forced to use my passcode (which is 17 digits long and something I never had to use with TouchID)
- My phone was laying on its back on my desk, I unlocked to see how the app install process was going on Friday. It wouldn’t work..oh yeah I have to stare at the phone
- I keep all SMS messages hidden unless the phone is unlocked and I had my phone’s TouchID coded to my gloves that work with smartphones. When I’m stopped on my motorcycle, I can read messages or change the song. FaceID doesn’t work with my helmet and alternative Face doesn’t work either. I expected this which means I have to remove glasses, remove helmet just to make a call or send a text when I stop for gas or a rest break. Removing the helmet is not very fast so now I just will ignore the phone completely
- I commanded Siri to lock the doors in the house before bed. The phone was docked “You have to unlock your iPhone first” so I had to go over to the dock, pick up the phone, turn the bedroom light on and it finally saw me but by then I had hit the screen so many times with my thumb undocking it that it was once again requiring my passcode be entered.
I’ve put my passcode in 10 times a day since getting the new iPhone. Before, this was a once a week thing. FaceID is the single most regression in usability for me personally. The only thing it’s good for is if I’m holding the phone up but I so rarely hold my iPhone to do something since my workflow is almost entirely by voice now.
Which does mean the new dedicated siri button on the side is the ONLY usability improvement for iPhone X/Xs. I can hold in that button to trigger siri with I’m on my motorcycle (with bluetooth comms) or in the car driving and just hope that I don’t issue a command that require I authenticate myself. With my thumb, less of an issue but now that I need to put the phone in front of my face, it requires undocking the iPhone in my car, removing my helmet on the bike or walking over to it in the house and picking it up off the dock and staring at it.
I honestly can’t stress enough how little I use my iPhone at home. It’s never in the same room as me and always docked at my iMac…which is why the watch is so important.
Here are a few more things I don’t like about the iPhone Xs:
- Why is there a blank space under the keyboard? It looks weird, add some numbers down there or something (but please don’t add emoji)
- Apple won’t let me get rid of that bar under the keyboard in messages. I’ll never use memo-emoji, ApplePay or App Store in iMessages but I can’t remove the bar.
- Getting the camera to open from the lock screen. I still haven’t figured it out. I’ve tried every gesture
- Requiring I move my thumb to the top right hand or left hand corners of the phone to get control center or notifications is for me a step-back in experience. This was all much better with a home button
- Having to push the left and right buttons to shut down the phone is a bit annoying. I like a dedicated siri button but I would have preferred the power button remain at the top. The side button functioning for power off, sleep and siri is also a bit annoying.
- The lack of symmetry on the bottom to make way for an antenna that allows for faster transfer speeds which will in turn eat up the limited mobile data I have is a bummer. I want symmetry over data speeds. Why do I have the faster connection? I used up 8 gigabytes of data on my iPhone on Friday during the setup phase and that costed me $15 for 2 GB of data which should have lasted me throughout the month. I had my cellular permissions all restricted on everything except Apple Music. During the restore to the new iPhone process, it downloaded all of my old playlists automatically via cellular. I was near a wifi signal but to save power, it hopped off wifi during the restore process and used LTE to restore my music. My GF was not happy with me. I blame Apple.
I guess it’s safe to say that I don’t really like the X form factor. Why did I upgrade? Mainly because of the iPhone Xr. The 2018 iPhone lineup is clear. The iPhone X form factor isn’t going away. Every new phone uses it so this is the future for Apple which meant when the iPhone 8 eventually died (3 years from now?), I’d have to upgrade so the iPhone X being the only thing to upgrade to, I have to get used to it eventually or finally make the jump I’ve been threatening for a while which is to go back to a basic-phone and completely check out of the modern smartphone world.
Why is the Apple Watch Series 4 bad? We’re at 2250 words now so I should wrap this up but I’ll lay out a few things.
- First issue really relates to the Milanese band. This was the first band I bought with my Series 0 watch to compliment the Space Black Link Bracelet I already owned. I found the Milanese really loosened up throughout the day and in 4 years, the design is unchanged so the space Black Milanese I bought to compliment my Series 4 Space Black still does loosen up. It’s not a band you can really sleep with as I woke up this morning with it loose around my wrist flopping around.
- The digital crown is taller than the watch’s body. I continue to bang it on things which is something I’ll have to get used to.
- The battery is not improved at all from Series 2 despite keeping Cellular and GPS turned off. I don’t workout with the watch so I don’t use any of those features. I’ve never even used the workouts feature on the watch so I was hoping by not using those big battery hog features, I’d have 2 day battery life. Still not possible. Watch is dead in 24 hours
- The new watch faces have too many colors. My watch face of choice since WatchOS2 is Modular in dark red with black background. Infographic & its Modular counterpart use the same color scheme as most of Google’s products. Too much color and no option for grayscale or a single color so I’m going back to Modular in red. I really had high hopes for both but they’re too colorful. No thanks
- the watch is faster but not impressively so from my Series 2
- The screen is bigger but I don’t feel as if it’s revolutionary from my series 2
The two redeeming things about Series 4 + Watch OS 5, My $450 Space Black Link bracelet still works (at least for one more year) and HTML emails now display which means I can triage emails in bed without having to get my iPhone.
It’s going to take another year to decide whether I’m done with iOS in general. The only reason I don’t want to give up my iPhone right now is video shooting with my gimbal looks much better than any other video camera in this price range for color, resolution, frames per second and stabilization. The Watch continues to be on my wrist for style and the fact that my iPhone which is never with me at work or at home because it’s always in a dock at my desk or in my office means I can still get emails, messages and command Siri do do things in my home (as my house is entirely HomeKit). The iPad continues to have a place because it’s my favorite way to read long-form stories and articles/editorials. I can’t read more than an email on my phone and my MacBookPro isn’t conducive to reading while laying down which is the majority of my reading
If I can find a pocket size video camera, a Hey Siri option for my wrist and a reading device that isn’t made by Amazon or powered by Android, I’m not sure I’d need iOS in my life. That’s why the preface was so important in this case. I love Apple, I love the Mac, I love my new MacBook Pro and 27” iMac. I just think the X form factor, FaceID and WatchOS are very very expensive (It cost me $3050 this year for iPad + Apple Watch + iPhone) for what they’re capable of. It’s a pricey ecosystem and I don’t think I’m getting the value I need out of them. This isn’t a slight to Apple I just think the way I use technology is so far more than everyone else. I’m happy that Apple has made products that suit people’s needs but for those of us who still use Desktop PCs, iOS hasn’t become mature enough. It still feels like a toy to me and for the price of these devices, they’ve arrived at a price point that I don’t think I can afford to participate in given the value they add to my life.
Thanks for reading.