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Apple Watch-General & BBQ Specific Uses-Part 1

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When the Apple Watch was announced and previewed in late 2014, I thought it was some of the coolest tech I had ever seen. Dick Tracy meets Star Trek. But I had ZERO intention of buying one. The second or third generation model maybe, but I felt I did not want or need the first generation model. Well things changed and unexpected circumstances gave me a compelling use case for having one. So in early August 2015 I bought the Apple Watch Sport which is the entry level model. It served the original purpose well and now I am using it for other uses including BBQ. There is certainly not a use case for buying an Apple Watch for BBQ uses only. Therefor this two part blog entry will discuss the general uses I have found for the Apple Watch, plus some handy uses for BBQ. The BBQ related uses I will discuss in PART 2 of this blog.

I was prepared to wait out purchasing an Apple Watch until the second or third generation model. I thought it was wicked cool, but it was definitely a first generation product. Version 1of the Watch OS software was more like a beta release with some missing or half baked features. Version 2 of the Watch OS software, which fixed some of the half baked features and added some exciting new feature, was promised for the fall. But that didn’t change my wait and see attitude. Plus I hadn’t worn a watch for 15 years and I really didn’t miss having something on my wrist. What did change my desire to get an Apple Watch was my mother’s declining health. My mother had a 5 month period of declining health ultimately leading to her death in August. I had taken over as her health care proxy and was making all medical decisions on her behalf. She had a Living Will which limited just what measures could be taken to prolong her life. During the last month of her life I was faced with some life and death decisions where I needed to consult with Doctor’s and other people caring for her to make an informed decision. If I missed their return phone calls, they often left a general switchboard callback number not a direct line. The caller ID left was “unknown number” So if I missed a call, it was not good. I found I wouldn’t always hear my cell phone ringing in the car due to road noise. Also due to lack of sleep I might sleep through and miss calls which came in late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. Also if I was in the Kitchen and my cell phone was in my Office I might miss calls. With the taptic feedback, where the watch taps your wrist when you get some sort of notification, it made it much harder to miss a call. The ringing of the watch on your wrist is often easier to hear than a phone in your pocket. Even more so it is easier to hear than a phone ringing in another room.

The Purchase - I went the express route buying my Apple Watch. I skipped the whole pre-sale appointment where you tried on the watch and picked out the model that was right for you. They had quite an elaborate pre-sale process which honestly I didn’t need. So I went straight to buying after doing some online research and then getting the answers to several questions at the store. But be aware if you need your hand held through out the purchase process, that route is available to you.

Model I Bought - If you go to the brick and mortar Apple Store they have a centrally located table displaying all of the various models, sizes and colors. They also have some tables off to the side where you can go play with the watch for longer periods of time. I bought the base model in the watch line, called the Sport. I bought the 38mm size after deciding the 42mm size looked too big on my wrist. When I first saw ads or videos of people with their Apple Watches, it was typically the 42mm model they were wearing. I was unpleasantly surprised when I saw this, because the Apple Watch was one of the smallest smart watches out there and it still looked a bit too big. Some of the other smart watches really looked ridiculous due to their overly large faces. Almost like wearing a small cell phone on your wrist. The 38mm model looked ok to me and after trying both sizes, I found readability was not different for me than on the 42mm watch. I could either read the information without glasses or not read it without glasses. For me the watch face size did not change the readability. My watch had a black (Space Grey) finish and a black elastomeric (feels like rubbery plastic) band. The $49 I saved buying the smaller 38mm model was used to buy the extended AppleCare warranty on the watch.

Unboxing - When you unbox the watch you will find a charger cable, 3 half watch straps and the watch. The charger cable has a male USB jack on one end and a magnetic induction disc on the other end. The disc clips onto the back of the watch magnetically. The watch strap comes as 3 half sections. One goes on the watch no matter what the size of your wrist is. The other two half straps are long and short and you pick the one which allows the straps to fit your wrist the best.

Pairing - There is an initial setup process you go through where you pair the watch with the iPhone you will be using with the Apple Watch. You must have an iPhone 5 or newer to pair with the Apple watch. The watch puts a rather bizarre pattern on the screen which you focus the iPhone’s video camera on and this pairs the two devices. If you weren’t aware of this, the Watch is used with an iPhone and to utilize the more advanced features you must have it paired with an iPhone and the iPhone must be within range of the watch. The iOS operating system for the phone now comes with an Apple Watch app which is used to configure the features of the watch from the phone. Some of this configuration can also be done on the watch, but it is easier on the larger screen of the iPhone. Plus there are sometimes added settings on the iPhone Watch app that are not available on the watch.

Configuration - The one thing I heard that is worth repeating is this: You should take the time to use the initial setup and the Apple Watch app on the iPhone to simplify the behavior of the Apple Watch. You want to limit the apps on the watch and customize the notifications so you only get the notifications that are mission critical to you. Limiting the number of Apps to just those you really plan to use on the phone does two things: First it simplifies your Home Screen and makes navigation easier. It also helps with battery life and memory. Secondly you can highly customize what information is sent to the watch as notifications. You will find you will want to limit the notifications on your wrist to the ones you really can’t afford to miss.

Notifications - You can really fine tune the notifications you get on your watch. First you choose the active apps that can send their notifications onto the watch. Then you can decide whether the information simply shows up in the notifications list on the watch or if it also plays a sound. Lastly, and most importantly, does it use taptic feedback where it taps your wrist? This is unique to the watch and makes it much harder to miss important notifications. You can also fine tune some apps to an even finer degree. For example you can set up independent notification preferences for your various email accounts. Some may not send any notifications through to the watch, others can be set to show up on the notifications list and still others can send sound and haptic feedback.

My Notifications - Here is how I set up my Watch. Phone calls send notifications, sound and haptic feed back. If you are in a place where you don’t want to have sound notifications you can temporarily turn these off. Text Messages & Calendar the same. I have 5 e-mail accounts but only the three most important ones send a notification, sound and haptic feedback. The 4th account sends haptic feedback and a notification. The last one sends just a notification. The other apps I allow to send sounds, haptic feedback & a notification to the watch are my to-do list app and my emergency weather alerts app. These are the apps I always want to receive notifications and or sounds from on my watch. I would suggest starting off lean and mean rather than leave everything turned on sending notifications on to the watch. Plus it is easy enough to add things back in. A nice feature is if you get a phone call coming through on the watch and want to mute it, you can turn on a feature where putting your hand over the watch face shuts off the ring and mutes the watch until you reset it.

Watch Faces - You can use one or more customized watch faces on the Apple Watch. Each face has a certain amount of customization you can do to it. Some are highly customizable, some not so much.There are tens of thousands of looks you can create. Once you have done some customization of a watch face, you can save that version of the watch face to recall and use again later. This allows you to have multiple customized watch faces you can load quickly and use to suit your mood or your particular needs at the time.

Complications - Many of the watch faces have something called “Complications” where you are able to display information coming from various apps directly on the watch face. An analogue watch with a day and date display is an example of a complication. The face I use has 4 complications slots available, plus a fifth spot for your initials. I use the 4 complications slots to display the day of the month, the outside air temperature, the state of the battery charge and the countdown timer app. Clicking on some of these complications brings up the app generating the information used for the complication. Clicking on the date brings up the built-in Calendar app. Clicking on the temperature brings up the built-in Weather app. Clicking on the timer symbol brings up the Countdown Timer app. When you set the Countdown Timer the readout is displayed on the watch face. It is too small for my eyes, but tapping on it gives you one click access to see the full sized version of the timer.

Interface-Home Screen - The Watch app allows you several ways to customize the arrangement of the icons on your home screen. You can arrange them so the ones you use the most are in the most accessible location.


Interface-Circle of Friends - You can also set up your circle(s) of friends. This is a way to access the contacts you use the most. When you press once on the button on the side of the watch, it brings up a circle with 12 spots arrayed around it that can be populated with friends, business contacts from your iOS contacts on your iPhone. When you add someone it saves some steps getting “in touch” with them. You click on the side button which brings up your circle of friends. The 12 places have either the persons initials or a picture from their contact page. Clicking on one of these 12 spots brings up the persons initials or contact photo in a larger area in the center. Clicking on this area adds a phone and text message button at the lower left and lower right corner of the screen. Clicking here allows you to call or text the person. If you have multiple phone numbers for someone, then you are presented with a scrolling list of these numbers. This circle of friends is a relatively quick way of directly accessing the people you call most. So it makes sense to set this up when you are doing your initial setup. Originally you had one circle of friends for 12 people total. Watch OS 2.0 added the ability to have multiple circles of friends. So in my case I now have 3 circles: One for friends and family, another for business contacts and a third for local businesses I contact frequently. This last one is for take out pizza and Chinese food, my butcher etc.

Interface-Glances - The last thing to set up is your Glances. Glances are items accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the watch face. They are items that are subsets of apps on the watch or settings items. In theory at least they are just the information you need at a glance. When a glance comes up, you scroll from side to side to view the glances stored on your watch. In Watch OS 1.0 glances were only available for Apple apps, but version 2.0 added the ability for third party apps to have glances. I was excited about this when Watch OS 2.0 came out but in my opinion many third party app developers are struggling with what to do with a glance. Some apps simply don’t have a use that requires a glance. I have glances on my watch for the Main Settings, Battery Status, My Calendar, Maps, My ToDo List, World Clock, Battery Monitor (for the Phone’s Battery), Weather and a Calculator Glance.

My Original Use Case - Did the phone serve the use case I had for it, where I didn’t want to miss any calls? In a word: YES. Between the ring and the haptic feedback (wrist taps) I just about never miss calls. It is a little different now that it is winter. With a heavy jacket on that may cover the phone, I don’t always hear the phone ringing, but I still feel the wrist taps. In a sound sleep I find I hear the rings of a phone (any phone) or my watch, but they are often incorporated into whatever dream I am in the middle of. However the wrist taps from the watch make me realize it is a real phone call and not a dream.

You Forget You Are Wearing It - This was a big shock to me. I had gone 15 years without wearing a watch and was not looking forward to having something strapped to my wrist. The body of the watch is relatively light and the elastomeric watch band is so comfortable, you are barely aware it is there. After a few days I forgot it was there. This is the most comfortable watch I’ve never worn.

Your iPhone Stays in Your Pocket - I had heard this, but I was surprised to the extent it was true. I now sometimes go days where I don’t need to pull my iPhone out. One of the main reasons I used to glance at my iPhone was for the time or date, so obviously a watch replaces this need. I can make and receive calls and texts on the Watch without requiring my access to the phone. One of the things that helps is Siri, the digital assistant, on the Apple Watch works better than it does on the iPhone. It makes far less mistakes in interpreting my dictation which makes sending a text doable. There is also a menu with some canned responses based on your incoming message and what would be appropriate for that text. You could not reply to emails in Watch OS v1.0, but this has changed in version 2.0. So for most of the things I used the phone for I can use the watch. I mentioned my iPhone stays in my pocket for 1 or 2 days at a time. In fact I have had the iPhone run out of juice because I have forgotten about it even being in my pocket. I have since added a Glance that shows me the status of my iPhone battery, so I can make sure it has a good charge.

You Don’t Have to be Tethered to Your iPhone - I work from home. One of the nice things is I can leave my iPhone in my office, say charging, and go to the Kitchen or basement and not worry about missing a call. As long as I am within the range of the Bluetooth connection I will not miss calls.

You Need to Recharge It - This was a big issue for many folks and there were originally many folks complaining about this. The other thing that happens is the first few days you have it, you spend more time playing with it and the battery doesn’t last so long. After a few days of using the Apple Watch I found I was typically getting 24 hours plus of battery life. Also in these times I have to remember to charge my iPhone and iPad and this is no different. If I can remember to charge one of these devices, why not the watch too? In Watch OS Version 2.0 Apple added something called Nightstand Mode. With this on, if you have your phone laying on its side on a table and plugged in to the charger, it displays a digital readout like a table top clock. This mode allows you too charge the phone while you are sleeping, and it is still of some use to you. For me I bought a charging station that sits in front of my work computer. I charge it during the early morning when I am just starting work and not likely to get many calls.

Killer App- For Me - There may not yet be a so called “Killer App” for the Apple Watch. I think developers are still feeling their way around to discover what works and does’t work on the watch. So I don’t know that there is a new family of apps for the watch that make having the watch a necessity. For me I think wrist notifications and Apple Pay are the killer apps for me. I can keep my phone in my pocket and I can customize what items are important enough to make it to my wrist, I can use Apple Pay for quick, nearly effortless, secure payments.

Killer App-For You - If you are thinking of getting an Apple Watch, I would suggest some research so you make an informed decision. There are all kinds of apps for various categories of use. Things like: Health & Fitness, Travel, Games, Sports etc. While they not be anything I am interested in, they could be just what YOU were looking for. Visit the Apple website and go to the Apple Watch section and check out the apps they describe. If one or more look interesting try doing a Google search for reviews of these apps. You may find more (or less) reasons to get the Apple Watch.

USING THE APPLE WATCH-Specific Likes & Dislikes:
These are some of my favorite likes and dislikes in no particular order. They are not specific to BBQ, they are general usage items. For BBQ related items or usage, you will need to read PART 2 of this blog.

Great Time Piece - As a time piece the Apple Watch is the nicest watch I have owned. Because it is essentially a small networked computer it is able to use an internet time server. As a result it keeps very accurate time and does not need to be reset with the coming and going of Daylight Savings Time. Also the date of the month does not have to be reset to suit long and short months.

Customizable Time Face - It is nice being able to pick exactly the data you want to see on the time face. It is also very nice being able to pick the design and in some cases color of the watch face. There is a watch face for every taste too: Modern, classic, photographic etc. You can save settings for your favorite watch faces and load them to suit either you mood or use case.

Apple Pay - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Apple Pay. I have an iPhone 5s which can not do Apple Pay alone. I considered getting a new iPhone just for Apple Pay. I really don’t like the new phablet sized iPhone 6 and beyond. I want a small phone that fits easily in my pocket. If I need a bigger screen than the phone, that is what my iPad is for. The Apple Watch solved that problem. When paired with the iPhone 5s, the watch does Apple Pay. It really doesn’t get much simpler. You double click on the side button on the phone and image of your credit card(s) comes up. If you have more than oe card stored you scroll up or down until the card is on screen. Next you hold the watch face within an 1” (2.5 cm) of the receiver on the credit card machine. Within a few seconds you will hear a ping and the taptic feedback taps your wrist to tell you the signal was received. In less time than it took to describe this, the transaction is done. Plus the transaction is between that terminal and the bank of your credit card. The local merchant gets no information about you other than a confirmation the purchase was approved. So no secure data about you is given to the merchant to lose in a subsequent data breach. The only downside to this is not everyone takes Apple Pay, but this is changing. Usually if say a pharmacy like CVS doesn’t take it, a competitor like Walgreens does. I make a point of shopping at places that do take Apple Pay. I also make a point of mentioning to managers of businesses that don’t take Apple Pay, that I plan to take my business to their competitors that do. I had a manager at the local CVS tell me they really didn’t feel the need to offer the service, because no one was asking for it. I told him that is fine, Walgreens thinks differently and that shopping there instead of here works just fine for me.

Discreetness - You can glance at your Apple Watch discreetly when a notification comes in and be very low key about it. Normally I can get through a meal or a meeting without constantly needing to see my emails, text messages etc. I am not that self important where I have to be constantly on top of all of this stuff. But when my mother was sick and I could’t afford to miss notifications of phone calls, texts or certain emails, I was able to stay on top of things discreetly without being rude about it. You can tailor your notifications so the important ones will tap your wrist, even if the sound on the watch is muted.

Always With You - If you really feel the need to be constantly connected, the watch goes a long way towards doing this. Except when you are charging it, it is always on your wrist. While it is not waterproof it is said to be water resistant. You can exercise with it, be out in the rain and wash your hands with the watch on. Many people have even showered with their Apple Watch and it has survived. At night you can keep it on the night stand next to your bed and still get alerts while it is charging. Also for those of you who don’t want to be awakened every time the watch gets an alert, iOS for the phone has a “Do Not Disturb” mode where you can mute most alerts between certain hours. With phone calls you can choose to hear sound from all phone calls, no phone calls or from a selected group in your Contacts. There is also a feature where a second phone call from the same number within 3 minutes will ring through the second time. So you can choose to be fully connected all of the time or fully connected some of the time.

You don’t have to always have the iPhone on your person as long as you are within the range of the WiFi and/or Bluetooth signals. The maximum range of Bluetooth 4.0 is said to be 330’ (100 m) and WiFi depends on the version of the WiFi standard. Real world conditions ( walls, certain electronic signals, some microwaves, satellite dishes) can cut down on the reception. You mileage may vary. I can relay my own experience, which is at home the signal reaches as far as I need it to. When I am working I often leave the phone on my desk near my computer. More comfortable than in my pocket and readily accessible. I get calls and notifications on the watch from anywhere in the house, including the basement. It is nice because I can go to the kitchen or anywhere else in the house and not have to remember to drag the phone along. What surprised me was the reception I get outdoors when the phone is indoors. The foil faced insulation added to my exterior walls when the house was resided really affect the over the air signals from my Maverick remote read thermometers. But with my phone in my office I have gotten phone calls at out at my grilling area about 60’ (18 m) away. I was very surprised early one morning when my watch rang when I was at the end of my driveway putting out the trash about 100’ (30 m) away. So for me, my iPhone stays on the desk in my office when I am home and only comes with me when I need to go on a trip away from the house.

Extended the Life and Usefulness of My Existing iPhone - This was my own personal issue, but there may be others that feel the same as I do. I really don’t like the small tablet sized (phablet) phones. I think they are too big and look a little ridiculous held up to your face to make a call. If I need a bigger screen, that is what my iPad brings to the table. I was actually happy with the screen size of my iPhone 4. I was not happy when Apple increased the screen size on the iPhone 5 and 5s series. I reluctantly bought an iPhone 5s to get the touch ID feature introduced in that series of phones. I looked at the 6 series of phones because I was quite interested in Apple Pay, but I just couldn’t deal with the larger size. Adding the Apple Watch did two great things for me. It has allowed me to get into Apple Pay and keep my existing iPhone 5s which I really like. I have saved some money on upgrading my phone and I have extended its feature set. When I bought the watch, one of the ways I justified the purchase was the fact that I would not be needing to buy an iPhone 6 or 6s or the new phones that would come out in the fall. My patience seems to have been rewarded too: If you believe the rumors, Apple will be coming out with an iPhone 5/5s sized phone in the next few months. I will need to look at the new features closely, because now that I have my Apple Watch I may not need a new phone at all right now.

Interface Inconsistencies - The Apple Watch introduced a new gesture or way of touching your watch. It is called Force Touch and is where you press hard on the screen. The taptic feedback vibrates in such a way that it feels like the screen actually depresses with a click when you use Force Touch. So far so good. The problem is Force Touch is not used in a consistent manner throughout your user experience with the watch. Sometimes Force Touch does something, sometimes nothing and there seems to be no consistency between different apps. You are left with just trying it for yourself to see what works. Sometimes there are really cool features buried behind a Force Touch gesture and you have no idea they are there. It isn’t just Force Touch gestures, there are inconsistencies in various aspects of the Watch OS user interface. Some of these were improved on in Watch OS Version 2. The rest of the Apple Watch interface is good enough that overall I do like it, but these inconsistencies are annoying when you see how good the rest of the user interface is. I am also hoping some of this will disappear with subsequent versions of Watch OS.

Interface is Too Hard to Use (Not) - Many tech pundants claimed the Apple Watch interface was too hard to use. Silly me, I actually believed some of these “experts” who often seem to have to find something, anything negative to say about an Apple product. I was prepared to have a bit of a tough time learning to use my new watch. Other than some of the inconsistencies I mentioned in the last section, I find the interface extremely easy to use. Sure it is different, but the interface for a iPhone or Mac would make no sense on a watch sized device. The Watch OS interface is tailored to the size of the watch and the tools available to interact with the watch. It made sense to me for the most part and was easy and intuitive to learn. I think a lot of this is pundents needing negative headlines to get more clicks/readers. You do need to learn a somewhat different way of working, but Apple has done a great job of bringing a user interface to a small sized screen. No one knew how to use an iPhone when they came out, but now this user interface is second nature to many folks. The same will soon be true of the Apple Watch.

Apps of Questionable Use - Just because an iPhone app has a Apple Watch version of the app, it doesn’t mean you want or need to install it. Some developers seems to have put a lot of thought into what folks might need or want in an app intended for the small screen of a watch. Others seem to have simply rushed an app of questionable use out for the watch, just so they can say they have an app for the Apple Watch. Not every app makes sense or works well on the small screen. As I mentioned in the setup, you should simplify what is on your watch. Only keep apps on it that are truly useful in general and that you will actually use. It will help you find apps on the home screen and less apps means better battery life. A similar thing happened when Apple introduced third party Glances for the watch with Watch OS2. I think this feature of Watch OS2 was the one that excited me the most prior to the release of Watch OS2 in the fall. Developers rushed to add Glances to their apps. Some are good and some are totally useless. I have several apps that I either removed entirely or turned off the glances for.

I don't think I was the typical buyer for the Apple Watch. The first 4 months after its release, I followed its story with interest. I had an unexpected use case for the Apple watch come up and I bought it. The watch solved that problem, but that use case only lasted a short time as it turned out. After having it for 6 months, would I change my original stance that I would wait till the second or third generation version before buying? This is a tough call. There is no clear answer for me. I like my Apple Watch, I like some of the capabilities it has. But is it a must have for me now? Probably not. Still, I don’t wish I could get my money back. If I hadn’t bought it back in July, I probably would not have bought it since. I probably would have waited another generation of two for the hardware.

It is definitely a first generation product that has yet to truly come into its own. If you want a smart watch or need a new watch and own an iPhone 5 or newer, I don’t think you could do better. I also think it is the most attractive smart watch I have seen. I feel the 38mm version I have comes the closest to looking like a traditional watch and not some oversized freak of nature. But also keep in mind I am not a fan of the huge so-called “phablet” (phone/tablet) sized phones. One other possible selling point I cannot personally address is if you are into the health and fitness aspect of the watch. For many people using some of the health and fitness capabilities of the watch has been a positive and in some cases a life-changing experience.The other thing I mentioned is the Apple Watch has allowed me to hang on to my older iPhone 5s longer than I might have. Plus depending on watch Apple comes out with for a new 5s sized replacement, I may be able to hold on to the phone even longer. While I can’t tell you what is right for you, hopefully I have given you some “Food for thought”. Speaking of food, this is a food related website and I will get back onto that topic with
PART 2 of this blog entry. In PART 2 I will describe some of the uses and benefits I have found for the Apple Watch in the cooking as well as the grilling and smoking area.


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