Apple watch – review after a year

I got the Apple Watch last year and I have been using it for every day ever since and I love it. Below is a brief review after using the watch for over an year.

tl:dr I love it and it is totally the best smart watch you can get.  (You may want to wait a few months as apple watch 2 might launch in Oct 2016)

Pros:

  • Works great as fitness tracker. It has tracking for most common workout needs you may have.
  • Notifications on the watch have been a huge time saver. Huge time saver while driving or in meetings. Some times you can take a step forward and acknowledge messsages (A quick reply is just a tap away).
  • A plethora of apps have evolved. They help  with tracking productivity and reminders etc
  • Siri works well.
  • Bling aspect is still true as was when it launched.
  • Watch faces and the interchangeable bands help suit the mood/trend/fashion.

Cons:

  • Was too slow. (Not any more, watchOS 3 fixes it and the speed increase is phenomenal).
  • Battery life wasn’t  great. I8 hours wasn’t great in comparison to the fitbits and Garmins that last for a week. Not much of a deal breaker for me.
  • Sleep tracking isn’t part of the watch at all. The pillow app fixes this. I wish the watch had native tracking like the Fitbits do.

Watch OS 3:  It is a phenomal update that would be coming to the watch soon. I am testing it on my watch, it isn’t stable yet, but it opens up the watch in a multitude of ways and adressess most of the complaints and restrictiveness it had.

You may think, I am just an apple fan boy and hence my fanatcism with it. Actually I have tested the Fitbit Surge (still own one),  Fitbit  Flex  and  a Garmin Vivofit as my daily activity trackers/ smart watches. So far, the most satisfying experience has been from the Apple watch and hence my recommendation above.

iOS 8- Keyboards

iOS has come a long way since the version 1.0, in fact it has been 8 years since the OS was first launched. To be truly judgemental, version 8 has seen the most exciting features ever since the launch of App store. Since this is a very detailed post on iOS 8 Keyboard Extensions and there are quite a lot of features that shipped with iOS 8, its better you check out the full list of features elsewhere here.

Extensions across iOS has been the most talked about feature of this release, and I have been looking forward to third party keyboard extensions ever since I saw the swipe keyboards on Android. iOS 8 brings keyboard extensions to all iOS 8 supported devices which are iPhone 4S and later models, iPod 5th Generation, iPad 2nd Genartation and later and iPad Mini all versions. Here is how some popular third party keyboards work and how they fare so far in real life. But before that some

Caveats
  • Some third party keyboards can log all keystrokes and logged keystrokes can be shared over the network with the app developer for performance improvements of the keyboard. This potentially could become a security issue and might ring an alarm bell in those with privacy paranoid minds. As much as these keyboards are allowed to capture keystrokes, Apple hasn’t yet allowed these third party keyboards to type security credentials, such as passwords, credit card details, etc. For example while using a third party keyboard, encountering a password field or a credit card field, the keyboard is reset to Apple’s default keyboard and hence third party keyboards aren’t allowed to enter any secure credentials. So in a sense Apple has opened up privacy a bit, but not completely that every details of the user might be compromised. That said the username field is still exposed and so your email id’s or usernames , address details, etc., can be collected in the background.
  • Keyboards are designed to learn our typing patterns by default, which means switching to a new keyboard will come with quite a bit of a learning curve. We are also throwing out our habits and the learnings of the default keyboard and starting afresh. Be prepared to be autocorrected while you type your name or email, etc because the new keyboard hasn’t learnt the spelling yet. This could be very annoying especially if you are used typing in a language not supported by the third party keyboards.
  • Some times some apps open up without any keys in the keyboard. iOS 8 has issues is my guess here. Manually killing the app and reopening the app fixes it. Some times its better off to restart the phone and be done with it. Some times the keyboard just doesn’t load at all even after a restart (text expander once vanished never to return until a reinstall). Reinstalling the app might be a good idea. Since this is very early days of the keyboard extensions, Lets give the developers and Apple a little slack on these. I am sure these issues will be ironed out in a few more months.
  • Lack of consistency is a very big deal with these keyboards. Apple hasn’t given these keyboards a set of standards yet and hence some keyboards don’t offer the same switching mechanisms between multiple keyboards. For instance, with the Fleksy keyboard, press and hold the number key button to switch to the next keyboard while the text expander uses the smiley software icon to switch to the next keyboard.

Despite all these pain points, some of the keyboards are worth the time, effort and the money, simply because of the time it saves in the longer run and for their ease of use.

Myriad keyboards

There are variety of Keyboards available from Third party developers. Some of the prominent ones are listed and explained briefly.

  1. Swype Keyboard
  2. Swift Key Keyboard
  3. Text Expander Keyboard
  4. Fleksy Keyboard
  5. Emoji++ Keyboard
  6. PopKey Animated GIF Keyboard
  7. MyScript Stack-Handwriting Keyboard

I have tried most of them and will elaborate on each further below. Before that a brief primer on how to get a third party keyboard activated. Third party keyboards are available as any other app in the store. There is no way yet to distinguish a keyboard app from any other app as of yet, but once you open a keyboard extension app, it just has steps on how to activate the keyboard with some tutorials and settings.
Once you download the keyboard app, just open up settings to activate it. Here is how the navigation looks on my iPhone, should looks the same on your iOS 8 device.

Settings >General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard

Select the third party keyboard from the list of available keyboards. Some keyboards only work when they are granted full access(to capture all keystrokes, send them over the internet, syncing etc).You might have to grant the permissions by navigating to the select keyboard and enabling full access.If you are paranoid, I would suggest you read the privacy policy of the app before deciding to grant the full access.  That said, I doubt if any developer will be able to gather any data that could potentially harm me. When you grant the full access, You will be greeted with a warning message such as shown below.

Privacy Warning

Mainstream keyboards

I have called the keyboards that are suitable for all day use as mainstream keyboards. These keyboards can be used as standalone keyboards and work equivalently well like the apple’s default keyboard.

  1. Swype Keyboard
    Swype keyboard by Nuance is my favourite among the third party keyboards. It costs a dollar and to me it has been the best of the swipe gesture based keyboards so far, and not to mention that the keyboard works with out granting full access. Other keyboards keep annoying you by asking you to grant full access. Swype is very smart at recognising the words from your swipes and has been the most accurate of the swipe keyboards so far. Again if your are not the type of person who likes to swipe on the screen then this might not be the keyboard for you. It does come with a few themes built in. I personally like the dark theme. It also has a personal dictionary to add words that aren’t in the dictionary. The personal dictionary is big plus given none of my friends names are in the english dictionary :).  These minor features are the ones that makes this my most preferred third party keyboard on iOS 8.
    Swype Keyboard
    Ease of use:- 8.5/10 Accuracy:–8.5/10
  2. Swift Key Keyboard
    Swift key is yet another swipe gesture based keyboard, only that the keyboard is free. You can opt in to sync your keyboard data between your devices by granting access to your Facebook or Google Plus profile. This does enable syncing between multiple devices that support swift key. Since I don’t have the need for this  syncing yet, I haven’t tried this feature yet and yeah I am a little apprehensive about giving access to Facebook, Google plus, contacts for a keyboard to work efficiently. I’d rather pay the $1 for the Swype Keyboard and be done with it than give the keyboard my social profile. That said the keyboard works quite fine without the opt in. The keyboard is very close to Swype during use, but somehow I couldn’t keep using this swift key for long time  as when compared to Swype. The swype felt a lot more easier and tolerant of swiping errors compared to  the Swift Key. However the swift key has an advantage over the Swype in terms completing a word that has been partially edited. Swype doesn’t recognise the partially edited word at all, while swift juste completes the word with out any issues.
    Swift Key Keyboard
    Ease of use:- 8.5 Accuracy:- 8
  3. Text Expander Keyboard
    Text Expander by Smile software is a different type of main stream keyboard among the various third party keyboards. Text expander touch is an iOS app that aims to bring all the features of Text expander for Mac to iOS. It has a built in keyboard that magically expands text expander snippets on your iOS device. If you are an avid user of text expander for Mac, this one is going to be a time saver on the phone too. Text expander touch works as a standalone app too without its counterpart on the mac, but it unleashes a whole new level of connectedness to your mac if you pair it with the Mac version. Text Expander touch is kind of a big deal that there are  iOS apps that are tweaked to take full advantage of the text expander keyboard with formatted text and so on. Here is a full list of apps enhanced for the text expander touch. Text expander keyboard comes in very handy when I need to expand a mail template or my email address, Address, my phone no , etc. Except for these types of situations I prefer to use the Swype keyboard because I am so much faster swiping on it than typing.
    The sync between the mac and the iOS is not that very seamless yet, some times it does require the app to opened up on the phone to sync the new snippets from mac and then it starts picking up the new snippets. Except the one time when the keyboard vanished never to return, I have had a good run with this keyboard. If you are a heavy Text expander user on the mac, $5 is totally worth it  for this iOS 8 keyboard.
    Text Expander Keyboard
    Ease of use:- 8.5/10 Accuracy:- 8.5/10
  4. Fleksy Keyboard
    Fleksy keyboard is a mixture of type keyboard and a gesture based keyboard. To elaborate, we type words by tapping keys and gestures are used to edit/punctuate/delete the words. Since this heavily relies on autocorrect, autosuggestion the accuracy of the keyboard varies across a wide spectrum. After 8 years everyone of us have learnt not to trust the iOS autocorrect, Haven’t we? . Some times typing a word feels like solving a puzzle, and gosh you realise you missed space between two words and it’s trying to autosuggest based on the spelling of both words combined. If you have large fingers, accidental pressing  of the neighbouring key is unavoidable thereby sending the autosuggest for a toss and you will end up deleting the whole word and sometimes typing the word again and again.The keyboard does come with a variety of themes and has options to make the keys larger/smaller to choose from.
    The keyboard comes with inbuilt Emoji support. To make the app more fun, the app developers have created  badges that  you can earn as your usage increases. Fleksy Keyboard
    Ease of use:- 7.5 Accuracy:- 7
Supplementary keyboards

I have classified keyboards that can’t be used as the only keyboard on the device, as supplementary keyboards.

  1. Emoji++ Keyboard
    This is a special keyboard meant only for Emoji’s by David Smith. Simply put it’s the best implementation of the Emoji keyboard which apple should have done. It cost a $1 in the app store. I like it that I can pin my most used emoji’s as favourites. Since it’s not a mainstream keyboard, I won’t be giving any ratings for it, But it is totally worth the price. Guess what Gruber loves it too.
  2. PopKey Animated GIF Keyboard
    For those GIF aficionados, this is the best GIF keyboards out there. It does require you to signup for an account with PopKey. It needs internet access to work. It does have the feature to upload your own GIF’s and to choose from Gif available from the thousands of curated GIF’s by the app developers. I am not that much into GIF’s so I use it only when I am conversing with a friend who likes GIF’s. That said some apps like Whatsapp doesn’t support GIF files rendering this keyboard useless with the app.
    Popkey GIF keyboard
  3. MyScript Stack-Handwriting Keyboard
    The MyScript stack keyboard is handwriting recognition keyboard. One just scribbles the letters into the keyboard space and it converts them into characters and text. It is one of the fun keyboards to play around with, but wouldn’t recommend it for mainstream use. Accuracy is very tricky based on your handwriting and how big your fingers are, how quick you are , etc. I would use this only on the iPad for the kids for them to practice the alphabets, besides that I have no time for this keyboard.
    Stack-Handwriting keyboard

These are early days and iOS 8 isn’t quite smooth, with the way it handles third party keyboards yet. Till may be iOS 8.1 when keyboard handling and switching become smoother, I would recommend you to keep the Apple’s default keyboard turned on at all times and use the third party keyboard of your choice along with the Apple keyboard. My current setup has Swype, Text expander touch, emoji++ along with the Apple keyboard.Yeah I know that is too much of them to handle, but this is optimal for me right now. I am mostly using the Swype most places and the rest do find some infrequent use in special circumstances. What  third party keyboards are you using. Let me know in the comments or on twitter.

 

Analytics 3d

After reading my review of Analytics Pro, Richard from Codefrontiers sent me a promo code for trying their new app called Analytics3D. Below is a brief opinion of mine after using the app for the past week.

A very interesting app approach to view Google analytics data on you iphone or ipad. I must say the app is good. It adds a bit of spice to the monotonous apps that can just show Google Analytics data on your iDevice of choice. What I like about the app is that it has a gestures to navigate within categories. The location of visitors is my favorite feature. The bars on location view in a 3D is really cool. If you already are using an app for Google Analytics and you are interested to try something cool and a different app, this is the app for you.

As much as the app is cool, some functions/gestures aren’t obvious making it a bit confusing initially. Once you figure out it feels obvious. In all Analytics3D is a cool app, worth a try. Ideal for individuals who have blogs or personal sites and are not digging deep into their stats data, but just trying to get an overview of how their site is faring Its on the store for $2.99 and u can download from here

Analytics PRO review

Ever since I moved to the self hosted blog, I have played around with measuring traffic on the site and i get to closely observe and learn about site analytics and web metrics. It has been over 6 months since I moved to godaddy in november i have had traffic stats enabled on my site and my goto analytics solution has been google analytics. I must say I have tried a lot of analytics solutions like statcounter, clicky, Piwik. I have always retained Google Analytics, Not just because its free but more so because it has a lot of tutorials and support communites to learn from.

Ever since I have turned analytics on, I always needed an app on the phone to check the stats from Google analytics when I am completely off for a few days without my machine. There are quite a long list of apps which are free and quite handy and basic. I ve tried a few may be 3 of them, and then I just bought the Analytics pro(App Store link, look at the screenshots) app. Its on the store for 6$ and i must agree its worth every penny of it. I like this app so much that i just prefer using the app more than the google analytics site itself.I used 3 free apps for their various features and now all three have been replaced by one app “Analytics Pro”.

So whats so special about the app you ask?

The single most reason why i would suggest you to buy this is that, you wont find a feature thats missing from the google analytics site. Well you can’t do everything on the app, but i must say that is the max any app would be allowed to do using the google’s api.

The app is slick, well thought out and neatly crafted.

I am sure after months of use that the app is very secure. It uses OAuth to connect to your google account. Which i think is quite safe. Though i dont have a proof to substantiate, I can definietly acknowledge that nothing has broken with my google account since i started used the app.

It supports multiple sites if you have them linked on the same google account or with multiple google accounts.

You can do a tonne of customization and choose from past 7/14/21/28 days along with a look at today and yesterday. You can choose your own time frame as well if you need and choose to have a 7 day running average on the graphs and so on.

Content and Traffic Source drill down is phenomenal.You should just try it, Its so damn detailed, that hardly would you notice that you are on the app and not on the website.

Most importantly if you have goals set on Google Analytics site, you can track them on the app in your choice of currency from the 25 supported which is really cool. The app does display e-commerce tracking if your site has been configured for.I have no idea how the e-commerce tracking works though, since i don’t have an e-commerce site

If you are looking for a whole list of features please read them here.

While I bought the app purely based on the screen shots on the app store, I haven’t been disappointed at all. There may be a lot of apps for Google Analytics on the app store but this has been the best of the lot of what I tried.All my needs of tracking my site on the phone using Google is being taken care by Analytics pro. My Go to app for tracking. I use it daily and I would recommend it to you as well.

Sennheiser Adidas CX 680i Sports Headset-Review

Its been over 6 months since I bought the Sennheiser Adidas CX 680i Sports Headset from Infibeam for a great deal. I think now is probably a good time to write a review of it,given i have used it, crashed with it and enjoyed it over past 6 months.

Some background

If you are a regurlar here at my site you would know that I’m a cyclist and and my primary phone is an iPhone. Since the apple ear phones were almost onto their end of life last July, I started looking for ear phones. My requirements were very specific as follows.

  1. Brilliant Audio Quality.
  2. Must be specific for use with an iPhone.
  3. Affordable.
  4. Must have some kind of sweat/water resistance.
  5. Durable (should last for a year at the very least)
  6. Comfortable.

With these criteria in mind and kind of products available in the market in India, I finally narrowed on the Sennheiser Adidas sports series. Luckily there was a CX 680i which was the model I liked. It suited my needs.I think it has been discontinued and the newer ones are called 685 series.

The HeadSet

I chose the in ear headphones not that I am big fan of those but because they suit the cyclist with a helmet :).

  1. The Headset is really very light and you dont feel a thing when they are in your palm. It is about 15gms i beleive. Not that i wanted something heavier, I just mentioned it coz, you dont feel a thing on a ride and thats great.

  2. The audio quality is simply brilliant. These ear phones have redefined the way I prefer to listen music these days. May be its just me, probably these were the first time I heard such high quality audio on a good headset. Nevertheless its totally worth the price. The headphones are quite balanced I must say, Over the past 6 months I’ve heard all types of music and it delivers on all kinds of music consitently, unlike dr dre beats which prefer a lot of bass in the music.

  3. The Ear adapters are pretty flush and come in three sizes, Small, medium and Large. I use a medium. It just needs a bit of getting used to, then they just disappear. If you are already used to in ear headphones, it wont take really long. Now i literally feel nothing in my ears even after i plug the headphones in the earphones. The Music just flows.

  4. I must say there is a more noise cancelation especially at high volumes than you would have thought there will be. I really wasnt concerned of noise cancelation at all given that I would prefer hear the horn sounds of vehicles behind me on the road than get ridden over by the vehicles. The noise cancelation is pretty good when you are in bus/ train on your commutes. On the bike I just keep the volume a bit low so that I can hear vehicles behind.

  5. The cables are really long and helps me when i am riding with my iphone on the jersey pockets.

  6. The headset survived a crash I had like a week after I bought them, though there are cosmetic damages, the functionality is still perfect. The crash was so bad that i had to stay off the bike for almost 25 days. you can see the plastic scraped off near the mic(small hole) while I went flying at around 30 odd kmph due to a pinch cut. . May be i got lucky it survived, but i must say these will last a year or more with normal use. Have used it in all sorts of sweaty environments and have never had any issues with the ear phones what so ever.

The only thing I hate about them is that they came in a fluorescent yellow colour which is not my choice at all.Its a compromise I made considering the value of the ear phones. I looked at the newer models from the series and i must say the Sennheiser CX 685 Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones is pretty much the same except its without a mic but with better colours. You still do get the Sennheiser Adidas CX 680i Sports Headset on Amazon, which is totally worth it if you can stand the colours. Hope you found the review useful.

Updates as on 11th march 2014:

Its been over a year and half now, these headsets are still going strong. I have been using them almost everyday and I do not see any difference in the sound quality. The headphones do get dirty from time to time and you just have to use some wet wipes and they just get back to their radiance. Minor scuffs are showing up on the cable housing, but not enough to cause me to stop using the headset on my bike commutes. I expect them to last another 8 months to an year at this rate. Will keep you guys posted.

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