The Apple Watch: A useful gadget or just a fashion show-off?

Ten days ago I got the black stainless steel Apple Watch:

watch01

As a guy who loves technology, especially computers, phones and other gadgets, I’ve “always” wanted a smartwatch. But I didn’t buy any because I felt it still was a young technology, and as far as the reviews I have read the smartwatches (mostly Android) wasn’t very impressive or useful. And as everything else in tech: wait and a better unit will arrive. With a lower price tag.

About a year ago I bought the Apple iPhone 6 Plus (read about it here). The pro and cons in my blogpost from then are still the same, and I’m still satisfied (and bored!) with the 6 Plus. No plans to buy a new smartphone yet (an iPhone 7 or a Microsoft Surface Phone might change that).

It felt of course obvious to choose the Apple Watch after I decided to give in.

Oozing quality

From picking up the big, heavy white box containing the Apple Watch, to opening it, to strapping the watch to my wrist, to turning it on and pairing it with my iPhone. Charging it. Not least looking at it and touching it. All this is oozing quality. No doubts, no bad experiences, no squirks, no loose parts. Just quality all over. If you ever wonder about the success Apple has had/have with their products, just pick up any Apple device and feel the quality.

Is it useful?

I’ve read some reviews of the Apple Watch stating something like “it is nice, but after a week it ended up in the drawer”. “I’m not sure about the usefulness of this gadget”. “Too expensive, too few functions”. And so on. Do I agree with these statements? No!

When pairing the Apple Watch with the iPhone the first time, all the apps on the phone who has a Watch-version was automatically installed on the watch. Nice! Then working my way through the setup, fiddling with different apps, I felt really satisfied with the user experience. After understanding that a drag down from the top opens notifications, a drag up from the bottom open ups the glances, a tap on the crown opens the app overview and a tap on the other button opens my favorite contacts, then it is all set. Just start using the pretty thing!

watchface

Use it as a watch

Use it for what? Well, you could use it as a watch. But the watch in this watch is more than a watch (I should trademark that sentence!). You can change the watch face by firmly pressing on it. In addition to show the time and date, it can show you complications:

complications

“But I don’t want any complications” you might say. These ones you will like: Stocks, weather, sunrise/-set, Outlook mail, activities, battery status, calendar and so on. All these (not at the same time, but up to four of them) at a glance on your watch. Useful!

Some users have complained that the screen doesn’t always turn on when they move their hand to check the time, they have to tap on the screen to activate it. I still haven’t seen this problem yet. And I think it looks cool when the screen is completely black when inactive. As long as it turns on again, that is. The problem might have been related to earlier versions of the WatchOS, my watch is on version 2.1.

Then there is all the rest

Use it for health and fitness: Plan and perform your training. It will show your steps, meters walked/run, and a lot more. An overview of your activities plus nice, useful and configurable notifications. Sitting too much? Stand up! Go for a walk/run/whatever? Start and stop tracking, get useful info as you go.

WatchApps

Use it for calls and messaging: Just ask Siri to call or send a message to someone. And receive calls/messages and reply to them in an easy way.

Use it as a notification center: Get info about emails, appointments, social media activites and more as gentle notifications with or without sound or vibration. You can even answer messages and emails from the notifications. Either with voice, predefined messages or emojis.

Use it for navigation: Ask Siri for directions, follow the map and the instructions.

Use it for taking notes: Talk to e.g. Microsoft OneNote. It will take a note as you speak. And of course synchronize it via your iPhone to the Cloud and to all your gadgets with OneNote installed.

Use it as a remote control: For your Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, for your Apple TV, for the camera on your iPhone, for the music player. Practical.

Then there are all the other apps, those made by Apple plus all the third party apps. A lot of useful (and some not so useful) apps for news, traveling, banking, music, note taking, GTD, food, gaming, social media. A lot.

Conclusion

After just ten days my conclusion is clear: the Apple Watch is a very capable and useful smartwatch. It has made me pick up my iPhone less, it gives me necessary info discreet, it has contributed to get me motivated for an extra walk, it has made me answer the phone on my watch!

It is pretty:

Nothing negative?

Honestly, so far nothing negative. It has to be charged every night (even though you might stretch the battery to almost two days), but so do I. I like the size and looks of it, so a thinner Apple Watch wouldn’t make any difference for me. The day when Apple decides to not release OS-updates for this version of the watch, and the day the battery starts to drain too fast. Those days will come. But I do belive, taken the track record of Apple so far, that this first version of the Apple Watch will last for some years.

There are rumors that Apple might launch a new version of Apple Watch in March 2016. I don’t believe that will happen because the first version hasn’t reach all corners of the world yet (new countries got it one or two weeks ago). Another thing: the Apple Watch is expensive. Just ask those who bought the gold-version. I don’t think Apple would come up with a new watch already – that would make both us with the “standard” versions of the watch but also those who lately bought the most expensive versions pretty upset.

gold.png

Talking about the price. Of course one could complain. It is an expensive gadget. But considering the high quality materials, the high quality build,  the high quality content (apps) I think it is worth it. And yes, it is fashionable too, and you can buy high quality straps in different colors and making. Or the Edition version.

Or you could just buy an Windows 10 mobile phone and get glance screen functionality and live tiles. Then you probably don’t need a smartwatch! 😉

One more thing…

Security. Privacy. If you jump on the smartwatch-wagon you can also wave goodbye to your privacy. That is, if you choose to use the Apple Watch just as a watch and in offline mode, you’re good. But if you use it as it is supposed to be used, you will be tracked, tracked and tracked. I am very aware of the security risks with all gadgets combined with the Internet. We all do have something to hide, even if we don’t.

So you have to make a decision: participate in the “data stream” or stay (for the most part) offline. Of course there is a middle way: Use all possible security enhancements on your devices (encryption, lock codes, passwords, VPN and so on). I do. But with this watch I feel I have taken a step out on the thin, privacy ice. To comfort myself I just remind me that iOS and WatchOS are more secure than Android, the Apple App Stores are more secure than other app stores and so on.

ApplePrivacy

According to Apple they use encryption on the Apple Watch too. Encryption is used with Apple Pay, iMessage and FaceTime, Health and Fitness, and more. This makes me feel more secure.

Even if you don’t use any smartwatch or any apps on your phone, you will still be “tracked down” via cell towers or IMSI catchers. This is just how it is. At the end it is up to you – use your gadgets in a secure and strict manner, or let go and use them as most people do.

Just for the record (see my older blog posts and you’ll understand this statement) : I haven’t turned completely Apple “soft” or turned my back to Microsoft. I am just waiting and waiting for the Windows 10 platform to get mature and for Microsoft (or any other quality provider) to come up with a high-end quality smartphone and even a smartwatch (yes, I know the Microsoft Band exists).

All pictures from http://www.apple.com/watch

 

Advertisements

How to set up VPN on Windows Phone 8.1

Introduction

Hopefully most Internet surfers are aware of how insecure the Internet is. Almost every day we can read news about new security breaches. To keep yourself more secure online, you should use VPN when connecting to the Internet. Other important security options are to use encryption to encrypt your data before you upload and share it. More about encryption in another blog post.

First of all: What is VPN? Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, such as the Internet. It enables a computer or Wi-Fi-enabled device to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it were directly connected to the private network, while benefiting from the functionality, security and management policies of the private network.

A VPN connection across the Internet is similar to a wide area network (WAN) link between websites. From a user perspective, the extended network resources are accessed in the same way as resources available within the private network.

Next question: why use VPN? Here is an interesting article from Lifehacker. It is a couple of years old, but still relevant. Here an excerpt:

The most important thing you need to know about a VPN: It secures your computer’s internet connection to guarantee that all of the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and secured from prying eyes.

Illustration borrowed from Private Internet Access

Illustration borrowed from Private Internet Access

 VPN on a smartphone

So why should you use VPN on a smartphone? Well, for the same reason you use (or should use) VPN on a computer: Security. If you connect your smartphone to the Internet on a public Wi-Fi like at a coffee shop, you should use VPN. Most public Wi-Fi’s are far from secure.

VPN on Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft finally added the possibility to use VPN on a Windows Phone with the 8.1 update. But until recently, it hasn’t been easy (almost impossible?) to get VPN to work with other VPN-systems than workplace related solutions and some VPN apps (as described here over at Microsoft Lumia Conversations). So out of reach for most Windows Phone users. Until now!

Some weeks ago I tried to set up VPN access on my Nokia Lumia 1020 (WP 8.1 DP) via the popular VPN provider Private Internet Access (note: I’m not affiliated with them, and have no connection to them besides using their solution). Windows Phone is not listed there under the setup guides, and in the PIA forum there are questions (but no answers as far as I can see) on how to get it to work. And I was not able to get it to work. Then, some days ago, I tried again, and it worked! I don’t know why, probably either Microsoft or PIA has done some changes somewhere.

Well, here is how I did it:

Setup without any app

First of all, to use Private Internet Access (PIA) as your provider, you have to register and buy VPN access from them. The lowest price is $3.33/month. I have not tried other providers, there might be other solutions that works on Windows Phone (leave a note in the comments below if you know of any). I selected PIA.

When you have registered, you will get a username and a password. They are used to get access to your account on PIA’s homepage, bu you also need them to use VPN on your smartphone.

On your Windows Phone

Go to Settings (drop down menu, tap All Settings), tap on VPN:

Settings - VPN

Settings – VPN

Tap the + sign to add a VPN profile:

Settings VPN

Tap the + at the bottom

Fill in the different fields like this (see below):

Add profile – see field description below

Server name or IP address: xxxx.private.internetaccess.com (where xxxx is the country you want to use, like Germany or Sweden. See PIA’s homepage for which countries that are available; they have servers in 11 different countries).

Type: L2TP with IPSec

Connect using: username+password+preshared key

Username: Your username at PIA

Password: The password connected to your username at PIA

Preshared Key: This is a key generated at PIA. Visit their homepage, click Client Support. Log in with your PIA username and password. Then you will see something like this:

Key

The important thing is that your Preshared Key is the characters from the Password: field (see screenshot above, do not use your PIA password in the Preshared Key field).

Connect automatically: I have turned this off, so I can decide when I want to use VPN or not.

Send all traffic: I have turned it On.

Profile Name: Private Internet Access

Now, just tap save.

How to connect via VPN

Make sure you’re connected to Internet via a WiFi network on your Windows Phone. Then turn VPN on, and voila!

VPN on

VPN on!

So when the keylock is show in the corner of the WiFi-symbol, then your Windows Phone is connected to Internet via VPN. To check if this really is the case, you can visit WhatIsMyIPAddress from your smartphone browser. It will show an IP-address from the country you chosed in the setup (see above).

I hope this blog post will help you getting online via VPN on your Windows Phone. Feel free to leave a comment. Stay secure!