A Brief Review of the Orange Nomad Sport Band

I’ve been leaning into the orange bands with the Apple Watch Ultra. They look great, particularly with that big orange button on the side. The problem is that my Apple Orange Alpine Loop is getting filthy. I wanted an orange band appropriate for working in the yard and whatnot so I ordered the Nomad Orange Sport Band.
It arrived a few days ago, and I’m digging it. The material is “Premium” fluoroelastomer. It feels good on my wrist and the abundance of holes makes it comfortable, even when I’m working outside and sweating. It feels secure and looks easy to clean. If you’ve got the orange watch band bug, this is one to check out.

The Trouble with Apple Watch Faces

I’ve made no secret of my dissatisfaction with the Apple Watch faces. As someone who wears an Apple Watch every day, I can tell you things I don’t like about every available watch face. I’m not alone in the sentiment. Zac Hall wrote an article over at 9to5 Mac arguing that Apple needs to give users more customization to the existing Apple Watch faces. Amen.

I agree with everything Zac wrote, but I also have a few additional points from a fifty-plus-year-old nerd.

Complications Need to Become Easier to Read

For instance, the current corner date complication puts the day of the week in large text and the day of the month in small text. Why? Most people that need the date on their watch need the day of the month. Also, why not an option with an even bigger number that is the day of the month and forego the day of the week altogether?

Another example is where they put in small bits of text in a complication in addition to an icon, like the Activity Rings. I like complications, but I feel like the inclusion of the exact count for each ring on the face isn’t necessary. Why not an option with just rings?

Watch Hands

Many faces have hands that blend into the background. For example, most of the color variations of the California face have hands that are the same color as the background. When you want to check the time but have to spend time trying to find the hands on your watch, that’s bad. There are exceptions in the California face, like Navy Blue (pictured), but they should all have at least an option to be this readable.

Making more customizable Apple Watch faces seems like such low-hanging fruit that it baffles me why Apple hasn’t done it yet. I fully realize the “get off my lawn” tone this article sets, but it seems like every new iteration makes reading watch harder for anyone over 25. If Apple gave users more granular controls over watch faces, we could build faces we’d like a lot more.

Apple Watch Ultra Reviews and Trade-Offs

The initial Apple Watch Ultra reviews are in. I spent the morning reading them. Some of the best coverage came from The Verge and Marques Brownlee.

The trade-offs of this watch are not in dispute.

The Good Parts

  • Doubled battery life (two days, perhaps three)
  • Lots of power-user features
  • An additional button
  • Rugged, bulky design

The Bad Parts

  • It’s big
  • It’s pricey
  • Rugged, bulky design

For a lot of people, myself included, the Apple Watch Ultra is overkill. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m interested. I am a fan of rugged design and the thought of never having to think about battery life on my watch is an appealing one to me. Best of all, it appears I’d be able to trigger shortcuts with that action button.

I’ve ordered one. Whether I keep it will come down to how big it looks and feels on my wrist, but I’m looking forward to trying it out.

A Few Thoughts on the Apple Watch Ultra

I’ve been on a journey with the Apple Watch Ultra. When rumors of a “Pro” Apple Watch first began to surface, I was against the idea. I always appreciated the way you could buy any Apple Watch and still get the same features and processor. This new hypothetical watch would break that.

However, over time I came around to the idea. As Apple products mature, they diversify. In every class of Apple hardware (Macs, iPhones, and iPads) there are consumer products and “Pro” products. Why wouldn’t that also happen for the Apple Watch, which had a slow start but is now very much a success? A MacSparky Labs member also pointed out to me in one of our meetups that having a “Pro” class of Apple Watch also lets Apple try features and hardware that isn’t appropriate or ready for the standard Apple Watch.

So that was my mindset as Apple announced the Apple Watch Ultra yesterday. The Ultra accomplishes what I’d hoped. It gives Apple the freedom to make an Apple Watch very much not for the masses. The Ultra is bulky with a big battery and a lot of accommodations for its active users that would not appeal to everyone. So the Ultra is an offshoot of the Apple Watch, and it looks like it is well suited for that job. I’m looking forward to early reviews.

It does make me wonder, however, if Ultra is not the only class of offshoot Apple Watches. For example, I’ve heard from doctors that rely on the Apple Watch for communications and images when working rounds. Could Apple make a watch that serves them better? Likely not. Apple doesn’t generally seem inclined to split their product lines very much, as the iPhone mini could attest. Still, it’s a fun experiment to imagine where else they could go.

Apple Watch Pro Rumors Multiply

As we’re now a few days away from Apple’s “Far Out” event, the circle of trust at Apple is expanding, and so are the leaks.

There is a leaked CAD design that may (or may not) be the new Apple Watch Pro. It’s notably different than what we’ve seen before with a bigger and flatter screen and an extra button. This design reads rugged more than finesse. Mark Gurman now tweets that the Apple Watch Pro will have a custom series of bands and faces.

If this is what Apple intends to ship, I have to question the “Pro” moniker. This looks to me something more like an “Extreme” or “Rugged” Apple Watch. Regardless, I’m looking forward to hearing the story behind the product on Wednesday.

“Far Out” Apple Event

Apple's "Far Out" Event Art

Today Apple made it official. The new iPhone event is September 7. Mark your calendar. Check your wallets. We’ll definitely get the new iPhones and likely Apple Watches. Things that I am curious about:

  • Rumors are the iPhone Pro camera will take a leap. I hope that’s true.
  • I’ll be shocked if the iPhone Pro doesn’t get the always on screen. I’m curious to see what that will be like in actual use.
  • There is an interesting rumor that we’ll get a “pro” or “sport” watch that will cost a bit more. It’ll be fun to see what that means if true. Also, if true it will be the first time that the phone chip between the watches will be different. Until now you got the same chip whether you bought a $300 watch or a $20,000 watch.

We’ll find out soon enough. I’ll be doing some fun things in The MacSparky Labs for this event. If you’re in the labs, keep an eye on your email over the next few days.

The Flat Apple Watch Rumors Return

Rumors are coming back about a flat-sided Apple Watch getting released this year. John Prosser made some renders, below. Who knows if this thing will actually ship. People were convinced it was going to release last year and it didn’t.

If this is truly the next design for the Apple Watch, I’m going to need some convincing. Just looking at the images, I like the existing, rounded design better. Maybe flatter equals thinner and lighter, and that would be good. However, my immediate reaction is that it looks boring.

Apple Watch 7 Initial Reviews and Thoughts

Yesterday all the early reviews dropped on the Apple Watch Series 7. My favorites were from TechCrunch, John Gruber, and Marques Brownlee. One theme that seems to run throughout is that the Apple Watch Hardware is to a point where the changes are more iterative than revolutionary, which is probably good news. I’ll be upgrading my Series 5 to a Series 7, so I’m invested. I like the additional pixels and the brighter always-on display. To be honest, I am most looking forward to having a watch with a fresh battery. I wear my Apple Watch every day and use it aggressively. I’m now to the point I often need a mid-day charge to get to the end of the day.

To me, the obvious next step for the Apple Watch is more and better watch faces. I seem to repeatedly bounce between watch faces, none of which I am particularly excited about. At this point Apple has put way more creativity into watch bands than watch faces. I don’t need a new industrial design for the Apple Watch, but I sure would like some more face options.

Personalize Your Apple Watch with the Watchsmith Update

Before there was the sensation that is Widgetsmith, there was Watchsmith. If you’re an Apple Watch user, then you know that the device is a lot more than just a watch. It’s also a highly customizable accessory. But what if you wanted to make it even more personal? That’s where Watchsmith comes in. This newly updated app for your iPhone lets you customize your Apple Watch with a degree of control I have not seen from any other app.

Just like Apple left the Apple Watch with limited face options, it also left it with few complication options. Watchsmith fixes that. It starts with a comprehensive collection of highly customizable complications, ranging in function from date to weather. You can adjust each complication precisely how you want it and how that best suits your desired functionality or appearance while still retaining all the Apple Watch features and faces.

Watchsmith offers a pile of fully customizable complications ranging from today’s date to surf conditions. You also have complete control over how they look, so you can make them just about any foreground and background color. One of my more functional but straightforward complications with Watchsmith is a big, easy-to-read date complication giving me today’s date.

Version 2.0, the newest version of Watchsmith, ups the game a bit. Among the new features:

  • All of the complications have been updated to take advantage of the latest watchOS capabilities, which will lead to better performance and behavior when used in tinted watch faces.

  • A variety of new complication styles:
    – Photo
    – 24 Hour Dial
    – Modern Moonphase
    – Geometric Solar
    – Moon & Stars
    – Sun Timer
    – Solar Path
    – Golden Hour
    – Step Counting
    – Text Calendar

If you use the Apple Watch but aren’t satisfied with your complications, this one’s for you.

Five Years of the Apple Watch

Sparkys Apple Watch.png

Zach Hall is one of my favorite people covering the Apple Watch. He’s heavily invested in the platform but objective enough to call balls and strikes against Apple. I enjoyed his recent retrospective post looking back at the Apple Watch from his initial review in 2015 until today. It’s a great read.

As for me, the Apple Watch very quickly became a daily companion. I’ve historically worn watches, so putting one on never felt weird to me. The difference is that this watch delivers messages from my sweetheart, helps me stay in better shape, allows me to leave my phone in my pocket (or on the charger), and puts a digital tool chest on my wrist. It’s felt like a 100% upgrade to me.

I have my list of gripes, and I’d certainly like Apple to let third parties make watch faces, but overall, I don’t see myself stopping wearing my Apple Watch any time soon.