There are few things as unpleasant in life as getting a headphone cable snagged on a doorknob. Or the corner of a table. Or the watch of a total stranger passing me on the sidewalk. Because the cable runs the length of my body, from the earbuds on my head to the phone in my pants pocket, it’s way too easy for it to get caught on just about anything, and it’s a truly jarring experience every time it happens.
JANUARY 2019 UPDATE: Wow, I first wrote this post in 2015 after having quite a bit of difficulty buying a specific combination of watch/band back when Apple seemingly offered every possible combo available at time of purchase. Every combo except the one I wanted, that is. Three and a half years later, it’s still one of the most popular posts on this site. (Even more popular than my latest Tesla post!) Here’s the thing, though: Apple has now completely changed up how they offer the Apple Watch — fewer options at time of purchase. I suppose this is to help Apple simplify inventory tracking issues. My buying advice: If you really want a specific watch/band combo that isn’t offered as a default option, go to an Apple Store and ask a specialist if they can do a swap at time of purchase for the particular band you want. The way the newest Apple Watches are packaged, the band is in a separate box from the watch itself, so if you get a nice specialist on a good day, she may be able to accommodate your request, so you don’t feel like you have to buy an extra band. (Make sure to pick a band that’s the same price as the one that ships with the watch. Good luck!)
Anyways, now back to 2015 me….
Okay, this post is for the Apple junkies out there. If all you know about the Apple Watch is that it exists, this post probably isn’t for you.
So much has been said about the Apple Watch, I didn’t think I’d have anything new to offer by the time I got mine. Well, I was wrong. Apple offers a wide variety of watch sizes, colors, and band choices. But there’s one combination they really don’t want you buy, and I think I figured out know why.
Uber’s been under fire lately for their shady practices, and rightly so. (Well, they’ve actually been under fire for a while, but this week was the tipping point for many people.) There’s a new movement afoot by Uber users — like John Hodgman — to delete the app from their phones. I say, while you’re doing that, here’s some other apps to get rid of:
Facebook. Forget the fact that they’re selling out user privacy like it’s their business (actually, that IS their business), they just offer a crappy app. It uses way more data and battery power than it should, making you wonder what else is going on under the hood. They also intend to update the app, in full, every two weeks. Sorry, but mobile operating systems don’t change that quickly, necessitating such constant adjustments. Something’s fishy here. Get rid of it. If you must use Facebook, check it from the web.
LinkedIn. Is the app as buggy and battery draining as Facebook? No. In fact, it seems pretty well designed. I just say delete because it’s LinkedIn and I’m still mad about that time they spammed everyone in my address book. Stupid, Linkedin.
Crazy Eye. Yes, this was one of the very first apps you bought in 2008, to impress your nephew so that he’d think you’re the cool uncle. But it hasn’t been updated since, looks terrible on new phones, and your nephew is now in college. Also, it didn’t work. Steve is still the cool uncle. Sorry!
Kill A Random Person. Not sure how this even got approved by Apple. You push a button and a random person someone across the globe dies. I’d delete it.
The Phone Dialpad. I’ve had an iPhone since they came out in 2007 and I still have no idea what this app should be used for.
“You have a Costanza.”
That’s what a producer on Grey’s Anatomy said to me several years ago, when the show was in its infancy and I was an assistant in the writers room. I had no idea what he was talking about.
“I have a what?” He pointed to the wallet I was holding, a leather trifold filled beyond capacity. I still didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Seinfeld,” he said, “you know the episode with Costanza’s wallet?” And then it hit me. That was the episode where Costanza’s wallet, overstuffed with receipts, coupons, scraps of paper, and, well, just about everything besides actual money, started affecting his health. Carrying it around — and specifically sitting on it — was giving Costanza tremendous back pain. I looked down at my own overstuffed wallet. Yep. I had a Costanza.
I became immediately self-conscious about the size of my wallet. I traded my triple fold for a double fold. But that wasn’t enough. Some time later, I traded the double fold wallet for a super-slim one that basically held an ID and a few credit cards, and that’s it. That worked well for a while.
Until I lost the wallet.
Congratulations! You’re due for a new Apple product! Any day now, Tim Cook is expected to birth something revolutionary and magical. Or not. You never know with Apple. What pops out of the largest uterus in Cupertino — and when exactly it will pop — might be a mystery, but here are some things to definitely expect when you’re expecting Apple to announce a new product:
1. Anxiety. The responsibility of owning a new Apple product can seem overwhelming. How do I keep it clean? What if I drop it? How do make sure it gets fed enough data? OH MY GOD, I’M NOT READY FOR ALL THIS RESPONSIBILITY!?!?! Fret not, my friend, you are not alone. Every expectant consumer has those same questions and fears. Just take solace in knowing that people a heck of a lot dumber than you are handling the immense responsibility just fine. Oh, and use AppleCare. Despite GOP efforts to repeal AppleCare, it’s still around, and the piece of mind it offers is well-worth the cost.
2. Weird cravings. The closer you get to the due date, the weirder your desires will become. I want an iPhone 6 with a 7inch double-sided touch-screen! No, I want a 12inch MacBook Air with a retina display and a floppy drive! No, I want an iWatch big enough to mount on the wall and watch 4K 3D TV on!! Relax. The weird cravings will pass. In the end, you’ll be happy if it’s just a healthy device that isn’t delivered to the market prematurely.
3. Sudden weight gain. Knowing that Apple’s next iWhatever will almost certainly be slimmer and lighter than any personal device you currently own will suddenly make you feel much heavier in public. This is normal. My advice is to try something that’ll counter the effect, like starting a juice cleanse or adopting a trendy food allergy. (Warning: juice cleanses and trendy food allergies do not actually help people lose weight, but talking about them incessantly will help you lose friends… which is kinda like losing weight.)
4. Morning sickness. This is the sick feeling you will get the morning of the supposed product announcement, when it suddenly dawns on you that you have absolutely no idea what Tim Cook is about unveil. Sure, it could be a cool new phone. But it could also be a blender. In one fateful breath, you will realize that no one on the internet knows anything. You’ll suddenly notice that every “exclusive report” on every website purporting to know what Apple will release is based on the same “anonymous sources” with specious connections to “overseas suppliers.” Same for all the self-proclaimed Wall Street Analysts who cherry-pick from said reports to make whatever “bold prediction” will get them airtime on CNBC. And, of course, when the spurious predictions turn out to be bunk, they shirk responsibility and act like it’s Apple’s fault. (I’m looking at you, Gene Munster, senior analyst at Piper Jaffray, and the Apple-branded HDTV set you’ve been predicting as “imminent” every year since 2009.) Sorry, got off on a tangent there. Where was I? Oh yeah, morning sickness the day of the product announcement. Try to get plenty of rest the night before, avoid greasy foods when you wake up, and take it easy on the coffee. Also: Don’t believe anything you read about Apple in the days leading up to unveiling.
5. Messiness. Once the mucus plug of consumer innovation finally spills its contents, the internet will become a messy, messy place indeed. Best to stay off social media for at least 24 hours, until the backlash and the backlash to the backlash have subsided. All that really matters is the, um… lash? That doesn’t sound right. But let’s go with it for now.
6. Post-partum depression. This will kick in the moment you hold the new little miracle in your hands for the first time, after your credit card has been charged and you’ve parted with a considerable amount of money. Don’t worry, though. The first time someone in public compliments you on your new acquisition, you will feel much better. The sudden sense of technological superiority will jump-start the pleasure center of your brain. (FYI: For this reason, you never want to be the last person in your neighborhood and/or workplace to get a new Apple anything.)
7. A growing distance between you and your Apple-less friends. It’s a sad fact of life: Once you become an Apple household, you simply won’t be spending as much time with your non-Apple-having friends. You will get new friends, though, and they will be much more awesome than your old friends. They are called Apple Geniuses and they are available by appointment only.
8. Transcendence. This is what happens as soon as you realize your life has been irrevocably changed by the little bundle of joy. You will wonder how you lived for so long without it. You will admit you can never go back to life before it. You will get sucked into your new device. Literally. You will be like Johnny Depp in that movie where he died and was brought back to life as a computer program. That movie had a happy ending, right? I don’t know. Didn’t see it. Did you? No? Did anyone see it? Hmm. Well, let’s just pretend it had a happy ending and move on to…
9. Ennui. This is the inevitable sense of boredom that will overcome you. Life’s old pleasures will cease to have impact. New pleasures will emerge, but they will pass quickly. The rush you felt the first time you unlocked your phone with nothing more than your fingerprint will be long gone. All that will remain: A hole in the center of your being, filled with the dispiriting notion that your new Apple product will one day be obsolete. As will you.
10. Wonderment. You will wonder what happened to the whole iDevice-as-a-baby metaphor. You are probably already at this phase right now.
11. Temptation. The longer you possess your no-longer-new Apple product, the more tempting the Samsung commercials will get. You’ll see some new Amazon product getting a ton of press and you’ll picture yourself holding it in your hands. You’ll take a second look at that ad for… Windows? “Wow,” you’ll say, “Windows is actually looking pretty good these days.” But the temptation will give way to…
12. Mutual respect, deep-seated appreciation, and a Hollywood ending. Sure, the novelty of your new Apple product will wear off. Siri’s limitations will become readily apparent. The device’s heft and quirkiness will become more pronounced as it ages. Curiosity will lead you back to Windows or maybe over to Android or one its many variants, but the experience will be painful, oh-so-very-very-painful: Why does this Windows 8 computer have two separate interfaces that DON’T WORK TOGETHER AT ALL? Why can’t this brand new Android phone be updated to the latest Android OS? Why does this Amazon device seem to be designed solely to get me to spend even more money on other stuff? And you’ll find the only thing that will relieve the pain is your once-new-but-now-old Apple product. The one you came this close to selling. You will apologize to it. You will hold it close, caressing it with tenderness. You will promise never to abandon it again.
Well, at least not until the iPhone 7S comes out in 2017. According to the internet, it’s going to be so freakin’ awesome!!!
For the movie rights to this post, please contact @ericbuchman. All I ask for is casting approval, final say on the script, and payment in German bearer bonds.
This has been a crazy summer, and I’ve been pretty negligent about posting to this site. Sorry about that. To play catch up, I’ll be unloading a bunch of a “mini reviews” over the next few days. First up — The Platinum Power Case for iPhone 5 and 5s.
My wife’s iPhone 5 has a habit of dying on her at the worst possible time (like when her car has been towed). So I went to Best Buy to find a “power case” for her — i.e. a case with a built-in reserve battery. I was going to get a Mophie juice pack, which seems to have cornered the market on such things, but then I saw a Platinum-branded power case — a “Best Buy Exclusive” — that cost considerably less than the equivalent Mophie. The Platinum Power Case offers a 2100 mAh battery for $70. To get a Mophie with that sized battery, you’d have to spend well over $100 (closer to $120, actually, at the moment). That’s a pretty big price difference, so I figured we’d give the Platinum power case a shot.
The case has a simple one-piece design, allowing your iPhone to be easily slid in-and-out (when you need it to — otherwise, the phone stays in solidly). There’s an indicator on the rear of the case that tells you how much power is left in the reserve battery. And there’s a switch. What does the switch do? Basically, the power case works like this: 1) Slide your phone in. 2) Use your phone like normal. 3) When your phone’s internal battery gets in the red, you slip the switch, turning the case on, which will start recharging your phone’s internal battery. Like the gas engine in a Chevy Volt, the power generated the case doesn’t actually run your phone, it just recharges the battery that still does all the work.
Note: According to the Platinum documentation, they recommend re-charging your phone back up to 80% and then stopping, as recharging your phone past 80% takes more power than it’s worth. Not sure if that’s a limitation shared by its more expensive competition.
Anyways, the case works exactly as advertised. The company says that a 2100 mAh battery should give your iPhone an additional 8 hours of talk-time, but we never tested the case to its limits. I just let my wife use it as needed, and she found it to be a convenient — if bulky — addition to her phone.
Other than its size, there is one more potential limitation to the case. The shell engulfs your phone’s built-in headphone jack. If you want to use your headphones, you probably need to use the mini-extension cable that comes with the case (see photo below).
That’s not a deal breaker, so we kept it, right? Saved the money over the Mophie? Nope. Because its size, my wife always kept the phone in her purse. Twice in one week, she pulled her phone out of her purse only to find that the case had gotten switched on by accident — powering her phone when it didn’t need any juice, and leaving her without reserve power when she actually needed it. That was a deal breaker. Back to Best Buy it went.
We wound up getting a Mophie Juice Pack Helium for ten dollars more. The battery isn’t as big — only 1500 mAh — but that’s still a enough reserve power for my wife (and probably most people). The Helium is also much slimmer. The slender profile alone is worth the slightly higher price over the Platinum (if you don’t really need the extra-extra power). If I needed a power case for myself, the Helium is the one I would get. (But I don’t.)
Speaking of podcasts, let’s say you’ve gotten a brand new podcast-playing app for your iOS or Android device. If only there were an easy way to get the new app to know what podcasts you were already subscribed to… Wait, there is! If you’ve been using a third-party podcast app like Pocket Casts, Instacast, Downcast, etc., there’s a good chance it’ll allow you export all your current subscriptions into a single file you can then import into your new app. (Note: Apple’s default Podcasts app, sadly, does not allow this.)
Look in the settings of your current/old app for the option to “export to OPML.” (If you must know, OPML is a file format that works well with RSS feeds, which are the heart of podcast subscriptions… but don’t worry about the specifics, you won’t be tested on this.)
In Pocket Casts, for example, the option can be found in SETTINGS > SYNC & BACKUP > EXPORT. The Export window looks like this:
Just enter an email address you can check on your iPhone or iPad, and it’ll send the OPML file as an attachment to that address. Open the message on your device, click on the attachment, and then use the “send to” feature (the little box with an arrow pointing up) to send the list to your new podcasting app. On an android device, you might need to first save the file to your phone’s internal storage, then open it in the new app.
Downcast for iOS makes things a little easier. Click on the “More” button at the bottom of the home screen, then click on “Tools.” Select “Export Feeds to OPML” and you’ll see the option to send the file directly to a different application, no email required (unless you really want to use email).
Overcast makes things even simpler. In Settings, click on “Export OPML” and a list of compatible apps will automatically come up.
If you’ve been using iTunes to subscribe to Podcasts, you’re in luck. Control-click on the “Podcasts” item in your sidebar (if the sidebar isn’t visible, you can unhide it from the View menu), and an “Export” button will appear. Select OPML as your file format and email it to your device.
A cursory internet search reveals that a lot of popular podcast apps support OPML, so if you’re switching apps and you’ve got A LOT of subscriptions to re-subscribe to, do take advantage of this convenience. Note: This method will inform the new program what podcasts you’ve been subscribed to, but it won’t transfer other metadata, like which episodes you’ve already listened to/downloaded.
And if you’re really, really curious what exactly an OPML file looks like when you open it, here it is: