Apple Watch six months on

Apple WatchRecently I realised I’d been wearing my Apple Watch for six months and it gave me cause to reflect on how it had fitted into my daily routine. When my Apple Watch arrived six months ago I hadn’t worn a watch for several years; I’d got into the habit of checking my iPhone for the time and using my Fitbit for fitness tracking.

However as phones get bigger it’s increasingly inconvenient to check the time on a phone so it’s back to a watch. The Apple Watch is a controversial gadget with both supporters and detractors. For me it’s the obvious extension to the iPhone and more useful than I expected.

So what makes the Apple Watch so useful?

As someone who (curiously) finds payments interesting Apple Pay is of course my favourite app! Whilst Apple Pay adoption is apparently low I still believe its time will come. Changing consumer behaviour is usually a slow burn and payments is no exception. Whilst using Apple Pay can be a bit hit and miss, especially with Amex cards or older POS terminals, it’s a big improvement on a contactless card, both from a security and a transaction information perspective.

Apart from Apple Pay, of the standard Apple Watch apps the most useful ones to me are Maps, Messages, Activity and Apple Pay. Maps is a top app; pull up directions on your iPhone and then follow them on your Watch. More secure, more convenient.

However there’s some great innovation tucked away in third party apps:

Using my Apple Watch to get cash from an ATM without a card is a neat trick thanks to NatWest Get Cash. The NatWest app generates a code that can be used to get cash from any NatWest ATM.

Tapping my Watch to unlock my Mac using MacID is a timesaver over typing in a long password.

Weather app Dark Sky makes use of a complication to warn you when rain is imminent.

Day One lets you note your location with a tap so you can add a geolocated note later.

It’s still early days for the Apple Watch but already it’s apparent how it will contribute to the impact of wearables on consumer behaviour.

Apple Pay in the wild

Much has been written about the launch of Apple Pay in the UK; how it works, where you can use it, which cards are supported and so on. But what’s it like to use in the wild? Setup is very easy – especially if the card already stored in your Apple / iTunes account is issued by an Apple Pay partner. Adding additional cards involves snapping them with the iPhone camera, adding the CVV2 number and waiting for activation. A couple of times the card expiry dates were incorrectly recognised so one to watch before confirming card details. My American Express cards activated with no additional steps, my NatWest card required an additional authentication step via a code sent by SMS.

Using Apple Pay in-store is straightforward, especially with the iPhone. The Apple Watch is a little tricky as there’s a knack to twisting your wrist so the Watch face is over the contactless reader but you avoid smacking the face of the Watch on the reader and risking damage!

So what makes paying with Apple Pay better than just using a contactless card? Apart from the novelty value of paying with my Watch, there are two important elements for me.

Transactions are more secure – the retailer does not receive my card details so there’s no risk of them being stolen from compromised point of sale equipment or elsewhere. Each transaction is tokenised so there’s nothing useful to steal.

Realtime transaction alerts to monitor spending are important and can avoid later disputes. American Express already offers real time transaction alerts via iPhone Passbook notifications. Recently I was double charged in-store for a chip and PIN purchase; despite the terminal confirming the transaction was successful, the retailer assured me the till showed it hadn’t gone through so asked me to try again. I was able to show him a double transaction on my iPhone (and yes both transactions did settle later).

There’s still a long way to go with Apple Pay. Removing the £20 transaction limit and installing contactless readers in stores that typically process higher value transactions will massively increase the utility of Apple Pay as a payment method.

I’ve not yet had the opportunity to pay in-app – that’s my next challenge! Securing in-app card transactions, which are inherently susceptible to fraud via stolen card details, will be transformational in reducing online card fraud.

What sets Apple Pay apart from every other mobile or wearable device I’ve tried for payments is that it does feel it’s been designed with the consumer in mind.

The Apple Watch works for me

As soon as I saw the Apple Watch launch event last year I was curious what I’d make of the Watch. I haven’t worn a watch for several years – a very basic device that had been replaced by my iPhone. However as phones got bigger it became increasingly inconvenient to pull out my iPhone to check the time or look at a notification; so the arrival of the Apple Watch seemed like auspicious timing.

My early impressions are that despite being a 1.0 device it works extremely well. As has been pointed out the software has a few rough edges, especially around some third party apps which can take an age to load. However the native apps plus a select few third party apps make the Watch a convenient extension of the iPhone. The trick is not to put too much on the Watch; keep notifications to the essential ones and don’t install apps you don’t really need on the Watch.

In the first week my favourites:

  • Seeing who a message is from or who’s calling, without pulling out my iPhone is so convenient.
  • Taking a brief call (as long as there’s not much background noise) or replying to a message is simple.
  • Tracking activity without the need for a separate (and somewhat flaky) device and in a more comprehensive way is excellent.
  • Receiving notifications for spend on my Amex card is a useful security check.
  • Unlocking my Macbook by tapping my watch is a time saver, thanks to MacID.
  • Quick check if it’s going to rain in the next hour, thanks to Dark Sky.
  • Quick access to my most used passwords, thanks to 1Password.
  • And it’s quite handy to be able to glance at my wrist to see the time!

So what’s missing? The biggest omission for me is the lack of Apple Pay in the UK. Once Apple sorts out the UK banks and the Watch can be used for payments its utility will be transformed.

And now I’m not so dependent on using my iPhone for quick checks, a 5.5” display iPhone 6 Plus becomes a practical possibility.

Keeping your gadgets safe – Waterfield Padded Gear Pouch

Waterfield label

I’ve been a big fan of Waterfield gadget cases for several years. The quality is always excellent and the range of designs imaginative and functional. Over the last few years I’ve used a number of Waterfield cases for iPhones and iPads and all the tech paraphernalia that goes with them.

Waterfield is an interesting company. Everything they sell they make themselves in Padded pouch exteriorSan Francisco. Products are manufactured in small production runs allowing for customisation of materials and colours. They only sell direct so rely on word of mouth recommendations to grow.

Recently I purchased their Padded Gear Pouch as I wanted a case for my iPhone, Kindle, Beats earphones, Mophie battery charger, power plug and cables which would also offer some protection. I picked the waxed Padded pouch interiorcanvas with brown leather trim version which is a great finish (it also comes in ballistic nylon). The interior of the case has two small and two long padded pockets. The front pocket is for items like cables that don’t need the same level of protection as it doesn’t have as much padding. Both zippers are self-locking so can’t open accidentally. As I discovered, you can pack a lot of stuff into the Padded Gear Pouch!

As Waterfield are based in San Francisco you have to pay for international shipping to the UK but even with that additional cost the products are good value.

Next on my list – their Bolt Briefcase!

The end of the UK three pin plug for charging your gadgets?

Mu plugSometimes it’s the simplest ideas that can be the most innovative. Travelling with UK gadget chargers has always been an awkward business because of the bulky design of the UK three pin plug. It’s an awkward shape and has a habit of sticking its prongs in the wrong places!

Back in 2012 the team at Made in Mind launched the Mu folding plug for charging Mobile phones. I acquired a charger at the time which I carry with me whenever I leave home. It does the job of my iPhone charger with none of the bulk. The prongs pivot to fold flat and the charger closes over them, reducing the size by 70%. It’s simple but revolutionary because it completely changes the dimensions of the standard UK charging plug.

Now Made in Mind has developed the concept further and produced two more versions – a more powerful charger for iPads and other tablets and a charger with two inputs for charging two phones at the same time. These follow the same principle as the original charger with pivoting prongs to save space in your bag. The new chargers work similarly to the chargers supplied with phones and tablets – the tablet version is rated at 5V and 2.4Amp to deliver 12 Watts, similar to an iPad charger, and can also be used to charge phones. You can see the technical specs here.