Editorial

How the Apple Watch can help battle your iPhone addiction

I ordered an Apple Watch to help me track health and fitness data. Almost a month into using it, however, I'm finding its best feature is that it keeps me off my iPhone and iPad.

Smartphone usage has gotten completely out of hand, though I doubt that's breaking news to anyone. Whether you're sitting at home with your significant other or you're out with friends, you'll see smartphones popping up almost everywhere you look. The time we should spend talking and communicating with one another is instead spent behind glowing screens filled with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, RSS feeds, and YouTube.

I don't think we mean to get as engrossed as we do, but it happens. I'm guilty of it myself. My iPhone buzzes or beeps and instinct tells me to reach for it. I only intend to respond to a single message, but Twitter grabs my attention, or an incoming email pulls me further down the rabbit hole. It's over; I've checked out of the conversation happening around me.

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I'd love it if iOS 9 brought 'complications' to the iPhone lock screen

Complications are what I miss most when not wearing my Apple Watch, especially when I'm looking at my iPhone lock screen.

I've been thinking about this for a while, but I became acutely aware of it this weekend when I took my Apple Watch off for a couple of hours to see what, if anything, I'd miss. I expected primarily to be annoyed by the iPhone's notifications, having to reach for my phone at every buzz and beep like it was 2014 again. But after repeatedly glancing at my wrist and seeing nothing but wrist, I realized how much I'd come to depend on the highly accessible, hyper-dense information provided by the Apple Watch's clock face complications.

"Complications" refer to any feature on a watch beyond showing the time in hours and minutes. With the Apple Watch, however, they've come to mean something more. That's the advantage of taking wearables from analog and digital to computational. Almost subconsciously, I'd gotten used to subtly turning my arm and remaining almost passively, constantly aware of the weather, my activity progress, my calendar, and more. Then, when I did reach for my iPhone 6 Plus to check a notification, the lack of similar information on my lock screen was notable. That's why I'm hoping Apple considers adding complications to the lock screen in iOS 9.

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Oculus Rift: Another example of the Mac's gaming deficit

Surprised Oculus punted on Mac support? You shouldn't be. The Mac has a huge gaming deficit. And it's getting worse.

Last week Oculus VR chief architect Atman Binstock said that the company put the brakes on Mac and Linux development in favor of focusing on Windows. Oculus is the maker of the Rift, a forthcoming VR headset expected to ship in the first calendar quarter of 2016.

Oculus is focusing on Windows initially for the same reason that legendary thief Willie Sutton supposedly targeted banks: Because that's where the money is. But this underscores an important point. OS X has always been at a disadvantage compared to Windows when it comes to gaming, and efforts like this underscore just how much of a disadvantage Macs continue to have against Windows PCs.

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On the Apple Watch and Morse code

We communicated across wires in dits and dahs, once. Why can't we use it to communicate across Apple Watches?

When I first learned you could transmit taps on the Apple Watch, I immediately started to wonder about its potential as a device for sending Morse code. My grandfather was (and my dad still is) a longtime ham radio operator, and while I never learned Morse to either of their satisfaction, I've always had a fascination with the dots and dashes of years past.

After spending some initial time with it, I'll admit: The Apple Watch isn't a perfect device for communicating in Morse code. The taps you can send are limited to short "dit" buzzes, with no proper way to send the lengthier dash "dah". But I still love the idea of using tap-based communication — and it makes a whole lot more sense to me to try playing with Morse's pre-established taptic language over trying to re-invent the wheel, so to speak.

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How to switch from Android to iPhone and keep your Google Keep!

Even though the company hasn't made a Google Keep app for iOS, you can still access it right on your iPhone.

When I explained how to easily switch from Android to iPhone, that was one of the very few concerns Android owners and Keep users looking to make the switch to iPhone mentioned. Sure there are other services like Evernote that work great everywhere, but those invested in Keep wanted to stay kept. Luckily, there are several ways to do just exactly that!

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NSFW: Microsoft doesn't suck, and you don't have to hate it

Microsoft's stumbles with Windows in recent years has created millions of new Mac users. But that doesn't mean you should turn your back on Microsoft.

About half the people I sell Macs to in my weekend job at an Apple retailer are new to the Mac platform: They're PC users looking to make the switch. And lots of them are fed up with Windows. But honestly, as much as I support Apple, I think some of my customers are turning their back on Microsoft at their peril — because Microsoft still does a lot of things right and continues to do a lot of things right.

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In pursuit of building blocks and the Big Idea

Far more often than not, the big idea is an abject failure.

When we think about building the future, we rarely stumble across the perfect path to do so on the first try. Often, we grasp at perceived futures — ways we expect our world to change and improve — but it's very seldom the best way to build our actual future.

This isn't an admonishment to never strive to create the next big thing; nor is it a bleakly worded yet heartfelt kick in the pants encouraging you to reach for the stars.

You should always reach for the stars and always strive to create the next big thing. But if you hope to succeed, your best guides are those who have gone before you — and failed.

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Are new Macs coming at WWDC?

2014's WWDC was a disappointment for anyone hoping for new hardware — it was a software-only event. Is history going to repeat in 2015?

I don't think so. Two years ago wasn't the first time Apple didn't do any hardware announcement at its Worldwide Developer Conference — though a new entry-level 21.5-inch iMac followed it by a couple of weeks — and it might not be the last. At WWDC 2015, however, I'm rather hoping for a new Mac.

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Apple's FaceTime is end-to-end encrypted. Google Hangouts... isn't

Lack of end-to-end-encryption means that conversations on Hangouts, if subject to a legal order, can be wiretapped or otherwise surveilled.

Google hadn't disclosed this information until a recent Reddit AMA (ask me anything) and a Vice follow-up that resulted. It's not clear whether Google has been asked to provide access to Hangouts, but the potential is there.

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The future of iPad

Turning the clock back to 2010, the iPad was something of a risky move for Apple.

At that time, netbooks had a strong market presence. Apple was pressured to respond but the company was loath to embrace the chintzy plastic, slow performance, low battery life and particularly the cramped keyboard of the netbook's heyday. Indeed, the iPad was to the netbook what the iPhone was to the BlackBerry -- a rejection of compromised input at the expense of software-defined touch display.

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