Is the iPhone 6 a Viable Fitness Band Alternative?

The iPhone 5S brought a pedometer with it and now the iPhone 6 includes a barometer, so with these tools along with new features in iOS 8, I thought I’d look and see if just the phone was a good alternative to buying a standalone fitness band.

I’ve been interested in fitness bands since they began to gain in popularity and thought they provided some neat ways to save/track fitness data, but with some issues with skin irritations I was reluctant to plunk down the $100+ for one. The only exception that I can really close to buying the last year was the Fitbit One which can be clipped onto your waist rather than having to be worn on your wrist. It is also a bit more subtle than wearing a bright colored object on your wrist at work.

Health App In iOS 8

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iOS 8 included a new health app which I think gets a bit confused by people as to what it healthbook1smallactually does and is for. I’ve observed that most people think that it is a fitness app like many on the app store, but now one made by Apple. This thought is actually incorrect and it should be more looked at as the hub of your health data that works in conjunction with the other apps. It allows health apps to write data to it and at the same time read data from it. This way if you use a combination of apps, you aren’t having to input the same data twice as you might like entering calorie data in one app and workouts in another. You can then use health as an easy way to get a birds eye view of your health data with the graphs it provides and in some cases if you so feel inclined share them with a health professional.

 

 

Apotassium user can add the most important things they want to track in the dashboard section, but can also dig further into the health data tab for other items anytime they want. This is handy if for example you needed a low potassium diet, so you’d just add that to the dashboard and throughout the day have a quick way to check that. However, rather than entering the potassium each time manually, you’d use another app that might have a barcode scanner to track most of your food and it automatically sends the nutritional values to the health app and then it makes it easier to find that information in the health app.

Now that I’ve covered the Health app, let’s go in to some of the apps I use for collecting the data. I mainly use two for this with the first being:

 

Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker By My Fitness Pal

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 2.33.01 PMI use the My Fitness Pal Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker as mainly an app for tracking my caloric intake and keeping track of my weight. It works really well for this. It includes a nice barcode scanner for inputing prepackaged food and I’ve also found almost everything I have had to input manually has also been on file with a simple search within the app. It can read my steps from the health app and adjusts the caloric intake accordingly. I have a pretty sedentary job, so I went with the option to lose 1lb a week and I’ve found that I’ve been able to do that based on the requirements it set for me. I’ve been taking about a 30 minute walk during my lunch time to get in most of the exercise I get each day. There is also a Facebook like feed that is in the home section of the app if you have several friends using it where you can like/comment on their activity to help motivate each other.

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Lark

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The other app I use is Lark, which I found, because of a great review at macworld.com. This app is almost like having a fitness assistant to help you throughout the day, give you tips, and congratulate you on accomplishments. Even though it isn’t talking with a really person, it’s nice after doing my walk to have a notification pop up telling me I’m doing a good job. It’s a good way to help keep you motivated. I like it for these features and this adds something that I also wanted that other apps didn’t do yet and that is sleep tracking. By using the iPhones motions sensors it can get a pretty good idea when my phone is sedentary on the nightstand all night and when I wake up to turn off the alarm in the morning. It is a pretty basic overview and there are apps that can try and track what kind of sleep you get, but I don’t like the idea of sleeping on my phone while it is under my pillow. This is also an area that a fitness band could take over if you wore it over night, but for now it at least gives me an idea of when I set out to go to bed and when I woke up. I can then decide if I should change my schedule or not.

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Conclusion

I’ve been using this combination of apps and iPhone 6 hardware for about a month now and have lost 4 pounds. 🙂 So far, I think they are a very good option rather than spending the extra cost for a dedicated fitness band. Obviously, your mileage might vary if you have very specific needs in what to track, but based on what I wanted, the only area I feel that could be lacking is the sleep tracking, but it is a compromise I can live with. There is unfortunately a little bit of a learning curve to all of this, but it isn’t too bad once you make it a habit. It’s at least nice that there is now a way for these apps to communicate with each other, so if you prefer the way one app works in one area over another you can easily have your data in multiple fitness apps.

 

Jobs: The Movie

ashton-kutcher-as-steve-jobsLate last night, I was able to attend a showing of the new movie, Jobs. I have been interested in this movie ever since production started and I saw some of the stills of Ashton Kutcher in the role of Steve Jobs. Kutcher certainly had the look down, but the obvious question was, could someone who was more associated with comedy and typically plays an airhead, do this role justice? It seemed like most of the tech media didn’t even want to give him a chance because to many, he’ll always be Michael Kelso from That 70’s Show. That 70’s Show is one of my favorite television comedies of all time, but I was willing to look passed that and see what he could do and hoped they did a good job with the story.

This movie does cover a lot of the same ground that has been covered before. It focuses mostly on the early life of Jobs/Apple Computer. From working out of Steve’s parents garage, up to his ousting at Apple in 1985. All of this had been shown in the T.V. movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley, already and while the previous movie is a bit more historically accurate, this movie does present it in a more pleasing way for the viewer to ingest who wants the quick version. This movie does go a little beyond that with the mention of NeXT and showing when Steve was actually asked to come back to Apple.

One of the things I was curious about was wether or not this movie would glorify Steve Jobs as the perfect man that sometimes people think he was. Like anyone, he had some serious faults, especially in the early days and quite a few of these come out in the film. One of the big ones was how he treated people including the real brains behind the technology, Steve Wozniak. I was actually surprised that the movie even took the time to show Jobs time at Atari when he had Wozniak created the game Breakout and then took full credit and the majority of the money. The other obvious one, that was also shown even more so in Pirates of Silicon Valley , is how he handled things with his daughter Lisa in denying that she was even his daughter in the first place. There are also some of the more obvious things like really hammering on employees who didn’t see things his way, parking in handicapped parking stalls, and not giving stock options to some of the people who were helping Apple from the very beginning. One big omission, in the last one mentioned, was the fact that Steve Wozniak actually sacrificed some of his shares to give to those employees, so they weren’t completely left out. I kept waiting for a little mention of that during that part of the movie, but it never happened. I know the main focus of the movie is Jobs, but I think do think that is one of those little details that should have been covered.

Another omission, that I thought should have been in the movie, was the visit to Xerox PARC and the impact that it had on the Lisa and Mac. My only guess is that it had to do with run time of the film and the fact that it was also covered in Pirate of Silicon Valley as well, so they didn’t want to do a rehash, but it is certainly an important event in the Apple timeline.  However, I did like the quick mention later on about the new Mac OS (OS X) being built off of NeXT OS. I think that is a little tidbit that not everyone knows that isn’t a techie and where a lot of the design elements from OS X actually came from like the dock.

Now, the big question, is how do I think Ashton did with the performance? Personally, I think he did very well. Along with the look, he was able to get a lot of the mannerisms and speech down. I think this role certainly pushed him to his limits and overall I was impressed. I would say though that two more emotional type scenes did take me out of the movie a little bit with how his performance was in those. One was just after Steve Wozniak tells him that he’s going to leave Apple and Jobs visits the garage at home with an emotional visit with his father. Ashton is supposed to be crying, but it comes off as almost like he’s laughing or just some kind of weird sound that just doesn’t seem quite right. The other was when things were starting to go sour with him at Apple and on a drive home he does a huge yell that also just doesn’t quite have the emotional impact that it should. However, having said that, I think these are two minor things and shouldn’t stop someone from seeing the movie if they have an interest.

Overall, I think the film is enjoyable and does what I think it was probably set out to do. I think if you have an interest in the founding of Apple, Steve being ousted, and then the comeback that you’ll enjoy it for what it is. It isn’t a perfect factual representation, but I think any movie like this should be the gateway drug in making the viewer wanting to find out more and I think it accomplishes that. Anyone who hasn’t done so after this movie, should then go on to watch Pirate of Silicon Valley or read the Walter Isaacson biography.

This also isn’t the last film to come out ,as there is one based on the biography by Sony, that is in the works as well. It will be interesting to see how that one pans out and which one truly does end up being the better movie. I think the early story of Apple has been covered very well at this point and I’d more interested now in the story from the 2nd rise of Apple when Steve came back, Apple becoming a success again, and how behind the scenes he had to deal with cancer.

Here’s a couple of videos that I thought were relevant to see again. The first is the iPod introduction which is very different from the movie. In the film Steve is presented as being much older and the crowd is more like a WWDC conference rather than a room of journalists at the Apple campus.

This other video is a demo of NeXT OS that anyone familiar with OS X will see the similarities that were then incorporated into OS X.

iOS 7

icon-ios7Well I figured I better post something finally now that the year is close to half over. On Monday Apple finally broke their year silence at the World Wide Developer Conference Keynote where they announced some new hardware and software that would be available later this year. I think I’ve done a post on iOS each year ever since I bought my first iPhone and this one is definitely one that I shouldn’t ignore.

Late last year, there was a reshuffling of some of the leadership at Apple. Johnny Ive was also given responsibility of human interface, in addition to his role in the industrial design of Apple products. It was at this time that rumors started to fly that iOS was going to get a major design change and that the “skeuomorphism” of using real life objects in the software was going to go away. It was also rumored that iOS was going to become more flat where that has become the current design trend as compared to the more 3D look that was the trend when the original iPhone first launched.

On Monday those rumors turned out correct. I didn’t like any of the mock ups that people had done with their own interpretations, but I do like Apple’s implementation. It certainly is a bit jarring at first when you’ve been used to something for so long, but the look has grown on me over the last few days. Here’s a side by side comparison.

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Seeing that, it doesn’t look like a huge difference. I know there were some advocates wanting something more major for the redesign and getting rid of the grid of icons. I personally think this is still the best way to go and keeps the basic OS out of the way, as the apps should be the main focus and not trying to fumble around OS with widgets and the like. Also, any of the general public who has been using an iPhone won’t have to relearn the basic navigation of the system since it is fundamentally the same. However, the design is definitely different. The new system font makes text look clearer and easier to read. The new zoom animation when navigating to a folder is neat and the almost 3d view of seeing the wallpaper and icon grids independently move as you tilt the phone give it a polished effect. The new icons are either loved or hated and I personally like them. I think for the most part they represent their tasks well with a few exceptions that might get changed before it goes to the general public.

There’s a few new features in addition to these changes and this video will also give a good look at the new interfaces in most of the apps.

A lot of the new features are welcomed additions to iOS, but I also realize that most have existed in Android, Windows Phone, Web OS, and the Jailbreak community before. However, I think Apple implemented most of them in their own way and put some thought into them.

Overall, I think it is a great update. I think some will either love or hate the new design, but I recommend at least giving it a try before making that decision. The only feature that seemed missing, that was shown on the new OS X, was being able to send a quick reply right from a message notification. When it was shown on OS X, I thought that was a given for iOS7. While jumping to the messages app really isn’t a problem, that might be something for next year with iOS 8. 🙂

 

iPhone 5

Originally, I had every intention of waiting until the next iPhone before upgrading mine as I had the 4S (last years model) and the changes weren’t signifigant. I felt that the main feature of the iPhone 5 was the fact that it supported LTE networks and we didn’t have that service from AT&T in the Provo area at the time the iPhone 5 launched. Also, I couldn’t get an on contract upgrade price until next May, so I’d have to pay an almost double cost + 2 more years or get an off contract phone at full price which is fairly expensive.

A couple weeks ago though I found out that LTE was now available and somehow the Provo/Orem area was the first area in Utah to get this service. AT&T has said Salt Lake should have it by the end of the year, so anytime this month they should also be switched on. This certainly made the iPhone 5 a little more compelling upgrade as LTE speeds are actually faster than my home internet connection right now, so it is like having wifi anywhere I go.

Around the time that I found this out, I started keeping an eye on ebay to see if I could find a good price on a used one. Most of the time though they were selling for almost full price ,even if used, as some international buyers are picking them up if they aren’t available in their country yet and are willing to pay a premium. Late last week though, I found one for a very good price. I knew with selling my immaculate 4S, I’d only be paying a little over $100 for the upgrade in the end, so I went for it.

The phone arrived yesterday and it does show some wear that I knew about, but nothing major that I couldn’t live with and on the same day I sold my 4S for what I wanted out of it. I then went to an AT&T store to get a nano sim card which is new to this model. They were busy, so I had a bit of a wait, but had no issues getting the card activated. They didn’t charge me for it either and I’d read some had to pay $10 for the sim, so that was nice.

 

 

The first thing I did was a speed test on the LTE service and the results certainly speak for them self.

 

The little upgrades are certainly nice. I can tell the colors are more saturated on the new screen which makes them pop more than as compared to the 4S. You can tell it is slightly faster with the new processor especially when installing apps and launching them. I also like the new lightning connector where it is reversible and much smaller.

As far as a recommendation though, I’d say if you qualify for an upgrade which most likely means you have an iPhone 4 or lower, then go for it. If you have a 4S, the upgrades are nice, but really the only one worth upgrading for is the LTE service.

 

 

Macbook Pro w/ Retina Display

I recently upgraded to the Macbook Pro w/ Retina display and thought I’d post a few of my thoughts about it. This is the Macbook Pro that I’ve been waiting/wanting for a few years now. When the Air was originally announced several years ago, I loved how thin/portable it was, but it lacked in some of the things that I love about the pro, mainly the extra graphics/processing power and screen size. I figured at some point we’d get to a pro in a somewhat similar form factor, but didn’t know how long of a wait that would be. I think the main holdback has been that the cost of solid state drives haven’t really dropped as quickly as originally thought. In a Pro machine you certainly want plenty of storage, so while 64gb is fine for the ultra portable air, a Pro should have something much more sizable. I think this and the new Retina display are what kept the price of this new machine a lot higher and also forced Apple to keep it separate and not replace their older Macbook Pro line, but at the same time they have said this is the future of their pro machines. The way I see it, is that in a year or two once Solid State Drive pricing goes even lower and the Retina display becomes cheaper to make, these will replace the current lineup of 15″ Macbook Pros at their lower price points, but Apple wanted to get these out there for the people that have been wanting it.

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