Apple Pay in Oz

Apple Pay on iPhone

Finally, Apple Pay is in Australia. FINALLY. Since first purchasing the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, I had been itching to use it, but alas, no banks or credit unions in Australia would collaborate with Apple for some time.

Upon hearing of its exclusive availability through ANZ (other than with American Express, which technically had it first), I rushed immediately into ANZ in Martin Place to create an account. “Wow”, you may be thinking, “Why on Earth is it such a big deal? You must be some sort of ridiculous fanboy”. Well, yes, I am quite the Apple fanboy, but it’s not simply about having the latest Apple service or iThingy. I’m not the only one who has switched banks either; plenty of others have and now the other big banks are reconsidering their relationships with Apple. Everyone wants more customers.

Whilst mobile payment solutions using “near field communication” (NFC chip) technology have existed for some time, particularly in the Android world, Apple Pay delivers some serious benefits and the sort of refinement that comes only from deep consideration and observing the market first. Apple is often accused of never ‘inventing’ anything (which is false, but whatever), but instead it often sits back, observes the market, then swoops in with a more elegant solution that smooths the rough edges of earlier digital technology. Apple Pay is another great example of this, as it goes further in convenience, security and overall customer experience.

Apple Pay, first of all, can be added to the Wallet app on iPhones and Apple Watches. Particularly in the case of the watch, it is super-convenient to simply wave your wrist over a payment terminal after double-tapping the side button. A reassuring tap on the wrist (and beep if not set to silent) lets you know that your payment has been successful. Let me tell you, this morning I encountered quite a shocked staff member at Thrive in Australia Square as I purchased a smoothie. His jaw dropped as the payment was approved from my wrist. Naturally, I had to explain the magic.

Apple Pay on Apple Watch

The next great part of the Apple Pay story is security when paying for goods in a bricks-and-mortar shop. Whereas signatures, pins, magnetic strips and card chips all have their security flaws and are susceptible to scanners, Apple Pay deals with these issues in two key ways. First, when you add your card, your numbers are not sent to the cloud, instead stored in what’s called a “secure element” on the phone’s processor. If your phone is stolen or goes missing, there’s no need to replace the original card provided by your financial institution, as no private details are displayed on-screen or associated with your online accounts (e.g. iCloud). Second, when you purchase goods using Apple Pay, no card numbers are sent to the merchant. Instead, a process called “tokenisation” sends a randomly generated number, which is recognised and approved at the other end.

Last but certainly not least, Apple Pay can be used online (web and mobile apps). When you go to purchase an item online, Apple Pay springs to life, requesting your fingerprint through the iPhone’s Touch ID system, which is built into the Home button. Some of the popular apps that already support Apple Pay online, for example, include of course the Apple online store, Airbnb, Houzz, Groupon and Fancy. The number of supported apps and services will only grow.

I, for one, have been very impressed with Apple’s execution of Apple Pay. It’s quick, easy and leaves a lot of retail staff gobsmacked, and it’s fun to watch people fumble change after you’re already walking away with your smoothie. In Australia, as opposed to in the U.S., we’re also very fortunate to have had such a widespread adoption of tap-payment terminals. It’s now accepted here, and the big banks’ combined effort and investment in rolling out this technology ultimately explains why they were so unwilling to negotiate with Apple — they have to pay Apple a small fee to facilitate the service, which luckily does not carry over to the customer. The one concerning fact, I find, is that so many people are unfamiliar with Apple Pay and similar tap payment solutions. Quite simply, Apple could still do a lot more to educate people about the benefits of this great service and how readily available it is for use. It’s convenient and it’s secure, which is great for everyone.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Apple Pay. With talk about using credit and debit cards on public transport readers, it would be exceptionally cool to simply wave your wrist as you walk onto a bus or through railway turnstiles.

It can only get better from here. If you’re with ANZ and you’re not using Apple Pay with your iPhone or Apple Watch, I ask you, “Why?!”.

Image credit: Apple Australia (2016)

Using Apple Watch for Work

Apple Watch (Three Models) (Apple 2016)

Some context…

Last year, I was one of those people who rushed to pre-order the Apple Watch, keenly anticipating its arrival on launch day. Luckily, I received it without a delay and like a child with a new toy, I excitedly set up and customised the thing to my liking. Now that I’ve had it for just over a year, I’ve been reflecting on how I use it on a day-to-day basis. There hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t worn it since first setting it up, and I can honestly say that I use a large number of features often.

Every day, I use the Activity and Workout apps to track my movement and exercise; I can say honestly that I have become more aware of my general health and have been motivated to integrate more exercise into my day. Messages and Twitter are also fantastic to have on the wrist, and it’s really cool and convenient to select music in the car simply by saying “Hey, Siri”. While dismissed as somewhat of a gimmick, I also use Digital Touch (sketches) every day with my girlfriend and family members, whether it be in the form of colour-coordinated tap codes (e.g. three white taps left to right = “I’m on my way”), or little sketches just for fun.

Aside from all of these features, however, I’ve also thought about how the watch contributes to my productivity each day. I was surprised to discover just how much use the device for work.

Below, I expand on some of the apps and functions that I use the most for work and commuting.

Watch face and Home screen

Well, this goes without saying, really. The watch face is central to the Apple Watch experience and is the first thing that you see when you raise your wrist and the display illuminates. Whilst I do swap faces every so often, sometimes to match a different band, the Modular face is (to my mind) the most useful one for linking to various apps. On my Modular setup, I link to the app Streaks (for encouraging new habits), Activity, Weather and most importantly for work, Calendar, which is integrated into the day/date display in the centre. Having your day’s events and appointments a tap away is a fantastic thing.

While I’ve heard that a number of Apple Watch users don’t go to the Home screen much to navigate between apps, I do this often. Rather than litter my Glances section with a lot of apps, I prefer to click the Digital Crown on the side of the watch to reach the Home screen and swap between my apps. It’s easy to re-organise the apps and get to the one you want quickly. Alternatively, you can just ask Siri to open the desired app.

Calendar

Flowing on from the watch face, Calendar is an indispensable app. Some may prefer to use an alternative calendar app such as Fantastical or Sunrise, but the default calendar on iPhone, iPad, Mac and so on has always worked well for me. The app is great for viewing what’s coming up in the week ahead and keeping track of meetings and appointments.

Something I would love, however, would be the ability to browse different months with a year, rather than just one, even if it were just for checking days and dates. It is understandable that Apple would limit the range of events that one can view in a stream, as it would quickly become ridiculous to scroll endlessly through future appointments with the Digital. That’s where the iPhone comes into play.

Notifications

Many tech commentators emphasise the need for a “killer app” on any given device; notifications on Apple Watch may be that killer app.

In a productivity context, notifications on Apple Watch are powerful and reliable. With a simple tap on the wrist using the Taptic Engine (and my watch always set to silent), I can receive subtle notifications on my wrist as I work, whether from Messages, Mail, Messenger, Slack, Calendar, Twitter or any other myriad apps installed on my watch or purely on my iPhone.

This is particularly useful for meetings, when I can monitor new notifications coming in with a simple turn of the wrist, rather than pulling out my phone, which can come across as even more impolite.

Mail

The beauty of Mail on the Apple Watch is its simplicity. All e-mails from multiple accounts are showed in the unified inbox and it’s super-easy to flag, reply, mark or trash individual e-mails. Like all apps, it’s easy to navigate by scrolling with your finger or the Digital Crown, or tapping the top of the screen to fly to the top.

Replying via e-mail can be done with quick phrases or dictation, the latter of which isn’t necessarily advisable in a quiet office environment, but it’s great to have on the go. It’s fantastic to be able to manage things like this when away from the desktop or rushing down the street.

Slack

Slack is big enterprise favourite for messaging and for certain organisations it is an entire replacement for e-mails. Slack works like the default Messages app with dictation features, also giving you access to both group and direct/private message streams. Again, accessibility and simplicity on the wrist coupled with the instant tap notification system means you’re not going to miss important work messages.

1Password

I worship this app. For those who may be unfamiliar with it, 1Password is a fantastic password vault and generator that syncs beautifully between versions designed specifically for the Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac. All you have to do is remember one password to unlock all the others.

In order to keep things tidy, the Apple Watch version will only display passwords that you have saved on your iPhone and marked with “Add to Apple Watch”. Upon entering the code in the app, you are then granted access to your favourite or most used logins and passwords.

Whilst I personally use Apple’s iCloud Keychain on my Mac at home to accelerate login (passwords are entered automatically in fields), I prefer not to save all of my passwords on my Windows desktop at work. Using 1Password means that if I want to log into an app or service that I use less frequently, I can easily check my watch instead. For added security, Apple has programmed the watch to lock itself when removed from your wrist at all times. If someone were to steal your watch, they would need to know the code to unlock your watch and the one for 1Password as well.

World Clock

Here’s an app with a very simple use case. As I work at the German-Australian Chamber, I sometimes need to know what time it is in Germany (surprise!). Having the time in Berlin only a tap away (or even in the Glances section or as a watch face complication) is really useful. Naturally, one can add more cities to the list and it reflects whatever is set on your iPhone for consistency.

Maps

Maps has improved by leaps and bounds ever since its rocky release back with iOS 6 back into 2012. It has gained public transit information, many more 3D Flyover locations and is much more detailed and reliable than ever before.

On top of this, it now includes even more information from popular sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. I used to keep Google Maps on my iPhone just in case something went wrong with Apple Maps, however now there is absolutely no need for that.

Maps on the watch is executed extremely well. For meetings in Sydney CBD we’re I’ve had to go by foot, or even in situations driving by GoGet, Maps has been a significant aid in getting me to the right place at the right time, using either the on-screen map display or taps that tell you when to turn.

TripView

Much like Maps, Australian transport app TripView is absolutely brilliant (as the full app and in Glance mode). I use it every day for train times to and from work, as well as in situations when I’ve had to catch buses and trains during work hours.

iTranslate and WordBook

As I work in a German- (and English-) speaking office, German words tend to come up quite often. When not using the dict.cc German-English dictionary on my desktop computer, iTranslate has proven to be really useful for translating words on the fly. Simply say the word that you want to translate and the app will do it for you. A light Force Touch on the display will also allow you to change languages.

The same principles apply to English dictionary app WordBook, except there is also the expanded functionality of definition history, bookmarks and new words to learn day-to-day.

LinkedIn and Xing

While LinkedIn doesn’t have its own Apple Watch app, there is still compatibility with notifications to stay current with new connections and received messages. Xing, Germany’s equivalent to LinkedIn, does have its own dedicated watch app, which allows users to keep track of message history and recent profile visitors.

Calcbot

One of the iOS community’s favourite third-party calculator apps is Calcbot (made by Tapbots, developers of the beloved Twitter client Tweetbot). Tapbots has done a fantastic job of compressing a decent calculator into a tiny space. Tapping the buttons is easy with a low error rate, plus a Force Touch on the display reveals mathematical functions. It’s fantastic for performing quick mathematical operations that exceed the power of my own measly brain.

Siri

Last, but certainly not least, Siri is a great productivity tool. As much criticism as Siri and other digital voice assistants such as Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana often receive, in my experience, Siri is always improving in its accuracy and responsiveness. Each day, I use Siri to add new reminders, calendar events/appointments, start a navigational route in Maps, check the weather forecast, open apps on the watch and more.

To conclude…

Contrary to some of the criticism of this first-generation product, once personalised properly, it really is a powerful assistant. The true power of Apple Watch, aside from its customisation and personalisation, is its ‘glanceability’; it’s always there on your wrist, delivering the most important notifications and saving time that you would otherwise spend periodically checking your iPhone. I can recommend it highly as a productivity tool and can’t wait to see where Apple will take the device in the future.

Title image credit: Apple 2016

Review: My First Week with Apple Watch

Apple Watch 42mm Sport Black
Apple Watch 42mm Sport with Black Band (displaying customised ‘Modular’ face)

Well, I spent about seven months waiting for the Apple Watch, along with many others around the world, and it’s finally here. This waiting period saw Apple further refine the device’s battery power, readying the retail try-on experience, online pre-order process and of course, allowing time for developers’ app submissions, which now number at least 3500. It’s impressive that a first-generation product has such a great app marketplace already.

Over time, having read many blogs and watched many videos (Apple and third-party) about the product, I was optimistic about the Apple Watch. Sure, I expected there to be a few first-generation glitches and shortcomings, but I was generally optimistic. Now that the device has been released, the general reaction to the watch has been positive, and Apple is thought to have sold at least two million of them as initial pre-orders.

Many consumers, it still seems, are sceptical of the device:

“It’s just another screen in my life.”;
“It’s too expensive.”;
“The battery life will not last long enough.”; and
“It will make everyone anti-social.”

…for example

Most of all, there is the question as to what on Earth the watch actually for… what is its purpose? Well, I hope to explain its purpose to you after a week’s worth of experience with the device.

First of all, I’d like to talk about the hardware and industrial design of the Apple Watch. I purchased a 42mm Apple Watch Sport in the space-grey aluminium finish with black fluoroelastomer sport band. This model retails in Australia for $579. The watch is impressively light, and sits comfortably on my wrist, despite the concerns of many that the 42mm version of any of the watches would be too big and thick… and believe me, my wrists are aren’t that big. The Apple Watch (stainless steel) and Edition (18-karat gold) models are of exactly the same dimensions, but weigh a bit more respectively (not so much so that they are uncomfortable… I have tested the stainless steel model with Milanese Loop).

The anodised aluminium case is smooth and consistent in its finish. The band is soft and supple, without feeling flimsy. The Retina display is also beautiful, presenting great picture quality, typography, brightness and colour.

On the right-hand side of the case (assuming you’ve configured the watch for use on your left wrist), you can find the digital crown and side-button. The digital crown is great to use, acting as the watch’s input mechanism for zooming and scrolling, making up for its smaller display than iPhones and iPad. You can scroll through lists using the touch-screen and you can zoom into photos by double-tapping, but using the crown is much nicer. The screen remains unobstructed and the motion is smooth and almost oily-feeling. The side-button is devoted to your favourite watch friends and the Digital Touch function, which I discuss more later in this article.

The back of the watch also boasts a beautiful, circular engraving of text, denoting the model and serial number, wrapping around the four light sensors that monitor health during everyday activity and specified workout sessions.

With regard to the hardware, my first week with Apple Watch has been brilliant. Even as one of the cheaper Sport models, the watch is fashionable, comfortable and exceptionally well-made. Apple has put a lot of consideration into making something that anyone can be proud to wear, even as fashion items for women. What other wearable tech product can do that?

Moving onto Apple’s watchOS, while reminiscent of its bigger brothers OS X (desktop) and iOS (mobile), is quite a different beast. Yes, it uses a minimalist design language, but rather than employing bright, white app backgrounds, the watch uses black backgrounds for high-contrast with white text. The heavy use of black is also an effective method of conserving battery power. The watch uses Apple’s custom font San Francisco rather than traditionally-used fonts like Helvetica Neue, Lucida Grande and Myriad Pro. This choice was to make it easier to read on a smaller display, and it works. Furthermore, with accessibility settings, the boldness and size can be adjusted along with colour to fit more or make the text easier to read if you have poor vision.

Upon turning on the watch for the first time, I was instructed to set it up by connecting to my iPhone via Bluetooth and configuring it with the Apple Watch app. This was an absolute breeze to set up, requiring Bluetooth and the camera to scan the display. The Apple Watch app for iPhone is really easy to use, as it mirrors the layout and functionality of the Settings app on iPhone, albeit with toggles for the watch, including app installation, app layout, connectivity and so on. Many of these things are configurable on the watch too, but can be done more easily on the iPhone all at once if you’re already using.

watchOS, as I stated earlier, is reminiscent of iOS, but works differently. Yes, there is an app home screen, but the basis of the watch is the watch face, which lives in the centre of the displayed app universe. Native apps live on the Apple Watch, and for the moment third-party apps are extensions of those already residing on the iPhone. Third-party apps will behave more like native ones later this year, according to Apple, but for the moment this is of no concern. Contrary to some reports of constant slowness in loading, my experience has been great. I’ve only had two apps that froze or slowed down upon startup, and I am sure that future updates will resolve this.

The watch faces, as the centre of the device’s app universe, are fantastic. I spent a number of days trying to conclude which one I liked best. I jumped from the “extra-large” face that only shows the time in large type, to the simple face with adjustable complications, then finally the modular interface. This is all really a matter of taste. Apple has included 10 faces, most of which can be extensively customised in aesthetic and function. The modular face was my personal choice as it is bold, simple and yet still shows rich information in such a small space, each of which can be tapped, taking you directly to the app. Rich information on the screen enables you to keep fewer tools in your Glances section, which is a swipe up from the bottom of the screen. I have found the app glances for TripView, Shazam, Twitter and the Music app particularly useful, as I have instant access on my wrist to train times, my iPhone’s music library, trending topics and the ability to identify unknown music instantly.

I could spend a long time talking about all of the apps on this device, but by far the best experiences I’ve had so far have been with Messages, Mail, Phone, Activity and Workout apps, as well as Digital Touch… all of the default stuff! What Apple has achieved here is a super-convenient shrinking of useful iPhone apps to provide über-convenience for the wrist, but with a focus on what is essential to enable smooth, ‘glance-able’ experiences. I’ve loved being able to answer phone calls on my wrist at home, use Siri to dictate messages (text and audio form), read entire e-mails and track my activity throughout the day.

I was initially a little bit worried that the Apple Watch’s notifications would be obtrusive, distracting me more than my iPhone ever has. This has not been the case. The Apple Watch is an amazing filter, gently tapping me on the wrist with its taptic engine whenever I receive a notification, giving me the power decide what to act on and when. It may sound strange, but it has saved me time. I no longer check my phone for the sake of it, or get lost in apps, distracted from the initial reason that I picked up my iPhone. The watch keeps me informed in a subtle way that no one else can hear or feel, and most importantly, it makes me use my iPhone less.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and designer / Head of Human Interface Jony Ive weren’t kidding when they said that Apple Watch is the most personal device they’ve ever made and that it helps you to live a better day. Consistent reminders to stand, calorie-tracking and more keep me aware of my movement, and subsequently have made me feel better. The ability to send cute little sketches makes you feel way more connected to this thing than you do with a phone. Digital Touch, whilst viewed as a gimmick by some, is truly great. It just feels different, the same way that emoji in messages is so much more fun these days than the early days of e-mail and SMS.

All of thee amazing functions are delivered in something that truly does last all day. Sure, the battery doesn’t last for months or years like traditional, mechanical watches, but look at the extensive use cases and apps available for this device at this price. I have not run out of battery on any day so far, even with consistent scrolling, exercise and notification checking, and have ended each day with no less than 25 per cent charge left. I find that to be exceedingly impressive.

So, coming back to the whole idea of this post, what is the Apple watch actually for? Where does it fit in the world of computers? Desktops and laptops are the hub, or basis, of our computing experiences, largely for storage and heavy content creation. iPhones, built on the enormous success of the iPod, are our mobile computers, giving us instant informational access around the world, and even tools for productivity and creativity. The iPad, while still questioned, sits between the iPhone and desktop, providing simple yet powerful computing to novices and pros alike. Sometimes you just need that bit of extra space over an iPhone, or want to sit on the lounge with it like a magazine. Hell, you may even want to create an album with it.

The watch, for many people, is not as clear in its purpose, even with a long marketing campaign across numerous media by Apple. After a week with the device, I feel that I can explain it. Much like the rest of Apple’s products, which as Steve Jobs said, stand at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, the watch stands at the intersection of technology and fashion. The Watch is powerful, informational, quick and simple, helping you to monitor your health, stay connected with people and even filter the noise that bombards you during the day. Most importantly, however, it is personal. The focus on fashion gives you choice to have a different band, a different case material, a different watch face. Apple has long been criticised for its supposedly inferior level of customisation on iPhones when contrasted to Google’s Android OS. Well here, Apple has beaten all other wearable products. This product is personal and helpful, and you feel proud to wear it. Other wearables have felt downright geeky, except for perhaps the Moto 360. As time goes on, and more software features, health sensors and designs are added, the wearable space will only improve.

So, if you want something cool and personal to wear on your wrist, that will make you focus on improving your health and cutting down on the time you spend rudely staring at your phone in the company of others, buy an Apple Watch.

For screenshots and a more visual impression of what the watch can actually do, please check out the gallery below.