Apple Watch and Cellular Connectivity

With the release of Apple Watch series 2 (I haven't bought one), I've started to ponder the watch of the future. After thinking through the watch's role in our lives, I've finally settled on the fact that the Apple Watch needs cellular. iPhones are fantastic. They are great cameras, and they allow us to carry extremely powerful computer in your pocket. I do see a day coming when I would leave my iPhone at home for periods of time.

I take my iPhone whenever I leave the house. This includes the grocery store, the gym, the gas station, or the coffee shop. A lot of the time, I only take it for phone calls and text messages. When the Apple Watch includes a cellular connection, I could leave in the morning to run a few errands with only an Apple Watch. My shopping list would be on there. Thanks to Continuity, so would my Phone calls and text messages. My iMessages would come straight from the cellular network as well.

This reality sounds amazing to me. It's one less thing to carry, but I can still be reached and access basic functions of my apps. Think about how much more useful your iPhone or LTE iPad is because of its always on connection. When a version of the Apple Watch can do this without being near your iPhone, it'll drive up its usefulness.

We will be living in the time of Dick Tracy.

Turning Off Apple Music

Update (2016-10-10): Apple fixed this earlier in the summer, and I've returned to Apple Music.

After nearly a year of using the service, I turned off Apple Music, iCloud Library, and the automatic renewal of my family membership (my wife is going to sign back up as a single user). I thought I'd take a minute to explain why.

My frustration with Apple Music actually has very little do with the streaming service. It lies solely on iCloud Music Library. Like I've said before, I still have a 30 GB music library that I want to keep. Most of it is studio albums, but 5% of it is live albums. I really like live albums. iCloud Music library would consistently either not match properly, or it would somehow revert weeks after the original upload. I simply got tired of babysitting the matching process. I'd have to remove and re-upload a lot of them every few weeks. I finally had enough. I rebuilt my library in Spotify and turned off Apple Music. I then synced my local library over a cable.

Spotify is a fine streaming service. There are aspects of it that I like better than Apple Music, and there other aspects that I don't. Overall, it works. Sadly, the best aspect of turning off Apple Music is that everything in my library now plays exactly what it's suppose to. It just works..

On Apple Music vs Spotify

I’ve been an Apple Music subscriber (family plan) since day one. It’s been in the news quite a bit recently. Some good news and some bad news. I also keep Spotify installed on all my devices as well. There are aspects that are great about both services. I could argue that both are the best at their ultimate objectives.

Spotify, as a pure streaming service, is hands down the best platform. Technically, it’s rock solid. You don’t really read any articles about Spotify deleting content from user’s hard drives. I don’t see random screenshots of error messages on Twitter where tracks won’t play. If someone came to me and said I don’t own/don’t care about any existing music, what should I sign up for? I’d have to say Spotify. It has one goal: to be the best streaming music app (assuming the dabble into podcasts does’t eventually clutter up the UI). Spotify doesn’t build hardware. It doesn’t run a syncing service for data. It runs a music platform. It’s only focus is on music.


Discover Weekly

Every Monday morning, Spotify refreshes your Discover Weekly playlist. In my head, the features works like this. You get into the car on Monday morning headed to work/school/wherever. You launch Spotify, go to Discover Weekly and hit play. There is zero decision to make about what to listen to. This is a sister feature to Apple Music’s For You (I’ll discuss it later). In my experiences, it’s a really good feature. Apple claims that human curation is the future, but Discover Weekly is really good in the interim.


This might seem like a trivial feature,but Spotify notifies me when artists I am following release new music. Apple Music sort of has this though Connect, but that is assuming the artists promotes their new material.


Apple has typically been behind on social features, and music is no different. Spotify allows you to follow friends and browse their public playlists. Why can't I do this on Apple Music? Spotify is also the default place for sharing playlists for most people.

The Bad

Over the past year, various artists have started holding out (temporary and permanent) music from Spotify. This includes Taylor Swift, Drake, Radiohead, and Beyoncé. While it's doubtful a single person likes all four of those artists, it's probable they like one. The risk for Spotify is that they become viewed like Netflix's movie selection (a lot of old stuff, but nothing new). Spotify is the young generation's iTunes in that it's their default music platform. If that platform stops having the music they want, they will look elsewhere.

Apple Music

Unified Library

As an old timer, I have 30 GB of music that I've ripped or purchased. With iCloud Music Library, my existing content co-exists with my streamed content. If Apple can fix incorrect matches, it will be a killer feature. I also still purchase a handful of albums each year. These albums appear just the same as if I was streaming them. This is also important for when artists aren'ton Apple Music. Lemonade from Beyonce is a streaming exclusive to Tidal, but can be purchased and uploaded to appear right along side the rest of your library.

Artist Perception

Regardless of how much Spotify has done to help begin growing the industry again, Apple Music has a better perception among artists. From how it responded to Taylor Swift's open letter, to having Jimmy Iovine on board, Apple Music came at a time when a lot of artists where turning against Spotify over its free plan. Spotify is also partially owned by record labels. As the Internet continues to eliminate middle men from commerce, Apple is positioning itself as a company who loves music and wants to support the artists. If the role of record labels decreases, Apple has set itself up nicely.

Human Curation

While Spotify uses a lot of computer creation for content, Apple likes to take a "human approach". Both have their advantages. I've found plenty of great content through Apple Music. One of the best examples is the Intro to X style playlists. When I find a new artist, I start with this playlist. Instead of just covering the top songs, it covers a nice progression to their style.


Apple's family plan is $14.99/mo, and it covers up to 6 people. Spotify is $9.99/mo and an additional $4.99/mo per family member. For a lot of people, this will make the decision simple.

The Bad of Apple Music


Connect, in its current form, is useless to me. Most artists are using the big 3 social media platforms to engage with their fans. Connect is just another place. Connect should either be killed or become a place to feed in content from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Poor Tech Community Perception

From early complaints to more recent ones, Apple Music has a negative perception among (some of it is deserved) among some of the it's most passionate users. It takes a short amount of time to lose credibility, and it takes a long to build it back.

For You and Drake

For You was great in the beginning, but it's becoming stale for me. It's showing Intro to X for artists who are already in my library, and I haven't found much new recently. Apple has also made a deal with Drake for a rumored 19 million dollars. While I don't care for his music, I do recognize that he's extremely popular. I feel like he's been shoved down my throat in recent weeks. From an Intro to Drake appearing in For You, and banners appearing everywhere, I am becoming quite annoyed at his content being shoved down my throat.

Final Thoughts

Both services have room to improve, and get better. If you look what $9.99/mo buys a music fan in 2016, you'll realize how great technology has become.

I'll leave you with this, support for favorite artists. If you only stream their music, be sure to buy a t-shirt, join their fan club, or see them in concert.

On Lemonade and Forcing Fans to Rent Music

Update: The albums is coming to iTunes at midnight

With the news of Beyoncé releasing her newest album exclusively on Tidal, I'm reminded once again why exclusive streaming only releases are unfair to fans and ultimately will lead to piracy.

Let's say that you are an Apple Music (or a Spotify) subscriber, and you wake up to the news of Beyonce's new album with much excitement. You dash off to your streaming app, and try to find it. It's not there, but no worries. She must have only released it as a paid download (apparently artists make no money from streaming). Adele did this recently as well. As you open the iTunes app on your iPhone, you are amazed that Beyoncé's new album isn't there. You discover it's only on some streaming service called Tidal.

We have a fan who spends money on streaming, and who was also willing to purchase the album being told they can essentially rent access to it for $10/mo. Yes, I know that all streaming services are rentals, but this album is only available on a single streaming service with no paid download options (or even a CD to buy). If you want this album, you will pay $10/mo for as long as you want it.

This album release model is bad for fans. If someone has no interest in Tidal, their options are to either pirate it or never hear it. Yes, piracy will be the option for a lot of people, but a lot of people will just never hear it.

When an artists only releases an album on a specific streaming service, they are saying that my music is so good that you don't deserve it own it. There is no download, no CD, and no vinyl.

If an artists requires me to pay a monthly fee to access their new material on a specific streaming service, then they don't deserve my time (and certainly not my money).

If artists want consumers to respect music for the art that it is, maybe they should respect their fans first. Not offering a digital download of a new album is a big:

Looking Through Old Photos

My wife and I were browsing through old photos on our TV last night, and she commented how bad the quality was. These were photos in 2011. These photos were taken with an iPhone 4s (which was the nicest at the time).

Isn't it amazing how far that smartphone cameras have come in just a few years? This is one reason I try to upgrade to the latest iPhone when it's released. I only have one shot to get the picture I am about to take.

Out of School 164: Deploy 2016, Part 2: What Makes a Tech Friendly Head of School

Fraser and Bradley continue with the 2016 Deployment series with a discussion about the qualities a technology friendly leader has. While they cover these in depth on the show, the key takeaways are setting vision, modeling behavior, setting expectations (and committing to them), willingness to fail, willingness to expect success, ability to see past the device, and the ability to hire great people (and leave them alone).

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Apple Music is a Gateway Product for Artists

A lot of people will have you think that services like Apple Music and Spotify are/will ruin the music industry. While I am surprised these services aren't more like Netflix (not having new releases, but mainly back catalog), I'd like to argue, for me at least, that streaming services are a gateway product to get me to to spend more money on "music" (concerts, merchandise, etc).

Since I signed up for Apple Music last year:

  • I have been to two concerts while having tickets for two more. Prior to Apple Music, the last concert I saw was in 2006 (not a typo).
  • I have purchased nine albums from iTunes/Amazon.
  • I have purchased approximately twenty of my favorite records on vinyl.
  • I have signed up for one band's online membership club to receive monthly live tracks.
  • I have purchased one coffee mug from a band while at their concert

I know this might not be a sample of everyone, but for me, Apple Music has been a gateway into discovering more music while also spending more money with the music industry itself.

Out of School 163: Deploy 2016, Part 1: What's Changed since 2014

Fraser and Bradley kickoff the Deploy 2016 series with an introductory episode about the plans and goals for the series. Since they last did the series in 2014, quite a bit has changed in the iPad deployment area (all for the good). When they were doing the series in 2014, iOS 7 was a few months old, and there still were a lot of gotchas relating to how to scale iPad deployment up to 1000s of units. iOS was also stagnant in terms of its feature set compared to desktop. With the release of iOS 9, device based app assignment, and spread of the device enrollment program to outside of the US, iPad deployments are a lot more complex, but also also simpler.

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What’s New for iOS Management in iOS 9

Out of School 162: A Class Set of Apple Pencil

Fraser and Bradley finish up the year by discussing Tim Cook's comments on Chromebook and examining Apple's Deployment documentation.

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Apple Has No Interesting in Making Test Taking Machines
Apple Education IT Home Page
Apple EDU Deployment Overview
iOS Deployment Reference
1:1 Planning Guide
VPP Guide
DEP Program Guide
Apple Deployment Program Help
iOS Security Whitepaper

Out of School 161: History of iPad Deployment

Fraser and I look at the history of how iPads have been deployed. We also make an exciting announcement about the show for 2016.

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Deploy 2014
iPhone Configuration Utility
iPhone 2.0 and Exchange
Apple Configurator
Apple VPP
Apple DEP

Drowning in Information Overload

While I was out on paternity leave in early October, I kept feeling overwhelmed. The more I realized how much work I needed to do, the more I felt like my life was spinning out of control. I discussed this with my wife, and she simply explained that by continuing to stay "connected" when I need to be dis-connected, it was impossible to relax. I did my best to simply let go of my work for that week and focus on my family (huh, a novel idea).

Fast forward to the end of October and early November, and I read this post by CGP Grey on "dialing down". A light bulb went off in my head. I had let lots of inputs into my life that weren't helping me accomplish my goals. As a result of The Focus Course, I had deduced that my goals/priorities are:

  1. Spiritual life (study of the Bible, praying, cherishing the love of Christ)
  2. Family
  3. Friends (with a focus on longer term friendships rather than a host of acquaintances)
  4. Making money/doing great work

After spending some time analyzing my life, how I spend my time, and how I let things into my brain, I knew I needed to make a few changes. I decided to do these as a test in November:

All social media is removed from mobile devices

Tweetbot was deleted from my iPhone. I blocked using 1Blocker. I can still access it, but it takes multiple steps. This has eliminated a lot of wasted brain space goofing off on Twitter. I also realized that while Twitter is awesome, it's also terrible. It 140 characters of individual thoughts/ideas that I have to continually process. A lot of people are terribly negative during the US presidential election season (it basically lasts two years). Twitter is essential to many of the projects I work on, so I don't want to leave it completely. I do want to reduce the amount of time and energy I give it, though. I've relegated it only to my Mac. I might engage a few times a day to catch up on news, etc, but it's taking up zero brain power outside of that. I no longer feel like I am missing anything.

Instagram is also on pause. While I have logged in a few times to share some photos (I don't have Facebook, so this is how I share kid photos with close friends/family), I delete it immediately after. If I share a picture, I'll give myself a few minutes to browse my feed, though. With it requiring me to download the app each time I want to browse it, I have largely reduced the amount of time I spend on it.

All of this is aimed at helping free up RAM in my brain to focus on what I want to focus on and eliminate various amounts of negativity. Like I said, I am not jumping off the Twitter train, but only engaging there in a window of time each day/week. I've also realized that I can get 90% as much enjoyment/benefit from social media with about 20% of the effort I was previously giving it.

TV Shows

This is a simple section, but I am limiting the amount of TV I watch in a given week. While TV is fun, large amounts of time in front of it are a huge waste of time. My wife and I watch a few shows together, but I don't watch it otherwise. If you spend two hours a day watching it, you are spending 14 hours per week total. The only exception to this is during football season, which is very much a social activity for me.

Audiobooks and Podcasts

I've loved spoken word content for a large portion of my adult life. I've been listening to podcasts for over a decade. While I think they can be awesome and provide the ability to learn new things all the time, I've realized this isn't always a good thing. Sometimes, I need to learn less and give myself opportunities to explore the thoughts in my own head. I've canceled my Audible subscription, and cut the podcasts I listen to down from fifteen to three. Eliminating the content is a way to give my brain opportunities for other things.


Music is something I've never really loved. I always viewed it as background noise for when I drive. Over the past few months, I've discovered that music should not always be enjoyed as a passive activity. Music, in a lot of situations, should be listened to with as much attention as a movie or TV shows. Spending more amount of time actively listening to music has been good for me. Music is art. To enjoy it better, I've also cleaned up my iTunes library to just include artists that I love. I looked through each album and asked myself if I ever planned on listening to this again. Overall, I'm quite happy with the increase in music listening in my life. Spending an hour listening to music leaves my brain in a drastically different state than an hour of TV watching does.

Day One

I'm making an effort to write daily in Day One. This has been good for making note of whatever I am feeling that day. It might be about my kids, my work, or my friends.

End Result

The goal of all of this is to reduce the amount of time I spend doing things that aren't related to my four priorities listed above (exercise is something I didn't mention, but has been a consistent priority in my life for sixteen years). As of the 21st of November when I am writing this, I do not see myself going back on any of these changes. I feel more in control of my time, my emotions, and my thoughts. I've given myself more time to be bored and to sit alone with my thoughts. I feel more productive at work, at home, and in all other aspects of my life. I've not completely disconnected, but I'm reducing the amount of time I am connected.

Out of School 159: Ask Out of School

Bradley and Fraser have an "Ask Out of School" where they take listener questions.

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Dialing Down
Dialing Down
BeyondCorp: A New Approach to Enterprise Security

Out of School 158: It's Just a Big iPad

Fraser has his iPad Pro in hand. After a day of use with the device and Apple Pen, Bradley takes a hour to pepper him with questions about it.

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Daring Fireball review of iPad Pro
MacStories Review of iPad Pro

Out of School 157: What Do You Mean By "Merge"?

Bradley and Fraser discuss the state of Chrome OS with the recent news, Amazon Glacier, and spend time discussing how Wufoo can be used in schools.

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WSJ Article
Chrome OS is here to stay
Amazon Glacier
Prompt for iOS
Transmit for iOS

Out of School 156: iPad Pro Hands On

I'm back from paternity leave to discuss the iPad Pro hands on that Fraser got at an Apple event in London. We discuss the hardware, iOS 9 on a larger screen, and the much discussed Apple Pen and Keyboard.

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Fixing Evernote

After writing my post on leaving Evernote, I got a few emails asking for some more clarification on why?

It Became Annoying
For a service I pay for, Evernote had become quite annoying. Instead of making its core features even better, it adding features like Work Chat, and became seriously annoying with notifications about explaining new features....over and over again. I do not want another chat client. I do not care about Evernote for Teams. I simply want Evernote to work how I have always used it. Over the past 3 years, the application seems to get in my way more than it helps me. A perfect example is that on iOS, the reminders section is easier to get to than the search bar.

Product Seems to Have a Lack of Direction
Here is how I sum up Evernote (or how it should be): Take anything I put in it, and sync it everywhere. Over the years, Evernote has added feature after feature that didn't support that mission. This has led to the software becoming slower and slower over time. In fact, Alternote's simplicity has shown how bloated the core Evernote app has become.

I've been critical of Evernote quite a bit on my Twitter account over the past few months, but I would like to offer some recommendations on what I think they should do to regain the trust of users:

Look at Alternote
The idea of Evernote is awesome. It's a place for all those random snippets, images, PDFs, etc in your life. You get to organize everything in a simple (and easily searchable) way. Alternote has stripped away a lot of the complexity. Evernote should either buy them or model their next app after it.

Feature Cut
If a feature doesn't support the core mission of Evernote, cut it. Reminders should be gone. Evernote is not a task manager. Work Chat should be removed. They should go back to the drawing board and reimagine what Evernote would look like if it was being created in 2015 from scratch. It should be built for speed and simplicity.

Plain Text Option
This would allow people to easily get their text in and out of Evernote. Exporting notes out of Evernote also generates a .html document. They'd be better off to export files as a .docx than .html.

These are just a few recommendations I came up with at 5:00 AM, but I'm sure I'll have more later.

Learning to Leave Evernote

I’ve had a long history with Evernote. After struggling to understand it for years, I finally Learned to Love it a few years ago. Over the years, I’ve rebuilt workflows around the idea of an “everything bucket”.

As of 10/18/15, I’ve completely left Evernote. What started out as a simple “delete notes that are not longer needed” project, ended with me completely exporting everything out. Evernote hasn’t added a feature in a long time that I cared about. It was a platform that was standing still for me. It was a platform that I was invested in with my time and my money, and I felt less and less confident about its future. After reading Stephen Hackett’s post again, I realized that it was time to go.

I’ve had an on-again, off-again thing with Evernote for years. I like having attachments associated with my notes, but dislike almost everything about the service itself.

I’m out.

Random snippets of text that I kept in Evernote are now in 1Password as secure notes. Images, PDFs, and voice notes are in Dropbox (organized in folders). Notes are now plain text stored across various Dropbox folders. I’m accessing them using Ulysses on the Mac. I’m using Byword on iOS. Both apps are set to be able to browse my entire Dropbox folder.

I’m going to avoid at the moment. It’s not about iCloud concerns, but rather avoiding another platform without an easy exit.

Would I still recommend Evernote to someone else? Absolutely. I’ll leave my book up. The content is still useful to some. It’s just not a platform I want to continue to invest in. I’ve got a premium account till 2020, so I can always come back if things turn around.

Computers vs Humans

Spotify's approach

John Paul Titlow:

"Fresh Finds is a distillation of the hippest users on Spotify," says Whitman, pulling up a list of 38 tracks projected against the conference room wall. "These are the artists that are going to break out soon because they're being listened to by these people."

I don't recognize any of the artists on the list. Neither did he, Whitman admits. But now many of them have made their way into his daily rotation. "Just wait a few weeks and people will start talking more and more about them and they'll take off."

How does he know? The machines told him, naturally. Fresh Finds takes a central component of The Echo Nest's original methodology—its web content crawler and natural language processing technology—to mine music blogs and reviews from sites like Pitchfork and NME and figure out which artists are starting to generate buzz, but don't yet have the listenership to show for it. Using natural language processing, the system analyzes the text of these editorial sources to try and understand the sentiment around new artists. For instance, a blogger might write that a band's "new EP blends an early '90s throwback grunge sound with mid-'80s-style synthesizers and production—and it's the best thing to come out of Detroit in years." If this imaginary act goes on tour and writers in Brooklyn dole out praise of their own, the bots will pick up on it. It helps address an issue some people have voiced early on with Apple Music, that its selections aren't adventurous and it tends to recommend things you already like rather than things you might like.

vs. Apple's approach

Michael Rundle:

"When I met a lot of our competitors in the field the first thing they said to me was, 'Look we don't have anything to do with music, we're a utility'" Iovine says. "[But] no matter how you shake it, when you listen to a radio station that was programmed purely by an algorithm you will go comfortably numb."

Apple's advantage, Iovine says, is one of scale: the scale of the resources it can put into human curation, and the scale of its ambition to do curation properly.

"Algorithms are great but they're very limited in what they can do as far as playing songs and playing a mood... And a lot of these companies they just go and hire somebody who used to work in the record business 25 years ago. Well, great. You have one person. We have hundreds... We have one of the great tech companies of all time building what we need."

Wi-Fi Assist in iOS 9

In the most recent iOS 9 beta, a new option showed up under celluar settings called Wi-Fi Assist. This will automatically allow your iPhone (and Apple Watch) use cellular data when Wi-Fi connectivity is poor.

This is going to be huge for Siri. One of the places that I typically use Siri is backing out of the driveway at home or the parking lot at work. Wi-Fi is just strong enough in both of those locations to stay connected, but have a hard time transmitting data. To a user, Siri is not working, but in reality it's just a poor Wi-Fi connection.

This feature is going to change that perception.

Update: See tweet below. While this hasn't been my experience (Siri struggles when my Wi-Fi is poor. The person tweeting does work for Apple.