The price of this photo

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To photograph the following image as seen above, with all my current Apple products that I own, it costs me S$4624. The 13 inch Macbook Pro (non-Touchbar), the Apple Watch Series 3 Nike Sports Edition (GPS) and my new iPhone X (256GB). I never realise until recently that just these three items would cost me a whopping S$4624. And on top of that, (which hopefully I will update this picture once the package arrives) I have ordered myself the Apple Airpods. That is going to set me back another S$238. The new total cost of all four items would be S$4862. That is nearly S$5000!

And don’t even make me start on the iPads….

 

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One week with the Apple Watch series 3!

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The watch is with me when I run, work, walk, eat, sleep. So how do they perform? Fantastic! Absolutely fantastic. I am extremely pleased with how it performs no matter the situation. I am completely blown away by how much biometric data it records on the watch and to my iPhone. It records a multitude of readings from the number of steps I took daily, to my heart rate, be it working, sedentary or resting, calories burn, and the amount of sleep I am getting every night. It does all that by sipping power from the battery. I can go an entire day from 7am to 10pm draining just 15% of battery life from the watch. Battery life is just amazing.

With all these data and appropriate apps to help me visualise those data, be it heart rate, exercise or sleep, I am now greatly more aware of my daily activities and the potential impact it might have on my overall health. For now, after wearing the watch and scrutinising my daily activities of the day for an entire week, the good news is that I am pretty active on a daily basis. I have little to no difficulty meeting the minimum amount of exercise and time standing instead of sitting that is required each day. I fill up the rings pretty much almost to full for the amount of energy spent being active. It seems that commuting to work by walking to the train stations and to my offices constitutes exercise. I have always been tracking the number of steps taken using just the iPhone and it has been pretty easy to hit the 10 000 steps needed daily. With the Apple Watch, it is more accurate than ever before since it is on my wrist and with me all the time. In certain situations, especially at work, I would leave my phone on my office desk and it is those moments where my steps are not recorded.

Heart rate is another exciting feature and the primary motivation for getting the Apple Watch. So long as I wear the watch, it records my heart rate on an almost constant basis. Every few minutes, no matter the situation, it would record my heart rate. The data can then be used to visualize and determine your resting heart rate, sedentary heart rate, workout heart rate and even sleeping heart rate. It is pretty interesting to see the changes in your heart rate depending on what you are doing at what time of the day and to determine if you are over-exerting yourself doing a workout.

I think with all the talk and excitement about getting the Apple Watch, I am just primarily interested in the health and fitness aspects of the watch, rather than from a purely aesthetic or day-to-day functionality the watch might offer. Knowing more about your body, health and fitness through the Apple Watch just give you a whole new perspective on the things you do with your body on a daily basis.

Now that I have my Apple Watch, I’m officially a data junkie, obsessed with recording everything about my body. I can’t imagine that day when I have to part with my Apple Watch for an extended period of time. I think I will feel that a small part of me is missing. Not being able to see my current heart rate would be mildly uncomfortable.

My Apple purchases over the years

I have bought many Apple products over the years. It is not entirely inaccurate to say that I am a loyal fan of all most things Apple. It started with the iPod touch, then the iPhone 3GS onwards right to the recent iPhone X. All my mobile phone had been Apple iPhone starting with the iPhone 3GS. That is just on the mobile front.

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On the PC front, it started with the second generation Mac Mini. It got me through college. A hardy little beast back in those days. On the portable laptop front, the MacBook Air was my first ever purchase. It was about sometime during my senior year, as I had the need to write more and more assignments on the go, leading up to my graduation. For a short while (5 months) I bought a Windows laptop, the Lenovo 13 inch laptop. It was a good laptop. Great battery life, a huge factor when making my laptop purchasing decisions.

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But soon after, a new generation of Macbook Pro was announced, sporting the latest Intel Kaby Lake chips. I was smitten. I was sorely tempted. I had never owned their premium laptop before. The Lenovo worked perfectly. It suited my needs. I just needed a laptop for my part-time postgraduate studies. I don’t really need a fancy laptop. But within a couple of days, after the product launch announcement, I ordered the 13-inch with no Touchbar version. Within 2 days after clicking the ‘Order’ button, it arrived at my doorstep. I sold my Lenovo laptop on Carousell (at a pretty good price, considering it’s just a 6-month old product and still in pristine condition, including battery life). The selling price was enough to offset the hefty expenses made trying to buy the MacBook Pro. (at the same time trying to self-justify that it was a perfectly rational decision to get the MacBook Pro from a financial point of view when clearly it wasn’t) The MacBook Pro was also my first ever purchase to be made through an interest-free monthly instalment plan, which I am 6 out of 12 payment through as of this writing.

However, it was only the iPhone X (in-store pickup) and the Apple Watch Series 3 that were truly considered to be actual purchases made through an Apple Store. The iPhone X  was an in-store pickup that was originally an order made online. I placed the order, collected the phone and I was off. The Apple Watch, however, was different. I was on the fence about whether to get one or not. I had to try it physically before I made my decision. Thus, it was important that I made the trip down to actually try it out before deciding on my purchase.

The experience was fantastic. It was the first time that I actually had the opportunity to interact with the Apple Geniuses in the store. I asked questions regarding the Watch, took my time swapping out straps, all with the kind assistance by Asyiqin, the Apple Genius personnel who was with me throughout my time there. She was very professional, very patient and I had no pressure to make my decisions quickly. I was grateful to be given the opportunity to try out a large variety of straps laid out on the table, taking my time familiarising myself on how to swap straps on the Apple Watch and even trying out different watch sizes and strap sizes.

Soon after that, I walked out of the store with a bag, containing the Apple Watch. It was one of the most amazing retail experience I ever had.

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I wonder what is my next Apple purchase? The next generation iPad perhaps? Time will tell.

 

The Apple Store @ Orchard

When Apple announced that they were going to open an official Apple store in Singapore, I was stoked. For years I had been hoping for an official store to make their landing on this tiny island nation. Previously, I visited other Apple store around the world, like those in Hong Kong, and The Netherlands. Those stores were beautiful, airy and just fantastic, with great professional Apple Geniuses all around rendering their assistance to any customers who might need help in their purchase.

The design ethos of what makes an Apple Store anywhere in the world a fantastic place to not just make your purchase but to learn more about its products and services is one of the great hallmarks of retail. The Apple Store @ Orchard is no different. In fact, it has one of the more unique storefront designs as compared to other Apple stores around the world.

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I remember the day (May 26 2017) when Apple opens its doors for the first time in Singapore to customers. I wasn’t there at the opening hour. I was there sometime around 12 noon. The store was crowded, but not overly packed. They did a pretty good job with the crowd control, letting small batches of people in to maintain the crowd in the store at manageable levels. But boy, it was beautiful. I have never seen a more beautiful retail store ever. Imagine long massive panels of glass, three panels layered side by side spanning the entire 2 floors of the store’s facade from top to bottom. The second floor looked almost like it was magically hovering. On the second floor houses this huge LCD panel display, super high resolution and gorgeous to gawk at. Dotted throughout the store are real trees that give the store a very natural and equatorial ambience that much resembles tropical Singapore.

On launch day, I remembered receiving a free T-shirt with three red symbols; an Apple logo, a heart logo and a red dot. Put it together, it says, ‘Apple Loves Singapore’, the red dot referring to our tiny island nation, a small red dot on the world map.

And just like that on day one, I see so many people already making Apple purchases, from iMac, to Macbook Pro, to iPhones. Sales were no doubt brisk just like any other Apple store around the world.

Apple Watch Series 3 first impressions!

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After wearing the watch for 48 hours (not continuously, but I do wear it while I sleep, more on that later) I must say, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!

It seems that the more I wear it, the more beautiful it looks. I never realised how beautiful the watch is. From the overall design, build quality and meticulous design, the watch is one sleek device. It is a smartwatch but doesn’t scream smart, geeky watch. It really blends well with my wrist, making it look just like any other watch, albeit squarish than most watches out there. I am very impressed by the level of care in designing a smartwatch, especially the implementation of the watch crown. The crown inevitably retains the design philosophy of all watches out there, old and new. By using the crown to anchor the design ethos of what a watch should look and feel, it does not alienate new smartwatch users. It is completely understandable that one can feel intimidated or frustrated when it comes to getting used to using a new tech device. But the Apple Watch successfully managed to overcome the barrier by implementing certain familiar aspects of watchmaking.

After wearing the watch for a couple of days. I am now obsessed with recording everything my watch was able to record. From my sleep quality (hence the need to wear the watch while I sleep) to my heart rate while I am at rest, or when I am out for a run, even the distance travelled, steps taken and the number of calories I have spent doing all those activities. I am now obsessed. I feel sad when I have to remove the watch from my wrist to recharge or when I need to shower. And I realised that the new Apple Watch has fantastic battery life. Now, notifications are awesome on the Apple Watch, but I realised that I am not the kind who would meddle too much on my watch be it replying to a text, or reading news headlines through the small screen on my Apple Watch. It’s nice to do all that on your wrist, but I am not sold on the idea that it is a direct replacement for my phone when it comes to doing routine activities like reading emails, replying to texts and reading news. In essence, I don’t check my notifications that often on my watch. I just let the watch what it does best; tell the time, and record my heart rate and activity during the day (walking, running, sleeping) Thus, for my typical use, the battery can go a long way. On my first day of use, I started my day at 7.30am and did not recharge the watch till 9pm. The battery charge dropped from 100% to 85%. A merely 15%. And it does all the tracking (heart, activity etc) all day long. That is amazing! This is the reason why getting the Series 3 was a good call. The battery life of the watch has improved tremendously.

Regarding notifications, I realised one really smart feature that I realised wasn’t there. It was only when I started using it and experiencing it personally did I finally understand the beauty of notifications on Apple devices. Pushing notifications to my watch and actually receiving them depends on whether it detects the watch is on your wrist or not. If it is being charged, notifications go back to the phone by default. This is a pretty neat feature as you won’t missed a notification just because you were charging the watch somewhere else.

When the watch does get pinged with notification, the Haptic Engine in the watch will vibrate, which is pleasant, not too strong or weak. Notifications pushed to the watch will not get pinged on the phone, which I find it to be another neat little feature. I was concerned that I might get double pinged, on both the watch and phone, which can be annoying. But that wasn’t the case. Somehow the watch and phone know where is best to ping the notifications depending on the usage condition. It even knows to ping the notifications to the phone instead of the watch if I happen to be using the phone and actually looking and interacting with it, keeping the watch silent. It might seem a small feature, but this smart allocation of pinging notifications to the right devices blew me out of the water.

Previously I mentioned that while it is nice to get notifications on the watch, I recently realised a new found appreciation for those notifications to reach the watch instead of the phone.

As a research officer who spends a considerable amount of time in the lab with gloves and lab coats, sometimes while doing experiments, it is not practical to fish out your phone in your jeans pocket underneath your labcoat while wearing your dirty gloves. With the notifications now pushed to the watch, I am now able to read them and if it is deemed important to respond using the phone, then I will fish it out of my pocket. I am not able to determine if the notifications are worth the effort to pull out my phone. Notifications on your watch have found a new purpose for me.

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I bought the Nike watch edition that comes with the rubber straps with lots of holes. I find the strap pretty comfortable with great breathability because of the holes. This is particularly important while I am working out. All the sweat and grime can be cleaned easily with a clean cloth.

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I bought a second strap that I would swap out when I am not working out. The Apple Sports Loop is a nylon strap that is amazingly light and soft to the touch. The strap is my daily driver, wearing it to work. It’s simple looking and extremely comfortable with a little stretch to it. Wearing comfortable straps just like the Sports Loop is important if you plan to wear the watch for the entire day, and the strap serves its duties well.

I look forward to wearing my Apple Watch diligently for years to come. At the same time, I am quite sad that it has replaced my Tissot Visodate automatic watch that I have been wearing for the past few years. To see it being replaced kinda saddens me somewhat because I have a personal attachment to that beautiful mechanical watch. (with a sapphire glass backing!) I am definitely not selling that watch, but to see it being delegated to some drawer in my room, pains me somewhat. To me, there is still some appeal to wearing a fine Swiss-made mechanical watch, handcrafted and assembled and being able to tell the time by purely mechanical means.

 

One week with the iPhone X! My impressions (Part II)

On my last post, I talked about my initial impressions of using the iPhone X. I talked about the screen, the phone size, the overall build, the famous notch (love it or hate it, it is gonna be there) and the flagship feature, FaceID.

Battery

Battery life is great. However, I do feel that the plus size models of the iPhone (like the iPhone 7 plus and iPhone 8 plus) offer slightly longer battery life than the iPhone X. It is not a game breaker, it can still do wonderful things without draining battery too much too fast. The phone can still last the entire day without needing a recharge. However I still feel that battery life on the new iPhone X is slightly shorter than I am used to. Perhaps this could all boil down to the OLED screen. When the OLED screen is bright and pushes out white or bright colours, power consumptions on the OLED screen can be quite high. There have been videos on YouTube showing that if you minimize bright coloured pixels like white, blue or green, the battery life of the iPhone can clearly be extended by a significant margin. So it’s not surprising that the main feature of the phone, the OLED screen, could potentially be a hard feature that consumes the most battery. Certain apps have night mode options, which I will enable it without hesitation to save some battery life.

App switching is quick and responsive

App switching requires new gestures, now that the phone has no home button. You simply swipe up and stay there for a fraction of a section to cycle through the app that are current open and running, or simply swipe up and flick right to switch app back and forth. Appe switching is fast, not just the action of swiping but the fact that the app immediately ‘wakes up’ and responds to your touch the moment it is active on your screen. It is near instantaneous to the point that I now switch app incessantly, without feeling the frustration of waiting for the app to refresh, load or respond to my touch the moment is becomes the active app. Clearly the blazing fast processor that is in the current iPhone X is fast enough for that task at hand.

Overall, I am loving the iPhone X. Sure, it is crazy expensive and it is definitely not for everyone. But coming from an Apple fan, Apple has clearly rejuvenate their smartphone lineup with an exciting new design and new technology that is perfect in everyway, especially when it is supposed to be a 10-year anniversary phone. 10 years is not a very long  time in tech terms but the improvements made from the software and hardware point of view where Apple’s smartphones are concerned are measured by leaps and bounds. Who knows what smartphones would look like in the next 10 years?

One week with the iPhone X! My impressions!

The last time I talked about how the purchase of the iPhone X was purely on impulse. It wasn’t a planned purchase, especially on something that costs a whopping S$1888 for the 256GB model of the iPhone X. I somehow got lucky that there was an in-store pickup option available when I was just fooling around on the Apple online store. Sensing that I had a very narrow window of opportunity before somebody else online snatches those precious few iPhone Xs available in the wild after the initial launch, I placed my fingerprint on the TouchID and my fate was irrevocably sealed. I had just surrendered my precious S$1888 to Apple in exchange for their latest flagship phone. The next morning, I head down to the Apple Store at Orchard and within 15 minutes, the iPhone X was in my hand. The order was placed on a Saturday, a week and one day after the official launch of the phone.

 

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So here are my general first impressions.

The Build

With an all glass build, this new iPhone X is sleek and sexy. Apple is the master of craftsmanship, especially on an industrial scale. It is no surprise that the company does not skimp on manufacturing, ensuring that every little detail is accounted and well thought out with the end user in mind. For example, at the back of the phone, there is just one word; iPhone. There is no longer any logo or safety symbols that is made mandatory to be there for all electronic devices. Apple has gone great lengths to ensure that the back of the phone is pristine and minimalistic, maintaining the perception, that this is a super high-end product.

Sure, there have been numerous criticism about the phone’s overal fragility, especially when deciding upon glass to cover the entire phone, but a good quality iPhone case would mitigate that problem.

As far as fingerprint magnets are concerned, yes, with such a smooth material like glass being used, naturally it is a fingerprint magnet. However, the adoption of stainless steel surrounding the phone has given it added strength it the previously used aluminium from the older models. The glass is surprisingly scratch resistant.

The screen

Without getting all too technical about the screen and the resolution, (you can read those on the official website) one thing is for sure; it is gorgeous. The moment you look at it, you can immediately notice a rather large visual upgrade from the usual LCD panels that we are so used to in older models of the iPhone. The OLED display certainly catches your attention. It is noticeably visible that it is overall brighter, colours punchier (but not overly saturated like the Samsung Galaxy model of phones) and very accurate. The bezel-less design have the effect of drawing you in, capturing every ounce of attention away from everything else until you are fully immersed in the screen. It is that good. For something that you interact with most of the time where smartphones are concerns, Apple certainly did not skimp on the visuals department, going all out to ensure that it has the best display ever on a smartphone, in all measures.

The notch

Upon using it for the first time, the next thing you notice is the notch. It looked… weird at first, but after a while, you get used to it. It is not very wide as some would suggest. It is noticeable, but definitely not an eyesore for me. Personally, I feel that the notch serves two function; product differentiation and the allowance of FaceID components (among other things within the notch). In a crowded marketplace of smartphones from different manufacturers all designing a bezel-less phone, Apple has attempted to differentiate itself from its competition, by making its flagship bezel-less phone look different. Knowing that the notch is there, and seeing it instantaneously informs a consumer that this is an iPhone X. And none other. The notch is also necessary to house all the high tech components that make up FaceID. Watching videos could potentially be a problem for some, but for me, I dont really watch videos at great lengths on my iPhone, so I can’t really comment on that aspect with regards to the presence of the notch.

FaceID

When Apple introduced FaceID for the first time, a lot of people were quite intrigued. TouchID was excellent (and will remain an excellent form of a secure biometric ID for years to come) Apple has refined TouchID to the point where it became seemless and invisible. We don’t think about it anymore. It is just there. Place your finger on the Home Button and in a fraction of a second, upon recognition, it unlocks your phone instantaneously. So why change it?

According to Apple, with FaceID, using your face as a form of identification is more secure than your fingerprint. The chances of a random stranger (other than your very similar looking evil twin, which can fool FaceID) unlocking your phone using their face is much lower than a fingerprint.

Using your face as a form of ID is not new. Samsung has it’s own retina scan feature. So Apple isn’t the first to market with such ID system implemented on a smartphone. What Apple did (and did well) was to implemented it and get it right. In my personal use of FaceID, it worked 98% of the time. The other 2% was when I wasn’t looking at my phone, or it was at an odd angle that the phone couldn’t find my face, or it is just held too near or too far from my face. It is fast enough for me not to notice that my face is being scanned before unlocking my phone. Touch ID is still a tiny sliver faster than FaceID, although I am confident that through software enhancements and future hardware iteration in future models, Touch ID will improve by leaps and bounds, making it more accurate, more responsive and more secure.

The only downside I can think about it using FaceID (aside from the fact that it is a tiny bit slower than TouchID) is that now, you gotta pay attention to the phone and make an effort at looking at it to unlock. Notifications gets pinged to you all day long and if your phone is flat on the table and you need to unlock your phone or read those notifications, you really need lift up your phone, face it in front of you and look at it to unlock. You can still unlock your phone while it is flat on the table, but from my experience you kinda have to lean forward more towards the screen before it can find your face and unlock it for you.

The advantage of FaceID is the added privacy feature of hiding the contents of your notifications, and revealing them as you unlock your phone. This ensures that only the correct pair of eyes and face are actually looking at the phone before revealing it’s contents. A neat feature to have.

There are a few other positive and negative impressions which I will write in my next posting. So long!