The Apple Watch and the urge to fix problems that don’t exist

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After September’s tease, Apple fully unveiled its first foray into the horological sector at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Monday. The Apple Watch, stylised as Watch because why not, is much the same as previously glimpsed, which is to say an accessory that you shouldn’t buy but many people will.

The timepiece itself is inoffensive by the lacklustre standards we have seen developing over the past few years since Pebble overwhelmed Kickstarter. It has a face either 38 or 42 millimetres high, comes in a moderate plethora of metal alloys (aluminium, steel, gold) and straps (plastic, leather, metal of some sort), and runs a custom version of iOS with a new Roboto-esque font, designed for increased legibility at smaller point sizes as Helvetica Neue is a chocolate teapot on normal displays, like the diminutive sapphire crystal panel on display here.

“Apple Watch represents a new chapter in the relationship people have with technology. It’s the most personal product we’ve ever made, because it’s the first one designed to be worn,” claims Apple in their online marketing fanfare, conveniently ignoring the majestic second generation iPod Shuffle. Not worn for long, apparently, as rumours abound (of course, nobody outside Cupertino has properly used one yet) that the battery will last for 18 hours at best and, if used, should only be for 10 second bursts.

Yet, the Apple Watch makes little sense in any context. The very raison d’être for smartwatches is to stop you from looking at your phone all the time by charging you some money for another screen that only does things that your phone can do better whilst still relying on the phone as its source of knowledge. They are the ultimate accessory to opulence; a sign that someone either has more money than sense or some tremendous difficulty in moving their hand to their pocket to see what’s occurring.

Apple’s site brags about how, with Apple Watch, you can leave emoji comments on Instagram, check the charge status of your BMW i3, stay on top of eBay auctions, check sports scores with ESPN, read your Twitter feed, unlock your room at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, read news with CNN, and a scant few more things that they think justify an extra £279+ expense come April 24th. I don’t doubt for one second that they’ll eclipse the existing smartwatch marketplace within minutes, if not days, but what I fail to comprehend is whether putting more onto your wrist actually benefits user experience in any way. The fear is that trying to interact with applications in this form will equate to sheer frustration once the gimmick has worn off and the return window concludes.

Then, there’s the Apple Watch Edition. A worthy rival of fellow smartwatch producer will.i.am’s i.am+ foto.sosho iPhone camera case for the worst product name in the history of consumer technology, the Apple Watch Edition is technically identical to the bog standard Watch Sport (the base model, for those who aren’t following the ineptitude), yet commands a base price of £8,000 thanks to its ceramic-reinforced 18-karat yellow or rose gold casing and fancier strap. You can nudge this up to £12,000 quite easily, and though I’m certain that the target market for this Edition is going to splash out for the sake of it rather than for the value, a typical pricy timepiece is hand-crafted within a Swiss mountain hut and, in some respect, worth it. Flung together by those on the factory floor at Foxconn, the Apple Watch can’t demand such lustre.

Perhaps the reason I don’t understand this impending zeitgeist is because I’m not a connoisseur of timekeeping. As I write, what lurks on my right wrist is a £25 digital Lorus contraption with a scratched face, broken strap and a frustrating method of adjusting the time guaranteeing that it dwells two minutes into the future. Why do I persist with it? Because it can give me a good enough idea of what time it is, just as it has for the last five or so years without any issues, battery charges or extraneous expenses.

If I want any more information, I’ll check my phone. Often, I’ll even look at the phone for the time because I’m already responding to an email or something. You know, those alerts that make a noise or vibration in your pocket and don’t intrude unless they need to, rather than something on my wrist that provides yet another distraction, reeks of torpidity, and provides a dreadful way for users to interact with their technologies. There’s a reason smartphone displays have become bigger of late.

Pebble spent the whole evening mocking Apple on Twitter, and rightfully so. If any smartwatch was a viable commodity, it would be one of Pebble’s. Their emphasis on consuming information rather than interacting with it is reflected in the price tag (£99 for the plastic model, £179 for the steel one), and choice of display, with a Kindle-like e-paper display which is visible in sunlight for those of us that dare to venture outside, and a battery that is claimed to last a whole week.

The Apple Watch, in all its forms, is solutionism embodied. The world’s foremost consumer technology firm has fallen into the trap of building what is by early accounts a clunky and overpriced attempt at resolving the issue of smartphones imposing on our lives – an issue that either they created with the iPhone in 2007 or that they fabricated to extract more from our pockets.

Perhaps the Watch is an attempt by Apple to position itself as a luxury fashion brand rather than a consumer technology giant. Perhaps there is a legitimate market for technology as a fashion accessory that the Apple Watch will spur. Perhaps Jony Ive and co., in all their wisdom, genuinely thought that they should jump on the wearable bandwagon.

All I know is that I won’t be joining them any time soon.

Rugby 15 review

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This is a golden age of sports games. Electronic Arts and 2K, among others, churn out iterative titles every summer, make a quick buck and can get away with it because these titles are really rather good.

Rugby union doesn’t tend to get the same treatment. Since 2007, many fans have been clinging on to EA’s last title, Rugby 08, which was itself no more than a re-skinned Rugby 06. It wasn’t exceptional by any means, but ‘fans’ grew to love its glitches, disrespect for the rules and overpowered Irish centres.

HB Studios, EA’s contracted studio, brought the sport to the next generation in 2011, cashing in on the World Cup hype with, you guessed it, a shinier Rugby 08. Sidhe had a crack with a pair of Rugby Challenge titles which proved scarce and new players found it difficult to adapt to the perplexing controls, yet I found it far superior once you adapted. Still far from perfect, but closer than beforehand.

When news broke early last year that HB would be bringing a new Bigben-published title, Rugby 15, to market, I was tentatively excited. Yes, it would likely be Rugby 06 for the fourth time, but licensed sides and blanket release on major consoles would surely make up for it.

I became highly suspicious the month of release came and, with nary a gameplay video, the game was delayed in the UK (until its release on these shores today). So, like any rational person, I splashed out €45 to get it imported from France a few months ago. All in the name of journalism, of course, my dear reader. I would do anything for you. Even this.

Sadly for my wallet, it’s atrocious. Playing my first game against a longtime nemesis and worthy competitor at rugby games old and new, we both unleashed fits of laughter when the game kicked off.

Animations are deranged and woefully few. Controls are deranged, with the right trigger responsible for passes in all directions. Even the licenses have been mangled, with Irish lynchpin Jonny Sexton carrying a lower overall rating than unknown Harlequins benchwarmers.

Rugby 15’s defining moment came in a clash between Toulon and Clermont Auvergne. Whilst pitying my opponent and clinging onto what little desire I maintained to survive, I crossed the try line and intentionally flicked the ball wide to winger Julien Malzieu, standing off the pitch, who then leapt back across the line, grounding the ball at my command. Correctly, the game awarded Toulon a 22 metre dropout, but not before awarding Malzieu’s Clermont the 5 most invalid points they’ll ever collect, virtual or not.

If you care for the sport of rugby or its video game realisations one iota, please avoid this game. Just pick up a copy of Rugby Challenge 2 and get to grips with its quirks. For now, I’m stuck trying to figure out how to recoup my Euros.

Rugby 15 is released today in the UK. It is awful.

Digixav Podcast 019: 2014 Awards Spectacular – January 2nd 2015

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If the Digixav Podcast were Futurama, Bender’s exclamations of return would have grown old and decrepit. That won’t stop us, though, as Henry and Xavier return exactly a year after their last outing to deliberate this year’s award winners. And, being our venerable podcasters, they spend most of the time talking about Taylor Swift sheet music, Threes addiction and will.i.am’s latest attempts at becoming a technology mogul.

Links

Right click and save this link to download, and you can subscribe (and rate and review the show) using iTunes! Don’t fancy iTunes or use a different podcatcher? Here’s our RSS link!

If you have any feedback, questions or comments, tweet us or send us an email to podcast@digixav.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Apple unveils Watch and iPhones, big and bigger, at San Francisco keynote

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“Can’t innovate any more, my ass,” joked Apple’s Phil Schiller last year as he unveiled the latest generation Mac Pro. After accusations of the company stagnating and failing to put out a revolutionary product since 2010’s iPad sparked the post-PC revolution, Apple’s share price tumbled despite record sales figures.

Though targeted at the likes of video professionals rather than you or I, the ‘trash can’ Mac Pro was a sign of bright things to come. With a unique construction designed to save power, space and noise, the desktop workhorse (and Schiller’s comment) appeared to perfectly represent Tim Cook’s all-new Apple. They were going to innovate. They wouldn’t be afraid to have some fun. They were going to strike back.

Along came September 9th and Cook graced the stage at San Francisco’s Flint Center, bringing with him a pair of new iPhones and the long-awaited Apple Watch. All are clear responses to the likes of Samsung and Motorola, though is the catch-up effort enough to restore Apple to the head of the pack? Continue reading

Apple does thing that everyone expected Apple to do, just like always

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You know how Apple has an event every September in which they announce iPhones and other assorted technology devices and everyone freaks out about 2 weeks before when an invite lands in the inboxes of all the big tech blogs and has an Apple logo and a few words that don’t reveal anything useful and gets deconstructed to hell by Apple bloggers everywhere clamouring for a piece of the news that Re/code broke the day before?

Yeah, that happened. See you Tuesday 9th.

Source Kurt Colbeck (Twitter)

Amazon Cart launches, allowing lazy shoppers to consumerise without leaving Twitter

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For all of us who find clicking on Amazon links and pressing buttons to add products to shopping carts mind-numbingly tedious, Amazon and Twitter’s new partnership promises to revolutionise how we shop in the most #social way ever. Enter #AmazonCart (or #AmazonBasket for my fellow Brits). Once you’ve linked your Amazon and Twitter accounts, you can add any product to your Amazon purchase queue by tweeting #AmazonCart in reply to a tweet that contains an Amazon product link. Of course what this doesn’t tell you is how much the product is, whether it is any good or if you can find a better deal elsewhere. Much of this can be solved by clicking on the link, but then what’s the point in this new scheme? Click on a link, take a peek and tap a button sounds a lot faster, simpler and consumer-savvy than seeing a tweet, pressing reply, typing out a response to (what is most likely) your brand of choice or a friend who couldn’t actually care any less about your chronic purchasing habits, scribbling #AmazonCart at the end and then tweeting your response.

But #hashtags, right?

First Look: A cooler/desk hybrid that makes laptop use practical again

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Despite the name, it’s pretty well known that laptops just aren’t suitable for lap use. Whether due to the instability that the thighs (as a surface) produce or due the heat that is generated as we send the devices into overdrive, it’s generally preferable (and recommended by the manufacturers) to just stick the damn thing on a desk and get on with it. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that the long-term heat exposure that stems from laptop use can cause Toasted Skin Syndrome. As such, some people invest in impractical coolers, either active or passive, to provide some additional ventilation, but these don’t tend to cater for the lap users.

That’s where an unusual innovation that recently passed through DX Towers comes into play.

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Designed and built by Luke Hansford, a sixth form student at Christ’s Hospital School, the as-yet unnamed device converges a laptop cooler, standing and sitting desk and a desk tidy into one package. The unit, which I tested in early prototype form, is constructed from metal, wood and plastic, but it’s not exactly the sleekest solution I’ve seen – this is not going to fit in your bag for the commute. Nevertheless, it’s a great setup. The contoured acrylic base allows for a fantastic chair-centred work experience that combines the convenience of being able to sit anywhere with a functional and spacious working surface. Contrarily, when placed on a standard desk, you create a quick and convenient standing desk solution thanks to the added elevation.

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In terms of cooling, a yellow wire coming out of the rear with a thermistor on the end leads to a circuit and an active fan system underneath the isometric metal surface. Theoretically, the thermistor will kick the fan (powered by a pair of 9V batteries) into action, although trying to secure the thermistor to the warmest points of the laptop was impossible without some Blu-Tack. At this point, running Kerbal Space Program, The Walking Dead and Bioshock Infinite simultaneously not only generated enough fun to power the circuit, but also sent my laptop fan into overdrive and awoke the circuit below.

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As this is only an early prototype, modifications and refinements are afoot. Currently, he upper metal layer is vulnerable to a bit of flex when heavier machines adorn it and rotating wooden desk tidy element, while splendid for stashing away pens and other assorted desk ornaments, can dig into those among us with rounder figures. The temperamental thermistor, too, may also be adjusted to ensure more consistent action, although the perforated metal sheet does provide ample ventilation and increased airflow while remaining aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps the 9V batteries could also be phased out in favour of USB power draw, which would reduce the running costs yet further, while the thermistor system will also surely become more discrete as the prototype evolves.

Though no wide production run has yet been confirmed, it is estimated that, upon an eventual launch, the contraption would cost around £50. Make sure to follow Hansford on Twitter for updates as the project develops.