I have been on a quest to find the ultimate wireless iPhone charger for my nightstand. After upgrading to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I added MagSafe to my list of requirements:
Has to charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods case simultaneously
It should come with the Apple Watch charger already built-in and not require me to use my existing Apple Watch charger.
It should have one cable and one power supply
While the Apple Watch is charging it should be easy to see at night in Nightstand Mode
MagSafe Charging (if you have an iPhone 12 series)
No annoying LED status lights
The Apple Watch charger has to accommodate bands that don’t open!
There are several wireless chargers out there. The problem is that most of them get the design wrong. I’ve gone through a few models and all but the last two I tried were complete disappointments. Again, this is mostly due to bad design. Also, it seems harder to find ones that will charge all 3 devices. Many will charge the iPhone and Apple Watch or the iPhone and AirPods case.
Apple’s AirPower was supposed to be the only wireless charger you would need. One charging mat that lets you charge an iPhone (or Android), Apple Watch and AirPods. Apple decided to cancel the AirPower before it ever shipped. They sited quality/technical difficulties. I can only imagine that this was because you would have been able to put your phone, watch or AirPods anywhere on the mat. Since the Apple Watch doesn’t use a standard Qi charger I’m sure it was hard to make it work when placed anywhere on the mat.
There are lots of Qi wireless chargers on the market. Some are designed just to charge a phone while other bigger mats are designed to charge two to three devices. I originally went with the Nomad Wireless Charger as it was one of the first to have an integrated Apple Watch charger. The Nomad solution works fine, but what I didn’t like about it was that it was one configuration. You lay your phone on it either vertically or horizontally and you put your watch on the dedicated spot. If you want to charge a third device then you put the phone vertically in the middle. What I don’t like about this is that you have to put the phone on it just right (not to far forward and not too far towards the front) or it won’t be on one of the three charging coils and therefore it won’t charge. I have woke up on occasion only to realize that my phone didn’t charge because it wasn’t sitting on it just right.
SliceCharge Pro offers six high speed charging coils instead of three or four
If you’ve been following this blog then, you know I got an Apple Watch on day one 4/24/2015. I also bought an extra charging cable that could remain in my suitcase for travel. I take my Apple Watch off every night and put it on the charger for the night. I hate wearing any kind of jewelry when I sleep and even if Apple Watch never needed to be charged I would still take it off every night. I knew from day one that I would want a charging stand to put it on. Even before Apple Watch shipped there were companies showing their stands and I was shocked by the price of some of them. Let me explain why. An Apple Watch charging stand has NO ELECTRONICS in it. It’s simply a stand that you supply with your charging cable and it gives you place to simply lay your Apple Watch on and because of the magnetic charging cable it would simply float there on the stand. The stands are usually made of plastic, metal or wood. For something that has no electronics I couldn’t believe what some companies were charging for theirs. For example, this one goes for a whopping $99! Granted it’s made of walnut, but still that seems like a lot of money for a small piece of wood. I don’t mind spending money on engineering and R&D, but the only thing to really figure out with these is to make sure the hole is the right size to hold the Apple charging cable. The first one I got was by Spigen and it’s OK. It works. However, for just $5 more you can have the BEST one.
I ordered three different models including one that I had 3D printed from a design I downloaded from the web and I’m happy that I found the Griffin Technologies WatchStand. It’s by far the best one I’ve seen for the money. Like most of the others, there are no electronics in it and you need to supply your own Apple Watch charging cable. However, unlike most of the others the design is well thought out and provides great cable management and most importantly great weight at the base. There is no way that this one will tip over (a common problem with the plastic ones, like the one I 3D printed). I also really like the “lip” on one side that allows you to easily lean your iPhone up against it. While there are more expensive models that actually have a lightning adapter in them for your iPhone/iPad, the lip is all that I needed. Sometimes I grab my iPhone in the middle of the night to check messages and if I had to look for the dock to set it back on in the dark it would be a nuisance. With this one I can leave the lightning cable attached to the iPhone and just lean it back on the stand when I’m done.
The center column detaches so that you can wrap any excess cable inside. You can also face the center column in a different direction. For example, I wanted to lean my iPhone on the side vs. the front. I was worried about those that have Apple Watches that have bands that can’t open, how would you use this stand. Then I saw this shot on their website and it became clearer:
If you’re an Apple Watch owner and you want the Best Apple Watch Stand for the money, then look no further than the WatchStand by Griffin Technologies.
Whenever a stranger notices that I’m wearing an Apple Watch, the 1st thing they usually ask is “do you like it?” I always find this question to be a bit awkward because I guess if there was something as personal as a watch or other wearable item that I didn’t like, I probably wouldn’t be wearing it. It’s like saying, hey those shoes you’re wearing, do you like them? However, I get it. It’s a hot new tech gadget with a lot of hype that they’ve heard something about or perhaps are interested in possibly getting one and it’s probably the first question that comes to mind. To answer the question for the record, YES, I love it! Now with that said, it’s a 1st generation Apple product and as history has always shown us it will get better with each iteration. Think back to iPhone 1.0 in 2007 and iPad 1.0 in 2010. I loved those products too, but could never imagine going back to those first models now that the newer ones are in hand. I expect to have the same feeling about Apple Watch 1.0 in a few years. But for now I’m very happy with it.
The next question I get and this is another odd one for me to answer is “Is it worth it?” Again, it feels kinda personal. I usually answer with the truth “yes, it’s worth it to me!” I can’t answer if it will be worth it for you or not? I have no idea what you consider to be of value and what your limits are? Some things that you would spend money on I would probably find not to be worth it to me. However, for the record the answer is YES!, it’s worth it (to me). My #1 measure for answering this question is, if something were to happen to it or if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, would I buy it again? hmmmm, Yes! My only debate would be would I buy the Sport model again or would I step up to the stainless steel model. I chose not to go with the more expensive models knowing that this is a first generation 1.0 product and that when 2.0 comes out then I would spend more on the sure to be thinner model with all kinds of new bells and whistles. I do want a stainless steel one and I’ve had to close my browser window a couple of times when I was tempted to just go ahead and order one, but I’ll wait.
Probably the least expected moment when someone asked me about Apple Watch…
I would have to say that I was a bit frustrated when one of my viewers on Periscope (follow me @TerryLWhite) asked me about Apple Watch during a live broadcast from Milan Italy last week. I know that the viewer didn’t mean anything wrong by the question, but I was a bit taken back by the question during that particular moment because I was showing this beautiful scene from the top of the Milan Cathedral. The beauty, the history, the architecture, the wow factor and out of the blue “has the Apple Watch benefited you on this trip?” Huh? Really? You want to talk Apple Watch now? Right now? Are you seeing this? So I was a bit snippy with my response and for that I apologize. He didn’t deserve that and his curiosity was genuine. There was nothing wrong with the question. I actually felt bad afterwards. For that reason, I thought why not answer the question in detail with this blog post?
Using Apple Watch on my trip to Europe
Although I had traveled with Apple Watch from day one, this was my first trip abroad with it. I would say that the first thing I like about traveling with Apple Watch is that it changes the time based on where you are just like your iPhone. So I never ever have to set it. Last week I went to the Netherlands, Paris and Milan. The first thing I thought about was what information would I want to see at a glance every time I looked at my Watch? Apple calls the 4 customizable corners of Apple Watch “Complications”, not sure I would have used that term, but that’s what they are called. Also my buddy Jack just pointed out to me that Complications is the common term used for describing features of clocks beyond the time display. Learn something new everyday. My daily 4 complications were Weather, Battery Status, Activity (like a fitness band) and the Central Europe Time Zone (Paris time). I customized it by replacing Battery Status with Pacific Time and changed Paris time to Eastern Time (my home time zone – Atlanta). I also set the default to 24 hour (military time) since that’s what the rest of the world uses.
Speaking of Battery Life…I no longer display the battery status on my watch because since day one battery has NEVER been a problem for me. Not one time in 45 days have I run out of juice. I think the lowest the battery has been when I put it on the charger at night was 30% left. It actually averages between 40%-60% left each day. Since battery life has never been an issue for me, I figured why waste the space displaying the status at all times? I can always use the battery “glance” if I’m ever curious to how much juice I have left. While Apple states that you’ll get 18 hours of battery I have actually gone over that for the 1st time on this trip. I put my watch on at 8:00 am the day I left and didn’t take it off till the next afternoon in the Netherlands at 1PM, 23 hours later! I also kept it active on the 7.5 hour flight because the Delta 747 that I was on had WiFi. No need to go into Airplane mode. Apple Watch battery life is much better than expected!
After setting up the perfect watch face display above, the next thing was the Apps themselves. Some were very useful on this trip. I’ll start with the ones that are built-in. I love that Apple Watch shows me incoming calls. This is even more important when traveling abroad as calls can be costly. At a glance I could see who was calling and even better, if it was a call that I didn’t want to take I could just cup my hand naturally over the Watch to silence the incoming call and send it . This is a pretty sweet feature. The next one that was extremely nice was the Activity monitor. I did a LOT of walking around on this trip and it was great hitting/exceeding my daily Move and Stand goals. I used to wear a Nike+ Fuelband on one arm and sometimes a nice Marc Jacobs watch on the other. Now I have Apple Watch that gives me both a nice watch and fitness tracker in one. Speaking of it being a watch, people seem to be really impressed when I raise my arm to see what time it is and the Watch displays the time. This is what bugged me about using all other digital watches (including the Nike+ Fuelband) in the past is that you had to use your other hand to press a button to activate the display. There is no button to press thanks to the built-in accelerometer.
The Timer was awesome to use. This was a work trip and I had presentations to do in each city. Normally I’d use a presentation timer on my iPhone, but more and more I’m using my iPhone as part of the demo to show mobile Apps. This lead to my using an iPod touch for music and to run my timer apps. I didn’t take the iPod touch out of my bag one time on this trip. The watch made a great timer. At a glance I could see how much time I had left and if I got carried away the taptic feel of the timer tapping my wrist when my time was up was PERFECT. Although I didn’t have slides to present during this trip, I have also used the Keynote App on Apple Watch as a wireless remote to advance my slides from my wrist. It was great to use the timer for the flight home. This way I was able to see how many hours I had left at a glance.
Notifications are killer! Not having to pull out my iPhone for every little thing is what I hoped Apple Watch would help with and it has. Having calendar reminders, text messages, and several 3rd party app messages pop up on my Watch instead of having to pull out my iPhone each time was great.
There was one 3rd party app that stood out. If you want to see the 3rd party Apple Watch Apps that I like the most, you can see the full list here. However, the one for travel that was great to have was FlightTrack 5. All of my flights were loaded in via my iPhone 6 Plus and therefore available at a glance on my Apple Watch. I could see any flight updates, delays, times, etc.
I also liked using Adobe Color CC to collect the most popular color themes from each city. I’m becoming a fan of ProCamera 8 + HDR and their iPhone app now includes an Apple Watch app that not only gives you a remote shutter release from your Watch, but also a quick review of the images that you just took so that you can stay in place and shoot again if need be.
Apple Pay via Apple Watch came in very handy
During my stay in Paris I went to lunch at the underground Mall next to the Louvre. Nice Apple Store there by the way. The food court had a variety of restaurants. I noticed that when I went to pay for my meal, the familiar touchless payment symbol appeared and I thought, why not try it. Two taps of the side button and my Apple Pay was ready. All the cashier kept saying was “wow, wow, wow”. Apparently I was his first Apple Watch paying patron. Or maybe that was all the English he spoke 🙂 .
I used Apple Watch in a way that I never would have thought about before this trip. It seems that in several public places in Europe that if you want to use the restroom you actually have to pay € .50.
While that’s not the end of the world, it was frustrating the first time when I didn’t have any change. The next time, I saw one I noticed that it took Apple Pay (contactless payments via NFC in smartphones and Apple Watch). Now Europe just needs to update their train stations to take touchless payments and it would be a lot easier, faster and a more secure way to pay for tickets.
The Bottom Line
The Apple Watch is far from perfect, but for what it is right now as a 1.0 product it’s GREAT. It does the things that I bought it for and if I had it to do all over again I’d buy it again. For every day use it has been a natural fit into my lifestyle and for travel it’s been great to have the things I want to know about the most at a glance. I look forward to the 3rd party Apps gaining access to the native functions of the Watch in the upcoming Apple Watch SDK. I have a whole drawer full of traditional watches, but Apple Watch is the one I enjoy the most. Apple Watch is a great product that will only get better over time.
I love home automation products. My first X10 remote controlled lights date back to the early 1980’s. Long before smartphones and bluetooth wireless. I always thought it was cool to be able to remote control several lights, appliances, etc. all from one control pad or timer module. I haven’t looked that the advancements that closely over the years, but when the Elgato Avea came across my review desk I was excited. The Avea Dynamic Mood Light is a 7W bluetooth controlled LED lightbulb. Unlike other products on the market this one doesn’t require a network connection or any other hardware to drive it other than your iPhone or iPad. Once you take it out of the box you merely screw it in to any standard light socket and set it up with the App on your iPhone. Rather than go into more detail via text, check out this video of how it works:
I was so happy with the review unit that I immediately ordered another one for another room. I was also pleasantly surprised to see and use the Apple Watch support. Being able to turn lights on and off as you walk around from your wrist adds another level of convenience and cool factor. I was also pleased to see that the lights can be controlled from either device at any time. When it comes to the iPhone vs. iPad vs. other iPhone, whoever opens the App first has control. This eliminates the pain of having to constantly unpair and pair differing mobile devices. My only two complaints are that I wish they offered a higher watt (brighter) version and that they made the app easier to control different lights than it is now. While the bulbs are plenty bright when using the “white” color setting, they colored settings/moods can be a bit dim. The App does allow you to turn on a mood for one or more lights at the same time, it seems like that control is buried another level deeper in the mood presets. I would like to see this setting moved up in the UI. My gripes are very minor. I’m very pleased with this product and will probably order more of them.
Many of my followers told me that when they saw that I was getting an Apple Watch that they “can’t wait to read your review.” Well here it is… At 3:00 AM ET on April 10th my alarm went off so that I could roll over and place my order for my Apple Watch. I was able to get into the site by 3:05 AM and I placed my order for a 42mm Silver Sport Watch. The Silver Sport only comes bundled with a White Band, Blue Band, Pink Band or Green Band. I’m really not fond of any of those colors, but wanted the Silver watch. Therefore I ordered an extra Black sport band (it’s still on backorder). By 3:10 AM I had rolled over and went back to sleep. Because I got my order in fast enough I was lucky to be in one the first shipments. I got my Apple Watch via UPS at about 2:45pm on April 24th. I had already done some research, read other reviews and watched the videos on Apple’s site. Therefore I knew a lot about the Apple Watch before I broke the seal on the box. I knew that the setup process included a fairly long sync process to sync the Apple Watch Apps from my iPhone. The process took about 10 minutes from start to finish. Of course your mileage will vary based on the number of Apple Watch compatible Apps that you have on your iPhone. Right after I got it setup I recorded this video to give a quick video overview of some of the features:
After A Full Day Of Use…
The video above was only after having just setup the Apple Watch. It just so happened that I was traveling on a business trip Friday evening. I got the watch setup in time to head out to the airport and make my flight. The first real world use I got (besides simply seeing the time at a glance – yes it is a watch) was to use the Uber App to summon a car to pick me up and take me to the airport. The next real world use was using the Delta boarding pass that I had received the day before on my iPhone in Passbook. Any of your Passbook passes automatically appear on your Apple Watch. I used it both at the TSA checkpoint and to board the plane at the gate. No problems. I landed and got a notification from the Hertz iPhone app to let me know what stall my rental car was in. I drove to my hotel, checked in and crashed for the night.
Battery Life… The next day (Saturday) I woke up and after showering I put my Apple Watch on. While you’re supposed to be able to shower in the Apple Watch I’m just not ready to take any chances at this point. I’ve seen the video where someone submerged an Apple Watch under water for 15 minutes and it still worked. Apple says it’s not water proof and I’m not ready to push it. I put the watch on at about 9:45am and went on about my day. When I got to my seminar I used the timer app on the Apple Watch to remind me 10 minutes before my end time. The great thing about the Apple Watch timer is that it will give you a taptic response when it goes off. This way I can feel it even if I don’t hear it. I used the Apple Watch as much as I wanted throughout the day and at 9:42pm (about 12 hours later) my battery indicator showed that I had 47% battery left. This was good. I would only be up for a few more hours at the most and this meant that I can easily use the Apple Watch with a single charge each day. As a matter of fact as I write this post on Sunday night and having started earlier today at around 8:30 AM I still have 36% battery life at 12:22AM (Monday morning).
On Sunday I got up a bit earlier and went on a morning walk along the river. I like the Activity monitor and I was looking forward to the Apple Watch replacing my Nike+ Fuelband and it does so nicely. The Apple Watch allows you to track your overall activity/calorie burn, standing for at least one minute every hour for 12 hours throughout the day and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise throughout the day.
What about the Apps?
Reportedly there were at least 3,000 apps available on April 24th for Apple Watch. I know that I was seeing updates on a daily basis. I have 71 Apple Watch Apps myself.
After a couple of days of use I have found some apps to be more useful than others and of course some work better than others. Some are simply useless in their current form while others I couldn’t imagine not having. The best ones I’ve seen so far are: FlightTrack, Uber, Keynote (I remote controlled my slide presentation on Sunday via my Apple Watch), Calcbot, Deliveries, Shazam and Weather Live.
These Apps are Apps on my iPhone, but work well enough on Apple Watch that I don’t have to pull out my iPhone to use them or see the data that they present. On the other hand there are some embarrassing ones too. The two Apps that have given me the worst experiences so far are the Delta Airlines App and the Marriott App. With the Fly Delta App you’re supposed to be able to see information about your flight before you take off and during the flight the status and count down til you land. The problem is that the app takes forever to load. I mean like minutes! My flight attendant noticed that I had an Apple Watch and asked how I liked it? She seemed really interested in it. I decided to start with the Delta App since we were on a Delta plane. We waited, waited and waited and finally she had to go and work the flight. It did eventually launch and displayed the remain flight time.
However, the remaining flight time never updated throughout the flight. This App is seriously broken. The problem with the Marriott App is Marriott’s obsession with making you sign-in with your password every time you want to use the App. This was an annoyance on the iPhone (not having a “keep me signed in option”), it’s a deal breaker on the Apple Watch. If I have to pull out my iPhone to sign in, then I might as well continue to use the App on my iPhone.
NOTE: I noticed today that once I opened the Delta app on my iPhone the Apple Watch app opened right away. Like the Marriott app, that defeats the purpose of the Watch app. This needs to be fixed.
I imagine that the apps will get better now that developers actually can get Apple Watches to test with. I expect this market to continue to grow.
The Built-in Apps are Good
As you might expect the built-in apps are generally better, more stable than the 3rd party Apps. I’m sure Apple’s engineers had complete access to the hardware to play. I really like the Messages App, Passbook, Weather, the Phone app, and the Timer (I used the timer as a presentation timer on Saturday and really appreciated the tap on my wrist letting me know I only had 10 more minutes left).
It’s all about “Glances”
I’m finding that while you can have up to 20 Apps with “Glances” that fewer “Glances” are better. By the time you have to swipe left or right 10 times to find the Glance you want you could have just as easily found and opened the App itself. Today I removed all but the few glances that I will use the most. By the way a “glance” is when you swipe up from the bottom to get to things like battery life, current stock price of your favorite stock, current weather etc. When you swipe up you see the last glance you used. To switch to a different glance you either swipe left or right to navigate them. Having too many will defeat the convenience of glances.
Apple Pay is the Killer App
One of the things I was looking forward to with Apple Watch is actually Apple Pay. The idea of not only not having to take out my wallet at the register, but not having to take out my iPhone 6 Plus is very appealing. I’m happy to report that Apple Pay rocks on Apple Watch and is definitely the fastest way to pay for things. See it in action in this short video I made:
The Bottom Line
Every time I mention Apple Watch I always have at least one person questioning why anyone would need it? Apple Watch is an extension of your iPhone on your wrist. There isn’t anything that you can do on Apple Watch that you couldn’t do on your iPhone. I remember the same arguments that surfaced when the iPad was released. There was nothing that you could do on iPad that you couldn’t do on your laptop. If you’re in that mindset then you’re right Apple Watch is probably not for you. For me it’s about seeing information at a “glance” and not having to always pull out my iPhone 6 Plus. The same way the iPhone allowed me to do things without always having to pull out my MacBook Pro. If the Apple Watch did nothing but displayed the time, weather, date, another time zone of my choosing, gave me my Passbook passes and Apple Pay it would have already been all that I wanted. However, the Apple Watch offers so much more. For a 1.0 product the hardware seems solid. I would like to see more watch faces as it seems like the iPod nano had more watch faces than the Apple Watch, but I’m sure that will happen in time with software updates. Once the 3rd party apps are refined a bit, Apple will have another healthy new product line on their hands. I’m happy with my purchase and look forward to continued updates, apps and other 3rd party accessories.
Now that we have all the details of the Apple Watch including the “all day” (18 hour) battery life and pricing, I’m curious as to how many of my readers will be getting the Apple Watch. This will also help in determining the level of interest in 3rd party apps?
Please take a moment to answer my one question poll: