The Apple Watch Series 2

I've been putting my new Apple Watch Series 2 through its paces and thought it worth checking in on my initial thoughts.

Apple Watch Believer

I bought the original Apple Watch Sport when it first launched and I’ve worn it every day since. A lot of people lost interest in the Apple Watch in the months following its release but I find it quite useful. Every day I use the ability to see my next appointment on my wrist, the whole world of notifications, and the fitness tracking. I'd used smart watches before (like my original Kickstarter Pebble) and for me, the Apple Watch left them all in the dust. 

What I didn't like about the original Apple Watch was the performance constraints and, in hindsight, the quirky user interface. After getting excited about the changes with watchOS 3 and seeing that Apple added some new features (and performance horsepower) to the Series 2, I decided to upgrade.

The New Watch

While my original Apple Watch was the space gray aluminum, I upgraded with the new watch to Stainless Steel. This was a luxury but since I've already been wearing an Apple Watch for awhile, I know I'm sold and I wanted something nice.

The stainless steel watch is, not surprisingly a bit heavier than the aluminum watch but not uncomfortably so. The watch definitely feels more solid than the aluminum watch and I'm going to enjoy the new band combinations that I can get with the stainless steel. 

One concern with the stainless steel watch is the taptic engine. My friends that purchased the original stainless steel Apple Watch complain that the taptic engine doesn't work as well as it did on the Apple Watch Sport. What ever problem they had with the original stainless steel watch got fixed with the Series 2 watch. The taps work just fine and don't feel significantly different than they did on my original Apple Watch Sport.

Another difference I’ve noticed is the spin of their crown. It feels like it is slightly more weighted than with the lighter aluminum sport. I thought this was just in my mind but when I tried the aluminum and stainless steel watches in the Apple Store, I had the same impression.

Another benefit of the stainless steel watch over the aluminum is the material used on the face of the watch. The stainless steel watch uses Sapphire crystal and the aluminum watch uses Ion-X glass. The Sapphire crystal is tougher and comparing it to my year-and-a-half year old aluminum watch, looks noticeably better. I'm hard on watches and I'm hoping this new watch face holds up better.

The fit and finish of the stainless steel is great and while it hurt a little spending the extra money on it, I like the look of it a lot more than my original Apple Watch.

Performance Boon

My biggest gripe with the original Apple Watch was performance. While the original Apple Watch was a great productivity tool with the built-in basic features, I eventually gave up on all but the most rudimentary apps. Between the faster S2 processor and the improvements in watchOS 3, I find that is no longer the case. In attributing performance gains between the hardware and software upgrades I did not run any benchmarks but I can tell you that I ran watchOS 3 on my original Apple Watch for months and apps are snappier on the new hardware.

Apps actually work on this new watch. My OmniFocus database is a big one. Getting it over to my watch and navigating it on my wrist was unbearable with the original Apple Watch and now it can work. I still get occasional lags but they are fractions of a second. Since getting the new watch, I've never had an app show me the spinner and, ultimately, just quit on me like used to happen on the original Apple Watch.

The new processor and software now make it possible to use third party apps. Once you wrap your head around that, you'll need to start rethinking which apps may be worth the trouble. It's still an incredibly small screen and it takes pretty clever app developer to make it work. However, apps are now on the table and that is going to be interesting.

So Bright

The original Apple Watch has 450 nits of brightness. The new one has 1,000 nits. That's a lot of nits. In case you were wondering, a "nit" is a unit of luminance equal to one candela per square meter. I'm not going to entirely unpack that but I can tell you the brightness on the new watch is immediately apparent. So much so that I'm looking at the original Apple Watch screen and trying to get over how dim it now looks. 

While performance was the feature knew I wanted most in the new Apple Watch, screen brightness is the feature I did not know I wanted most. It's easier to read now, indoors and outdoors. If you are on the fence about upgrading your Apple Watch and want to save money, I recommend not comparing screen brightness between the old and new Apple Watches.

Water Resistance

I was pretty cavalier with the original Apple Watch and water. Because it was always on me, it often got pretty wet. I occasionally wore it in the shower, I'd wash it under the sink if it got dirty, and on more than one occasion my hand went into the water while wearing the watch. I feel even more reckless with the new watch. Water just isn't a consideration for me now. In addition to all the above, I'll be wearing the new watch in the pool and the ocean. 


With the GPS radio, you can now go for a run or a hike and leave your phone at home. The watch will track your route and show it to you once you get back to your phone.

The inclusion of a GPS radio on the new watch is great for runners but it also exposes a few flaws. It is still goofy trying to load music files onto the watch. If you regularly listen to temporary media (like podcasts and audio books), you're going to spend more time than you want getting data on the watch if you want to leave your phone at home on your next run or hike.


Granted it is early days but I really like the improved Apple Watch. If you didn’t get an original Apple Watch but have been thinking about it, now is an excellent time to get on board. The case for upgrading from the original Apple Watch is more difficult. If you are a swimmer or a runner (and want the GPS), you should definitely upgrade. The reason I upgraded is because I really like my Apple Watch and I wanted the latest and the greatest. The increased performance and screen brightness make the watch more useful to me. Now that I can actually use apps, I'm very curious to see how I'm using the Apple Watch in a few months.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode

The latest iOS 10.1 beta includes the promised portrait mode for the iPhone 7 Plus. I think everyone was pretty surprised how quickly this feature made it into the betas. Several people have published example photos including Matthew Panzarino and MacRumors. My favorite example is Jason Snell's cat. Jason posted an image that rotates between a standard and portrait enhanced picture of his cat. This shows off the strengths (and limitations) of this software feature. Pay particular attention to the cat hair along the edges.

MPU 341: iOS 10

In this week's Mac Power Users episode, Katie and I break down our favorite bits of iOS 10 for the iPad and iPhone. Get it now.

Sponsors include:

  • Squarespace: Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
  • PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
  • Automatic The connected car company that improves your driving and integrates your car into yoru digital life. Enter code MACPOWER to get 20% off your purchase. 
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.

Sponsor: Shimo, the Mac VPN Client for Everyone

This week MacSparky is sponsored by Shimo, an outstanding Mac VPN client.

Later this week we’re getting the macOS Sierra update and if you use a VPN client, you need to take note that Apple’s built-in VPN client will no longer support PPTP VPN. Never fear though. Shimo does. Indeed Shimo supports several VPN protocols including OpenVPN, IPSec, PPTP, SSL, AnyConnect, SSH.

Shimo sits in your macOS menu bar and is always ready to work for you. User experience is key to this app and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to configure and operate. 

Shimo also takes your security seriously with its support of two-factor authentication and Trigger Automation, which lets your Shimo automatically connect VPN accounts based on certain trigger conditions. All of this adds up to seriously good security with a seriously good user experience.

Up your VPN game today with Shimo.


Happy iPhone day to everyone getting their new handset. (Mine is still about a week away.) Today YouTube is lit up with people doing things like dunking their iPhone 7 in coffee and taking it in the pool (3.5 feet deep!) and the phones are still working. My favorite is the iFixit ongoing stress test. As I write this, iFixit's iPhone has been underwater for 4 hours and is still working fine. This doesn't mean the new phone is an underwater camera so much as the next time you fall in the pool or drop it in water, you're probably fine.

Messages Improvements and Apple's New Challenge

When Apple announced all the changes to the Messages app and the addition of animations, stickers, apps, and other whiz-bang features in June, a lot of my nerd friends thought it was silly. I didn't. As I write this, I'm sitting at a Starbucks doing a bit of work. Two women sitting at the table next to me are in fits of laughter as they send themselves stickers, balloons, and other text effects. What pushed me over the edge to stop and write this is when one said to the other, "This is the best update ... EVER!" 

Granted this is just one example but I'm hearing about the new Messages features from many non-geek family and friends and they all love it. As much as I wanted Apple to put more work into iPad productivity with iOS 10 (that may still be coming later), I absolutely see why they went so hard at improving Messages. People love this stuff.  When Android users see their iPhone friends using these effects, they will be tempted. This will sell iPhones.

The challenge I think Apple faces with this is to keep it relevant. Apple has a history of doing innovative things and then leaving them in place as they move on to other things. If Apple really want to make this work, I think there should be a team constantly adding new screen animations and text effects. Ideally they'd change monthly and include holiday themes effects. Why not have turkeys in November and wrapped gifts in December? They've got a lot of happy consumers right now with these new features. I hope they don't let this turn stale.

MPU 340 - Digital GTD with Mike Williams

Speaking of OmniFocus, for a while now I’ve been wanting to really geek out on task management with a GTD Pro on the Mac Power Users. This week I got my wish. Mike Williams is the president of the David Allen Company. He lives, breathes, and teaches GTD regularly and he’s a geek like us. When we got on the mic with him this week, time flew.

Sponsors include: 

  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Marketcircle We help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. 
  • MindNode MindNode makes mind maping easy.

John Gruber on iPhones 7

I always enjoy John Gruber's insight (and brevity) when it comes to reviewing Apple products. Today he released his review of the iPhones 7 and doesn't disappoint. One of the most interesting tidbits is that the "zoom" lens on the iPhone 7 Plus has a smaller aperture than the standard lens. That means you'll want to take your indoor and low-light photography with the standard lens, not the zoom.

A Few Notes on iOS 10

This year I started using the iOS 10 beta way too early. Today it released and everybody can download it. (Hooray!) Here's a few random thoughts I came up with while using the beta.

  • Spend some time figuring out messages. There are several new features and you'll find use for at least a few of them. If you're feeling cranky about the animations, think about how one-dimensional text is. The animations and text effects can add context.
  • A case in point is stickers. I thought they were kind of dumb but I've been using them throughout the beta and now I like them. They may go from cute to unbearable in the space of a week but for now, they're still cute.
  • All my beta friends are mixed about raise to wake. It's really all about whether or not you like using Notification Center. Try giving the notification screen a go. It's better and more interactive with iOS 10. I think Apple views the notification screen as their version of screen widgets. I'm definitely using them more now than ever.
  • The improvements to Apple Maps are significant. If you'd given up on Apple Maps, give it another try. I particularly like the screen layout on driving directions. It's much better now. Maps also will dynamically re-route you when it finds a shorter route, which comes in handy often in Southern California.
  • You'll probably initially hate the new Control Center. I did. Multiple screens of Control Center seemed unnecessary and why on earth is the Night Shift button so big (or even there)? However, it grew on me. Now I kind of like having a separate Control Center screen for audio controls. If you connect your phone to multiple bluetooth devices, don't miss the source button at the bottom of the Audio Control Center. Also try using 3D touch.
  • Searching your photos by face or objects is fun. However, except for playing with this feature to see if it worked, I've only actually needed it a few times in the months of beta testing.
  • Photos' ability to collect images from an event or date is fun and we've enjoyed this throughout the beta. However, that thing where Photos gives you the "Best of" some period of time appears to be completely random.
  • I haven't seen enough of Siri third party integration to have an opinion. My fear is that I still will not have seen much of it six months from now.
  • Home Kit still has a long way to go.

DEVONthink To Go 2

We’ve talked about DEVONthink several times on Mac Power Users and there is a lot to like about the app but because I use iOS and iPad so much, it never really felt to me like a practical option. That may have changed with the recent release of DEVONthink To Go 2 for iOS. The new version is all about syncing and power-users like Gabe Weatherhead love it.

I’ve only dipped my toe so far but you may be hearing more about this one.

MPU 339: iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2

Yesterday we recorded one of our rare news-cycle episodes of Mac Power Users. In it, Katie and I break down all of the news from Apple's keynote and share our thoughts and opinions on the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2. Get it while it's hot.

Sponsors Inclue:

  • Casper: Because everyone deserves a great night sleep. Get $50 off with the code ‘MPU’
  • Gazelle Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle! 
  • Automatic The connected car company that improves your driving and integrates your car into yoru digital life. Enter code MACPOWER to get 20% off your purchase. 
  • Sanebox Stop drowning in email!

About that Missing Headphone Port

As expected, the iPhone 7 removed the headphone port. I thought the explanation on stage yesterday was pretty good about why they did it. Although I wouldn't have called it "courageous". People at Apple have done courageous things. Removing the headphone port, however, does not raise to that level.

BuzzFeed got an exclusive interview with the Apple team where they address the removal of the headphone port more thoroughly and, in my mind, better.

The combined promise of sound quality, a steady Bluetooth connection, the battery life, the voice control, and ease of pairing across devices, all free of wires — if it all works, these things do seem to provide value an order of magnitude greater than even the priciest wired buds. But it’s also up to Apple to sell these things, to convince people that they want them. That’s harder, but not impossible.
— John Paczkowski for BuzzFeed

If you want to understand Apple's argument (and spin) on this issue, I'd read the entire article. I do think including the adapter in the box was smart. It doesn't solve all the problems (you still can't simultaneously charge and listen to wired headphones) but it solves most of them. I'm starting to think the removal of the headphone port isn't going to turn into the public blood-bath I originally thought it would.

Happy Birthday Hazel

Today Hazel, one of my favorite Mac utilities, turns 10. Hazel takes care of me every day renaming and filing documents and so much more. In celebration the app is 50% off for a short time. For today only it's just $16. If you've not purchased Hazel yet, today's your day. Want to learn more about Hazel? There's a pretty good video on that.

MPU 338: Scrivener and Ulysses

This week’s episode of Mac Power Users is a deep dive on the two best long form writing tools available for Mac and iOS, Scrivener and Ulysses. Both apps are great and, thankfully, scratch different itches. Listen to the show for the full break down.

Sponsors include:

  • PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap ScanSnap Helps You Live a More Productive, Efficient, Paperless Life. 
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.
  • Squarespace: Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

Sponsor: Agenda Minder

This week MacSparky is sponsored by Agenda Minder (website)(App Store).

I’m not alone in hating meetings. So often I walk out of a meeting desperately wishing I had that hour back. Occasionally, however, I leave a meeting feeling like work actually got done and with newfound respect for some person that drove that meeting with the efficiency of the Swiss railway.

This week’s sponsor can make you that person. Agenda Minder is a Mac app that gives you meeting organization super-powers. Your team will know how organized and responsive you are when you simply copy email requests into Agenda Minder and cover the topic at your next meeting. They’ll be surprised when they get your beautiful Agenda Minder agenda out ahead of the meeting.

Agenda Minder stays out of your way with simple controls and a clean look. Quickly add meetings and agenda items capturing the objective and any preparation notes you need. Just doing this as a quick preparation can make your meetings better.

You can also quickly find the right meeting by sorting meeting name or date. Filter the meetings you have today, this week, or next.

My thanks to Agenda Minder for sponsoring MacSparky. Go check Agenda Minder out for yourself. A meeting is only as good as the agenda.