Apple Watch – 60 days – 4 stars

After writing up my Apple Watch – First Impressions review, I was asked to revisit in 60 days. Well it’s been a bit more than 60 days and I’m still wearing it. Here are my updated thoughts.

I should mention a few things though. My Apple Watch had a minor defect with the sapphire crystal. The coating applied to the crystal had some defects which appeared like scratches. I took the watch to the local Apple Store and they sent it back to Apple. I got a brand new replacement watch 5 days later. That experience was exceptional.

Apple Watch as a watch
The Apple Watch is a superb watch. The build quality, the feel, the utility are there. I think of it like I do my previous watches and it does this job really well. You forget you are wearing a computer. On top of that it has a few features watches don’t have: changing watch faces, user swappable bands.

Charging
Not a problem. Not once have I gotten even close to the end of the battery. I end each day with about 50-60% battery life. Given all the noise about this pre-launch I’d say Apple more than exceeded expectations here.

Charging every night is also not a problem. I don’t sleep with my watch and never have. I got an inexpensive Spigen dock from Amazon and it feels natural to just slap the watch on the stand and go to bed. No problem.

For travel I got myself a Dodo case that charges my watch and phone in a nice stand.

Bands
I ended up buying the watch with the leather band and like how it looks and feels. Since then I’ve aquired the sport band (black) and the milanese loop. The sport band is way more comfortable than I imagined. And the milanese loop looks incredible, and feels incredible. And I love that it is infinitely adjustable.

I find that I wear the sport band on the weekends and on my workout day. I then go back and forth between the two other bands.

The ability to change bands easily, and in less than 10 seconds is to me what makes this watch better than a watch. I think this is probably one of the best innovations Apple has delivered.

Experience
The watch is not without its flaws. I expect these all to be addressed in the watchOS 2.0, but for now here are the big issues I encounter

  • Launching apps is basically impossible using your finger. I find using Siri the fastest way to do this (“Siri launch Stocks”) or setting up glances for my favorite apps
  • Siri doesn’t talk back to you which kinda stinks
  • Glances load slowly
  • Apps load slowly, and sometimes don’t load before the screen times out
  • Watch and or Phone require reboots every few weeks when battery drain on phone gets excessive or notifications stop working
  • Navigating glances is poor

Not a huge list. Now lets talk about the positives

  • Siri, Calendar and iMessage and notifications are the heroes
  • Being able to answer a call on the watch is surprising useful and delightful. I was in the garden the other day without my phone and was able to answer the call
  • Changing watch faces is also quite awesome
  • Setting an Alarm on the watch is better than the phone (the wake up ramp is better)
  • The Activity stuff, while not critical to me, is nice to have. I like the progress report on standing and moving and find that I hit my 12 hour standing goal every day (I have a standing desk at work).
  • Turn by Turn GPS navigation is super handy
  • The sketch and send heartbeat stuff is mostly useless. No one sends me these any more and I don’t send them either.

Apps
I thought I would list out what I think of as my go to apps on the watch

  • Weathernerd – I love this app for weather and I get a daily alert each morning with the forecast relative to yesterday.
  • Overcast – I started to use this after getting the watch for podcasts as Apple doesn’t have podcast support. I wish I had done this sooner. I use this Glance the most as well since it’s the fastest way to get in my car and start playing a podcast
  • Todoist & Wunderlist – I have both. Not sure which one I’ll stick with long term.
  • Reminders – no watch app but I love telling Siri “Remind me to research blah when I get home”. Killer feature
  • Trello – we use this heavily for work and the apps + notifications are great
  • Deliveries – my go to app on iOS and Mac for tracking delivery status
  • Passbook – when traveling or paying at Starbucks this comes in very handy. Having gate information and boarding details on the wrist is great
  • PowerPoint – presenting from your iPhone and using the watch for next and previous is kinda Ninja. Note that for this to work well you need to change the watch setting to resume to the last app when waking and not the watch face.
  • Apple Pay – when it works… it’s awesome.

Final Thoughts
I really like this watch, and see a bright future ahead. Apple has already announced a few nice features as part of Apple Watch 2.

The big ones are:

Nighstand mode – watch will tell time on its side all night. Unfortunately every dock maker out there now is thinking DAMMIT! This will require docs to be redesigned for the watch to lie on it’s side.

Native apps – today all apps are basically run through the phone. Apple’s apps are native (stocks, weather etc) and you can see the difference

New Watch Faces – I wish Apple would allow 3rd party apps to populate a watch face background like our OneDrive app does on Android Wear. This would be a killer feature for me.

HomeKit support – with my forthcoming Insteon Hub and Light switch, I cannot wait to say “Siri turn off the bedroom lights”

It’s clear to me that in 2-5 years, this will just become more and more incredible. I am really looking forward to the journey.

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

Drying Rack from Acadia Woodworks – 5 stars

There are some things Amazon just doesn’t have. One of them is a nice looking, functional drying rack for Ziplock bags and sport bottles.

I’ve been looking now for a few weeks to find something made for sport bottles and not baby bottles without much luck. That is when I stumbled across ArcadiaWoodworks on Etsy (who is is not far from Seattle) and purchased his Ziplock rack, which I emailed him and asked about it’s sutability for drying bottles to which Charlie replied within a minute with a photo of said rack with bottles on it.

For $15 I went ahead and purchased, and thanks to Apple Pay it took less than 5 seconds to complete the transaction. Charlie shipped it a few minutes later and I had the Drying rack the following day.

In our household we use a variety of water bottles (S’Well, Klean Kanteen for the kids, and my latest work water bottle from Fred which comes in a flask size and fits well in my back pocket) and food storage bags.

We use Ziplocks just like everyone else, and it drives me a bit crazy that you cannot recycle them. So we tend to re-use them. But my friend Kelsi also told us about these amazing re-usable food bags called neat-os. They come in 3 sizes and we have the snack and sandwich size.

Here are some photos of our new rack

And here it is with our neat-os

I love it when I find something high quality, inexpensive, and locally made.

Thanks to ArcadiaWoodworks for an awesome drying rack!

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Lush Dirty Shaving Cream – 5 stars

My curiosity has no bounds. I’ve been spending the past year experimenting with different shaving creams and products.

For a while I was using Dollar Shave Club and using their shaving cream. However, I found that after about 3 months of use, they were no comparison to the Gillette blades. I found that with Subscribe and Save from Amazon, the 12 count of blades was a great value (a bit more expensive) than the most expensive Dollar Shave club blades ($33.90 for a 3 month supply or $2.80 per blade) . I replace my blades ever week if I shave every day or every other week if I don’t. Interesting that I now see that Gillette has “Gillette Shave Club” but are charging $4.50 per blade. Yeah, nice one.

I am also pretty unsatisfied with the cheap Gillette handle, so I invested in a really nice handle, the Bolin X1 which is compatible with Gillette Fusion blades.

 

You may find the Bolin at Nordstrom, or in my case I ordered online from a Canadian retailer. They also make a great stand that I also got.

With my razor secured I tried a variety of shaving techniques. For a few months I used a boar bristle brush and shaving cream. This was great but involved more cleanup and prep. Also I was not completely happy with the 3-4 different shaving products I tried. I also needed to apply a pre-shave shaving oil to make it easier to shave. I have pretty sensitive skin so I was motivated to get a smooth shave.

For Valentines Day this year, my wife purchased some shaving cream from a company called Lush. I had never heard of them, but they are based out of Vancouver. They are famous for making these crazy Bath Bombs that my wife seems to love.

Anyway, the best way to describe Lush is that it’s a modern day Body Shop (if you remember those). Not the kind of store a Man will feel like running into I guess.

Well, turns out there are two Lush stores in Seattle. One in Bellevue and one downtown. Ok, so what about all this?

Well Lora got me a Shaving cream called Dirty. They make 3 other creams.

Let me just say… this is the most amazing shaving cream I have ever tried. AMAZING.

Ladies, Father’s day is coming up. Get it for your Man. You can pick it up from Amazon too (3.5oz and 8.1oz)

They also have another cream called Ambrosia, D’Fluff and Prince. I also got Ambrosia for travel (since the cream is in a travel friendly bottle). It also seems just as good, but I like the black tub for daily use. The woman in the store that sold me my 2nd container raved about how awesome it is for women, so you may also want to give it a go (Prince looks like it works for women).

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Automatic – Fitbit for your car – 4 stars

I’m really interested in data on every day things. You may have figured that out from reading my ecobee smart thermostat review.

This week we’re going to venture into cars. Automatic is what I’d call a Fitbit for your car. Since Father’s day is around the corner, I’d venture there are a few car loving Dad’s out there that would think this was cool. You can check compatability with your car here.

Automatic tells you all of the stuff that your car is doing such as:

  • Where you are driving
  • What your mileage is
  • Are you braking or accelerating hard
  • Check engine light? Why?
  • Can’t find your car? Locate it.
  • 24/7 emergency crash alerting
  • Trip tracking and tagging (for business / mileage reimbursement)
  • 3rd party apps with IFTTT integration

2 weeks ago I got an email from Automatic telling me that my car was finally compatible. Since I have a Diesel car, it took their 2nd generation device to add support.

The Automatic adapter works with most cars. It does this via an adapter and standard called On Board Diagnostics (ODB). Your car has a small interface that has probably only ever been used by your dealer or during an emmisions test.

The types of things you can do are really intersting. For example, this past week I went on a business trip and drove my car to the Airport. On my return I tagged both trips as “Business” so that I can file the mileage in my expense report.

Here is an example of a drive I took from downtown Seattle to Safeco field. You can see what the cost of this trip was based on the type of fuel my car uses, current prices and my miles driven.

Here you can see how much fuel is in my tank and the range I’ll get. I have a Diesel car hence the insane range I get per tank.

You can also run 3rd party apps if you are a car enthusiast like DashCommand snd see what your engine is doing

I created an IFTTT recipe that sets my ecobee to Home when I turn off my ignition in my garage. Not essential but neat.

Automatic also has an Apple Watch app for tagging your recent trip

As a safety device, one awesome feature is that if I ever get in an accident, Automatic will notify emergency service and contact up to 3 different people notifying them of the incident. Many car companies charge a ridiculous amount of money per year and with Automatic you get this for free with purchase of the device.

Automatic is a neat gadget. Not essential, but I’ve found it to be pretty handy. You can pick one up for $99.

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

ecobee3 is an Amazing Thermostat – 5 stars

I’ve had a Nest since August 2012. It was an exciting first few years. Since installing my Nest I’ve saved about 30% on my electrical and heating bills. How? Well the Nest is just a smarter way of heating and cooling. Not to mention it’s simple to use and program, especially compared to the horrible thermostat my house came with.

Nest was also my first “Internet of Things” device. Since then I’ve gotten Smart Locks, Dropcams and Nest Smoke Detectors. My house is getting smarter.

I’m not going to go into to much detail about why Nest is awesome, but I’ll highlight a few:

  • When I tell the Nest, I want it to be 72 degrees at 7pm for bedtime, the Nest knows how long it will take to cool my house, and comes on at the right time to ensure it’s 72 at 7pm
  • When I go on vacation, I can turn on my Nest before boarding the flight home and ensure the house is cozy when we arrive.
  • I can tell the Nest, run my fan for 30min every hour on a schedule. This actually is the biggest money saver as what does is even out the temperature in my 3 story house. Cool air in the basement gets recirculated to the top floor. Honestly, this is the best feature.
  • Nest sends an email 1x a month telling you what your energy usage was
  • You can see what your last 7 days of cycle time was
  • Mobile App, blah blah

However, like all technology, things are supposed to keep getting better.

Unfortunately for all of us, Google purchased Nest a few years back, and then Dropcam and as far as I can tell, they are both dead. Little to no innovation any more.

There are some critical gaps in the Nest thermostat. For one thing, if you live in a house with a single furnace/AC and you have > 2 floors, you have to deal with the reality that each floor will have a different temperature and the location of the thermostat is the only place you are going to experience the set temperature.

This is annoying. If I were building my house, I might have put in different zones or even 2 separate systems. But retrofitting my house is not an option. So I need some kind of remote sensor system. Alas, Nest does not offer such a system, even though the 3 Nest Smoke Detectors I have are recording temp.

So, the other day I was in the Apple Store and was looking at their very curated set of Internet of Things and noticed the ecobee3. It looked cute, simple, clean. I had never heard of it. It was priced pretty well ($249) and I noticed it had a remote sensor. In fact, you can purchase more remote sensors too.

I walked out to have lunch and while eating read some reviews of the ecobee3. It only took me 5 minutes to decide to go back into the Apple Store and walk out with the ecobee3. I was excited.

When I got home, it took me 10 min to replace the Nest with the ecobee3.

I LOVE THE ECOBEE. I can’t express how much more improved it is over the Nest. It’s what Nest might have been if Google didn’t purchase them and they had 3 years of innovation.

Just take a look at this web dashboard:

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Why is ecobee3 so great?

Remote Sensor
As I mentioned. The ecobee3 came with a tiny little remote sensor that runs off a car key battery. Once I paired it I placed it in my bedroom. And you know what? For the past 3 nights, and for the first time we’ve lived in our house, we’ve been going to bed at a very comfortable 73 degrees.

The only reason we have AC in our house is because 1) it’s brand new, and so it’s very tight given new construction codes, and it’s 3 stories (stack effect) and it gets really hot even if the outdoor temp is > 72).

So we just care about going to bed at room temp, and for years the Nest hasn’t done a good job. I would have to muck with the temp downstairs and the vents to some how get the upstairs cool enough. Problem no more!

In the above photo you can see how the remote sensors work and how the average temp is calculated.

Analytics
The ecobee3 has real time analytics. It’s amazing. You can see in real time exactly how your cooling and heating is behaving, overlaid with the outdoor temp and humidity. I love info like this.

Just look at this data. You can also export to Excel.

As you can see, the ecobee nailed it. The cooling came on at around 2pm and hit the 73 degrees shortly after 7:00pm

I expect that over time, as the ecobee gets to know my home better, it will get more accurate. It’s still in learning mode.

You can also see how the fan is cycling on/off as well as cooling.

Below you can see my runtime for the past few days based on weather.

Scheduling
Unlike the Nest, the ecobee3 has 3 “comfort modes”.

  • Home – when you are home during the day
  • Sleep – when you are sleeping
  • Away – when you are not in the house

This is nice in that you can specific the different temp during these times and then specify the start and end time for each settings.

You can also create your own. I created “Bedtime” which starts at 7pm and goes till 11:30pm when “Sleep” starts. This ensures that when the kids go to bed, the house is cool.

So it looks like this:

  • Home – 76 degrees (cool)
  • Bedtime – 73 degrees (cool)
  • Sleep – 74 degrees (cool)
  • Away – 80 degrees (cool)

Vacations
Unlike the Nest, you can schedule vacations. This means that you can punch in your start and end time for vacation and ecobee3 automatically takes care of things. Way easier then Nest where I would often set the thermostat to “Home” from “Away” when getting on the plane, but the Nest would set the thermostat back to “Auto Away” because there was no detected activity in the house. Very annoying. ecobee3 is smarter.

You can schedule as many vacations as you wish.

Smarts
The ecobee3 seems a lot smarter and more customizable. It has similar features to the Nest, it has Smart Recovery which starts the heating or cooling a head of schedule to reach your desired temp. It also keeps the fan running 30 seconds after the furnace of compressor has run to make sure any col or warm air is pumped into your house (Cool Dissipation Time and Heat Dissipation Time). This saves some money.

Follow Me / Smart Home/Away
The ecobee3 has some really interesting features with the sensors. You can obviously control your away / presence to override schedules (when you are not Home, ecobee goes from Home -> Away).

Follow Me is neat in that it uses your presence in a room/sensor to make that thermostat primary. I don’t have use for this. I’ve made my upstairs bedroom thermostat primary since it’s on the 3rd floor and our bedroom comfort is most important to us in the evening.

Mobile Apps / Apple Watch
ecobee has an awesome iOS app and Apple Watch support to boot!

API
As you’d expect, Ecobee has an API and IFTTT support.

Support

ecobee3 has awesome support. I’ve called them, and they answer the phone. I’ve emailed them to ask questions and they’ve answered within an hour.

Advanced Features
There are many. Check out the excellent manual. One feature I am looking forward to is hooking up my mechanical ventilator to ecobee. Why? Well if I do this and the outdoor temperature is < my indoor temp ecobee has a feature called “free cooling” which sound amazeballs.

In Seattle it’s almost always < 68 deg in the evening so may as well just take advantage of that. Should not be too hard. I just need to figure out the wiring.

Summary
I LOVE THIS PRODUCT. I’d give them 6 stars if there was such a thing.

If you have a Nest, consider ecobee3. If you never got a Nest, get an ecobee3.

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Sonos – 5 stars

I’ve not reviewed Sonos yet. But of all the things I own, Sonos is probably on of the most magical and used. Before there was Sonos, listening to music anywhere in your house was a job left for custom installers. I’ve owned Sonos products since 2009 when I got my first Play:5 and since then I’ve added a number more to our collection.

Sonos is basically a wireless speaker distribution system. The magic is in all the techology that they use to distribute music and keep it in sync. It’s truley amazing technology if you have ever fiddled with trying to make Wifi work well in your house. Sonos uses a mesh network where each device in your home acts as both a receiver and a broadcaster of data. It’s true plug and play. I have a Sonos Play:5 in a very hard to reach wireless zone in my house and by some kind of magic the Sonos guys can pump music all the way out there.

Sonos is also a software service. It connects and integrates with nearly every single music streaming service known to man. The notable exceptions are Apple iTunes (Sonos does work with the app on your PC though). You can control your Sonos from your Mac or PC, or your Android, iPhone or iPad. The application has received constant updates over time.

Here are the music services that I use with my Sonos:

  • TuneIn – Sonos plays NPR every morning as my alarm
  • Google Play Music – I have my music collection matched by Google for free, so I use that for the stuff I purchased. I barely listen to this stuff any more though as most of our music is Spotify now
  • Spotify Family – see above. Lora and I each have our own accounts. I am sure when our kids are old enough they will have their own. Sonos lets you tune each account separatley. Unfortunatley, Sonos is about a year behind on the Spotify features so you can’t browse your albums and songs, only playlists. This is a huge bummer and it appears to be due to some Sonos / Spotify feud.
  • Pandora Radio – we still use this, the kids like it
  • Murfie – all my CDs were shipped off to Murfie long ago and this is bascially my bank vault for my music archive.

Sonos supports 37 services in total. So chances are you’ll find support for what you use.

When Sonos first came out, they only offered 2 basic products and they both assumed / required that you have existing speakers to connect a Sonos too. This limited the applications of Sonos.

Since then Sonos has produced a lot of different products. I think they first really hit the mainstream when they came out with smaller / inexpensive speakers such as the Play:1 and Play:3. They also have a Subwoofer and Soundbar that appear to be excellent (I don’t own either).

In our house we have:

  • 3 Sonos Connect:AMP – these are stand alone units that connect directly to your Speakers. In our house these are connected to in-ceiling speakers for 3 different zones (family room, bedroom, garden)
  • 1 Sonos Connect– this connects directly to a receiver, it does not power speakers but feeds a receiver. We have this in our media room.
  • 1 Sonos Play:5 – this is a large stand alone speaker / tuner and it was one of Sonos’s first dedicated system. We have this in our bathroom.

If you are getting started with Sonos, you should consider the following:

  • A Sonos Play device (Play:1, Play:3, Play:5). You can pair these devices together to make left and right whic is neat.
  • If you have a TV / theater consider the Playbar and Subwoofer. You can add in Play:1 or Play:3 devices to create surround sound. My issue with the Playbar is that it does not take HDMI and so for it to get a surround sound signal your TV would need to support this via Toslink. Many TVs only spit out 2 channels via Toslink.
  • If you have an existing in ceiling speaker system or plan to build on, the Connect:AMP is fantastic.

Finally, if you are going to outfit your home with a number of devices there are also a lot of ways to get 20% off your purchase. My custom installer offered me this discount, but I didn’t need it since Microsoft employees also get 20% off Sonos. It’s worth looking into this if you are getting more than 2-3 devices.

Sonos Play:5 produces excellent sound but is quite large

Sonos Play:1 is cute as a button

I have it on my wishlist to get the Playbar and Subwoofer when I get around to upgrading my TV to 4K, which will probably happen this calendar year. Will report back once that happens.

We use our Sonos sytem every single day. It’s the one thing we’ve owned that works extremley well, is used by everyone in the family and guests. Last summer we added outdoor speakers and brought our Sonos experience outside.

I highly reccomend you try this for yourself. A quick note about Sonos. The first device you own must be connected to ethernet for the whole system to work. But if you don’t have ethernet, take a look at the new Sonos Bridge or Sonos Boost.

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

ThermoWorks Thermapen Thermometer – 5 stars

As a subscriber to Cook’s Illustrated I’ve known for a long time that the Themapen is the best thermometer on the market. But I’ve avoided getting one for ages, and have stuck to my slow “instant” read thermometer. If there is one gadget in the kitchen that we use often for cooking and grilling it’s an instant read thermometer.


So, last month I finally got around to purchasing one with my Amazon Points. I wish I had gotten one sooner. This thing is fast. Most “instant read” thermometers aren’t very instant and can take 10-20 seconds to lock on a temp. The Thermapen does this in under 3 seconds. It’s brilliant.

It’s also super easy to use. You just unfold the thermometer and it’s ready to go.

With endorsments from Cook’s Illustrated, The Sweethome, and an average of 4.9 stars on Amazon, I don’t really have to say much more than get one.

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.