00:00:05 ◼ ► And I'm David Smith. Under the Radar is usually not longer than 30 minutes, so let's get started.
00:00:27 ◼ ► And I look forward to this in the same way like there are certain reviewers for certain products where I really want to hear their take.
00:00:35 ◼ ► Because either I trust their opinion way more than other people on a certain type of thing, and/or I know they're going to test it in ways that other reviewers might not.
00:00:46 ◼ ► And this was especially why I'm so happy to hear what you think of the Apple Watch Ultra.
00:00:51 ◼ ► Because in part, this is like a million percent in your wheelhouse. The only way it would be even better is if it somehow ran widgets, which it sort of does with complications.
00:01:02 ◼ ► But it's something that it's the Apple Watch, which you have written more watch software than anybody, including I think everybody inside Apple.
00:01:11 ◼ ► And you use the watch and know the watch better than almost anyone I know, or than anyone I know.
00:01:18 ◼ ► And also, you are a huge like outdoorist. You do a lot of these long hikes and you spend a lot of time out in nature.
00:01:27 ◼ ► You have spent a lot of time with the Apple Watch's competitors, the Apple Watch Ultra's competitors, I should say.
00:01:33 ◼ ► Like the sport watches. You know that industry. You use them. You know what they're good at.
00:01:39 ◼ ► And you know where the Apple Watch could be pushed far before and where the Ultra might be able to be pushed even further.
00:01:46 ◼ ► And so this seems like I want to know everything about what you think about the Apple Watch Ultra.
00:02:01 ◼ ► So I got my Ultra as last Friday as we're recording this on release day, which was exciting and always a little bit.
00:02:10 ◼ ► It's always a little bit scary with something like this because I really wanted it day one. Like that was a much bigger pressure for me for this one than normally.
00:02:24 ◼ ► So I got my order in, which I think I ordered. If you remember, I was in Disney World during the event.
00:02:30 ◼ ► And I think I ordered it on the bus back from a park because that was when they opened pre-orders.
00:02:35 ◼ ► So like, a little bit frantic, but I got a day one order. And thankfully the nice thing with the Ultra is there's only one model.
00:02:41 ◼ ► So it was very straightforward from an ordering perspective. It's just like the Ultra. Yes, that one.
00:02:47 ◼ ► I guess I could choose which strap I wanted. And I ended up with the orange Alpine strap, which is by far the best strap.
00:02:54 ◼ ► But anyway, yeah, so I got that and I booked a trip to essentially, you know, that evening I headed on and got onto a sleeper train and took the train up to the Scottish Highlands, which I think, you know, for me is the perfect place to test a device like this.
00:03:08 ◼ ► Because for me, it's the best place to go hiking. And, you know, I'm sure there are uses for an Ultra that are different than, you know, the way that I intend to use it.
00:03:16 ◼ ► And, you know, my type of activity, which is, you know, hiking, backpacking, general sort of scrambling and outdoorsy-ness, it's not extreme in the sense of it's like I'm not, you know, going into the Himalayas and doing like true Alpine work or, you know, going deep sea diving or running across the Sahara or all of the kind of use cases that Apple seem to be indicating in some of their advertising.
00:03:40 ◼ ► But it's like I'm just a slightly more keen than typical hiker, backpacker person, you know, where I've done a lot of this over the years.
00:03:47 ◼ ► I do a lot of backpacking and I do a lot of hikes that are of, you know, substantial length, you know, where it's the kind of person who will often go for a hike that's, you know, 15, 20 miles long in a stretch where I've run into issues previously with a traditional Apple Watch,
00:04:07 ◼ ► where it isn't quite up to that kind of activity. And so I was really excited to see a device that, you know, in many ways felt like Apple was targeting directly at me, both in terms of the activities I do and then in terms of my development interest and things that I do on that side.
00:04:26 ◼ ► That's fantastic. Like, I was I was so hoping you would do this. And of course, I was pretty sure that you would.
00:04:33 ◼ ► Yeah, I think what's exciting about that is it's like now I get to combine the two things, like my two favorite things. So I can work on the development side.
00:04:44 ◼ ► So like part of this trip was a development trip in terms of I'm working on the lab and working on it for a long time. But this this certainly sort of raised it to the top of the stack.
00:04:52 ◼ ► I've been working on a mapping app, a navigation app for the Apple Watch for a while. And it works perfectly with this, especially combined with live activities that you could run it on your watch or on your iPhone and have it, you know, sort of do backcountry navigation.
00:05:08 ◼ ► So it's perfect from a development perspective. And I did a lot of work on that while I was there. And then also it's, you know, it's just fun to try a new device, try to try something new.
00:05:18 ◼ ► And so it's like, I don't know exactly the best way to kind of walk through it here. But I think there is definitely some interesting things that I learned from a development perspective, beyond just the kind of like high level, like my experience and thoughts on the Ultra.
00:05:31 ◼ ► But that's probably a good place to start. It's just like my high level thoughts and thesis about this device.
00:05:36 ◼ ► Yeah, please. Because one thing I, you know, I would like to know, basically, as developers, I mean, first of all, I didn't get one because, frankly, I don't need it. And I don't, I don't think my watch app really needs any changes as a result of the Ultra's existence.
00:05:53 ◼ ► Besides just making sure it looked good on the screen size, which otherwise, you know, everything else seems to be fairly automatic for most apps. But I'm curious, like, you know, from a developer's point of view, as well as a user's point of view, like, but from a developer's point of view, I'm curious, like, is there anything that we really should be taking advantage of on the Ultra that maybe is not obvious?
00:06:15 ◼ ► Like, you know, I think the screen size is obvious. The action button, maybe like, is there anything else that we should be really taking advantage of? Or is this mostly a, a, you know, user benefit, first of all, and then second of all, is it mostly a benefit only for certain types of apps?
00:06:29 ◼ ► Yeah, and I think, I think screen size and the action button are the two biggest immediate things. And I think screen size, there's the straightforward, like, does your app work on the new screen correctly? That are you making any assumptions related to size and that you need to address? Or I think we, I believe we do need to recompile our apps, otherwise they're letterboxed or pillboxed or something.
00:07:11 ◼ ► I think it looks fine. But I think the bigger thing, honestly, is that it was really interesting using an Apple Watch Ultra intently for three days. So I was probably like the context of my trip was when I'm just calling to spend three days hiking, I did about 61 miles in total of hiking over those three days.
00:07:32 ◼ ► And tried it in a variety of different sort of contexts. Like I use it with just the Apple app, I use my app, I use the compared to a Coros sport watch, I use it compared to a Series 7 Apple Watch.
00:07:44 ◼ ► And I did a variety of different things. And it's probably worth saying, like the best way to get a sense of my trip is I did a YouTube video, which I'll have a link to in the show notes for this.
00:07:52 ◼ ► I talked through in great detail kind of all of these things. But I think what was really interesting seeing it is it's like the size of this watch feels like it crosses this boundary where, while it's well thinking as developers need to take, take use of this space in terms of making sure that it works.
00:08:11 ◼ ► But I'm also really intrigued to see if there's extra things that we can do to make use of this space that it is a seriously big screen, like in a way that feels more of more different than just the whatever four millimeters larger than it is than the 45 millimeter.
00:08:30 ◼ ► It almost like it feels like it crosses across this cognitive boundary in my mind where suddenly it didn't feel like a watch. It felt a bit more like a computer. It felt a bit more like a, like a really small iPhone. I mean, and obviously it's like I think it's a higher resolution screen than the original iPhone, which is always just slightly comedic to think about.
00:08:48 ◼ ► But there is something different about it and I'm having quite too settled yet and exactly what I want to do with that. But it was really interesting to get this feeling of when you look at your wrist. It is big enough like interacting with even like two finger gestures is it maybe a good place to sort of make this more concrete, like a two finger gesture typically on an Apple Watch previously would have felt really crowded.
00:09:14 ◼ ► And, you know, like in my app I do some mapping. And so I use the digital crown to zoom in and out on the map, which makes a lot of sense and certainly I think still something that I will continue to offer.
00:09:26 ◼ ► But it was almost like, huh, I wonder if I need to should explore doing pinch to zoom as well, because it's big enough that like two normal fingers can actually reasonably fit on the screen and, you know, without completely covering it and so like those types of thoughts are what's starting to come through my mind now that the ultra screen is
00:09:43 ◼ ► big enough in a way that is like really interesting and particularly, I would definitely in the back of my mind like was thinking, especially because if you make an app that is watch OS nine only, then you can drop support for the series three.
00:09:59 ◼ ► Oh, that's fantastic. I forgot about that. Which is, which obviously is like dropping people out of it. It's not like I'm just saying this out of spite, but it's like, that is a really interesting in terms of developing an app who's, you know, that can over that that the smallest screen, it will need to fit on as a series four, and the series four screens are much, you know, very different than this, you know, a 38 millimeter series three screen is like the little postage stamp compared to, you know,
00:10:28 ◼ ► compared to even the 40 millimeter series four, and then certainly compared to this and so there's a lot of interesting things and a lot of going edge to edge in terms of the way that you can kind of fill the, you know, on the series three you could never really fill the display
00:10:44 ◼ ► and you know, you can always have was always just this rectangle floating in a black in a black space whereas, you know, once they sort of went to the rounded corner screen approach, you get this slightly different look and feel to things and so it's really intriguing
00:10:59 ◼ ► from a developer perspective. That's the thing that I'm most intrigued about playing with. And I think something that is worth thinking about like is there a control is there a, you know, I'm gonna think about like an overcast, is there a different or an alternative arrangement of buttons
00:11:14 ◼ ► or another option you could show or make something clearer or bigger. If you do it this way and so that was just something that I think is my first reaction is like whoa, this is this is really cool and fun and a proper computer that is now strapped to my wrist.
00:11:30 ◼ ► That's really interesting and I'm wondering, I mean, you know, you keep better analytics than I do on this kind of stuff. Do you know like what roughly what percentage of your user base is on an ultra yet like how easy would it be to target something to that and not, you know, not be too, too specialized?
00:11:45 ◼ ► So, I mean, the ultra itself is certainly still pretty low. So the ultra is the my analytics point six 6% of people, I think, they think what's it what's more interesting probably is if you cut out. So like the series three is 18%.
00:12:03 ◼ ► And you add like the series one to to that is probably about 20%. So about 80% of people are using a watch that has the kind of modern form factor, I would say, and then obviously the ultra is pretty small as a proportion of those at this point, but it's only been out for four days.
00:12:22 ◼ ► Yeah, because my my stats are the ultra is almost beating the 38 millimeter like assuming the ultra is the two of five by 251 screen. It's the only screen I have unlabeled in my analytics. Yeah. Yeah. So I have that at 2.6% and the 38 millimeter at 2.8%.
00:12:43 ◼ ► I suspect your stats are fairly skewed then compares like I'm pulling my stats out of pedometer plus plus, which is a pretty, I think, perhaps a slightly more general purpose audience than you have.
00:13:03 ◼ ► Yeah. Well, we are brought to you this episode by Rogue Amoeba. I love Rogue Amoeba and Gadzooks Rogue Amoeba Software celebrating their 20th anniversary.
00:13:20 ◼ ► If you're a podcaster, musician or just someone who listens to audio on your Mac, Rogue Amoeba can make your life better.
00:13:28 ◼ ► I'm almost always using it actually for something. Audio Hijack is my preferred app and they have sound source, which I'm also using a lot.
00:13:39 ◼ ► I mean, so many apps with Rogue Amoeba. If you do anything loopback, I'm using loopback right now. I didn't even realize it.
00:13:44 ◼ ► There's so many things that Rogue Amoeba that if you do anything with audio on the Mac, chances are they have something that can make your life easier or, you know, make something possible that wasn't possible before.
00:13:54 ◼ ► Or get rid of some cables and complex hardware arrangements that you were doing before that you can now do 100% in software.
00:14:06 ◼ ► With Loopback, you can have extremely powerful audio routing without needing cables or mixers.
00:14:10 ◼ ► Sound Source is the amazing deluxe sound control that really should be built into Mac OS but isn't.
00:14:16 ◼ ► So it's just great. Rogue Amoeba has so much high quality software and they don't run constant gimmicky sales or discounts. They charge fair prices all the time.
00:14:26 ◼ ► But in celebration of this 20th anniversary, they're making the very rare exception of that.
00:14:31 ◼ ► For a very limited time, to celebrate their 20 years in business, you can get 20% off any purchase from Rogue Amoeba.
00:14:46 ◼ ► Which I'll redirect you there. So go now to macaudio.com to save 20% on anything from Rogue Amoeba.
00:14:53 ◼ ► It's only valid until the end of September so it's pretty close to over so hurry up and go get there.
00:15:11 ◼ ► So our thanks to Rogue Amoeba for their amazing software that we rely on and have relied on for many many years.
00:15:36 ◼ ► That it is... you know Apple could have gone down the road of trying to outdo Garmin, Coros, Suunto.
00:15:51 ◼ ► And they didn't. Instead they took an Apple Watch and they made it more appropriate for that context.
00:15:58 ◼ ► And so in doing that, they didn't compromise any of the things that made it an Apple Watch.
00:16:04 ◼ ► You can do Apple Pay on this, you can make FaceTime audio calls, you can do email and text messaging.
00:16:19 ◼ ► And they didn't change any of those, which I think is super great from a user perspective because the Apple Watch is awesome.
00:16:24 ◼ ► And this is now just like an Apple Watch that I can take into the wilderness a bit in a more way.
00:16:31 ◼ ► And from a developer perspective it's great that there's not like this new platform, this new environment that we have to now develop for.
00:16:51 ◼ ► But it wasn't... going through my review, there were only two areas where I think there were issues that stuck out to me as...
00:16:59 ◼ ► There are software things that I think and hope that Apple will be able to fix and change.
00:17:07 ◼ ► And the first one of those is the way that they kind of implemented the action button initially.
00:17:15 ◼ ► And so the action button, if you're not familiar, on a traditional Apple Watch there's two buttons.
00:17:19 ◼ ► There's what's called the side button, which is like the slightly elongated one next to the crown.
00:17:24 ◼ ► And then there's the crown, which is the wheel that you can push in as a button as well.
00:17:29 ◼ ► Previously on all Apple Watches, those are the only two inputs we had, that's your physical inputs.
00:17:34 ◼ ► And then for an Ultra they added a third button, which is the action button, which is an orange button on the opposite side to the side button.
00:17:42 ◼ ► And it's interesting, because at first I thought when I saw this that the way that they would implement that is that it's just available to apps as an extra input.
00:17:54 ◼ ► That we could subscribe to notifications or however they'd technically do it, but somehow we'd be informed when the user pushed that button and we can use it inside our app.
00:18:04 ◼ ► And that isn't exactly what they did. And as a result it's kind of a weird situation, and honestly I had a few situations in the last three days where it was really frustrating to me.
00:18:17 ◼ ► Because what they did instead is they made it so that you assign a specific function to the action button in settings, and then it will do that action regardless of what's happening on the watch currently.
00:18:34 ◼ ► And so as an example you can set it to, when you push the action button, it can start a workout, which is reasonable to some degree.
00:18:43 ◼ ► And then what happens is inside of that app that has started the workout, if you subsequently press it, you get subsequent events.
00:18:50 ◼ ► But you only get those events, as far as I can tell, if you were set up as the app that they were going to start the workout in inside the action button.
00:19:02 ◼ ► Which ended up being really confusing and kind of inconsistent, and led to something that is just one of those things that as a software developer I always want to just mention and point out.
00:19:19 ◼ ► Or even in some ways worse is losing someone something that they might think is special.
00:19:28 ◼ ► And this is what happened to me. So I configured my action button so that it would launch my hiking app and start a workout, because I was testing that.
00:19:43 ◼ ► On my third day I was doing a battery test where I wanted to use Apple's built-in app in low power mode, and I was going to go and hike 26.2 miles.
00:19:52 ◼ ► When I left it was actually, I was supposed to hike 24 miles, but as I got close towards the end it ended up being like 25.6, and I was like, "You know what? I think I'm going to try and do a marathon."
00:20:08 ◼ ► But anyway, I walked for 26.2 miles, which would have been a cool thing to have as a workout in my workout history.
00:20:20 ◼ ► And you know what it did? It ended my workout in the main Apple Workouts app and started a workout in my app.
00:20:28 ◼ ► And it's like, "Yes, that's how I configured it." But no, don't do that. It doesn't make any sense.
00:20:37 ◼ ► Oh man, that's one of those things like, I see why they designed it that way, because there are certain uses of this, where you, like this is the same reason why they now have that option to get rid of the 3-2-1 countdown on the workout start, where you want to be able to hit the button and know that is the exact start of what I am doing.
00:20:57 ◼ ► And so I see why this feature exists, but having that be the default behavior when you already have a workout running, that's not good.
00:21:10 ◼ ► Yeah, so I think I'll definitely be filing some feedbacks regarding this. In my mind, when you have an active workout running, pushing the action button should just be the secondary action for that app. Period.
00:21:27 ◼ ► Like, don't kick the user out. I mean, I guess you can configure the action button to start turning the flashlight on and off and do these other things, but even there, if you're in the middle of a workout, that is the foremost primary action. The user has said, "I am doing something." Don't interrupt that.
00:21:47 ◼ ► And I think that was the sort of, like, as a developer, I just had this moment of like, "Oh no, I see exactly why they did this, and I've made mistakes like this myself." But you never want to put a user in the situation that I found myself in, where I was just gutted that it's like, "Now I have two workouts.
00:22:03 ◼ ► I have a 17-mile workout, and then I have a nine-mile workout in my workout history." And it's like, that doesn't really matter. Functionally, it's not important. The same amount of distance was tracked, I got all my active calories and move goals and all the things.
00:22:21 ◼ ► But it doesn't quite look as nice in my history when I had to have this very nice—like, it's the longest hike I think I've ever done that I can remember in my entire life, and now I have it in two segments rather than one. And it's frustrating as a result.
00:22:35 ◼ ► And so it's like, a little warning as a developer, as you always want to keep in the back of your mind, like, "Is there something that I need to make sure that I preserve beyond anything else?" And in this case, things like streaks, things like this kind of contiguous data are things that people really start to care about, especially the bigger and longer they get.
00:22:55 ◼ ► Fair enough, if I started a workout and I'm 30 seconds into it and I push the action button and it goes to the other app, maybe that could make sense. But even still, throw a little confirmation button and say, "Hey, are you sure?" before you do a destructive action, especially for something like—the action button is relatively easy to accidentally push, because if you are using the crown or the side button, it's on the opposing side of the device.
00:23:21 ◼ ► And so you kind of have to be careful with where you put your other finger to create side pressure.
00:23:26 ◼ ► Yeah, and this is—you said a few minutes ago, like, "Oh, it doesn't really matter." But no, it does really matter. This kind of stuff—saying it doesn't really matter is like, "Well, there was a bug in watchOS where it made me break my streak of closing my rings every day for the last two years, and now that sucks. Now I'm falling off the wagon because I'm discouraged and I think this thing is working against me." Those are strong problems.
00:23:51 ◼ ► And I don't know anybody who uses the Apple Watch workout feature regularly who hasn't at some point accidentally split or stopped a workout that was not complete yet and had this result of having this two-segment workout that they can never join, which also suggests maybe you should be able to merge two workouts that were consecutively happening.
00:24:12 ◼ ► But, you know, that's—obvious Apple feature requests. But no, this stuff matters a lot. But anyway, so as we are nearing the end of our 30 minutes here, I'm curious to—my impression so far of what you have said about the Ultra, and I think what most reviewers have said,
00:24:30 ◼ ► is that it's not like the difference between, say, an Apple Watch and an iPhone. That it's more like the difference between a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro, in the sense that it seems like—and correct me if I'm wrong—it seems like the Ultra is not massively different from using a regular Apple Watch.
00:24:52 ◼ ► It's just a little bigger, a little more capability, a little—a few exclusive features here and there, but for the most part, it's an Apple Watch, but like 30% more of it. Is that roughly what we're looking at here?
00:25:07 ◼ ► Yeah, I think that's fairly accurate and appropriate. I think, from my perspective, I think that's really good, that it's not this transformative reimagining of fitness, because I think Apple has gotten to a pretty good place with the Apple Watch.
00:25:25 ◼ ► And I think the ways in which they pushed it out are really helpful, and they're meaningful changes, but they haven't gone in this wildly different direction. I think it's really good and a nice device for me to be able to really not have to think at all about sort of babying it from a durability perspective.
00:25:49 ◼ ► For example, I didn't care at all and just live my life in the wilderness, and it's been great. And I've subsequently watched several—the classic YouTube video where people try and break things on purpose, and I always feel terrible for the device because it comes out of this pristine box, and then people just whack it with hammers.
00:26:09 ◼ ► I always wonder, who's paying for this? Who's funding—hopefully they're not going to do some kind of return scam or something—is it really worth $800 to make that video? Are they going to get that many hits? I don't understand how this works.
00:26:25 ◼ ► But the reality is people were hitting the Ultra with a hammer, and it didn't break. I'm super excited. I just don't have to care about it. I didn't particularly baby my Apple Watches previously because I have a drawer full of them for my development, so if I break one or something, it's not the end.
00:26:44 ◼ ► But that's not my situation. It's not typical. But as far as I can tell with the Ultra, it's functionally indestructible in normal use. If I'm physically hurt, maybe my Apple Watch is physically hurt, like I fell off a cliff. But in normal use, just whacking it into things, it's going to be totally fine.
00:27:03 ◼ ► And so they pushed it out there. They pushed the battery life out. Not like transformatively. It just seems like the battery life is better. It's not 10 times better. It's 25, 30, 40% better, depending on the context and depending on how you're using it.
00:27:20 ◼ ► And so that's great, and that's really appreciated, and I think something that is nice. But fundamentally, yeah, it is very similar. And it is, like you say, it's like an error versus a pro in the MacBook line. It's that sense of, it's very familiar. It does a lot of the same things, but it just does them better.
00:27:38 ◼ ► And it gives you a sense of confidence about using it that I think is nice. I think of in the early days of the Apple Watch where Craig Hockenberry would swim in the ocean with his first generation Apple Watch, and I always thought he was just mad.
00:27:52 ◼ ► He just sort of had the sense of like, well, this device is here to serve my needs and my activities, not the other way around. I'm not going to baby it. I have more power to him, but for me, I was always like, ooh, it's a $300, $400 thing. I don't want to just break it.
00:28:09 ◼ ► And I really feel nice that this device, like I really just don't have to. And it's great in this context where you can use it and just have great confidence that it's going to get to the end of a workout. Like, so you know, related similarly to the battery life story is like this last summer, I went for a really long hike on the Isle of Skye in Scotland with my wife.
00:28:28 ◼ ► And probably before this hike I did a few days ago is one of probably the second or third longest hike I've ever done. And I ran out of battery with like, maybe a third of a mile to go. And it didn't quite save right. And so like that workout just didn't like I was able to recreate it because I'm a developer.
00:28:46 ◼ ► So I like wrote an app to recreate the workout and save it even though it didn't actually save correctly. But like, that was really annoying and frustrating that I ran out of battery. And it's like, I'm pretty confident. I'm going to run out of any, like me personally, my legs will run out of energy before this thing runs out of energy.
00:29:02 ◼ ► If I start with, you know, started with a full charge at the start of a day. I like that. I'm the limiting factor, not the device anymore. And that is just cool and exciting and, you know, a fun thing to work to work with as a result.
00:29:14 ◼ ► That's awesome. Well, I'm so happy to hear all of this, frankly. And I'm so happy that you got to do this amazing trip and that you're now a vlogger, I believe.
00:29:25 ◼ ► So congratulations on that as well. Thank you everybody for listening. And best of luck with your adventures with the Ultra if you have them. And we will talk to you in two weeks.