Pragmatic 38A: Watch This Time and Space Follow-up 1

30 November, 2014


Follow up (Part A) to Watch This Time and Space where we address durability of mechanical watches vs quartz watches, accuracy, using the band as a charging point, batteries and cameras and whether a smartwatch without an always-on face is a failure.

Transcript available
This is Pragmatic Follow-Up Part A for Episode 38. Watch this time and space. I'm Jon Chidjie and joining me is Vic Hudson. How's it going Vic? I'm good. Very good. Follow-Up for the month of November is sponsored by Harvest. Harvest lets you start and stop a timer for any task you might be doing, anywhere you might be doing it. A mobile device, desktop, web browser and so on so you can keep track of your time. If you're doing client work, it's handy to know what projects and tasks are taking your time, but even better, you can use that information to create invoices directly through Harvest, which integrates easily with PayPal and Stripe. Check out Harvest at getharvest, all one and sign up for free, for a free 30 day trial and start tracking your time and invoicing others simply and painlessly. Once your 30 day trial is over and you've realized how great Harvest is, use the coupon code pragmatic at checkout and you'll also save 50% off your first month. that applies to any of their plans. Hurry though, because this offer expires on January 15th, 2015. Okay, got a reasonable amount of feedback about this episode. I just want to cover some of it, well cover all of it actually. And the first bit of feedback comes from Clinton Phillips via the feedback form. And I just want to quote some of what he says in his feedback. I kind of feel that you gave pocket watches the short shrift. I left the episode feeling as if they were lousy timepieces. In America they had a railroad standard pocket watch which was allowed a maximum of 30 seconds variation over the course of a week and I would call that pretty damn accurate. My dad has an old Elgin pocket watch. I think it's pronounced Elgin, Elgin, I'm not sure, even today it still keeps time to railroad standard so they were built to last. Okay, so I guess there's two pieces to that comment and there's a link that Clinton provided to the railroad chronometer which will be in the show notes. So there's two pieces, there's durability and accuracy. So with respect to durability, I realize I didn't actually cover durability much in the episode. It wasn't really the point of the episode, but I'm happy to just mention it now as part of the follow-up. But to be honest, durability is all relative. I guess it's unfair to compare something that is 100 years of history more advanced technologically than something from... So, if I built something in 1900 and I built something in the year 2000, Yeah, you would expect that there would be some kind of an improvement in that hundred years. And there was. I mean, if you take a G-Shock and an Elgin watch and hit each of them with a hammer, I know which one is going to survive and which one won't. And it ain't going to be the Elgin watch. Sorry, it just isn't. So, durability is kind of relative. And I think that if mechanical watches, people are always going to have a soft spot for them, you know. There's a quaintness about them. There's maybe a humaneness about them. I don't know. Some sentimental value simply because they've been around for a long time. I'm not sure. I ran for a long time. Anyway, but they have too many delicate moving parts inside them to ever, ever be as durable as a quartz watch that doesn't, you know. And when a quartz watch is inside a G-Shock as your shell, you don't stand a chance. I mean, you can argue, I guess, with any kind of quartz watch, any battery-driven watch. You leave an old battery inside there, eventually it'll leak, you know, and it'll damage the watch. And that's true. But that said, you know, similar kind of thing, if you left a mechanical watch in the sun, the wind and the rain, it's going to stop working too. I mean, I know that they're different failure mechanisms, but really what's the conclusion that you draw from that? From a durability point of view, you take care of of your things, they're going to last. It doesn't matter which technology you use. But if you're looking at the durability of a device in terms of an instantaneous disruption to its well being, whether that is going submerged underwater, water splashing on it, it being dropped, being hit by a hammer, a mallet, a wand, doesn't matter. You know, that's really in my mind, the measure of durability beyond whether or not things are built to last. If you take care of them, they will last. Now, I guess then you get into the side discussion of, well, some electronics have got capacitors in them, capacitors have got, it's like some capacitors have got a limited lifespan, some electronics has a limited lifespan. For sale of springs in watches, you know, and what would you do when a mechanical watch, you know, stopped working, you would go to a watchmaker and they would make it work again. How would they do that? Well, you know, in the same fashion in which a 1984 Macintosh might have a couple of caps on the board, electrolytic caps that have dried out, we get a soldering iron out or soldering iron depending on what country you live in. Yeah, it's actually the same device just pronounced differently. But anyway, and you get your hot iron stick out and you melt the solder or the solder, you replace it and you put a new one in and away you go, you're all tickety-boo. You know, it's the electronic equivalent of the mechanical taking it to the watchmaker. So I don't know, what's the point on the durability side? I'm not really sure what the point is to that. Honestly, I think that the modern watches are more durable, not all of them, just the ones that are designed to be. And that will always be more durable in terms of an instantaneous disruption to their wellbeing. and I'm struggling to find a good generic way of saying that, but hey, I don't care what that sounds like that's the best I can come up with. So let's talk about accuracy. That was the second thing that Clinton and his feedback called me out on was the accuracy. So for its day, yes, 30 seconds per week is awesome but you compare that to a course movement, it's terrible. Everything's relative and a course movement has a hundred years of technology building up to it. It's not a fair comparison. At the time, yeah, sure, it was accurate. I was not saying during the episode that, you know, mechanical watches were horrible in terms of accuracy. Everything is relative. And I'm comparing it to the state of the art today, which was more the point. So, yes, indeed. I think I just listened back to the episode previously as I was preparing for the follow-up. And honestly, what I said was, you know, mechanical watches have reliability issues and accuracy problems, and they can gain or lose a few seconds every day. And that's their best. That's the best a mechanical watch can ever provide. Does that add up to up to 30 seconds a week? Well, yeah, it could. But if it's less than 30 seconds, is that good enough? Well, railroad standard says, yes, it was good enough. By modern standards, it's not good enough. Yeah. So, again, not really sure what else to say about that. Quartz is the way of the future. Mechanical watch is the way of the past. That is reality. I actually do understand the sentimentality of saying this is an old mechanical watch. It's worked for 100 years. It still keeps reasonably good time. I get that. But putting that next to a G-Shock that loses one second a month at most. I mean, seriously, which is the better time piece? And don't get sentimental on me. So objectively, pragmatically, you would choose the G-Shock. You just would. OK, next person, next feedback. Russ Newcomer via the feedback form, had questions regarding the charging and the connector on the Apple Watch. Now, he said that asking the question, they already have interchangeable bands. Why not shape the charging connector, quoting his email, "Why not shape the charging connector like one of the band connections and put it in there?" The follow-up question, sub-question was, "Is the stress from the band on the connector an issue?" Short answer is yes. But to delve into it a little bit more, if you were to do that, if you put a battery or if you're putting a charging connector or anything inside the band, then you're going to bump up the price of the band straight away. It's the complexity added to it. Yeah, exactly. If you've got an all metal band, that makes it even more complicated because then you've got what? You've got your, you know, you've got insulation plus conductor. So you know, it's more complicated. Anyway. So if you're going to have interchangeable bands, it makes sense to keep the bands as simple, durable and as cheap as possible and then upsell them and mark them up, you know, and then flog them off for a mint. Maybe that's cynical, but honestly, look at what they do with RAM. You're telling me that they don't do that? You tell me they're not going to do that? Of course they're going to do that. You know, I mean, that's how a leather band on an expensive watch that costs 30 bucks to make at most, and that's out of really exotic materials they charge hundreds of dollars for. Apple's not going to do that? You're mad. Of course, they're going to do that. They charge 30 bucks for a bloody cable, for God's sake. Anyway, so there's a disincentive if they're going to do that, there's a disincentive for them to put tech of any kind in the bands. Because the more tech they add, the harder the upsell, I think. So you're far better off keeping the tech out of the bands, charging a ridiculous amount of money for it. And then, because I mean, I'll bet that their pricing model includes a reduced cost of the actual watch unit and an increased cost of the bands, such that when you buy an Apple Watch, you'll probably come with a band and you get to pick one, maybe, I don't know, you can pay more to get a better band, but they're banking on people either paying more to get a better band or they're banking on people buying multiple bands. Exactly. So, you know, I wouldn't be surprised if that factors into their pricing model. Not that I'll ever find that out. In fact, no one will except the people that set the prices at Apple. Maybe they'll know. Now, it also made me think about using the band as for a purpose other than it being a band. And I thought, well, you know, there's putting a battery in the band or using the band as like fixing a camera to it, which is what they've done with the Galaxy gear. Now, if you look at those, those bands are all fixed to the watch body. They can't be changed because ultimately, no matter how you slice it, the connection between the band and the actual watch itself, you know, if you were to make that a connection that could be made or broken, then the potential for a bad connection between the band and the watch would prove far too problematic, I think, because gunk, grime, It's going to build up. Why else use an inductive charger? They know that, you know. Your phone does not go through the shower with you. Somebody's watch might, you know. It's not, it's on your wrist. Your wrist is exposed when you're out and about, when it rains, when you sweat. Phones typically aren't in contact with the skin. They're in a pocket. But this thing's always in contact with your skin. It's going to pick up grease and grime and dust and dirt and all sorts of gunk and it's going to affect physical contacts. That's just reality. And if you want evidence of that, anyone that's worn a watch, have a look in the groove between the watch band and the watch itself, you will see gunk in there. OK, Russ, follow up question has, Does the antenna size limitations in a smartwatch being such small restraints, does that put a crimp on GPS and cellular connectivity? Short answer, yes, but ultimately, not so much a big deal. So on the GPS side, we'll focus on GPS because on the cellular side of things, just look at the size of the antennas on some of these phones, they're tiny. So it's not much of a difference. But on the GPS side, it's interesting because GPS data is encoded in the signal and the decoded data is used for positioning, not the signal strength. So as long as your receiver is sensitive enough that you can overcome the fact that you're getting less signal because you have a smaller antenna, you'll still get an accurate position. It's not a showstopper, especially if you're outdoors, you've got a clear view of the sky and potentially the horizon. you know, then you're going to get a clear signal on the watch just as clear as you're going to get on the iPhone. The iPhone is going to be better, bigger antenna, sure, more signal strength, but it's not going to affect it when you're out and about. If you're in a building, you're still going to struggle. If you've got an iPhone, if you've got a smart watch, it doesn't matter, you're going to struggle with that GPS signal because you will get a... It's still going to be binary. You'll either have it or you won't. Exactly. And the link budgets that they use for when they're designing the system, small antennas that are heavily loaded will still be good enough to receive a GPS signal. GPS receivers these days are quite sensitive. Maybe there was a time when that wasn't the case back when the GPS satellites were first launched, certainly not the case anymore. Technology has moved forward. So a few more comments about the episode, just general comments that I heard or read. There's a bit of a narrative going around, several blogs that I've read and a few tweets. A watch without an always displayed face is a failure. Have you seen this little one, this going around at all? - No, I don't think I have. - Well, the idea is this. So if this, on a normal watch, I can look at the watch and I can tell the time whenever, right? It's always on from whatever angle. It doesn't matter if I move my wrist. It doesn't matter if I very slowly rotate my wrist. It doesn't matter if I hold my arm up to a mirror to check the time, I guess I could. It doesn't matter if I'm holding my wristwatch up to someone else to look at without moving my wrist very much or at all. You know, the screen is always, for the want of a better description, illuminated. I mean, it's not illuminated on a traditional watch, of course, you know, unless it's got a side light and it's nighttime, but you know, it's working off of reflected ambient light. Anyway, the point is that it's always on for the one with a better description. But if you wanna save battery life, well, you don't wanna leave the screen on all that long. We went through the math on the episode. So the issue is that some people are saying, well, if you're not displaying the face all the time, then you've kind of failed. So you look at a Pebble, that's always on. And some of the other ones that are out there are always on. Now I got thinking about this. I don't think that really is a problem. No, they've already said there's a sensor in there that's supposed to activate whenever you raise it Yeah, exactly. So the issue is twofold Apple would be one of the companies that would get that probably the best Well, maybe The proximity sensor and stuff on the iPhone works really well most of the time I'm not totally sold Vic, I'm going to say maybe, maybe not But I think that these people that are making this comment I think it comes back to they're actually concerned about two different things. It's not that the screen is always off. It's not always off, that it's not always on. It's the fact that they're, I think that the concern is that the wrist movement will be too subtle for the accelerometer to detect that movement. So if you creep your wrist around really, really slowly maybe it's not enough to trigger the light to come on. Don't know. - Maybe. - Maybe. Second potential concern I think that they got is that it takes real time to turn the screen on. What if that time is too long? So, you know, it's like once the movement of the wrist begins you want to turn that screen on as soon as you can. But what if it takes too damn long? So we're not going to know if either of these are issues until we get these in our hands or more accurately on our wrists and even then, you know, false reaction settings in the wrist movement for sensitivity, I'm sure that's going to be adjusted over time as more and more samples are brought in and more customer complaints happen by Apple It may even be configurable by the user, I seem to recall that some settings are Now the instant on screen tricks that Apple plays they've been doing it for years already on the Mac, on iOS it's nothing new and it works relatively well such that most people can't tell the apps are doing it. So you know you'll fire up an app you actually get a screen dump of its last active state like a static image right and you know this you're as an app developer right so all it's doing is it's swapping that out in the background and then you go live at some point. You know, so they've been doing this for ages. They would do the same thing on the watch to make it appear as though it's loading faster than it is. Well, and I think you're talking about milliseconds of delay anyway. Well, I don't know if it's milliseconds or not. All I'm saying is that when people complain about this stuff, it just gets me thinking, what am I actually concerned about because I can't think of any use case other than your wrist does not move. You then at a table in a conference room let's say or somewhere and you say you know what hey Bob across the hall or Bob across the table or Fred across the table or whatever or Cynthia whatever doesn't matter here read my watch oh I can't screens not on you know it's like well how often does that that actually happen. And even if that did happen, shake your wrist, give it a flick, you know. Two shakes of a lamb's wrist or something. Yeah. Clinton brings up in the chat room, too, that maybe the sensor is too sensitive and the screen turns on excessively. Of course, that's the compromise. Is that if it is on too, if it's on, if it's too sensitive, it's on too much, you'll just flatten the battery. Anyway. Okay, more things. So, following the show, I posted a few comments on Twitter that I saw as I was sitting in meetings at work when I was in public, like at the shops, on the train, on a bus, and I counted how many people were wearing watches. Now, my completely statistically invalid, informal poll that should not be relied on as any indicator of anything, and that's pretty much every disclaimer I could throw at this statement, In public, about half the people wore a watch. Now in engineering, software and hardware engineers tend to be more like about a quarter of them. People tend to use their phones. But in management, here was the interesting thing, three quarters of them, by far and away the majority, tended to wear watches. And that lends some credence to the idea that there is a market segment where wearing a watch is just a fashion statement. It has nothing to do with how good it is at telling the time or anything else for that matter. It's just it's a it's either a luxury item. Yeah, it is. It's an ensemble choice and it's a fashion decision. Which watch shall I wear today to this board meeting? Hark, I shall wear the Rolex. You know, whatever, right? I can shove you Rolex. I mean, the point is that if it's a fashion statement, I don't care because if the Apple Watch is not practical beyond being a fashion statement, if it's a fashion statement, you're going to get like the gold or the whatever maybe I get, you might get the stainless one if it matches your other, you know, fashion accessories, I guess. I don't know. I'm not a fashion guy, whatever. But the point I'm making is that it's not going to succeed or fail based on its fashion statement. It's going to succeed or fail based on its usability. You know, I cannot see Apple going down the same path as a Rolex because, you know, Rolex have sold themselves on a whole bunch of other features that that Apple cannot compete on. So I can't see it ousting those sorts of incumbents in that sense, but what they can do is they can eat away at some of their market share. Oh, listen to me, I'm talking about market share card. Anyway. Anyway, so a few people on Twitter also responded with their own mini surveys. And one of those people on Twitter was Ali Martin, A-L-I-M-A-R-T-O-N on Twitter. And in a full room of 14 programmers, only one had a watch and that watch was a USB storage device watch. That's pretty geeky. Yeah, that's it. So there you go. I suspect will there be more follow-up after the Apple Watch comes out I don't have too much else to add about WatchKit to be honest because I had a look at the WatchKit stuff and I'm like "Ho hum, it's exactly what I thought it would be" Yeah, well there's the potential for some really cool stuff there It's still kind of limited at this point but like David Smith pointed out It's limited but it's not anywhere near as limited as what he thought it would be for this entry level I've listened to, I imagine all the same stuff you have. I mean, I've listened to Developing Perspective, I've listened to ATP, I've listened to Core Intuition, where they've all touched on it, of course. And honestly, mate, yeah, it's a bit restrictive, but I expected it to be. Yeah And honestly the real true groundbreaking benefits are going to come from native apps And that's not going to be in the first release Yeah That's... I'm sorry but that's the real... Well, that's much like the iPhone itself, you know Yeah But that's... We didn't get the iPhone SDK right away either So No No, we... Web apps were all you needed Yeah You still don't have an answer on Danny Pink and how much power it takes to turn him invisible? I just assumed that that was a joke So no, I did not have an answer to that question Although, I will throw you an answer Infinite Infinite, yeah Infinite, infinite divided by zero Anyway, alright, good, lovely
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Vic Hudson

Vic Hudson

Vic is the host of the App Story Podcast and is the developer behind Money Pilot for iOS.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.