When it doesn't just work

Posted on 2023-12-08 10:32 +0100 in Tech • Tagged with Apple, watch • 3 min read

My journey into the Apple ecosystem has been gradual but all-consuming. I've gone from, around a 8 years ago, being unconvinced about how good the whole Apple world is, to pretty much having all the hardware they make available, in some form, that I have an actual use for1.

One of the devices I was late to, but won over by, after moving away from Android to iPhone, was the Apple Watch. These days I have two: the original SE, and also a Series 8. Generally I've marvelled at just how seamless the experience is. I swap watches: the connection to my phone "just works" and it figures all that out. Stuff syncs. Stuff stays in sync.

I lean heavily on the watch. The Series 8 is my daily driver, and the SE acts as my nighttime tracking device while the 8 charges and I sleep.

I record walks. I record runs. I record lots of heart rate data. I pay for things, pretty much everything, with it. I... take it for granted really.

My main watch face

Yesterday though, something odd started to happen. I noticed that some things didn't seem to be syncing from my watch to the phone. Health-related things weren't turning up. A recorded workout didn't show. The control of all things audio seemed to decouple and the watch kept taking over use of my AirPods from the phone in an annoying way I'd never experienced before. Things like that.

I tried a reboot of the watch. Stuff turned up.

It happened again. I tried a reboot of the phone. Stuff turned up.

It happened again.

I then rebooted watch and phone, stuff seemed fine, and I didn't think much more about it.

Then this morning I swapped from the SE back to the Series 8 as I sat down for breakfast, my usual routine, and the syncing was failing again.

This, for me, this is when Apple stuff gets really frustrating. There's no easy or obvious way to diagnose what's going on. Like: I could not sync some health data from the watch to the phone, but I could use "Find My" to ping the watch (presumably a difference in communication route, BT vs Wi-Fi perhaps). There's no obvious error dialog. There's no obvious log to look at. There's no "your BT is borked" alert or something.

Searching online the advice seemed to be the nuclear option: unpair the watch, reset it, start again. So I've done that this morning and it's been quite the pain. Getting it set up again was straightforward enough, but having to go through the whole thing of dismissing all the "here's some tips on how to use this watch you've had for a year and used every day" cards was annoying, also having to set up my payment cards again was annoying. Also, and this is on me for not backing them up recently, trying to recreate my watch faces from memory and remembering which ones they were based on was also annoying.

Apple are actually so good at a lot of this seamless shit; but damn do I wish they'd also be good at making a tool that lets you easily and smoothly diagnose some issues. I would imagine sync issues between watch and phone are common enough that a wee tool where you run through diagnostics, and where there's a Q&A to help narrow down the issue, would be a great experience.

Anyway... it seems to be up and running again, so hopefully that's that issue solved. I tried a couple of things that would need to sync from the watch to the phone and they showed up instantly; actually faster than I've been used to for quite a while.

Fingers crossed...

  1. During a conversation about this at work the other week, I think I figured out that the only Apple product category in which I don't own an example of the hardware is displays2. :-/ 

  2. When the VisionPro comes out I'll be able to say there's two. 

Wear timer issue fixed, sort of

Posted on 2015-06-26 12:02 +0100 in Tech • Tagged with Google, Android, Wear, Android Wear, Watch, Moto360 • 2 min read

Following on from yesterday's problem with the Android Wear timer I think I now have a solution. It came up while chatting with Mike McLoughlin about the issue.

I got to thinking that this problem felt like one that I've seen a number of times before with Google stuff. One thing that's rather common (in many cases for very obvious reasons -- you can't cover the whole world in one go) with Google is how they struggle to get languages and localisation right. This felt like it was a similar issue. Mike had reported that his watch appeared to be unaffected by the issue (I'm guessing he's on the latest version of Wear -- the conversation headed off in a different direction before that became necessary) so I checked what his language was on his phone. Turns out he was the same as me: British English.

So much for that idea.

But then he suggested switching to US English and back again.

Happy enough to apply a very Microsoft "turn it off and on again" approach to a Google device (really, all big tech companies really are the same and really do suffer the same issues) I switched to en-US on the phone and tried setting a timer in voice on the watch.

It worked!

So then I switched back to en-GB on the phone and...

I appear to have timers working again

...it still worked!

I've tried setting timers in voice on the watch a few times since and it's yet to fail.

It would appear, as odd as it is, that this is the fix. Well, a fix.

Did Google just break Wear timers?

Posted on 2015-06-25 22:27 +0100 in Tech • Tagged with Google, Android, Wear, Android Wear, Watch, Moto360 • 2 min read

I didn't pay too much attention to it when it happened but it looks like Android Wear, on the phone side, got an update in the last 24 hours. Only this evening did I notice that this seems to have broken something I heavily use on my watch: timers.

I find the timer facility on Wear especially useful when I'm cooking, either to ensure that different parts of the cooking process come together at a sensible time, or when I put something on and need to go off and do something else (perhaps come back to the office while and get on with some work as something bakes, etc).

To be clear, the timer app is still there and, if I select to start a timer "by hand" on the watch, it works as it always has done. Also, if I say "OK Google, set a timer for five minutes" it still does the voice recognition thing:

Google still understands the request

It's what happens next that's the problem. Before it would have started a countdown timer. As well as vibrating the watch when the timer runs down the timer app also has the very useful feature of showing the countdown on the watch face. This means you can glance every so often and see how long is left to go.

Instead, as of today (well, this evening when I made dinner was when I first noticed it), it starts an on-watch alarm app instead! This is utterly useless. Sure, it does still vibrate the watch when the alarm time arrives, and the alarm time is the right offset from when the timer was requested, but it lacks the on-face countdown.

It's an alarm.

It's not a timer!

Looking in the Wear app it would appear that the correct application is assigned to the correct action:

Google still understands the request

As such, I'm at a loss on how to fix this. I can't find anything on the watch itself that could be done to change this, and I've tried restarting the watch on the off chance that something went a bit odd.

It turns out too that I'm not alone. I found a thread on reddit where others have the same problem.

What really bugs me about this is that this is very Google. I've run into this sort of thing so many times before, be it on Android, ChromeOS or in their apps in general. They'll change (or screw up) something that's very simple and straightforward and in common use, something that should show up in testing pretty easily. Surely there has to be some way of pushing out an update without screwing up the apps that are assigned to actions?

As much as I really like what Google offer, as much as I value their services and global platform over the other choices, this sort of thing frustrates the hell out of me.