Spotify vs. Apple Music (formerly Beats Music) and Why I Use Both Music Services

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Spotify Running automatically detects your pace and matches temp.

I’m often asked the question, which, if I was interested in subscribing to, would be the better choice: Spotify or Apple Music? It’s a debate like most others in technology that will most likely end with personal preference or platform loyalty. For me, I subscribe to both services because together they provide a music experience I enjoy depending on the reason I am listening to music.

I have found that Apple’s Beats1 Radio is great for work and Spotify’s dynamic running station based on your steps per minute is ingenious. Spotify’s collaborative playlists and social features are also amazing, but to me, Apple Music (formerly Beats Music) has always sounded a bit more clear and crisp than Spotify. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the music service I would choose if I had to choose to only one and why I subscribe to both of them for the time being.

What I like About Apple Music

  • Sound quality
  • Beats1 Radio
  • Price

Apple Music, once a struggling service on its own acquired Beats Music in 2014 for $3 Billion dollars. It currently has over 13 million subscribers and around 37 million songs, including Taylor Swift. Its songs are encoded using AAC (based on MP3 encoding) and is essentially the entire iTunes catalog, which is also its desktop app. iTunes is available for OS X and Windows and the Apple Music app is available for iOS and Android. Recently, more and more people are reporting that iTunes is deleting songs saved on your computer after matching them on Apple Music. This could be a real deal-breaker for many people, including myself, so as a precaution I would recommend backing up your digital music library onto a flash drive like a Corsair 256GB1.

Sound Quality

My theory about why Apple Music has a richer sound, streaming at 256kbps AAC songs versus Spotify’s 320kbps Ogg Vorbis songs has to do a lot with the acquisition of Beats Music. Beats Music had previously filtered Dre’s EQ settings on streaming tracks, thus giving them, in my opinion, a better sound quality despite having the lower bit-rate. Is this something that Apple Music has preserved through the acquisition? @AppleMusic didn’t respond to my question, but it is sweet to the ear to hear the highs and lows hit so crisply; one of the main reasons I continue to subscribe to Apple Music.

Spotify, however, offers a much higher quality bit-rate of 320kbps for premium subscribers and with high fidelity headphones, like the JaybirdSport BlueBuds X, tuned EQ settings and a quiet environment there is a difference. By default Spotify streams an audio normalized version of the track, which often sounds flat, so an EQ is needed to attain a richer sound. You can almost immediately improve the flatness by adjusting the EQ through the app’s settings. I started with piano as a baseline and then listened to a few songs across my favorite genres and made some adjustments. It’s better, but still not the same sound as Apple Music, and unfortunately, you can’t save EQ presets. I eventually settled on R&B as the best mix of sound quality for my headphones1.

Beats1 Radio

IMG_5142Both Apple Music and Spotify have “radio”, but only Apple Music has a station that is true to the traditional definition. Beats1 is a live 24/7 Internet radio station broadcasting for the most part hip-hop and pop tunes. The variety of music played on Beats1 is fairly the same, so if the hip-hop genre with a dance beat isn’t your kind of music, Beats1 probably isn’t for you. What makes the Beats1 station different from Spotify’s radio is the human-factor: real people talking between tracks just like real radio in your car. The hosts and D.J.’s, including Ebro Darden, Zane Lowe and Julie Adenuga provide additional background to upcoming songs, artists, interesting commentary and say something funny now-and-then that will make you smile. It’s a fresh change from computer generated radio and playlists.
Spotify simply doesn’t have any radio like this. It is much more like Pandora radio and plays computer matched song-to-song-to-next-song playlists based around genre and artist interests that you have thumbs-up’d or down. The algorithm does a decent job of selecting music once you have clicked enough thumbs, but after five or six hours of listening it begins to sound the same; especially when you cross-fade them more than 5 seconds, and at times repeats songs, something I haven’t found that Apple Music and Pandora do.

User Interface

IMG_5106Over the past year the Apple Music has much improved over its iOS iTunes app predecessor. The interface has few options: For You, New, Radio, Connect and My Music, making it a simple experience to get to where you want to be. When I want to listen to a playlist I tap the My Music icon and a cleanly designed screen appears with two tabs: Library and Playlists. Currently it defaults on Library, but in my UX experience the user behavior from last their previous interaction should be remembered. This way, if I always access Playlists when tapping the My music icon, it will be a quick two taps to music to my ears. This experience shines over Spotify by bringing the most important user functions, like starting a playlist or playing a complete CD in a single tap and search from anywhere you may be in the app, as well as keeping the heart of Beats Music – For You.

Carried over from the ole Beats Music, “For You”, lets you to select the genre music you enjoy listening to as well as artists and then having the Apple Music create curated playlists for you. Remember, Beats Music was all about personalized curation of playlists, and frankly with all of Apple’s resources should do this a lot better than it does. This probably also explains why unfortunately Apple stuffed this feature in an awkward place: tap what looks like a profile pic placeholder (upper left corner of screen) and then “Choose Artists For You”. After making your selections, the “For You” screen is refreshed containing new playlists with music you’re sure to love. My biggest disappointment in this feature is that I couldn’t select my favorite genre, “singer-songwriter” and I think because of that some of my favorite artists like Tyronne Wells, Jason Myraz, Mike Posner, etc never appeared for me to tap and there is no way to customize this even with a search.

What I like About Spotify 

  • IMG_5116More new and independent artists
  • Curated playlists are more relevant and kept updated
  • Web player (https://play.spotify.com)
  • Supported on virtually everything (mobile, desktop to televisions)
  • Spotify Running: Music that matches your pace

Spotify is a Swedish startup that built their music empire from the ground-up starting in 2008 and currently has about 30 million paid subscribers that enjoy a library of over 20 million songs, not including Taylor Swift. It encodes songs using the Ogg Vorbis audio. Its app is available to almost every known operating system platform: Windows Phone, Android, BlackBerry, Boxee, iOS, Linux, MeeGo, Microsoft Windows desktop, Openpandora, OS X, Roku, S60 (Symbian), Samsung Smart TV, Sonos, HEOS by Denon, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Squeezebox, Telia Digital-tv, TiVo, WD TV, webOS and so on. Chances are, wherever you may be listening Spotify is available. They have an ads based free subscription that doesn’t include offline listening and will only randomly play your music.

Despite, Spotify’s “Your Library” user interface for iOS could appear a bit less cluttered the music service brings a few solid social features to the table that Apple Music has always struggle with, including sharing with other Spotify listeners that you also follow, as a public playlists others can follow and enjoy as well as through your standard social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, and even a Spotify URL, web link or embeded HTML (see the two songs embedded in this post below).

This makes following friends & artists, sharing music and collaborating on playlists one of Spotify’s strongest feature set for mobile, desktop or web players. It modernizes the classic fun of the time period when friends would gather with their cassette cases and sit around on a summer day playing all favorite tunes. Through Spotify the playlist owner can make the list public and then mark it as collaborative. This lets any Spotify user who also knows about the playlist add songs. The playlist appears in their own Library as if it they created it. This feature is fun for summer concerts. If the people you are going to the concerts are also on Spotify you can create collaborative playlists for each concert and everybody can add their favorite song and listen all day long!

Finding music for any occasion on Spotify is another reason it pushes slightly ahead of Apple Music for me. Whether you are looking for mellow tunes on a Sunday afternoon (Afternoon Acoustic), something a little more upbeat (Weekend Buzz) or going for a run, view “Browse” screen and you’re ready to enjoy the music. This is similar to Apple Music’s “For You” but have had much more success in finding new music that enjoy. Additionally, Spotify’s dynamic running station based on your steps per minute accurately keeps up with your pace by selecting the correct song temp. However, it would be more amazing if the app recognized when your pace changes and adjusted the playback. Perhaps, a future app update will include that.

On My Last Note

On a last note, price really isn’t much of a decision making factor unless you are you looking for family plans. For individual subscriptions Apple Music and Spotify both play to the tune of $10 a month (students $4.99), but family plans are a different song. Apple Music has the best deal:$14.95 for up to 5 family members, where as the equivalent on Spotify: me + 4 family members is $29.99.

When it comes time to finally make your online music streaming choice, choose the music service that fits your listening style. If you like to listen to Beats1 Radio, CDs top to bottom or just looking for the best family plan deal, than Apple Music may be a good choice for you. If you like to discover new music, concerts, follow artist news and collaborate on playlists with friends than Spotify may be the way to listen. For me, the more relevantly curated playlists and social collaboration features win out over sound quality.

Sorry Apple, I’m staying with Spotify.


1Affiliate link, Amazon.com

Why Twitter Is Worth Keeping: Customer Service, Brand Awareness and News

Last month Twitter celebrated its 10th birthday. Since the little blue bird flew into the world ten years ago in March 2006, the Internet and mobile culture has changed a lot. In 2006, the mobile landscape was singing to the tunes of the Palm OS, Pocket PC 2000 (Windows Mobile) and the release of Windows Vista. Apple’s iPhone made its debut in 2007 and native apps for the iPhone didn’t arrive until late 2008. Its 140-character limit, SMS-based service soared into the clouds above even the likes of Facebook at the time, which for the most part was only web based; flip-keyboard cell phones were the perfect match. You could say that Twitter was “happy as a bird eating french fries” if it was real bird. Then, the Internet changed.

The Internet became more app eccentric, video savvy, social, narcissistic and with the exponential increase of broadband and a promise of more Google Fiber, it also became faster. It is the creative inspiration of Generation-X, the future of Generation-Z and currently the look-at-me-look-at-me mindset of the Millennials.

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source: Techcrunch

Somewhere in the last half of 2014, Twitter flew into a newly shined window, and Facebook, which once moved like a Sloth in social media time, made some swooping changes to their web-based social platform wooing many Millennials and other generations away from the iconic blue bird, leaving around 308 million Tweeter’s wondering if it is still worth tweeting.

The answer is #Yes

Twitter is great at having brief, public conversations with just about anybody else on the social network in an organized, straight-forward, chronological (you can still reset this from the new relevant order in settings) layout. Its current, most valuable life-lines are customer service, branding and news; as well as, fading uniqueness.

Using Twitter for Customer Service isn’t anything knew. Mashable published an article in 2009 about how to do it and 7 years later customers and brands are finally discovering a synergy that is working for both.  As a customer it will improve your consumer experience by quickly solving a problem or voicing a complaint, or reporting a software bug, and as a company it has helped transform those negative experiences, promote positive ones, strengthen their brand and build goodwill.

A few companies we have found using Twitter for customer service include @UPSHelp, @AmazonHelp, @JaybirdSport, @lostitsupport, @spotifysupport and most recently Apple Computer, @applesupport.  Our experiences with each of those companies Twitter support accounts provided a faster resolution to our problem than email or phone support. It’s a win-win and a great reason you shouldn’t abandon your account quite yet.

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source: @snowkapp

Another reason not to abandon the nest is that Twitter is also really good at building and promoting awareness for your brand, personal or for business.  Sure, over the past year the social network has lost 100 million users, but of the remaining 308 million, it’s quite effective for a push-pull marketing strategy. Plus, according to a 2014 article in AdWeek, Twitter followers are more loyal.

Just 13 percent of respondents to the GlobalWebIndex Brand report say that they have unfollowed a brand on Twitter, compared to 30 percent who have un-Liked a brand Page on Facebook. That last figure climbs to 38 percent amongst the key 16-24 demographic.”

Whether your brand is personal or business, the most important tip to building a strong following is joining the conversation. Interacting with followers by posting your original tweets, replying to their tweets and retweeting them will almost always gain you expertise in your subject, more people  visiting your profile and looking for new tweets. Be consistent in how frequently you tweet, but also mindful of creating time-line spam. Tweets can be anything, as long as they are short and sweet. Tech or cooking tips, contesst, questions or contributions to answer, news announcements, or just something interesting that you read about pertaining to your brand is tweet worthy. Whether you’re trying to build a personal brand as an expert in a specific field or a corporate brand, the most important part of building a solid following is remembering the heart of Twitter is the conversation, which usually starts by something worth reading. Also feel no shame in asking friends and coworkers to retweet you because everyone is a social-influencer.

Outside of companies pushing their brands and people pushing their personal soapboxes on anything from what they had for dinner last night or how their hotel neighbors were too loud, this social network, unlike any other, is built for distributing and consuming short snippets of news. It’s a timely place for local news network news affiliates or national affiliates like @cnn or @foxnews, and at times these news tweeters  provide a real value to have notifying your smartphone.

The little blue bird would probably be soaring higher in numbers right now if it just tried less to be like all of the other social networks and more like what everyone remembers it as: small, simple and fast. We heart you too Twitter, just be yourself.

Follow us @binarybound

Who Doesn’t Like LEGO? Now, You Can Play and Write with One Too

This may be a stretch for #yourlifeintech because it looks like a LEGO. It clicks together like a LEGO. It even feels like a LEGO, yet it’s also an incredibly smooth writing gel pen, that you can snap more LEGO’s, like a Star Wars TIE Advanced Prototype microfighter minifigurine pilot onto and call it #geek or #popculture. You can also snap the pens to each other. How cool is that?

I have to admit this was a silly and impulsive purchase that actually turned out to be quite fun. The pen is of course plastic: white with corresponding colored LEGO pieces at the top to match the ink color. On the top is where the 1 x 4 platform LEGO piece is located. Both sides of a LEGO are provided but are not the same piece. The 1 x4 on the backside of the pen sticks out about 1/8 inch. I’m not really sure of the design reason for this, perhaps so you could build off it and create a shirt-clip.

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The biggest design flaw in my opinion is not having the ability to use the pen cap end like a standard LEGO. A 1×1 block would have easily fit onto the end and if you’re a DIYer it wouldn’t be too hard to hacksaw off the end and Gorilla glue a 1×1 block on it instead. The biggest challenge for me with that DIY project is finding the 1×1 block. My LEGO bucket was sold at yard-sale when I went away to college.

Thankfully the toy store hasn’t been completely replaced yet by the digital age and we still have a local Toys R Us so I took a stroll through the aisles and found a Star Wars TIE Advanced Prototype microfighter LEGO set for $10. Unfortunately it didn’t include a 1×1 block, but did have a cool TIE Fighter figurine that I could snap onto the end of the pen, and once I had a few minutes to put together the set it made an ominous pen topper that would impress any of your grade-school aged cousins.

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These pens are so fun and smooth to write with that I am thinking of ordering the red, black and blue multi-pack through Amazon and maybe even write some code or perhaps jot a few notes down about a few upcoming product reviews: LoseIt app, Moov Now and the Kenneth Cole Reaction ‘Risky Business’ Single Gusset Messenger Bag.

Source: Purchased at Barnes & Noble (Black only) but I’d recommend the multi-color 3-pack.

Throwback Thursday Review: Waterfield Design’s iPod Gear Pouch circa 2005

This review was originally published at PocketAnywhere in October 2005. Over the years the Waterfield iPod Gear Pouch, now available as the Waterfield Padded Gear Pouch for $59, has evolved with the gadgets and gear of the modern enthusiast and has a great new design. The Waterfield gear pouch that I still use today from 11 years ago looks just as good as it did the day it arrived on my doorstep in 2005. What hasn’t changed with the product, is the durable quality.

Without need for more words, here is the originally published review of the Waterfield iPod Gear Pouch.

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2201_image1Review By Jim McCarthy
Category: cases
Published: October 2005, PocketAnywhere

If a picture says a thousand words than I don’t need to write any more. Just take a minute to look over the photos of the Waterfield ipod Gear Pouch and ask yourself if this isn’t something that you need to have. For me there was no question. My iPod goes with me just about everywhere from house to car to office to picnics to gym and the Gear Pouch just makes sense for any iPod user because it keeps everything you could possibly need to hook-in your iPod anywhere.

Made from durable, yet fashionable Ballistic Nylon and a black, soft-lining, the iPod Gear Pouch is strong and protective when using the suggested way to pack the pouch (as shown in illustration at right). With this packing strategy, all iPod accessories slip into the pouch like matching puzzle pieces so not a cord or plastic knob bumps into the other causing additional friction or perhaps even scratching when rubbing against each other. This makes it safe to drop the iPod Gear Pouch into a bigger backpack or suitcase for travel.

From the photo it is obvious to where things go for maximum protection and fit. However, I found that placing all the cords in the center pocket, where the FM Transmitter and power pack are located in the photo made it easier to grab what you are looking for while driving. For example, I would keep the Belkin 12-volt DC Adapter as well as the USB/Firewire cable in the pouch area. If it fit, I also placed the Belkin Tunecast on top of the cables. It isn’t that large of an accessory and squishes well too. In the outside zippered pocket, the original and trend-setting white iPod earbuds and the remote wind up nicely and slide conveniently into the pockets. I tend to also carry an extra pair of small headphones and a splitter with me in case I need to share my iTunes with anyone.

Not just for the iPod
Waterfield may not be the first to advertise this, but the iPod Gear pouch can also be used for other gadgets and gizmos. Before my iPod arrived I used the Gear Pouch to store multiple PDAs and sync-n-charge cables. I also tossed in a digital camera and stored a few small SD (Secure Digital) cards in the outside zippered pocket. In fact I comfortably fit a PalmOne Tungsten T3, hp iPAQ 2215, and Toshiba PDR-T20 digital camera into the three inside pockets and then also packed a Belkin Wi-Fi CF card, sync-n-charge cables for each device and the Toshiba’s awkward power-supply into the middle pouch area. It wasn’t light weight, but fit three complete gadgets into one case that made it easy to carry. There are plenty of other uses for the Waterfield iPod Gear Pouch that you will come to discover when the time is right.

Anticipating the wide variety of use of the iPod Gear Pouch, Waterfield also has a more generic Gear Pouch (shown in the photo to the left) that is crafted with the same uniqueness and durability, but also available in three different sizes.

These generic Gear Pouches start at $19 and increase in size to just under the iPod Gear pouch. To learn more about Waterfield’s other products visit them on the web, http://sfbags.com.


Today’s gear pouches, as shown below, start at $39 and are available in four different sizes. You can buy your gear pouch, as well as other Waterfield Design bags, wallets, laptop sleeves and gaming cases at http://sfbags.com.

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Fitness 101: Living Healthier & More Active with Moov Now, Lose It! and The Fitbit Scale

With a quick glance around Starbucks I notice a Microsoft Fitness Band 2, Fitbit Charge HR, Fitbit Flex and an Apple Watch; just yesterday I bumped into a Garmin Viviosmart and when I went to the gym later in the day I strapped a Moov Now to my ankle for a quick jog on the treadmill and 7-minute workout.

Fitness trackers have not only become an everyday accessory in our daily wardrobe but an extension of our body and part of our daily routine. But, with all these wearable devices tracking steps, stairs, heart rate and active minutes are they making any real difference in our health? Are they helping us obtain a more active and healthy lifestyle? After we consistently reach our 10,000 steps a day and 300 calorie burn a day, how do we keep them from becoming mundane and routine, possibly undoing the good habits we just invested months building. It then might be time to get-in-the-zone with a wearable that will rise to your more active lifestyle like the $79.95, multi-sport wearable coach, Moov Now, that analyzes the device data while you are working out to provide live coaching during your run, 7-Minute workout, cardio-boxing, swim or bike ride.

Unlike the Fitbit, you most likely will only wear the Fusion Red, Aqua Blue, Blizzard White or Stealth Black Moov Now during an active workout. Although you could wear it all the time, the real value of this wearable is during the workout since it doesn’t automatically sync with your phone through out the day nor does it currently display step tracking. However, as of this posting there is a tweet floating around with a link to a Moov Now beta program testing its upcoming leaderboard and redesigned daily activity and sleep tracking. This upcoming release may change how often you decide to wear the device. Until then, once you strap it onto your wrist or ankle you’re ready to be live-coached through a great app-provided workout including running, walking, swimming, kick-boxing or even a 7-Minute workout.

Choosing the right fitness device is only the beginning of your journey into a healthier lifestyle, and with your commitment to being more active, you will start to notice cravings for protein rich foods, sugar rushes and the urge to buy a shaker bottle. During this time it also helps to use an app like Lose It! –don’t be fooled by the name, it’s a great app for people also wanting to gain or maintain weight– to track your daily calories, exercise, nutrition, as well as a Wi-Fi scale like Fitbit’s Aria so you won’t have to remember to weigh-in.

Lose It! is the best food database next to rival My Fitness Pal (MFP). The biggest differences between the two rival apps are in user-interface and speed. The Lose It! database is just as comprehensive as MFP but faster, and Lose It’s diary log is more graphically represented with food icons. If you log a banana, there is a small icon of the banana. If you log a beer there is an icon of pilsner glass. You get the idea. At first I didn’t like the Skeuomorphic style, but after a few weeks of using Lose It! I have come to appreciate the quick-glance recognition of foods and the easy to read “My Day” view with circle graphs for calories, nutrients, steps and challenges.

Putting all this tech together may seem a little overwhelming at first, but keep reading this series and you’ll learn how to use each of the tools mentioned like a champ. We will take a much closer look at the Moov Now and Lose It! app and share with you how we’ve used fitness wareables and apps to accomplish our weight and health goals.

Up Next: Lets Moov! Now
Follow us Twitter @binarybound so you know when it’s published.

Where To Find Tech News for IoT, Wareables, Smartphones and #yourlifeintech

The Internet is a big place and finding tech news online about #yourlifeintech isn’t hard but finding good, interesting, news sources is another story.

Maybe you want to read more about IoT, or perhaps you’re more interested wareables than Internet security or you’re just interested in how technology is tangling itself throughout culture or just looking for the latest news in the war on encryption.

Now it’s your turn to share! Below is a list of online news sources that we used to discover news, reviews and articles for the #yourlifeintech weekly digest. Each morning take a quick browse through the headlines and if you discover something fun, interesting or absolutely amazing share the link with us on Twitter @binarybound or post it to the binarybound facebook page.

#yourlifeintech /news, articles

#yourlifeintech /reviews

#yourlifeintech /art, music, fiction

Oh, and here are some of Today’s Headlines

*If you’re a content publisher and would you like us to consider your site for #yourlifeintech then please send an email to /editor/at/binarybound/com/ with the URL.

Why I Threw Out My Skinomi TechGlass for Apple Watch After 24 Hours

When I found the Skinomi TechGlass was going to be available again the end of March I didn’t hesitate tapping the “Buy It Now” button on Amazon, but after the first 24 hours with it on my 42mm Apple Watch Sport I am extremely disappointed. So disappointed in fact that I am replacing it with their film based Skinomi TechSkin product or just not using a watch face protector at all.

There is an old saying “you get what you pay for” and for only $5.95 on Amazon, why did I expect anything better? I think that I expected something better because of my great experience with Skinomi’s film-based TechSkin product. Despite the clarity isn’t as good between the two products, the TechSkin fit edge to edge and didn’t leave a dusty looking ring. It didn’t change the design feel of the Apple Watch and provided an added level of scratch resistance without blurring the display.

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I actually tweeted my tech-bud @bryanlewis “first look: @bryanlewis the @Skinomi TechGlass is so ugly &about 2mm too small that I almost threw up a little. ” And, there’s that dust ring.

Skinomi did the best they could with design. If you look at many other tempered glass screen protectors they all have one design criticism in common: they are not an edge to edge fit. This makes sense because many devices from the Apple Watch and iPhone to the Samsung S7 have beveled and curved edges. This would require the glass protector to be precisely curved during manufacturing, which practically zero are, so therefore they can only cover the device’s flat surface area and often end up looking, well, awkward.

The awkwardness of the glass, however, was not the breaking point for me. It was the dust ring. You can clearly see it the photo above. The strange part is that this ring was not there when the glass was first applied to the watch face. It gradually appeared. And, to answer the obvious question, yes, I followed the very simple directions when applying, even though the instructions included were for a smartphone device (see image below). Between using the TechSkin film skin to first pick up all the tiny dust particles and then wiping down the watch face with the included Alcohol pad I expected to have no issues with clarity. The TechGlass dropped on perfectly the first time, without any need for adjustment or air-bubbling. I have to admit that I was initially very impressed with the TechGlass up until the dust ring appeared.

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I considered returning the product through Amazon, but as I started the process I noticed a “Return Policy” link. Here is what it said:

Customer satisfaction is our top-most priority. Skinomi.com offers a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee on all our products for any reason, as long as the item is returned within 30 days from the date the item is received. Items must be returned with the original packaging and order invoice.

Unopened items can be returned for a full refund within the 30-day period. Opened items can be returned for a refund of the purchase amount minus a minimum of $2.95 restocking fee within the 30-day period.

Is it just me or does the second paragraph contradict the first? They offer a 30Day Money Back Guarantee but if you’re product is opened, which mine is, there is a $2.95 restocking fee. Considering that I the purchased the Skinomi TechGlass from Amazon for only $5.95, less the $2.95 restocking fee, my estimated refund after also paying for return shipping be would cost me an additional $1.

Unfortunately because of Skinomi’s wacky Return Policy as well as the poor quality of the product, including shipping it with incorrect instructions, I’m going to toss my $5.95 in the recycle can alongside the packaging and order invoice and have to unfortunately not recommend the Skinomi TechGlass; even for the small price $5.95.

I Survived Two Days Without My Apple Watch And It Didn’t Bother Me

Having forgot to drop my Apple Watch on the charger Friday night, I woke up Saturday morning looking at a 3% battery alert. So I ughed and shrugged and snapped it onto the magnetic charger then enjoyed the first day of Spring sitting in the warm sun reading a Paulo Coelho book over a cup of coffee for a few hours. I could you give you the old-school Twitter play-by-play update of the rest morning, but it ends with me standing in Home Depot after lunch realizing that I completely forgot about my charging Apple Watch and it didn’t bother me. Why is this I wondered? and then I started thinking about what I actually use my $399 Apple Watch for.

Date & Time + weather
Outside of the obvious date and time, the weather complication on the watch face was the first feature of my Apple Watch that I missed most. Although, I did have my iPhone in my back pocket, just a quick twist of the wrist and seeing the current temperature is a really awesome convenience. Plus, with a quick tap on the temperature I can view the hourly forecast for temp, precipitation, hourly and 10-day outlook.

Watch Faces
The next feature that I absolutely missed about my Apple Watch are the watch faces. Even though they are just “okay” compared to some of the faces I have seen for Android Wear devices and the Apple Watch Hermes edition, I like having the option of matching a face to an outfit, event or function. Lately weather has been crazy and making that the focus of my watch has been invaluable, where as other times, a simple clock face has reduced stress by putting less emphasis on time, appointments and activity circles.

Activity Rings
I have to admit that I am addicted to these little colorful rings. Being at a desk all day long as a programmer I tend to forget to stand, stretch and walk as much as I probably should, as well as eat sometimes, and my Apple Watch does a terrific job keeping me on track. It’s not perfect, but it keeps me a bit more motivated than when I didn’t have it around for the last two days.

Text Messages
Yes and no. I did miss receiving text messages, but because Siri has her challenges I rarely use my Apple Watch to actually respond or initiate messages. At times I try and try again with her, but the user experience of replying to messages trips itself up with too many options that eventually require me to interact with the watch face using a finger. I feel these small issues are defeating the spirit of wearable technology requiring me to still depend on my iPhone to successfully reply-to or send a text message.

Apple Pay
Ha. Usually by the time I realize the merchant accepts Apple Pay, I already have my credit card in my hand ready to swipe and it’s more work to put the card back in my wallet just to use my watch. I have a friend @bryanlewis who absolutely loves Apple Pay and uses it all the time without any hiccups; just has not been my experience.

Siri
She never even crossed my mind. LMAO! “I’m sorry James, that’s not very nice to say.” Unfortunately Siri on my Apple Watch is just as bad as Siri on my iPhone 6. Half of the time “Hey Siri” doesn’t work and the other half when it does work she doesn’t understand what I am saying or is pretty slow interpreting my words.

Third-party Apps
I honestly haven’t found many third-party apps very useful. The reason for this is the communication delay between the watch and the iPhone. I have found this to be a problem in watch apps like MLB AT-BAT, 7-minute workout, LoseIt! and Strava. The data just doesn’t keep in sync between the too devices reliably, for example MLB AT-BAT sends a notification to my phone of a game lead change. I see it on my phone, tap my watch face and the MLB At-BAT complication is a few innings behind. I tap it and open the watch app and the score is still not accurate or in sync with the iPhone notification.

Do I like my Apple Watch? Yes. I love how it looks, the watch faces are polished and fun and the complications add value to the user experience, but did I miss it? No.

Pope Blesses Instagram, McDonald’s Happy Meal VR Box #yourlifeintech week 12

Today was a big day in tech for Apple enthusiasts, but as an Apple fanboy, Apple’s “Loop You in” event honestly felt a little flat. Maybe too many rumors are getting out, or maybe the announcements just don’t have the same innovative bang as they once did. A smaller iPad, smaller iPhone, new OS, watch bands, price cuts and AppleTV: lather rinse repeat.

So in a quick glance, Apple announced a new smaller iPad Pro starting at $599 (32GB) running iOS 9.3. Maybe it’s just me, but until that amazing 9.7 inch tablet runs either OSX or a more powerful iPad edition of iOS, I won’t be trading in my MacBook anytime soon. They dropped the Apple Watch price to $299 (from $349) and introduced a new line of nylon bands ($49) and also a black Milanese Loop ($149). iOS 9.3 will be heading to your device soon and adds the color-temperature changing Night Shift, Notes with Touch ID and password support. They also mentioned a few new updates for AppleTV including folder support, Siri support for the AppStore, as well as CarPlay and updates to CareKit. Wait, what is CareKit? Anyhow, they also revealed the iPhone SE, a smaller 4-inch iPhone starting at $399 which includes many of the bells and whistles of the iPhone 6s. Unfortunately, both the new smaller iPad and smaller iPhone are missing a few features I still hope for in the iPhone 7: inductive, wireless power, or even magnetic charging like on the Apple Watch and a microSD card. It may just be me, but Apple’s events the past few years have felt a little routine and predictable, reminiscent of the Palm V/Claudia Schiffer days from 2002.

For all the hype the technology world generates, there are few truly revolutionary products anymore. But someone came very close today: Get ready for the first handheld computer [Palm Computing’s Palm V] named for a supermodel. –cNet, January 2, 2002

On another #yourlifeintech note, the Pope joins and blesses Instagram, if you live in Sweeden you can turn your McDonald’s Happy Meal box into a VR headset. Oh, and Microsoft’s new edge web browser finally supports extensions.

Also, because of Easter weekend, and I’m going on a short vacation, there is a strong possibility that there will not be a #yourlifeintech week 13 update.

Top headlines from Week 12 of 2016

As Apple vs. FBI looms, WhatsApp and others look to increase encryption
Skype for Web upgraded, now supports dialing mobile phones, landlines and more
Now an F-16 can launch a swarm of 3D-printed carbon fiber drones
Instagram is switching its feed from chronological to best posts first
Chevy’s new Malibu keeps teens safe from themselves
Waze helps you plan future trips based on expected traffic
Nixon’s Android Wear smartwatch is water resistant up to 100 meters and Michael Kors’ Android Wear smartwatches can change faces
A Clever New Strap Brings EKG Readings to the Apple Watch
Western Digital’s 314GB drive offers RPi a low-power solution
10 Apple signs deal to power part of iCloud with Google Cloud Platform
11 Google Is Reportedly Selling Its Crazy Robotics Lab, Boston Dynamics

Our favorite article for week 12

1 On the outside, this gizmo looks identical to a regular book of matches, but tucked inside you’ll find eight tiny, waterproof and magnetic flashlights the size of matches.

Thumbtack Grows Business for Some And Growing Pains for Others

Stepping on a carpet tack not only surprises you but hurts for just second and, for some professionals, the lead-gen platform Thumbtack feels the same way. It’s warm and fuzzy with high-hopes of booking your calendar with profitable gigs whether you’re a photographer, copywriter or general contractor and then you feel the pain.

After having to initially invest around $100 for your first pile of credits, which converts to about $1.67 per credit, you’re ready to start quoting requests that are matched to your service and area. Requests are categorized and their values vary from 2 credits all the way to 10 depending on the request type. For example, weddings are typically a whopper 8 credits ($13.36) per quote, where as a portrait shoots are usually around 3 credits ($5.01) and fortune telling entertainment is only 2 credits (view Thumbtacks credit cost for services). The quoting game creates an eBay like adrenaline until you eventually run out of credits, your calendar is empty and you feel the tack in the carpet.

So why does Thumbtack work for some professionals and not others?

According to a few tips on Thumbtack’s website it has everything to do with getting reviews, your online portfolio and first contact. In a Thumbtack case study, portrait and wedding photographer Lauren Lindley said that 40% of her clients between 2013-2014 were through Thumbtack. Her Thumbtack profile  indicates she has currently been hired 35 times. In 2015, she says that number dropped to 11.5% as a result of her not bidding as much as because her word-of-mouth exposure increased. Lindley has some good tips on increasing your chances of converting quotes to sales, as well as how to recognize which requests to avoid because the requester may either be phishing or a fake. A common problem with thumbtack that I have also not experienced, but to prove a point as to its ease, contributed to.

Fake requests have been a thorn in Thumbtacks side for a long time. In fact, there have been over 261 complaints against Thumbtack with the San Francisco Better Business Bureau alone. I personally have experienced numerous fake requests and Thumbtack immediately refunds your credits with this type of complaint. However, is simply giving a refund to the professional service provider the correct solution? The Thumbtack process, although it may work for some, is broken. It fails to also hold the requester accountable, which contribute and encourages phishing and fake accounts.

A while back, I got curious as to what a Thumbtack requester user experience was like through the website as well as the app. With little effort, I created an account and drilled through the user flow completing a request for wedding photography, on a specific date and time, with all the other options.  Then I waited. Within minutes I had 3 quotes from local photographers. So the system appeared to be working. But there is one small flaw; I’m faking my interest, and this is where it gets unfair to the vendor.

Every quote that was submitted to me, the vendor paid for. Each vendor paid $13.36 (8 credits)  for me to read their quote. A quote that I have no intention on following through and I can do that for up to 5 quotes. Thumbtack  profits $66.80, the vendor profits $0 (lost $13.36) and it cost me, the fake requester, five minutes of my time. There are several issues here, notably, the most important was my bad intention only to prove a point and see what other professional photographers Thumbtack portfolios look like, as well as how they pitched their services to a potential client. Perhaps, my bad intentions would not have been so easy if Thumbtack held the requester partially accountable for the transaction.

The simplest way is requiring the requester to either hire a vendor or not. Only if the vendor is hired are they charged. After the expiration deadline, the requester has the choice of either revising their request and try again or close the request. If the request is closed by the requester, or has no activity after 30 days regardless of quotes being viewed then no one gets charged.

Another idea is to have the requester and vendor split the cost at the beginning and then when the requester hires a vendor, the vendor accepts the requesters credits for doing business with them. For example, requester pays 4 credits to submit their project, such as portrait photography. The vendor submits a quote to the requester for 4 credits. If the requester reads the vendors quote then the vendor is charged the 4 credits, but if there is a match and the requester hires the vendor, the vendor is also charged the 4 credits the requester had to pay as a good-faith to hire. So, if the requester decides they don’t like any of the first five quotes and requests more, the requester is charged another 4 credits for a new project request and if the requester closes their project without hiring a vendor then they are charged the 4 credits and the vendors are refunded their quote fees even if read. Holding the requester partially responsible for the cost of the credits will help pre-qualify both parties commitment to the project being requested, as well as hopefully preventing phishing and fake accounts. Vendors shouldn’t be punished by the requester who just looking for an idea of how much a service should cost and be able to simply walk away.

As a photographer, I have used Thumbtack. In fact, I have won two projects through the service, but unfortunately my cost-per-project-won to cost-per-quote-sent didn’t make sense for me to continue with the service. I spent approximately $200 in credits and profited about the same (not including the one Thumbtack requester who later refused to pay for services rendered). If you’re considering this service I would recommend that you take Lindley’s advice on bidding. It could save you a lot of credits, as well as help you win more project bids.

If a job doesn’t have all the information, don’t bid. For example, Lindley says if a wedding is quoted at $1,500 but the hours aren’t specified, do not bid and end up losing money because you’re earning under your minimum hourly wage. — Lauren Lindley

Although I won’t be jumping back into Thumbtack anytime soon, I will recommend the service with caution as a potentially good way to build a business. Thumbtack still has some work to do, but I think with time we will see the community continue to grow and the service improve.