6 results found for “dumbwatch”

Take a Day Off, Coach

Monday, December 28th, 2020

Regular readers will know about my love-hate relationship with the Apple Watch, which I often refer to as my dumbwatch. While I appreciate the activity tracking it does, I’m often confounded by many of its behaviors. Perhaps my least favorite feature is the Activity app’s “Daily Coaching”. According to Apple, this is intended to “help you complete your Activity goals and Monthly Challenges”. I leave this turned on so that it can helpfully notify me if the day is winding down, but I need a bit more activity to reach my goals.

However, this same feature also nags me at other times throughout the day, in ways that are anything but helpful. I run in the morning most days, but occasionally, I’ll run in the afternoon. At eleven or noon on those days, the Watch will note with alarm that I’m behind my usual pace. I’ll get there, dummy. Worse, this warning sometimes pops up earlier, right after I’ve woken up and put on the Watch in the morning. I’ve even seen it as early as 1 AM, which is just ridiculous.

Other times, possibly because it’s bored, the Watch will issue a needless status update. When the below appeared, it was shortly after high noon, and I was over halfway to my calorie goal.

Here's a look at today's progress - 50% done, halfway through the day.
Begging for attention

I really don’t need or want an Everything’s OK alarm.1

This past Friday, my Watch popped up with this:

The Apple Watch saying “Keep it going - Yesterday, you rocked your exercise ring. Unstoppable, Paul. What will today bring?”

Now, read in the right cadence, that’s downright poetic. But it’s also a rhyming pain in the ass. For the love of Saint Nicholas, that was Christmas morning. The day brought some time lounging about in pajamas, followed by talking with loved ones while sitting around on the couch. Maybe Apple could provide this digital coach a calendar, because shattering personal records on December 25th is simply not in the cards for most people.

The day after Christmas, however, I ran a half-marathon. It was a cold, windy Saturday, and when I was done, I was done. This was my last race in a virtual distance medley. Over the past three months, I’d trained for and run a 5K, 10K, and now a half-marathon. I intended to take it easy and recuperate on Sunday.

So of course, shortly after I woke up the next, my Watch hit me with this:

The Apple Watch saying “Keep it going - Yesterday was all about your Exercise ring, Paul. Boom! Go for it again today.”

No! No I will not. It is OK to do less some days than others. Boom? Boom yourself, Watch.

What’s maddening about virtual assistants like this is the wildly fluctuating levels of intelligence. The same device that can check both my calendar and local traffic, then helpfully remind me when I need to leave for a doctor’s appointment, is also completely oblivious of concepts like holidays and rest days. Apple and others have created semi-intelligent facsimiles of a human assistant, but it’s clear there’s a lot of work left to be done.

For now, it provides me with a harmless outlet for anger and mockery. The Apple Watch has no feelings, so I’m blissfully free to tell it to shove its encouragement up its own ass.


Footnotes:

  1. As always, the relevant video is archived here.↩︎

Bad at Rounding and Writing

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

After posting yet another tale of my Apple Dumbwatch on October 7th, I heard from several readers who correctly guessed that my screenshot might be from earlier in the month. In fact, I’d actually taken it on October 4th. Given that, it appeared that the Activity app might actually be doing live or live-ish updates to the required per-day average. Did that explain the seemingly bad math? It turns out the answer is yes, but it also exposes several other issues. Let’s have a look.

First, I looked back at a screenshot from earlier in the day on October 4th. This was snapped at 4:02 PM:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

As you can see, this says “about 79”. I had 2,236 minutes left to obtain, and 28 days (counting the 4th) remaining. How does that math check out?

2,236 minutes remaining/28 days remaining = 79.86 minutes/day

Now, 79.86 minutes per day is sort of close to “about 79”, but it really ought to be “about 80”. Also, remember that at 4 PM, the 4th is already 2/3 over.

My original image was from 10:37 PM of that same day, October 4th. Here it is again:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

As you can see, I’d done some more Exercise minutes since 4 PM. I now had 2,214 minutes left to obtain, and 28 days (again, counting the 4th) remaining. The math on this actually works out to just over 79 minutes:

2,214 minutes remaining/28 days remaining = 79.07 minutes/day

That certainly is close to 79, though again, if you do 79 minutes a day, you’ll come up short. Worse, at this point the 4th was nearly over, yet it was still being counted in the averaging. That seems like a problem.

Finally, I did a check on the 7th, at 11 AM. Here, you can see that the estimate has gone up, as I’ve fallen slightly off the pace:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

One more time, let’s check that math.

2,107 minutes remaining/25 days remaining = 84.28 minutes/day

As before, this is close enough to “about 84” for Apple’s purposes, at least. Clearly, Activity is doing live tracking as the month progresses, rather than just doing one calculation (2560 minutes /31 days = 82.58 minutes/day)). That’s a nice idea, but there are several obvious problems here. Specifically:

  • The current text fails to indicate that the estimate provided is for the remainder of the month. Something like this could be an improvement:

    “Get 2560 Exercise minutes this month to earn this award. You’ve earned 453 minutes so far, so you just have 2,107 left to go. That’s about 84 Exercise minutes a day, for the rest of the month.”

    That would make it much more obvious that this estimate is for the rest of the month.

  • Activity is counting the current day in its averaging, no matter when in the day you are. Surely at 10:37 PM, or worse, 11:59 PM, the current day should not be counted fully in the averaging.

  • Finally, anything over X minutes should be rounded up to X+1 minutes, to avoid ever coming up short. So, 79.8, and even 79.1, should become “about 80”.

It seems I was incorrect in maligning the Apple Watch’s math skills. However, its rounding skills could definitely do with some improvement, as well as its copyediting.

Return of the Apple Dumbwatch Part II

Monday, October 7th, 2019

As long-time readers and/or Apple Watch users know, the Apple Watch encourages wearers to be more active by issuing monthly activity challenges. While these challenges can be motivating, I’ve repeatedly found the Apple Watch to be bad at the math required to track them. I first noted this in November of 2017, and then saw it again in February of 2018.

It’s been 18 months since I last noticed such an issue, however, so I assumed that the problems had been fixed and the math was being correctly computed. Yet, like the living dead, these bugs just won’t stay down. Here is my October challenge:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

This challenge calls for 2560 Exercise minutes in the month of October, and then states that that’s about 79 minutes a day. I found the use of the word “about” alongside a not-at-all-round number like 79 to be rather strange. I guessed that meant I’d need a bit more than 78 minutes a day, and checked the math.

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

In what universe is more than 82 and 1/2 “about 79”? If the claim was “about 80”, that would still be rather wrong. Even “about 82” would be problematic, because it would leave you 18 minutes short of the goal at the end of October. But “about 79”? I can only conclude that the Apple Watch has fallen right off the wagon again.

Return of the Apple Dumbwatch

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Back in November, I posted about the frustratingly buggy behavior of my Apple dumbwatch. The watch seemed to sort itself out shortly after I publicly shamed it, but a scant three months later, it’s up to its old tricks again. Just after midnight today, February 7th, I received this alert on the watch:

Apple Watch alert titled 'January Challege' and saying I have 15927 calories to go
Note the title

Scrolling down, I saw this:

Apple Watch alert showing 2/2018
As yes, the second month of the year, January

I immediately hopped over to my phone to check the Activity app there. It was similarly confused:

Activity app reading 'January Challege' showing a total of 19874 calores I need to burn, and 3939 burned so far.
All in one handy/ridiculous screen

You might charitably assume there’s an off-by-one error here causing Activity to think the second month of 2018 is January. However, if you look closer and do some simple math, you can spot another issue.

19,874 calories needed to burn – 3,939 calories burned so far = 15,935 calories left to burn. Yet if you scroll back up to look at what the watch told me, you’ll see it suggested I needed to burn 15,927 more calories. If I stop there, I’ll actually wind up 8 calories short.

In other words? Go home, Apple Watch, you are drunk.

My Watch Reads This Site

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Yesterday, I posted about the buggy behavior of my Apple Watch as it related to a challenge for the month of October. Totals were inexplicably revised down, and as a result I wasn’t awarded the promised badge. Let me clearly acknowledge that I’m dumb for caring about such a thing. However, Apple created this device and wants me to care, so it seems to me that their device should not be so dumb and/or broken.

As I was writing yesterday’s piece, I tried a few things to get the badge to fill in. I force-quit and relaunched Activity on both the phone and watch to no avail. I then tried rebooted both devices, but the result was the same. The phone was hung up on its bad math, so I decided to try and move on with my life.

It seems all I really needed to do was write about the problem here on One Foot Tsunami. Yesterday afternoon, I checked in to see what my watch was demanding of me for November, and I saw this:

A later screenshot showing 3064 minutes earned.
Note the double badge for October 2017

That second orange “10/2017” badge, with silver accents, is the badge for the October Challenge. It had finally been awarded to me. Better still, tapping it showed that my math was correct, and Numbers.app was vindicated. I really did tally 3369 Exercise minutes in October.

A later screenshot showing 3064 minutes earned.
It sounds much worse as 2 and 1/3 days of exercise.

Getting the badge now feels a bit anti-climactic, but I still appreciate it. However, all this prompts me to ask why this happened, why the watch was so slow to properly calculate my total, and why it revised my total downward before later fixing it. That buggy behavior is certainly worth fixing. Addition is extremely fundamental, and it’s worrisome if a device can’t get that right. I was able to manually enter data into a spreadsheet and then sum it, many hours before the watch corrected itself. That’s not how things should work with modern computing devices.

After yesterday’s post, I received a handful of emails from readers who shared their own similar experiences. They too saw various totals for the month suddenly dip in frustrating fashion, only to eventually correct themselves. Some hadn’t even updated their devices, and still ran into trouble. There was general agreement that the Watch’s gamification of activity was nice, but failures like these were disheartening at best.

Ultimately, I can’t be sure what caused these temporarily incorrect recalculations, but I do have a theory. This is the notification I received on my watch for the next monthly Challenge:

For November, my watch wants me to go 247.1 miles.
Oh come on!

I’m no longer certain that the Apple Watch is dumb. Instead, I think it may just be a jerk.

My Apple Dumbwatch

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Back in 2015, I purchased an Apple Watch to replace both my previous analog watch and the latest in a string of fitness trackers. The watch’s activity tracking functionality has worked well for me.1 While I’ve always tried to keep fit, closing the rings for calories burned (“Move”), active minutes (“Exercise”), and standing (“Stand”) has provided added motivation each day. Earning badges for streaks and other achievements has provided a fun, if rather inane, incentive to be more active.

Early last month, the Apple Watch issued an “October Challenge”. This was an individually tailored goal, one which seemed to be based on recent activity. I screwed myself by spending the summer ramping up for a marathon, which led my watch to require that I hit 3,347 minutes of exercise in October to complete this challenge. An average of nearly 108 minutes of activity every single day for a month struck me as a bit much, even if it would earn me the electronic equivalent of a “A+ Patient” sticker from the pediatrician.

Despite the fact that my marathon training was nearly complete and I was tapering down my runs, I wasn’t smart enough to dismiss the challenge outright. I figured I’d see how things went throughout the month, knowing that my race was in mid-October, and that I had a half-marathon before that as well. Every few days I checked in on my progress with the Activity app on my phone, and each time I found that I wasn’t too far off the necessary pace. With some extra effort each day, it was actually possible I could meet the objective.

Even so, it wasn’t until the last few days of the month that it became clear that this ridiculous goal was attainable. It required me to get moving even more than I already was, but the weather looked nice, it was good for my health, and THE ANGRY WATCH GOD MUST BE APPEASED.

So it was that just before 6 PM on October 30th, I checked my phone and saw that I was only 155 minutes shy of the target. With a busy day planned for the 31st, I felt good enough to grab a screenshot to mark my progress.

A first screenshot showing 3192 minutes earned.
1804 minutes left in the month, but only 155 of them needed to be active.

The next day, I tracked the exercise counter on the watch itself as it climbed throughout my day of activity. I was going to make it, and I was foolishly pleased by this asinine little achievement. The device’s expectations for me had been stupidly aggressive, but I was going to enjoy showing an inanimate electronic device what was what. I knew that this would likely raise its expectations still higher for the next month, but that was November Paul’s problem.

However, in the late afternoon of the 31st, I made what seems to have been a key error in judgement. Specifically, I updated my phone to iOS 11.1 and my watch to WatchOS 4.1. I didn’t really think anything of this as I did it, though not for the first time I found myself annoyed by how long the watch took to update. Once it finally finished, I strapped the watch back on and went about my day.

By Halloween night, I had completed almost three hours of activity for the day, and I knew I was set. Just before 11 PM, I opened the Activity app on the phone to gaze upon my newly won badge for the first time. This is what I saw instead:

A later screenshot showing 3064 minutes earned.
29 hours later, I’d somehow lost time.

Well that’s…not right. That’s not even possible! How exactly did I manage to do negative 128 minutes of activity since the previous day? I quickly found myself in the first two stages of grief, denial (“What the hell?”) and anger (“What the hell!”).

With just 77 minutes left in the month, the watch now claimed I was almost 300 minutes short of the prescribed goal. Even if I literally ran out the rest of the month it wouldn’t change anything. As such, I quickly jumped to the last stage of grief, acceptance (“What the hell.”). I figured that if nothing else, this ought to lower the watch’s demands for the future.

I spent the dwindling minutes of October pondering what in the world had happened. The OS updates had likely affected things somehow, but had they changed the way past activity was calculated? I scanned through each day’s readings and punched the daily recorded activity into a quick spreadsheet. This was the result:

Spreadsheet showing a total of 3369 minutes
That just raises further questions!2

Ultimately, the problem here seems to be with the Apple Watch’s addition skills. That’s pretty bad, as proper math is rather essential for a usable computing device. Alternately, I suppose the problem could be that Apple’s Numbers spreadsheet application can’t do simple calculations. That would certainly be even more shocking. Perhaps the two products are even in some sort of cahoots, the exact nature of which I’ve yet to ascertain.

Either way, I’m trying to maintain a Zen attitude about this. The only thing stupider than spending an entire month overexerting myself to earn a meaningless digital badge would be getting upset when said badge is denied due to some sort of bug. All we are is dust in the wind, and all this is is pixels in the ether. Still, I do think it would be nice if my watch could count.

Update (November 2nd, 2017): It seems that yesterday afternoon, my watch finally got done performing a recount, and awarded me my badge. Read more here.


Footnotes:

  1. One particularly nice thing is that the Apple Watch tracks calories burned directly, rather than the rather imperfect stand-in “steps” used by earlier trackers I’d tried. It was always clear that something was off when running five miles earned the same number of steps as walking about half as far. ↩︎

  2. The relevant video clip is archived here. ↩︎