Bill Bennett

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Apple is one world’s largest companies. It got there by giving people the technology they want. Products include the Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods.

An Apple iPhone SE review written using the phone

You know how, as an adult, you visit the place you grew up and everything seems smaller than it did at the time? That’s what the iPhone SE feels like after 18 months with bigger iPhones.

There is no better way of getting to grips with a device than using it to write about the product.

In the interest of science I’m typing this iPhone SE review on the phone. I’m using Byword, a great iOS Markdown writing app.

Writing a review on the device in question may be ironic, postmodern and meta, but it’s also practical and powerful. By the time I finish this post, I’ll understand the iPhone SE’s practical advantages and flaws.

A classic iPhone design

Apple’s iPhone SE gives small phone seeking consumers most of the power of the latest iPhone 6S in an updated iPhone 5S case.

The 12th iPhone to hit the streets uses a classic design that stretches back to the iPhone 4. If you used iPhones before they grew big with iPhone 6, you’ll know what to expect.

New Zealand prices start at NZ$750 for The 16GB model. A 64GB model is NZ$950. The prices are NZ$250 less than iPhone 6 models with the same amount of storage.

The iPhone SE weighs around 115 g. It measures 124 by 57 mm and is about 7.5 mm deep.

At first sight it seems tiny next to the iPhone 6S Plus, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. By the way, that’s a 13-inch iPad Pro next to the iPhone SE in the picture at the top of the page.

Holding it one-handed doesn’t stress my little finger, something I dislike about the heavier, bigger iPhone 6S Plus.

If you come to the iPhone SE from a 5 or 5S you’ll feel at home from day one. You will revel in the extra power and take delight in the new capabilities. The screen will feel normal.

Going back home

If, like me, you find yourself back with a four-inch iPhone after time with a five or 5.7-inch display it’s like visiting the home you grew up in.

It’s familiar and cosy, but you’ve moved on. While you can live there again, you quickly remember why you don’t live there any more. Then after a while, you’ll wonder if moving out was such a smart step.

When it comes to reading, bigger iPhone screens are better. That’s obvious and, for the most part, doesn’t need explaining. But that better screen comes at a financial and practical cost.

Small screen

Where screen size matters is in the context of tasks like writing this blog post. I notice I’m squinting more than normal. It’s hard to navigate the page on a small display. I can see less, so I’ve less feel for the flow of my words and for the entire text. I can’t easily tell if my narrative jumps about.

Writing on a small screen is difficult, proof reading is harder again. Proofing your own writing is always difficult. It’s tougher on the small screen because the brain is using up so much of its processing power just reading the words and navigating the text.

Even getting the cursor to the right spot in the text to make an edit is a challenge with the small screen.

On a positive note. iOS auto-correct does a sterling job fixing up the mistyped words and other minor errors. I don’t normally depend on this tool, with the iPhone SE it takes on a new importance.

Typing

Typing on the iPhone SE’s tiny on-screen keyboard is challenging. I’m used to typing on the 6S Plus screen. While not the best tool for feature writing, it can cope at a pinch.

The iPhone SE belongs to a higher difficulty level. It took five tries to type the first capital S in that last sentence. My pudgy fingers kept hitting the A key. Writing speed is glacial.

Finding the shift key is not easy, switching to the number keyboard is tricky. Even typing a full stop requires more effort than on bigger phones.

All this is a wake up call to revisit voice recognition. My 35 years as a journalist mean I think with my fingertips when writing, that may need re-examining. I’ll look at voice recognition on the iPhone SE, if I find anything interesting I’ll report back.

Less productivity than a big iPhone

If I was writing this review on the iPhone 6S Plus, a laptop or a tablet, I would have finished a long ago. When it comes to serious productivity, the small iPhone SE lags behind the 6S or the 6S Plus.

It’s not the right tool for the job. At least not for me.

And yet, there’s something delightful about the iPhone SE that transcends things like productivity: This phone feels right.

My hand is comfortable holding the iPhone SE in a way that it is not with bigger phones.

Many readers will see this as a subjective view. Perhaps it is. But that’s the main thrust of this review: The iPhone SE excels as a small, pocketable iPhone, but unlike the bigger iPhones it doesn’t rate as a practical PC replacement.

The sound of one hand typing

Despite the productivity gap, I typed this and the last three or four paragraphs one-handed using my left hand. My thumb reaches all the way across the keyboard. I don’t need to do the iPhone 6 trick of double hitting the Touch ID button to move the top of the screen down.

Writing long-form posts one-handed on the iPhone SE is not comfortable. Nor is it fast. But it works. If I had to, I could compose stories while standing on a commuter bus or train. Typing on a bigger iPhone needs both hands and more elbow room.

Because the iPhone SE is a touch thicker it is more comfortable to hold. It feels easier to grip. Less likely to fall from my hands.

Flat

I like the flat sides — you can stand the phone on a table if necessary. I also like the small volume control buttons.

Apple has put the power button back at the top like on earlier phones. It’s a better, more logical position.

One of the nicest physical aspects of the iPhone SE is that the thicker body means there’s no need for the ugly camera bump now turning up in iPhones and iPads. The back of the phone is flat and elegant.

Another benefit of a smaller screen is longer battery life. I set up the review phone 24 hours ago straight from the box. It hasn’t seen a charger since I got it from Apple and yet there is still 27 percent in the tank. I got to the end of this post with charging.

Given the phone didn’t arrive with 100 percent charge, this hints at two days use. That’s a big plus. Either way it looks to have better battery life than the iPhone 6S, about the same as the 6S Plus.

Storage

iPhone SE storage tops out at 64GB with the $950 model. When I first transferred my data from the iPhone 6S Plus last night I found there was 22Gb that didn’t make the trip. Almost all of that was music files.

That is a likely deal-breaker for some potential buyers.

If you choose the 16GB iPhone SE you’ll need discipline managing the storage. Even 64GB is a challenge when you have a large collection of digital music. I recommend you choose 64GB unless you are certain you’ll not be shooting video, carrying photo collections and listening to stored audio.

Not just storage

There are other possible shortcoming to watch out for. None of them are deal-breakers, but collectively they may add up to a reason not to buy the iPhone SE.

The iPhone SE uses an older version of Apple’s Touch ID sensor. In practice this doesn’t amount to much of a compromise. It just works a fraction slower. Some may find this a blessing, at times the newer Touch ID sensor is a little too quick for comfort.

If you’ve used an iPhone 6S or 6S Plus you may miss the 3D Touch feature where you can press harder on the screen to fire up secondary commands. I found myself trying to use it on the SE even though I knew it wasn’t there.

This is not likely to worry anyone who is coming to the SE from an older iPhone, but if you use 3D Touch a lot, you may be frustrated by its absence.

Apple has used an older front facing camera on the SE. If you make lots of FaceTime calls or use similar video conferencing, this may bother you, but, on its own, this is not a reason to dig deeper and spend on a more expensive iPhone.

Likewise the display doesn’t have as much contrast as the 6S and 6S Plus. I did a side-by-side comparison and its clear that photos have better contrast on the bigger iPhones, but again, this is not a deal-breaker.

Is it worth buying?

There are two questions to consider before choosing the iPhone SE.

First, can you get away with 64GB of local storage? Given that many buy iPhone 6S and 6S Plus models with 64GB, that’s down to how you use your phone and what you want from it.

While most of us can live with this, especially if we store audio, photo and video files in the cloud, some users will find this limit too restricting.

Which brings us to the most obvious question: is the smaller display going to work for you? The larger screen shows much more text or graphics at the same time. Or, you can use the extra screen size to zoom out making text easier to read and picture detail easier to view.

As I found when writing this review on the iPhone SE this aspect of the larger iPhones is a big deal in terms of productivity.

If you don’t use your phone for heavy-duty apps, writing or to read large amounts of material, you’ll probably be happy with the iPhone SE’s trade-off between screen size, pocketability and being able to control it one-handed.

The eyes have it…

In my case the killer deciding factor is eyesight. Until recently I had good eyes and found a four-inch screen more than adequate. That changed when I found I had macular degeneration. This is kept under control with drugs, but for a while I struggled to see a small screen. Many, many people also have eye problems and need a bigger display.

The flip side is that I only need a big screen iPhone some of the time. There are Macs, tablets and PCs at home with all the screen real estate I need.

Some of the time the convience of a small, one-hand device trumps the productivity benefit of a bigger iPhone. And it is much more portable. It fits into short trousers and shirt pockets — bigger iPhones have trouble with both.

Well, that’s the theory. You’ll need to decide on these matters for yourself, as far as I’m concerned, I’ll stick with the larger screen iPhone 6S Plus because on the occasions when I need iPhone productivity, I can’t compromise. And on the days my eyes are bad I’d struggle to read the small display.

… And yet that little iPhone SE feels so right in my hand.

Why is there an iPhone SE?

Apple says it made the iPhone SE because of customer demand for a smaller iPhone.

This isn’t a marketing hunch. It is a hard-nosed decision backed by powerful evidence. Last year 30 million people bought the iPhone 5S.

Which is a good place to start. The iPhone SE has the same four-inch screen as the 5S. The case is the same size and physically similar.

Looks are deceptive

While the outside looks like the iPhone 5S, under the skin it is an iPhone 6S.

This is a marketing challenge for Apple.

Conspicuous consumers — let’s not pretend they don’t exist — want to be seen and noticed with the latest glamorous hardware. The iPhone SE looks like an old iPhone. Few casual observers would see it as anything else.

In the case of the review model in my hands, the only clue that it isn’t an iPhone 5S is that it has a Rose Gold finish. You’d have to be intimate with Apple’s product range to know that colour wasn’t available on the 5 series phones.


Footnote: Writing the iPhone SE review on the phone

I composed, wrote, fact-checked and otherwise researched almost all the text in this post on the iPhone SE. The post took about half as long again to write as it would have taken on a Mac or iPad Pro. That’s maybe 25 percent slower than writing the same story on a large screen iPhone.

In the end I couldn’t do everything from the phone. I had to open the document on my Mac to give it a last proof-read and polish.

If I was writing a story to send to another editor to proof-read, I would have gone straight from the phone, but found my eyes were starting to feel the strain of dealing with over 2000 words on a tiny screen.

9.7-inch iPad Pro, a step beyond 12.9-inch model

Smart Keyboard Cover iPad Pro

Apple’s pitch says you can dump your existing PCs and get an 9.7-inch iPad Pro instead.

…It is the ultimate upgrade for existing iPad users and replacement for PC users.

— Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing

This is true: up to a point.

There are still things that work best with a traditional computer.

To understand the iPad Pro’s limitations, try downloading a zipped firmware upgrade for your non-Apple router. Now unpack it and install the software from an iPad.

Most people never have to, or never bother to do such geeky things. Which means for a lot of users, the iPad Pro is enough computer. For many it is more than enough.

Then there are games. While there are exceptions, games are still better on traditional computers than on iPads. PC or Mac game software is far better than iOS game software.

For gamers, the iPad Pro is not enough computer.

Schiller made his sale pitch last week during the launch of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. His claim makes more sense when discussing the super-sized 13-inch iPad Pro.

A better iPad Pro camera

Being newer means the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has some neat features. The camera is better than on the 13-inch model,  although the newer iPad Pro now has an annoying bump housing the lense.

Taking photos with a tablet is a mixed experience at the best of times. It still looks weird when people do it. It looks even weirder when someone takes photos in public with a 13-inch iPad Pro.

Even if you get past that weirdness, tablet hardware is unwieldy when attempting to compose shots. Keeping the camera still is a challenge.

Colour-shifting

Apple’s new colour-shifting screen is nice, but hardly a must-have feature. It adjusts the tone of the screen image to ambient lighting.

When something that minor is near the top of the list, it is a struggle to justify buying a new device.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a downgrade from the older 13-inch model when it comes to processor speed and Ram. It has a downgraded lightning port which can’t manage the data transfer speeds of the bigger iPad. To cap it all, Apple hasn’t included fast charging.

Sure, a smaller display means it may not always need as much grunt.

Larger iPad Pro display wins every time

While the smaller iPad Pro screen handles split-view, a larger display makes it practical.

Perhaps the biggest compromise is with the keyboard. Apple’s 13-inch iPad Pro keyboard has shortcomings, but it isn’t cramped. Experience says 10-inch keyboards are rarely comfortable for typing.

All-in-all it’s hard to choose the 9.7-inch iPad Pro as a primary computer over the 13-inch model.

Price may be a factor, the smaller iPad Pro is NZ$350 cheaper. Being realistic, neither model will appeal to cash-strapped computer buyers.

Why choose the smaller 9.7-inch iPad Pro?

The only reason to choose the smaller model as your only or main computer is weight and size. There may be cases where a few mm and 280g matter.

While the 9.7-inch iPad Pro isn’t a great only computer, it looks like a great secondary device. Say if you work at a desk all day and need something for occasional use at home. Or maybe if you need something light when travelling.

Few New Zealanders commute long-distance on public transport. Elsewhere in the world the 9.7-inch iPad Pro would be ideal for catching up on work during a long train-ride home.

Perhaps the most important aspect of last week’s announcement is Apple’s continued iPad commitment. It says Apple is in no hurry to abandon the iPad.

Tablets versus PCs

When tablets first appeared there was a clear split between them and laptops or desktops. Apple saw and sold tablets as information consumption devices. Creating information was best left to more traditional computer formats.

Within months it was clear you could use tablets for work. For writing, for collecting information, for crunching numbers, simple design work and so on.

Their simplicity, popularity and portability over-ruled conservative objections. It didn’t take long for great, stripped down apps to appear.

By the time Microsoft introduced the Surface and iOS Office apps, it looked as if tablets would be the future of business computing.

The arrival of hybrids from PC makers such as HP, Lenovo and Toshiba cemented this.

Consumers still tablet focus

Yet even now, most tablets are more geared towards consumer needs than business needs. When hardware companies launch new models they tell us how much fun their new devices are. They emphasise cool over productivity.

This consumer bias extends to software. The blockbusters are there: Microsoft Office and some Adobe apps. These apps drive businesses. But there are thousands of specialist productivity apps that remain Windows or OS X only. Hell, lots of them still have Windows 95 or XP style user interfaces.

These apps are the mainstays of many companies. Small to medium development companies earn a reasonable living focusing on servicing a niche. They maintain code, they keep the wheels of industry turning.

Where are the niche business iOS apps?

Few of these mid-range business apps have made it to tablets. They are only creeping into the cloud.

Even if developers manage to retool business apps for tablets or the cloud, they face two hurdles.

First, getting through the app stores is a challenge. iTunes and Google Play are a challenge for blockbuster apps. They are a nightmare for small, niche developers. App discovery is hard.

Try finding specialist software in a market with over a million products on show.

Get past that hurdle and software developers hit the economic problem. In the past they have been able to charge customers enough to pay for development, support and maintenance leaving a healthy margin. App stores act to drive prices down. It’s brutal.

What’s more, app stores make it hard for maintenance contracts. They don’t allow software companies to charge for major upgrades.

Make it worthwhile for app developers

The upshot of this is specialist software companies choose to stay with the business models that work. You’ll find a lot of this software will work or made to work with Windows 10 on a Microsoft Surface. In the Apple world, developers carry on with OS X product lines.

Many will go to the wall. There’s going to be a shakeout. We’ll see less choice.

Some apps may make it to the cloud. Xero’s model for accounting software works. It’s a one-size fits all product for a mass market. That approach might not be easy for a, say, manufacturing inventory software specialist.

The iPad Pro, big or small, may be all the computer an individual user needs. It will be a long time before it satisfies the needs of business users at all levels.

If Apple is serious about moving everyone from PCs to iPads, it needs to work now on a new app store model. Let’s call it iTunes Pro, a store that caters for professional and business software.

BrydgeAir iPad keyboard – sturdy alternative

Brydge has a keyboard for anyone who bought an iPad Air or Air 2 but meant to buy a MacBook Air. The BrydgeAir keyboard is a sturdy aluminium frame that clips to the iPad Air. When closed it forms a tough laptop-like shell. When open you can use the hinge at any angle, like a laptop. Folding it flat puts your iPad to sleep.

At around NZ$230, it isn’t cheap. Decent iPad keyboards start at less than half the price.

Tablet or faux laptop?

Yet BrydgeAir isn’t like any other third-party iPad keyboard I’ve seen. While popular iPad keyboards like Logitech’s excellent Ultrathin Keyboard Cover are all about adding the convenience of keyboard typing to the iPad, BrydgeAir is more about turning the iPad into an iOS touch-screen laptop.

If that’s what you want to do.

Brydge’s design and choice of materials reinforces this idea. The case is aluminium, you can choose colours to match your iPad Air. The keyboard is exactly the same dimensions as the iPad Air. When closed, an iPad with the BridgeAir looks a lot like an Apple laptop.

It uses hinges engineered to fit an iPad Air 2. The same unit works with the older iPad Air thanks to rubber shims that you can add to the hinges.

Heavy

The downside of this approach is the BrydgeAir adds more weight than, say, the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard. The keyboard is heavier than the iPad Air 2 and getting on for twice the weight of the Logitech keyboard. That extra weight may be a Brydge too far for some people.

On a positive note, the BrydgeAir keyboard is a lot like a MacBook keyboard. It’s solid and doesn’t flex like some cheaper laptop keyboards. It can take my touch typist hammering, there’s a little more travel than in most attachable keyboards. It has back-lighting, that’s important for us journalists who find ourselves typing in darkened rooms.

I found typing cramped compared with my laptop – that’s unavoidable given the keyboard size matches the 10-inch iPad Air 2.

It’s fine to use, but I’d prefer a little more room. I find I can work with it for a while. It’s good enough for temporary typing on the move. It may even do if I am out-of-town on a reporting assignment.

In the long-term I wouldn’t want to drop my laptop for this arrangement and that’s before discussing the merits of iOS versus OS X.

Beyond keyboard

There’s more than just a keyboard. Bridge has added Bluetooth stereo speakers. You can crank them up higher than the normal iPad Air speaker. While the BrydgeAir speakers are useful for FaceTime conversations, music sounds cheap and tinny.

One other thing to watch for is that the BridgeAir takes a toll on your iPad batteries. I can go all day and then some on my iPad without the BrydgeAir, with it attached I’d lose about a third of that battery life.

I’ve always thought there’s something curious about iPad keyboards. When the iPad first appeared it was a break with personal computing’s recent past. Apple stripped down the laptop to the bare essentials needed for browsing and reading. That meant getting rid of the keyboard. We seem to have spent the last five years putting them back.

This trend reached its apex when Apple added its own keyboard cover to the iPad Pro. I prefer the BrydgeAir to Apple’s keyboard and would love to see what Brydge can do for the iPad Pro. Adding a keyboard of this quality could elevate the Pro.

BrydgeAir – verdict

Brydge has chosen to target a tight niche with a well-engineered, high-quality alternative. The BrydgeAir is an expensive, heavy, well-made  keyboard for a device that was designed as only an occasional typing tool. It changes the nature of that tool. In a sense it’s a good fix for a problem you don’t need to have.

If you are a heavy-duty typist a lot you would be better off with a MacBook, MacBook Air or just about any other laptop. A device made for typing is always better than an iPad and a keyboard.

If you love the iPad, need to type a bit and like the idea of an iOS laptop, this is the answer. If you bust your budget buying an iPad and wished you got a laptop instead, you’ll love this. It’s also a good alternative for people who find plastic type covers too flimsy.

WordPress.com OS X app

The WordPress.com OS X app is beautiful software. It’s also close to pointless.

The app is wrapped around the most recent browser version of the blogging software. That’s it.

It runs well enough, but it doesn’t do anything that you can’t do in the browser. Many of those tasks work better in the browser.

Moreover, there are some things the app doesn’t do, so you are sent back to the browser version anyway.

There are only three reasons to use the WordPress app:

  • To keep Safari or another browser set aside for non-WordPress tasks.
  • To go straight to WordPress.com from the Dock or Application launcher.
  • If you want to store your WordPress data locally on your Mac.

None of these are compelling:

  • WordPress.com and WordPress.org both work well in Safari. But even if you hate working that way, like it or not, there will be times when the app sends you there.
  • If you keep WordPress in your Safari bookmarks you can get there in two clicks instead of one.
  • Storing data on your local computer may help if you have a poor internet connection, otherwise, it’s rarely an issue.
  • If you feel the need to compose a post outside of the site, you could use a Markdown editor like iA Writer or Byword. iA Writer integrates well with WordPress. There are many other editors which link to the software. If you want to use an online service, you can publish to WordPress from Google Docs.

In short, there may be a  case for people who spend all day managing their sites to use the app, but for most people it’s just clutter.

There is another flaw with the app. It doesn’t appear to automatically update the display. If it does, then the updates are infrequent. And there’s no obvious refresh button to hurry updates along. This matters if, say, you want to watch the traffic roll in after a new post.

How the iPad Pro changed my computing needs

ipad pro apple pencilApple’s iPad Pro is the perfect tool for a freelance journalist. It’s light, powerful, has a battery that lasts all day and a good keyboard.

To my surprise I’ve found my writing is more productive on the Pro than on a Mac. That has a lot to do with the physical hardware. It is also down to iOS 9 which forces distraction-free mode on users.

Nothing pops up to distract me while working. I’m rarely tempted to switch screens unless it is necessary. Trust me, this enforced focus writing is just what I need.

I get paid by the word and can write more words per day on the iPad Pro. It’s that simple.

iPad Pro great for writing

Today’s iOS writing tools are excellent. There is plenty of choice. At one point I had seven different apps installed I can use to manipulate words and sentences.

At first sight Apple’s iPad Pro keyboard doesn’t look promising. In practice I can touch type on it all day. I’ve no idea if my iPad Pro typing speed matches my MacBook typing speed. What I do know is the iPad Pro writing set-up is productive.

My only niggle is that sometimes I must lift my hands from the keyboard and touch the screen or the Touch ID button. This doesn’t interfere with productivity, but it doesn’t feel like a natural action. Not yet[1].

The iPad Pro has earned its place in my technology armoury. The machine I’m writing this post on is a review model from Apple. When the review period is up I’m going to buy my own iPad Pro and a keyboard and an Apple pencil.

What does it replace?

There is one problem. I’ve not decided what it will displace.

Although I can do all my work on the iPad Pro, it can’t do all the other things I need to do. While iCloud works well (so does OneDrive) the iPad Pro is not ideal for making local file copies. Physical back-up may be an anachronistic security blanket in your eyes, I’ve come to depend on it. I learned the hard way about backing up and don’t plan to stop.

Last month I had to install new firmware on my home wireless router. That meant downloading a zip file, decompressing it then installing it on the router. There’s no way I know of to do this using the iPad Pro[2].

I’ve invested a small fortune in OS X and Windows apps. In truth, there are few desktop business apps that I find essential. I use Acorn to manipulate graphics files but there are good iPad apps for this task.

The iPad Pro handles most web design work. Downloading and editing HTML, CSS or PHP files is tricky compared with the Mac. I can’t see how I can run local development versions of websites on the iPad. Maybe there are tools, I haven’t found them yet.

Missing in action

Where the iPad Pro misses most is with leisure software. That’s strange given its consumer origins. Here I’m talking about specialist apps. I use sophisticated music composition software on my Mac, it doesn’t run on iOS. Having said that, I have found some great alternative iOS music software.

Games are another matter. I’m not much of a gamer, but on wet weekends and home alone evenings I might want to unwind. Although there are iOS versions of some of the games I play, they are not a patch on the OS X versions.

The iPad Pro is the best thing for watching streaming video content. Premier League Pass is wonderful on the Retina screen. Movies are wonderful and the display is big enough for two to snuggle up and watch together.

Can’t drop the Mac yet

Despite this, I’m still going to need a Mac of some description for some time. The question is which model?

Until I used the iPad Pro, Apple’s 2015 MacBook was at the top of my shopping list. It’s small and light and has a great screen. That sounds just like the iPad Pro, except I now know I work better with a Pro.

My MacBook Air is two years old. The battery doesn’t last quite as long as it did when it was new, the power cable wore away and needed kludging. I was planning to look for a replacement about now.

Thanks to the iPad Pro I can relegate the MacBook to a secondary role and extend its life. Maybe when it gets more tired I can replace it with a Retina iMac. Or maybe another MacBook Air.


  1. I’ve noticed with the iPad Pro and all the touch screen PCs or Hybrids I’ve used that excessive touch screen use gives me a little upper arm pain. I’ll let you know if this becomes a problem.  ↩
  2. If you do, please tell me.  ↩

Why I had to stop wearing the Apple Watch

A few days after I first tried the Apple Watch I found myself scratching my irritated wrist. I took a break from wearing it and my wrist got better.

For a while I fell into a pattern of only wearing the watch when I worked away from home. At home, I’d leave it off. This runs counter to the idea of wearable devices, but it worked for me.

At least I thought it did. I was getting a mild rash and would find myself scratching my wrist and the area around it. But things seemed under control.

It turns out they weren’t.

Discomfort

There was still some discomfort. I took to loosening the band in case the problem was to do with it being too tight. My skin didn’t improve. In fact the problem got worse. I found the area where my thumb meets my hand was red and itchy.

At home, Johanna says she noticed swelling around my wrist, across the lower part of my hand and thumb. We compared my right and left hands. I wear the watch on the left hand, but am right-handed for most things. The left hand is clearly swollen in comparison with the right.

My instinct was to wear the Watch even less and keep an eye open for more symptoms.

Warning Will Robinson

Ten days ago I visited a medical specialist needing treatment for another medical problem. Like a lot of people he noticed my Apple Watch. I thought he was interested in the technology. He wasn’t. Instead he took a closer look at my rash and told me to take the watch off.

He told me I had an allergic reaction to the material. It could be the strap — my Watch has a black Sports Band. Or it could be the watch itself.

The medical specialist asked if my reaction had worsened over the weeks I’ve been wearing the watch. I couldn’t be certain, there’s a boiling frog aspect, you don’t notice a slowly worsening skin reaction creeping up on you.

After some thought, I realised it was getting worse.

Potentially serious

He said this could be serious. It turns out some allergic skin reactions have a cumulative effect. They can go on getting worse and reach a point where it is hard to recover. In extreme cases it can lead to anaphylactic shock.

Now, this was the doctor’s reaction after seeing the rash. I wasn’t there for this condition and we didn’t take things further. It wasn’t a formal diagnosis, just some friendly, informed advice.

Nickle, Methacrylates

Apple acknowledges some people may have a reaction to the Watch materials. It says it went to great lengths to test and check materials first. The Apple Watch support website offers some advice on possible allergic reactions.

Material care

It says: “A great deal of care and research go into choosing materials for all our devices. A small number of people will experience reactions to certain materials.

“This can be due to allergies, environmental factors, extended exposure to irritants like soap or sweat, and other causes.

“If you know you have allergies or other sensitivities, be aware that Apple Watch and some of its bands contain nickel and methacrylate.’

Apple suggests people who have problems should talk to a doctor before wearing or returning to wearing the Watch. I’ve done that and for me, the long-term review is over.

In the next few days I’ll report my thoughts about my time with the Watch. Top of that list is that the best thing about the Apple Watch is that has made me more aware of my health. Some irony there.