Apple Watch Review – Sorry Apple, maybe next time…

After being fairly disappointed by fitness bands and their lack of features, I had recently decided to step up to an Apple Watch.

I’ve had a couple of different Fitbit bands (the Flex and the Force), a Xiaomi Mi Band, a Garmin VivoSmart and most recently a Pebble Time. The Fitbits and Mi Band were primarily fitness and sleep trackers. The VivoSmart added more information on the display as well as including notification alerts (the actual display left much to be desired)… and the Pebble Time was a another step up – adding yet a larger display and downloadable apps into the mix.

First let me say, one of the most important features to me with a smartwatch is the ability to receive vibration notifications when I receive emails, texts, and calls on my iPhone – especially at night when I’m sleeping as I don’t always hear my phone without cranking up the volume. Being in the IT industry that provides 24×7 support, automated alerts is a way of life – it shouldn’t need to impact my wife’s sleep though.

The Pebble Time did a great job for notifications – the vibration was nice and strong, the battery life was also very good for a smart watch (around 7 days). I wasn’t a big fan of the buttons on the sides as they were a little stiff, but also felt a little on the cheap side. While I liked the watch face overall – the bezel is quite large, reducing the usable size of the display.. and the casing is also very thick – it doesn’t fit under most of my dress shirt cuffs. This was probably my biggest issue with the Pebble.

Well, it just so happened that the Apple Watch had a $100 price drop, so I decided to give it a shot – I went with a 42mm Sport in space gray. I’ve always been impressed with Apple’s packaging, attention to detail, and style – Apple sets the bar pretty high. While I do like the beautiful display of the Apple Watch, the case just seems too bulky – especially considering the limited battery life.

Apple Watch Face

Apple Watch Sport 42mm in Space Gray

Watch side

Side view of Apple Watch



Thickness Comparison: iPhone 6 Plus with a case is thinner than the Apple Watch


While I’m only somewhat disappointed in the battery life, the haptic vibration is a bigger disappointment. Even with the haptic strength set to the max level and the “Prominent Haptic” enabled, it isn’t nearly as noticeable as the Pebble. Definitely not enough to wake me up in the middle of the night. I also find the controls to be a bit on the non-intuitive side, I’m sure as with most things, over time you get used to it. It just doesn’t seem to have the same intuitiveness as other Apple products.

While I do like the added application features and integration with the iPhone, they’re just not enough for me to keep the Apple Watch on my wrist. Maybe the 2nd generation Apple Watch will resolve most of these issues and I’ll give it another go…but as for now, I’m bare-wristed once again.



2013 Honda Accord One Year Update

Well, I’ve had my 2013 Honda Accord for a little over a year now and have just short of 36K miles on it (it was a dealer demo with almost 6K on it). To make a long story short, I’m not overly impressed with the Accord and if I had to do it all over again, I’d go with something else. I wouldn’t say it’s one thing in particular, but rather several minor issues and annoyances…and also too many visits back to the Honda dealership in the first year.

I’ll start with some of the highlights:

– I do like the styling, and the standard features on the EX-L model are nice. Power everything (windows, mirrors, seats), moon roof, backup camera and right-side camera, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, are all great features.

– It’s very roomy, plenty of rear seat leg room, and a fairly large trunk.

– The 4-cylinder engine has a good amount of pickup, passing power on the highway hasn’t been an issue and the fuel economy is pretty good, although I have noticed a decrease by a couple MPGs during the cold winter months.

…and now some of the lowlights:

– I had a repeated squealing noise that was occurring in the front wheels during low speed turning that ended up being due to a brake retainer clip issue, after a few trips to the dealership the squealing noise hadn’t come back for several months now.

– I’m still battling an issue when it rains with the wipers pulling water back into the driver’s side field of vision, this is usually noticeable over about 35+ mph. Besides the original wiper blades, I’ve tried Goodyear Assurance, Valeo 600 Series, and Bosch Icon blades but none seem to help. Which leads me to believe it’s an aerodynamic design flaw.

– After putting on close to 30,000 miles on the car, I’ve spent a lot of time in the driver’s seat. I was hopeful that the leather seats would soften up a bit, but unfortunately that has not been the case. Overall, the ride seems to be a bit jarring and the stiff seats don’t help the situation. The lack of support in the seats is noticeable on longer trips.

…and finally, the stereo / infotainment system. This is probably my single biggest complaint. Several of the issues (excessive static, lockups, and general quirkiness like continuously skipping to the next song when using Aha) were fixed with a software update several months ago. Unfortunately I still have an issue with the CD player where it doesn’t allow a CD to be inserted, but it happens erratically. The bluetooth integration with the iPhone is OK but the voice recognition is frustrating. Pandora seems to be more stable after the software update to the radio and I haven’t used the “Aha” application for several months since I always seemed to have problems with it. I’d replace the radio in a heartbeat if it wasn’t integrated into the car so much. To me, this has probably been the biggest fail so far.

My advice to the prospective buyer that is contemplating getting a 2013 Honda Accord EX-L…buyer beware, don’t let the gadgets and amenities fool you. Take it for a test drive on a road with some bumps; and if you can, try it out on a rainy day on the highway….and then make a decision.

Review of Valeo 600 Series Wiper Blades

I ended up replacing the stock wiper blades on my 2013 Honda Accord with a pair of Goodyear Assurance flexible blades within a month or two of owning the car.

This was in an effort to fix a disturbing issue that occurs when the driver’s side wiper goes back down, it pulls water about 4-6 inches back towards the field of view. It didn’t get any better with changing the wiper blades.

Anyway, we’ve been having a heck of a winter in Michigan and it was time for some new wiper blades again. After reviewing Consumer Reports recommendations and reading several other reviews, I decided to try the Valeo 600 series. I was looking for an all around good traditional style blade as opposed to the flexible Goodyear blade, and this sounded like it would be a good choice.

I ordered a pair for about $25 on Amazon (unfortunately I was unable to find the Valeo brand locally). Installation of the new blades was simple (getting the old ones off was a different story, probably because it was less than 5 degrees outside and my fingers were frozen!).

After putting the blades on, I immediately noticed an issue with the passenger side blade not contacting the windshield about 3-4 inches at the end of the blade. Since it was in the down position, I thought it might be due to the shape of the windshield and that the wipers might contact the windshield as they move up. Nope,
that was not the case. During the first light snowfall after switching to the Valeo wipers, I noticed the passengers side left several inches uncleared. Frustrating.

And now just yesterday, during another light snowfall, the driver’s side wiper was unable to clear a good 50% of the area. Very disappointed as these wiper blades seemed to get decent reviews for show, with the understanding that these are not winter blades. I’m glad I kept the old blades, I’ll be switching back to the Goodyear’s until I have the chance to go out and get some new ones.

I think I may try the Rain X Latitude next time, or possibly go with a true winter blade. Any suggestions?

Also curious to know if there are any other Honda Accord owners out there with similar issues with the driver’s side wiper blade pulling water back toward the field of view and whether a certain wiper blade reduces or eliminates it altogether.

Say it ain’t so…the Accord is squealing again

I just recently posted a 6-month update about my experience so far with my 2013 Honda Accord.

Well, I’m disappointed to say that within this past week, the high pitched squealing/grinding when turning has come back with a vengeance.

After perusing the forums, it looks like there has been an update to the original tech service bulletin 12-081 regarding the issue with the brake pad retainer clips. According to the updated TSB, it looks like Honda may now be replacing defective brake pad retainer clips with a newer part number. Hopefully this will put an end to this problem once and for all.

In addition to the squealing, I’m also noticing a low speed jerkiness during acceleration which has been occurring more frequently. It usually seems to happen when the engine is cold, but that’s not always the case. It happened this past week a couple of times trying to accelerate from probably 5 mph going uphill. Really hoping this isn’t a major CVT issue, as I was a bit apprehensive about buying the Accord with the CVT in the first place.

2013 Honda Accord, 6-months later

I’ve previously blogged a few times about my 2013 Honda Accord experience, a couple of issues with squeaky brakes, fuel economy, radio issues, and my overall satisfaction.

I’m happy to say that every one of the items has been resolved or improved.  Huge props go out to the service department at Crown Honda in Holland, MI.  I’ve never experienced the kind of exceptional service that the folks at Crown Honda provide.  Anyway, here’s an update:


  • Squeaky brakes while turning – I had to take it in to the dealer twice to fix this. To the dealers credit, each time was a different wheel and the squealing hasn’t come back.


  • Fuel economy – I was a bit disappointed in that I was averaging around 27-28 mpg at first.  I had been going back and forth between using what Honda calls their “ECO” mode, it limits quick acceleration and is supposed to improve fuel economy.  Frankly, I think it’s a bit gimmicky, and acceleration is terrible with it on, not to mention my fuel economy got slightly better with it turned off.  I regularly get 35-37 mpg on the highway , and overall I’m averaging between 30-31mpg.  I did notice an increase in fuel economy when the warmer weather came about.  It will be interesting to see if it drops again during the winter months.


  • Radio – well, as the great Meatloaf once said “two out of three ain’t bad”.  The radio still leaves a lot to be desired.   The stability issues (lockups, occasional audio scratchiness) look like they have been resolved with the radio firmware upgrade that the dealer applied earlier this year.  I have had a couple of strange issues with Pandora and Aha where I had to turn the radio off and on to clear it up.  I just experienced a new problem this past week though – the CD player won’t allow me to insert a CD anymore.  So back to the dealer I will go.  Luckily, I rarely use the CD player anymore, I mainly use my iPhone over bluetooth or USB.  The radio’s touch interface still frustrates me – if I release my finger too quickly on the touch screen after touching a “button”  when changing a station, tuning, etc., I still get the audible beep and the button lights up as it normally would – but nothing actually happens.  If there was one thing that would keep me from buying this car again, it would definitely be the radio.

Honda, please do all of the 2013 Accord owners with the “premium” sound system a favor – offer a free or low cost replacement (yes, I’d even be willing to pay for it – I dislike it that much!) with something that consistently works and that I don’t have to pull my eyes off of the road all the time to use it.

I did finally end up getting the side and rear windows tinted in the Accord.  This was the second car that I’ve had tinted at Extreme Car Audio in Grand Rapids, they did another fantastic job.  It has made a huge difference keeping the interior cool, and it has a nice classy look now.

Accord – more screeching, back at the Honda dealership

I took my 2013 Honda Accord into the shop about two weeks ago to fix the screeching noise coming from one of my wheels when I would turn, it ended up being caused by a brake pad retainer clip rubbing against the rotor (I blogged about this in a previous post).

Well, a few days afterwards the noise returned with a vengeance, I can’t tell for sure if it’s coming from the same wheel or not. It’s worse because it now happens more frequently and will make noise even when slightly veering to the left, where as before I would have to turn the wheel farther to basically make a left turn.

So, I scheduled an appointment to come in at 8am Saturday, I received a reminder email yesterday (Friday) for my appointment today. I get to the dealership and they say I’m not showing up on the list of scheduled appointments. The service advisor says they have a full load today, but they’ll squeeze me in, but it will probably be a little longer.

So far this is not looking like it’s going to be a good experience.

Oh yeah, an update on the radio – it still seems more responsive and I have yet to have the strange static issues that I experienced and no complete lockups where the car had to be shut off.

My biggest issue with the stereo now is the HondaLink Aha functionality. I actually stopped using it a few weeks ago because it was so bad. To be completely honest, it downright sucks.

Well, an updated version of the iPhone HondaLink app was available for download so I figured I’d try again. I’ve been using it for the last couple days, it’s better, but still buggy as hell. I am impressed with the sound quality when it actually works. I consistently have issues when the interface will be stuck at loading and I have to shut off the radio and kill teh HondaLink app. The touch screen interface for Aha has become unresponsive at times – it will allow me to flip to another source, but not allow me to control Aha without turning off the stereo. I also had a very strange issue where I hit the next button on the steering wheel to go to the next track (normal activity), and for some reason it started to skip maybe every 15 seconds or so to a new track (had to power the radio off and back on to fix). I also noticed that the display that shows the artist, song name, etc. was stuck on a previous song and was not updating with what was currently playing.

I REALLY WANT to like the HondaLink Aha app, the sound quality and songs are great, but all of that is overshadowed by inconsistent operation and functionality issues. If Honda can get these annoying bugs resolved, it could very well be my primary music source.

Update on my 2013 Honda Accord Issues – a mixed bag.

I took my 2013 Honda Accord EX-L into the dealership last Saturday primarily for the erratic radio behavior, but also for the recent squealing noise that started to occur occasionally when I made left turns.

As it turns out, the squealing noise was due to a disc brake pad retaining clip shifting and rubbing against the rotor, there was apparently a tech service bulletin out on this particular issue. I was happy to hear that and had high hopes that the problem would be resolved. Well, the squealing stopped, but returned 4 days later with a vengeance. I now get a high-pitched screech from the same side while slightly turning left. Ugh…time to set up another service appointment.

A TSB was recently released for the radio that was supposed to fix many of the issues I was experiencing (occasional lock ups, static, and sluggishness). Honda performed the software update on my radio, which seemed to go pretty well. I had to re-pair my phone to the radio and my audio adjustments were reset (bass/treble/sub/etc), not a big deal.

Were the problems with the radio resolved? Well, I haven’t had any lockups or weird static issues yet – and the sound quality seems to have improved over bluetooth. It hasn’t been a week yet since I had the update, so it may be too early to say for sure. The stereo system is still not what I would consider a premium sound system, as Honda calls it. Bass response *might* be a little better, but still not what I would expect from a system with a sub.

As far as the radio sluggishness, it seems to be more responsive now, with only a slight lag at times. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the touch screen interface at all, I prefer the tactile feel of buttons and find myself having to look down at the radio longer to change a station with the touch screen. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why Honda added the front collision warning system – for those times when you’re trying to adjust the poorly designed radio. I also have to touch the screen much harder than I would expect. As far as I’m concerned, Apple sets the bar for touch screen responsiveness. The touch screen in the Accord feels a little spongy like something you would find on a low-end portable GPS. Sorry Honda, but I consider the stereo to be the biggest flaw. I’d happily replace it if I could, but seeing as how it’s tightly integrated into controlling non-radio functionality, that’s just not possible.

Last but not least is my fuel economy issue. It has improved, I left the ECON mode off for my last fill-up and averaged 30.9 MPG, up from the 27-28 MPG I was getting when drove much of the time with ECON mode turned on. I think there was a little more highway driving on the last refuel, so that may explain much of the increase in fuel economy. When I take it back to the dealer to have the screeching noise looked at, I intend to ask if there’s something that can be done with regard to the fuel economy, so far it’s been a little disappointing. I don’t see how 36MPG on the highway is achievable unless I’m going downhill with a tailwind for most of my trip.

On a final note, I do have to give a big kudos to the service advisors at my Honda dealership, they have to be the most pleasant couple of guys I have ever dealt with at any auto service department.

My new car – 2013 Honda Accord

After a few month of casual car shopping, I finally decided it was time to move into something with a little more room and comfort. I ended up letting go of my 2011 Mazda 3 i Touring model for a 2013 Honda Accord EX-L 4 cylinder model. The Mazda has been a great, fun car to drive; unfortunately, it’s not the quietest when driving at highway speeds, the seats leave something to be desired when taking longer trips, and it’s pretty tight getting four adults to fit comfortably. Fuel economy in the 2011 model was decent, averaging right around 28-30 mpg (the SkyActiv engine wasn’t introduced until 2012). With a little over 30,000 miles on it, it still ran like new, no problems whatsoever.

Well, the Honda Accord EX-L met all of the criteria I was looking for: good gas mileage, more spacious and quieter cabin, a comfortable ride, leather interior, and a moonroof. I was comparing this to a 2014 Mazda 6 and 2013 Ford Fusion. The Mazda 6 would’ve been my next choice, I liked the Touring model, but in order to get leather and a moonroof requires jumping up to the Grand Touring model which bumps it up over $30k. I like the styling better on the Mazda 6 and Fusion, but the value just didn’t seem to be there.

At any rate, I went with the Accord, I’ve had it for about 3 weeks now and I figured I’d do a little review on my experience so far.

Overall, I’m happy with the Accord, but there are a few things I’ve run across so far:

– The “Premium” stereo system. I am actually sitting at the Honda dealership right now getting a software update that is supposed to fix the issues I am having (lockups, sluggishness, erratic staticky behavior). Hopefully this update fixes these issues, from what I understand, many people have been reporting these same problems and have been waiting for this update for several months. Unfortunately, the sound quality is no where near what I would expect for a premium system…hopefully this update has a positive effect on the overall sound quality as well. I’ll have to post a follow up after the software update. For those people experiencing radio issues, Honda recently issued tech service bulletin TSB13-001.

– Fuel economy. After two tank fills, I am averaging 27.5 mpg, and that is with a fair amount of highway driving (~60-70%). My car was a dealer demo, so it’s got a few thousand miles on it…so it’s not a break-in issue as one might expect. I was trying the Econ mode sporadically during that time and have decided to leave it off now since I don’t like the negative impact it has on acceleration. So far it seems like leaving Econ mode off has increased my fuel economy…very interesting as I was under the impression that there should be a slight increase.

– Heated seats. They seem to take a while to heat up, on the low setting, i can barely feel it and the heat seems to really be focused on the bottom center portion of the seat, I would prefer a wider area of where the heat is dispersed. Overall this is fairly minor, but living in Michigan with the cold winters, it is nice to have!

– Squealing noise from the right side when turning left at lower speeds. I’m occasionally hearing a brief high pitched squealing noise that sounds like its coming from the right rear, this only occurs when turning left at speeds less than 20 mph or so. Honda is looking at this as well, hope to find something out today.

– Occasional jerkiness when driving at low speeds. These seems to happen more so why it’s cold outside and the engine is cold…have to wait and see on this one…

Other than those few things, I really like the Accord, it has what I would consider good pick up for a 4 cylinder that has an EPA rating of 36mpg on the highway. There is a nice balance of comfort and handling, and the creature comforts and safety options seemed to make this a great value for a mid-sized sedan.

This is my first visit to the Honda dealership for repairs since purchasing the car a few weeks ago, I’ve had a good experience so far and the service reps are great. Just hoping I won’t have to come back for any more repairs for a long time…

Wolfgang’s Restaurant – didn’t know what I was missing!

A friend and I headed out to lunch today and he suggested Wolfgang’s Restaurant in East Grand Rapids. I’ve lived in the Grand Rapids area for over 10 years now and I’d driven past the restaurant countless times, but had never eaten there until today. It’s not some fancy restaurant…more of a diner style atmosphere that cares more about great food and service than outfitting it with ornate woodworking or looking like your average chain restaurant.

The menu mainly consists of a few pages of breakfast fare and a page of lunch items. I had always heard great things about breakfast, and that’s what I was in the mood for anyway – so it was an easy choice…or so I thought. There were so many great sounding breakfast choices – it made for a difficult decision. I eventually decided on “Uncle Ron’s Skillet” – a conglomeration of red-skin potatoes, sausage, bacon, melted cheese and a little bit of onion – topped with a couple of eggs and a side of toast.

All I can say is “Wow!” The food was incredible and the size of the skillet was enormous. I wanted to eat the entire skillet, but just couldn’t polish it off. I had to at least finish off the eggs, they were cooked to absolute perfection, I just couldn’t resist.

I guess you could say it might be a bit pricey for breakfast (my skillet was just shy of $8)…but then again, the portions are huge and the food is excellent. I’m not sure if half-orders are available or not, but I think that would be about the perfect amount food so I don’t gorge myself next time 🙂

I’ll definitely be revisiting Wolfgang’s sometime soon, I only wish I hadn’t waited 10 years in the first place! Next time it will be with my family, and I’m sure they’re going to love it.

PlayOn – a worthy attempt, but I think I’ll be MovingOn

It’s been a few months since dropping our cable TV service in lieu of cheaper alternatives. The solution I came up with is a combination of over the air digital TV stations, Netflix streaming, and a piece of software called PlayOn that would allow me to stream Hulu (and a handful of other content providers) from a PC to my PS3 and Xbox 360 game consoles.

Well, we’ve survived so far, but it has been a bit frustrating at times. Picking up digital TV stations over the antenna has been pretty solid; only a few times during really bad weather that I’ve had any issues. Using Netflix has also been pretty solid when using the PS3 and the Netflix provided CD to stream video – I’m actually really impressed with the video quality so far.

That leads me to the last of the bunch – PlayOn. My first month or so of using PlayOn was great. I was able to watch Hulu using my PS3 and Xbox…and even stream Netflix to my Xbox without needing to have an Xbox Gold membership. I should have known it was too good to be true.

I ran through the 14-day trial period and decided to buy a license for PlayOn. It continued to work great for about 2 more weeks…and then all of the sudden…I had issues connecting to Hulu. That seemed to get resolved after a few days; however, it hasn’t been the same since. I’ve had nothing but problems with video lag, stuttering, hanging, audio and video being out of sync. To PlayOn’s credit, they seem to be releasing updates/patches to try to keep up with all of the bugs – I’ve had the “luxury” of downloading and installing at least 5 PlayOn updates/patches since installing the software a little over 2 months ago.

I’ve worked with their support staff for a couple of days trying to resolve the issue. Unfortunately,
I’ve pretty much lost hope after the last contact from their support said the following:

“This is often indicative of something such as Security or AntiVirus software killing the stream. That’s almost certainly what is going on here.”

I had already told them that I had uninstalled my anti-virus to eliminate that as the culprit – and I wasn’t running a software firewall; yes, I have an external firewall, but no changes have been made to it – AND let’s not forget, PlayOn did work fine initially for the first month or so.

So, I’m pretty chalking up PlayOn as a loss. Of course, your mileage may vary. I just don’t have the time or patience anymore. It has to be quite a challenge for the PlayOn developer staff to stay on top of all of the changes that the various video content providers make.

I’m thinking my best bet is to look at getting a small PC or Mac Mini to hook up directly to my TV, maybe slap a digital tuner in it, and call it good. I guess that would solve my DVR issue too!