Archives For Gadgets

Sonos 5.3 Beta

Within the last few days, a new APK for the Sonos Android app popped up online. And, throwing caution to the wind, I went ahead and installed the 5.3 beta. While I’m not privy to the release notes, and therefore not necessarily aware of all changes, it seems likely that massive usability enhancements headline this release.

Upon opening the app, we’re presented with our Sonos Favorites (which I now have reason to flesh out). Further, certain functionality like switching zones or enabling timers is more apparent, while requiring fewer clicks, as Sonos more sensibly surfaces these features. And beyond the new raft of top-level contextual menuing, the now playing bar gains new functionality in rating, where appropriate – like I Heart Radio and Pandora music streaming services. Continue Reading…

What a long strange trip it’s been. Vudu initially launched in 2006 as a $400 dedicated movie streaming box. The requisite price cuts and pivots followed, including serving up apps like Flickr and then feeding smart televisions, before Walmart swooped in. Since then, the video service has focused on its own mobile and set-top video streaming app … that’s landed on a whole host of set-tops and mobile platforms. And, here we are again, back to a dedicated piece of hardware in the new Vudu Spark. Having launched in Walmart stores just a few weeks ago, at $25, of course I had to pick one up. Continue Reading…

Zonoff with Nest thermostat close-up

Last year at CES, Zonoff’s demo suite was full of the Staples Connect hardware they power along with a variety of familiar brands like Lutron and Jawbone. This year, several other friends joined the party including the Google Nest smart thermostat and a souped-up, Sonos-fighting Bose sound system.

The desire for Nest integration is obvious, although this is the first we’ve seen the smart thermostat connected to the Zonoff platform. So while Zonoff may not yet “Work With Nest” … they clearly work with Nest. Bose system support is perhaps slightly less obvious, but it makes sense when you contemplate pairing music or talk radio with other sensors tied to lighting and motion detection. Put a speaker in your bathroom, and you can set the music to turn on when you open the door in the morning. Put one in the kitchen, and you can program it to play NPR when you head in to make dinner in the evening. Continue Reading…

As expected, the “Internet of Things” was a hot topic at CES. And everyone seems to want a piece of this market. For example, we’ve got an iPhone case maker pitching networked power outlets and a fitness tracker company that wants to sell you some Bluetooth light bulbs. Sadly, chaos reigns … given the number of competing standards, proprietary solutions, poorly articulated visions, and even Hubs requiring bridges. Take Kevo and August, makers of “smart locks” — most likely due to power requirements, beyond hardware costs and engineering considerations, both solutions communicate solely via Bluetooth LE. Meaning, at present, it’s mostly smartphones than can interact with their hardware and only from short distances. Enter the Kevo Gateway (Ethernet, above left) and August Connect (WiFi, above right) bridges … that will in turn relay communication from lock to say your SmartThings or Staples Connect hub or to a remotely located phone (but requiring an additional purchase or for a fee). It’s messy. And the highly disjointed nature of this smart home land grab will slow adoption. At least until the the leaders identify themselves.



At $450, I had no intention of buying the original Withings Activité watch. That’s a bit steep for my watch buget, even if it does incorporate activity tracking and is Swiss-made. Seeing an opportunity to use a similar design, Withings announced at CES 2015 a new version of the Activité called Pop ($150).The Pop looks almost identical to the Activité, except that it is made with cheaper materials which brings the price point down to a more reasonable $150. The features remain the same across both trackers. The Activité can record steps, track if you are running, and can automatically log sleep at night. These features are very similar to the new Fitbit Charge, but it’s safe to say that one of these looks more stylish than the other. :-)

Read on for additional impressions of the Activité Pop! Continue Reading…

The Ghosts of CES Past

Dave Zatz —  January 4, 2015

With the 2015 edition of the annual Consumer Electronics Show upon us, it’s time to reflect on how various companies utilize their time in the sun. And, unfortunately, the signal to noise ratio is not always favorable for the gadget blogger given a large number of introduced products that skulk away with nary the follow-on discussion and no product on shelves.

Some of the more intriguing CES 2014 items we covered that pulled a Houdini:
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Besides general software clunkiness, a large percentange of network cameras just look awful. In fact, I decomissioned our fairly practical Foscams because they just don’t look very nice around the home. The highly rated Dropcam, now a Google/Nest subsidiary, has been one of a very select few that have bucked at trend… which probably has contributed to their success and Google/Nest acquisition. Well, we may be days away from Lenovo upping the ante in this space. While we can’t yet comment much on the interface or recording functionality, this sexy 802.11 b/g/n/ Lenovo Cloud Camera hardware just passed through the FCC ahead of the “Internet of Things” CES.

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Not content preparing a smattering of sensors and the latest Staples Connect hardware, D-Link is set to unveil their very own “Connected Home Hub” — probably a mere ten days from now at CES. Details on the short cylindrical job that just passed through the FCC:

The DCH-G020 is a Connected Home Z-Wave Gateway used to control a variety of Z-wave home sensors for the application of home automation. It is able to talk to variety of Z-Wave sensors and communicate with other DLink connected Home devices.

Beyond Z-Wave communication and the apparent Ethernet ports, this Connected Home Hub also features 802.11b/g/n. On the software front, D-Link’s associated Dlink app updates will include the requisite scheduling and notifications… along with an interesting QR code scanner to (perhaps) more efficiently add new hardware. Continue Reading…