Archives For Gadgets

I gotta be honest. I’m jst not completely sold on the Fitbit Versa. It’s decidedly less sophisticated and less premium than the similarly priced Apple Watch. Not to mention, Versa band replacement is just awful. Yet, Apple doesn’t natively provide some of the basics I expect from an activity tracker, such as a simple step complication and sleep metrics — both of which Fitbit handles masterfully. Fitbit also enables 3rd party watchfaces, which is indeed fortuitous as some of the company-produced ones look like Microsoft Paint mock-ups.

My current favorites are Arrow (above), Edgy, and Colors  – all of which can be customized to varying degrees, with Arrow offering tons of options in terms of data and color. Bonus: the developer tells me weather will be coming to all their faces over the coming months. Some Fitbit faces are free, while these run $.99 and $1.99 respectively. As Fitbit doesn’t provide a true store experience, each developer has to work out their own payment and trial methods… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but their work may be what keeps me from unloading my Versa.

As with every CES, all sorts of sexy gadgetry parades about the various show venues. And, while I wasn’t in attendance this year, you can bet I was obsessively ingesting of the tech blog coverage and press release fire hose. While some swooned over recycled approaches that are unlikely to move markets and televisions only corporate entities could entertain, I found myself smitten with an inexpensive Anker accessory.

The Internet of Everything seemed to be the overarching theme this year, with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant garnering much attention through all sorts of integrations. Yeah, many of these are superfluous with a number of open questions regarding security, privacy, and reliability. But, but gadgets! As such, the $50 Anker Roav VIVA caught my eye. It’s cheap, fun, and … shipping next month — something you can’t say about so many CES unveilings. No, I don’t need Alexa in my car. But that didn’t stop me from driving around with an Echo Dot like Alan Wolk. In many ways, Alexa is largely inferior to the native Android or iPhone voice assistants as an automative communicator (think text messaging and navigation). Yet, Alexa is so much better with random queries and sports a humgo list of skills (and my daughter loves calling Elmo). Continue Reading…

Due to the tremendous number of (accurate) leaks, there weren’t too many surprises from the new Steve Jobs theater located within the new Apple campus. But a couple of interesting items, that I hadn’t anticipated, caught my attention.

Apple TV Price Drop
I was convinced we’d see an Apple TV price drop of some sort, perhaps tied to a touchless-remote on the bottom-end, to bring them inline with the market leading Roku and Fire TV. However, Apple controls the supply chain like no other and is conceivably content with lower penetration but presumably larger margins. While not quite a surprise, again given those leaks, it was refreshing to see Apple will sell 4K movies for the same price as 1080P while upgrading existing purchases… for those who consume in that manner, anyway.

Expansive iPhone Lineup
While both the iPhone 8 and iPhone X were correctly predicted, in hardware if not name, I didn’t expect Apple would keep around so many former generations of phone. To meet a wide array of budgets and fend off the onslaught of solid lower-end Android handsets, the iPhone SE, 6S, 6S Plus, 7, and 7 Plus will join the 8, 8 Plus, and X on store shelves – in multiple capacities and colors. At least for now. Remember when they offered a single model? Beyond the expansive lineup, Apple is clearly committed to offering more than two years of updates (unlike the competition) — not that it’s a new m.o., but I do wonder if at some point they choose to fork the software a bit and continue to provide security patches to older OSes on hardware that cannot support the latest and greatest.

Continue Reading…

Amazon To Expand Fire TV Lineup

Dave Zatz —  September 6, 2017

Taking a page from Roku, Amazon appears poised to expand their Fire TV streaming lineup from two models to three streamers. In addition to the current generation Fire TV Stick ($40), AFTVNews suspects two new models will ultimately replace the existing second generation Fire TV box: At the higher end ($100? $120?), Amazon appears to be prepping a 4K streamer, with dedicated GPU, to bring 60fps and HDR for the first time. While a new offering mid-tier offering ($60, $70?) will serve 4K to the masses. Meanwhile Apple will likely announce a 4K box next week, perhaps with 4K iTunes and hardware pricing improvements to better compete in light of their $1b original programming initiative, and Roku will soon unveil a beefed up 4K Streaming Stick. With this upcoming round of fall updates, I’m hopeful Amazon and Apple also bring more powerful gaming capabilities to the table as an alternative to the bloated Xbox and Playstation experiences.

2016 was the year of the mesh network, with WiFi routers finally breaking free of the commoditized hardware doldrums, and eero ruled the roost (although they didn’t actually serve up a true ‘mesh’ from the get-go) despite some fierce competition from Netgear Orbi. Beyond mesh, eero also successfully emphasized ease-of-use — although what some found simple, others found simplistic. While I’ve had to run my trio in bridge mode for the better part of a year, initial configuration was ridiculously simple and it’s largely been set-and-forget, with stellar throughput available from all corners of our home(s)… other than a transitory perfect storm of events that briefly took me down last December. And now, after 30 software updates since launch, the company is back with new hardware and claims of an even better experience…

Founder and CEO Nick Weaver tells me the second generation eero effectively doubles the performance of the original, in terms of bandwidth and range, largely due to re-engineering the antenna array and moving to triband radios. Whereas the original eero featured identical, interchangeable pods, the new eero system consists of the traditional (iconic?) eero base station and new Beacon satellite units, that take a page from Ubiquiti (and countless painful network extenders), going with a compact, wire-free outlet mount. However, if you appreciate Ethernet connectivity throughout the home, to accessorize (as I do) or for a more robust wired backhaul, all eero models of both generations are mix and match.

Other fun facts: The eero Beacon contains an ambient light sensor and dimmable nightlight (that many of us will simply disable) and the traditionally-shaped eero is powered via a USB-C cable. In our chat, Weaver repeatedly mentioned the home as an operating system, emphasized in practice via forward-looking Thread integration for IoT and an upcoming eero Plus service (with application provider framework) that kicks off with a beefed up proxy to protect against malware and provide enhanced parental controls.  Continue Reading…

By Lauren Hirsch

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> is investing between $250,000 and $500,000 in Bluetooth technology company TrackR to extend the reach of its Alexa virtual assistant, according to a source familiar with the matter

Alexa is the cloud-based system that controls the Amazon Echo, a speaker system launched by Amazon in 2014 that has emerged as a surprise hit. “Alexa” is the name the device responds to when users make requests, such as “turn on radio.”

trackr_bravo Continue Reading…

fitbit-logoBy way of the USPTO, we learn that Fitbit has applied for Fitbit Charge 2 and Fitbit Flex 2 trademark protection. So, while Fitbit has beefed up the top end of their fitness tracking line with Alta band and Blaze watch additions this year, it appears they also plan 2016 revisions to their lower and mid-end wearables.

As to potential improvements, Fitbit could conceivably up its plastics game – while effective as a fitness tracker, I’ve always found the bands a bit cheapy – in appearance, feeling, and durability. Further, the charging ports could use some work even if battery life cannot be extended. Although increased time between charges would be a nice-to-have, as well. For me personally, I’d like to see the vibrating activity alerts of Alta make its way down to other devices. What’s on your wish list?