Archives For Gadgets

Amazon has passed what looks to be a second generation Dash button thru the FCC — based on filing approach, device profile, and model number. But, given the very limited information, the only obvious enhancement is Bluetooth LE joining the existing 802.11 WiFi variants, potentially allowing smartphone or home automation interaction beyond what’s currently available in merely reordering supplies via wireless. Alexa-like integration would be cool…

amazon-dash

As to other upcoming Amazon reveals: I’m also currently tracking what’s either a new Fire tablet or Kindle e-reader or, alternately, an existing device of that sort headed to new markets. Stay tuned.

Amazon has unveiled two new Alexa-powered devices in the Amazon Tap speaker ($130) and the multifunction Echo Dot puck ($90). As with the original Amazon Echo, which I found compelling but unnecessary (at the time), both these units respond to voice comments – controlling an ever-growing list of products and services, such as Philips Hue lighting and native Spotify music streaming. However, whereas the Echo both listens and playbacks with a decent (if not stellar) speaker, the new devices are at once more limited and more versatile.

amazon-alexa-family

Amazon Tap (above left) is an attractive and portable Bluetooth/WiFi speaker that features a convenient charging dock. Yet, to engage the virtual “Alexa” assistant, one must physically “tap” the microphone button. Had they’d incorporated a mic into the cradle, I’d easily be down for two. But, as designed, I’d probably just opt for my smartphone and a waterproof UE Roll to meet my mobile speaker needs… at about half the price.

Fortunately, the new Echo Dot (above right) retains the sometimes creepy, but always-on voice recognition and is designed as something like a night stand accessory with basic speaker or to be attached to an existing Sonos, AVR, etc of presumably superior audio quality vs Echo. Sure, there’s a certain amount of smartphone redundancy, but Amazon’s ecosystem of partners far exceeds say Apple’s HomeKit limited environment.

Yeah, we’ve been tracking the Internet of Shit. But bizarro “Internet of Things” really hit fever pitch this week at CES, where everything is connected — including this camera-equipped fridge for those times when actually opening the door is just too much effort. Just because we can wire something up doesn’t mean we should. And I’m fairly confident the market will prove folks are looking for meaningful solutions that add value and reduce effort (without breaking the bank). Pretty sure a disposable Bluetooth smartphone-linked pregnancy test isn’t what Al Gore had in mind.

first-response-bluetooth

Bose SoundTouch 10

A couple weeks back, I began acquiring Bose SoundTouch connected speakers to replace Sonos. I’m no audiophile and not really equipped to compare acoustic properties, other than to say both platforms sound good. Whereas the Bose app experience and linked music service offerings are generally and significantly inferior to Sonos… the Bose-bundled physical remote control to tune up to six pre-assigned stations or playlists and adjust volume is priceless — it pretty much trumps all else. (Which makes me sad given the beautiful new Sonos Play:5.)

Bose SoundTouch Update

My initial experiences with SoundTouch were somewhat frustrating given my currently preferred music streaming services: iHeartRadio and Spotify. The Pandora-esque iHeart stations I’d created were inaccessible and would error out while Spotify access was largely and bizarrely managed via the Spotify app. But I held out hope, given this product’s intent, that things would improve. And, yesterday, Bose delivered — resolving both my issues. Continue Reading…

Let the deals begin!

Dave Zatz —  November 26, 2015

I’m always on the hunt for a good deal, but this time of year is especially frenzied. So I’ve got my wishlist ready as I dutifully monitor my overflowing inbox and Slickdeals app while I access sites through ebates for some additional cash back. Some early catches…

black-friday-amazon

Amazon Fire TV Stick @ $25 – Cheaper than the Roku stick and still preferable to the new Chromecast given a physical remote control. Provides many of the top streaming TV apps, plus a TiVo client, and supports guest/hotel WiFi connections. Great for yourself and also a nice stocking stuffer.

Amazon Fire Tablet @ $35 – Not a good tablet by any measure other than cost. Unless you’re a small child or senior citizen, at which point this 7″ 2015 model might be an interesting gift idea for casual web surfing, video playback, or Kindle reading.

32″ Roku TV @ $125 – Budget friendly, 720p television with Roku built right in. It’s a little chunkier than you might like and not the highest quality panel. But it’s dirt cheap and great for a kitchen or guest bedroom — where I keep the two I own.

ecobee3 + 3 sensors @ $250 – I’d have preferred a lower price of entry for this smart thermostat, but two free remote sensors provides solid savings if you can put them in use. On price alone, a better deal can be had on the 3rd gen Nest ($250 plus $50 gift card), but I prefer ecobee’s approach.

Ooma with wireless adapter @ $90 – Stick this on your home network, as I do, and plug your phones in for unlimited US calling. The bonus wireless adapter lets you place the VoIP box anywhere in your home and also lets you link your cellphone over Bluetooth.

30% off one Book – Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are offering 30% off any book via the linked coupon codes. I put the Amazon discount to work and discovered it’s limited paper books and maxes out at $10 of savings but does apply to pre-orders.

Find anything good? I know there are tons of big screen deals to be had…

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Internet giant Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O>, the new holding company for Google, expects to begin delivering packages to consumers via drones sometime in 2017, the executive in charge of its drone effort said on Monday. David Vos, the leader for Alphabet’s Project Wing, said his company is in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders about setting up an air traffic control system for drones that would use cellular and Internet technology to coordinate unmanned aerial vehicle flights at altitudes under 500 feet (152 meters).

Google's Project Wing drone makes a delivery in this undated demonstration video. REUTERS/Courtesy of Google

Google’s Project Wing drone makes a delivery in this undated demonstration video. REUTERS/Courtesy of Google

“Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017,” he told an audience at an air traffic control convention near Washington. Continue Reading…

Philips Keeps Hue Going

Joel Ward —  September 29, 2015

I have been a fan of the Philips Hue wireless bulb system for a while now, including how to extend it using other brands of ZigBee bulbs and home automation hubs. So much so that I even did a presentation at my company’s Ideas Festival about how devices like Hue have enabled my son to break out of his shell and interact with his environment.

Philips Hue Go and Hue Disco

Over the summer, the Philips Hue Go portable lamp was added to the Hue lineup. I have to be honest: I didn’t even notice it at first. Which is odd because I love this stuff. A few weeks ago I had some Amazon gift card money burning a hole in my pocket so I was browsing for something interesting to buy when I came across the Hue Go lamp. It seemed totally frivolous so I had to order one! Continue Reading…

All the new goodies!

Dave Zatz —  September 28, 2015

‘Tis the season…