A Microsoft Smartwatch is Coming

Windows-SmartwatchA Microsoft smartwatch is coming and it will work on Windows Phone! Don’t worry, unlike other smartwatches on the market this one will work across all platforms.

Microsoft is planning to enter the smartwatch arena by launching their own wearable fitness band in the coming weeks. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the launch of Microsoft’s wearable fitness band is imminent, and the device will be stocked at retailers in time for the holiday season. Microsoft’s wearable launch will mark 10 years since the company announced its SPOT smartwatch in 2004 that used FM radio signals to send instant messages from Windows Messenger, news headlines, stock information, and weather forecasts to your wrist.

Although Microsoft’s fitness band will have some smartwatch features, it will be primarily focused on fitness activities. The band will reportedly track steps, heart rate, calories burned, and other key health attributes thanks to a number of sensors embedded in the device. Microsoft has also been testing the ability to monitor heart rate through the day and night, and is expected to ship a final device that has around two days of battery life.

In 2003 Bill Gates was the CEO of Microsoft and he had a smartwatch dream, but like so many Microsoft projects it died a quick death, only to be resurrected in the next few weeks, some 11 years later.

In 2003 Bill Gates was the CEO of Microsoft and he had a smartwatch dream, but like so many Microsoft projects it died a quick death, only to be resurrected in the next few weeks, some 11 years later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key part of Microsoft’s fitness band will be its cross platform support for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android. Microsoft is developing separate apps for each mobile operating system to help support the features of its fitness band sensors, and smartphone notifications to the band will also be supported. It’s unlikely that Microsoft will brand its fitness band under the Lumia or Surface monikers, mainly because the device will work across all three mobile operating systems.

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New iPhones & iWatch Announced

Earlier today Apple finally made it official. Yes there will be not one, but two new iPhones and as many of us expected the long awaited iWatch. You have to wonder if the iPhone 6 Plus with it’s 5.5″ display will actually compete with the iPad mini for sales.

iPhone 6

Design

Apple has overhauled the squared off design which has been with us since the iPhone 4, with the iPhone 6 sporting a more rounded, slimmer body.

In fact it’s just 6.9mm thin, making it one of the thinnest smartphones of the market, and rumors about a protruding rear camera lens are also true.

The power/lock key has been moved from the top of the handset to the right hand side, making it easier to hit during one handed use. On the left hand side you get the separated volume keys below a mute toggle switch.

Sizes & Display

The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch 1334 x 750 new “Retina HD” with a pixel density of 326ppi – that’s the same density as the iPhone 5S.

It also pales in comparison to the iPhone 6 Plus, with a full HD, 1920 x 1080 5.5-inch screen with a 401ppi display.

iPhone 6

Camera

Apple has stuck with the 8MP rear camera on the iPhone 6, but it’s not the same as the one you’ll find on the iPhone 5S.

A new wide angle lens, true tone flash, f/2.2 aperture, greater noise reduction and a 2 x faster autofocus provide even better images.

There’s also a new Apple-design image signal processor built into the A8 chip to improve the way the iPhone 6 handles images.

The front facing FaceTime camera has also been given some love. It’s actually a FaceTime HD camera now, with a f/2.2 aperture, and a new sensor which allows in up to 81% more light. There’s also HDR FaceTime video support, ensuring you’re perfectly lit.

New OS

Apple’s latest platform offering, iOS 8, was announced at its WWDC developers conference earlier this year and it’s on the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Price

The iPhone 6 starts at $199 for the 16GB model, then it’s $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB of internal storage. There’s no 128GB of storage – that’s only available on the iPhone 6 Plus. No pricing news on the iPhone 6 Plus just yet but you can bet it will be very expensive.

Pre-orders open on September 12.

The iWatch Stole the Show

The iWatch was announced after the iPhone6 and as you could expect, “the crowd went crazy”.

The iWatch will be available in multiple colors and will feature a side dial, called the “Digital Crown,” that works very much like the wheel many are familiar to on the iPod.  Turning the dial will allow the iWatch to zoom while pushing it will take you to the home screen.

The screen of the iWatch will also feature a flexible retina display.

When entering the wearables market for the first time, Apple will be looking to take advantage of an already established consumer base, and making a product that those outside the base can flock to as well.

The device runs apps, acts as a health and fitness tracker and communicates with the iPhone.

The Apple Watch is controlled by what Apple calls a “digital crown” – a dial on its side that allows content on its screen to be magnified or otherwise changed, and also be pressed inwards to act as a home button.

The display is a touchscreen that can detect the difference between a light tap and heavier pressure from the user’s fingers. In addition, the device runs Siri – Apple’s voice-controlled “personal assistant”.

It offers a variety of different watchfaces, can alert the user to notifications, act as a heart rate monitor and show maps.

Although it will definitely take time to get used to and appreciate the functionality, it looks like Apple has put its best foot forward with the iWatch.  All of the functionality is there, and the design is something that says Apple, but also does not look overly geekl and out of place as smart watches often tend to.

 

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Pebble Steel Review

pebbl1

Once setup notifications are actually fairly easy to read as they arrive.

I had been using a Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwach for about a year and you can find my early reviews of it here. That particular devices has a couple of really big hurdles hurting it, the biggest being that it is compatible only with a select few high-end Samsung smartphones. It is also larger then is necessary. So with that it mind I decided to check out the Pebble.

Also important to be aware of is that the pebble works across all three major platforms, Apple, Android and Windows phone. This is very important for any wearable technology that hopes to find any success.

A metal wristband with a corresponding finish and a black leather band come with each unit, which look and work like the bands on any high-end watch. You will need an extremely tiny screwdriver that is not included. I simply do not understand why one was not included. Most consumers will not have one as small you this needs. Even with all of my computer tools I actually do not have a screwdriver small enough. Therefore I have been unable to swap out the leather band for the metal version at the time of this review. 

The watch weighs in at about 2 oz. and has 1 button on the left side and 3 on the right side. Compared to the Galaxy Gear this is incredibly small and low profile.  There is also a magnetic charging port on the left side as well. Also compared to the Galaxy Gear this is an improvement. The Gear actually comes with a “charging dock” as where here you simply need the cable. 

Navigating the Pebble

With the recent 2.2 firmware upgrade you can now control the music playing on your device.

The Pebble Steel is not a touch screen, and the navigation can be a little confusing at first, but after a little practice the use of the buttons is easily mastered.

In place of a touchscreen are four buttons, one on the left and three on the right. The top and bottom right buttons let you scroll up or down through the menus, while the middle right and left button both seem to have the same function: they exit and enter menus.

The right button will take you back a screen as well as activating a back light.

With a firmware upgrade you can also now both control music selection and volume directly from your pebble.

Notifications Galore

One of the promises of any smartwatch is that it is “smart” and will obviously display phone notifications and messages on your watch. The idea is that a smartwatch will save you from pulling your phone out as often, perhaps even saving some battery life on your phone. Pebble does this well, but you have to curb it’s apatite for notifications . Out of the box you will either you get every notification, or you get none of them. It’s all or nothing. 

I struggled with this until I found the third party app, “Pebblify” which allows you to select and choose what notifications to receive. Once I installed this and set it up the notifications began to work as expected. I would recommend “Pebblify” to anyone using a Pebble. 

You gotta live my LCARS theme!

You gotta live my LCARS theme!

Watchfaces

There are plenty of great watchface themes available in the Pebble appstore. Some are of course better then others and you can really customize your watch by browsing these.

Battery Life

After three days of continuous use, I usually still have about 30 percent battery life which is good, especially compared to the Galaxy Gear. It is very easy to to snap on the magnetic charger as well. 

Conclusion

The Pebble Steel is a far better-looking watch than the first Pebble as well as the Galaxy Gear. A recent firmware upgrade (2.2) added more features such as the ability to control the music you are playing on your phone as well as controlling the volume. The pebble starts at $150 and you can learn more at www.getpebble.com

Smartwatches are in their infancy and much more improvement is needed before these are as common as smartphones but the Pebble Steel is a step in the right direction.

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Microsoft Joins the Smart Watch Battle

Are you ready for a Windows phone?

Are you ready for a Windows phone?

I have tried both the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Pebble smart watches and must say I have had “mixed results” at best. The Samsung Galaxy Gear only works with about 4 or 5 high end Samsung smartphones while the Pebble is universal but after a day or two I sent the the watch back in frustration. I believe wearable technology is here to stay but it really is just now taking baby steps towards a “usable technology” that can be adopted and used by consumers of all types and budgets.

Now one of the biggest technology companies is joining the battle to build a good smart watch.

Microsoft will be one of the many joining the smart watch game by the end of this year, but now we have learned a little bit more about the upcoming wearable. A report claims that the smart device will not just be for Windows phone, but be cross-platform and available for iOS and Android. This latest report matches Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella‘s mission to bring Microsoft services to all platforms.  To me this is critical. Wearable technology must be cross platformed.

The report also claims that the device will measure heart rates throughout the entire day, not just when activated. The smartwatch is also expected to feature a two day long battery and a full color touch screen. This is also important because a smart watch must do several things, very well including health features to be successful.

I hope Microsoft can pull this off. I’m a big fan of competition, as it only makes devices more efficient and exciting throughout the industry as well as acting as a price control.

The patent files can be found here for Microsoft’s smartwatch.

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Improving Smartwatches

20131106_080105Ok here we are half way through the first month of the 2014 and one of the technology trends I am most looking forward to keeping my eye on is wearable technology.

I have been using, fairly regularly Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch since last October and I have some thoughts about what Samsung needs to do with this to find more success with consumers, and I will get to my ideas after the following quick overview.

Here are I am with 2 pieces of wearable technology/ Samsung's Galaxy Gear and Disney's new Magic Band.

Here are I am with 2 pieces of wearable technology/ Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and Disney’s new Magic Band.

 

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is one of the most popular smartwatches in the world right now thanks to Samsung’s extensive marketing. Despite only working the Galaxy Note 2 &3 and a few other Android devices, the Gear continues to be a strong seller. One of the biggest problems here is that it is priced a bit higher than it should be at $299.  The Galaxy Gear  comes in a variety of colors and features a color AMOLED display, built-in 1.9MP camera and allows for notifications from your phone as well as voice calls. The Galaxy Gear runs various applications for email, SMS and social networks while giving you access to S-Voice, camera functions, music control and more.

OK so Samsung if you are reading this – this is what you should do in the rumored upcoming next version.

  1. Remove the camera all together. This will allow the band to be smaller and more comfortable and will probably also allow you to make the watch itself slightly smaller.
  2. Reduce the cost of the smartwatch. Obviously removing the camera alone will allow for this.
  3. Social networking interrogation which was almost non-existent when the watch was first released in October 2012 has been improved with a couple firmware updates and third party apps but further seamless interrogation is needed here.

There you go Samsung, see it’s really not that hard. Most users do not need or want a camera on their smartwatch. At 1.9MP and the odd angle you must use it as a camera simply makes the additional size of both the band and price a serious hurdle to success.

 

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Chilly Issues for Smartwatches

Ok just a fast post here before I forget. I love my Samsung Galaxy Gear. Especially during the past month or so several improvements were made to it relating to social media integration. Now Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare notifications can be easily displayed on the watch. It is really a sense of “smartphone freedom” to be able to glance down at your watch to read incoming email and text messages as opposed to fumbling with your phone.

The phone as well on the watch works fine in quiet places or while driving. However life and especially new technology is not perfect. Since winter arrived I have noticed one challenge relating to the Galaxy Gear, or any smartwatch. As you put on more layers of clothing like long sleeve shirts, sweatshirts and jackets it is nearly impossible to get to and see the watch if you want to view an incoming message and simply forget about answering a phone call on it. With smartwatches you are notified of incoming messages by either a sound file or vibration so when you receive one of these and the watch is under 3 or 4 layers of clothing it can be a little frustrating not being able to get to your very cool smart watch.

gear

There is no getting to your Galaxy Gear under all of the winter clothing.

 

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The Future of Wearable Technology

It has been about 2 months now that I have been using the Galaxy Gear Smart Watch. For the most part my experience has been a good one and I enjoy using the watch. With the holidays approaching and everyone looking for great tech gifts I wanted to recap very clearly my impressions of this and then write a little bit about my thoughts on the future of wearable technology in general.

So here we go.

The Galaxy Gear

The pros of this device are that it is great way to keep up to date with email and text messages without needing to grab your phone constantly. You can of course customize the watch display in various modes to include the date, current weather conditions, steps walked and more.

There is also a camera on the wrist band which can take pictures and short video clips which are automatically sent to your phone as well. The quality of the images are low at about 2mp which is to be excepted.

Because it is connected to your phone through Bluetooth it also acts as an extension to your phone. Incoming calls can be viewed to see who is calling without reaching for your phone and you can even accept or reject the incoming the call from the watch, You can even carry on a conversation with the watch.

The cons include the watch band which I have found is bigger then is should be which is probably the result of the camera which is in the band. Also the battery needs to be charged about every 2 days and there is a dock/cradle which you must use. I mentioned the ability to talk (on the phone) through the watch, however this is very difficult if not impossible in crowded places or if you want to have a private conversation. The last negative point I will mention here is that the Galaxy Gear currently only works with the Samsung Galaxy S II and III and Note 2 and 3.

In conclusion if you have one of the supported phones and you like some of the benefits I mentioned here you might enjoy checking this out. There is some real good uses here and it is always a conversation piece when people see it.



Every time I sit at the pub people ask, “hey is that – that smart watch on TV” and just about everyone I have met is curious about what it does. This leads to my prediction which follows.

The Future of Wearable Technology

First is there a future here? The answer is yes and although we are in the very early stages of finding what works (the smart watch) and what does not (google glass). The “google glass” kind of freaked people out. Who wants to have a conversation with someone who’s attention is obviously somewhere else and who could be taking pictures of you and even recording the conversation. However wearable technology is actually a natural fit for watches and I believe that this is the area where we will see a successful evolution and acceptance by consumers.

The smart watch will be the first successful and profitable wearable technology and this will probably occur during the next two years. You will see this when the watches get a little smaller and can act independently from smartphones.

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Galaxy Gear – Continued Observations

On October 21 and 23 I wrote a review of my experience up to that point with the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart Watch. I have been pretty much been using the watch most of the time since. For the most part I have enjoyed using the watch but wanted to add the following observations from the past couple of weeks.

#1 – You can’t expect too much as this point from wearable technology. Many reviewers and consumers have been a little unfair to this watch. One of the biggest complaints is that the Gear is tied via Bluetooth to the Galaxy Note 2,3 or S3 and S4. It is important to understand and accept that this is the state of this technology at this time. Wearable Technology is in it’s infancy so things will improve over time.

#2 – There are two complaints with this watch that I do agree with. The first is that the thing is simply too expensive. $299 is a lot to ask for something that has limited functionality.  The second complaint I have is that the band is too big. This is probably the result of the 1.9 mp camera which is in the band. In fact the watch is almost impossible to wear comfortably when wearing a long sleeve shirt. This is a real problem for professionals.

#3 – One other weird thing. Is it me or does this thing vibrate for no reason or not? From time to time the watch vibrates and there is nothing on the screen. The phone can be set to vibrate when an email or text message is received. But sometimes it just vibrates because it apparently just wants to.

 The camera on the band makes the watch larger then it needs to be.
Darn It! The watch is too big for my long sleeve shirt!

The locking mechanism is also larger then it should be. 
 
 
Will I continuing using this? Other then the little problem with long sleeve shirts, I will. There is a real sense of what I call “smartphone freedom” by not needing to pull out your smartphone every time you want to check or read your email and text messages or just to check the time. When your phone rings – so does your watch so you can quickly see who is calling and even answer the phone without grabbing for your phone.
 
The battery life remains good. The watch needs to be charged about every 2 days which you can simply do while sleeping. The dock which comes with the Gear is efficient and displays the watch nicely.
 
 
This is early technology so there will certainly be issues as real world experiences are reported. So calm down negative reviewers. After all remember that be Apollo 11 landed on the moon, there were 10 previous manned and unmanned Apollo missions as NASA worked through all the challenges of their mission.
 
You can also check out my initial review here.


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First Thoughts on the Galaxy Watch

Well I have used the Samsung Galaxy watch 2 days now while walking through the parks at Walt Disney World and I must say for the most part I am impressed. With the watch comfortably on your wrist you can set it up to lightly vibrate for email and text messages. As opposed to looking at your phone constantly you can see the headline of each message and if you want to read the content simply click the message and the content is right there for you on your watch. You can also browse your email and text messages by swiping side to side on a message. Facebook notifications also arrive on your watch but you cannot read them here but you can tell the watch to open them on your phone so when you look at the phone he Facebook message is already displayed.

Talking on the phone, which I did once can be a little difficult in a busy and crowded place like Disney a world because it is of course using the speaker and microphone on the watch.  It was fun to try but became annoying when my son continued to say “you are breaking up!”   In a quiter place, like your car which I did try before leaving on my trip worked just fine.

The watch also has some out of the box apps like “Pedometer” which can track your walking through the day and then uplink a health report to your Galaxy phone. This has reported what I already knew – you really better be prepared to walk ALOT at Disney World.  There are other apps that come so the watch and you can download others like Zite but I will talk more about them in a later post.

I am also impressed with the battery on this little guy. I used it all day yesterday and forgot to charge it overnight. When I noticed this in the morning I panicked until I saw that it still had 77% remaining! The watch comes with a nice docking cradle which the wire had lodged loose somehow when I was setting things up in our room.  Another nice side effect of this watch is that it actually improves the battery life of your smartphone because you tend to look at it much less.

The other observation that I found that just like your phone or tablet the screen of the watch can become difficult to impossible to read when the sun is directly overhead. 

If you have not been using a “old school” watch it will probably take a little time to get accustomed to this, especially because the band is a little big, probably because of the camera but I quickly adjusted to it.

So far this watch has been better then I expected and I can see it becoming a daily part of the work and home experience. I will continue using it and write a full review after our Disney vacation.


Part 2 – Pedometer & Smartphone Freedom (October 23, 2013)













Pedometer
After the original review I of course went out to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the day where I turned on the Pedometer App. The Pedometer app counts your steps and syncs the data to your smartphone. The app works great however I left it on all day and only realized this when I was waiting for Fantasmic to start at about 7:30pm when the watch displayed a “low battery warning”. If you recall the previous day I had used the watch the same amount of time and still had 77% battery life at the end of the night. Therefore I would recommend only using this app when you are walking or running.

Smartphone Freedom
The best feature of this smartwatch to me has been what I have been calling “smartphone freedom”. Walking through the park I can check out email messages and text messages as well as the time (again, how quaint) without reaching for my smartphone. This saves time and battery life your phone.

Part 3 – Wearable Comfort and a Camera to Boot (October 25, 2013)


I think that one of the challenges for smart watches is actually going to be that many people have simply stopped wearing watches as they became more tied to first, their mobile phones and finally to their smartphones. After all who needed a watch when your phone could tell you the time as well as everything else? In fact it actually took me a couple of days to get accustomed to wearing a “watch” again but eventually I got used to it. The band on the Galaxy watch is larger then it probably needs to be but that it because Samsung stuck a camera (pictured above) on the wrist band. It really does not look that bad and most people probably wont even notice that you are sporting a small mobile camera. If you set up Google+ with their 15gb of free storage the pictures will upload to your smartphone and Google account. You can even take short 15 second videos with the camera.

I snapped the above to photos with my watch while standing in the queue line for the Space Shuttle Atlantis simulator at Kennedy Space Center. Not bad for such a small camera.

You can also snap a series of photos with the watch to create an animated gif (above) and below is a 15 second video I recorded while waiting to become an astronaut at KSC.

The camera is just under 2mp so you are not going to capture great photos here, but if your camera or smartphone are not available this is a good option, and a little fun as well. I kinda felt like a private eye using the camera!


The Galaxy Gear Future

This is really a good first attempt at an actually usable smart watch. The freedom of checking email, text messages and even getting notifications from Facebook with a little handy dandy camera does provide a sense of “smartphone freedom”.

This smartwatch is being expanded t other Galaxy watches as we speak so hopefully Samsung will find success here and continue building on what they started here.

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Galaxy Gear – Wearable Technology Arrives?

Once I decided to take a pause with my Windows Phone and look elsewhere for a productive smartphone that can do everything I needed, I decided to go back to Android. It has been several years since I used an Android phone so I wanted to make sure I picked the right one. While thinking about this I read some very good reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and knowing that I had previously issued a Note 2 earlier this year and hearing very positive things about it I decided this would be the one to try out. It also helped that Microsoft has just released their Office 365 app on Android so I knew I would still be productive with this smartphone.

Then I started reading about the Galaxy Gear and saw this commercial advertising the new Gear Smart Watch.

Wearable technology is in it’s infancy and there is a long way to go. I actually believe that the previously released and much hyped “Google Glass” was a disappointment and most users were uncomfortable wearing it and those they were talking to were freaked out by it. However the new Galaxy Gear is a step in the right direction. With this watch you can read email messages, text messages, receive social media notifications, check the time (how quaint) and answer phone calls without grabbing your smartphone.

There is even a 1.9 megapixel camera built into the wristband so you can snap a quick picture without using your smartphone. I took a couple pictures with it this morning and below are the results. No bad for such a small camera.

I will be using this while on vacation in Disney World so I will be giving it a work out and will write a review after I get some real experience with it.

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