Samsung Gear S Smartwatch to Feature Curved Screen and 3G Cell Radio

Samsung_Gear_S_02_640We’re still waiting on the Moto360 and whatever watch Apple might eventually bring to the table, but the market isn’t standing still. Now Samsung has taken the wraps off of the newest entry to their Gear line of smartwatches.

samsung gear 2 hero profileThe Gear S is another Tizen offering, which will not use Android Wear like the Gear Live, but features a curved AMOLED display. It looks like it should wrap around the wrist in a slightly more comfortable way than some of the other rectangular screened watches available.

It wont be packing the camera or IR blaster found in the Gear 2, but it will add in a 3G cell radio and WiFi, making it more of a standalone data enabled device, similar to what Timex recently announced with their rugged watch. Using an almost comically small on screen keyboard or S-Voice will allow users to reply to incoming message, and the 3G connectivity will provide voice calling features as well. It could prove to be a decent stand alone experience for folks who want basic communication and media streaming while working out and don’t want to pack a bulky smartphone.

Gear S should be available in October, with pricing info to follow soon. Full PR below.

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amplifon sounds of street view

Amplifon project allows you to hear “The Sounds of Street View” on Google Maps

Google Maps Street View is the go to application for getting a look at an area from a pedestrian perspective. While that kind of mapping and visual location data is handy, Amplifon thinks they can improve the experience by adding sound.

The Sounds of Street View is a project designed to provide a 3D soundscape of an area to correspond with popular search locations on Google Maps. Wearing headphones gives one the sense of being surrounded by the area’s audio, and panning around the scene will change the “focus” of the audio as well.

Playing around with some of the sample locations, the loops used were fairly short. Kids giggling in one area started to sound REALLY creepy with the short mechanical repetition for example, but it was an interesting way to augment the “feel” of looking at a Street View scene.

Amplifon is making a developer framework available, which will allow others to create their own 3D audio samples. You can read more on the project at the Amplifon website, or see their teaser video below.

phone with lock image on screen

Smartphone Kill Switch Law Signed by CA Governor Jerry Brown

After months of debate in the CA senate, Governor Brown signed off on the smartphone kill switch law yesterday, following Minnesota as the second state to combat the growing rates of smartphone theft. The general idea being, if the phone is completely disabled or “bricked”, it wont be valuable to thieves, so it’s less likely to be stolen.

With very few exceptions (mainly for older handsets) any company wishing to sell a smartphone in the state must have some option for completely disabling it in the event it’s lost or stolen. There’s a $2500 fine per device for any company which fails to offer this feature. The law will affect any phone sold after July 1, 2015.

While carriers make up the bulk of phone sales, manufacturers will likely be responsible for developing the actual process that locks the phone down. Google for example sells their Nexus phone directly to consumers, so whatever process they develop will likely be embraced by other Android manufacturers.

Apple already has a fairly robust “Lost Mode” built into iOS, requiring someone to enter their Apple ID password before the phone can be used. This pass code continues to lock the phone down even if someone else factory resets the phone.

Microsoft has built in tools to find, lock, and erase, and we’ve reviewed Google’s Device Manager which offers up similar features, but neither of those company’s solutions will survive a hard reset.

California’s kill switch law will not affect tablets, another commonly stolen item, but if manufacturers improve the ability to remotely manage and lock phones down, these features will likely make their way into other data connected mobile products.

Governor Brown Legislative Update

Instagram Shows Off Hyperlapse App to Smooth Out Video and Time Lapse

hyerlapseHyperlapse is becoming something of a buzz word. It’s essentially a time lapse video, but with more (and smoother) movement. Microsoft recently showed off an incredibly complex and beautiful method to achieve fluid time lapse video. Now Instagram is taking the wraps off of their solution.

It’s novel in its simplicity. Many phones incorporate some form of electronic image stabilization. Instagram’s Hyperlapse app will use the sensors in your phone to detect movement, and then it’ll filter that movement out to give you a smoother tracking shot. As it detects movement in real time while recording, it’s unknown if the app will be able to import and smooth out previously shot video.

The UI is incredibly simple. Push big red button to capture video. Once Finished capturing, there’s a slider to change playback speed from 1X to 12X, and then you have the option to share that video with Instagram or Facebook.

As this is Instagram, it’s iPhone only for now, as they’re sorting out Android API’s, and it’s doubtful we’ll see this on Windows Phone (and those incredible Nokia cameras) any time soon. It is live now for you iOS folks though on the App Store.

See another sample from Hyperlapse below!
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Amazon To Buy Twitch for $970 Million

twitch logoWe’ve been watching this sale unfold over the last several weeks, as Google/Youtube initially pushed forward with an offer, and now Amazon has swooped in to seal the deal. Twitch will be under the Amazon umbrella of services by end of year.

Twitch is a relatively young, but insanely popular video game broadcasting service, where people can share game play and host video game content. As it was starting to struggle under the weight of its own popularity, it made sense that it would eventually get swallowed up by a larger entity. Youtube seemed likely, as it already pushes a mind boggling amount of video every day, but Amazon’s cloud services and servers should also be a huge shot in the arm for Twitch’s stability as a platform.

What should be interesting to watch is the continued battle over Copyright. Recently Youtube started muting videos of game play over music rights issues. Twitch also recently implemented a music ID scan which can mute portions of a broadcast if it detects Copyrighted audio, and whether Twitch sold to Google or Amazon, the deal probably depended in part on their plans to enforce Copyright. As Amazon is an incredibly popular media distribution service, yet they didn’t have a Youtube-like service constantly in lawyer’s sights, moving forward many gamers will be watching to see if Amazon’s approach is stricter than Google’s might have been.

You can read Amazon’s full PR below.

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HD Voice and Video Calling on Verizon Wireless “In Coming Weeks”

Verizon-logoAT&T and T-Mobile have already announced their plans for VoLTE, which should enable much higher quality calls over data instead of traditional phone calling.

Today Big Red finally detailed their plans for a similar service, and they’re adding video calling to boot.

Video Calling 1Video Calling is simplified when using VoLTE technology.  The contact list in the phone clearly shows, with a video camera icon next to the name, who can receive a Video Call, and a tap or two on the phone starts the call so you can speak to friends and family face-to-face.  Customers control Video Calls, easily switching to a voice-only call from a Video Call and back with a tap on the phone.  The audio portion of a Video Call is delivered in HD Voice.

HD Voice and Video Calling work only when both people are in the Verizon 4G LTE coverage area and are using VoLTE-enabled smartphones from Verizon.

We’ll have to see how much support third party Video Calling receives, if services like Facetime, Hangouts, or Skype will also stream easily over LTE. It will be very interesting to see if VZW allows for free video calling over their network, and if third party video calling continues to count against your monthly data cap.

Still it’s good to see America’s first place carrier also start the transition to VoLTE, as this should help simplify networks. With both data and voice traveling over one radio standard, we should see LTE only phones as early as 2016.  Full PR below.

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LG Reveals More Details on G3 Stylus

LG_G3_STYLUS_12Following their recent announcement tackling the entry-level and a new AT&T phablet, LG is borrowing the design language of the G3 for a new mid-range smartphone. This one features the handle trick of supporting a proper stylus.

The creatively named “G3 Stylus” features a 5.5″ screen with a resolution of 960×540, powered by a 1.3GHz Quad-Core and 1GB of RAM. The 13MP camera found on LG’s most recent phones is on the back, but no mention of it supporting optical image stabilization. 8GB of storage is on tap with a MicroSD for expansion, and the 3000mAh battery from the G3 makes a return as well.

Before we scoff too much at the low screen, moving from Q(uad)HD to q(uarter)HD, this phone is also designed for 3G emerging markets, as it won’t initially come with an LTE radio.

What is kind of interesting is LG’s approach to design. It might be a cost saving effort, recycling the plastic body from the G3 instead of coming up with a new mold, but the byproduct is allowing customers to buy a mid-ranger which looks like their flagship. Apple went out of their way with the 5C last year to make it look different from their premium phone, and customers responded fairly negatively.

The Stylus will launch first in Brazil followed closely by Asian, Middle East, and African countries. It’ll land next month when it gets its proper debut it IFA Berlin, with pricing to be announced shortly before launch in each country. Full PR below.

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Real Person Review: Tony Leaves His Blackberry for a Kyocera Brigadier

kyocera brigadier review somegadgetguy front screen[Tony is a retired firefighter, and was kind enough to share his early impressions of his first Android phone, a Kyocera Brigadier on Verizon Wireless.]

How Do You Like the Build Quality?

It’s big and clunky. It reminds me of old school BlackBerry phones. I had a BB 8700 that could take a hit. My more recent Torch, not as much. The Brigadier feels more noticeably more durable. For someone like me who occasionally tests the ballistic quality of hardware, this is the perfect device for me.

From a regular perspective. The sound is good, the picture is good.  I’ve watched video on the (720p) screen. I don’t play games, so I don’t know if it’ll be good for that.

Call quality is good. I had no idea what the term “tissue conduction” meant, but the ear piece is really loud and it’s easy to hear callers.

[The Brigadier screen is actually a large bone conduction surface allowing users to hear calls in loud environments and with ear plugs.]

I’m still unsure about battery life. It’s a little too early to tell if it’ll compare to my BB. My only complaint there is that it does have a built-in internal battery. I liked being able to replace the battery on my Torch. I would carry extras when I knew I was going to be away from a power source. I did buy a portable external battery for the Kyocera, so we’ll see if that is equally practical.

And the Sapphire Screen?

There is a video of a person trying to scratch the screen with a penknife to no avail. I don’t intend to do that on purpose.

In switching to the Brigadier, you also swapped carriers, how has that transition been?

I switched from ATT to Verizon. Verizon has great coverage but I lack 4G LTE coverage inside our condo. It literally works 10’ outside my door. Go figure. What I like about Verizon other than its coverage is that I can turn off that annoying message that tells people to wait for the tone. Like anyone whose been alive during the last 40 years wouldn’t know that. I hate wasting my time and others and all that message did was chew up air time.

Are there Android replacements for your favorite BB features?

kyocera brigadier review somegadgetguy back plateOne thing I miss from my BB is the autotext feature. I liked the ability to type in an acronym and have it expand to the whole word. I didn’t know that on Android those features aren’t in the “OS” but in the keyboard app. I didn’t realize I had more than one keyboard until yesterday. I just started playing with Google Keyboard which can do something similar for shortcut text, but it’s not the same as the BB.

My wife also replaced her BB with a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. It feels like it would snap in a strong wind, but it’s a bit more portable by comparison. We are now officially a BB free household. Too bad, they’ve had some good products over the years but seem to have missed the boat on the smartphone market.

After test driving a Nokia, I knew I was going to get an Android. I use a lot of Google services for contacts, mail, and calendar. I already use Google Drive. I bought extra capacity. It works great, and it’s saved us a lot of grief for syncing info.

Thank you Tony for taking the time to share your experiences! 

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