gadgets

Why The iPhone 6 Will Be The Device Of The Year

iphone6_topic - NOT FOR FEATURED IMAGEApple is gearing up for a big product announcement on September 9, and all indications are that it will be a new iPhone. The iPhone 6, as it’s being called in the press, will deliver a lot of changes over the iPhone 5s, which got relatively modest updates compared to the iPhone 5. It’s also one of the most important device launches Apple has ever had, given how long it’s been since the company unveiled a new marquee product.

As is generally the case, at this point we have a pretty good idea of what’s coming thanks to the rumor mill, which has been in high gear over the past month or so. Whispers suggest we’ll see a larger screen, with a 4.7-inch model launching first and a 5.5-inch model also being unveiled at the same time, but possibly shipping a bit later or in constrained supply.

The large screen and its value to Apple shouldn’t be underestimated. Samsung delivered a commercial recently that attempted to lambaste Apple for having waited so long to deliver a larger display, but in fact it pointed out only that there is now a strong appetite for a larger face on Apple’s smartphone, not that people were eager to jump ship to another device manufacturer in order to get that feature.

But the screen size isn’t the whole story – Apple is also expected to use a new material that offers a lot more durability to protect its display. This will likely be some kind of sapphire composite, and based on leaked videos of durability tests, it should be much better able to withstand both shattering and scratching. This would give Apple a considerable advantage over the rest of the market, which finally mostly uses Gorilla Glass, the material it pioneered with its original iPhone but which it now looks ready to leap beyond.

Apple’s work on both these things, display size and display durability, speak to some of the most sought-after requests of both existing and would-be iPhone buyers. The company will also likely improve the cameras on its devices, and might finally add NFC into the mix, opening the door for a lot more potential when it comes to mobile payments.

Cupertino will deliver all the things that normally encourage their loyal customers and many new ones to jump on board, including improved processor power and performance, but if they can also deliver on some of the fever dreams of iPhone watchers, we’ll see a launch that exceeds any that came before it. The iPhone is currently exhibiting a late-cycle strength that it rarely has before, and anyone who thinks that “just” putting a bigger screen on its flagship device won’t do much to improve its fortunes hasn’t been paying attention – plus, Apple being Apple, they’ll do a lot more besides.

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Runtastic’s $120 Orbit Fitness Tracker Prizes Function And Features Over Fashion

Runtastic is doing the reverse of what many startups are doing these days: it’s going from being a software platform provider to becoming a hardware maker with the Runtastic Orbit fitness tracker. The Orbit is similar in concept and execution to the various trackers from Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike already available, but with a number of features designed to set it apart from the competition. Runtastic succeeds in terms of utility, but this is ultimately a take on wearables that will probably appeal most to existing Runtastic fans or those who aren’t that concerned with the fashion aspects of wearables.

The Orbit boasts an impressive feature list, including a built-in OLED display, vibration feedback, ambient lighting detection, a full week of battery life and waterproofing for up to 300 feet of submersion. It can track steps, distance, calories burned, total active minutes, sleep and it can provide regular inactivity vibration alerts as well as wake up alarms. In the box you get not one but two straps for the Orbit, which is itself a small Fitbit-style pill-shaped device, and a smaller clip for wearing in a less obvious place.

Orbit is comfortable enough to wear, I found, thanks to the soft rubberized material of the band, and its waterproofing means that you never really have to take it off if you don’t want to. Over long periods, however, I wasn’t thrilled about the Orbit’s comfort levels – especially when worn to bed as a sleep tracker. Essentially the Orbit feels more like a watch than some of the other wearables out there, and that meant I generally preferred to take it off overnight than keep it on, despite the gadget’s impressive sleep tracking abilities.

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Runtastic’s companion hardware for the Orbit, Runtastic Me, is well-designed and clearly benefits from their years of experience building health tracking software for mobile devices. The Me app syncs with the Orbit via Bluetooth Smart (so no pairing required) and it lists your steps, active minutes, calories burned, distance and sleep. You can tap on each of these for any given day to drill down and see more about each category displayed in a nicely designed graph, as well as manage your device from the Me app’s settings page.

The Orbit also works with Runtastic’s existing fitness tracking apps, so I was able to use it with Runtastic Pro to track my runs, and as a second screen device that provides feedback throughout your activity. It changes modes when used with the fitness tracking software, and is detected automatically, starting things off with a countdown until your run begins, and then providing you with updates along the way including time elapsed, distance travelled and more. While the feature is currently only available for Runtastic and Runtastic Pro, the company says it will roll out support for Orbit across its suite of software in the future.

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While the Orbit is about as feature-laden as you can get in an activity tracker that’s similar in styling to the Fitbit Flex or Jawbone UP24, in the end it also sports a design that is decidedly uninspiring. The big silver button is handy in terms of using the device easily while you’re running or participating in other activities, but it does little for the overall aesthetics of the device. In the end it seems like design was an afterthought to function and features, which is why this is a great tool for those who want a wearable that offer the most in terms of utility, but not necessarily for those also concerned about fashion.

The Runtastic Orbit is available from the Runtastic Online Store for $119.99, and ships by August 11. In the end it isn’t drastically different from the existing crop of similar devices, but with its easily readable display, feature set and hardware control, it’s a good option for active users looking for something to complement their exercise routine, especially if you’re already a fan of Runtastic’s software and services.

Continue reading here: Runtastic’s $120 Orbit Fitness Tracker Prizes Function And Features Over Fashion

A leaked document reportedly suggests Amazon is preparing to launch a mobile credit card reader

Amazon is preparing its own mobile credit card reader that could go on sale next month at Staples, 9to5Mac reports, citing internal Staples documents that it has obtained. The “Amazon Card Reader” is said to cost $9.99 and will probably connect to smartphones to carry out payments. The Staples documents show that the company has asked its stores to wait until August 12 to put up new signage related to the card reader.

9to5 Amazon Reader 730x257 A leaked document reportedly suggests Amazon is preparing to launch a mobile credit card reader

News of this card reader comes a few days after Amazon quietly released a new Android and Fire Phone app, Amazon Wallet, that lets you store and organize your gift, reward and loyalty cards — but doesn’t support mobile payments or credit and debit cards.

A card reader would see Amazon come up against Square, which has software and hardware products that make it easier for merchants to accept credit and debit card payments through their mobile devices (Square Register), and which has a mobile credit card reader too.

We have reached out to Amazon and will update with any response provided.

Amazon apparently set to launch Square-competitor in August as it develops biometric payment solutions [9to5Mac]

Thumbnail image via EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

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Latest iOS 8 Beta Update Includes Tips, An App That Shows Features You Might Miss

iOS tips

Announced last month at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, iOS 8 slightly refines the look debuted last year while adding a bunch of new features like the ability to interact with notifications, smoothly transition between working on your phone and laptop, and new ways to message people.

Since its announcement, Apple has steadily rolled out these new features and apps in periodic beta releases. As 9to5Mac and other Apple blogs picked up this morning, the latest release includes a new Tips app pointing out features and shortcuts that aren’t immediately apparent, as well as the steps necessary to turn them on or off in settings.

iOS 8 tip

In addition to the app, the company has also launched a web page dedicated to showing off tricks for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Both the app and site currently show the same tips, like how to respond to an iMessage directly from a notification in iOS 8 or how to use Siri without pushing any buttons.

Both methods of accessing tips also let users leave feedback. The iOS app in the current beta lets you “Like” a tip, while the web page has buttons for “Helpful” or “Not helpful” under each trick.

While there are only six tricks shown at the moment, Apple says that it’ll be adding one per week. At that rate, it should have all of the major new features in iOS 8 covered — assuming the Tips app makes it to the final consumer release this fall.

IMAGE BY Apple (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

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A Microsoft Surface Revenue Bet

After the introduction of the Surface Pro 3, I tweeted that I thought it would do pretty well in the market. I should have clarified that I meant that in the context of prior Surface sales, but I can’t edit tweets after the fact, so here we are.

Valleywag’s Sam Biddle didn’t agree, and so we made a friendly wager on the matter.

Microsoft reports its earnings tomorrow, and will provide a fresh Surface revenue number as part of that release. I’ve confirmed with the company that the specific Surface figure will be broken out, as per usual.

It seems, however, that I somewhat borked myself in the bet. As it turns out, the $500 million figure was rounded. Surface revenue in the last quarter was actually $494 million (this is why you should never 8-K when you can 10-Q). So I skewed the threshold north by depending on a rounded statistic.

Even more, I presumed that all pre-ordered Surface Pro 3s would see their revenue tallied in the fiscal period. Not so. Only revenue from Surface Pro 3s running Intel Core i5 chips will be counted, as systems running i3 and i7 chips shipped after the end of the quarter, and thus their top line will land in Microsoft’s fiscal first quarter (the current calendar quarter). So a large chunk of revenue that I thought existed the quarter we bet on doesn’t. Oops.

So if I could take out a re-bet, I’d lower my Surface revenue forecasts by 25 to 30 percent. Though, when I’m wrong, I like to do it at full speed.

Please accept this post as an oblation for being quite probably overly optimistic.

Original post: A Microsoft Surface Revenue Bet

The Super-M Is A Pocket-Sized Speaker Begging For A Beach Trip

With an abundance of music constantly in the palm of our hand, so too comes an abundance of portable Bluetooth speakers. The NudeAudio Super-M is the latest to join the herd, and the most recent product out of the portable speaker company.

Originally, Nude sold a basic Bluetooth speaker in three sizes: small, medium, and large. The M, the medium-sized version, was the best seller by far and so the team decided to put as much audio power in that form factor as possible.

They’re calling it the Super-M, and it recently went live on Kickstarter and has already more than doubled its $75,000 goal.

They ended up putting four full-range neodymium drivers a device measuring 5.7″ x 3″ x 1.1″. They placed two drivers on each side of the speaker, with each pair getting its own passive radiator. Paired with Bluetooth 4.0 and an eight-hour lithium ion battery, NudeAudio argues that the Super -M beats out the JamBox in performance.

Even better, the Super-M is water- and sand-resistant, meaning you can throw it in your back pocket, take it to the beach, or play around with it on a boat without worrying about a thing.

The Super-M is available for pre-order now for $99. Check it out here.

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Xbox One August update to add new activity feed, mobile purchases, low battery notification, 3D Blu-ray, more

Microsoft today detailed what gamers can expect in the next Xbox One update, which is expected to arrive in August. There are eight additions and changes the company has highlighted: activity feed updates, expanded Friends area on Home, mobile purchases, low battery notification, disable notifications during video, 3D Blu-ray, OneGuide in more countries, and last seen time in Friends list.

First up, the activity feed interface is being changed to a single column scrolling list “that is longer and includes more content.” Gamers will gain the ability to post text to their feed, to “like” and comment on feed items, to share game clips and anything else publicly (to your activity feed) or privately (as an attachment to a message). You’ll also get notifications when anyone likes, comments on, or shares your items.

Furthermore, each user will get a personal feed on their profile, so you can see what specific friends have been up to. SmartGlass will get access to this new feature too: it will you see what your friends have shared to their activity feed and “like” specific posts (additional activity feed features will come in future SmartGlass updates). In short, this is the Facebook News Feed for your Xbox One.

Speaking of what your friends are up to, the friends list will now show how long it’s been since a friend has been online (for example, “Last seen 20m ago: Forza Motorsport 5.”). Furthermore, the Home area is getting an expanded section for friends that shows their current activity, the top trending games they’re playing, and a leaderboard based on everyone’s Gamerscore. This particular feature is being tested under an “extended preview,” so you might not get it as soon as everyone else – Microsoft still plans to “refine it until it’s ready for the entire Xbox One market.”

Next up, mobile purchases are a go. Using Xbox SmartGlass or directly on Xbox.com, you will be able to buy games and add-on content from your mobile device. The best part: if your console is set to automatically take updates, it will begin downloading your purchase even if you’re not home.

The Xbox One is also getting a notification when your controller battery is getting low, the ability to disable notifications during video playback, and 3D Blu-ray support. Finally, the OneGuide is coming to Brazil, Mexico, Austria, and Ireland.

If you have early access to the Xbox One system update, you can expect to get this update “in the next week.” Microsoft says these features are mainly coming from the Xbox Feedback site it launched last month, and there is thus still a lot more to come.

The rest is here: Xbox One August update to add new activity feed, mobile purchases, low battery notification, 3D Blu-ray, more

This Week On The TC Gadgets Podcast: Summer Doldrums

As you may expect, the summer can be a slow period for tech journalists. But since we’re obsessed with startups, there’s still plenty of new stuff to discuss this week on the TC Gadgets Podcast.

For one, we look at the new Evoke induction-based vaporizer, as well as a new piece of hardware called the GoTenna, which lets you send messages on your phone without any connectivity whatsoever. But first, we take a look at the Microsoft/Nokia job cuts and what that means for the future of the two tech giants.

We discuss all this and more on this week’s episode of the TC Gadgets Podcast featuring Matt BurnsJordan Crook, and Natasha Lomas.

Have a good Friday, everybody!

We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3 p.m. Eastern and noon Pacific. And feel free to check out the TechCrunch Gadgets Flipboard magazine right here.

Click here to download an MP3 of this show.
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Intro Music by Mendhoan.

Excerpt from: This Week On The TC Gadgets Podcast: Summer Doldrums

Google Planning A Big Push In India This Fall

Sundar Pichai Google IO Android One

Google is planning a big advertising campaign for its Android One initiative in India this fall, according to several recent reports.

The Information’s Amir Efrati claims that Google is telling potential partners in the country that it is planning to spend “at least several hundred millions dollars” to boost awareness for phones made as part of the Android One initiative.

The Economic Times of India’s report cites a much lower number: approximately $17 million. The Economic Times also states that the push will begin in October and that Google SVP Sundar Pichai will visit the country as part of the launch effort.

While the figures don’t line up — which could simply be due to sources talking about different time frames, i.e. Google could spend $17 million right away with more to come based on how well the campaign does — the news itself makes a lot of sense.

The Indian market is huge and smartphones haven’t penetrated there like they have in the United States or even other emerging markets like China. According to IDC data, smartphone penetration in the world’s second most populated country is at about 10% despite 186% year-over-year growth for the category in the first quarter of 2014.

With Android One, Google is looking to make it easier to launch affordable devices in emerging markets. It’s working with suppliers to ensure cheap but powerful parts used by OEMs will be compatible with the latest versions of Android, providing access to the Google Play Store, and handling updates to the Android operating system while still allowing device makers to install their own apps on devices.

At Google I/O, Google’s Pichai announced that the company is working with Micromax and other device manufacturers in India to bring multiple devices in the ~$100 range to the country by the end of the year. That’s a price range that’s proven to do well in India, with Motorola’s low-margin lineup selling a million units within five months of entering the market.

By getting in while the Indian smartphone market is still in its infancy, Google has a chance to capture a significant portion of it as people are still deciding their preferences in operating system. The Android One initiative is important Google because it gets people into its Play Store ecosystem instead of smaller third-party app stores generally offered on the millions of cheap phones and tablets sold in emerging markets running the open source version of Android.

While it’s not bringing in a lot of money just yet — India has yet to crack the top 5 countries in terms of revenue for Google Pay — App Annie’s latest Market Index suggests that Google is at least doing a good job of getting users into its app ecosystem, with India outpacing South Korea and Russia in terms of download numbers. That puts the country right behind the United States and Brazil, the 1st and 2nd largest countries by app downloads, respectively.

Excerpt from: Google Planning A Big Push In India This Fall

Pencil & Paper: FiftyThree’s stylus launches in Europe for its Paper iPad app

FiftyThree’s Pencil, a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) stylus for iPad, has launched in Europe more than nine months after it first went on sale in North America.

FiftyThree was founded by a design team that formerly plied their trade at Microsoft, working on Xbox, Kinect and other flagship products. The first product out of the starting blocks in 2012 was an iPad app called Paper, designed for note-taking, sketching, and just about everything else you can do with a physical paper pad. It was previously named one of Apple’s iPad apps of the year, and it was given a chunky visual redesign just a few months back, shortly after a trademark squabble with Facebook.

With its dedicated stylus in tow, FiftyThree is bringing the analogue and digital spheres together, delivering a traditional ‘touchy feely’ input mechanism with the wonders of modern technology. It has previously revealed some big updates are on the horizon with iOS 8 firmly in mind.

FiftyThree Pencil Walnut with Paper 730x469 Pencil & Paper: FiftyThrees stylus launches in Europe for its Paper iPad appFrom today, FiftyThree is making Pencil available to buy from Amazon in the UK, Germany and France, and it will be available in two models – ‘Walnut’, made from hardwood, and ‘Graphite’ in brushed aluminium.

Paper automatically knows whether it’s your finger or pencil touching the page, and adjusts things accordingly. Pencil also features a built-in eraser to make deleting content a breeze, while you can use your finger in tandem to smooth out edges and blend colors.

The built-in lithium ion battery should last around a month under normal use, and can be charged by USB. And although it has been built for use with Paper, it can be used as a basic stylus on any touchscreen device.

You can buy Pencil today on Amazon UK from today for £49.99/£64.99 (Graphite/Walnut), or on Amazon Germany/France for €59.90/€74.90.

Pencil

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