Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer Hardware Review

Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer Hardware Review

Feb 11, 2016

The more mobile we become as a civilization, the more we get to see connected devices. Yes, it does take a while for critical mass to be achieved with regards to some solutions, but there are several that make plenty of sense in present times.

The key is using one’s smartphone and/or tablet as a hub of sorts… not only to maybe power the peripheral, but definitely to collate and manage data on the go.

When it comes to the special category of health connected devices, there are several products on the market. Still, what is more crucial to healthy living and medical diagnoses than a thermometer? And, when it comes easy-to-understand health vicks7solutions, what has better cachet then Vicks?

With the Vicks SmartTemp Wireless Smartphone Thermometer, one gets said company potentially bringing a useful product to market.

The review package we got reveals the product in its retail manifestation; it’s tightly wrapped, with the thermometer itself, paperwork and a cover. The thermometer itself look much like a home use medical thermometer, with a slightly bulbous top that tapers into a probe. One pertinent detail, there isn’t a digital display on this. The surface is covered in hard plastic, and there is a battery compartment built in, and a prominent power button at the very top. It feels well fused and intuitively easy to handle, and is also bluetooth-enabled.

The thermometer uses an app for connectivity, and this app — Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer app on Google Play — is really the base of all operations. It’s a clean app, and surprisingly functional; it allows for one to link to the device via aforementioned bluetooth, and to create separate profiles, which is perfect for families. One can also select from three body locations, and then one can get to checking heat.

The thermometer beeps to signal completion, and it uses bright colors to denote healthy temperatures. When a temperature is taken, one can attach extra data, like symptoms and medications. The app itself has a reference chart, and allows for temperatures to be taken in both centigrade and fahrenheit.

The “on” button can be preclude one-handed operation, but the biggest drawback probably derives from its biggest attribute: app connectivity. See, with no display, the unit truly needs the companion app, and really can’t be used without it. Bummer, if one’s device is out of reach or out of commission.

Still, it works remarkably well, and is great as self-help unit. It is quite simple to use, and easy to depend on. Adds Android Auto Compatibility Adds Android Auto Compatibility

Jul 30, 2015 has just announced that it now works with Android Auto… and all the audio book road warriors that can enjoy such a natural pairing can smile in appreciation.

This means that folks who make use of the premier content provider can enjoy access via vehicles that incorporate Google’s burgeoning connected endeavor. It also makes the first audio book provider to support Android Auto. General Manager Ian Small leaves no doubt as to the importance of integrating with Android Auto. “The experience of using an application while you are on the road is entirely different than using it on a phone or a computer,” he says. “We made integration with Android Auto a high priority because we wanted to give drivers the best audiobook experience that this new technology allows. Our goal is to revolutionize the in-car experience, and to make the 100+ hours a year Americans spend commuting to work and 38 hours a year stuck in traffic more enjoyable.”

The new combination is available to users that have access to Android Auto; for a list of brands deploying Android Auto, check out this list:

[via Press Release]

The Quicklock Padlock Hardware Review

The Quicklock Padlock Hardware Review

Apr 13, 2015

We all love the connected home? What about a connected lock to start it all off?

How about the Quicklock Padlock?

The review package contained USB-cable, documentation, and NFC card and the lock itself; there’s no missing the lock, in that it looks like, well, a lock. The review unit is mostly blue and grey, with the metal shackle being the latter. The body is in the shape of a small cylinder, with a recessed charging port on the backside, and a bluetooth button/LED on the front.

The manufacturer also provided us companion Android software — in beta — that serves as the control bridge for the hardware. The app is simple, presented a business-like grey, and when it is initiated, it turns on the host device’s Bluetooth radio and searches for a lock. On the hardware side, one has to press the aforementioned button on the front of the device to initiate pairing. When the lock is found, the app requests a password (in our case, provided by the manufacturer). As soon as the connection and password is verified, a simple control screen appears, allowing the user to unlock, or set the unit to auto unlock. The app allows one to manage multiple locks, as well as edit the name and auto lock time.


The unit also allows for NFC control; I was able to pair to the provided NFC card. It works as advertised, if a bit laggier than the app. The manufacturer offers a bunch of NFC accessories (like a ring) on its website.

It’s all pretty seamless, and fairly intuitive.

But then, the wireless connectivity that makes the solution attractive brings to mind some interesting questions. The first one has to do with complete power drain; if the unit drains out, it can be operated, but must be charged with, say, a portable charger (and the cable has to be just right too to fit); as such, I felt more comfortable topping it off frequently, which isn’t optimal. Another quirk is that button at the front. Prior to operating, it has to be pressed each time, meaning one would have to physically make contact with the lock every single time. Not life-ending by any means, but this did curb my dreams of sending my kids to the shed out back white I sip on a Pepsi watching Dancing with the Stars. The NFC functionality helps in this regard, as one can match a few to it, but that does put a damper on true access control.

I wasn’t able to view access control, but for an item still being designed, it’a pretty interesting piece. With some polishing, the whole thing can be a killer combo. It it something I’d use?


INSTEON Home Remote Control System Hardware Review

INSTEON Home Remote Control System Hardware Review

Mar 31, 2015

We’ve said it so much that it has to be true: The Connected Home isn’t the future. It is definitely the present, and the smartphone is the new control panel. INSTEON is front and center in this area, and we were eager to check out its customizable solutions.

The Starter Kit INSTEON sent us to review contains some of the elements that connect one’s home; the retail packaging contains the INSTEON Hub and two on/off modules. The former serves as the brain of the system, while the latter serve as elements that help effect control.

The pieces come in white, with the hub being noticeably bigger than each on/off module, coming in at 3.75 x 3.75 x 1.5 inches (versus 3.24 x 2.08 x 1.15 inches of each module). The hub is — as the dimensions indicate — a solid, hard plastic-covered box with LED light on the one side, and charging and ethernet ports on the opposite one. The modules resemble 3-pin plugin extensions, with LED light and buttons on the side. In addition to the three main pieces, the retail package also contains white cables for power and ethernet, as well as documentation.


The setup is pretty easy; first, the hub gets connected to power and internet source via the supplied cables. After this, the next step is to download the INSTEON for Hub app from Google Play or the Amazon Appstore. After connecting to the Hub via wi-fi, it’s a matter ofconnecting the extra peripherals — in our case, the two on/off modules. After pairing those pieces, it was game time.

using the app, it is possible to control the on/off modules. The uses are endless: fans, electronics, lamps, heaters and more. Anything that is connected to the modules can be controlled via the wireless signal relayed by the hub. It’s pretty effective, and, in our testing, instantaneous.

The great aspect of the solution is the inherent mobility vested on one’s smartphone by the INSTEON Android app. The ability to manage on the go is priceless. The ability to tailor the system to one’s precise needs is equally admirable; there are several pieces that bring home automation to bear, from security to the control of pieces from other systems.


The Android app is a bit clunky though, what with the endless update loop. Setup could use more complete instructions, and overall, the companion software could use some sprucing up. The presence of a web version is welcome, even if it’s in beta, and managing several pieces after setup is quite easy. At an investment of just under $111 for the starter kit (via Amazon) makes it fairly reasonable.

It’s hard to dislike the ability to make the system one’s own. As noted, INSTEON touches on jut about every aspect of home automation and security, so one can mix and match pieces to create the perfect solution. In the end, that specific pro seemingly drowns out any cons.

Livescribe Sky Wi-Fi Smartpen Hardware Review

Livescribe Sky Wi-Fi Smartpen Hardware Review

Feb 25, 2015

When I look at adding accessories to my workflow, I try to keep to a few important precepts: portability, functionality and compatibility. Portability is obvious; the ability to use stuff on the go is quite important. With regards to functionality, before adding an addition or substitution to my creative/work process, I’d rather know that it is worth the time to make a change. Lastly, the ability to use a tool with other tools and across platforms is priceless.

On paper, Livescribe’s Sky Wi-Fi Smartpen seems to touch on these elements quite comfortably.

Livescribe has created quite the niche with in the smartpen offerings; it has several products, with one of the most celebrated (Livescribe 3 Smartpen) on its way to full Android compatibility shortly. The Sky Smartpen is more of a cross-platform workhorse that boasts some admirable tricks up its sleeve.

The review unit Livescribe sent us showed the piece in its retail glory: the 4GB pen, micro-USB cable, two covers and a good deal of documentation. Livescribe also cobbled together starter pack of sorts, as we also got a Livescribe starter notebook and a more ostentatious Livescribe Moleskine Lined Dot Paper Notebook.


The pen itself is interestingly designed, and, at first glance, I suspected it might be a tad unwieldy. It looks a bit like a traditional fountain pen, tapering from the “top” to the exposed pen tip. On the frame, one finds a speaker grill, microphone and monochrome OLED display, while at the very bottom, there is a 3.55mm audio jack and a micro-USB charging port. The unit also has a built-in camera and wi-fi chip.

The smartpen arrived mostly charged, do I was able to get right into using it. The online setup hints at some if the functionality coming up, as one gets it up and running with wi-fi and also connects to Evernote. Holding it in hand allayed in handling concerns I might have had.


The key is the paper in the notebooks. Using microdot technology and the camera in the pen, it allows the device accept commands from the paper, but also, it takes written data and translates it to Evernote, such that one sees a digitized form of the handwritten note in Evernote just as it appears in the notepad. It’s an interesting concept, and depends on wifi connectivity and, of course, the aforementioned paper.

In practice, the solution is dreamy. The paper incorporates visual commands that can be read by the smartpen camera when an icon is touched by the tip. One can write notes on the microdot paper, or initiate a voice note by visual voice command. When finished, syncing can be attempted (by icon as well), and it appears in a corresponding Evernote notebook. Even the setup is pretty interesting, and is facilitated by the same paper-camera combination.


The end result, when it works, is a smooth concept. I used it to take training notes while coaching, and having a digital copy that can be shared and otherwise manipulated is invaluable. Evernote functionality itself opens up a a wealth of secondary options (like Skitch) which increase usability. The microphone allows it to be used as a an audio recorder.

Ah, but the key is when it works. Updating the unit was a bit of a drag, and it took me quite some time to fix a sync issue. The notebook is a phenomenal idea, and while the smartpen can be used as, well, a pen, for full functionality, one needs to use the companion paper. Now, Livescribe does provide templates for people to print, but a postscript printer is needed to provide the visuals the smartpen needs to interface with. Also, the Sky Smartpen (at $170 on Amazon) can be a sizable investment.

There are a bunch of accessories, from pen cases to dedicated headphones to replacement ink cartridges that can potentially add even more usability to this device.

Even though it isn’t new on the market, this piece is an excellent cross-platform tool that creates a viable connected solution in the right hands.

It’s hard to put a price on that.

LinkedIn Brings its Focused Networking Tool Connected to Android

LinkedIn Brings its Focused Networking Tool Connected to Android

Feb 24, 2015

In an effort to be even more relevant, LinkedIn recently released a new standalone application aimed at strengthening professional relationships on the Play Store.

The new app, called Connected, looks to enable users to hone in and be updated on personal and professional status changes. Formerly an iOS exclusive, the app is definitely a welcome addition on Android OS.

The new LinkedIn Connected app is a fast, easy, and smarter way to strengthen your professional relationships. Why is that important? Because most opportunities come from the people you already know, and fostering genuine relationships can help you be more successful. Connected gives you relevant updates about the people you know, so you can reach out when it matters most.
So invest in your connections today for opportunities tomorrow.
• Know when to reach out. Get notified about jobs changes, birthdays, work anniversaries, & more.
• Focus on the people who matter with relevant, timely updates.
• Make a great impression and start better conversations with pre-meeting intelligence.
• Build stronger relationships in just a few minutes a day.

LinkedIn Connected is free on the Play Store.

D-Link Pan & Tilt Wi-Fi Camera Hardware Review

D-Link Pan & Tilt Wi-Fi Camera Hardware Review

Feb 20, 2015

When it comes to a secure home, why no pull out all the stops? Connected cameras are a big part of home safety options, and devices made by D-Link — a company that can actually afford to name drop — are especially interesting. As such, we were eager to check out the D-Link Pan & Tilt Wi-Fi Camera.

The review unit D-Link sent us came in retail packaging; in the box, one gets the camera itself, a mounting bracket, ethernet cable, power cable, mounting paraphernalia and documentation. The camera itself is mostly white with black accents. Standing right-side up, it looks like a short lighthouse with a matching white antenna out the back. Dimensions-wise, it is 5.26 x 4.03 x 3.99 inches, and weighs 0.64 lbs.

The main unit has input slots for power and ethernet on the bottom back, as well as a WPS button and reset pinhole. On the front of the bottom there are two LEDs to signify power and WPS status. The unit also has embedded microphone, and advertises different video resolutions.


Setting it up involves a computer (Mac or Windows), and downloading the installer and following the instructions. As the contents suggest, the camera can be set up in wired or wireless fashion, and the desktop utility helps to accomplish this. As soon as the wireless setup is complete, the companion mydlink Lite can be downloaded from the Play Store to control the app and manipulate device settings.

The app displays live video via the app; I was somewhat surprised by the clarity, which can be sharpened by manually adjusting the lens. It boasts three different resolution, and there is a distinct difference in them. The pan and tilt functionality is easily handled intuitively by gestures on the display. Camera shots can be acquired via the app as well. I did notice some lag in gesture operations though, but I found the voice quality to be clear.


The app allows for event-triggered push notifications, and I also like the fact that firmware upgrades can be initiated from within the app. The app also controls other D-Link connected peripherals (like the recently reviewed Smart Plug), so its nice to have a one-stop point for such units.

Altogether, it’s a pretty nice option that is easy to use and appreciate. It works well in different scenarios and lighting conditions, and is a fantastic starting piece in any connected home setup.

From the Editor’s Desk: Connecting the Dots

From the Editor’s Desk: Connecting the Dots

Feb 11, 2015

In hindsight, it seems so obvious.

As we made the technological transition from cellular phones to full-fledged pocket computers capable of wireless connectivity, life started to become more, well, connected. First came the apps. Simple utilities, web portals and easy games morphed into powerful applications that mimicked desktop versions. The accessories have transformed as well, from the ubiquitous cases to specialty equipment that rival standalone hardware.

Now we’re at the precipice of the (gasp!) Internet of Things… you know… where the web becomes the great unifier. By default, and because of its mobile nature, the smartphone has become the hub of the burgeoning connected home. Apple-based software tends to get the vast majority of companion applications, but Android can’t be ignored, and as such, the number of products hat can be manipulated on the go continue to increase exponentially.

At Android Rundown, we couldn’t be happier. Taking a look at current and upcoming products, it’s easy to see why: connected sockets, home controls, door cameras and even door locks, controlled from one’s Android device. Connected solutions are upending the traditional home security segment, with legacy tech companies joining some interesting startups in bringing some nice stuff to market. Competition is bringing the prices down too, such that the prices of connected products need not induce high blood pressure. Scales, toothbrushes, even crockpots are getting the connected treatment, and frankly, it just makes so much sense to use one’s most accessible gadget as the centerpiece.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to look at even more connected products from a variety of companies. We’ll give some insight into how these solutions fare in the real world, and how they just might make your life easier.

We’re still looking at several health-related products, so there will be plenty of hardware analysis to go with our usual batch of application reviews. It’s gonna be fun.

Stay tuned!


Tre L

Olixar Light Bulb Speaker Hardware Review

Olixar Light Bulb Speaker Hardware Review

Jan 7, 2015

We get pitched a fair amount of accessories to take a look at, and, frankly, some are very, uh, unique. Not all work, either; some are ambitious, but might have a fatal flaw. Or two. Or seven. In any case, mobile accessories can be interestingly varied.

I’d like to say I am open-minded, and I do feel like a decent assessor of product, but every now and then, I am surprised.

But hold a sec; let’s talk about the Olixar Light Bulb Speaker.

The name says it all: it’s a light bulb that doubles as a bluetooth-enabled speaker. The review package MobileFun sent us highlights the unit; in hand, it is mostly white, with a gold mid-section. It is more streamlined than “regular” bulbs, but also weighs a bit more. It sports LED light too, and emits 3W light (which the distributor says is equivalent to 50W from a standard bulb. It screws into regular receptacles (the package comes with an adapter piece for European light sources) and works the same way. Turn on the switch, and it bathes the room in bright, warm light. It functions well upright and upside down.


Now, the part that is of special interest is the speaker functionality. The Bulb has a 4.0 bluetooth module, and when it is on, one can pair it to a bluetooth audio source. Anyone who has paired bluetooth devices will do this instinctively: search and tap to pair, and after this, the Light Bulb Speaker streams the audio seamlessly. The audio quality is pretty nice, and it continues working with the constant electric source.

All in all, a surprisingly effective and portable audio solution.

But back to the opening premise. Light Bulb speakers are not an overly unique or new idea. Pricing and efficacy might be the biggest barrier to adoption. That’s where this piece just might be successful, in that it works well, and won’t break the bank (at $32.99 via MobileFun).

And, by and large, it showed one reviewer that the proof is in the pudding.

D-Link Wireless Smart Plug Hardware Review

D-Link Wireless Smart Plug Hardware Review

Jan 2, 2015

I’m admittedly addicted to technology, particularly of the mobile kind. I’m sure it’s clear at this point that I like accessories that add functionality to mobile devices. I like the idea of my daily driver being my lifestyle hub, and am ever interested in seeing what companies are doing to expand upon the connected home idea and the Internet of Things concept overall.

D-Link is no stranger to connectivity. For folks like me that watched ethernet cables give way to wireless local area networks, D-Link is synonymous with wi-fi. It makes products for both the enterprise and consumer sectors, and we were especially to check out one of its connected home products: the D-Link Wireless Smart Plug. This piece looks to be handy by allowing users to access and control plugged in appliances wirelessly.

The review unit that D-Link sent to us is relatively unassuming; outside the retail packaging, it’s a solid white piece, much like a solid outlet tap. Size-wise, it comes in at 3.54 x 2.40 x 1.40 inches  and weighing 4.41 ounces. It has the pins on one face, and input slots an on button and LED light on the opposite end. There is also a subtle WPS button on one side.


Setting it up is a matter of connecting the unit to Wi-Fi, and the companion D-Link Home app helps with this. Using the app as a guide, I was able to get the unit up and running, albeit with some gnashing of teeth and timely deviation from the official instructions. Then, I tried it out with a simple appliance: a table lamp. using the app, I was able to toggle the lamp on and off, as well as schedule such events.

What I really dig about the Smart Plug is the simplicity of the concept. The holiday season, which brings unique, seasonal lighting, is a great period to check it out, as it can bring real savings in electricity costs. The advertised thermal protection is something else that can be taken advantage of. As part of a connected home setup, it’s a great addition, especially as it is possible to run multiple pieces via the same app.


So… if I have to gripe, it’ll be directed at the app. It can be finicky at times, and I did incur a crash during regular usage. The app is still the heart and soul of the system, so I’d rather have it than not. Also, at this point, the cost might be a barrier to adoption of multiple pieces. At $49.99 (on Amazon), it might be considered a serious investment. To be fair, it is priced competitively within its own space.

In an age where connectivity is a privilege worth having, the Smart Plug feels like a worthy entrance piece.

Aerb Wi-fi Display Dongle Hardware Review

Aerb Wi-fi Display Dongle Hardware Review

Dec 30, 2014

Screen casting is all the rage in mobile computing, and with good reason. Aerb Wi-Fi Display Dongle looks to be an option that spans platforms, and we were happy to check it out.

The review unit Aerb sent us contained the dongle, and HDMI extender, micro-USB cable and documentation. The physical pieces are mostly black, and the dongle itself isn’t too big at just about the size of other similar units. Figuring out how to get the unit going was a bit of a drag. On the first hand, it was intuitive enough with regards to removing the protective cap and connecting the dongle to an open HDMI port on the TV. I then connected the micro-USB to the open micro-USB port on the unit, and then powered it by connecting the cable to a USB port on the TV.

Then, it is a matter of accessing the HDMI port on the TV through the menu. The Dongle shows up as clearly, and depending on how one’s Android device is set up, it’s a simple matter of pairing it to the dongle via the Miracast option. As soon as this done, the device’s screen is mirrored.


In practice, the mirroring works well, and, surprisingly, the TV output mostly kept up with the device output. there were times a bit of lag occurs, and graphics got jumbled, but I was able to play games with the casting device solely used as a game controller. Youtube videos reflect well, and I like how the whole system comes together.

A big question remains… with casting options being seamless on major devices nowadays, why bother with this option. Well, it’s a one stop shop for different devices. Every OEM seemingly has a different type of casting system, and this unit somewhat streamlines the process. Further to that, the easy pairing process allows for one to switch sources efficiently.

But the most effective use I found for it is effectively reducing the need for AppleTV to stream on iDevices. having devices from different OSes is becoming more commonplace, and, as such this attribute is golden in my book. It worked well, out the box, with an iPad 2 on the latest iOS.

It’s also rated to work with Windows Desktop systems, but I did not try this out.

All in all, my biggest gripe is the documentation, which could use some work; I am told this is already in progress. As a pocketable, affordable ($29.99 via Amazon) cross-platform screen mirroring solution, this piece is quite effective.

AR Health Series: Pear Sports System Hardware Review

AR Health Series: Pear Sports System Hardware Review

Dec 19, 2014

Being fit is gently moving on from being a pastime to being a habit of successful people. Of course, as the need to be healthy becomes more pervasive, it is natural to see more and more tools that have a mobile component. It makes sense… smartphones are the ubiquitous pocket companions.

The Pear System looks to bridge this gap, first by being a veritable heart rate measuring tool, and then by wirelessly connecting data via one’s Android device.

The review package Pear send to us highlights the system; the review packet contains the Pearl heart rate monitor, a chest strap, headphones and a carrying pouch. Most of th pieces are bathed or accented in bright blue. The HRM unit is diminutive, with the company logo tastefully stamped on the front. The back has two press-in buttons and the battery cover. The strap is black, with the press-in receptacles, and is adjustable and stretchy. The headphones look simple, but have interesting buds, and there is a button on the right ear. Finally, the carry pouch is light and zippered.

Setup is fairly easy; it involves getting the strap, and attaching the heart rate monitor onto it. The HRM has a bluetooth module, and this can be paired with Android devices via the associated Pear app. When working well, the headphones become an invaluable piece: they are quite comfortable, and transmit data over whatever sounds (like music) are going on the holding device. All together, it is a great idea; the strap is worn on the chest, headphones to ears, and the app records time of workouts, distance and calories.


In practice, I thought the HRM unit worked well, mostly in step with other measurement tools. For runners, it’s nice that the app interfaces with partner apps like MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal.

My gripes center around said app. Subsequent pairings were finicky, and I did catch crashes periodically.. Also, the app serves as a conduit to procure better plans and coaching, there are not a lot of free ones. I do like the in-ear stats, and the web portal.

When it’s all said and done, I honestly feel the Pear System is a decent option, and at $80 (per Amazon), the combination is not too pricey. I think it’s best value is for the fitness adherent willing to invest in the advanced tools that the system provides.