Polar M400 Fitness Watch Review

Polar M400 Fitness Watch Review

Nov 22, 2016

Fitness tools with a mobile bent make sense, and Polar is a leading entity in this space; it’s M400 Fitness Watch looks to be a great option for those that want something that does the job of tracking health strides in a relatively unobtrusive way.

So, what do we get?

In testing, I liked the fact that I could get it going with a touch or two. It did take me a few goes (and false starts) to get comfortable, but it worked well overall. The default screen is effective in monochrome default, and the simple activity bar makes sense. The brightness toggle is also a nice touch.

The companion application works well to expand upon the functionality of the unit. It possible to get data to Google Fit, Google Calendar and Polar’s own fitness utilities via the app and Bluetooth. The app allows one to manage units of measurement, device usage, profiles and more. The app works well to be an extended device manager, and syncing data didn’t take too long.

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Now, one aspect of the watch that does resonate is the ability to sync the watch with Android devices via the aforementioned app. As long as both are running and synced, the watch will get notifications from the device. Now, these notifications cannot be acted upon, say, as would be possible on a “true” smartwatch, but are great for basic info on any number of situations.

The Windows component feels a bit clunky, and I did not like that it was necessary for setup; fortunately, beyond updating, there isn’t be a need for it as far as I can tell.

For folks who are still not completely sold on smartwatches for everyday use, or who might strongly lean towards an emphasis on fitness and health tracking, the M400 is a great option. It works well as a standalone product, but can also add functionality here and there via connected smartdevices and/or Polar itself.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: MATRIX PowerWatch, a Smartwatch that Powers Off Body Heat

Crowdfunding Spotlight: MATRIX PowerWatch, a Smartwatch that Powers Off Body Heat

Nov 14, 2016

Say what?

Body heat?

That’s exactly what the crew behind MATRIX PowerWatch are saying: a watch that has all but solved the smartwatch charging conundrum by shifting the energy source to something more organic: harnessing thermoelectric technology via the body heat generated by the person wearing the watch. As such, is is currently being advertised on Indiegogo product page as the “first smartwatch that doesn’t need a charge.”

Not a bad goal, really. One of my biggest gripes with regards to fitness trackers and smartwatches in general is that I have to work around their charging cycles, no matter how small of a disruption that is. If the PowerWatch lives up to its premise, I can finally get something that truly does its job 24/7, as I have no cause to take it off.

Beyond the impressive no-charge feature, the watch is crafted out of aircraft-grade aluminum, wireless connectivity (Android and iOS apps), and also packs accurate calorie counting, sleep tracking, changeable watch faces, and water resistance up to 50 meters.

Is the PowerWatch just the beginning? If one listens to Matrix chief and co-founder Akram Boukai, one can only hope. “Matrix’s thermoelectric platform technology now makes it possible to power a wide range of products without the need for replaceable batteries or an external power source,” he says.

According to the Indiegogo, it has been a five year process from conception to campaign; the PowerWatch is slated to cost $167, but potential backers get in on the action for a featured support cost of $99. That gets one a PowerWatch, military grade strap and free shipping when the unit is ready to ship. The tiers go on all the way to a 100-unit $9999 distributor pack.

In any case, this one looks like an engaging project, one which we hope gets funded (at the time of this writing, it has garnered $25,950 worth of pledges against a $100,000 goal with two months to go. It is slated to be shipped in July 17th, 2017.

Misfit Unveils Phase, a Hybrid Smartwatch

Misfit Unveils Phase, a Hybrid Smartwatch

Oct 18, 2016

Misfit broke unto the health and fitness scene with the reputation of allowing functionality and style coexist in delightfully symbiotic way, and today, it looks like they are expanding on that premise with the introduction of Misfit Phase, a smartwatch with inherited fitness sensibilities.

The Phase tracks steps, distance moved and sleep pattern with the help of its 3-axis accelerometer; it works in alarms and notifications for calls, texts and more.

We hear the battery life is to die for:

Misfit Phase also works as a remote to connect with the world around you. Use Phase to control your music, take pictures with your phone, or advance slides in a presentation, all with the touch of a button. Misfit Phase automatically updates to reflect current time zone, and, like other Misfit products, features 6-month battery life and 50 meters water resistance.

Misfit general Manager Preston Moxcey is excited about the new product. “We’re thrilled to launch Misfit Phase, which employs Misfit’s energy efficient, miniaturized Bluetooth enabled technology in a traditional watch form factor,” he says. “Watches are the fashion-credible predecessor of wearable technology, and Misfit Phase showcases both the evolution of the wearable technology space and its convergence with the world of fashion accessories.”

The device will come in six different colors, with several options with regards to customization; it is slated for availability starting on November 7th, and will cost $175.

Swiss Luxury Watchmaker TAG Heuer Announces Android Wear Collaboration with Google and Intel

Swiss Luxury Watchmaker TAG Heuer Announces Android Wear Collaboration with Google and Intel

Mar 19, 2015

In an interesting amalgamation of technology heavyweights, renown timepiece maker TAG Heuer is partnering with Intel and Google to create a smartwatch that will be powered by Intel technology and Google’s wearable initiative Android Wear.

According to a press conference that was held on March 19th at watch and jewelry confab Baselworld, the partnership looks to “create a product that is both luxurious and seamlessly connected to its wearer’s daily life — a culmination of innovation, creativity and design from Silicon Valley in California and the Watch Valley in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.”

Beyond the raw heft of the announcement itself, this is interesting in several ways. For one, getting TAG Heuer on board with the idea of making a smartwatch is pretty major. It definitely gives Android Wear much needed legitimacy in a budding wearables sub-sector. Also, it creates a potential cascade as other luxury watchmakers potentially try to add functionality to their pieces.

We can’t wait to see how this turns out.

Below is the official video of the announcement.

[Source: Intel via BBC]

Sony SmartWatch 3 Hardware Review

Sony SmartWatch 3 Hardware Review

Mar 16, 2015

Sony is back, yes. With the Smartwatch 3.

The screen itself is rectangular, with a rubber-ish black band that doesn’t separate. The main design allows for the rectangular core to be separated from the band, such that other style of bands can be used on the fly. It sports a 320×320, 16 bit color screen on a 1.6 inch (diagonal) screen. The whole watch is billed at about 2.53 ounces.

When it comes to the hardware itself, its probably easier to note which sensors are not packed into this unit. One gets GPS, gyroscope, ambient light and even a magnetometer. It rocks bluetooth, NFC and wi-fi, along with a mic, as well as being waterproof. Processor? Quad ARM A7, 1.2 GHz, with memory stats of 512 MB RAM and 4 GB eMMC. It looks safe, but does have some power under the hood.

Pairing the unit involves getting the SmartWatch 3 paired to an Android device via Android Wear, which was pretty painless. The watch does expected watch functions, as well as a host of health-related tasks, prominent of which is measuring movement. Also prominent is the Google Now functionality, which is where the built-in mic comes in handy.

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The big differentiator here is the combination of hardware and the aforementioned Android Wear. The implementation of the latter is especially interesting, as it really allows the SmartWatch 3 to be both a dual screen and a fairly independent device. There are some nice applications available for it as well, like a music player

I did like the overall utility of the device, even if I was not the biggest fan of the form factor; while the band switching functionality is pretty nice, I do think Sony could have taken a few more chances with the design. I also was not a fan of the positioning of the charging port. Additionally, Android Wear was truculent at times, and I didn’t get advertised two days of use from a charge.

As a connected health tool, I did like the product overall; if anything, it proves why we’d prefer Sony in he smartdevice sector.

Sony is back… and should stay.

ASUS Announces Android Wear-Powered ZenWatch at IFA 2014

ASUS Announces Android Wear-Powered ZenWatch at IFA 2014

Sep 3, 2014

IFA 2014 is definitely the place to be for gadget lovers. For folks dialed in to Android Wear, smart wearables and ASUS offerins, it doesn’t get better.

ASUS has announced its new Android Wear-powered smartwatch dubbed the ZenWatch.

The ZenWatch is a rectangular-faced affair, with classic strap and stainless steel frame. It features ASUS’ ZenUI overlay, scores of watch face options, and a Gorilla Glass/AMOLED display. it also expectedly serves as a smartphone companion and a health wearable.

More from the ASUS informational:

Fine Watch Craftsmanship
Exquisitely-crafted using premium materials
Sophisticated design enhanced by rose gold color layering
Genuine stitched-leather watchband and quick-release clasp design
100+ combination watch face choices to fit your mood and personality
Vivid AMOLED display and Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3

Smart Companion
Seamless ASUS ZenUI integration and enhanced functionality
Automatically unlock your phone with ASUS ZenWatch
Tap Tap and Find My Phone helps you locate your phone instantly if misplaced
Simply cover ASUS ZenWatch with your hand to mute an incoming call
ASUS Remote Camera frees users to take photos from creative angles where the viewfinder would be difficult to see.
Presentation Control enables ZenWatch to be used as a remote control and time manager when giving a business presentation or lecture

Wellness manager
Monitor and track a range of health-related statistics with the ASUS Wellness app
Measures steps taken, calories burned, activity duration, heart rate, exercise intensity and relaxation level
View an easy-to-understand relaxation score based on relaxation-level measurements

According to MobileBurn, the device will be available in select markets in Q3, and will cost about $260.

[Source: MobileBurn and ASUS]

Sony SmartWatch 2 Hardware Review

Sony SmartWatch 2 Hardware Review

Apr 21, 2014

The smartwatch space is one of those segments that one can’t afford to glance away from; when one looks back, it might be disconcerting to see the new models and proofs of concept that pop out seemingly every other second. Some companies, like Sony, are already building multiple iterations at this point. We just got the opportunity to formally look at the SmartWatch 2 a few months out of the gate, and it is an interesting ride, to be sure.

The stock hardware has improved… not that the original was lousy. The stock rubber straps didn’t exactly proclaim luxury, but the ability to get other set was a bit calming. The watch piece itself has Sony stylings all over it, with the sleek chromish angling, end-to-end screen use and covered micro-USB port on the left side.. The square face is punctuated by a the “SONY” brand name at the top and three virtual buttons (back, home and three-dot menu) at the bottom. Rounding out the look is a chrome push button on the right, that looks like a winder on a “regular” watch.

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The device is light enough to be used comfortably; I wear a business/sports watch socially, and this one feels even more natural on the wrist in comparison, so much so that it’s easy to forget. When on and in its rest state, the default watch face has dark undertones, and hitting the on button lights the face up further, and activated the home button. Anyone familiar with Android devices (or smartphones in general) should find the menu quite intuitive; tapping the home button opens up the menu, where installed apps and the settings menu reside.

Pairing the phone via bluetooth is easy, and involves (in my case) the installation of two apps from the Play Store. After this, the user has access to the specially crafted apps available… stuff like Gmail, music and Twitter can be installed via the companion Android app.

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In practice, the gadget works as one would expect. After receiving an email on my phone, a notification vibrates through the phone and a summary is posted on the screen. The notification isn’t too startling, but it isn’t shy either. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to figure out how to remove installed apps (via the device). I did like the ability to customize watch faces and bands.

The biggest barrier to adoption, is the same one facing most smartwatches in this still niche space: need. For all the cool (geek?) factor, the need for a smartphone within range might slightly curb the mobile benefits. I’d also like to see the consolidation of companion apps needed. Of course, there is no such thing like too many apps; while there are quite a few to choose from, like Agent Smith in the Matrix series, we can always do with “more.”

Still, I’d consider the SSW2 to be one of the best items in a sector that still needs some refining overall, and that Sony is positioning itself well to reap future benefits.

Pebble SmartWatch Hardware Review

Pebble SmartWatch Hardware Review

Jan 9, 2014

Wearable tech is all the new rage. From Google Glass to the Galaxy Gear, everyone seems to want a piece of the on person action. Now, sadly we haven’t seen any Android powered belts buckles or tennis shoes quite yet, but we have seen an affordable but amazing SmartWatch called the Pebble. The product of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, this independent Palo Alto, CA company developed a SmartWatch which costs way less than the Galaxy Gear but sports many of the same capabilities. Additionally, as a wrist watch, it has comfort, functionality and style.

In light of Pebble announcing the Pebble Steel at CES 2014 just recently, the regular Pebble SmartPhone is still an awesome option. A year after its initial release, the Pebble SmartWatch is available at retailers such as Best Buy or online at Amazon. It’s capable of interacting with both iOS and Android via BlueTooth, though Android is where it really takes the cake. It also comes it at a much lower cost than the Samsung SmartWatch, and even the Pebble Steel comes in about $50 less than its Samsung competition.

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The watch itself may come off as unimpressive and a cheap knock off at first. The LED watch only appears in grayscale, lacking bright colors on the display. The colors on the Pebble is on the device itself, with the outline area around the screen coming in any of the 5 colors offered. The Pebble also lacks out of box, many of the popular features that a First Party device would have, such as the ability to answer one’s phone via the watch.

But where the Pebble SmartWatch really comes to life, is through the various first and third party apps that exist for the device. The PEbble SmartWatch prides itself on being an opensource device, with information on their website as to how to develop for the watch. Many of these third party apps add in functionalities such as the ability to answer the phone, to adding a calendar, pedometer, the ability to control the music on one’s phone, or a whole mess of other features. Pandora and some other apps are also coming to the PEbble SmartWatch, as announced at CES 2014. These apps give the watch more functionalities than other wearable tech items, while still looking cooler on your wrist and your wallet.

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Setting up the device with an Android phone takes almost no time at all. Much like many BlueTooth devices, it’s important to make sure both are discoverable, but I was able to go from unboxing the phone to having it work properly to read a test text from my wife in about 5 minutes. It also has an impressive range with which it will still notify the wearer of any activity on their phone. I was able to get notification of my wife calling me from when I was across the office.

This device is capable of really giving a user a true hands free experience. The particular app I downloaded to answer the phone will actually answer the phone in speaker mode. This device will also send your emails, text messages, Google Hangout notifications and even Facebook replies to your watch. There’s also apps that will send Twitter notifications to your Pebble, as well as many other notifications and utilities. The Pebble Watch does seem to have it all.

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The Pebble SmartWatch is probably one of the better devices out there in terms of cost, functionality, usability, operations and overall cool factor. Out of the box, it may not look like much, but an open source device always has an army of ambitious and smart people behind it. The Pebble is no exception to that, boasting a wide array of difference watch faces and apps that will do just about anything. Once you get your hands on one of these devices, it may be hard to imagine what life was like without it.

You can find more information about the Pebble, or purchase it here.