Samsung's latest phablet, the Galaxy Note 3, hasn't gotten any phatter, though it's has gotten slightly larger. And it's trying to be more stylish, too.
The new device offers a slightly larger display than its predecessor, the Note 2, but in a slimmer and lighter package. It also boasts an improved camera, upgraded processor and an enhanced S Pen stylus, as well as these specs:
5.7-inch, full high-definition 1080p screen
Dimensions: 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3mm
Weight: 168 grams
2.3 GHz Quad-Core processor (LTE) or 1.9GHz Octa Core CPU (3G)
32 or 64 GB storage
microSD support up to 64GB
13 megapixel camera with LED flash, 4K video recording
New textured design featuring a leather-like back panel with edge stitching
The pre-launch rumors about the Note 3 appear to have panned out for the most part. Samsung's focus on exterior hardware design clearly reflects its answer to criticism that the company favors "cheap and plasticky" devices. The Note 3 comes with beveled edges and a textured, leatherish back panel—one Samsung calls a "soft and textured-touch" cover—that's available in a range of colors.
See also: With Its Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, Samsung Officially Enters The 'Arm Race'
The S Pen also comes with a range of new stylus-driven features for notetaking, clip-saving and organization—including Action Memo, Scrapbook, Screen Write and S Finder.
In addition to the Note 3, Samsung debuted the Note's larger sibling, the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) tablet, as well as its new wearable Galaxy Gear. The Note 3 will be available on U.S. carriers AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular, Verizon, and T-Mobile, launching on September 25 in more than 140 countries.
The fitness applications available on today's announced Galaxy Gear can turn the smartwatch into a fitness tracker.
See also With Its Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, Samsung Formally Enters The 'Arm Race'
The Galaxy Gear, a smartwatch that connects with Samsung's Galaxy devices, will feature over 70 compatible applications, including some popular fitness apps.
MyFitnessPal, an application that tracks nutrition and exercise to help users achieve fitness goals, comes pre-loaded on the Galaxy Gear. Many of the features smartphone users are accustomed to will also be available on the smartwatch, including monitoring calories; diet and exercise; tracking activity and scanning a food item’s barcode to automatically log the nutritional information.
RunKeeper tracks your workouts by monitoring your distance, speed and calories burned and will be available for the Galaxy Gear. While the application displays activity, it can be inconvenient to reach for a smartphone to check progress while on a jog. Integration with smartwatches will make it easier for runners to check progress hands free in real-time. RunKeeper is already available on Pebble, one of Samsung’s competitors in the smartwatch market.
The fitness tracker Runtastic Pro will also be ready for the Galaxy Gear. The application keeps track of all aspects of your workout like heart rate, types of exercise, time and training plans.
For users who prefer to use native technology, the Galaxy Gear has a built-in accelerometer and pedometer, according to T3.
By integrating some of the smartphone's most popular fitness applications, the Galaxy Gear positions itself as a competitor to wearable fitness trackers like Jawbone Up and Nike Fuel Band. It eliminates the need for an additional wearable devices and combines the function of a smartphone and the convenience of a fitness tracker.
See also Galaxy Gear Gets Social With Integrated Apps
However, with the hefty price of $299, users might not be inclined to replace their existing wearables with a smartwatch. New users, however, may be attracted to the multi-function capabilities of the Gear, such as social apps, enough to make the leap.
Barrett Brown, a kinda sorta former spokesperson for the hacker collective Anonymous, and his lawyers will go silent now that a federal judge has ordered them to pipe down. Brown faces up to 100 years in prison on 17 charges that include allegedly threatening a FBI agent, concealing evidence, and linking out to stolen credit card information
Samsung's Galaxy Gear is the first of the major smartwatches expected this year, but it has a big problem. It can't possibly be a hit consumer gadget—not while it's tethered to Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 “phablet.” (Or worse, its newest Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet.)
Fortunately for users, Samsung says it plans to open up the Gear to other Samsung phones, and even those made by other companies. For now, though, would-be Gear users face some very limited options.
Why? Because the Note 3 is a smartphone so big that it defies normal definition. It has a 5.7-inch screen, comes with its own stylus (called the S Pen) and is generally awkward to handle. To put it as politely as possible, the Note 3 is not for everybody.
But to use the Gear, you currently have to pair it with the Note 3 to access cellular data, transfer messages and launch apps. Without a paired smartphone, the Gear isn't much more than a watch that can take pictures, track your exercise and run apps that don’t require a data connection.
So why limit the Gear to working with a huge phablet? Samsung didn't really have a good answer to that question, though it says it's working on a solution.
Not The Note!
Samsung says the Gear won’t always be exclusive to the Note 3, nor will it always tied exclusively to Samsung Galaxy smartphones. The company plans to eventually allow other smartphones to pair with the Gear, making it a much more universal and appealing device. Want to be able to pair your cool new HTC One or Moto X to the Gear? Maybe even the iPhone? Samsung says that's in the works.
Why can’t Galaxy Gear connect to other smartphones right now? It's not necessarily some sinister plot from Samsung to make you buy more of its gadgets (though that's likely part of it). The more straightforward answer lies in Bluetooth.
Samsung uses Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (also known as Bluetooth Smart) to pair the Note 3 and Galaxy Gear. The specific functionality that makes this particular Bluetooth connection work is found both in the latest version of Android (Jelly Bean 4.3) and in unique application programming interfaces that Samsung uses to launch apps from the Note 3 to Galaxy Gear.
According to Samsung director of product marketing Ryan Bidan, it's only a matter of time before Galaxy Gear is compatible with other devices.
Samsung's Ryan Bidan shows off the Galaxy Note 3
“Right now the specific APIs and functionality are tied to the Galaxy Note 3. For obvious reasons we are looking for additional devices to support it,” Bidan said. “We will announce those when they come, but right now it is Galaxy Note 3 specific.”
Bidan said that it is only a matter of time before the Galaxy Gear is compatible with other smartphones as the engineers hurry to build interoperability with Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S4 and other Android devices, including those from rival manufacturers. (I was waving a Moto X at Bidan when I asked him about this.)
His response at greater length:
[I]t is just the timetable of bringing that software to other devices. It is nothing other than engineering work to do it.... Part of that functionality is tied to some updates in Android 4.3. So we are working to bring 4.3 to all those devices as well and so that is definitely one of the factors influencing adoption.
We were working to make sure that we had the right engineering to do it on the Galaxy Note 3. So, here we are at the launch of the Galaxy Note 3 and here is Galaxy Gear. There is more to come, for sure.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear, designed with fitness tracking in mind, has prompted a frenzy of enthusiasm among app developers.
But the Gear's announcement isn't the end of what ReadWrite has dubbed the "arm race"—the battle among computing devices for space on your wrist. It's just the very beginning.
And for creators of apps that aim to connect to these devices, the question isn't which one to bet on. The question is how they'll connect to as many as possible.
Wrist Real Estate
I've been critical of wrist-based wearables in the past, partly because of my distaste for watches in general. But the EB Sync Burn I've been wearing in recent weeks has led me to rethink that.
That's because the Sync Burn doesn't just sit on my wrist: It actually makes use of biological signals to track my heart rate. A smartphone in my pocket can't do that.
To justify its place on the wrist, a smartwatch must do more than just display notifications and make phone calls. It need to actually displace other devices, consolidating our gadget load down into fewer devices.
That's what the iPhone did: It replaced phones, cameras, MP3 players, and PDAs with a single device. Other smartphones folllowed that model.
Smartwatches must do the same act of collapsing multiple gadgets into one. Standalone fitness trackers, like those made by Fitbit and Jawbone, are likely targets. (So, too, is the Sync Burn and similar devices, once smart watches incorporate heart-rate detection.)
Multiple Devices, Many Platforms
Unfortunately for developers, it seems unlikely that the smartwatch space will winnow itself down the way smartphones did to two dominant platforms, Apple's iOS and Google's Android. So developers should prepare for a panoply of devices, and aim to make their apps and the services they connect to as open as possible.
For some, that's already happening. Jason Jacobs, the CEO of RunKeeper, a fitness-tracking app, tells me that he's seeing heart-rate monitors hit the market that connect to his app that he and his team hadn't heard of.
"There was no partnership or formal integration," he says. "They just worked."
MapMyFitness, a rival app maker, has been pushing more formal partnerships, integrating with a wide variety of devices, including Fitbit's and Polar's lines of activity trackers, as well as many others.
Runtastic, meanwhile, has been making its own branded fitness-tracking devices to integrate with its app and website. But like RunKeeper, it's also launching a Gear app.
Consumers face a morass of choices: broadly functional smart watches with some fitness features; specialized fitness devices that may or may not connect with their favorite services; and vertically integrated hardware/software/services combos, like those from Runtastic and Pear Sports.
May The Most Open Win The Arm Race
App developers, already strained by developing for iOS, Android, and the Web, could go broke if they do one-off implementations for every device around—especially without any certainty over which ones will prove to be winners.
Rather than delivering monolithic apps, they'll have to break their software down into distinctive services that they can efficiently deliver on smaller screens. They'll need to define new application programming interfaces—if not for the general public, then at least for themselves, so that their own coders can plug each new hardware platform into those services.
But it's even better (and cheaper) if they make the hardware manufacturers do the work by publishing open software and data specs—and having fitness trackers and smartwatches compete on the basis of how widely they connect.
The digital health space seems poised for a Darwinian explosion of devices and apps—and a brutal competition between them. May the most open and connected win.
Samsung just announced its Galaxy Gear smartwatch ... and the neurons in the early adopter lobe of my brain lit up like a Christmas tree. One look into its deep black 320-pixel square abyss and I was lost in a futuristic fantasy world, one where people don't cower from me like the Terminator when I wear Google Glass—and one in which people need things like smartwatches. (Being me, naturally I need all of them.)
See also: Galaxy Gear: The Dumb Thing About Samsung's Smartwatch
As my prefrontal cortex wrestled those overstimulated brainparts into submission, I was left with one question: can anyone really need a smartwatch? Given the Galaxy Gear's smartphone-sized price tag, let's check the most important facts for a moment, shall we?
Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch:
$299, on sale in the U.S. in October
Compatibility: At launch, only the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Tab 10.1
1.63-inch Super AMOLED display, 320 x 320 resolution
Six wristband colors
A 1.9 MP camera
A speaker and two microphones
25 hour battery life
$150, available now
Compatibility: Any Android or iOS device with Bluetooth
1.26-inch black and white e-paper display, 144 x 168 resolution
5 wristband colors
3 axis accelerometer with gesture detection
Battery lasts about 1 week (168 hours)
A Pebble Owner Reflects
My Pebble smartwatch was an impulse buy. After missing the original Kickstarter campaign, I forgot about the buzzy little wristbound thing altogether.
But a few weeks ago, far afield from the urban technology bustle, I noticed a whole gaggle of Pebbles hanging limply on a Best Buy rack in some kind of indiscriminate "quantified self" aisle. I hate Best Buy with the fire of one thousand suns. But a gadget in the hand is worth a pre-order in the bush, so I bought one.
See also: Samsung: Galaxy Gear Will Eventually Play Nice With Rival Phones
My biggest surprise so far? I actually love it. But that doesn't mean I needed one—or that anyone does. Sure, we arguably don't need any of consumer tech that we gobble up, but the smartwatch concept seems to weigh in far heavier on the side of convenience than that of utility.
Given that, a smartwatch really needs to be, you know, convenient. The Galaxy Gear boasts a measly battery life of a single day. That alone isn't just a strike against the Galaxy Gear—it renders the device an absurdity considering the way that we humans want to use things like wristwatches. Like, every day.
More Smartwatch Bang For Your Buck
After testing one for a few weeks, I realize that a smartwatch is a strange little contraption. Though handy at times, it's largely superfluous. If I hadn't needed a new watch—like, a dumb watch that just tells time, I mean—I probably couldn't justify having one at all.
Being roughly the same price as a nice dumbwatch, the Pebble lays some solid groundwork for the emerging wearable category. But the Galaxy Gear? At $299, twice the price of the Pebble, the purchase would be nigh impossible to justify. The Pebble isn't overpriced, but it isn't cheap enough for me to recommend to my non tech-obsessed friends, either.
Smartwatches inject our day to day lives with a couple ounces of sweet, sweet convenience. And that's pretty much it. I use my Pebble to get texts and emails so I don't have to reach for my Nexus 4 or subject the world to Google Glass. I use it to flip songs on Rdio on the speakers in my living room. I look at the time. It's a nifty little gadget, but it is by no means essential.
All Eyes On Apple
At its big event next week, Apple may well release an iWatch. In true Apple fashion, the smartwatch concept will likely see its most refined iteration to date. Still, until we can cram $299 worth of technology onto a platform the size of a postage stamp, a smartwatch priced like a full-fledged smartphone will remain a luxury perched in the upper echelons of early adopterdom.
Next week, if Apple really wants to pop the cork on the smartwatch craze for mainstream consumers, it'll price an iWatch even lower than the $150 iPod nano, which wasn't too shabby as a modded proto-smartwatch. If Apple doesn't do it, I guess we can sit back and wait for Amazon or Google to get interested and take smartwatch pricing to the chopping block, like those companies did with tablets. Or better yet, we can resist the smartwatch siren song altogether and forgo plugging in yet another device at night so it can greet us bright and early.
Until the price is right, that is.
Yahoo launched its new logo today. The company is sticking with a design similar to its former logo, but giving it a "more modern" look with san serif font and noticeable dimension changes.
The logo had not been updated in 18 years. The announcement comes on the final day of the "30 Days of Change" campaign as the company has been releasing a potential new logo everyday.