Review: Nexus 7 good value, even with higher price

the new Nexus 7 tablet,

The new tablet comes with a $30 price increase over last year’s model. At $229 for the base model, it is still a bargain – and 30 percent cheaper than Apple’s $329 iPad Mini. The display is sharper and the sound is richer than the old model. There’s now a rear camera for taking snapshots. The new Nexus 7 is the first device to ship with Android 4.3, which lets you create profiles to limit what your curious and nosy kids can do on your tablet when you’re not around.Amazon.com Inc.’s $199 Kindle Fire HD is cheaper, but it doesn’t give you full access to the growing library of Android apps for playing games, checking the weather, tracking flights, reading the news, getting coupons from your favorite stores and more. The Nexus 7 does.

It’s a fine complement to your smartphone if it’s running Google’s Android, the dominant operating system on phones these days – even as Apple commands the market for tablet computers with its full-size iPad and iPad Mini. Unless you tell it not to, apps you use on the phone will automatically appear on the Nexus 7, so you can switch from device to device seamlessly. When you are signed in, bookmarks will also transfer over Google’s Chrome Web browser, as will favorite places on Google Maps.

If you were already eyeing last year’s Nexus 7 model, then go ahead and pay $30 more for the latest.

Although screen dimensions are identical, the new Nexus 7 has a higher pixel density, at 323 pixels per inch compared with 216 on the old model. Trees and other objects in the movie “Life of Pi” look sharper, as do the movie title and credits on the screen.

Sound is much better with speakers on the left and the right side of the tablet, held horizontally. Although they are technically back facing, the speakers are placed along a curved edge in such a way that sound seems to project outward and not away from you. On the old Nexus 7, I can’t even tell where the speakers are.

The new Nexus 7 also feels more comfortable in my hands. It’s 17 percent thinner and 5 percent narrower when held like a portrait. The old model was a tad too wide to grip comfortably in the palm of my hands. The new device is also 15 percent lighter, at 10.2 ounces. And the rubbery back feels smoother on the new tablet.

The new Nexus ships with a camera app, something last year’s model didn’t really need because it had only a front-facing camera, for videoconferencing. With the new rear, 5-megapixel camera, you can take photos and video of what’s in front of you. Expect to be ridiculed, though, if I see you doing that. Still, it’s not as bad as blocking someone’s view with a full-size tablet.

As for the restricted profiles that come with Android 4.3, it’s a good idea, though it still has kinks. When you set up a profile for your kid, you pick which apps to enable. Don’t want your kid to be surfing the Web unrestricted? Then keep the Chrome browser disabled. Don’t want him or her on Facebook? Keep that app disabled, too. The app store is also disabled, so Junior can’t go on a download spree. If you do allow access to a particular app, though, then it’s full access. There’s no filtering to block porn and other questionable material, for instance.

I found that some apps won’t work with restricted profiles at all, including those for Gmail and other email accounts. If you want your kids to have access to email, then you have to give them full access or enable the browser to check email over the Web. You can’t turn on just the email app.

And although the new tablet is the first to ship with Android 4.3, it’s available to download on other devices, including last year’s Nexus 7.

What the new tablet does offer is the promise of a longer battery life – up to 10 hours for Web surfing and nine hours for video streaming. Last year’s model was rated at eight hours.

There’s no question the new model is better and worth the price increase.

Choosing between the new Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini is tougher.

If you already have an iPhone, the iPad Mini will be a nice complement. You won’t have to buy music, video and apps twice, for instance. You might want to wait until this fall, though, to see whether Apple comes out with a new model.

It’s a tougher call if you have an Android phone.

By volume, the two systems have a comparable number of apps. But I’ve found that many larger app developers have made versions only for the iPhone and the iPad. The American Museum of Natural History in New York has six that work on iPads but only one on Android devices. An app to watch full episodes of CBS television shows is for Apple and Windows devices only, not Android. Meanwhile, the iDonatedIt app for tracking tax deductions has more features for Apple devices, while features that are supposed to work on Android often don’t.

Android is good in that many apps designed for a phone’s smaller screen are automatically adapted to take advantage of a tablet’s larger screen. On the iPad, apps that aren’t optimized for it are squeezed into a smaller window the size of an iPhone. Blow it up to full screen, and it looks distorted. But that’s not as glaring on the Mini as it is on the full-size iPad. And having apps automatically change their layout isn’t the same as designing them for the tablet from scratch, as is the case with the hundreds of thousands of apps optimized for the iPad.

The Nexus 7’s screen is much sharper than that on the iPad Mini, which has the non-HD display technology of the iPad 2 from 2011 – ancient in the world of mobile gadgets. The Nexus 7 is also a tad lighter, by 6 percent.

 

That said, the iPad Mini has a larger screen, measuring 7.9 inches diagonally compared with 7 inches on the Nexus. And the iPad Mini has had a rear camera from the start. The iPad Mini also has Siri, a voice assistant that is feistier than Google Now on the Nexus. If you prefer Google Now for its ability to give you information you need to know without even asking, you can download it on the Mini. You can’t get Siri on the Nexus.

If you do get the Nexus 7, it supports wireless charging, so you can get rid of the messy wiring. The device comes only with a standard microUSB charger to plug in, so you’ll have to buy a Qi-compatible wireless charger yourself.

 

pic::The new Nexus 7 tablet is shown next to an older version during a Google event in San Francisco. Photo: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

 

The $229 base model comes with 16 gigabytes of storage. For $40 more, or $269, you get twice the storage. Both will go on sale in the U.S. next Tuesday. A 32-gigabyte model with 4G cellular capability will cost $349. By contrast, the iPad Mini starts at $329. A 32-gigabyte version with 4G costs $559.

Even with the price increase, Google has Apple beaten on price. The Nexus 7 may lack the cachet and many of the apps that the iPad Mini has, but you’ll be able to do a lot with it. I hope technology companies won’t make price hikes a habit, but this one is made palatable by the device’s richer display, sound and camera.

About the Nexus 7:

The updated Nexus 7 sports a sharper, 7-inch screen and better sound through dual speakers. It now has a rear, 5-megapixel camera to complement a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. It comes with an Android update that features the ability to create restricted accounts for kids.

It also comes with a higher price tag. The base model with 16 gigabytes costs $229, or $30 more than last year’s model. A 32-gigabyte model costs $269, or $20 more. A 32-gigabyte model with 4G cellular capability will cost $349, $50 more than before.

The Wi-Fi-only models go on sale in the U.S. on Tuesday, with other countries to come. Google says it will be available at its online Play store and the following retailers: Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, Staples, Office Max, Office Depot, Amazon, Home Shopping Network, Radio Shack, J&R and B&H Photo. Google hasn’t announced a release date for the cellular version.

The device is made by AsusTek Computer Inc., working from Google’s design.

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How Samsung is beating Apple in China

Apple chief executive Tim Cook believes that “over the arc of time” China is a huge opportunity for his pathbreaking company. But time looks to be on the side of rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, which has been around far longer and penetrated much deeper into the world’s most populous country.

Samsung Galaxy S4 (L) and Apple’s iPhone 5 are seen in this illustration taken in Seoul. Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

 

 

 

Apple Inc this week said its revenue in Greater China, which also includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, slumped 43% to $4.65 billion from the previous quarter.

That was also 14% lower from the year-ago quarter. Sales were weighed down by a sharp drop in revenues from Hong Kong. “It’s not totally clear why that occurred,” Cook said on a conference call with analysts.

Neither is it totally clear what Apple’s strategy is to deal with Samsung – not to mention a host of smaller, nimbler Chinese challengers.

Today, in the war for what both sides acknowledge is the 21st century’s most important market, Samsung is whipping its American rival. The South Korean giant now has a 19% share of the $80 billion smartphone market in China, a market expected to surge to $117 billion by 2017, according to International Data Corp (IDC).

That’s 10% points ahead of Apple, which has fallen to 5th in terms of China market share.

Cook said Apple planned to double the number of its retail stores over the next two years – it currently has 8 flagship stores in China and 3 in Hong Kong. But, he added, Apple will invest in distribution “very cautiously because we want to do it with great quality.”

Samsung, with a longer history in China, now has three times the number of retail stores as Apple, and has been more aggressive in courting consumers and creating partnerships with phone operators.

It also appears to be in better position, over an arc of time, to fend off the growing assault of homegrown competitors such as Lenovo Group Ltd, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp, former company executives, analysts and industry sources say. Apple declined requests for comment for this article.

 

Varied models
Samsung’s history and corporate culture could hardly be more different than Apple’s, the iconic Silicon Valley start-up founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976.

Lee Byung-Chull started Samsung in 1938 as a noodle and sugar maker. It grew over the decades into an industrial powerhouse, or chaebol as Koreans call the family owned conglomerates that dominate the nation’s economy and are run with military-like discipline.

Apple, by contrast, became the epitome of Californian cool, an image the company revels in. That hip image translates in China – its stores are routinely packed – but hasn’t been enough to overcome the more entrenched Samsung.

A stuffy electronics bazaar in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen illustrates part of the reason why.

Samsung Galaxys and Apple iPhones of different generations sit side by side, glinting under bright display lights as vendors call out to get customers’ attention. With its varied models, Samsung smartphones outnumber iPhones at least four to one.

While Apple releases only one smartphone a year, priced at the premium end of the market, Samsung brings out multiple models annually with different specifications and at different price points in China.

And those models, analysts say, are loaded with features tailored specifically for the local market: apps such POCO.cn, the most popular photo sharing site in China, or the two slots for SIM cards (Apple offers one), which allows service from multiple cell carriers, either at home or abroad.

“The Chinese just love features. They want their phone to have 50 different things that they’re never going to use,” said Michael Clendenin, managing director of technology consultancy RedTech Advisors.

“Apple just doesn’t play that game. Unfortunately, if you want to hit the mainstream market in China, and you want a lot of market share percentage points, you have to offer the Swiss army knife of cellphones.”

Setting the pace
Analysts believe Samsung’s increasing strength in China is a critical reason behind its rival’s possible intention to introduce globally a new and cheaper iPhone model, as well as one with bigger screens – a staple of Samsung’s offerings.

Said a Samsung executive with experience in China: “We definitely think we’re setting the pace there. They are having to respond to us.”

Most audaciously, Samsung has gone after Apple not simply by offering lower priced smartphones, but by attacking its rival directly in the pricier end of the market. “We put a lot of emphasis on the high end market in China,” co-CEO JK Shin told Reuters in an interview.

Samsung launched a China-only luxury smartphone together with China Telecom marketed by actor Jackie Chan that retails for about 12,000 yuan ($2,000).

The flip phone, named “heart to the world,” is encased in a slim black and rose gold metal body. The sleek look – called “da qi” (elegantly grand) -is coveted by Chinese when they shop for cars, sofas or phones.

“There are a lot of ‘VVIP’s’ in China, and for them we launched luxury phones promoted by Jackie Chan. This helps target niche customers and build brand equity,” said Lee Young-hee, executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile business.

While Samsung won’t sell millions of these smartphones, the creation of the phone in conjunction with a carrier reinforces Samsung’s willingness to go local – and tap into niche markets.

“The key point is that Samsung consistently adapts to the local market,” said TZ Wong, a Singapore-based technology analyst with IDC.

Apple’s latest mobile operating system offers links to popular Chinese applications like Sina’s microblogging platform Weibo, but the application itself must be downloaded onto the phone. On all of Samsung’s entries, it’s already there.

“People know intellectually that Samsung is from Korea, but when it comes to the messaging there is always a local face,” Wong said.

Retail presence
Samsung opened its first office in China in 1985 in Beijing – an era in which it was all but inconceivable that Apple and Samsung would end up in one of the world’s most intense corporate grudge matches.

Like other South Korean chaebols, Samsung was a first mover in China, using the market primarily as a base to produce electronics for the world.

In contrast, Apple’s big push in China came only recently, with the advent of the smartphone age roughly five years ago. The early entry gave Samsung an undeniable edge, and it adapted fast to a rapidly changing environment.

By the mid-1990s, with the economy booming, Samsung made the strategic decision to treat the Chinese market not just as a production base, but to start marketing to China higher-priced electronics, said Nomura researcher Choi Chang-hee, who wrote a history of Samsung’s experience in China.

That shift has meant Samsung’s retail presence in China far outstrips Apple’s. Aside from selling via the distribution outlets of the three major telecom carriers, Samsung also has a strong retail presence through its partners Gome Electrical Appliances and Suning Commerce Group, as well as its own “Experience” stores and small retailers all over the country.

Apple works through the same channels, but its relatively late entry means it has a significantly smaller presence. Samsung, for example, has more than 200 official distributors and resellers in Guangzhou province, while Apple lists 95.

Over the last two decades, Samsung has also taken pains to build relationships with Chinese government officials and -perhaps more critically – the three major telecom carriers.

The notion of the importance of connections – or “guanxi” -in China is occasionally overrated in business. Not, according to Samsung’s Shin, in this case.

“It’s our core policy to keep friendly relationships with the operators,” he said. In China, each carrier uses a different technology and that requires Samsung “to tweak our smartphones to their request.” “It’s not easy,” Shin said, “but we do this to be more operator friendly.”

Contrast that with the ongoing negotiations Apple has had with China Mobile, the largest cellphone operator. For years the two sides have been unable to come to an agreement on revenue sharing, effectively precluding Apple from hundreds of millions of potential customers.

Scrutiny from the top
Samsung’s reach extends higher than just the CEOs of the top state-owned telecom companies. Top executives have met each of the last several Chinese leaders, most recently Xi Jinping, who spent time in April with vice chairman Jay Y Lee, son of KH Lee, Samsung Electronics chairman.

“What surprised me most,” said Lee later, “was that they (Chinese leadership) know very well about Samsung. They even have a group studying us.”

The Chinese government has also made clear it’s well aware of Apple – though not always in a good way. In April, state media bashed Apple for its “arrogance,” protesting among other things that its current 1-year service warranty was insufficient. Apple initially dismissed those criticisms, but Cook later apologized to Chinese consumers.

Samsung’s success in China has it roots, one former executive said, in a previous obsession for the company: its desire not to replicate the mistakes made by Japanese rivals.

“Samsung spent a lot of time benchmarking Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic,” said Mark Newman, who spent six years in Samsung’s global strategy group and is now an industry analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in Hong Kong.

“One of the things that came out of that is the realization that the insular approach has its drawbacks, and so Samsung has made an effort over the last 10 years to be much more global.”

This strategy of decentralization is plainly evident in China, he said, home now to more Samsung employees than any country outside South Korea.

Fighting high and low
Samsung now leads in both low-end and high-end segments in China, according to IDC, and its logic of going after both ends of the market is straightforward. In China, where the average wage is roughly $640 per month, many users looking to upgrade from feature phones to smartphones cannot afford Apple.

By bracketing the market with multiple models, Samsung can breed deep relationships with customers, many of whom, market research shows, trade up to more expensive models as they get older.

Playing high and low also positions Samsung to fend off the intensifying competition from Chinese firms such as Lenovo and Huawei and literally hundreds of smaller local players.

“That’s where the next battle for Samsung will be fought,” said Newman. “We’ll have to see if Apple does introduce a new, cheaper model for China – and the world.”

 

Nokia unveils Lumia 625

The Lumia 625 is a low-spec, low-cost oversized handset that could well have mass appeal.

Rumors and, of course full-blown leaks — including press shots and specification sheets — hinted strongly that the “Something Big” that Nokia was set to launch was an affordable Lumia phablet. And low and behold, at 9am UK time Tuesday morning, the Finnish phonemaker unveiled the Lumia 625 — the world’s first Windows Phone phablet.

 

Despite being the biggest Nokia to date, the 625 will sit rather low in the deck in terms of performance. This is a low-to-mid-range device with a large 4.7-inch IPS LCD (i.e., low resolution) display, a dual core processor, half a GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage — which at least can be expanded to 64GB via microSD card (7GB of free SkyDrive cloud storage also comes as standard).

 

The phablet’s 5-megapixel rear-facing camera will still pack quite a punch though, and results will be even better still thanks to Nokia’ suite of apps, features and supporting technologies. What’s more, it also supports 4G LTE for the fastest mobile internet connections.

The comparatively low specs suggest that Nokia is dipping its toes in the phablet pond: the device won’t cost curious consumers an arm and a leg and if the device doesn’t catch on in the way that Nokia hopes, it won’t be too much further out of pocket.

The latest rumors point to Apple also getting ready to explore larger iPhone and even iPad screen sizes.

It’s only 11 days since Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop took to the stage in New York to wow the assembled crowd with the photo-taking capabilities of the Lumia 1020, the world’s first 41-megapixel camera smartphone and one that redefines smartphone photography.

 

Nokia Lumia 625. Photo: AFP

 

In recent days, though the company reported further financial losses, it has also shown that there is clearly space for a third operating system when it comes to handheld mobile devices. Nokia’s range of Windows 8 phones are outselling BlackBerry, with 7.4 million in the last quarter compared with 6.8 million for the Canadian firm (and Nokia’s figures don’t include HTC’s and Samsung’s Windows Phone handset sales), and almost a year after their launch, some of the bigger app developers are finally coming on board.

There still may be no sign of Instgram or any of Google’s services, but a number of big names, including Flipboard have confirmed that Windows Phone 8 apps will be coming shortly, while earlier this month Bloomberg announced that it has launched an exclusive ‘hub’ app for Nokia’s Lumia range, giving users access to everything from news and video to tips sharing and stock market analytics tools.

With the Lumia 625, which will come in a range of colors including orange, green, yellow, white and black, the company now has yet another flavor of Windows Phone to offer potential consumers from China to the US to Europe who are willing to make the jump from Android or Apple or who are moving from feature phones to smartphones for the first time.

And while potential owners will need bigger hands and deeper pockets to carry the device, they won’t need to be particularly strong as it only weighs 158g. Although final prices will depend on network carriers and contracts, the device is valued at €220 and is set to launch in China, Europe, Asia Pacific, India, Middle East, Africa and Latin America in Q3 2013.

 

to watch video click here::http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GPQqBZKjgig

Canon testing 75-megapixel camera: report

A monster image processor could be connected to a 4K ultra-high-definition screen in Canon’s next flagship professional DSLR camera.
The report, courtesy of Photography Bay, says that the camera could be revealed this year ahead of an official 2014 launch. The company’s EOS range of cameras, alongside long-time competitor Nikon’s D models, have helped define, build and innovate the professional digital photography market for nearly 20 years.

CMOS Sensor design. Photo: AFP/Canon

 

However, as the performance of other devices, from ‘hybrid’ mirrorless cameras to smartphones such as Nokia’s 41-megapixel Lumia 1020 cameraphone start to catch up on the once-untouchable brand, the company clearly feels it needs to launch something ‘game changing’ in order to keep professionals and enthusiastic amateur photographers engaged and focused on its wares.

The company’s current flagship EOS camera only sports a 21-megapixel sensor (though the company does have 50- and 120-megapixel sensors that it uses in other cameras that are currently too big for a DSLR) but by more than tripling the number of megapixels, Canon would overtake Nikon (biggest image sensor – 36 megapixels) and could bring a camera capable of shooting still images in never-before-seen detail and recording video in full Ultra High Definition format too. Camera Bay’s source claims that the camera’s rear-side display boasts a “shockingly high resolution.”

Earlier this month, in an interview with Bloomberg, Nikon’s president, Makoto Kimura, revealed that the company was planning to reinvent the camera as it attempted to fight back against the tide of smartphones and other devices. “We want to create a product that will change the concept of cameras. It could be a non-camera consumer product.”

Explaining that the company is working to “find an answer” to the change in the business environment caused by the smartphone explosion, Kimura would not be drawn on the subject of whether or not Nikon intended to build its own smartphone but did say that the device the company is planning “could be a non-camera consumer product.”

Although Photography Bay writer Eric Reagan stresses that his Canon source is reliable he also urges caution as Canon, like Apple, has a history of field-testing technologies and innovative new designs that never make it to market.

Verizon unveils three Droid phones from Motorola

Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile service provider, on Tuesday announced three new phones under its Droid smartphone brand from Google Inc’s Motorola and said that Motorola would be its exclusive Droid phone vendor going forward.

The phones, the Droid Mini, Droid Ultra and Droid Maxx will go on sale for $99, $199 and $299 for customers who sign a two year contract and will be available in Verizon stores August 20, according to Verizon Wireless.

The latest Droid line-up marks the first phone range that Motorola has designed since it was bought by Google in 2012. It will be followed in little over a week by the August 1 unveiling of the Moto X, a hotly anticipated smartphone from Motorola.

Verizon Wireless and Motorola launched the first phones under the Droid brand for phones based on Google Android software in 2009, at a time when rival AT&T Inc(T.N) still had exclusive rights to sell the Apple Inc iPhone.

The Droid brand helped to resuscitate a struggling Motorola at the time as Verizon Wireless supported the device with a massive marketing campaign.

The exclusivity agreement with Motorola could be a blow for phone makers including HTC Corp, whose devices have also carried the Droid brand in the past as have devices from Korea’s Samsung Electronics.

Verizon Wireless Vice President of Marketing Jeff Dietel said that since Droid phones should only include its “elite” phones based on Google’s Android software it wanted a manufacturer “that matched all the expectations” for unique hardware and services.

Dietel said that his company would still carry Android phones from vendors besides Motorola.

Rick Osterloh, Motorola’s senior vice president of product management, declined to comment on how the upcoming Moto X phone will differ from Droid phones and who will sell that device.

The lowest price Droid phone the Mini is a compact device with a 4.3 inch display. Motorola boasted that its mid-priced phone in the range, the Ultra, is the skinniest smartphone that can run on high-speed Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks.

It claimed that its Maxx phone has the best battery life of any LTE phone on the market. It can be used for as long as 48 hours without being charged, compared with a previous version of the device which boasted 32 hours of battery life.

Verizon said the full retail price would be $499 for the Mini, $599 for the Ultra and $699 for the Maxx.

Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon Communications(VZ.N) and Vodafone Group Plc(VOD.L).

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Pebble watch is a great way to be bugged

You have a cellphone, maybe a tablet. Sometimes you lug around a laptop. Do you really need one more gadget on you?
Yes, you do. You need a smart watch. At least, that’s what I learned after I got the Pebble, a $150 watch that connects wirelessly to iPhones and Android smartphones to notify you of incoming calls, texts and emails.

 

The Pebble has a lot of rough edges, but it does a good job of demonstrating the potential of “wearable” computing. Apple has filed patents that demonstrate it’s working on a watch, and other “smart” watches are proliferating.

The Pebble has impeccable underdog credibility as the brain child of a 26-year-old Canadian entrepreneur who struggled to find money to make it until he posted his project on the fundraising site Kickstarter. There, it was a runaway success, raising more than $10 million in less than a month from nearly 70,000 friends and strangers.

What’s great about the Pebble isn’t that it’s particularly smart on its own. Considering that it’s a watch with the processing power of a cellphone from 2008, it really doesn’t do much out of the box. In fact, it does less than many sports watches; you can set alarms, but it doesn’t come with a timer.

The watch qualifies as a “smart” device because you can download and install applications, such as a timer. So far, the apps are pretty rudimentary. Apart from the timer, the only app I bothered to install is one that walks you through a popular seven-minute workout routine.

The Pebble’s real use is as an extension of the smartphone, a replacement for the ring signal.

Think about it: how many times have you missed calls and texts because the ringer was off, and you didn’t feel the vibration because the phone wasn’t on you? Or you forgot to turn the ringer off, and it rang at the wrong time? These things used to happen a lot to me. The Pebble put an end to that.

When you get a call, text, email or calendar reminder, the Pebble vibrates. You can set it to provide you with Facebook notifications, too. Because it’s strapped to your wrist, it’s a signal you can’t miss, yet it’s unnoticeable to anyone else. After a few days, I turned off the cellphone’s ringer and vibrating alert – and left them off. The Pebble’s vibrating alert was right for every situation.

The Pebble also gives me the freedom to distance myself from the phone. Rather than carrying the bulky thing in my pocket so I could feel it vibrating, I leave it in my bag. At home, I leave it on the charging stand in the foyer.

The Bluetooth wireless connection between the phone and the watch works fine throughout my small New York apartment. The company says the range is 20 to 30 feet. It worked at longer distances in my test, but I wouldn’t count on it maintaining a connection throughout a multilevel home.

 

 

 

 

The Pebble doesn’t work flawlessly with every phone, so buyer beware. It worked fine with a Kyocera Torque, a Samsung Galaxy Nexus and a Motorola Razr M. All of them use Google’s Android software. With a fourth Android phone, the HTC One, the connection to the watch dropped many times a day, and it wouldn’t reconnect automatically once it dropped. That made the Pebble pretty useless. A colleague tested the watch with her iPhone 4 and found that while it maintained the connection fine when the watch and phone were close by, it wouldn’t reconnect automatically if they got separated and then reunited. That was annoying.

With the right phones, the only thing I had to worry about was turning off the connection between the phone and the watch at night, so it wouldn’t buzz me in bed with incoming email. Yes, I’ve actually started wearing the watch to bed. The vibrating alarm wakes me up without disturbing anyone else in the room, and I never have to fumble for the alarm on the nightstand.

If every buzz from the watch sent me scrambling for my phone, the setup would be pretty annoying. But the watch’s stamp-sized screen shows the first few lines of every incoming message, or the name and number of the caller, so a glance at the watch reveals if the message is one to ignore or get on quickly. You still have to fish out the phone to reply, though. The watch has only four buttons, and there’s no way to type on it.

The watchmaker calls the black-and-white screen “e-ink.” That sounds like it’s a paper-like display of the kind found on Amazon’s monochrome Kindle e-readers, but that’s not the case. The Pebble screen is a liquid-crystal display that doesn’t need a backlight to be legible in indoor or outdoor light, which helps save battery power. There is a backlight that kicks in whenever a button is pushed, so the watch face is legible in darkness, too.

You can pick from a dozen digital watch faces and flip between them using the watch buttons. Some of them are more amusing than useful, such as one that shows the time in binary numbers. Some are animations of analog faces. One shows 4:20 written out as “four twenty.”

What’s baffling – and a major downside to the Pebble – is that none of the watch faces have the basic indicators we expect from a smart device: whether it’s connected and whether it needs charging. You need at least five button presses to reveal the connection status. One press will get you to a battery indicator, but it will only tell you if you battery is low. It doesn’t tell you when it will die.

The battery lasts for about a week, but there’s plenty of variability, so I wouldn’t be comfortable just setting a reminder to recharge the watch every Monday. The manufacturer says a full charge takes about two hours, but if you’re not keeping track of the time, the watch doesn’t help you: It doesn’t tell you when the battery is full so you can stop charging.

The battery life is bit disappointing. Six years ago, I tried a Sony Ericsson watch that connected to a phone and lasted three weeks on a charge. But the unit weighed nearly half a pound because of its big battery and metal body, and it had only a one-line digital screen. The rest of the face was given over to an analog display. Overall, it was far less useful, and the weight made it uncomfortable. Today, there’s a competing smart watch called the Cookoo that claims to last a year on a button cell battery because it takes full advantage of a new low-energy Bluetooth technology.

The Pebble is light but chunky. It’s thick enough that it gets caught in tight shirt cuffs, and it looks odd on a narrow wrist, like most women have.

The “lens,” the watch’s window pane, is made of tough plastic. It’s not as hard as the glass covers of top smartphones and watches, and it took me just two weeks to scuff it, though the damage was hardly noticeable.

It’s rare for a new type of gadget to find a place in my life, but the Pebble did just that. I’m hoping it will improve through software updates, but if it doesn’t, it’s still a keeper – at least as long it works with the phone I’m using.

With more smart watches on the way, the Pebble is a good portent for the field – a sign that computing can get even more useful if it gets close to our skin. A lot of people have gotten out of the habit of wearing watches and use their phones to tell the time instead. The Pebble demonstrates that there’s still life in the watch, when it works with the phone.

 

you can watch video here:::::http://vimeo.com/pebble/2013video

 

Fruit Peels may Now Help Purify Water

An Indian origin scientist, in his recent study, discovered how fruit peels could be used to purify water, a breakthrough that may help millions get access to clean drinking water.

 Fruit Peels may Now Help Purify Water

 

The team, led by Ramakrishna Mallampati, found that tomato and apple peels act like a sponge in polluted water and help in “vastly reducing levels of heavy metals, pesticides and dyes”, the Straits Times reported Thursday.

The two-year study showed that the peel of eight tomatoes can remove heavy metal ions such as lead from a litre of water within a period of one hour.

The findings can help nearly 800 million people without access to clean water to get safer drinking water at a low cost.

According to Mallampati, an alumnus of India’s University of Pune, the results can help a vast number of people living in remote areas without access to water purification devices and people living in villages with groundwater contaminated by industrial pollution.

Mallampati, a researcher in material chemistry, is doing his Ph.D in the NUS on “synthesis and characterisation of novel materials for potential applications including water treatment and catalysis”.

Source-IANS