Monday, July 31, 2017

First look: the Fitbit Charge 2 is a wearable fitness band with a great smartphone app

Fitbit Charge 2Image: Fitbit
The bad news is that my Microsoft Band 2 has died a painful death: despite being only 18 months old, the band has split and the battery won't recharge. The good news is that I've just replaced it with a Fitbit Charge 2, picked up on Amazon Prime Day for around half the price: £88.39 (£64.49 plus £12.90 VAT) compared with the £169.99 I paid for my Band 2. I'm hoping this one will last longer.....
The bad news is that the Fitbit Charge 2's small monochrome screen is no match for the Microsoft Band 2's delightful AMOLED color display, or for the user interface that made it such a pleasure to use. The good news is that the Charge 2 provides better sleep and weight tracking - two of my main uses - and has a vastly superior smartphone app. (In both cases, I only used the apps on Android and Windows 10.)
For example, Fitbit's app shows how your actual sleep patterns match your target hours, and adds a trend-line for weight tracking.
There's nothing to choose in terms of comfort: I had no problems wearing both bands all the time. However, the Charge 2's standard strap is fiddly to remove, and I will probably try one of the alternatives. This is possible because the Fitbit is a self-contained unit like, say, an Apple Watch. The Band 2's strap is integrated and unremovable, because of the design decision to put the charger connection at the end of the band, instead of integrating it into the core unit.
The Charge 2 wins on battery life, which reflects its smaller, simpler, monochrome display. The Band 2 needed charging every other day. The Charge 2 goes five whole days - or slightly more - on a single charge.
Fitbit dashboard on the Android app
Fitbit dashboard on the Android app
The dashboard on Fitbit's Android app provides easy access to well-presented data displays.
Image: Fitbit
The Band 2 wins hugely on notifications. The Charge 2 can vibrate briefly when you get a call, text or calendar event notification. After that, you have a minute to check it before it disappears, and it only shows the first 40 characters. It's also somewhat tedious to set up notifications, and I suspect many users won't bother.
Both the Band 2 and the Charge 2 include heart-rate monitors. I can't say which of them is more accurate, only that the Charge 2 says my resting heart rate is higher than the Band 2 - typically 69 rather than 62. (Around 53 is typical for my age.)
The Charge 2 is slightly less useful as a wristwatch. Both bands are supposed to turn on the display when you twist your wrist to check the time. The Band 2 always worked and the Charge 2 doesn't. (Mind you, it worked every time I tested it while writing this paragraph. Maybe it has an emergent AI... )
And as mentioned, the Charge 2 is much better for sleep tracking: it seems more accurate, and the app offers many more useful data displays.
The Charge 2 doesn't provide the Band 2's option to manually turn sleep tracking on and off, but the automatic detection seems to work perfectly. Unlike the Band 2, it hasn't once registered a TV session as "sleep". But perhaps it goes a little too far in the other direction.
The Band 2 is far too quick to register that you're asleep, typically within three or four minutes. It also claimed I didn't wake up in the night, even when I remember being awake enough to check the time. By contrast, the Charge 2 claims I keep waking up, even if I'm sure I was fast asleep.
On one night, for example, the Charge 2 reckons I woke up a dozen times and spent 27 minutes awake. Despite Fitbit's disclaimer, I think I'd have noticed. Either way, I appear to be performing fairly well. Fitbit gives a benchmark range of 15-31 per cent awake time for men my age and I'm averaging 9 per cent.
The Charge 2 also reported 2 hours 25 minutes of REM sleep, 3 hours 13 minutes of Light sleep, and 1 hour 5 minutes of Deep sleep that night. Whether this means anything is open to argument, but at least the benchmarks assure me I'm getting more sleep - and slightly more deep sleep - than average.
The numbers you get from fitness bands may be of little practical use, but the benchmark comparisons are somewhat reassuring. If my numbers were radically different from other men of my age, I'd probably consult my doctor...
As I said in my Microsoft Band 2 review, fitness bands are gamification devices, not medical grade monitoring products. They're a way of changing your behavior by setting goals and trying to beat them.
From this point of view, both bands have been a modest success. I'm getting more sleep, and I've lost a couple of kilos. The one area where I've failed is in doing a healthy amount of walking. In fact, I reduced my Charge 2 target from 5,000 steps a day to 3.500 just so I could see more wins than losses. Still, if taking a pointless walk around the block will earn me a star then I'll do it, so even failing is better than nothing.
All round, the Fitbit Charge 2 seems like a good product at a reasonable price. I'll miss the Surface Band 2, but I no longer think I'd buy a Band 3 if Microsoft changed its mind about making one. The device might be better, but it would have to improve the app dramatically to win me back.

Samsung’s new modem could make the Galaxy S9 the fastest smartphone yet

Samsung’s next smartphones could get even faster. The company announced that the next version of its LTE modem for its Exynos chipsets now supports up to six carrier aggregation (6CA), allowing it to hypothetically reach download speeds of up to 1.2Gbps.
For a brief recap, carrier aggregation is a method where LTE speeds are increased by using multiple LTE bands across the spectrum at the same time, resulting in increased bandwidth speeds. The more bands supported — in Samsung’s case, that’s up from the modem built into the S8’s Exynos 9 processor, which offers 5CA — the higher the theoretical data rate. In other words: while the Galaxy S8 might have been the first gigabit smartphone, its successor could offer up to 20 percent faster data speeds due to the new tech.
Of course, supporting 6CA on Samsung’s side of things is only half of the solution — carriers will need to switch on support for 6CA on their end, too. As of earlier this year, carriers like Sprint had just added support for three-carrier aggregation, so there’s still a long way to go before Samsung’s new modem has its potential fully realized. Samsung is planning on producing processors with the new modem by the end of this year, making it a pretty likely bet that we’ll be seeing this tech appear on next year’s Galaxy S9 phones.

Kim Kardashian's company hit with $100 MILLION lawsuit after 'ripping off patented illuminated smartphone case'

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A Kardashian company's bright idea may have a dark history.
Her company's illuminated smartphone case LuMee is alleged to be a rip off of another product according to TMZ.
Kim's company - Kimsaprincess, Inc. - got slapped with a $100 million suit by Hooshmand Harooni on Monday.
Stolen looks? Kim Kardashian's company's illuminated smartphone case LuMee is alleged to be a rip off of another product according to TMZ
According to Harooni, he patented an 'integrated lighting accessory and case for a mobile phone device' back in 2013.
Kim has been very vocal with her promotion of the product even using it to take pictures with Hillary Clinton.
Kim's rep told TMX that 'the patent lawsuit filed by Snap Light has no merit and is just another attempted shakedown. Kim has done absolutely nothing wrong.' 
Harooni revealed he licensed his version to a company called Snaplight, which has failed to make the sales that LuMee enjoys.
Selfie-promotion: Kim has been very vocal with her promotion of the product even using it to take pictures with Hillary Clinton
Slapped: Kim's company - Kimsaprincess, Inc. - was hit with a $100 million suit by Hooshmand Harooni on Monday
Snaplight and Harooni say the company stole their patent and then teamed up with the world-class social influencer Kim Kardashian.
According to court documents, Snaplight alleges that Kim gets a cut of Lumee's earnings and they would like some as well to the tune of $100 Million, which it claims would cover lost profits. 
Dangerous game: Snaplight and Harooni say the company stole their patent and then teamed up with the world-class social influencer Kim Kardashian

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