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25
Mar

The best fitness tracker


By Amy Roberts

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

Over the course of 60 hours, we surveyed readers, interviewed industry and exercise-physiology experts, walked, ran (and ran some more), slept, grocery-shopped, jumping-jacked, swung kettlebells, and analyzed user experience to determine that the Garmin vívosmart HR is the best fitness tracker. It effectively collects the same data as top competitors from Fitbit and Jawbone but offers a larger, more legible touchscreen and more useful smartphone-notification options, as well as full waterproofing to 50 meters (other models are merely splash-resistant).

Generally speaking, if getting information or advice on your overall fitness level is your primary goal, a fitness tracker offers comprehensive data while remaining relatively affordable. However, you should know that all fitness trackers are inaccurate and that you should take the stats you get from them as rough estimates, not exact statistics. This was true of all the trackers we tested. If you want accurate distance measurements, or if you’re a runner, a GPS running watch provides that and has a better interface for tracking your pace and other stats while running, and it’s better for capturing and comparing your data across outings. A smartwatch (for Apple or Android) is a good pick only if you’re willing to pay extra for the smartphone connectivity it provides.

How we picked and tested

We tested seven wrist-worn trackers and one hip-worn tracker.

After narrowing 26 initial contenders down to seven trackers, we tested them as a group and individually. To gauge step-count accuracy, we wore all seven bands simultaneously for two full days. We tested how well each device captured distance by running one mile on a treadmill, and to measure heart-rate accuracy, we pitted each band against a Garmin chest-strap monitor for a sequence of 30-second intervals of jumping jacks and recovery and a five-minute steady-state treadmill run. Finally, we spent some quality time with each band, assessing the comfort, user friendliness of both product and app, sleep tracking, and overall impressions.

Our pick

Feature-packed and equipped with an easy-to-read display and exceptional distance measuring, the vívosmart HR topped our test.

The Garmin vívosmart HR checks off nearly all of the boxes: It tracks steps, floors climbed, distance traveled, calories burned, and active minutes. Plus, it’s waterproof. Its display is easy to read, and unlike other trackers’ screens, you can customize it to show whatever metrics you desire. The display also shows smartphone notifications and the current weather along with music-player and camera remote controls, features its closest competitor, the Fitbit Charge HR, can’t touch. Its distance-measuring accuracy is particularly impressive, even when compared with that of trackers sporting built-in GPS receivers. It also monitors heart rate continuously, keeping a record of both resting pulse and workout intensity; many rivals do one or the other but not both. Unfortunately, like every tracker we tested, the vívosmart’s heart-rate data isn’t always accurate. The only major downside is that Garmin’s app isn’t as good as its hardware. It’s not as polished or user-friendly as Fitbit’s or Jawbone’s apps, but it has improved over time and will continue to get better.

Runner-up (with a better app)

The Charge HR has an excellent app and great social integration, but its screen is tiny, and its construction is only splash-resistant.

For about the same price, the Fitbit Charge HR offers a more user-friendly app and better opportunities for friendly, online competition than the Garmin vívosmart HR. Unlike our top pick, however, it’s merely “splash-proof” rather than waterproof, and its screen lacks an always-on mode—you have to tap the display or move your wrist to view the time or other metrics, including your heart rate during a workout. This makes it inconvenient to read while exercising, which is one of the main reasons for having an HR monitor in the first place. On top of that, the Charge HR is only capable of receiving missed-call alerts, and its band is stiff and less comfortable than the Garmin’s stretchy strap.

A stylish pick that gives you advice

The UP3 lacks a screen and active-heart-rate data, but it’s attractive and discreet.

If you want not only to collect stats on your activity levels but also receive advice on what to do, look to the Jawbone UP3. It measures the same stats as our other picks (except active heart rate), and the slim band looks more like jewelry than a high-tech fitness device. Based on your data, the app’s Smart Coach feature provides advice to make improvements to your health, which other trackers can’t match. However, the merely splash-proof UP3 lacks a display screen, monitors only resting heart rate, and is more expensive than our other picks.

A clip-on pick for discreet tracking or team sports

For stealthy activity tracking, clip the Fitbit One on a pocket or waistband, or elsewhere on your clothing. For about half the price of our top wrist picks, you’ll get the basics, including step and stair tracking, plus a record of your sleep if you wear the One at night with the included soft-fabric band. What you won’t get is heart-rate tracking, or step counting that’s any more accurate than what wrist-worn options offer.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

25
Mar

Human-made bacteria has the tiniest genome ever


Believe it or not, creating artificial life (albeit based on existing species) isn’t new. However, scientists have managed a particularly unusual feat: they’ve built synthetic bacteria that has the smallest known genome of any lifeform… ever. Their modification of Mycoplasma mycoides has just 473 genes, or so few that it likely couldn’t survive and reproduce if you shrank the genome further. The trick was to do a better job of determining which genes were essential. Many of those that weren’t deemed necessary in the past turned out to be half of a vital pair, giving researchers a good sense of what they could afford to cut.

This isn’t flawless. The gene count is optimized for the friendly conditions of the lab — the bacteria could easily die in the wild. Also, the creators still couldn’t identify the roles of 149 genes, so there’s a chance that some of them could vanish without hurting the organism’s sustainability. Regardless, this is a big step forward in biology. It’ll help identify the DNA necessary for life, and could eventually help scientists create organisms completely from scratch.

Via: Washington Post

Source: Science

25
Mar

Explore the ‘Batman v Superman’ Batcave on Street View


Whether you think Batman v Superman is a masterpiece or an underwhelming mess, it’s hard not to be impressed by the new Batcave. It’s a stylish take on the Dark Knight’s lair and now, you can explore it for yourself through Google Street View. You’ll start on the surface, inside Bruce Wayne’s lake house. Click through and you’ll quickly stumble upon the subterranean base, complete with the Batmobile and a glass cabinet containing a Joker-graffitied Robin costume. The armored Batsuit and Batcomputer reside upstairs, along with plenty of other weapons and R&D projects. The grapple guns on the ground floor are a personal favorite.

Via: Tech Insider

Source: Bruce Wayne’s Residence (Street View)

25
Mar

Google wants developers making crazy Android experiments


Last year, Google launched a site promoting innovative Android experiments on phones, tablets and smartwatches. Anything was game, provided it ran on top of Android or Android Wear. Now, with less than two months to go before its next I/O developer conference, Google is putting the call out for some new, equally brain-melting ideas. The kicker is that the best three submissions will get I/O tickets in order to show off their projects to attendees. A further five runner-ups will get a Nexus 6P.

If you’re an app developer looking for a little inspiration, Google has a few suggestions. It wants to see projects that use Android’s new features — Android N’s multitasking capabilities might be a good place to start — as well as anything that explores how people interact with their devices. If it has unusual visuals, even better, and if it can inspire other developers, well, you might be on your way to a home run. “All projects on Android Experiments are open source,” Google explains in a blog post. “If you’re not sure where to start, take a look on the site gallery, dig in and get inspired.”

Source: Android Experiments

25
Mar

House bill would discourage crooks from using burner phones


For many criminals, prepaid “burner” phones are a dream tool: they’re cheap, commitment-free… and most importantly, don’t require ID that could reveal the buyer. House Representative Jackie Speier wants to put an end to that anonymity. She just introduced a bill, HR4886, that would require prepaid phone sellers to verify ID through common sources like credit cards, drivers’ licenses or Social Security numbers. In theory, this prevents drug dealers, terrorists and other crooks from evading law enforcement by using untraceable phones that they can toss at a moment’s notice.

It’s only a bill at this stage, and there’s no certainty that it’ll survive both Congress and the President’s desk. The proposed law certainly has its share of privacy concerns. Although it would force criminals to scrounge for alternatives (such as stolen phones or meeting in person), it’d also make it virtually impossible to buy a burner simply because you’re concerned about sharing personal information. As it stands, disposable handsets are only one part of the security picture — as the fight between Apple and the FBI has shown, it’s sometimes the data on the phone that matters.

Via: ZDNet

Source: Jackie Speier, Congress.gov

25
Mar

Rock Band 4 for PC will offer every DLC song ever for $2,500


Unlike on other platforms that have access to most every song in the franchise’s archives, Rock Band 4 for the PC comes with no previous DLC content. As such, Harmonix has added an additional tier to its fan-funded Fig campaign that would give backers at that level every single song in the Rock Band DLC library. The only hitch: you’re going to have to shell out a whopping $2,500 for it. Well, that and the campaign still needs to raise another two thirds of its $1.5 million funding goal in the next 11 days.

Still, that’s way cheaper than the alternative of shelling out $2 a song, individually. In all, the archive will contain more than 2,000 songs — though that number will fluctuate given licensing rules. The company is reportedly considering offering a similar deal for PS4 and XBox One owners as well.

Via: Polygon

Source: Harmonix (Fig)

25
Mar

We’re shutting down our comments … see you next week


A few months back, we rolled out a new comments system. This was, in the words of Douglas Adams, widely regarded as a bad decision.
But hey, every time we’ve changed commenting systems there’s been a strong reaction. The negative response wasn’t a surprise. There are bound to be some bumps in the road with any project that affects user engagement, but we knew we were creating a bigger and better way for readers to interact on Engadget.

However.

Recently, we’ve realized a few things: The first being that much like the work your contractor is doing on the kitchen, this grand plan is going to take longer than initially expected. And second (but more importantly), the comments have largely stopped fostering intelligent, informative conversations.

Now, clearly, not every comment or commenter is the same. But we’ve increasingly found ourselves turning off comments on stories that discuss topics of harassment, gender or race simply because so many of the replies are hateful, even threatening. Articles that mention Apple deteriorate into arguments of iOS vs Android, replete with grade-school name calling. Articles that don’t make mention of Samsung often include comments claiming that we are shills for Apple. Some commenters plain attack our writers or editors or other commenters. Some are outright threats. And that’s not even getting into the spam problem.

The thing is, we like having a comments section. It gives our readers a place to share their experiences, point out mistakes we’ve made, offer up different perspectives and provide more information. Our comments section can be an incredible place to visit, and we value that our readers take the time out of their day (often repeatedly) to participate. But we can’t take pride in a comment system that isn’t offering you the features you need to participate; that runs amok with racist, sexist or homophobic slurs and threats; or that takes joy in in-fighting and provoking fights.

A quality comments section should make it easy for users to contribute. A good comments section has users who feel a sense of duty and kinship, who act as a community. An exceptional comments section informs its readers, corrects authors and provides worthwhile insights in a polite and constructive manner.

This is not, by and large, what is happening in our comments section today. In order to reassess and push forward with a better system, we’re going to take a comment break. For the next seven days, none of the articles on Engadget will have an open comments section.

If we’re spending the majority of our days moderating comments, zapping spam and slaying trolls, we’re not spending that time improving the section for you. We want to make sure that our readers are getting the very best experience in our community. A week-long breather will give us the time to refocus our efforts.

We know there will be a lot of feelings about this, so let me try to anticipate some of your comments and questions:

Is this just censorship?
No — and no for a few reasons. One, we are not attempting to restrict your speech; you’ll still be able to comment via Facebook or Twitter, or share your deeper thoughts on Public Access. And two, this is our house. You can think of the comments section as a party we’re throwing in our own living room. When our guests start flipping over tables, spitting on the floor and insulting the guests, the party’s over.

You’re just doing this because because we disagree with you.
Again, no. We have zero issue with disagreements. It’s 100% okay with us if you disagree with our opinions or want to point out something we’ve overlooked or think there’s bias in an article. We rely on our commenters and community to holler if they see something amiss. There’s really no point in a comments section where everyone agrees. But we are 100% not okay with is insulting, demeaning, disrespectful, harassing or threatening behavior.

In the meantime, comments are open on our Facebook posts, and stories can always be shared on Twitter or via our tumblr page. If you see something that needs to be corrected, you can let us know here. If you have a tip for us please use tips@engadget.com.

25
Mar

Apple Lowers Out-of-Warranty Repair Price for Apple Watch Sport to $199


Following the announcement of the $50 price drop for the Apple Watch Sport on Monday, Apple has now lowered the cost of its out-of-warranty repair price for the aluminum-cased wearable from $229 to $199. The program serves Apple Watch wearers not supported by AppleCare+, or the limited one-year warranty of the device, which will be ending soon for early adopters of the Apple Watch.

The company still has a few rules about out-of-warranty service, with any Apple Watch that “has been broken into multiple pieces” remaining ineligible for repair. For more detailed descriptions of applicable devices, the company has a full Apple Repair Terms and Conditions document on its website.

Since the other tiers of the Apple Watch have not gotten a price drop, their out-of-warranty prices haven’t changed either. If an owner of either the Apple Watch or Apple Watch Edition lacks proper warranty, a repair will cost them $329 and $2,800, respectively.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)
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25
Mar

Apple Addresses GSM iPad 2 Activation Bug With Revised iOS 9.3, but Broader Issue Remains Unfixed


Last night, Apple released a new build of iOS 9.3 (13E236) designed specifically for the GSM iPad 2, addressing an issue that prevented the GSM iPad 2 from accessing Apple’s activation servers. After downloading iOS 9.3, some iPad 2 users received the following message: “Your iPad could not be activated because the activation service is temporarily unavailable,” a problem the update aims to fix.

There has been some confusion over the iPad 2 iOS 9.3 update, because there is a second separate activation bug affecting many older devices, including the iPad Air and earlier and the iPhone 5s and earlier.

The second activation bug, which spurred Apple to stop signing iOS 9.3 for multiple products yesterday, prevents older device owners from activating their iPhones and iPads if they can’t remember the Apple ID and password originally used to set up the device.

While the iPad 2 iOS 9.3 update fixes the first activation issue, it does not address the second activation bug that affects many more devices. Apple has not resumed signing iOS 9.3 for older devices, so many customers who have an iPad Air or earlier, iPad mini 2 or earlier, or iPhone 5s or earlier are not able to download and install iOS 9.3 if they have not done so already.

Apple has said it is working on a fix for the second activation issue, which will be released in the form of a new update to iOS 9.3 in the next few days. Until that time, customers who have an older device will need to remain on iOS 9.2.1.

Related Roundup: iOS 9
Tag: iOS 9.3
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25
Mar

New Apple Watch Bands Now Available for Personal Pickup


The new Apple Watch bands that were introduced at Monday’s “Let Us Loop You In” event are now available for personal pickup from Apple’s online store, letting prospective buyers check in-store stock levels and arrange for in-store pickup after purchasing online.

Apple has been selling the new Apple Watch bands in retail stores since earlier this week, but prior to today, there was no way to know if a particular store had a specific band available for purchase.

Many bands that will not ship for several weeks from the online store, such as the Gold/Royal Blue Woven Nylon band and the Yellow Apple Watch Sport band, are immediately available in Apple retail stores across the country. There are some bands, like the 38mm Scuba Blue and Gold/Red Woven Nylon, that appear to be in shorter supply and are not available at most stores.

The Woven Nylon bands, available for $49 in Gold/Red, Gold/Royal Blue, Royal Blue, Pink, Pearl, Scuba Blue, and Black, are a new product line that just debuted this week. Apple has also updated the Sport Band, Modern Buckle, Leather Loop, and Classic Buckle with new spring color choices and introduced a new Black Milanese Loop.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)
Discuss this article in our forums

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