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22
Jun

MacOS Sierra first look: Siri, show me the new stuff


As of last week, OS X has a new name. It’s macOS now — macOS Sierra, specifically. The newest version of Apple’s desktop operating system arrives next month in the form of a public beta, with the final build coming out sometime in the fall. All signs point to this being a less exciting release than in years past, with the most exciting features being the addition of Siri (it’s about time!), auto-unlock and the ability to copy and paste between your Apple devices. (Other additions, like automatically backing up your desktop and Documents folder, are useful though hardly groundbreaking.)

With the public beta launch still a few weeks away, I’ve already had a chance to play around with an early version of the software. It was so early-stages, in fact, that some of the headline features weren’t ready for testing. Enjoy this first look, then, but let’s agree to regroup a few months from now — there’s still a lot of ground left for us to cover.

Siri

There are a few places where you can find Siri in macOS, and each feels intuitive. For starters, you’ll find the familiar purple Siri shortcut in the Dock, right next to Finder. That lower-left corner is the same place we already expect to find Cortana on Windows 10. If you like, though, Siri also lives in the tray, in the upper-right area of the screen, right next to where the search bar already lives. Or — and this is my personal favorite — you can use the keyboard shortcut Fn-spacebar to bring it up without using your cursor. Power users will notice that’s very similar to the shortcut you’d use to bring up Spotlight search, which is command-space. It makes sense that each has a keyboard command, and that they’re similar — if you know how to do one, you basically know how to do the other.

As you’d expect, Siri handles all the same commands that it does on iOS: searching the web, setting reminders, creating calendar events, composing emails and texts, etc., etc. You can also ask follow-up questions. Say, if I asked for dry cleaners in my neighborhood, I can then narrow my search to “only on 7th Avenue.” Really, I’d expect no less of a digital assistant these days. Given that this is macOS, Siri has also been optimized to control the operating system itself, giving users the ability to search for files, change their settings and find out more about their machine (how much local and iCloud storage you have left, for instance).

Once you find what you want, be it a specific file or a baseball game schedule, you can pin the results to the Notification Center, as well as copy and paste or drag-and-drop them into a different app. You can also open files straight from Siri, though in some cases you’ll need to follow a link to Finder to see the complete results.

Picture in Picture

Sierra brings with it a picture-in-picture mode, wherein you can pop out a movie in iTunes or Safari and watch in a separate stay-on-top window. (Look for a new icon in the video player that looks like a window popping out of a window.) Because I was testing an early version of the OS, most websites didn’t yet support this feature (an API is available to developers), but I was able to take an ESPN video and watch a recap of game seven of the NBA finals, all while opening and closing other apps and windows. If the window is getting in your way, you can drag it around as well as resize it. Media controls appear when you hover over it, though in my tests I couldn’t jump forward or back to a different point in the video. When the video ends, the pop-out window automatically closes — a convenient touch.

Universal Clipboard

For a long time now, Apple’s big focus with macOS has been around “Continuity” — the ability for apps to work seamlessly across the desktop and mobile devices, with carryover in things like documents and web activity. Now, users will also be able to copy and paste between their gadgets, whether that be macOS and iOS, Macs only, or from one iOS gadget to another. As in other instances of Continuity on the Mac, you don’t actually need to set anything up; just make sure all of the devices you plan to use are signed into the same iCloud account (which, let’s face it, they probably already are).

I was initially skeptical that it would be that easy. But in fact, once I set up Sierra on two different Macs, each signed into the same iCloud account, I was able to hit command-C (copy) on one machine and command-V (paste) into a TextEdit doc on the other. Basically, it seems that Sierra is remembering your most recent copy action across all of your devices. To paste that text in, you just need to make sure you’re pasting into an app that already supports copy-paste, which, duh: of course you are.

Messages

This fall Apple fans will have revamped messages apps for both macOS and iOS 10, with features that include enlarged emoji (three times bigger than before), inline previews of videos and websites and so-called Tapbacks, which let you respond to a message by adding a thumbs-up, heart or other pictorial reaction. The fact that your reaction appears on top of the message bubble means less clutter as you scroll through a message thread.

In addition, Messages on macOS can display some of the flashy new effects that are specific to iOS 10, including stickers, handwriting, “invisible ink” and “Digital Touch.” It’s a shame you can’t actually send messages from your Mac using these effects (they were some of the most fun things we saw at Apple’s WWDC keynote last week), but at least you can see what friends are sending you from their iPhones.

iCloud and Documents

Starting with Sierra, macOS behaves a lot more like Dropbox. If you like, you can have your Desktop and Documents folder automatically upload to iCloud, so that you don’t have to manually cherrypick which files you’d like to save. Once you enable this feature (it’s not turned on by default), you’ll find the Desktop and Documents in a slightly different location in Finder: under the iCloud banner in the left-hand pane.

Optimized Storage

“Optimized storage” aren’t the sexiest words ever uttered by Tim Cook during a keynote, but this is actually a feature everyone can benefit from. (Unlike Siri, maybe?) To call it a feature — a singular word — might be a misnomer; by enabling Optimized Storage, you’re actually turning on a host of processes that work in the background to free up space on your local disk. This includes automatically moving seldom-used files and already-watched iTunes movies and TV shows to the cloud and, if you like, storing Mail attachments on the server unless you choose to download them.

The system will also automatically erase items that have been in the trash 30 days and clear your cache and logs. In addition, it flags duplicate downloads in Safari and reminds you of used application installers. Certain nonessential features, like dictionaries, instructional videos and special fonts, are now available on-demand, instead of loaded on your system by default. Heck, even the OS itself takes up less space: Apple said it worked to make the installer smaller than in years past.

Photos

Here again, we have a new macOS feature that’s also a new iOS feature. The Photos app on both platforms is getting an upgrade, with a new “Memories” view that automatically detects events in your life, based on the people in them and where the shots were taken. Thanks to “advanced computer vision,” the new Photos is also smart enough to know which of your pics contain things like dogs or snow.

Scroll through the Memories view, and you’ll see a breakdown of people and places. Take note, though: To make the most of the facial-recognition feature, you’ll need to do some preliminary legwork, tagging faces in your photo library. To be fair, Apple makes this easy by automatically surfacing some frequently featured faces, prompting you to assign them a name. Oh, and the Memories view also includes a “Related Memories” section at the bottom, so that you have Memories to go with your Memories. It’s Memory-ception, basically. And also, a rabbit-hole of vacation photos.

As you navigate away from the Memories tab, you’ll also find dedicated People and Places albums. In the People album, your subjects are ranked by how often they appear in photos, though if you like, you can mark someone as a favorite so that they always appear up top. Additionally, Albums View looks different, with rounded tiles and photo and video counts. If you’re viewing one big photo on the screen, you’ll notice that the scrubber on the bottom looks a lot like the one on iOS (pick “Show Thumbnails” from the View menu to make the scrubber appear in the 1-up layout). Also note the search bar in the upper-right, from which you can search by places, people and keywords, like “beach.” And, of course, Siri can find your photos too.

Lastly, what would a Photos update be without new editing tools? New options include “Brilliance,” which applies region-specific adjustments to brighten dark areas, and “Markup” for adding text, shapes and signatures to images. You can also edit Live Photos, a feature that I’m sure some iPhone 6s owners have been demanding. Those edits apply to both the still photo and the video. Apple is opening Live Photos editing to third-party developers as well, in case you happen to prefer a different photo editor.

iTunes

iTunes generally still feels like a bloated mess, but Apple Music at least has received a major redesign. The new UI is much simpler, marked by large headers and prominent album art. In addition to your library and the iTunes store, you’ll find three other tabs toward the top to guide your experience: “For You,” “Browse” and “Radio.” Those last two are pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worth pointing out that “For You” is a mix of personalized playlists and recommendations, along with updates from whatever artists you might be following.

Tabs

Expect to see a lot more tabs across macOS. In addition to Safari and Finder, you can also open tabs in Maps, Mail, TextEdit and the whole iWork suite. The feature will automatically work in third-party document-based apps too, with no updates required from the developer. The only stipulation is that the app has to already support multiple windows, which is why you’re seeing tabs in Maps but not, say, Messages.

It’s all pretty simple, though you do still get some options in terms of how this works. For instance, you can choose to always open new windows in tabs, which is what I personally would do. Or, you could set your system up so that new windows only become tabs if you’re already working at full-screen.

Features we can’t test yet

Auto-unlock

Once Sierra and the newly announced watchOS 3 arrive in the fall, Mac users will be able to unlock their machine using an Apple Watch. It seems like the setup is straightforward: Make sure both devices are signed into iCloud with the same Apple ID, and enable Auto Unlock in your Mac’s system’s settings. From there, so long as you’re within three meters of your Mac, you can unlock your machine simply by lifting the lid or hitting a key.

Selfishly, I wish our IT department would support this feature on my company-issued Mac so that I don’t have to type in a complex 16-character password every time I come back from a coffee break. Fat chance that’ll ever happen, though.

Apple Pay on the web

Apple Pay has been steadily expanding to include more banks and more retailers, but until now, there was a glaring blind spot: payments on the web. That changes in the fall, when some merchants will start building in an Apple Pay button. A few things need to be in place in order for this to actually happen: The retailer of your choice needs to actually support Apple Pay on their website, of course. Also, you’ll need to visit the website in Safari, not some other browser. Lastly, you need an Apple Pay-equipped device, like an Apple Watch or newer iPhone or iPad.

That last bit is important because you’ll need a secondary device to actually complete the transaction. Even after you hit the Apple Pay button in Safari, you still have to either double-click the button on your Apple Watch or enter a passcode or use Touch ID on your iOS device. For Apple’s part, the company is quick to tout the security benefits — namely, that Apple doesn’t store your credit card number on your device or Apple’s servers, nor does it save the details of your transactions. For retailers, though, there’s surely another benefit, which is that getting customers checked out faster is always a good thing (the better to enable your impulse purchases, my dear!).

At launch, we’ll see Apple Pay on Etsy, Expedia, Fandango, JetBlue, Lululemon, Nike, StubHubm Target, Under Armour, United Airlines, Conde Nast and The Wall Street Journal’s websites. Additionally, e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Demandware and IBM are working behind the scenes to enable Apple Pay for some 250,000-odd websites that are powered by their technology.

Compatibility

When Sierra comes out, it’ll be available on Macs up to 7 years old. In particular, it will run on MacBooks and iMacs from as far back as late 2009. If it’s any other kind of Mac — an Air, Pro, mini or Pro desktop — your machine needs to be from 2010 or later. Obviously too (I think this goes without saying?) to make the most out of the OS you’ll also need an iDevice. Think: an Apple Pay device for Apple Pay, a Touch ID-enabled device for auto-unlock, and an iOS 10 device to use Universal Clipboard, Memories or the new Messages on the go.

Come to think of it, to really evaluate Sierra, we’ll also need to take a look at iOS 10. Not coincidentally, both launch around the same time. Expect to hear a lot more from us then on all things Apple software.

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22
Jun

Drug trafficker gets 20 years thanks to emails he never sent


A UK man has been convicted of 20 years for drug trafficking conspiracy thanks to Yahoo emails in draft he thought were deleted, according to Motherboard. While already in jail, Russell Knaggs devised a scheme to have an accomplice write a draft email and save, but not send it. Another partner located in Columbia would then read the draft, delete it, and write another in reply. The idea was to avoid sending emails that could be seen by cops, but the traffickers didn’t realize that Yahoo keeps the deleted drafts for a long period of time.

Yahoo forwarded the emails to law enforcement, which used them (along with other evidence) to convict Knaggs. The problem, his lawyer says, is that his collaborators deleted most of the emails from the drafts and trash, so they’re supposed to be impossible to recover. “If a user deletes a communication from his or her account, the communication becomes inaccessible to [our] proprietary tools,” says Yahoo’s Michele Lai.

If you draft up an email about something but never send it, can it really be used against you?

Because of that, Knaggs lawyer suspects that the records were found via “bulk-data gathering, live monitoring, [or] interception,” possibly by the US government (the investigation started in 2009, well before the Snowden revelations). To prove its theory, it filed a petition to force Yahoo to disclose its exact retrieval method. However, the company dismissed the “fanciful” idea, saying they were recovered from auto-saved drafts. “The evidence produced was not the product of US government surveillance, but rather was captured … using a Yahoo proprietary tool in response to ordinary legal process, even though [Knaggs] and his co-conspirators thought they had deleted the evidence.”

It does bring up another interesting point — if you draft up an email about something but never send it, can it really be used against you? It kind of reminds us of a certain film where people are busted for just thinking about “pre-crimes.” Check out more on the story at Motherboard.

Source: US District Court, Motherboard

22
Jun

Microsoft puts your company intranet on your iPhone


Look, we know: accessing your company’s intranet is about as exciting as watching paint dry. However, wouldn’t you rather have the option of using it from your phone, instead of having to sit at a computer? Microsoft thinks so. It just launched SharePoint for iOS, its first mobile SharePoint app. The tool gives you access to the files, portals, sites and teams that you’re used to on the desktop. It’s also smart enough to hop between apps depending on what you’re accessing. It’ll jump to OneDrive if you’re peeking at the company’s document library, for instance, or switch to one of the Office apps if you’re opening a recent file.

Microsoft is quick to admit that this is a “first step,” and that there may well be features you’ll miss (such as company-wide announcements) that are coming later this year. You should also see Android and universal Windows apps in a similar time frame. So long as those aren’t showstoppers, though, the app should be worth grabbing — if just because it can keep you away from your desk for a little bit longer.

Source: Office Blogs, App Store

22
Jun

Dropbox’s iOS app will scan the scraps of paper cluttering your office


Dropbox makes no bones about the shift the company has undergone in the last few years. Rather than focusing on end-user products (like the now-defunct Carousel photo app and Mailbox email app), Dropbox now wants to be the glue that allows people to collaborate and work together across various file formats, devices and operating systems. That’s not to say that millions of people aren’t using it to store and sync their files, but the company’s real mission is to develop a platform that helps businesses and teams seamlessly get work done. (That’s where the money is, after all.)

To that end, Dropbox is releasing one of the biggest updates to its core product in quite some time. Most of those changes are designed to make it easier to work collaboratively, but the first and perhaps most important update should be useful to just about anyone: The iOS Dropbox app now has an intelligent document scanner built right in. It’s not the sexiest feature, but if you’ve ever taken a photo of various hand-drawn notes, ideas or any scrap of paper you wanted to save digitally, it’ll be quite useful.

When you tap the shiny new “plus” button inside the app, you’ll be presented with the option to scan a document. From there, you’ll find yourself in the familiar camera viewfinder mode, except now, when the app detects the outline of a piece of paper, it will highlight it. When you shoot the picture, the extraneous background details are cropped out and the image is presented in a zoomable, high-resolution file that gets saved as a PDF.

The Dropbox app is smart enough to include some features to make those files more readable as well. There’s a black-and-white theme, contrast adjustments and a “whiteboard” mode that makes pictures you shoot of marker boards easier to read. The app also lets you combine multiple snapshots into a single, multi-page PDF file. This all worked great in a demo Dropbox gave, but we’ll have to try it out ourselves and see how well it actually recognizes various hand-written notes — and how these scans look when you’re viewing them back on your computer.

Scanning will be available to anyone using the Dropbox iOS app (the feature will come to Android later), but Dropbox Business users are getting a pretty major addition on top of that. Using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, any image with text you upload will be searchable. So if you’re trying to find a file with specific words inside it, you’ll be able to find what you want among your scanned images. Dropbox noted that it only is looking for letters and numbers, so there’s no way to search your other photos based on their various characteristics. Unfortunately, this feature isn’t available if you’re a free or “pro” Dropbox user.

Some notable changes are in store for desktop users as well. When you share files or folders from the Mac Finder or Windows Explorer, you used to get booted to the web to add collaborators, set file permissions and so forth. Now, there’s a new native interface for sharing files from the desktop. In the demo I saw, it definitely looks like a native extension of the OS and makes it easier to work with shared Dropbox files without having to ever visit the service’s web client.

In another improvement to sharing, you can now share individual files privately with specific people. Previously, if you shared a file with someone, the link that Dropbox generated could then be passed on to anyone else. But now, people will need to log in to see files specifically shared with them. Those who use Dropbox’s free tier will also have the option to designate view-only access for shared folders rather than have all the files totally open and able to be edited.

Commenting is also getting a meaningful update. Comments can now be attached to specific parts of a file — just drag to highlight a particular area of a document and then your comment will show up next to it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work on videos. Comments are attached to the file, but you can’t have them refer to specific points or timestamps. Dropbox also previewed another commenting feature that will arrive in a future update. If you’re working in a Microsoft Office file, you’ll be able to see and make comments from the Dropbox “badge” that appears when you’re working on a file shared with other users. It’s another way the company is expanding its products to other apps rather than just keeping it on the web.

There’s also an update to version history, which has been in the Dropbox product for some time now. Now, when searching back through older versions of files, you can quickly pull up a preview to make sure it’s the right version that you want to restore. Lastly, another feature that is in preview (and thus not part of today’s rollout) is called “presence.” It lets you see who is viewing a particular file at any given time, who’s viewed it in the past and how many times it has been viewed overall.

As is often the case with Dropbox updates, none of these are terribly exciting features on their own. But if it works as well as promised, the scanning utility is something that should be useful to just about everyone who uses the service. And all of these additions help make Dropbox more than just a simple file locker. As the company now likes to say, it’s moving from being a product to keep your files and sync to a product that keeps teams and businesses in sync. Again, it’s not the most exciting mission out there. But given how continually difficult it is to manage our digital lives (particularly when it involves sharing documents with others), the company’s evolution as a collaboration platform makes a lot of sense.

22
Jun

BET gets its own mobile streaming service


Viacom is making good on its promise to parcel out its channels as individual services for cord cutters. It’s launching a BET Play app that lets you watch the network’s black culture programming for $4 per month on your Android and iOS devices. You’ll largely end up watching like Chasing Destiny or Real Husbands of Hollywood on demand, but there is a smattering of live content. It has a live feed of BET Soul’s music, and it’ll be the only official way to livestream the BET Awards (conveniently, taking place on June 26th).

The service is available in 100 countries around the globe, so you don’t have to be American to give it a whirl. However, support for it on TVs is pretty limited. You can use AirPlay to send videos to your TV if you have iOS gear, but you won’t find native Apple TV or Android TV apps, and there’s no Chromecast support. It’s not a perfect substitute for your cable or satellite subscription right now, then — you’ll probably have to be content with watching on your phone.

Via: The Verge

Source: Viacom

22
Jun

Charge your phone with KFC’s new take-out box


Suppose you’ve just fired up Yelp to hunt down the nearest KFC, texted your friends to get their order and then posted a sweet victory Snapchat of your crispy haul. That probably just took a chunk from your smartphone battery — but don’t worry dudes, KFC’s got your back with a device charger in your take-out box. Just don’t try to plug it in while you’re fingers-deep in greasy chicken.

Sadly, the promotion is currently only available in Delhi and Mumbai, India. But reports say that the charger is pretty terrible, netting BGR’s writer 17 percent phone life over half an hour until the box’s battery was fully drained. When they plugged it in to refresh it, they only got 7 percent. It’s safe to say we’re not missing much.

The “Watt A Box” charger came out of a partnership with the Mumbai-based digital agency Blink Digital, so we’re unlikely to see it come to American shores anyway. Add it to the list of weird regionally-released promotional items, like Pizza Hut’s movie projector box in Hong Kong or KFC’s paper-thin bluetooth keyboard in Germany. Or KFC’s chicken-flavored nail polish, also in Hong Kong. Or its fried chicken “accessories” in Japan. Y’know what? Maybe it’s a good thing that we’ve kept our fried chicken experience pure.

Via: Eater

Source: BGR

22
Jun

Google will teach you to write Android apps


Learning to make your own Android apps isn’t easy, especially if it’s your first time programming anything. Do you find a tutorial and hope for the best? Sign up for classes at the local college? Google might have a better way. It’s introducing a free Android Basics nanodegree at Udacity that has Google experts teaching you how to write simple Android apps, even if you don’t know a lick of code. The online course guides you far enough through Android Studio that you’ll have an “entire portfolio” of programs by the time you’re done — you may not write the next Instagram, but you should be comfortable.

You can pay for coaching, career counseling and other help if you like, and Google is encouraging you to to move on to the Career-track Android nanodegree if you see development as your calling in life. It’ll even give you a scholarship for that mini-degree if you’re one of the first 50 people to complete the Basics course. No, Google isn’t giving things away out of sheer generosity (it wants to foster the next big Android hit). However, this is still an important gesture. While many operating system creators will gladly give you the tools to get started, it’s rare that they show you how to use those tools when you’re an absolute rookie.

Source: Udacity

22
Jun

The marvel of microchips


Half a century ago, Westinghouse buried a time capsule at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. In it were “Molecular Blocks,” a company invention that squeezed “the functions usually performed by an entire assembly of electronic components” into “small solid blocks of material.” If that sounds familiar, that’s because it describes what we now know today as an integrated circuit (IC) or microchip.

Westinghouse was one of several entities pursuing IC development at the time, including Texas Instruments, Fairchild, and many Japanese companies. Despite early cooperation, by 1964 most were embroiled in patent litigation.

The image above shows one those early ICs, held by an unnamed person for scale. The chip comes from Westinghouse’s WM-1000 series, and is either an oscillator or video amplifier. Sadly we’re unable to verify which — what’s left of Westinghouse is now a licensing arm of CBS. It was included in the time capsule among other scientific developments of the era, including antibiotics, a computer memory unit, a plastic heart valve and birth control pills.

The Big Picture is a recurring feature highlighting beautiful images that tell big stories. We explore topics as large as our planet, or as small as a single life, as affected by or seen through the lens of technology.

22
Jun

Apple Releases Safari Technology Preview 7 With Bug Fixes and Feature Tweaks


Apple today released a new update for Safari Technology Preview, the experimental browser Apple first introduced on March 30, 2016. Apple designed the Safari Technology Preview to test features that may be introduced into the release version of Safari.

Safari Technology Preview release 7 includes bug fixes and updates for JavaScript, CSS, Web APIs, Web Inspector, Media, and Rendering.

The Safari Technology Preview update is available through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store to anyone who has downloaded the browser. Full release notes for the update are available on the Safari Technology Preview website.

Apple’s goal with Safari Technology Preview is to gather feedback from developers and users on its browser development process. Safari Technology Preview can be run side-by-side with the existing Safari browser and while aimed at developers, it does not require a developer account to download.

Tag: Safari Technology Preview
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22
Jun

Mondevices MonBaby Smart Button review – CNET


The Good MonBaby is easy to use, and its design cleverly makes clipping it to baby’s clothing easier than comparable devices. The Android app’s ability to track sleep patterns over time is a cool addition.

The Bad Its reliance on motion detection means MonBaby’s performance isn’t perfect. Plus, you can’t use it with a sleeper or rocker that would register movement even if the child has stopped breathing.

The Bottom Line MonBaby is a useful gadget, but like other devices of its type, its features can’t replace traditional monitors or quite justify its $170 price tag.

There are two types of baby monitors: traditional ones that let you listen while your child is sleeping in the other room, and newer connected ones that monitor your child’s vitals and send mobile alerts if something goes wrong. I love that technology has increased safety for kids and peace of mind for new parents. But here’s a question for these high-tech monitors: Can the new features justify the raised price?

MonBaby makes sure your baby’s sleeping well
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Developer Mondevices makes one of these connected gadgets called the MonBaby Smart Button, a wearable for your infant. MonBaby pairs simple motion-sensing hardware with algorithms to track children’s breathing, overall activity and physical orientation. The app notifies parents if the device detects any concerning change (like halted respiration or a child lying on their belly).

Mondevices’ product is well designed. It snaps onto your kid’s clothing and connects to your phone via Bluetooth. MonBaby’s measurements are pretty reliable, but because they all depend on motion-sensing, they can be inaccurate if used with certain sleepers or rockers.

Accessing the information on the app is quick and easy. You can personalize when you receive notifications and also track your child’s activity levels over time on the Android app (this feature is coming for the iOS version within a few months, according to Mondevices).

At $170, MonBaby is a little more affordable than some of its competitors, but it certainly isn’t cheap. And it falls into the same trap as other devices like it: It can’t replace traditional monitors, and its added smarts won’t justify the price for many parents. MonBaby is nice to have around, but not necessary for most kids.

Pros

  • Cheaper than some competitors
  • Tracks data over time
  • Sends alerts if your child flips onto their belly

Cons

  • Bluetooth reliance means limited range
  • iOS app is less developed than Android version
  • Motion sensing isn’t reliable when used with certain sleepers
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