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5
Sep

Fitbit Flex 2 preview: Simple, stylish tracking


Fitbit announced two new activity trackers to its portfolio just before consumer electronics show IFA kicked off in Berlin.

The Charge 2 and Flex 2 are the latest to join the company’s line-up, with the latter replacing the original Flex to bring all-day activity and sleep tracking in a new simple, but stylish offering.

We got our paws on it during the show to see how it differs from its predecessor and what it will bring when it arrives in October.

Fitbit Flex 2: Design

The Fitbit Flex 2 is the smaller and more simplistic of the two devices unveiled at IFA. It follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, offering a small removable tracker that is housed in an elastomer band as standard, but can be placed into specific accessories that are available separately. It is removed by simply slipping it out from the underside of the band.

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The tracker has five LED lights that shine through the elastomer strap to display progress, with each LED representing a 20 per cent increment. These lights, which sit vertically rather than horizontally as they did with the original Flex, will also show through the bracelet and necklace that have been designed to fit the tracker within them.

The elastomer band for the Flex 2 is a little bulkier than the first Flex, offering a chamfered edge, which ties it in with the newer devices within the Fitbit line up, including the Alta and Charge 2. It is also textured which differentiates it from the original Flex that has a smooth finish and the result is lovely.

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The Flex 2 is nice and slim, making it a subtler device than the likes of the Charge 2 and the Alta, mainly down to the lack of display as it is around the same size as the Alta. The Flex 2 is fastened in the same way as the Alta using a two-pin method rather than a buckle. This again makes it less bulky than the likes of the Charge 2, although the two-pin system is a little less secure than the buckle from our past experience.

The Flex 2 comes in four colours comprising black, lavender, magenta and navy. There is also a bangle available in silver, gold and rose gold, as well as a necklace in gold and silver, all of which are sold separately. We saw them on display and they look interesting, as well as nice enough to wear with smarter clothing, but if you don’t want to spend the extra cash, the elastomer band is good on its own.

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Fitbit Flex 2: Features

The Fibit Flex 2’s big selling point is that its the company’s first and only waterproof tracker, allowing you to go for a swim with it. It also adds call and text notifications to the Flex party in the form of colour-coded LED lights.

It won’t tell you who is calling or let you read the text like the Alta and Charge 2 will, but the LED lights will light up blue for calls and purple for texts so you’ll at least know something is going on.

In addition to these features, the Flex 2 will do the same as the original Flex. It will measure steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, active minutes and sleep duration, but not elevation. It has SmartTrack so it will automatically recognise exercise and it also has a five-day battery life, though we weren’t able to test this during our time with it.

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First Impressions

The Fitbit Flex 2 is a lovely, simple tracker that has a more interesting and exciting design than its predecessor. Not a great deal has changed in terms of looks, but Fitbit has done enough to ensure the new generation doesn’t look like a boring rubber band.

The addition of a couple of extra features, including smartphone notifications in some form and the waterproofing are definitely welcomed too and we love that there are interchangeable accessories too.

For the lower-end of the activity market, it certainly looks like the Flex 2 has a good thing going on, but we will let you know for sure when we review it in full.

5
Sep

Wacom’s latest smartpads marry pen and paper with digital notes


Despite the many high-tech devices on display here at IFA, sometimes all you want is a pen and paper to jot down notes or draw a quick sketch. Still, there’s no reason not to marry ink and tech, which is the driving idea behind Wacom’s latest line of smartpads that let you capture handwritten notes in digital form. The company’s done this before with the Bamboo Spark, but the latest Slate and Folio options provide different styles for the discerning dead tree aficionado.

The Slate is a simple standalone notepad while the Folio is a more professional option complete with integrated cover and slots for business cards. The Slate and the Folio are essentially equipped with electromagnetic resonance (EMR) tech. Put any piece of paper on the surface, and you’ll be able to transfer all your ink-stained scribbles to Wacom’s Inkspace app. You can either draw it in “live mode,” which essentially lets you capture the notes in real-time, or simply press a button on the hardware to sync it later. Not any pen will do however, as you’ll need a special Wacom pen filled with Wacom’s digital ink in order for the whole thing to work.

Still, once you have everything you need, it works like a charm. I tried both of these smartpads out at the Wacom booth at IFA, and it all worked seamlessly. I was impressed by how instantly the notes came to life in the app — it really is done in real-time. I also found it interesting that you can always overlay more scribbles onto an existing digital note, even if the paper you drew the original on is long gone. From there, you can save the notes in JPG, PNG, PDF or a special Wacom WILL format.

The InkSpace app is free, and you get a free basic subscription along with your Wacom ID. This gives you 5GB of cloud storage. If you want more, you’ll have to upgrade to InkSpace Plus, which offers 50GB of storage along with the ability to search your handwritten notes. What I found especially useful is that InkSpace Plus has a handwriting-to-text feature so you can import your written text into a real document. Slate and Folio customers will get a three-month free trial subscription to InkSpace Plus, and after that, can opt to pay a discounted $2.99 a month for the service (The regular price is $4.99 a month).

The Slate comes in two sizes; small (A5/half letter) and large (A4/letter) while the Folio only ships in large (A4/letter). As for pricing, the small Slate is $129.95, the large one is $149.95 and the Folio is $199.95.

Oh and that’s not all. Wacom also introduced a few new styluses at IFA this year. The first is the Omni, a fine-tip pen that lets you write on any note app without having to pair it first — just twist the pen and go. It uses something called RES (Reflective Electro Static) tech and is charged via USB. According to Wacom, it should work on both Android and iOS. The company also refreshed the Solo and the Duo with a more ergonomic, softer design. The Omni will retail for $49.95 while the Solo and the Duo are $19.95 and $29.95 respectively.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

5
Sep

Sony’s first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player not likely to appear until 2017


Sony showed of a prototype version of its first dedicated 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray during the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin last week, but while rivals have machines already on shelves, it might not appear until 2017.

The deck shown doesn’t yet have an official name, but Pocket-lint was told that its design is final. A full consumer model will look similar to the player we photographed at the show.

We were also informed that it will be released before the end of the financial year 2016. Technically, that is April next year, meaning the Ultra HD spinner could appear in the first quarter of 2017 rather than in time for Christmas.

  • IFA 2016: All the announcements that matter
  • Best of IFA 2016: The hottest gadgets to get excited about

One rumour we’ve heard (via What Hi-Fi) is that Sony will unveil the full version and even a second machine during CEDIA in Dallas this month, but they might still be slated for an early 2017 release.

The PS4 Slim could provide a possible reason for Sony’s tardiness in joining Samsung and Panasonic in offering dedicated devices. It is expected to be formerly announced on 7 September and go on sale a week later. If it is to offer 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback, like its rival Xbox One S, that could explain the company’s strategy.

However, current leaks and rumours suggest not. There is no indication so far that the PS4 replacement device is anything more than a slimmer, neater version of the original. We’ll let you know if we hear otherwise.

5
Sep

HP Elite Slice: Innovative, modular, mini PC


The aim of the HP Elite Slice is to get the PC back onto your desk. Moving on from tower PCs, the Slice wants to put everything in front of you in a slickly designed package.

That’s what HP told us when we encountered the Elite Slice at Showstoppers at IFA 2016. While HP has been all about business recently, the Elite Slice has a huge amount of consumer appeal: this is a PC that’s all about innovative design. 

The main unit itself bears a striking resemblance to the Mac Mini. It’s a flattened squirkle, but one of the interesting things about the design is that copper venting that runs around it. Copper is very much the tech colour of 2016.

Like the Mac Mini, the Elite Slice is designed to be a complete solution and a replacement for a desktop device. Sure, it’s not going to find fame with gamers, but in a modern office or home, the Slice will settle in nicely. 

Aside from being a compact desktop PC, the Elite Slice’s raison d’être is modularity. The main body will offer you Core i3, i5 or i7 processors and a host of physical rear connectivity – HDMI, Display Port, Ethernet, USB-C, USB – but with options for a different top cover. 

The flattened top isn’t just somewhere to be gathering dust, it can be a wireless charger for your phone, or you can opt for the collaboration cover, bringing your call controls to the top of your PC, in handy reach. It’s begging for media controls, but with business being the first consideration, we guess that audio isn’t.

The thing to note about these covers is that they must be specified at the time of purchase – they cannot be added afterwards.

So far we’ve just been talking about a small format PC and the real action comes in those modular accessories. To boost the sound offering there’s a speaker module, tuned by Bang & Olufsen. (Again, calls for a media control cover?) Using a USB Type-C based connection, these modules just stack together with one sitting on the next and connecting together.

For those who still need physical media, there’s a DVD player option too and it’s all just plug and play, so should be really simple to expand your PC to your requirements.

Above all, this is about innovative design. It’s a good-looking PC and one that will smarten up any desk and help us move out of the post-tower era.

Prices for the US start at $899, for which you can get a Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD and it’s available through store.hp.com. Prices for the UK are still to be determined, but you can sign-up to be alerted once it’s available.

5
Sep

Garmin Virb Ultra 30: A genuine GoPro Hero competitor


When approached at their stand during the IFA trade show in Berlin, Garmin’s reps proudly told us – when asked – that the company’s latest action camera was better than a GoPro. Of course, we were sceptical, until they showed us how it worked and everything it can do.

From a feature list side, it’s got more than enough to compete with the market-leading Hero series, but it is more expensive.

Focusing on the camera technology first, we’re looking at a 12MP sensor which is capable of recording Ultra HD (4K) video at 30 frames per second, and shooting slow motion video at 720p HD resolution with a frame rate up to 240 frames per second.

To make sure its footage is steady, it has 3-axis image stabilisation. So whether you’re filming on choppy seas, or rough terrain, the end video should still be very watchable.

Like most Garmin gadgets, it has a built-in GPS for high precision location tracking, but can also gather data like how high a user is jumping, or how far or fast they’re travelling, and can add those metrics to the footage in attractive graphics.

There’s an easy-to-use touchscreen on the back, which can be used to control the camera and works even when it’s covered by a waterproof case, unlike the GoPro Hero 4 which requires you to switch to physical buttons when encased in the waterproof protection. This waterproof case itself is designed with anti-glare coating over the monitor and lens to ensure footage is still clear. 

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As well as the touch screen on the back, the Virb Ultra 30 has all of its buttons built-in to the top of the camera, including a very tactile and well-built power switch. There’s also a highly sensitive microphone to ensure audio capture is clear and usable. 

As if all those controls and features aren’t enough, it can even respond to voice commands using Sensory TrulyHandsfree technology. That means you can say things like “OK Garmin, start recording”, or “OK Garmin, remember that.” The latter command tags individual moments within a long video, so that they can be found easily later.

It records video to microSD, but can be controlled using the smartphone app, and the footage can be edited on the company’s own software on the smartphone too.

The small Hero-like form factor lends itself well to being mounted to helmets, bikes, dashboards, or anywhere else you’d like to have the camera stuck.

You can buy the Virb Ultra 30 for £449.99, and it comes shipped with a waterproof case. Price-wise, that makes it around £40 dearer than the Hero 4 Black from GoPro, and more than £100 more expensive than the Hero 4 Silver. Still, if its features all work together well, it may well be worth the extra outlay. 

5
Sep

IFA 2016: The rose gold edition


No, Apple didn’t invent the color pink, but it certainly made “rose gold” famous. It all started last year with the company’s first rose gold iPhones, the 6s and 6s Plus, which quickly inspired other manufacturers to embellish their own devices with identical hues. It’s no surprise, then, that the IFA 2016 show floor is filled with rose gold gadgets, although some would prefer to be described as “copper” or “luxury pink.” Whatever it may be, it’s become a major trend in the tech world, one that shows no sign of slowing down. With that in mind, take a look at some of the best rose gold gadgets we found in Berlin.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

5
Sep

Sainsbury’s to triple the number of in-house Argos pickup stores


Sainsbury’s certainly isn’t dilly-dallying after completing its acquisition of Home Retail Group, owner of Argos and Habitat, last week. The supermarket already has plans for its new purchase, namely tripling the number of Argos “digital stores” housed within Sainsbury’s locations. These miniature stores are primarily click-and-collect points, though they also stock thousands of items (but not the full catalogue) for instant purchase, later pickup or home delivery.

The plan is to increase the number of Argos stores-within-stores from 10 to 30 by Christmas, ahead of the holiday rush. Perhaps not a monumental expansion, but the whole point of Sainsbury’s acquiring Home Retail Group was to combine retail presences, product ranges and services to create something that would better compete with online rivals. And you have to move quick with new pickup points if you want to convince customers that click-and-collect is more convenient than click-and-wait.

Especially when Amazon is adding new services and expanding others seemingly every month. Sainsbury’s and Argos aren’t ones to be left behind, though. Argos launched UK-wide same-day deliveries last year, for example, and more recently Sainsbury’s began trialing one-hour grocery deliveries in London’s Wandsworth borough.

Source: Financial Times

5
Sep

Alcatel’s standalone VR headset is a tough sell


While Samsung’s Gear VR requires a smartphone and full-fledged headsets like the Oculus Rift require a computer, Alcatel’s newly announced Vision doesn’t need either. Indeed, it’s a standalone VR headset, which is still something of a rarity in the VR world. Intel announced its own Project Alloy about a month ago and smaller companies like Sulon have come out with prototypes, but the Vision is the first working model I’ve actually had the chance to try on. As cool as it is though, I have to admit it faces stiff competition from the likes of Gear VR as well as Daydream-compatible phones and headsets.

At first glance, the Vision looks more like a kind of fighter helmet rather than a VR headset. Instead of using straps, the Vision utilizes a sort of brace that fits around your head. On the front is a set of goggles, which is then attached to a large back pad via a pair of flexible plastic arms. The reason for such bulk though, is that the 3,000 mAh battery is actually located in the rear. The result is a surprisingly balanced and comfortable fit despite its size.

In fact, I didn’t feel weighed down at all while wearing it. I was a little concerned with the lack of adjustable straps, but the Vision clamped on my head pretty securely. I did think it needed some kind of additional nose pads — it kept slipping a little on me — but it was otherwise fine. The eyewear area was roomy enough for my glasses and the extra padding around it added to the overall comfort. There’s a touchpad on the right temple, while the power key lies on top. It also has a headset jack to which you can attach your favorite pair of headphones.

Instead of a smartphone, the Vision comes equipped with a pair of 3.8-inch AMOLED displays, each with 1,080 x 1,020 resolution. I watched a couple of videos and played a game or two on the Vision and while the performance seemed fine, the resolution was a little blurry and the screen-door effect was apparent; definitely not any better than that of the Gear VR. It was still plenty immersive though, and I enjoyed tapping at the touchpad to zap away oncoming robots. On the inside, the Vision has specs that mimic most smartphones. It has an octa-core CPU, 32GB of storage, 3GB of RAM, Bluetooth, LTE WiFi as well as the usual accelerometer, gyro and proximity sensors. The Vision will apparently have around 3 hours of battery life.

It’s unclear how much the Vision will actually be but we hear that it’ll likely cost around $500 or $600. Seeing as you can get a Gear VR and a compatible smartphone for around that price, we’re not sure if the Vision offers a compelling alternative, especially since the Samsung option appears to have a far wider content library. Plus, we’ve yet to see what Google has to offer in terms of Daydream-compatible handsets. Still, if you fancy a VR headset without the constraints of a phone or a PC, the Vision might be a good one to try out. It’ll be available in China before the end of the year while the US should see it in early 2017.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

5
Sep

Apple Music 12-Month Membership Gift Cards Now Available for $99


Apple has begun selling gift cards for Apple Music annual subscriptions at the discounted price of $99. The 12-month gift cards work out at $8.25 per month, offering an 18 percent saving over the standard $9.99 monthly subscription rate for Apple’s streaming service.

Currently the gift cards are being offered at brick-and-mortar Apple stores and select third-party sellers like Best Buy, but eGift cards can also be purchased online at PayPal and Walmart for instant activation.

Elsewhere, residents in the U.K. can use PayPal’s online eGift shop to buy 12-month Apple Music gift cards for £99, which works out at £8.25 instead of £9.99, for those willing to sign up for a full year.

Apple still offers eligible students 50 percent off an Apple Music subscription, while the family plan lets up to six people pay $15 per month, or $2.50 each.

The new Apple Music, which has seen a significant redesign in iOS 10, will launch to the public this fall.

(Via 9to5Mac)

Tag: Apple Music
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5
Sep

What time is the PlayStation 4 Neo and PS4 Slim launch and can I watch it online?


Sony is hosting a dedicated press event in New York on Wednesday, 7 September, where it is expected to refresh its PlayStation 4 console line-up with two newly announced machines.

The company will also likely talk more about the imminent PlayStation VR headset and some of its launch titles, especially as its out from 13 October.

Pocket-lint will be attending and reporting live from the event, but in case you would also like to watch it live, here are main things you need to know.

  • What to expect from Sony’s PlayStation New York event: PS4 Neo, PS4 Slim and more
  • PlayStation 4 Slim: Release date, rumours and everything you need to know
  • PS4 Neo (PS4K) vs Project Scorpio: What’s the rumoured difference?
  • Sony PlayStation 4 Neo: What is PS4.5/PS4K, when is it coming and what will it offer?
  • Xbox One S vs PlayStation Neo (PS4K): What’s the rumoured difference?

What will be launched at the Sony PlayStation New York event?

The two much-rumoured and leaked consoles Sony is expected to add to its line-up are the PS4 Slim and PS4 Neo.

If numerous online leaks are to be believed, the PS4 Slim is a thinner, smaller version of the standard console, with a modified DualShock controller that also has a lightbar strip at the top of the touchpad.

The PS4 Neo is perhaps the more exciting of the two, as it’ll be Sony’s most powerful, impressive console yet. SCE boss Andrew House suggested it’ll even be capable of 4K gaming, so we can’t wait to see the actual announcement and confirmation of its abilities.

What time will the Sony PlayStation New York event start?

The PS4 Slim and PS4 Neo launch event will kick off at 3pm ET in New York’s PlayStation Theater. That means you’ll be able to keep a beady eye on the action from 8pm in the UK, midday on the West Coast of America.

Where can I watch the Sony PlayStation New York event?

Sony will be hosting the launch event online, with a livestream to be available on the day.

However, it is yet to reveal details of the stream but is expected to tomorrow, 6 September, or on the launch day itself. We are 99 per cent certain to be hosting it here on Pocket-lint, so you should bookmark this page.

Alternatively, you could try the PlayStation Twitch feed as the company traditionally streams footage of its events there.

We’ll update when we know more.

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