By Courtney Schley
This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that supports its work. Read the full article here.
We don’t think there’s a right or wrong way for kids to play. For this kid-oriented gift guide, we focused on open-ended games, kits, toys, and crafts that promote lifelong skills like critical thinking, problem solving, logic, and even coding. To choose from the hundreds of toys available, we spent more than 30 hours trying 35 recommendations from experts, educators, and parents, including a reporting trip to the Katherine Delmar Burke School’s tinkering and technology lab in San Francisco. And, of course, we spent some time playing with our picks at home with our own kids.
What are learning toys?
The toys featured in this guide are often called “STEM” toys because they can help develop skills that would be useful in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But we prefer the term “learning toys,” because, as the educators we spoke to told us, these toys and games promote aptitudes that are relevant in all types of learning.
We’re not saying these toys will make kids into future inventors, programmers, or poets. Mostly we like these toys—and think the kids in your life will like them too—because they are open-ended, adaptive, flexible, provocative, and, most important, fun.
How we picked and tested
Students at Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco build, code, craft, and play in the Makery, the school’s tinkering lab. Photo courtesy of Katherine Delmar Burke School.
To identify toys and games for this guide, we visited Katherine Delmar Burke School, an all-girls K–8 school in San Francisco. A few years ago, Burke’s built a large learning lab, dubbed it “The Makery,” and filled it with toys, games, computers, electronics, tools, building materials, and craft supplies. Students go to the lab to design, experiment, and create any number of projects, from robots and software to furniture and clothing.
We spoke with Mike Matthews, the director of curriculum and program innovation at Burke’s, and Jenny Howland, the K–4 technology teacher, to find out what they think makes a good learning toy for school and home. We tried out a number of games, toys, and kits in The Makery ourselves and learned which ones have been most successful—and fun—for the students.
We also talked to Wirecutter and Sweethome staff with kids in their lives to find out their favorite learning toys, paying particular attention to recommendations we received from multiple sources. Our research, expert interviews, and hands-on experience led us to identify several criteria that make a great learning toy:
- Open-ended: These types of toys can be played with, disassembled, reassembled, and interacted with in a variety of ways. Many of the games require the players to collaborate, which spurs kids toward creativity and exploration.
- Accessible: We focused on toys that won’t require extensive adult help or supervision. The toys we recommend don’t force kids to follow a specific set of instructions, but rather encourage play through experimentation.
- Replayable: Most of the toys and games on our list can be enjoyed by a wide range of ages, either because they offer different modes or difficulty levels, or because they allow increasingly complex interactions as the player builds skills.
- Fun: Harder to quantify but obviously the most important of the criteria is the “fun factor.” All the toys we chose were vetted by kids—either enjoyed regularly in classrooms and The Makery, or enjoyed by our own staffers’ kids, or both.
We divided our recommendations into five categories: games, building toys, electronics/circuitry kits, robots, and crafts.
A Burke’s student plays Three Little Piggies. Photo courtesy of Katherine Delmar Burke School.
Like chess, the ultimate learning game, these analog games are logic-based and multi-solution, and require planning moves in advance. The deceptively simple sets have few pieces and are easily packable for play in the car or at friends’ houses, but each offers multiple modes of play and delightfully tough logic puzzles.
Rush Hour, a single-player game that has brightly colored pieces that snap onto the game board, was recommended by the teachers at Burke’s. Using different challenge configurations, the player has to move other cars so the red car can make its way out of a traffic jam. In our experience, different challenge modes can make it fun for kids in first and second grade as well as older elementary.
Three Little Piggies requires positioning the pigs’ houses in different ways to keep them safe from the Big Bad Wolf, and is a hit with the kindergartners at Burke’s but also offers more challenging play modes for older kids. Though technically a single-player game, multiple kids can work together to solve the puzzles. Check out our full guide for more game recommendations.
Gears! Gears! Gears! Is a big box of gears that snap together with axles and extenders, creating spinnable mechanical structures. Photo: Leigh Krietsch-Boerner
According to ongoing research by early-childhood education specialists at Eastern Connecticut State University who rank toys according to how well they promote thinking, problem solving, social interaction, and creativity among young kids, one of the best-performing toys is a simple set of wooden blocks. These building toys are variations on basic wood blocks, incorporating magnets, flexible connectors, and gears to allow kids to build complex and creative structures.
Magformers, a set of flat shapes with internal magnets, lets kids make free-form structures that go way beyond the typical block tower or castle. Members of our staff also love Magna-Tiles, which come in additional shapes and sizes.
Zoob is a 250-piece set of connectable pieces that have ball joints that snap into U-shaped brackets, allowing kids to build shapes and structures with curves, bends, and joints. The basic Zoob set is great for kids 6 and up, though parents should be aware that it contains Lego-sized pieces and requires a similar level of dexterity.
Gears! Gears! Gears! is exactly what you’d guess—a big box of colored gears that snap together with axles and extenders to create complex, moveable structures. The challenge is figuring out how to align and order the gears so they’ll all turn in unison and not get jammed up.
Snap Circuits teaches the fundamentals of circuitry and electronics. Photo: Chris Heinonen
These toys help kids jump into experimenting with electronic circuitry and computing (with no soldering required). Each of these kits can be played with on its own to experiment with connections, signals, and inputs and to understand how electronic circuits and computing systems work.
Recommended for ages 8 and up, LittleBits are ready-made, modular circuits that snap together with magnets. Kids can connect a battery-supplied power source to, say, on/off and dimmer inputs, followed by a servo motor, to see how they work together to power and modulate the speed of the motor. Additional add-ons to LittleBits offer a world of possibilities to spark a deeper interest in learning the fundamentals of circuit theory—check out more options in our full guide.
SnapCircuits let kids explore the fundamentals of electronics and circuit design by using basic components (power sources, switches, resistors, capacitors, and wires of different sizes) that snap together on a large, flat surface. The beauty of SnapCircuits is that, unlike kits using ready-made motors and electronic components, kids are actually building and designing real circuits—much in the same way an engineer would prototype circuits, albeit in a simplified and accessible form.
Dash can be programmed using several apps of varying skill levels. Photo courtesy of Katherine Delmar Burke School
Some computer science and educational researchers have concluded (PDF) that robots have great potential for allowing kids as young as 4 to engage with technology, programming, and engineering and to develop abstract skills like storytelling, creativity, and visual memory. We think the robots recommended here are great for play at home, too: they’re open-ended, adaptable, and responsive; help kids of all ages explore fundamental programming concepts; and are lovable to boot.
The small, Cyclopean robot Dash is Bluetooth-enabled and rechargeable, and rolls agilely on three wheels in response to voice cues or app-based commands from an Android or iOS device. Five included apps let you manipulate, program, and design new behaviors for the robot, and play music with it. The bot lends itself well to group play, fostering brainstorming and ideation, especially among kids of multiple ages: A preschooler can come up with ideas for what Dash should do as an older child programs the commands into the app.
Kids can manipulate and program Dash with five included apps. Photo courtesy of Katherine Delmar Burke School.
At its price, Dash is not a cheap toy, but other educational robots we looked at (such as the Sphero and Kibo) are in the same price range or more expensive. For the investment, you get a versatile, responsive toy designed to continue to remain challenging and interesting as your child grows and develops new skills.
Recommended by teachers at Burke’s and Wirecutter executive editor Mike Berk, mBot lets kids build, customize, and program a robot, exploring mechanics, engineering, circuitry, and coding. Kids first assemble mBot using the base kit and then customize it with add-on packs that have extra sensors, motors and mechanical pieces, and lights and audio devices that can extend its functions and capabilities. Kids can also build programs for mBot, using Makeblock’s app (either on an Android/iOS device, or a Mac/PC) with a drag-and-drop programming language inspired by Scratch 2.0.
Many traditional crafts have a great deal to teach kids about engineering, math, and design. In Burke’s Makery, students experiment with a range of crafts—knitting, sewing, felting, weaving—alongside mechanical and electrical engineering projects. For this guide, we focused on ready-to-go kits designed to introduce small hands to a range of handicrafts.
Sweethome sewing machine guide writer Jackie Reeve says these simple, animal-shaped sewing projects that come in elephant, fox, and penguin patterns are among her favorites for her 4-year-old daughter. The felt pieces have precut holes along the seams and come with plastic needles and string that are suited for small hands and developing fine motor skills.
Jackie Reeve also recommends Seedling craft kits, noting their gender-neutral design and great variety of make-your-own projects. Superhero capes, tote bags, and peg families are just a few other examples of the brand’s offerings.
This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.
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Previously only available in more central parts of London, Uber’s ridesharing option has been expanded to cover the entirety of zone 3 today. The catchment area for UberPool, which was first offered in London a year ago almost to the day, has effectively doubled as a result of the expansion. With UberPool, passengers can save 25 percent on the cost of an UberX ride, with the catch being they might have to share their trip with a stranger.
That’s if, en route, your driver spots someone wanting to go the same way; or, of course, you may find yourself getting into an already-occupied car. Still, now you can get from Wood Green to Wimbledon for that bit cheaper, though you may have to walk to one of Uber’s “smart pickup points” instead of being collected roadside. Introduced a couple of months ago, Uber asks that during certain times of the day, ridesharers walk to convenient pickup locations so everyone can get to their final destinations as soon as possible.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, and the holiday shopping season is in full swing. As such, Google, Microsoft and Apple have all revealed their latest and greatest to get shoppers opening their wallets. Microsoft has the Surface Studio and refreshed Surface Book, not to mention the Xbox holiday lineup, while Apple goes into holiday battle with the new MacBook Pro and the iPhone 7.
Google is trying something different this year. The company has a full ecosystem of products made in-house for the first time: the Pixel smartphone, Google Home assistant and Daydream VR headset. All three products are important to Google’s strategy, but it feels to me like something’s missing: the humble Chromebook. Google’s more traditional computing platform has gone neglected this fall, and it’s especially surprising in light of a few big developments this year.
The first was a report from IDC claiming that Chromebooks outsold Macs in the first quarter of the year. Yes, that’s just one isolated data point, but it shows that there’s a market for Chromebooks, and that market is growing. The second development was Google’s announcement that Android apps would come to Chromebooks this year. That would solve two of the platform’s big weaknesses: the lack of traditional applications and the Chromebook’s limited offline capabilities.
But the rollout of Google Play on Chromebooks has been stilted at best. Only three models have full support as of today, more than six months after Google first announced the feature. There are a few more that can run Android apps if you use the developer version of Chrome OS, but ultimately this isn’t a selling point Google can use to drive interest in the platform. Indeed, the company doesn’t mention the feature at all on its Chromebook website or in its online store. Based on my experiences using Android on Chromebooks, that’s because the experience isn’t quite yet ready for prime time. There’s no sense in launching a half-baked feature, but I had assumed it would be ready to go by the end of this year.
It’s hard to see this as anything but a missed opportunity. Android is the most popular mobile OS by a wide margin, and being able to use the same apps on both your mobile phone and Chromebook would bring a nice layer of integration to the two platforms. But this non-launch means that consumers aren’t aware of this potentially important feature and developers have zero incentive to consider Chromebooks when building apps.
Google is dropping the ball from a hardware perspective as well. The Chromebook Pixel 2 was discontinued at the end of August with no replacement in site. Sure, that computer was never a practical buy, but similar to what the Nexus program did for phones, it provided manufacturers and developers inspiration when building their own Chromebooks. Other manufacturers have picked up the slack to some extent, but I’m surprised Google appears to have given up making its own Chrome OS hardware.
The hardware gulf shows up in Google’s online store too. Right now, you can only buy three different Chromebooks — all from Acer, two with 11-inch screens and large boat anchor with a 14-inch screen. It seems extremely strange that you cannot visit Google’s store and buy a Chromebook with the ever-popular 13-inch screen size.
One possible explanation for the apparent de-prioritization of Chromebooks at Google could be that the company is fully merging Chrome OS with Android, as various rumors have suggested over the years. The most recent rumor claims a merged Android / Chrome OS will power the next Pixel laptop planned to arrive sometime next year. That would certainly explain the silence, and an announcement of that magnitude would likely wait for the next I/O event in late spring. But that’s still another six months from now, not that the timeframe really matters if Google is moving on from Chrome OS.
It’s too soon to know what Google’s plan is, but a Google spokesperson confirmed that the company “remains committed to Chrome OS and Chromebooks.” The spokesperson also said that Google is seeing great momentum for the platform, particularly in the education market. And given that nearly all Chromebooks are made by OEM partners, there’s logic to keeping this fall’s big launch event focused on the “Made by Google” products. But if the company isn’t giving up on Chromebooks, that makes the lack of new hardware this fall all the more strange.
That’s particularly true given that Google has been closing the gap with Apple, a company whose laptop situation is a bit out of whack right now. A Chromebook is clearly a different class of device than a MacBook Pro, but that’s beside the point. If Google isn’t giving customers good devices to buy and making big advances like Android apps a priority, Chromebooks will continue to have a hard time shaking the old “it’s only a browser” stigma.
We hear about the continued effects of climate change all the time, but The Guardian reports military experts have another warning. The group said that even if the rise in global warming is held under 2 degrees Celsius, there still could be a major humanitarian crisis to sort out. That figure is widely regarded as a limit beyond which there will be dangerous consequences.
“Climate change could lead to a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions,” said Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, CEO of the American Security Project and member of the foreign policy affairs board for the State Department. “We’re already seeing migration of large numbers of people around the world because of food scarcity, water insecurity and extreme weather, and this is set to become the new normal.”
In terms of migration, Bangladesh is a prime example of potential for major issues. Chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change Major General Munir Muniruzzaman explained that water scarcity and rising sea level would massively disrupt not only that country, but the entire region.
“We’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people,” Muniruzzaman said. He also explained that with a 1 meter (3 foot) rise in sea level, Bangladesh could lose 20 percent of its land mass. “Climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century,” he continued. Environmental factors are one cause of the massive European migration crisis and the group of military officials say those issues will continue to pose security risks and could provoke international conflict.
Via: AOL UK (Press Association)
Source: The Guardian
Apple has posted a message on its Chinese website to address unexpected battery shutdowns affecting some iPhone 6s models, noting the issue is related to some batteries having been overexposed to “controlled ambient air” during the manufacturing process (via Business Insider).
We found that a small number of iPhone 6s devices made in September and October 2015 contained a battery component that was exposed to controlled ambient air longer than it should have been before being assembled into battery packs. As a result, these batteries degrade faster than a normal battery and cause unexpected shutdowns to occur. It’s important to note, this is not a safety issue.
Apple added that iPhones are designed to shut down automatically under certain conditions, such as extremely cold temperature. In this case, some iPhone 6s models are shutting down with around 30% battery percentage remaining to protect the device’s internal components from low voltage.
Apple said it has investigated other factors that could potentially cause an iPhone to shut down unexpectedly, but it has not identified any new factors. Nevertheless, the company said it will continue to monitor and analyze customer reports. Apple reiterated the battery issues are not a safety concern.
Apple launched a repair program earlier this month offering free battery replacements for affected iPhone 6s models. These devices fall within a limited serial number range manufactured between September 2015 and October 2015. Apple has since launched a tool to check if your serial number is affected.
Apple is also offering refunds to customers who previously paid to have their eligible iPhone 6s battery repaired or replaced. Apple recommends customers experiencing iPhone 6s battery issues visit an Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or contact Apple Support.
Related Roundup: iPhone 6s
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone (Buy Now)
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Apple today seeded the fifth beta of an upcoming iOS 10.2 update to developers and public beta testers, four days after seeding the fourth beta of iOS 10.2 and more than a month after releasing iOS 10.1, the first major update to iOS 10.
Registered developers can download the iOS 10.2 beta 5 from the Apple Developer Center or over-the-air with the proper configuration profile installed.
iOS 10.2 introduces new emoji, such as clown face, drooling face, selfie, face palm, fox face, owl, shark, butterfly, avocado, pancakes, croissant, and more. There are more than a hundred new emoji, including several profession emoji available in both male and female genders, such as firefighter, mechanic, lawyer, doctor, scientist, and more. Apple has also redesigned many existing emoji, adding more detail to make them look much more realistic.
Along with new emoji, iOS 10.2 includes new wallpaper, new Music sorting options and buttons for Repeat and Shuffle, new “Celebrate” and “Send with Love” Screen Effects, an option for preserving camera settings, Single-Sign On support for watching live TV via apps, and the official “TV” app that was first introduced at Apple’s October 27 event.
The TV app serves as an Apple-designed TV guide that aims to simplify the television watching experience and allow users to discover new TV shows and movies to watch.
The TV app is available on iOS devices and the Apple TV, and in iOS 10.2, the “Videos” app has been replaced entirely with the new “TV” app, which will now serve as the iOS TV and movie hub.
Apple has called iOS 10 its “biggest release ever” for iOS users, with a revamped lock screen, a Siri SDK for developers, an overhauled Messages app, a dedicated “Home” app for HomeKit users, new facial and object recognition capabilities in Photos, and redesigned Maps and Apple Music apps.
Related Roundup: iOS 10
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I’m walking around the conference room, aiming my Tango phone at the space between two chairs where Lenovo executives are sitting. A third empty chair, a plush leather one, sits on the carpet. I’m walking around it, seeing how it looks. But it isn’t real: it’s augmented, generated by an app on my phone screen. As I move around, it stays in place convincingly. I think to myself…I could use this to furniture-shop for my living room without even lifting a finger.
More from Lenovo
- World’s first Google Tango phone
- Motorola’s new Moto Z ditches the headphone jack
- Lenovo’s concept flexible phone flips between handset and smartwatch
If you haven’t used Google’s Project Tango, or don’t even know what it is, let me simplify: it’s a depth-sensing 3D camera system that can scan the world around you and help place virtual objects in the real world. It might be the future of where smart cameras are headed. And it could be a sign of how phones might evolve further into world-scanning powerhouses.
Google’s been developing Tango for years as a way to measure distances in 3D space, map out indoor areas, and create virtual and augmented reality, floating virtual objects into real space. Now, Lenovo’s got the world’s first ready-to-buy Tango phone, and it’s calling it the Lenovo Phab2 Pro. And it’ll be available this September.
Update, November 1: After an short additional delay, The Phab 2 Pro is now on sale.
What Tango can do
CNET’s seen Tango in action many times, doing all sorts of funky things: simulating furniture shopping, navigating museums, diving in giant VR aquariums. Tango has been in a developer-kit tablet for a while, where it was used for lots of experimental ideas. Tango’s chief skills are depth-sensing, location-mapping, and placing virtual objects into reality with a better sense of accuracy. On the tablet, most apps were used in landscape mode. On the Phab2 Pro, most Tango apps are still landscape-mode oriented, too.
The Lenovo Phab2 Pro scans the world around…
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The apps I got to try were varied. One placed virtual furniture in the room I was in, allowing me to experiment with what would fit in real, physical space. Lowe’s is making one of the first potential Tango killer apps with Lowe’s Vision, which measures living space and then can layer in additions, furniture and decor to model in the space. Think Microsoft HoloLens, but instead of floating in front of your face you’re viewing things on your phone screen. The rear trio of Tango-enabled cameras have an infrared depth-sensing, a wide-angle lens, and can track motion.
There was another app where I was able to walk around the room I was in, while the Tango camera started generating a 3D photo-mapped model of where I was. This is Tango’s most amazing feature: with a bunch of these, you could walk around and map out interior spaces in full 3D. Tango’s also unique because it can not only measure, but learn about the shape of areas: where objects begin and end, and where walls and doorways are. At Google I/O, Google said it’s aiming to use this tech to map out interior places with the accuracy of outdoor maps. Maybe it’s to beef up Google Maps’ worldwide database. As an everyday person, however, I’m not still not sure how this would help anyone.
That’s the biggest challenge with Tango: it still feels like tech seeking a killer app or purpose. But it definitely has a bunch of clever tricks up its sleeve.
There are a few games, too. I tried running around and shooting at virtual alien-things that hopped around the room I was actually in — the conference table, the chairs — much like some augmented reality phone games have already allowed for years. On Tango, the position tracking is far more accurate. It still feels a little silly. More impressively, I laid virtual dominoes on the nearby table and watched them knock down one by one. I walked around my domino creation, and it mostly stayed put — with a bit of drift that Lenovo says will be corrected by launch. I looked a 3D velociraptor model standing in the corner of the conference room.
Lenovo promises 22 Tango-ready apps for launch this year, and estimates up to 100 apps by the end of 2017. Those numbers may sound conservative. Tango still feels like a development project, in a lot of ways.
Smart cameras are the future (probably)
Tango isn’t the only type of smart camera tech lurking around: Intel’s 3D RealSense cameras have been around for years, and can also track depth. They’re making their way into other devices including helmets. Microsoft’s developed similar positional-tracking tech in the Kinect and in the HoloLens. Amazon tried something similar in spirit with the Fire Phone and its array of cameras. And Apple acquired Primesense, the company that created the Kinect, back in 2013.
There have been many attempts at similar tech. Will Tango get it right?
Smarter cameras equipped with more advanced computer vision processing and deep learning could be the magic equation. Face and object recognition, auto navigation, and advanced mixed-reality applications that fuse the virtual and real. If phones get upgraded, smarter cameras, they could be doorways into a new future.
The Tango phone is called the Lenovo Phab2 Pro
Lenovo’s new Phab2 phone line comes in three models, all of them with massive 6.4-inch screens. The one with Google’s new magic Tango cameras — the Phab2 Pro — costs more ($499 unlocked in the US, equivalent to £345 UK or AU$672), and has an extra camera array on the back, arranged down the middle. There’s a wide-angle camera, plus infrared depth sensing and motion tracking.
The Phab2 Pro has a Quad HD-resolution display, 4GB of RAM, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor that’s specifically built for Tango. The phone’s large size means it feels more like a tablet than a phone. But it’s smaller than the previous developer-edition Tango tablet, and more affordable. Plus, it’s a connected phone. For those reasons alone, it’ll likely be the new Tango device of choice. Whether it becomes more depends on apps.
- 6.4-inch Quad HD (2560×1440) IPS display
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage
- microSD up to 128GB
- 4,050mAh battery with fast charging
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor
- Dual SIM slots (or 1 SIM, 1 microSD)
- Rear 16MP fast-focus camera with Tango depth sensor and motion tracking
- Front 8MP fixed-focus camera, F2.2 aperture
- Triple-array active noise cancellation
- Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
- 0.57 lb (259g), 180 x 89 x 10.7mm
- Aluminum alloy construction with 2.5D curved glass
- LTE Bands 2/4/5/7/12/17/20/30 in North America, compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile
Right now you can save up to 66% on a variety of SoundPeats Bluetooth headphones at Amazon, but only for today. The discounts range from the company’s sport headphones right down to the truly wireless ones, so you won’t want to miss out here. Whether you need to pick up some headphones to replace an older pair, or can’t use your old ones in your new phone without a headphone jack, Bluetooth is the way to go these days.
If you need a new set of headphones, today is the day to buy a pair. This deal will end tonight, so be sure to act quickly and pick some up right now,
See at Amazon
Motorola isn’t saying wearables are dead, but for now they’re frozen.
Motorola has been in the wearables game longer than practically any other company. This was pointed out by Shakil Barkat, Moto’s head of global product development and self-proclaimed “big fan of wearables,” during a meeting with reporters at the company’s Chicago headquarters this week.
“If you can remember that far back, we brought out the MotoActv back in 2009,” an early play in the smart-ish watch field that, according to Barkat, was well ahead of its time. But today, things are different. For many, wearables have come and gone, and the industry is dealing with the reality that the category will likely never stand in for a drop in smartphone and tablet demand; the products are designed not to replace, but enhance, the smartphone in your pocket.
“There just isn’t enough demand to build [a smartwatch] year over year.”
“There just isn’t enough demand to build [a smartwatch] year over year,” he said, dampening hopes that the company would release a new Moto 360-branded smartwatch this year, or even next. While he wouldn’t outright deny that the company is working on a follow-up to its popular Android Wear-powered wearable, he said that there wouldn’t be a successor available at the launch of Android Wear 2.0, which is expected in early 2017.
Barkat did say that there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the wrist as a vehicle for wearables, but the current crop of devices — Moto 360 and other smartwatches, as well as fitness-based wearables — fulfil the current consumer demand, and until there are new reasons to innovate in the space, the release cadence will continue to be slow.
Dan Dery, vice president of global products at Lenovo and Moto, reiterated the claim, noting that the smartphone will likely always be the center of a person’s computing world, and that there is still plenty of innovation left in that sphere, from flexible displays to “throwing” screens onto a nearby surface to share content with large groups of people. But he also said that wearables would continue to evolve to deliver “snackable” subsets of information that people want to consume throughout the day, and that Motorola is committed to bringing as much innovation to the space as possible. Right now, though, that requires a wait-and-see approach to the company’s current product line.
Motorola is likely waiting until Google knows exactly what it wants Android Wear to look like.
Motorola is likely waiting until Google knows exactly what it wants Android Wear to look like. AW 2.0, which was delayed from a fall 2016 release to sometime in the first quarter of next year, works very differently from its previous iteration, and will have its own app store separate from Android’s main concern. This goes against the generally-accepted trend that users don’t actually find smartwatch apps particularly useful, preferring to use the hardware mainly for notifications and fitness, but Google likely has its reasons for pushing a wrist-based app strategy.
Whatever the reason for Moto’s reticence, it appears to have been mirrored by the rest of the industry; Huawei, the other company that found success with a round Android Wear smartwatch, has yet to release a follow-up to its 2015 hit, and LG and Samsung have all but given up on the platform, the latter doubling down on Tizen with the Gear S series.
This isn’t good news for anyone yearning for a Moto 360 without a flat tire, but it also lays bear the difficulty of sustaining momentum in a new product category, especially as it matures.
Remote management app could expose data to attackers — or compromise devices through hijacked update files.
Research by security firm Zimperium has shown that popular remote management app AirDroid is vulnerable to so-called “man-n-the-middle” attacks, leaving users’ phones open to data theft or, at worst, compromise of the device through a hijacked update file.
According to Zimperium, an attacker on the same network as the intended victim could intercept authentication data and impersonate the user, allowing personal data — such as SMS, calls, notifications or contact details — to be exposed.
Most seriously, the mechanism by which the app is updated could also be hijacked in the same way, exposing AirDroid users to have their entire device compromised by a malicious APK file. The security firm has a full proof of concept on its site, along with details of how it disclosed the vulnerabilities to developer Sand Studio, starting in May 2016.
Zimperium says the recently released AirDroid 4.0.0 and 4.0.1 remain vulnerable to the same vulnerability. We’ve reached out to Sand Studio for comment, and we’ll update this post with any response. In the meantime, if you’re a security-conscious AirDroid user, you may want to think about uninstalling until a fix is available.