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Mar 1, 2015

How to select the right wearable?

fitbit activity tracker - mobilespoon

Let’s talk some wearables.
I am pretty sure they’ll be everywhere in this year’s MWC event, but what is the right way to evaluate them?
How do you rate a wearable device; a smartband, healthband, sportsband, or even a smartwatch.
What are the minimal specifications they need to have?
What is considered to be unique capability or an advantage for a wearable device?

And if you are going to buy a new wearable – what are the things you should look for?

 

Activity Trackers - mobilespoon

Design

Before anything else, a wearable device is something you wear. Smartwatches and activity trackers should look good on your wrist. The design matters, as it’s something you will wear like a jewelry for the rest of your life (or until a new model comes out).

 

Fitness & Health Tracking

Most activity trackers and smartwatches provide the basic stuff, but the great ones have more to offer.

Basic fitness functionality includes steps counting, heart-rate, calories burned and sleep tracking. Of course you need to have a companion app that will store your activity stats, daily progress etc.
That’s the basic. Less then that and you are probably looking at a really simple tracker which is too basic. 

Advanced fitness functionality includes built-in GPS, and some extra sensors (such as skin temperature) and social features in the companion app (for sharing achievements and comparing results).

Unique fitness functionality may include things like gym guided workouts (Microsoft Band) or stairs counters (Fitbit devices). Stairs are really fun thing to monitor as they can give you an extra daily challenge which is very effective.

My recommendation is to invest in a device that gives you a bit more than the basic. Built-in GPS and stairs tracking are two of my favorite options.

 

Smartwatch Functionality

Latest activity trackers already provide a lot of the basic smartwatch functionality.

Basic smartwatch functionality includes things like notifications and quick actions (for instance: reply to a text message using pre-defined sentences). Having those features is not a must but definitely brings some cool factor to any wearable and more importantly, can become handy in some scenarios. 

Advanced smartwatch functionality may include more than just notifications. The likes of Android Wear and soon Apple Watch (and even Microsoft Band to some extent) provide the ability to run apps. Most of the apps are relatively simple and depend on the smartphone, but some nice capabilities can be found in apps such as; calculator, weather, social network feed, news feed etc.

My view is that until proven otherwise (hint: by the Apple Watch) – smartwatches value is still to not clear.
I therefore recommend on buying a wearable that does the fitness part really well, and see the smartwatch functionality as a bonus.

 

Integration with phones and tablets 

Smartwatches and activity trackers are very dependent in the phone they communicate with. In fact the logic of the apps still runs inside the phone and exposed to the wearable through Bluetooth.

It’s important to check the integration options. Some wearables do not have a companion app for certain platforms such as windows and Windows Phone, while others, like the Samsung Gears, are running a proprietary OS (Tizen) that can only integrate with Samsung phones. If you don’t want to limit your next smartphone alternatives, select a wearable that is fully integrated with all popular smartphones. One of the things I like about the Microsoft Band is that it can work with iOS, Android, Windows, and Windows Phone.

 

Killer Feature(s)

It’s fun to buy a gadget that has some unique capabilities. Something you can use, or just showoff. That’s part of the fun of being a gadget person. Killer features can relate to waterproof devices, or being able to synchronize your latest run directly to the cloud through WIFI.

 

Apps

Like in many technologies these days, apps are key. They add content, they create constant innovation.
If you want to enjoy your activity tracker or your smartwatch – it needs to have 3rd party apps enabled for that wearable.

 

Battery life

For some, this is one of the most important factor when selecting a wearable. It’s hard enough to charge our phones, tablets and laptops every night, a watch is expected to stick around longer.
Unfortunately, it’s not always the case and while there are some activity trackers that can last 7-10 days (and even up to 30 days) – they are a bit harder to find, and the majority of today’s smartwatches (and new sport bands) require a daily (or nighty) charge.

My recommendation; if you are willing to compromise on functionality – get yourself a wearable that can last more than a few days (like the Fitbit or Garmin devices), if not – then try to find a wearable that can last for at least 2 days. 

Price

While price is mostly subjective, it is something most people will check before selecting a new wearable.

 

Summary

Buying a new smartwatch or an activity tracker? Check out the following things:

  1. Design
  2. Fitness & Health Tracking
  3. Smartwatch Functionality
  4. Integration with Phones & Tablets
  5. Killer Feature(s)
  6. Apps
  7. Battery Life
  8. Price

Tomorrow I hope to see some amazing new wearables in MWC15, I will try to examine them according to the above criteria.

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Feb 28, 2015

Here's what I'm expecting to see at MWC15



I'm on my way to Barcelona, and while my schedule is already pretty booked with meetings I do plan to leave some free time to see and "hold" the latest mobile technologies. 

Here's few things I really want to see this year: 

1. More innovative phones: last year it was mostly standard Android phablets. Nothing I can even remember except for the 2 sided screens Yota Phone which I really liked. This year I want to see more curved, rounded, twisted, weird, transforming devices. Not sure I will see many of them, though. 

2. Project ARA - the modular phone is here for a while, but I never saw it in real life. I suspect it's going to be weird at first but I do want to see something. 

3. Samsung S6 - I'm no fan of the previous Galaxy models mainly because of the software. I want to see some new exciting non-bloatware stuff from Samsung this year and try out the curved screens. 

4. HTC One M9 - despite its decreasing sales, HTC continues to rock with great Android devices. The M9 will look like the M8 which I like, so the new stuff will probably come in the software side. 

5. Wearables - that's the bottom line this year.  There is so much you can innovate with new phones and tablets, but the wearables are just beginning to shape up. I hope to see innovative devices, new Android Wear Smartwatches, glasses, clothes, and more. Let's see if something can compete with my Band. 

6. Enterprise related innovation - while the cool stuff is mostly targeted to consumers, my job is to monitor what's going on in Enterprise Mobility. New stuff from SAP, IBM, device managers, security tools, new development tools and even enterprise targeted phones like the the Blackphone. I want to see them all. 

Can't wait. 



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Feb 27, 2015

5 Cool Things To Do With Microsoft Band

Pimp My Band - mobilespoon

It’s no secret that I’m practically in love with my Microsoft Band. I’m using it mainly as a sport band (gym, running, overall activity tracking) and as a side benefit it’s also a pretty nice replacement to a Smartwatch as it gives most of the basic functionality of a smartwatch (notifications, quick replies, weather, voice activation [Cortana], calendar, facebook) and even a… keyboard.

There is a new development API Microsoft recently released which means we may soon see some new apps using it – but until they come – there are already a few nice things to do with the Band beyond tracking your running routs, statistics and best performance.

 

Here are five cool things to do with the Microsoft Band:

1. Customize the UI

The user interface of the Band uses Windows tiles, which is quite elegant, but if you want to place a wallpaper or change the accent color beyond the standard options you can do that with a nice app called Pimp My Band.

Pimp My Band - mobilespoon

Download Pimp My Band

 

2. Make it vibrate and flash!

Why? Because it’s cool.
And it’s important to remind everyone that you have a Band and they don’t.

Pimp My Band - the Mobile Spoon

Just download Find My Band and you are all set.

 

3. Demo the smallest keyboard in the world

Yes, it actually works. Not that I’m ever going to really need it, but the thing is a wonderful piece of technology.

Here’s a short video demonstrating the keyboard.

 

4. Perform guided workouts without a personal trainer

If you need some extra push with your gym training, the Band can be a great sports assistant.
The guided workouts are really cool, they take you step by step through the entire workout including the number reps and number of seconds to rest between the sets.

Microsoft Band Guided Workouts - Mobilespoon

Read more about Guided Workouts

 

5. Check out the different sensors in real-time

If you are board, or just want to check some interesting statistics about your body condition, an app called Band Sensors can help you out: the app activates the 10 different sensors loaded into the Band and provides a quick snapshot of your current status: heart rate, skin temperature, galvanic skin response, movement counter, steps, and of course battery condition (not yours, the band’s).

In addition the app will pull out the ambient light level and the UV level (which is also exposed in one of the Band’s tiles).

band sensors - mobilespoon  band sensors 2 - mobilespoon

Download Band Sensors app

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Feb 25, 2015

How To Remote Control Your iPad With Your iPhone

Want to run your presentation on your iPad and control it from your iPhone? Here’s how to do it.

SlideShark app mobilespoon

Imagine this: you are in a business meeting with 2 important executives. It's a big congress so you are not carrying your laptop with you, only your phone and your beloved iPad. The meeting room is small, there's no projector, and you feel you need to show some slides to support your message and attract the participants.

Now, at this point you are thinking of pulling out your iPad, but hey, that means you need to squeeze in and sit way too close to those senior people whom you’ve just met.

Not something you can easily do without being… well, weird. And weird is bad for business.

Plus, there is this onion thing... 
What were you thinking?! Eating that salad before such an important meeting… So unprofessional…

If only you could hand over your iPad to those executives and magically control those slides remotely with your iPhone without entering their space, without moving the tablet back and forth. Without being weird.

That could be quite impressive isn’t it? 

 

SlideShark to the rescue:

There are plenty of apps to remotely control your computer from the iPhone or iPad, but in many cases business people do not carry their computers with them when traveling or participating in large conferences. For those people, having a way to control their tablet from their phone can be very handy.

Well, good news. There is at least one app that provides this functionality and does it very well.

The app is called SlideShark, and you may know it as a very nice app to run and project slides and PDF documents on different mobile devices. The software also has some interesting team collaboration  features which I did not explore as I was focusing on the remote control feature. You can read more about the product in here.

How to control your iPad presentation with your iPhone?

So here’s how it works: you need to run your presentation on your iPad (through the SlideShark app) and connect your iPhone to it via Bluetooth. Both devices need to use the same network (Wifi or through the phone’s hotspot) and from your phone you can select a remote control mode which gives you a privilege to control the presentation remotely; navigate across slides and more.

Here’s a more detailed explanation:

Initial Setup (need to take place only once)

  1. Download SlideShark to your iPhone and iPad (link)
  2. Log in – from both devices
  3. Connect to your favorite cloud storage service (Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, etc.) in order to access your presentations

Start Your Presentation

  1. Make sure both our iPad and iPhone are connected to the same network (Wifi or using hotspot)
  2. From the SlideShark app, download the relevant presentation to your iPad (no need to download to the phone as well)
  3. Activate the remote control option (still within the iPad app)
  4. From your iPhone, open SlideShark, and hit the remote control button, you will get an option to select the iPad you want to control – select it.
  5. You will b prompt to start your presentation on your connected iPad. Do it.
  6. You are now controlling your iPad slides from your iPhone. Slide right to move to the next slide, slide left to move to the previous slide, slide your finger up to see all slides and jump to a specific slide.

IMG_0199  IMG_0200  IMG_0201  IMG_0202

Amazing stuff.

I tested a few decks of slides and so far so good, although I did encounter 2 issues:

  1. The storage of the app is limited to 25M. In my case it’s painful as my typical presentations are huge and loaded with high quality images. There is a relatively expensive way to get more storage which I may use eventually.
  2. While the animations of my PowerPoint slides worked very well – I did encounter some issues with text layout – which means that the rendering of the presentations is a bit different than the one done by original Office apps. This means that before using SlideShark – you better dry run your slides and see that there aren’t any compatibility issues.

That’s it. I know. You really needed something like this and didn’t know it existed. Give it a try, it’s working.

More useful tips:
How to project your iPhone/iPad screen to your Windows PC
How To Download Apps From The US AppStore Even If You Live Elsewhere [iOS]
15 Easy Ways To Save iPhone’s Battery Life

Amazing stuff.

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Feb 23, 2015

This Is Probably The World’s Tiniest Keyboard [Microsoft Band]

Microsoft Band Virtual Keyboard - The Mobile Spoon

Playing with the latest update of the Microsoft Band I now realize the Band probably holds the world’s smallest keyboard ever.

No, it doesn’t make any sense to type from a wearable, especially that small, but as this thing kept staring at me, so I had to give it a try. For the sake of science.

Well, After spending a few minutes with this ridiculously tiny keyboard I can’t help but saying:

It’s freaking magical!

Here’s a short video demonstration:

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The Best Wearable Just Got Even Better [Microsoft Band]

wp_ss_20150224_0003

The wearables market is getting ready for the launch of the Apple Watch, but the most fascinating wearable right now continues to be the Microsoft Band.

The already amazing wearable just got better today with some really cool new features making mega geeks such as myself even happier with it.

What’s new in Microsoft Band?

  1. Bike Tile (loads of statistics there, GPS, speed, heart tracking, just like the running tile)
  2. Quick Read features – displays the notifications in large font
  3. Virtual Keyboard – for short, quick responses to text messages (it’s using Word Flow technology which is quite nice!)
  4. Quick replies to text through voice (using Cortana integration)
  5. New integrations with 3rd party apps (this time with MapMyFitness)
  6. Microsoft Health web-based dashboard
  7. New developer SDK – finally developers will be able to start building 3rd party apps using Band features.
  8. New guided workouts

Amazing list, and the keyboard attempt is indeed a bold move.

Microsoft Health Dashboard - The Mobile Spoon

I started exploring the new features and I’m quite satisfied with them. Good job Microsoft, just when I started to lose my patience

Here’s a first short video demonstrating Quick Read. You can check out the virtual keyboard in here.

 

 

FullSizeRenderIMG_0166

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Feb 17, 2015

The Challenge in Being the “New Microsoft”

Microsoft Windows 10 Hololens - the mobile spoon

It is very trendy these days to talk about the “new Microsoft”. Analysts, bloggers, reporters, are mostly praising the software giant for being more open to non-Microsoft technologies and platforms than in the past. It’s also noticeable that the company is trying hard to create a buzz by announcing new software and hardware in an amazing pace.

Office for iOS, Windows 10, HoloLens, Microsoft Band, open source and cross platform .Net… wow! amazing! so many things in just few months. I love it.

However…

As much as I understand (and mostly support) what Microsoft is doing, there is also a problem with Microsoft’s recent “announcements outrage” and that’s lack of consistency.

Here are just a few examples form the top of my head:

1. Outlook for iOS

Outlook for iOS was released with a lot of buzz. everyone is excited about it, but it’s no other than the good old Acompli app we all know for a while. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s just that the app, as great as it is, is completely inconsistent with the rest of Microsoft’s Outlook line of products (Windows, Windows Phone, web, OWA). The design, the labels and titles, the behavior, gestures, and some missing features – make it feel like something which is definitely not “Microsoft”. I think Microsoft could have done a much better work (even if a bit superficial) to make the app feel like a true Outlook client (i.e make some UI changes, fix some issues with push notifications, etc.).

2. Microsoft Band

I’m a fan of activity trackers and the Band is the best in that category to my opinion (and needs).
But here’s the deal: I bought a kind of a prototype product 2 months ago after reading that Microsoft plans to introduce a web portal and expose some new sensors data (in the Microsoft Health app) in an ongoing manner.
Nice plan, and I am not complaining – I enjoy the Band a lot. However, during those 2 months there was only 1 update and it only included new training packs – something that doesn’t really count as a technology update.

Band on hand

I’m still optimistic about those updates, but knowing myself, I do see a scenario where around April I might switch from a Band to a Watch.

3. Windows 10 for Phones

One OS to fit them all; laptops, tablets and even phones. That’s an amazing vision and I wish it came 3 years ago, but better late than never. Still, digging into the details I am now pretty sure the vision of “Universal Apps” is not as pure & simple as Microsoft presents it.

Developers can have a shared project (or solution) – that’s right, but they will still have to sweat a lot in order to optimize their apps to each form factor by adding sub-projects per device type (Phones, Xbox, etc.).

In a way, universal apps can only be used for really simple applications or for specific layers of the app. Now, since today, the UI and UX are top priority for both developers and consumers – this means that the universal app vision only saves that amount of effort, and there will be still a lot of things to tweak and code in order to allow a Windows app to run properly on a Phone. Even if they are both called “10”.

Here, again, I think that in terms of consistency – Microsoft could, should, and probably will do more for developers. There are plenty of responsive web design patterns that can be applied for native apps. In order for Windows 10 to succeed, and in order for the vision of Universal Apps to be consistent and real – those tools should be available for developers pretty quick.

 

Summary:

I’m fascinated by the change Microsoft is going through.  I love the new Office for iOS (here’s how to get it if you do not live in the US) and the speed of new releases. I want to see more great products, but I hope that the current “announcements tsunami” will not end with a collection of beta products with no future (a-la Google Glass) and a trail of disappointed people.

Microsoft managed to create the buzz and capture our attention – that was the fun part.
The real challenge would be to deliver the promise in the long run, and that’s something the “new Microsoft” still needs to prove it can do.

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Feb 10, 2015

How To Download Apps From The US AppStore [iOS]

How to download apps from the US AppStore - mobilespoon

Many people outside of the US are disappointed by the fact they cannot put their hands on early releases of products. In fact, those people (and me included!) often feel they are last to get the cool stuff.

If you are one of those people and would like to, say, get the latest Microsoft Office for iOS, or maybe Microsoft Health app (for the ones lucky enough to own the Microsoft Band) – here’s a short guide to do just that.

Guide: How to download apps from the US Apple AppStore even if you are not living in the US:

Before we begin – the process will require some registrations via iTunes (creating a new account), switching accounts in the device itself (iPhone or iPad) and downloading the right apps. You may want to switch back to your regular account afterwards.

  1. Go to iTunes  
  2. Sign out (go to: Store >> Sign Out)
  3. At this point, iTunes will take you back to the store page – scroll down to the end of the page and click the country icon in the bottom right – select United States:
    Change country in iTunes - mobilespoon
  4. Sign in, and instead of using your regular account details – select the option: “Create Apple ID”
  5. itunes sign in mobilespoon[7]

  6. You will be required to enter your details. There is an option to skip the payments details (selecting “none”) – which means you will only be able to download free apps
  7. You’ll also need to add a US billing address. (Easiest way is to get a free ViaBox account – which will give you a valid US address)
  8. Save your new account
  9. Go to your iPhone or iPad and switch accounts (by going to: AppStore >> Featured (tab), then scroll all the way down >> click on your Apple ID button >> and select Sign Out – and then sign in with your newly created account).
    how to sign out from ipad appstore
  10. Download Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Health
  11. Celebrate

Important to know:

Keep in mind all of your existing apps will be deleted… no, that’s a joke, I’m joking, seriously, the apps will remain.

However, what you do need to remember is that you need to switch back to your regular account which means you will not be able to update the US only apps unless you switch accounts again to do so. Can become annoying at times, but still worth it.

That’s it. A simple way to create a secondary AppStore account which will help you get free apps which may not be available in your country. There is also a way to add credit to the new account – to learn how – head over to this guide by MakeUseOf.

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Feb 8, 2015

Can Phablets Replace Tablets? (And Smartphones Too)

I'd like to think of the iPad mini as the perfect gadget. It's light, fast, it runs my favorite mobile operating system, has the biggest productivity apps collection, big enough to type quickly (almost like a full sized tablet), small enough to be carried around easily, and the battery lasts long enough for my needs.

And yet, I am barely using it lately.

Why? Because for the past 6 months or so I'm using a phablet.

It's a Windows Phone Lumia 1520, a 6 inch phablet beast.

Lumia 1520 mobilespoon

I cannot say it has enough capabilities to beat the iPad mini (in fact, you all know Windows Phone bleeds painfully when it comes to apps, so I had to get creative to fulfill my needs: switched from EverNote to OneNote, dumped Any.do in favor of Wunderlist, and found some alternative rss readers to replace Feedly), and yet I barely use my iPad since I got the Lumia 1520.

According to an interesting study by Accenture, 50% of consumers worldwide who are looking to buy a new smartphone would prefer a bigger screened phablet. The study also found that consumers in emerging markets like India, China and South Africa were more likely to want a phablet (almost 70%) and not a smartphone and avoid purchasing the tablet completely.

I tried to think of the reasons for me to stop using the iPad mini:

  1. Every night I need to charge my phone, my beloved Microsoft Band, and my laptop. It's annoying and I often forget the iPad mini, who's kind of left behind. The more I forget it, the more it remains drained out, the less I use it...
  2. Walking around the office I often need to carry my laptop with me, and of course I need my smartphone (currently a phablet), and I definitely don't plan to carry 3 devices everywhere I go. The iPad loses again.
  3. I can type really fast with the iPad (both normal size and mini), however, when I lie down or carry it on the move, typing becomes a serious challenge. Typing with a phablet is done with both thumbs, just like a smaller smartphone, which means it can be done when lying down or on the move. The iPad is often mentioned as the perfect reading device, but in my case a lot of reading sessions end up with some writing as well, and in some scenarios the phablet is actually better.

The bottom line is that phablets can do almost anything tablets do and still operate as great smartphones.

For many people it means 2 for 1. For me it's just a matter of continence.

So tablets are facing their first threat; On one hand, a growing number of phablets, increasing their popularity worldwide. On the other hand, compact, lightweight, long lasting laptops.

The tablets numbers are already decreasing, and it will be interesting to see if they evolve enough to remain attractive or continue to slow down.

 

 

 

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