Lost In Mobile

Tech, life and everything else

Mobile industry discussion, iPhone, iPad, Android etc plus watches and whatever else comes to mind

The Loop Magazine is dead

It is with tremendous sadness that I write this post today. I have tried to figure out a way for The Loop Magazine app to work on the App Store, for the last few months. It turns out, it just won’t. This morning, I removed the app from the App Store.

You can read more about this at The Loop, but it is safe to say that Apple quietly walked away from Newsstand and didn't even look back. There has to be potential in such an idea, but traction never came.

Write about what you love

"Find something that you enjoy doing so much that you would be willing to do it for nothing, and you will never work a day in your life." Ronald G Wayne.

When I think back to my career choices, I realise now that I should have persevered and stuck to writing. Even though I write freelance now, there are moments when I regret not having chosen what I always wanted to do as my main career, which is why when I see positions like this I wish I could turn back the clock and start over.

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Turn your traditional watch into a smart watch

For people like me, the idea of not wearing a traditional watch is not something I would even consider. I do, however, like tracking my movement and sleep so I guess the only option is a fitness tracker on the other wrist. Then again, there is already a selection of ideas poised to jump into the middle ground between watches and trackers and so I thought I would take a look at what is coming, and also which of these appears to be viable.

Unique Smart Watch Strap from uBirds

I like the idea of a smart strap because it means that larger watches can still be worn as before without the need to increase the depth. As an example, my current watch is 14mm high and I’m not convinced that adding more to that wouldn’t look daft.

The Smart Watch Strap is capable of monitoring steps, distance travelled, speed and calories burned, as well as monitoring your fitness goals, but I can’t see any mention of sleep tracking. It also includes an NFC tag and notification support for phone calls, text messages, e-mails or calendar reminders without having to look at your phone. The strap vibration and multi-coloured LED will likely performa better than some smart watches in this area. You can also reject a call with one tap, access your music player with two taps, and choose how you want to interact with your smart strap. And finally, when you walk away from your phone, Unique will vibrate to let you know you’re in danger of leaving it behind.

So, it’s all looking good so far and I like that the buyer can choose the size, colour, thread colour, quantity of loops and shape of the strap buckles as well so that it fits your favourite watch perfectly.

My first concern is that there is a bespoke app for the strap and we know how many big names have struggled to make decent companion apps. Secondly, it is expected to ship in the second half of April (has been delayed slightly from the original kickstarter projection) so there is a slight risk there, and you cannot actually buy it clean yet. Thirdly, the early-bird pledges were $139 so expect to pay more for a retail version.

I love the idea, I like the included features, but I remain slightly sceptical about how well it will work.

Chronos

Chronos looks like a more secure proposition in that you can pre-order it already for $89 and something tells me that the company has a more serious intention to produce a good product. You can’t always explain why, but I get a good feeling with this product.

It offers the expected functions including fitness tracking, alerts for calls, texts and alarms plus the ability to tap to find your phone. At just under 3mm thick this could be a problem for those of us with deeper watches, but I like the fact you get 3 days of usage from a 1 hour charge.

Again we have a custom app, but time will tell as to how well it all works. I would be likely to wait on initial reviews before stumping up for this.

Montblanc e-strap

I’m not convinced about the design of this one, with the display and workings situation in a stub at the bottom of the strap. It has the potential to look ungainly from the side and to feel uncomfortable when resting your hand on a desk. The 5 day power reserve from 1 charge is decent as is the feature-set with notification, activity tracking etc built in, but as it stands I believe that you can only buy it with a Montblanc watch which makes it an expensive proposition. It’s also worth remembering that just because the company makes great pens, this does not necessarily translate to watches.

I remain confused about the design, when it will be available and how seriously this product is being taken.

Trivoly

Trivoly is another disc style watch accessory that offers notifications, smartphone controls and fitness tracking, but there is also a heart rate sensor included which is unusual. Expect to pay $99 to pre-order one now, but looking at the product there is a sense of multiple funding projects to get it where it is today.

It has lots of potential, but maybe worth waiting for the official release before you pay for one.

T-BAND OD

Perhaps this product, more than any other, offers a glimpse of the uncertainty that shrouds this developing industry. It has been promoted for a long time now and is extremely impressive from a technical standpoint, but it is still not available to buy and seems likely to remain a concept forever. Probably best to not even consider at this point.

There are other products available that aim to turn your favourite watch into a smart device without changing the look or feel of the watch itself, but maybe I should counter that and say that none of the above are available at this time. As it stands, I cannot see any smart device that will attach to a watch, but surely one day the potential will be seen and executed in a way that actually works. People like me shall continue to wait for the day when the watch I love can be made smarter.

Juicero: the worst business idea ever?

The founder of Organic Avenue, a now-bankrupt restaurant chain that sold stale wraps and overpriced juices, is launching a $699 Wi-Fi connected juicer that can’t actually juice produce you’ve brought home from the store. Instead, the company, called Juicero, wants you to buy its prepackaged, pre-chopped produce, have it delivered to your home, and then insert its proprietary produce-packs into the juicer to create juice. This is supposed to be more convenient.

The Verge offers more detail, but seriously? The implementation of this idea is just silly.

Apple screwed up the Music app, Cesium fixes it

Apple screwed up the Music app when the Apple Music service was released. It became busy, difficult to navigate and generally made finding tracks very difficult. You may not agree, but almost everyone I know agrees on this topic and so I went in search of a solution.

It came in the form of Cesium Music Player which strips away all of the clutter while throwing in some nice gesture controls and a rather sweet queuing function. If the new Apple Music is getting you down, give this app a try.

Long-term effects of virtual reality?

With a handful of virtual reality (VR) headsets on the market already, and more on their way with Sony announcing this week it will release a PlayStation set in October, the impact of such devices on eyesight, the brain and behaviour is still being established.

Current Health and Safety guidelines for the Oculus Rift list a host of possible side effects with warnings ranging from seizures, nausea and dizziness to - for children engaging in prolonged use - trouble with hand-eye coordination.

While many effects are believed to be temporary and leave no lasting damage, there have been few long-term studies into use of the technology.

The above from The Guardian does make me wonder about the damage such technology has the potential to inflict. It does sound like killjoy-speak, but I have had balance problem for the past 3 years and a ride on The Simpsons ride in Universal Studios caused me to need medical attention because it completely screwed me up. I asked if it was like a roller coaster and was told that it wasn't, but it ended up being a virtual ride where the visuals did not quite match up with the physical sensations. It only takes a millisecond here or there and people with balance problems can have their condition made much worse. This is why I am skeptical about how much medical research has gone into this new breed of VR.