Author Archives: Seth Weintraub

Report: AOL’s TUAW closing Feb. 2

TUAW

The long-rumored news comes from The Verge: TUAW.com is closing as of Feb 2. I didn’t like all of what they did there, but there was a solid group of writers and people that I will miss reading.

AOL is shutting down The Unofficial Apple Weblog, better known as TUAW, sources familiar with the situation tell The Verge. The company — which is also shutting down its gaming site Joystiq — is in the midst of a major reorganization, and is cutting back on media properties it deems as underperforming.TUAW’s run comes to an end on February 2nd.

TechCrunch, which originally reported the news of AOL’s restructuring, noted that tech and lifestyle sites would most likely be affected by the changes. AOL decided against selling TUAW, leaving open the possibility it could resurrect the site in the future. But for now, a team of writers and editors are out of jobs.

Aol’s TechCrunch puts a different spin on it saying that it will be folded into Engadget – which might mean current content gets redirected.

While Verge earlier today reported that both tech were being closed, this is not quite accurate: Joystiq will stay on as a separate channel at Engadget, while TUAW content will be folded into the bigger site, we understand. It’s still being decided whether the two brand names will remain.

I’ve heard separately that pageviews were in a slow downward spiral over the past few years and the site became too small to justify being a separate unit against slowing ad revenue for AOL.  In any case, it is always sad to see some good Apple writers out of a gig.


Filed under: AAPL Company, Tech Industry Tagged: AOL, RIP, TUAW

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Scanadu turns your iPhone into an electrocardiogram, urinalysis reader and future drug testing device


Scanadu cofounder Sam De Brouwer demonstrates the Scout and Scanaflo

At CES this week I met with a very interesting company called Scanadu which makes two interesting healthcare products that connect with the iPhone…

Scanadu-scoutThe Scanadu Scout (pictured, right) is a little electronic device designed by Yves Béhar that you touch to your forehead for a few seconds. Almost instantly, physiological parameters, including temperature, heart rate, blood oxygenation, respiratory rate, ECG, and diastolic/systolic blood pressure are sent to an app on your iPhone which logs these measurements and alerts users to anomalies and deviations which may be cause for heath concerns.

The Scout closed a $1.6M Indigogo funding round in 2013 and is still trying to push the product through the FDA as it tries to get deliveries to customers.

Perhaps more interesting however, Scnadu introduced its new “Scanaflo” device at CES 2015 which is a home urinalysis apparatus that uses your iPhone’s camera to image a set of colors strips.

The strips are all dipped in the patient’s urine and change color based on the levels of important chemicals found within. The various colors indicate the levels of glucose, protein, leukocytes, nitrites, blood, bilirubin, urobilinogen, microalbumin, creatinine, ketone, specific gravity, and pH in urine. Almost instantly after taking the picture, the app has a good idea of the chemical composition of the urine.

scanaflo_paddleAgain, the app logs your levels to compare it against a history and alerts to anomalies and potentially harmful deviations.

Interestingly, De Brouwer indicated that the Scanaflo could easily be upgraded to be a drug/urine testing apparatus which would open up a huge can of worms but also enable parents of troubled teens to know that their children were behaving. Obviously there would be privacy concerns.

Scanadu is also trying to push the Scanaflo through the FDA and hopes to have it in customer hands later this year.

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Filed under: iOS Devices, Tech Industry Tagged: bilirubin, Blood, blood oxygenation, CES, CES 2015, creatinine, diastolic/systolic blood pressure, drug testing, ECG, electrocardiogram, glucose, heart rate, Indigogo, ketone, leukocytes, microalbumin, nitrites, protein, respiratory rate, scanadu, scanadu scout, Scanaflo, Scout, specific gravity, Temperature, urinalysis, urinalysis reader, urobilinogen, Yves Behar

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Review: Ultimate Ears’ larger Megaboom 360-degree Bluetooth speaker goes to 11

ue-megaboom

At CES today, Logitech subsidiary Ultimate Ears (UE) announced its Megaboom Bluetooth speaker.  Yes, it is a bigger, louder version of the popular UE Booms. That means it comes with apps that do things like equalize, set alarms and pair to stereo, with new features added all the time. The Megaboom also shares the 100-foot Bluetooth range and ability to pair with up to 8 devices with its smaller sibling.

But the bigger and louder sound of the Megaboom also comes with some nice extras not found in the other models. Megabooms are waterproof like crazy (IPX7). Bring it into the shower. Knock it in the pool (the shallow end, anyway). NBD. The MegaBoom also has a whopping 20-hour battery life but still charges via MicroUSB. Smart.

The cost: $299 is a significant $100 premium over the Booms and $200 premium over the Mini Booms and you’ll lose some portability with the bigger size. These are big and heavy and they don’t fit in a cupholder.

But if you want the banging-est sound you can find from a portable Bluetooth speaker, your search is over. I’ve secretly been reviewing a unit since last year and it is all true. The sound fills up a room, day at the beach, picnic, bikeride or destroys a car. It even works as a nice desk speaker. As I hinted in my Best Bluetooth Speaker o the year list, the Megaboom is as good, if not better than the other best $300 Bluetooth speakers we’ve reviewed: Bose Soundlink 3, Beats Pill XL and Jawbone’s Big Jambox have met their match!

WIRELESS CAPABILITIES:

  • Pair up to 8 Bluetooth® enabled source devices – Connect up to two source devices at the same time.
  • Wirelessly play (stream) to 2 UE MEGABOOMs from one source.
  • Mobile range of play is up to 30m (100 ft).
  • NFC (passive) enabled – (works with active NFC enabled source devices * Android Jellybean and higher).

AUDIO:

  • Maximum Sound Level: 90dBA
  • Frequency Range: 65Hz – 20kHz
  • Drivers: Two 2″ drivers and two 2” x 4” Passive Radiators
  • Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery for up to 20 hours of battery life between Micro USB charges.

POWER:

  • Actual battery life will vary with use, settings and environmental conditions.
  • Serviceable battery (it can be replaced)
  • Charge time: 2.5 hours

APP CONFIGURABLE (IOS AND ANDROID)

2-YEAR LIMITED HARDWARE WARRANTY

DIMENSIONS

  • Diameter: 8.3cm (3.3”)
  • Height: 22.6 cm (8.9”)
  • Weight: 877 g (speaker only)

COMPATIBILITY:

For Audio Playback:

- Smartphones, tablets and other devices that support Bluetooth® and Bluetooth Smart® wireless audio profile [Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)] or 3.5 mm audio output.

For Phone Calls:

- Phones that support Bluetooth® Hands-Free Profile (HFP1.5)

Waterproof – IPX7 rated:

- UE Megaboom can be immersed in liquid up to 1m for up to 30 minutes.

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Filed under: Reviews Tagged: Logitech, megaboom, UE, Ultimate Ears

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Apple brings its “Start Something New.” page global for New Years 2015

Apple-start-something-new

Apple launched its Start Something New. campaign on its Japanese website 2 days ago and it looks to be propagating globally now in the run up to New Years Eve 2015. The page encourages Apple users to try out new products like Procreate, Brushes 3, Slow Shutter,  VSCOCam, Waterlogue and iDraw and highlights artists including Roz HallMatt Pyke and Craig & Karl.

Every piece in this gallery was created on an Apple product. Every brushstroke, every pixel, and every frame of film was brought to life by talented Apple users from around the world. As you explore their work, we hope it inspires you to create something new.

Although Apple has toned down its holiday celebrations this year (12 Days of Gifts?)  it will continue to run its Fukubukuro Lucky Bag sale in Japan on January 2nd.


Filed under: AAPL Company

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Fugoo Bluetooth speaker differentiates with 40hr battery, incredible waterproofing and robust ecosystem

IMG_20141229_133347Note, I originally was going to review this in early 2015, but Amazon is having a pretty insane 1-day deal on it and I love it sooo…

Fugoo is the best Bluetooth speaker you’ve probably never heard of. I got mine after a few readers (and PR folk) rightfully noted its omission from our Best Bluetooth Speaker of 2014 list. I have been listening to it ever since and yep, it should be among the top and for $135, it is a no-brainer…

Fugoo is a relatively new company comprised of industry veterans that makes only one thing: a waterproof 40-hour battery Bluetooth speaker. The actual speaker size is comparable to a slightly trapezoid-ish original Jambox which gives it a stable base. But where the Jambox has three drivers, the Fugoo has two tweeters, two mid/woofers, and two bass drivers – six drivers in all and on both sides.

IMG_20141229_133400
There are currently three different sleeve options that give it either a “Sport, Style, or Rugged” jacket. Mine came with the heavy Rugged (6-foot drop tested) sleeve that I unbolted (eight hex nuts) and replaced first with the Sport and then the Style sleeve. I’m just not dangerous enough to warrant these bulky covers and it seems plenty strong and waterproof on its own.

IMG_20141229_133408

Here’s the skinny:

Sound:

The Fugoo recently recieved an update to make it top out at a louder volume without distorting the output. The results are very good. It still isn’t as loud as the larger UE Boom, Bose Soundlink Mini or my personal fav, the JBL Charge 2, but it fills a small room and more importantly, it sounds great. Sound volume is on par with the Beats Pill or Jawbone Jambox, but as you can see in the marketing table below, the Fugoo has way more and omnidirectional drivers than the competitors which give it it great “center of the room” functionality.

fugoo-comparison

The mic for speakerphone calls is also first class and callers on the other end didn’t complain of echoes like they often do with lesser quality speakers.

Waterproof like crazy

Some speakers like the UE Boom are water resistant meaning you can listen to them in the rain or they can take some splashes from your shower. The Fugoo can actually be submerged and still play music underwater up to a meter. It somehow does this without those annoying port coverings over the MicroUSB charging and AUX input ports. It is also snow, sand, dust and waterproof to 3 feet for 30 minutes. Basically you don’t have to worry about this thing in any conditions.

Battery forever

The other standout feature on the Fugoo speaker is its crazy battery life. They claim 40 hours on half volume and to be frank, that’s a bit of a stretch. I was able to get over 24 hours on what I’d consider a normal room sound (slightly over 2/3rds volume) and that’s still incredible. That’s at least double and more of its competition and it easily outlasted the iPhone 6 it was playing from. You very comfortably could take this on a long weekend trip and pass on bringing the charger. It is too bad you can’t actually charge your iPhone from its battery like the JBL Charge/2.

Ecosystem

Fugoo-accessories

Fugoo doesn’t just have three different jackets but it also has mounting brackets allowing you to pop this thing on your bike, watercraft, or even your person (though it is a bit heavy). Even better – there is a remote which is also mountable to your person and also waterproof.

Wrap up

The Fugoo speaker deserves to be at the top of any Best Bluetooth speaker list. No one has the type of battery life this thing does nor is anyone else as shock and water/dust proof and still sounding really good. That it comes in a small drop-proof package is a huge bonus. Set it and forget it.

That said, I’m not ready to take the JBL Charge 2 off its perch as my go-to Bluetooth Speaker of the Year however because it gets significantly louder than the Fugoo and can act as a charger for the iPhone while still getting 12+ hours of battery life. Sound is still the number one priority to me and the Fugoo, even with its six drivers, doesn’t get as loud as JBL’s Charge 2 (or Bose Soundlink Mini or UE Boom).

But if you want an indestructible speaker that last more than 24 hours on a battery and still sounds amazing? Grab a Fugoo for $135 today at Amazon or $200 at Fugoo.


Filed under: Reviews Tagged: Bluetooth, fugoo, iPhone, Rechargeable battery, speaker

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Siri founder Adam Cheyer tells the story of its creation in this hour long video

While the video is at times technical and “in the weeds” it is a great overview of the creation of Siri that I hadn’t yet seen.  Mixed in are anecdotes about Apple, Steve Jobs and other players that made the technology happen.

Walking backward in time, Adam discussed the technical history of Siri as well as how the vision of virtual personal assistants evolved over time. He wowed the audience with a video from 1987 on a concept from Apple where predicted a Siri like device 24 years in the future and was only off by 2 weeks.

The talk is from the Listen 2014 Conference given last month. Cheyer left Apple in late 2012 and has started work on a new Startup

 


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Apple Inc, Cheyer, Darpa, Siri, Steve Jobs

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Best Bluetooth Speaker of the Year: JBL, Beats, Bose, UE Boom, Jawbone, more

Best-Bluetooth-speakers-2015(TL;DR: Winner, best size, best sound, runner-up best apps, best budget, best $300)

It has been a solid year and a half since our last Big “Best Portable Bluetooth speaker” competition, though we’ve done tons of updates to it in the months since.

A lot of our favorites are still around while others have been updated and new players have emerged. And what about our previous champ: the Ultimate Ears Boom? Spoiler alert: a new winner has emerged. Read on to find out who takes our Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker award…

The portable Bluetooth speaker market was created by a combination of factors. A2DP Bluetooth 2.1 allowed stereo speakers to be driven wirelessly through smartphones and computers. Phones like the iPhone with the ability to play lots of music over Bluetooth started to become ubiquitous. Lithium batteries are light enough and have an energy density high enough to give those speakers and radios hours of playing time. Things started coming together in 2010

The first true portable Bluetooth speaker in the ‘modern sense’ was the Jawbone Jambox which was a hit ignited by this amazing Sandwich video in 2010. Sure, many existed previously, but no one really put it all together like Jawbone did.

The video spelled out the variety of different uses a portable Bluetooth speaker could have which is still very relevant today. The party, gaming, enjoying portable movie sound, conference calls and dinner parties are all still very relevant.

The high end ~$300+ range

This is the realm of the Bose Soundlink III, Big Jambox, Beats Pill XLMarshall StanmoreHarman Kardon Aura, Cambridge Audio Minx and Bowers and Wilkins T7. I’ve been lucky enough to have a chance at one time or another to demo all of these great speakers.

As far as portability, the only ones in this list that can truly be taken with you in a pocket or small bag are the Bose Soundlink III, Big Jambox and Beats Pill XL. The others are of course movable but not something you would take with you on a daily basis. Moving them around the house might make sense but they aren’t on-the-go portable. If you are looking for high end sound, I can easily recommend any of the three above, but I have inside knowledge on a new product that will be launched at CES that will blow these away.

Frankly, some of the lesser price models below will sound 95% as good but cost about half as much and have some other great features.If I had to choose one at this price/form factor RIGHT NOW, say for a big shopping holiday coming up, I’d go with the Beats Pill XL ($270). With Apple’s purchase of Beats, this is the flag-bearer iPod Hi-Fi speaker and with charge indicator, handle, 15 hours of battery and ability to charge USB devices and sleek design, it is a great all around speaker. But like I said before, I’d encourage most people to pick a mid-range device (keep reading) and save some money and space.

Beats-Pill-XL

Bargain, ultraportable Bluetooth speakers under $50

This is the most treacherous area of Bluetooth speakers where tons of cheap Chinese brands lurk hoping to ensnare the bargain hunter with lower quality acoustics and substandard batteries and features. I spent a few months earlier in the year going through some of the more popular ones which I rated here. What’s most interesting is that the exact same Chinese speaker will have a few different brand names from week to week.  There are some standouts that I can recommend for under $50 however:

The OontZ Angle by Cambridge Soundworks (below) with great sound and 10 hour battery is a no-brainer for $33 shipped.

oontZ-angle-iphone

The JBL Micro is another solid, dependable good looking Bluetooth speaker you can find under $45. You can daisy chain these if you want (I never do) and they only have 5 hours of battery. But I really like the wearable design, sound is superb for such a small device, it has an AUX out for headphones or home speakers. Compare with the Boombot Rex or $24 Divoom Bean (comparisons here).

jbl-micro

Other highly rated low cost examples can be found from Anker (which is also a speakerphone) and the $23 Aukey.

Also, we frequently rate the most recent bargain Bluetooth speakers at 9to5Toys so keep an eye out for good deals there.

Midrange Bluetooth Sweetspot ($50-$200)

Most portable Bluetooth speaker shoppers should wind up here, and with prices starting way below $100 and reaching up to $200, there is something for a variety of budgets. Last year I gave Logitech/Ultimate Ears Boom and Mini Boom the nod as the best all around Bluetooth speakers and my feeling for most people is that they will still be extremely happy with either product. UE combines Micro-USB charging, the ability to be used as a speakerphone, great designs (colors I’m not always nuts about) and great iOS and Android apps with nearly the best sound in class. Expect a best-in-class 15 hours of battery life from the Boom as well. Smart shoppers should be able to find the Mini Boom for $70 and regular boom for $179. But before you buy, there may be some better options…

If you are looking for the smallest sized speaker that still sounds great, take a look at the Beats Pill 2 which can be found for as little as $180. It is very very pocketable and has sound that is heads and shoulders above the low end models mentioned above, and will even charge your phone with a USB-out – though for $180, I’d easily take the UE Boom sound/form factor above for sound alone.

BEATS_by_Dre_Pill

For pure sound, I’m still going to take the Bose SoundLink Mini. I called it the best sounding portable bluetooth speaker ever in my long read review and I still stick by that. Bose of course is highly polarizing with its sound profile but across the board, people who’ve heard the Mini have been blown away.

But Bose has its downsides as well. First of all, it is almost impossible to find it less than its $199 list price. It also charges via a proprietary AC adapter rather than micro-USB standard which makes it a hassle to charge on the go – which is made more painful by its shorter 6 hour battery life. Finally, it doesn’t do speakerphone calling which hampers its accessibility and it requires a manual turn on every time it wakes from sleep.  But Ohhh that sound.

bose-soundlink-mini_01

Bose recently released the $129 “Color” version of its Soundlink family and although I haven’t spent much time with these $70 cheaper, Micro-USB charged speakers, I have been very impressed with their sound. I’m not a fan of the look (it kind of looks like a change purse!) but given some more time with it, the Soundlink Color could be a top pick.

Bose-soundlink-color

The Winner! JBL Charge 2

Speaking of top pick, my 2014 Bluetooth Speaker of the Year is also the most improved: The JBL Charge 2 is better in almost every way than the Charge that it replaced, and that was a damned good Bluetooth speaker when I reviewed it last year.

Why do I think the Charge 2 is the best? It does just about everything you can throw at it very well and additionally it costs significantly less than its competitors. (Base: $150 but sometimes as low as $120.) It charges via Micro-USB and works great as a speakerphone so it already compares well to the UE Boom which has a similar cupholder-friendly cylinder form. The Charge has a crazy long 12-hour battery life via 6000 mAh battery, but it also has a USB power out for charging your phone or tablet which the Boom lacks. IT also is a very attractive device and comes in 5 colors.

IMG_3317 JBL-Charg-2-ports JBL-Charge-2-lights JBL-Charge-2 JBL-charg-2-flip JBL charge-2

Even more importantly than the cheaper price, appearance and phone charging capability is its sound. The bass response has been improved from 150 to 75 Hz and the power output has also increased from 2 x 5 to 2 x 7.5 watts. The big thing in sound here is that the Charge 2 actually has two bass speakers that point outwards and give you real live stereo separation (the original Charge only appears to have 2 outward facing monitors). It sounds great whether you use it on a desktop, outside at the beach, in a rental car, a kitchen or at the office.

Like really great.

I’m not going to say the sound is better than the Bose Soundlink Mini here, but it is close and I’d take the sound over $30 more expensive UE Boom. It also doesn’t match the sound of the high end $300+ speakers mentioned above. but it is close enough that I’m willing to overlook as a tradeoff for portability, lower price and additional features.

There is one downside which I wasn’t able to replicate. Some forums members and Amazon reviewers report that at lower volume, listening to voice-heavy sound, there is bass interference. I can only imagine this was an early manufacturing defect because I haven’t been able to replicate it with my recent review unit and most other reviews don’t mention it. If you get a bad unit, return it for a better one.

One last fun feature: It has a social button which allows 3 people to hook in to the Bluetooth simultaneously. I didn’t try this because my music is the best.

Just like UE did last year, JBL Charge 2 has taken a product category that the Jambox invented and outdone the pioneer. I still like Jamboxes but their price/sound ratio is too high!

That’s our wrap up. I hope this review of the Bluetooth speaker field helps you make an informed choice when picking out that next Bluetooth speaker as a gift or personal gadget. For me, Bluetooth speakers are the #1 personal iPhone accessory and comparisons like this have become something of a hobby/obsession.


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Bluetooth, Bluetooth profile, Bose, Charge 2, iPad, iPhone, JBL, micro-usb, SoundLink, UE, UE BOOM, UE Mini Boom

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