This week in tech we're going to look at a gadget that would be classified as an "Internet of Things" device, the most advanced smartwatch yet, and a new way to make mobile payments. Let’s get started!
Hey Alexa, can you hear me now?
Back on November 6th Amazon announced something called the Amazon Echo. Upon first examination, this device looked like nothing more than a cylinder speaker with a glowing blue ring on the top and that familiar Amazon smile logo. Its tag line: “Always ready, connected, and fast”. When I first read that, I have to be honest—this device was not the first thing that came to my mind.
According to Amazon, the smart device is capable of providing information, weather, music, news and much more, all controlled by your voice, and “always ready” by being directly connected to the cloud. Amazon also claims that it has voice recognition that can hear you from across the room. With all that on paper, I had to bite, but the question remained: what the heck is this thing, exactly?
Apparently, even Amazon has trouble telling people exactly what Echo does, so they created this hokey video of an “Amazon family” with the Echo firmly at the center of their lives:
When the Echo was announced, you had to request the privilege of buying one, and if selected you would get a special invite—a.k.a. the Golden Ticket to the Amazon candy store! Well as luck would have it I got one! So order it I did, and while it has not arrived yet today, I will be doing a review on Tuesday so please be sure to check back.
The Samsung Gear S, a standalone smartwatch. Well, almost.
Early this week the Samsung Gear S watch finally made its appearance in retail, aptly timed with the Galaxy Note Edge phone (which was released on November 14th). The watch uses Samsung’s new bendable super AMOLED displays with high-contrast brightness and gorgeous colors even out in the sun. The watch is loaded with features such as a heart monitor, every sensor you can image, 512MB of RAM, and a dual-core processor.
With the large, curved screen, this smartwatch clearly takes the prize for the 'phablet' of smartwatch category. That’s not really a slam on the Gear S, because if you have average to large hands and wrists this device fits and looks very nice. In wearing this device, it is somewhat thick, which makes me wonder how this will look compared to the Apple Watch when that ships sometime early next year.
The breakaway feature for this watch is that it can operate as a standalone cellular device, meaning it has its own cellular radio in it. The downside is that you will need yet another phone line charge on your mobile share plan with a carrier such as AT&T. The Gear S is priced at $300 and that cell phone plan will cost you an extra $10 per month (at least) with AT&T, which is really not bad when you compare it to the cost of a cellular iPad Air 2.
While I genuinely like this smartwatch and the idea of having a watch that does not require my smartphone, I believe Samsung made a critical flaw with it. While it has all of the notifications for Twitter, Facebook and other apps, unless you have your Galaxy phone with you the Gear S will not give you any of those cool features.
So, yes, I can tell time, receive SMS messages, and make phone calls, but it’s just not enough...at least for me. While I applaud Samsung for this solid next step in the move here with Gear S, we're still not quite there yet in my mind. If you’ve seen the Gear S in person or even purchased one, I would love to get your perspective in a comment below.
Send cash in a snap!
Remember Snapchat, the (Android or iPhone) app that allows you to snap a photo and send it to friends and they can only see it for a few seconds? Earlier this week the makers of SnapChat incorporated an interesting new feature called Snapcash. This is how it works: instead of sending a picture or message you type in a dollar amount and the icon onscreen turns into a dollar icon—think Monopoly money icon. Watch the video below—not only will it give you an idea of how this new feature works, but the production value makes it an instant classic:
How's Snapchat gonna pull it off? Easy—through a partnership with the online and mobile merchant system called Square. While it’s unclear if there are any fees being incurred either on the person giving or receiving, it represents yet another very interesting trend in the movement towards mobile payments.
Well, those are some of the more interesting highlights in tech this week! Please be sure to leave your comments below and please feel free to follow me online @SkeeterHarris.
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