December 19, 2014

Technology for Christmas

Filed under: News — csadm @ 2:07 am

Christmas is now upon us and we are all looking for unique gifts for that special someone. There are a number of new products on the market, many of which I have reviewed over the past few months.

Just to recap we have seen the launch of the new iPhone 6 – not just bigger, but better in every way, featuring a 4.7 inch Retina HD display, an A8 chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture. It also has a new 8-megapixel iSight camera with Focus Pixels, as well as Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor. All in a 6.9mm thin seamless, curvy design.

Away from smart phones and on to notepads the iPad Mini 3 was also launched with Retina display which packs 3.1 million pixels in the 7.9 inch display. It also features an A7 chip with 64-bit architecture, ultrafast wireless, iSight and Facetime HD cameras, powerful apps and up to 10 hours of battery life. All this and it fits easily in one hand.

I also reviewed the new Galaxy Note 4 with the S-pen and multi window functionality that makes staying connected on the go easier than ever.

A related product reviewed recently is the Samsung Gear 2 smart watch which can pair with your compatible Galaxy smartphone to send you notifications of texts, emails and more without having to access your phone.

Samsung Gear is not the only Smartwatch on the market, with a number of other devices on the market such as Pebble, Sony Smartwatch 3, and LG G-watch.

Away from mobile technology, there is a range of personal cameras from Nikon that also make a perfect tech Christmas gift.

The entry level Nikon camera popular in PNG is the Coolpix L29. It’s an easy to use  compact camera, with a 5x optical zoom lens and 16.1 megapixel CCD sensor.

To make the camera easy to use there is an Easy Auto mode, which adjusts all of the camera settings automatically. You can also manually choose from 17 scene modes and you can also apply a number of filter effects to your pictures. There is also a Smart Portrait System which includes a Smile Timer, Blink Proof alert and Red-Eye Fix.

Nikon cameras then go up in the level of features offered and are priced accordingly. Coolpix is a very popular range, and you can choose from a variety of colours to suit your taste and lifestyle.

A few months ago I also reviewed the Nikon 1 J4 – top of the range of the Nikon lifestyle cameras. The J4 is one of the smallest and lightest cameras in its class, weighing only 232g (including battery and microSD memory card) and measuring 99.5mm (width) x 60mm (height) x 28.5mm (depth). The trick to this camera is it’s super high-speed autofocus (AF) CMOS sensor which results in the world’s fastest continuous shooting frame rate of 20 frames per second (with autofocus) and up to around 60 fps continuous shooting with fixed focus.

The J4 is cutting-edge photographic technology and like any other product the price-tag reflects its high-tech pedigree.

Another product that is a popular gift idea is generically called GoPro – relating to a range of high-definition personal cameras that have found their niche as extreme action video cameras. These devices are made in the USA and are compact, lightweight, rugged and can be worn or mounted on vehicles, bikes or any other high-action equipment. The cameras capture still photos or video in HD through a wide-angle lens, and can be configured to work automatically with minimum intervention, or remotely controlled.

GoPro announced three new Hero 4 cameras in October this year, launched simultaneously that have a number of features that set themselves apart from their predecessors, their rivals and one another.

Each model offers different image resolution, frame rate and camera features.

The Hero 4 Black is GoPro’s top-of-the-range model and is the only camera in the new line-up able to shoot in ultra-high resolution 4K. Its predecessor also offered 4K video, but only at 15 frames per second, while the new model works at the standard frame rate of 30fps.

The Hero 4 Black also has built-in wi-fi and Bluetooth for connecting the camera to a phone or a GoPro remote to review your images. GoPro also claims that it has also improved the sound quality on the camera, so it should offer better audio, providing it’s not wrapped in a waterproof case.

The second product in the new line-up is the GoPro Hero4 Silver which offers a maximum of 1080p HD resolution – a considerable step down, but more than enough for the average action-photography enthusiast. And that resolution is available at up to 60fps, which means you can use it for slow-motion sequences.

Finally, there’s the GoPro Hero. This more basic model shoots 1080p HD video at 30fps or 720p at 60fps. Like all the other models it can also capture still images, but is limited to five-megapixel photographs while its more expensive siblings will take 12 megapixel images.

Comments (0)

December 5, 2014

Swiss Watch v Smart Watch

Filed under: News — csadm @ 2:01 am

Alot has been written over the past weeks about smartwatches and now Apple is ready to enter the market with the Apple Watch due for release in February 2015.

The big question is not what impact this will have on the Swiss watch market but how big the impact will be. The battle is now on for your wrist.

Elmar Mock, co-inventor of the famous Swiss-made Swatch recently gave an insight into the concerns facing the traditional watch-making industry, claiming that the coming Apple Watch is by far the most attractive of the smartwatches.

According to Mock the big deal is not the Apple Watch itself but the fact that an electronics giant like Apple has entered the market. He believes Swatch should be taking a leading role.

“Swiss watchmakers seem to have forgotten how they underestimated Japanese quartz watches in the 1970s as mere gadgets and not real watches. That mistake led to the near collapse of the watch industry. However through Swatch we eventually succeeded in creating a stylish quartz watch,” Mock said.

“Unfortunately, Switzerland lacks a Steve Jobs who can drag the watch industry into the future. It doesn’t mean the industry is on the wrong path, but it does mean that it has missed the boat as far as smartwatches are concerned,” he added.

There are many who disagree with Elmar Mock and to understand why, we need to look at the Swiss watch-making industry, in particular Swatch who is clearly the market leader.

Swiss watchmaking has transformed a watch into mechanical jewellery that represents ingenuity of manual craftsmanship. Swiss watches are stylish and fashionable. On the other hand smartwatches are gadgets that look like gadgets – high-end fashion for geeks.

Nick Hayek, CEO of the Swatch Group believes that smartwatches will encourage millions of people who do not wear a watch to do so. He believes that smartwatch marketing and hype will grow the watch market. It will bring the wrist back in to fashion.

Hayek backs up his claim with hard evidence. He says that Swatch’s sales in the United States have increased by 30 percent since fitness monitoring bracelets came in to the market. In fact, in 2013 Swiss watch exports totalled US$23 billion – up 2 percent on the previous year.

So, a product like Pebble smartwatch probably has more to fear from Apple entering the watch market than Swatch. In other words, Apple will start cannibalising the existing smartwatch niche.

Swatch already has its own, very lucrative market that is likely to see little negative impact from the advent of the smartwatch. A look at the history of Swatch shows that the Swiss watch industry is capable of handling any pressure from Apple. In 1983 the Swiss watch industry reacted to cheaper Japanese watches with Swatch – an analogue watch that was considered a disposable fashion item. The colourful Swatch watches with plastic wristbands were a hot fad and the company evolved into the Swatch Group, the largest watchmaker in the world.

The Swatch Group now owns not just the lower priced brands like Swatch, but also more expensive brands like Breguet, Omega, Longines and Tissot. In the decades that followed watches have evolved beyond being sheerly functional into the realm of fashion accessories and high-end luxury products known for quality craftsmanship.

Swiss watches are luxury items, expensive statements of excellence and precision, and are crafted from the finest quality materials. If they ever became mainstream items the whole term “Swiss watch” would lose its lure and charm forever. A smart watch cannot be a Swiss watch, unless it is made by a Swiss watchmaker. So if and when Swatch decides to enter the smart watch market, it is actually Apple that will have more to lose.

My guess is that Swatch will sit back and see what impact, if any Apple has on the watch market. They will watch as Apple attempts to grow the smartwatch market by investing millions in advertising and marketing. If Apple are successful, then Swatch will enter the smartwatch market and take a big bite out of Apple, because only a Swiss watchmaker like Swatch can make a Swiss smartwatch.

In researching this article I had to laugh at a comment made by a reviewer who recently bought a Swiss watch, a Tissot T-Touch Expert. The T-Touch is really cutting-edge Swiss watch technology – which clearly demonstrates that Swiss watchmaking is in a league of its own.

He wrote: “It has a sapphire crystal display that we’re just beginning to see on phones, a touch screen, barometer, thermometer, altimeter, compass and a host of other features that occasionally prove useful. It’s encased in lightweight titanium with a carbon-fibre face to further keep the weight down.

But why did I buy this watch two years ago when I could have bought a Pebble? Well, while some people do enjoy the convenience of instant email and text message alerts on their wrist, I have not always found reaching into my pocket and pulling out my phone a difficult experience.”

Comments (0)