September 18, 2015

Pebble: It’s About Time

Filed under: News — csadm @ 1:47 am

Time is the latest product from Pebble, the company that literally kick-started the smartwatch trend in 2013.


Pebble Technology Corporation is a developer based in California and manufactures its range of smartwatches through the Foxlink Group in Taiwan. The developer raised the majority of its initial capital via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. In the space of only five weeks in 2012 Pebble Corp. raised US$10.3 million to develop the first ever smartwatch. The watch was released in July 2013 and sold out within five days. On December 31, 2014 Pebble had sold its one millionth smartwatch.

In May this year Pebble Corp. introduced Pebble Time, the second generation of the Pebble smartwatch, and in August followed through with the release of the up-market Pebble Time Steel.

At the time of launching Time, Pebble Corp was facing a highly evolved and very competitive multibillion dollar market with the likes of Apple, Samsung, Motorola, LG and Sony all key players in the smartwatch stakes. Of course the launch of Apple’s first smartwatch in April this year was a significant landmark on the timeline.

Although Apple still remains tight-lipped about exactly how many units it sold, the tech giant did admit that the Apple Watch sold more than the first iPhone or the iPad in a comparable period. The first iPad was the better selling of these two and sold 2 million units in 60 days, according to Juniper Research. So it is estimated that the Apple Watch had sales of $US 1 billion and 75% of the smartwatch market. Now that is serious competition.

It is predicted that Apple will sell more than 7 million smartwatches by the end of the year.

Pebble is acutely aware of its new competition and the growing, crowded and highly-competitive market. In March this year, it went back to its Kickstarter roots to break its previous record by bringing down the website with its incredibly successful US$20 million Pebble Time and Time Steel announcements.



The result of Pebble’s research and development exercise is a watch that is more aesthetically pleasing for wearable technology. Time is 20 percent thinner than its predecessor, sitting just 9.5mm off the wrist. Its body is also slightly curved and is combined with a standard-sized, silicon wristband.


The screen is undoubtedly the biggest upgrade to the device. It is an e-paper screen with 64 colours you can see in direct sunlight. The user interface has also been given an overhaul with past appointments when you arrow up and future appointments when you arrow down. By tapping the middle button you can access notifications, settings and apps.

A surprising number of Pebble apps function on the watch alone, including silent alarms, Applauncher to open apps on a phone, Jawbone and Misfit step-tracking apps, and apps for music playback.

Other apps require smartphone input. This brings us to Pebble’s unique selling proposition. It can be used with both Apple and Google Android handsets, it isn’t hamstrung by brand allegiance like say, Apple or Samsung. Other core features that set Pebble apart from its more recent competitors is a longer battery life and it is water resistant to a depth of 30m.

Battery life is a big feature of Pebble’s smartwatches. Compared to the Apple Watch, which just about requires a daily charge, Pebble Time can last an entire week on one charge.

A couple of other cool features of Pebble Time is a microphone that lets you dictate text message responses. The voice-to-text translation is reasonably accurate and you are given a chance to proofread it before sending. Alternatively, this watch will let you reply with an emoji.



Last month Pebble launched Time Steel, as a more expensive, high-tech step-up version of Time. This latest addition to the line-up is aimed squarely at Apple Watch and once again uses battery life as one of its biggest selling point, going from a battery life of 7 days to 10 days.

The all-steel body of Time Steel sets it apart from Time, and it is available in either a leather or steel band, as opposed to Time’s silicone band. The best part of the Steel’s design, and the reason to consider the upgrade, is its buttons. There’s no touchscreen on the Pebble Time Steel: you need to press the metal buttons on the sides to interact. The slightly thicker body seats the buttons higher, and they’re easier to click.

Behind the Gorilla Glass that’s protecting the Pebble Time Steel, there’s an all-new e-paper display that supports 64 different colors and 30 frames per second. The always-on color screen is easy to read in sunlight and, like Pebble Time it is a major improvement over the black-and-white screen of the original Pebble.



If the Pebble Time Steel and Apple Watch look alike, then that’s where the similarity ends. These are two totally different devices each with its own unique proposition. Apple Watch is more expensive and understandably syncs better with other Apple devices and apps. Pebble’s Time Steel has a longer battery life, has far better water resistance and is compatible with both Apple and Android phones.

The result is a matter of choice. Apple users will naturally gravitate towards the Apple Phone. But Pebble Time is one for the geeks – wearable technology with enough old and new advantages to appeal to the original army of loyalists and the thousands of trendoids who adopted the company through its Kickstarter campaigns.

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September 4, 2015

Galaxy Note 5 is a Winner

Filed under: News — csadm @ 2:00 am

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 is the latest version in the series from one of the world’s leading smartphone manufacturers and by all accounts it is a winner, setting a new benchmark for larger format phones, commonly known as phablets – part phone, part tablet – and characterised by a unique stylus or S Pen.

Samsung was the first major smartphone maker to launch a large-size smartphone with the original Samsung Galaxy Note back in 2011. It was released with a 5.3 inch screen, which at the time people thought was enormous, but the size has since become the expected size for flagship smartphones. In fact, Galaxy Note was the first commercially successful phablet and Samsung has sold over 50 million of them in the two years between September 2011 and October 2013. That’s a very solid consumer endorsement and a good reason for Samsung to continue to invest in research and development of the product.

Last year, in October 2014 Samsung released the Galaxy Note 4, introducing a new design that included a 5.7 inch QHD display, a 16MP camera, improved S Pen, a fingerprint scanner and expanded functionality.

Fast forward to August 13, 2015 and the launch of the Galaxy Note 5.


The Galaxy Note 5 has a 5.7-inch display as with the previous Galaxy Note, but the handset itself is ever so slightly thinner and lighter. The display is also still a 2560×1440 SuperAMOLED panel and there is still a 16-megapixel main camera.

While some things remain the same, it is when you look under the hood, and notice that the old quad-core Snapdragon 805 chip has been replaced with the new, octa-core, Samsung-made Exynos 7420 processor, that you realise that considerable evolution has taken place within the past twelve months. It features a quad-core 1.5GHz processor mashed together with another quad-core 2.1GHz processor to achieve a far greater amount of power, matched with 4GB of RAM.

There is also a 3000mAh Li-Po battery to keep all the gear running, which is actually slightly smaller than the battery of the Note 4, but it is way more efficient. Samsung has also given Note 5 a fast-charging feature, capable of easily filling half of your battery within twenty to thirty minutes. The optional wireless charger also has a fast charging option.


Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 is the smoothest, sleekest stylus-equipped jumbo-screen smartphone that the company has ever made. Like the Galaxy S6, the Note 5 has straight sides and a flat face, but then it does something interesting. It adds the Edge+’s frontal curves to the back of this phone. Checking out its profile, these comfortable rear arcs cause the Note 5’s top and bottom edges to flare out thicker than its middle. It’ll still fill your hand as this is a large device, but the overall sensation is still of slimness, especially compared to the relatively bulky Note 4.

The device will initially be available in PNG in gold and a sapphire black color (which looks black when there is no light shining on it, but then shimmers blue in the light) and it is a metal and glass construction.

On the rear of the device you’ll find the 16-megapixel camera lens, flash and heart-rate reader. There’s no removable back-plate or battery and you won’t find an expandable storage slot anywhere.


The Note S Pen stylus, which is made of polycarbonate plastic, changes a little bit every year. This time around, the stylus audibly clicks into place inside the Note 5’s chute like the crown of a retractable pen. The stylus has long, flat planes to keep it from rolling away on a tabletop. The S Pen continues to act as a writing implement, pointer and navigational accomplice. You can use it to pull up a menu dialog box, or photo or video preview when you hover over it with the pen. It also works with those touch-sensitive menu buttons and the physical home button. Dragging and dropping text, and capturing the screen are two other tricks.Samsung claims that its pen writes a lot better this time around, more fluidly, and with decreased latency times.

A feature called Lock Write means that popping the now spring-loaded stylus out of the device allows you to doodle an Action Memo on the screen without actually unlocking the phone.

Removing the S Pen when the device is unlocked still brings up the action wheel known as Air Command, but you can actually insert your own shortcuts into it now in a bid to keep your home screen clean and shortcut-free.

You also get the option to give Air Command a little handle button on your home screen like Facebook’s Chat Heads to make life a bit easier too. It’s human improvements like these that make it a really handy productivity tool.

The S Note app itself is greatly simplified, with extra features tucked into the More menu. You can also download alot more tools, like a chart helper and an extension pack that includes advanced tricks like a heartier toolbar and shape recognition, handwriting “transformation” and the ability to record sketches.

In the app itself, you can customize everything from the way you select color to the way you save favorite combinations of pen tips and ink thickness.


The Galaxy Note 5 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, bolstered by Samsung’s own TouchWiz layer. A quick skip through the settings menu turns up a heap of extra modes and options, like a simplified home screen (Easy mode) and a vault for photos and files you don’t want anyone else to see (Private mode). There are also two levels of battery-saver, several gestures and themes to freshen up the look and feel. You’ll even find a user manual.


The Note 5 has a 16-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing “selfie” camera. It has a wider aperture lens, the same that’s used in the Galaxy S6 and S5 Edge. A bigger aperture lets in a greater amount of light, and more light leads to better photos, particularly low-light pictures. The image processing capabilities make a huge difference too, of course, but the bottom line is that the overall photo quality should incrementally improve from the Note 4, and is on par with the S6 and S6 Edge.

As with the Galaxy S6 and many other phones, the Note 5 here has optical image stabilization (OIS), which will help keep shaking hands from blurring shots, and an array of modes and tools. There’s auto-HDR right on the screen (this helps keep photos looking true to life) and panorama and selective focus as separate modes within. There are a number of other new features including a new live-broadcasting video feature that lets you record directly to YouTube.

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