Powermat admits defeat as Qi wins wireless charging

For the last few years there has been a war raging for dominance in the wireless charging space, with two competing standards emerging as the front runners: Qi and Powermat. With the news that Powermat has now joined the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), throwing its weight behind rival Qi, it looks as though the war is finally over.

Qi has been dominating for the last few years, with all the best wireless chargers in the consumer space, while Powermat pursued partnerships with chains like Starbucks. Samsung hedged its bets, supporting both standards in flagships like the Galaxy S8, but when Apple went all-in with Qi on the iPhone X, Powermat finally threw in the towel.

Powermat is now set to contribute to the WPC, which will “leverage Powermat’s expertise in technology innovation to support more use cases including higher power and expanded special freedom,” according to WPC’s chairman, Menno Treffers.

Existing Powermat hardware can support the Qi standard, though it requires a software update. That has already happened at Starbucks and we imagine other Powermat partners will get similar updates. Powermat will now help to develop new wireless charging technology, while remaining backwards compatible with Qi.

“Qi has become the dominant wireless charging standard on the market and the recently launched Apple iPhone lineup is evidence of this success,” explained Elad Dubzinski, Powermat CEO in a press statement. “Powermat will share technology innovation to further unlock wireless charging potential, and will expedite the growth of the wireless charging infrastructure, bringing wireless charging to wherever users need it.”

Powermat merged with A4WP, with its Rezence technology, back in 2015 to form the AirFuel Alliance, but it failed to keep pace with the WPC’s Qi which has seen steady growth. Apple’s adoption of Qi forced Powermat partners like Starbucks to update their wireless charging pads and spelled the end for Powermat. This is great news for regular folks as it makes wireless charging simpler. With Apple, Samsung, LG, and a host of other companies (more than 360 in total) pushing the Qi standard, it looks as though wireless charging is finally going mainstream.

Editors’ Recommendations

Will.i.am’s company buys Bluetooth earbud maker Earin


i.am+ is a strange company — of course, we’d expect no less from a startup owned by Black Eyed Pea turned tech entrepreneur, Will.i.am. Probably best known for its gaudy Buttons headphones and the largely panned Puls smartwatch/wrist-band dealie, the company has been making some strange and seemingly disparate moves of late.

At Dreamforce back in November, it announced that it was working on something called Omega — a sort homegrown alternative to Alexa or Siri, targeted at enterprise users. At the same event, the company announced that it pulled in $117 million in VC funding. The startup’s healthy influx of cash has led to a shopping spree of sorts. In July, the company bought smart home hub maker, Wink, and today at CES, it revealed exclusively to TechCrunch that it’s added headphone maker Earin to the list.

The company hasn’t disclosed a sum, but on the face of it, at least, Earin certainly makes sense. After all, the company’s best known product is a headphone — albeit one that got some blowback on release for its big, flashy presentation. Earin’s products represent the opposite side of the spectrum: a bluetooth earbud designed to lie flush with the ear, making them tough to spot from afar.

The company’s first generation buds got mostly good marks for feel and sound, but were dinged by some for connectivity issues — a pretty prevalent issue across the board when it comes to bluetooth earbuds. This time last year, the company introduced the even sleeker M2, though those have yet to officially go on sale. Certainly there’s a lot from a technical and design standpoint that will help i.am+ grow its headphone offerings.

A spokesperson for the company tells me that the fate of the Earin name is still up in the air, but expect the current form factor to continue under its new parent company. I also wouldn’t be too surprised if a version of Buttons rolls out, built on top of the newly acquired tech.

So where does all of this leave the company — or to paraphrase Tom Waits, “what are they building in there?” Some of the pieces of the puzzle snap together cleanly. There are the headphones elements one end, and the assistant aspect on the other. Omega’s still a kind of a big secret at the moment, but i.am+ tells me to expect big things — here’s hoping, because the company is essentially planning to take on the biggest tech companies in the world with that bit.

I haven’t seen in action. Soon, hopefully. But like you, I’m approaching it with a healthy bit of skepticism. We’ve heard some big claims from plenty of AI players over the past few years. Omega’s list of talking points includes more conversational interactions and the ability to serve as a sort of bridge for other smart assistants.

Here’s a thing Will.i.am told Reuters when Omega was first announced. “I wanted to create something that allows us to do many things. There’s so much you can do with a voice platform.” 

The addition of a smart home hub makes sense, certainly — though Omega has been positioned as an enterprise solution, which muddies the waters a bit. Ditto for headphones . As has been demonstrated with AirPods and Pixelbuds, it’s a compelling form factor to deliver a smart assistant. Though likely it will have to be tied to a mobile app if it’s going to be of any use.

There are a lot of moving pieces here, and the company assures me it all makes sense on the inside, even if it seems like a bit of a mishmash from where we stand. But hell, i.am+ is nothing if not interesting.

Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra, XA2, and L2 hands-on review

Sony hasn’t made any dramatic changes to its Xperia smartphone lineup over the past few years — it has maintained a design ethos of chunky bezels around the screen, and no fingerprint sensor in the United States due to “business decisions.” Toward the end of 2017, Sony teased it may be cooking up a design refresh in 2018, and at CES we’re already seeing hints at what kind of design changes we can expect. It’s all starting with the midrange and budget Xperia XA2 Ultra, Xperia XA2, and Xperia L2 smartphones.

While the L2 and the XA2 are average Android budget smartphones, the XA2 Ultra has some interesting additions that may indeed make it a smartphone worth considering when it launches towards the end of January or early February. We dive into all three smartphones in our Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra, XA2, and L2 hands-on review.

Xperia XA2 Ultra

The Xperia XA2 Ultra is a midrange phone, so don’t mistake it for the flagship Xperia XZ1 or XZ1 Compact series that launched late last year. It feels large in the hand because of its 6-inch size, but unlike other 6-inch phones we’ve seen in 2017 — such as the Galaxy S8 Plus or the LG V30 — it doesn’t quite follow the “bezel-less” trend, with minimized edges around the screen.

To be fair, the bezels have shrunk if you compare the XA2 Ultra to the XZ1 Compact. There are almost no bezels on the sides of the screen, and Sony has shrunken the top and bottom edges. They’re still a tad chunky that what we’re now used to, but it doesn’t look as dated as Sony’s previous devices. The rest of the phone is quite familiar. The circular power button sits on the right edge, below the volume rocker. On the same edge, you’ll also find a dedicated camera button, which sits in a natural position when holding the phone in landscape mode for photos.

The biggest redesign is apparent on the phone’s rear. Below the circular single-lens camera sits a fingerprint sensor. That may not sound like a big deal, but Sony has traditionally placed its fingerprint sensors on the edge of the phone, below the power button. What’s more is this fingerprint sensor will finally be activated and ready to use on devices sold in the U.S. In the past, Sony hasn’t activated the fingerprint sensor on its U.S. phones due to “business decisions,” but it seems as though the company has finally changed its mind. It’s a good step in the right direction, but we’re sad it took Sony so long to make this a feature standard.

The second-most-visible change is on the front top bezel — you’ll find two selfie cameras. One is a 16-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, and this is the main lens you’ll use to capture most selfies. The additional 8-megapixel camera is a 120-degree wide-angle lens that’s helpful for group photos, and when you want more of the background in the shot. Switching between both lenses is fast, and the phone seemed to capture images quickly without visible shutter lag. We haven’t played around with the cameras enough to make a verdict on the quality of these photos, but we were satisfied with what we saw.

Accompanying these two front cameras is a slow-sync flash, and it’s the other cool trick the XA2 Ultra offers over the competition. Traditionally if you’re in a dark environment like a nightclub, and you try to take a selfie with the flash of the screen or a front-facing flash, only you would be illuminated and the background would be completely dark — not ideal if you want to show where you are. The XA2 Ultra’s slow-sync flash solves the problem by lighting up the selfie-taker and the background, so everything is relatively visible. We tried this out in an incredibly dark room, and the results were surprisingly good.

These front-facing cameras are really the highlight of the XA2 Ultra. Other than that, the phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor with 4GB of RAM, runs Android 8.0 Oreo, and has a Full HD display. We didn’t notice any issues with performance as we swiped through the home screens and opened multiple apps, but we’ll have to do more testing. The software experience was relatively close to stock Android, but we did notice there were a lot of preinstalled apps from Sony. How’s the display? It didn’t stand out. At 6 inches, the screen didn’t feel particularly sharp with a 1080-pixel resolution, but most people will be satisfied.

You get the option of 32 or 64GB of storage as well as a MicroSD card slot if you need more space; and there’s a large 3,580mAh battery that’s charged via the USB Type-C port. The XA2 Ultra has Bluetooth 5 on board, and it supports AptX HD, a high-quality audio protocol.

The rear camera is worth noting as well. It’s a large, 23-megapixel camera that has an impressive 12,800 ISO, meaning the phone may be able to capture good low-light photographs — though with quite a bit of noise. We’ll have to test this to see how the XA2 Ultra performs, but we didn’t notice much shutter lag, and the quality of the photos were solid.

We’re not sure yet how much the Xperia XA2 Ultra will cost, but it will be available in silver, black, blue, and gold toward the end of January. Price will really influence our opinion on this phone, and we’re hoping it will be $400 or under.

Xperia XA2

Take mostly everything we talked about the XA2 Ultra, shrink it down a few inches, and you have the Xperia XA2. It’s significantly smaller at 5.2-inches, and is comfortable in the hand. The fingerprint sensor on the rear is well-placed, and its design is the same angular look we’re familiar with the Xperia line. Both the XA2 and XA2 Ultra feature metal builds that feel quite high-end, and the left and right bezels are again incredibly slim.

It also runs Android 8.0 Oreo with the Snapdragon 630, but the XA2 only has 3GB of RAM instead of 4GB. The screen is the same 1080-pixel resolution, but it’s sharper than the XA2 Ultra because of the smaller screen size. The rear 23-megapixel camera is the same, but on the front you’ll only find one 120-degree, wide-angle, 8-megapixel camera. There’s only 32GB of storage available, but there is a MicroSD card slot, and the battery capacity is 3,300mAh.

We like the form factor of the XA2 over the Ultra, but we’d have loved to see the same slow-sync technology to help improve low-light selfies. This phone will be even more affordable than the Ultra, and it will be available around the same time toward the end of January. It’s coming in silver, black, blue, and pink.

Xperia L2

The Xperia L2 is the runt of the litter, and that’s easily identifiable in the phone’s design and build quality. The body is made of a plastic-type material, and it felt quite cheap in the hand. The bezels around the 5.5-inch screen were fairly chunky, and the it easily looks dated. This is not an attractive phone.

It’s incredibly thick, and the back is slightly curved. It’s lacking the dedicated camera button, but everything else design-wise is fairly similar to the XA2 and XA2 Ultra.

The L2’s processor is likely from MediaTek, as Sony only said it’s a quad-core 1.5GHz chip, with 3GB of RAM, and it oddly runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat. It’s unclear when Sony will upgrade it to the 2017 Android 8.0 Oreo.

The rear camera is rated at a 13-megapixels, but you’ll find the same 120-degree, wide-angle, 8-megapixel front-facing camera. The 5.2-inch screen only has a 720-pixel resolution, and it was just average. The phone supports Bluetooth 4.2, has 32GB of storage with a MicroSD card slot, and there’s a 3,300mAh battery that should provide great battery life. No price has been announced yet, but it’s also expected to launch at the end of the month.

The L2 is the least impressive phone of the lot, but if the price is right, it could be an excellent budget phone that could give phones like the Moto E4 Plus a run for its money.

Editors’ Recommendations

Skagen Falster hands-on review

Under the Fossil Group, Skagen has produced a number of gorgeous hybrid smartwatches such as the Signatur T-bar and the Signatur Hybrid. The Danish brand has struck gold again with its first touchscreen smartwatch: The sleek Skagen Falster. In the brief time we’ve spent with the watch, we’re happy to say it’s one of the best designed Android Wear smartwatches to date. In our Skagen Falster hands-on review, we take a look at what makes the unisex watch so appealing.

Elegant and minimal

The Falster doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. The design feels utilitarian, and it looks quite simple. It’s in that simplicity where the Falster shines, and the lugs are a big part of what make this watch look and feel great on the wrist.

The lugs look like bars sticking out of the circular case, and it’s a style we haven’t really seen before with a smartwatch. Attached to these lugs are either a rose gold or silver mesh strap, or a black or brown leather band. We opted for leather, but the mesh straps look stylish and elegant. The leather is easy to strap on, and it feels lightweight. The mesh strap requires a little more effort, and it did painfully clip our wrist hair. It may just take some time getting used to it.

Whichever strap you choose, this is a watch that works well at a party, a night out, or simply as an everyday watch. It sits well on the wrist, with no awkward gaps. There’s a fast-release mechanism below the metal lugs, so you can swap bands for different styles at a moment’s notice.

There’s only one button on the 42mm circular metal case, and pushing it to open Google Assistant or your app drawer is quite nice — it’s a very springy button. The case has a sizable bezel surrounding the display; it doesn’t stick out as the pictures may suggest, and the bezel often blends in with the rich, inky black OLED screen.

A focus on OLED

The OLED screen turns off individual pixels to show off the color black. That allows for rich blacks that look great, but it also is energy-efficient. It’s why the Falster’s lineup of watch faces all make use of an OLED black background, with a minimal amount of information on the screen. It’s hard to tell where the screen ends, and where the bezel starts.

Skagen’s Falster packs a brilliantly minimal design that has us yearning to put it on our wrist.

The watch faces are attractive and easily capture a classic Skagen style. You can customize the information the “dials” show, such as a battery indicator, or quickly see how many steps you’ve taken so far.

The case comes in three different styles, depending on the type of strap you choose. It’s completely black for the leather variants, but it’s a mix of rose gold and black when you opt for the rose gold mesh strap. It’s silver and black when paired with the silver mesh strap.

Skagen Falster review

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Like most Android Wear smartwatches, the Falster is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor. The watch zipped through menus and apps with ease, and we didn’t see any issues with performance. The Falster connects to your Android or iPhone via Bluetooth, and you can see and respond to notifications, access the Google Assistant to ask about the weather or add a calendar event, download music to the watch and stream it to Bluetooth earbuds, and install apps directly to the watch via the Wear Play Store. The watch’s capabilities are limited on iOS.

Skagen doesn’t have a micro-app like many fashion brands do to further distinguish the watch, but it may add one in a future update.

We opted for leather, but the mesh straps look stylish and elegant.

The watch charges via a magnetic puck that attaches to the back, and the company estimated a full day of battery life. We think it will last a little less considering the screen is set to “always-on” mode by default, but turning it off and swapping to an ambient mode — where the screen dims into a monochrome mode when it’s not used — could stretch battery life.

Skagen’s watch may not have its own micro-app, but the Falster does have a quirky animated man called “Dan,” who shows up in the user interface when you do certain things like put the watch on the charger: Dan pulls a cable and plugs it into the watch. It’s a fun way to add a little more personality.

Price and availability

The Skagen Falster will be available on January 25 on Skagen’s website as well as its retail stores. The black and brown leather versions are priced at $275, and the mesh leather strap models will set you back $295.

Skagen Falster Compared To

The Falster reminds us of the Movado Connect, which to us felt like a watch more than a smartwatch. There’s no denying the Falster looks like a smartwatch — it’s still a little thick, and no matter how black the screen can get, it still is a digital screen. Regardless, it’s a brilliantly minimal design that has us yearning to wear it again.

Swappable modules make the Blocks smartwatch a puzzle you’ll want to work out

It has been two years since we last took a good look at a very early version of the Blocks modular smartwatch — with the watch itself being talked about for even longer than that — and now it’s finally being properly announced. Blocks is very different from any other smartwatch out there, not just because of the switchable modules that enhance its functionality, but also because it uses full Android 8.0 Oreo rather than Android Wear 2.0. The Blocks Core watch still does everything you’d expect from a smartwatch, plus a whole lot more.

Suitable for Android and iOS smartphones, the Blocks Core will track your fitness, deliver notifications, show call information, run stand-alone apps, and supports If This Then That (IFTTT) custom alerts. Rather than Google Assistant, the Blocks smartwatch has Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant on board. The circular screen measures 1.4-inches and has a 400 x 400 pixel resolution, while the chip inside the watch is a MediaTek MTK6580M with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of memory. The battery has a 350mAh capacity.

Functionality is extended by adding modules to the watch’s stainless steel body, each of which features a different sensor. It’s a sensible approach to wearables. Not everyone will want GPS,for example, as it’s an expensive and battery intensive component. Those that do want it can still buy the watch, then buy the module, and even then remove it to conserve battery life on the days it’s not needed.

The GPS module is joined by an environment module that contains sensors for temperature, air pressure, humidity, and altitude. Another module adds a torch with strobe and notification features, and another adds a heart rate sensor. Finally, a versatile smart button module can be customised to support various functions. This is just the start, and others modules are planned including an air quality monitor, NFC, a UV sensor, and a stress and sweat sensor. These are being created using a hardware development kit, which allows other companies to create their own Blocks modules.

Blocks started off as a crowdfunded project, and the first versions of the watch are being delivered to backers now. For anyone that didn’t back the crowdfunding campaign, the Blocks Core can be pre-ordered for $260, but this doesn’t include any of the modules. A pack containing the first four modules can be pre-ordered for an additional $140, bringing the complete Blocks package to $400. The good thing is, if you don’t want to buy the modules now, you don’t have to get them.

The fashion industry has recently taken ownership of the smartwatch space, bringing us more stylish and better-looking wearables for our wrists. The Blocks Core takes the smartwatch in a more technical and feature-rich direction, but judging by the images, not at the expense of style. The Blocks Core has the potential to be the Android-based smartwatch that finally bridges the gap between attractiveness and geek appeal.

Europe keeps up the pressure on social media over illegal content takedowns


The European Union’s executive body is continuing to pressure social media firms to get better at removing illegal content from their platforms before it has a chance to spread further online.

Currently there is a voluntary Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech across the European Union. But the Commission has previously indicated it could seek to legislate if it feels companies aren’t doing enough.

After attending a meeting on the topic today, Andrus Ansip, the European Commissioner for Digital Single Market, tweeted to say the main areas tech firms need to be addressing are that “takedown should be fast, reliable, effective; pro-activity to detect, remove and disable content using automatic detection and filtering; adequate safeguards and counter notice”.

While the notion of tech giants effectively removing illegal content might be hard to object to in principle, such a laundry list of requirements underlines the complexities involved in pushing commercial businesses to execute context-based speech policing decisions in a hurry.

For example, a new social media hate speech law in Germany, which as of this month is being actively enforced, has already draw criticism and calls for its abolition after Twitter blocked a satirical magazine that had parodied anti-Muslim comments made by the far-right Alternative for Germany political party.

Another problematic aspect to the Commission’s push is it appears keen to bundle up a very wide spectrum of ‘illegal content’ into the same response category — apparently aiming to conflate issues as diverse as hate speech, terrorism, child exploitation and copyrighted content.

In September the EC put out a set of “guidelines and principles” which it said were aimed at pushing tech firms to be more pro-active about takedowns of illegal content, and specifically urging them to build tools to automate flagging and re-uploading of such content. But the measures were quickly criticized for being overly vague and posing a risk to freedom of expression online.

It’s not clear what kind of “adequate safeguards” Ansip is implying could be baked into the auto-detection and filtering systems the EC wants (we’ve asked and will update this story with any response). But there’s a clear risk that an over-emphasis on pushing tech giants to automate takedowns could result in censorship of controversial content on mainstream platforms.

There’s no public sign the Commission has picked up on these specific criticisms, with its latest missive flagging up both “violent and extremist content” but also “breaches of intellectual property rights” as targets.

Last fall the Commission said it would monitor tech giants’ progress vis-a-vis content takedowns over the next six months to decide whether to take additional measures — such a drafting legislation. Though it has also previously lauded progress being made.

In a statement yesterday, ahead of today’s meeting, the EC kept up the pressure on tech firms — calling for “more efforts and progress”:

The Commission is counting on online platforms to step up and speed up their efforts to tackle these threats quickly and comprehensively, including closer cooperation with national and enforcement authorities, increased sharing of know-how between online players and further action against the reappearance of illegal content.

We will continue to promote cooperation with social media companies to detect and remove terrorist and other illegal content online, and if necessary, propose legislation to complement the existing regulatory framework.

In the face of rising political pressure and a series of content-related scandals, both Google and Facebook last year announced they would be beefing up their content moderation teams by thousands of extra staff apiece.

Featured Image: nevodka/iStock Editorial

France is investigating Apple over planned obsolescence of iPhones

Planned obsolescence is a touchy subject for any tech lover. No one likes the idea that their time with their new tech toy is somehow limited — and the concern that a corporation may be pulling strings to make your tech slower and force you to upgrade sooner is one that appeals to conspiracy nuts and normal folks alike. And when it comes to this issue, Apple has usually gotten the worst of it over the years. The Cupertino, California giant was recently forced to admit that yes, tech does exist that slows down older iPhones, but Apple claims it’s for the overall good of the consumer.

It appears that Apple’s explanation isn’t good enough to fly in France, which has begun an investigation of Apple. France has some tough laws against planned obsolescence, with a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment and up to 5 percent of a company’s annual turnover. With a company the size of Apple, that’s likely to be in the billions.

The news comes from French news agency AFP, while the actual investigation stems from a complaint made by the consumer rights group HOP (Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée). The complaint (the essence of which can be read on HOP’s site, via Google Translate) is clearly not convinced by Apple’s report on the matter, claiming that the timing of the slowdown is too close to the release of the latest iPhone range, and suggesting that there is another issue at play here.

This isn’t the first time that HOP has moved against a company. It previously filed a complaint against the printer manufacturers Epson, HP, Brother, and Canon, accusing them of underhanded tactics that forced consumers to buy more ink. An investigation has since opened on that matter, as well.

Following the results of the original Geekbench tests that proved that iPhones were being slowed down over time, Apple has extended an olive branch to consumers to attempt to make the situation right. Since the culprit of the slowdown is often reduced battery effectiveness, Apple is offering cut-price battery replacements for older iPhone models, while iPhone 6s owners could receive a replacement battery for free.

Editors’ Recommendations

CES 2018 Day 2 roundup: From breast pumps to robots

The second day of CES 2018 brought us a slew of big announcements from the likes of Toyota, Samsung and Intel. But that wasn’t all we saw during day two of the biggest tech show on the planet.

First off was the Foldimate automated laundry folding machine. Though still a concept, the Foldimate can fold everything from garments for 5-year-olds to those for XXL adults. It can also fold towels and pillow cases. It can’t, however, fold baby clothes, socks or underwear.

Foldimate says its device should be available sometime in 2019 for roughly $980.

Debbie Cohen-Abravanel, CMO at FoldiMate, takes folded laundry from a FoldiMate automatic laundry folding machine, during CES Unveiled at the 2018 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 7, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Then there was the Willow breast pump. A wearable pump designed to be worn by new mothers as they go about their daily lives, the Willow breast pump is both quiet and smart. It will tell you how much milk you’ve pumped, how long you’ve pumped and provide information on your last five pumps.

Next, we saw the Keecker robot. Available for a whopping $1,790 with 32GB of memory, the Keecker robot is designed to travel around your home and project a roughly 102-inch image on your wall. So you can watch TV in any room with a large enough wall.

Keecker comes loaded with Google’s Android TV software, so you’ll be able to stream Netflix and Hulu or cast video from your smartphone or laptop to the robot and onto your wall or projector screen whenever you want.

Ever wanted a little R2D2-like robot that could follow you around the house and play movies and music wherever you go? Well good news — Keecker does exactly that, and it’s now available for purchase. [Digital Trends]

Keecker recharges itself by rolling onto its own charging station, and can interface with services like Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. Which means you’ll be able to tell Alexa to make your Keecker move to a specific room, and the robot will do just that.

We also got to spend time with Shanghai-based augmented reality company Realmax’s Qian headset. Qian, which we tried for a brief amount of time, is designed for both commercial and consumer use. Unfortunately, the headset wasn’t exactly cooperative when we tested it. We experienced issues with battery life and the headset’s ability to pick up our hand movements.

Of course, the Realmax Qian is still in beta, so everything we experienced could change for the better, or worse, as the company gets closer to a full release.

Finally there were BACtrack’s new line of breathalyzers. Dubbed the BACtrack C6 and BACtrack Skyn, the devices measure both the blood alcohol content of your breath and how much alcohol is leaving your skin, respectively.

I tried the BACtrack C6 for work, of course, and after just three drinks it showed that I was legally over the limit to operate a vehicle. The BACtrack C6 can show you how much you’ve had to drink via its digital display or the BACtrack app.

The BACtrack Skyn, on the other hand, doesn’t follow a legal definition of being intoxicated, so you can’t use it to measure whether you should drive or not, but it will tell you how much alcohol you’ve had over a certain period of time.

Using the BACtrack Skyn app, the device, which you wear on your wrist, can tell you how much alcohol you’ve had and how much has left your body.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

Kate Spade gets into the smart watch game


As it stands right now, Apple is absolutely dominating the smart watch market. But that hasn’t stopped other entrants from trying their hand, or wrist, in the space.

Most recently, Kate Spade New York has introduced a new line of smart watches in collaboration with Fossil. This is part of a larger push by Fossil Group to launch smart watches across as many brands as possible, as announced in August.

The Kate Spade models were announced today at CES, and all share the same name: the Kate Spade New York Scallop Touchscreen Smartwatch. It just rolls off the tongue, right?

All of the watches are powered by Android Wear 2.0 and have 1.2-inch, circular OLED displays as well as an ambient light sensor. Styles include a rose gold watch case with a bracelet, a rose gold watch case with a leather strap, and a yellow gold colored watch case with a black strap. That said, all three models are made of stainless steal.

The Kate Spade scallop, a distinctive feature across a number of Kate Spade products from bags to clothing to iPhone cases, is featured on the face of the watch.

But this isn’t just an aesthetic play. The new models will come with exclusive watch faces, including an NYC taxi speeding off and an eyelash blink if you have a new notification.

The watches also come with an app that asks you what color you’re wearing and automatically changes the watch face color to match your outfit. As expected with Android Wear 2.0, the new Kate Spade watches are equipped with a microphone to let you chat it up with Google Assistant.

On the other hand, these are not built for fitness junkies, with no heart-rate sensor or built-in GPS. Also missing is an NFC chip for mobile payments.

These new models start at $295, with the bracelet version going for $325, and the watches should ship in mid-February.

Apple responds to shareholder plea on children’s exposure to iPhones

It’s easy to forget that smartphones haven’t really been around for all that long. The first iPhone launched only ten years ago, and the constantly evolving nature of technology has meant that tech from a decade ago is totally different from what’s embedded in the latest iPhone X. As such, it’s important to remember that we don’t know everything there is to know about the impact of our favorite pocket companions.

The dangers of smartphones have been suspected for a while now, whether it be indirectly from people trying to take the best selfie, or simply the effect that smartphone use has on conversations. The impact that smartphone use has on children is of particular interest, and two major shareholder groups have written an open letter urging Apple to take a larger role in researching the impact that smartphone use has on young children.

The two shareholder groups, JANA Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), hold $2 billion in shares from the Cupertino giant, and while that number is a small fraction of the overall $860+ billion worth that Apple commands, JANA has proven to be highly influential in the past, while CalSTRS is the eleventh-largest pension fund in the world.

The letter is focused on various studies and groups that have found negative links between consistent smartphone use in children, including a reduction in children participating in lunchtime activities, a higher risk of depression, and an increase in sleep deprivation. While the letter admits the seeming shortcomings of these devices on children’s overall health, its also quick to point out that smartphones and tablets also have many educational benefits for the young, and an “all or nothing” approach is not what they’re looking for.

The letter goes on to point out an APA report that 94-percent of parents have taken actions to somehow limit their children’s access to smart devices, and postulates that parents would be far more effective in helping their children to avoid the negative side effects of smart devices if they were backed up by research and tools created by Apple. And while it may seem counterproductive for Apple to restrict audiences from its premier products, the letter insists that the goodwill from such an act would put Apple in good stead in a future connected by these smart devices. It finally goes on to list the various ways that the company could start to make progress.

Apple clearly appreciates the enormity of this situation, and was quick to respond with a statement to the Wall Street Journal and iMore that highlights the existing parental controls built into iOS, and acknowledges that the company is always thinking of the ways that its devices affect people, especially children. It’s worth noting that while Apple has expressed that it will be adding new features in the future to make these tools even better, the original open letter already dismissed iOS’s parental controls as offering an “all-or-nothing” approach that was too binary in design.

If you’re a parent and looking for ways to introduce your children to smart devices, or you want to rethink how they see them, then we’ve written some great guides on introducing your children to devices, as well as on some of the best phones for kids.

Update: Added Apple’s response to the open letter.

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