Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2 review: Dalek-shaped delight

Look, there are some things that will happen with this review that are outside of my control. Firstly, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Doctor Who, or if one has even aired somewhere in your vicinity, you’ll exclaim that this Bang & Olufsen speaker looks just like a Dalek. If you need time to make up a silly pun to celebrate that resemblance, please take a moment. I already have.

The other thing that will inevitably happen is you’ll guffaw at the price of $1,995. Most people can outfit their entire homes with Sonos speakers for less than this single chunk of B&O equipment costs. The BeoSound 2 is a hard sell as a regular 360-degree wireless speaker, because there are just so many competitive options out there. But the thing with Bang & Olufsen is that this company never tries to merely convince you through mere functionality. It does functional design, yes, but ultimately B&O is as much in the home furnishings and decoration business as it is in the tech realm.

Buying one of these speakers is as much about the highly distinctive aesthetics as it is about the musical performance. Over the two months I’ve had one for review in my home, the BeoSound 2 has attracted admiring looks, smiles, and questions about what it even is. It has also produced brilliant sound that’s left me deeply satisfied.

I’m not going to tell you that spending $2,000 on a pretty speaker is good and rational, but I’m not going to tell you that it’s dumb either. I really like this speaker, and I just can’t call something overpriced if I enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed my time with the BeoSound 2.

Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2

If we start with the design, the BeoSound 2 is a tapering cylinder that measures 43cm (nearly 17 inches) in height and 4.1kg (nine pounds) in weight. There are discreet ports in its base for an Ethernet cable or a 3.5mm analog audio connector. The primary method of connecting to it, though, is intended to be wireless: whether through Apple AirPlay, Google Cast, DLNA, Spotify Connect, or simple Bluetooth 4.1 pairing. Inside the thick aluminum shell reside four speakers: one tweeter, two for the midrange, and one large woofer to provide low-end rumble.

The thing that will be hard to see in photos or appreciate from afar is just how good the B&O construction is. This is the first proper Bang & Olufsen product I’ve yet reviewed — all of the headphones I’ve had from the company have come from the more consumer-oriented B&O Play sub-brand — and it’s left a very positive impression on me. The aluminum BeoSound 2 enclosure looks smooth from a distance, but it actually has an almost microscopic pattern of horizontal ridging that gives its surface an appealingly rough texture. I can’t offer a functional reason for why this might be better, but it’s certainly different. There’s no chance of you accidentally coming across a surface that feels like this in your everyday life, and that just enhances the sense of alien technology that’s already conveyed by the visual design.

I really like the portability and adaptability of this speaker. It’s just as much at home residing on a living room floor as it is on a kitchen table or a bedroom desk. And when I want to move it around, its shape is convenient enough to carry with just one hand.

Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2

The volume control is an infinitely rotating knob at the top of the unit, which sits atop a thing Bang & Olufsen calls an acoustic lens. Basically, the tweeter fires down and its output is then diffused outward by the clever architecture of B&O’s design. This is an approach the company favors with its flagship speakers, too, though I’m still not convinced that it’s necessary strictly for acoustics. I’m pretty sure the flamboyance of the appearance is part of the deal.

Behind the 360-degree grille that wraps around the BeoSound 2, you’ll find the two midrange speakers, mounted back to back in order to provide the fullest and widest sound. The woofer is at the bottom, mounted upside down so as to make use of the full capacity of the cabinet. I’m describing these details without critiquing them, because I happen to agree with everything B&O has done in terms of acoustics. Every company will tell you that its design is optimized and optimal, but in the case of the BeoSound 2, the eventual performance really does agree with the marketing spiel about thoughtful design. This speaker can fill large rooms with sound easily, and it doesn’t feel like a single-point audio source either.

Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2

I find the BeoSound 2 sound lush. Take note that I’m not calling it accurate, neutral, faithful, or any of those other terms that are used to describe boring speakers. If this were a display, it’d be a richly saturated OLED screen that embraces its vividness rather than being embarrassed by it. There’s a real sense of dynamism and muscle coming out of this speaker. The bass is exaggerated and oh so satisfying. I make no apologies for loving this big bottom end. Watching movies, playing games, and listening to modern electronic music through the BeoSound 2 is just a pleasure. The elevated bass makes explosions and bass drops feel hefty and impactful, but it doesn’t impinge on the mids and highs in a way that would disturb or undermine vocals or on-screen dialogue.

Fans of classical or acoustic music would not be well served by a tuning such as the one Bang & Olufsen has devised for the BeoSound 2. If you want to hear the intricate detail of tweeting birds in a Japanese garden as a heartbroken ronin mournfully plucks the strings of a lute, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you just want to immerse yourself in some hour-long deadmau5 mix with a throbbing bassline, this B&O speaker is one of the best for that task. This isn’t a thinking person’s audio system, it’s a lazy person’s shortcut to just enjoying the simple pleasures of music.

Bang & Olufsen has a multiroom wireless solution and there’s a bevy of options for connecting up the BeoSound 2 to streaming apps and services, but I primarily used the wired and Bluetooth connectivity. As a PC speaker, this Dalek lookalike did a surprisingly good job, though I found myself preferring the wired connection to avoid lag between the video and audio. You can even game with it, though obviously you won’t get the same surround sound as you might from a multi-point speaker system or some good headphones. I just like that it worked at all. As for more casual music and radio listening, the BeoSound 2 gives me no reasons to complain. The top of the unit functions as a play-pause button, too, so I can do the essential volume and play toggling just with the hardware on the speaker itself.

Dell UltraSharp UP3218KDell UltraSharp UP3218K
BeoSound 2 next to Dell’s 32-inch 8K monitor.

As Bluetooth speakers go, this Bang & Olufsen one is surely among the most indulgent. And if I could tell you that I can get the same sound pleasure out of some other competing speaker, I’d say B&O has overshot its pricing and needs to be more competitive. But I’ve listened to the entire range of Sonos speakers, I’ve spent a long time with the $999 Naim Mu-So Qb, and I’m familiar with the majority of other competitors, too. None provide me with the warm, enveloping sound of the BeoSound 2, none play to my musical tastes in quite the same way.

We can joke about its robot invader appearance and we can poke fun at its $1,995 price (because, come on, who’s paying that much for a wireless speaker?), but we shouldn’t dismiss the BeoSound 2 as a bad product. Bang & Olufsen could have given us some anodyne, Bose-like sound and just relied on its branding and stellar reputation for aluminum craftsmanship to carry the BeoSound 2 sales into the luxury segment. But the company opted to win on sound quality as well: not by being the most faithful, but by being the most fun. The end result is a speaker that’s as desirable as it is unaffordable.

7.5 Verge Score

Good Stuff

  • Lush, room-filling sound
  • Exquisite aluminum craftsmanship
  • Adaptable to a wide range of uses and positions

Bad Stuff

  • Much pricier than most of its competition
  • Some sound fidelity sacrificed in the name of fun
  • The Dalek jokes will never end

Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge

T-Mobile’s ‘Mobile Without Borders’ is about to be hit with a 5GB cap

Why it matters to you

If you’re using Mobile Without Borders and use your device a lot in Canada and Mexico then you may be affected by the cap.

T-Mobile unveiled Mobile Without Borders to great fanfare in 2015, a plan for customers that added unlimited calling, texting, and 4G LTE data throughout Mexico and Canada at no extra cost.

This meant that using your phone or making a call in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. would be “just like going out of state,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said at the time. “Go from New York to Canada, or from California to Mexico; it’s just like going from Idaho to Texas, from Georgia to Kentucky.”

Two years on and the Uncarrier has decided to slap a monthly limit of 5GB on LTE data before throttling speeds. Why? “In order to prevent usage beyond the intent of the product,” according to T-Mobile.

The change comes into effect on November 12, 2017, and hits customers on T-Mobile One, One Plus, Simple Choice, and legacy rate plans.

Once you reach the new 5GB limit of high-speed data in Canada and Mexico (or your high-speed data allotment is reached, whichever comes first), connection speeds will be throttled to just 128kbps, or 256kbps for T-Mobile One Plus customers. If that’s a problem, then those on postpaid T-Mobile One plans can also add T-Mobile One Plus International for an extra charge and receive unlimited high-speed LTE in Mexico and Canada, T-Mobile said.

When the new cap kicks in, some customers traveling to Canada and Mexico might want to know how they’re doing with their data. For those on an unlimited high-speed plan, T-Mobile says it’s going to send out alerts when you hit 80 percent and 100 percent of your 5GB data limit. You can also check overall data usage by dialing the short code #WEB# on your device.

The company said that less than than 1 percent of people with Mobile Without Borders travel to Mexico and Canada and use more than 5GB a month, indicating the cap will have little impact on its customers. But for the 1 percent, whether they’re travelers hooked on YouTube or business people relying on the service, it could be problematic.

For more information on the upcoming change and a list of related FAQs, check out T-Mobile’s dedicated webpage on the matter.

Ginormous Piccadilly screen will send targeted ads based on the colour of your car

The billboard lights at Piccadilly Circus in London are getting a makeover which will take it into the 21st century and beyond, making it the largest of its kind in Europe. 

The new screen will basically be a ginormous Smart TV —  even better than-4K and larger than a tennis court (790 sq. m). 

Landsec — the company which has owned Piccadilly Lights since the 1970s — is renovating the historic six screens that were bought by six advertisers, and offering Wi-Fi and millions of pixels at jaw-dropping resolution. 

While the six-section structure will be preserved — Coca-Cola, Samsung, Hyundai, and L’Oréal will definitely be there — a single manufacturer can temporarily take over the full-screen for a Blade Runner-like ad. 

Piccadilly Circus in the 1960s.

Piccadilly Circus in the 1960s.

Image: REX/Shutterstock

Piccadilly Circus in 1953 vs in 2016.

Piccadilly Circus in 1953 vs in 2016.

Image: Getty Images

“Advertisers will be able to stream live videos, lifestyle updates, such as weather and sports results, and real time social media feeds,” Landsec says on a press release. 

And just like your Smart TV, the screen can secretly spy on you. 

“Screen content can be influenced by the characteristics of the crowd around it, such as gender, age group and even emotions. It is also able to respond and deliver bespoke ad content triggered by surroundings in the area,” Landsec adds. 

That means advertisers will be able to deliver targeted ads based on the interaction with the surrounding environment, as first reported by Wired:

Cameras concealed within the screen will track the make, model and colour of passing cars to deliver more targeted adverts. Brands can even pre-program triggers so that specific adverts are played when a certain model of car passes the screen, according to Landsec, the company that owns the screens. 

That naturally raises important privacy concerns, such as: What kind of information will the camera detect? Will the data be collected and stored? Will personal information be shared with third-party advertisers? Is there a possibility to opt-out? Are there any risks associated with hacking the camera and the billboard? 

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A Landsec spokesperson told Mashable: “The new screen has the ability to react to external factors such as the weather and passing vehicles – though without collecting or storing any personal details.”

“For example, the branded content displayed on the screen could change depending on the colour of vehicles,” it said. “How the technology is used depends on the approach and creative being displayed by the brands.”

The date the new screen will be unveiled is still unconfirmed. 

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The ION360 U is a phone case, battery and 360 camera in one

Why it matters to you

The ION360 U makes 360 photos accessible as a smartphone accessory, but without the smartphone battery drain.

Shooting 360 photos and videos with a mobile accessory makes the format easily accessible — and now that 360 camera can also recharge your smartphone. Today, October 12, startup ION360 launched the ION360 U, a 360 camera and case that snaps onto iPhone and Galaxy smartphones — and charges them, too.

The ION360U has two 7.4-megapixel cameras built into a camera case. The two cameras sit at the top of the smartphone, with a 200-degree lens on each side to capture the immersive perspective. The battery inside the case powers the camera while shooting, which means the camera doesn’t drain the smartphone battery. ION360 says the feature is unique to the U camera. When the camera isn’t in use, the battery can be used to recharge the camera as well.

The case design allows the camera to connect directly to the smartphone, which means no Wi-Fi linking in order to get the camera and the app to communicate, preventing slowdowns and offering quick access to shooting. Launching the app automatically launches the camera, the company says.

The ION360 U is capable of shooting 4K quality video for up to around 100 minutes on a fully charged battery. The company says the camera is also live-stream capable for both Facebook and YouTube and is ready to go live in a matter of seconds, thanks to quick-stitching software. Facebook has already granted the Live 360 Ready designation to the new camera.

The case and camera weighs only about 4.3 ounces, with models available for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+. The ION360 U app is available from both the App Store and Google Play. The camera is launching with exclusive availability through Sprint stores and the ION360 website.

“Through our Sprint partnership, the ION360 U is very well positioned to give customers an opportunity to see for themselves how easy to use and integrated the camera, case, and app are,” said Giovanni Tomaselli, founder and president of ION360. “Instead of taking a still image from a static viewpoint — which traditional standalone or smartphone cameras provide — the ION360 U allows you to bring your family and friends into your experiences, from all perspectives, instantaneously, without changing the smartphone experience. Just snap it onto its case, and go.”

The ION360 U retails for $300.

China’s biggest messaging app accidentally translates ‘black foreigner’ to the N-word

Image: HOW HWEE YOUNG/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

WeChat, China’s biggest messaging app, has apologised for a gaffe, where it translated the phrase “black foreigner” to the N-word.

The mistake was first spotted by Ann James, an American living in Shanghai. She translated an incoming Chinese message into English, which produced the text: “The n****r’s still late.”

The original Chinese message used a more neutral term, hei laowai, or “black foreigner.”

(Editor’s note: The language in the screenshot below has been obscured due to its offensive nature)   

WeChat rectified the error within 24 hours, but the company told Chinese outlet Sixth Tone that the translation was based on its neural machine learning engine, that picked up the term from broader usage.

WeChat, which has a huge base of over 900 million users, has been able to translate messages in-app since 2014. It relies on a combination of translation sources, including its own AI engine, and third parties like Microsoft Translator.

The error is reminiscent of other translation engines that have tried to learn from analysing big data. In August, two Chinese chatbots — one created by Microsoft — were taken down after they started posting unpatriotic content about the government.

Last year, another Microsoft chatbot, Tay, was pulled after it started tweeting racist and crude messages.

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Airbnb will open its own branded apartment building in Florida next year

Airbnb is launching its own branded apartments in Florida in partnership with real estate developer Newgard Development Group, reports The Financial Times. The apartments will be called “Niido powered by Airbnb,” and the 300-unit building in Kissimmee will be built and owned by Newgard. It’s due to open in 2018, and will feature keyless entry and secure storage options for when tenants are going away and want to rent out their place. Tenants will be allowed to sublet their apartments through Airbnb for up to 180 days each year.

Those renting out their units will be able to manage bookings through an app, and the accommodation would essentially be like a serviced apartment, with a host on site and mandatory cleaning. In terms of the short-term rentals, Newgard would take a 25 percent cut, Airbnb 3 percent, with the rest going back to the tenant.

Airbnb said the project “matches with its longterm strategy,” while Newgard said the company plans to build 2,000 Airbnb branded units over the next two years. It’s currently working with Airbnb on five more apartment complexes, looking for the “right neighborhoods and the right designs,” said Harvey Hernandez, CEO of Newgard. “The demographic that we are targeting are traveling more than ever before,” said Hernandez. “So when that property is empty, they can be making money with it.”

Razer upcoming smartphone’s specs leak, revealing a gaming powerhouse

Image: razer facebook/screenshot

Razer’s new smartphone is only expected to launch on Nov. 1, but the leaks have already begun.

According to Phone Radar, a listing has already appeared on GFXBench titled “Razer Phone“, that could just very well be the phone we’re set to see in a little over two weeks.

According to the listing, the phone will have a 5.7 inch screen with a 2650 x 1440 resolution, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 64 GB of internal storage — all pretty standard stuff for a smartphone, except for one standout. It’ll also come with 8GB of RAM.

Image: gfxbench/screenshot

To put that in perspective, Samsung’s S8+ has 6GB of RAM, and Google Pixel 2 XL was just released with 4GB of RAM. 

So the upcoming Razer should be a lot more adept at handling heavy 3D games and multitasking, going by its specs. This should come as no surprise, given Razer’s plan to position its phone as a gaming powerhouse.

We could also see aspects of the Nextbit Robin smartphone incorporated, thanks to Razer’s acquisition of the smartphone startup back in January. Some of its hyped features include the ability to manage and offload data in the cloud.

And for those curious to see what the phone will look like, here’s the tiniest of sneak peeks, courtesy of Razer SVP Tom Moss who had earlier last week tweeted a photo of him with CEO Tan Min Liang. 

Look closely at his pocket.

For now, there’s no way of verifying the leaked details, so we’ll just have to wait till next month.

(H/T: Phone Radar)

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T-Mobile is about to put borders on its ‘Mobile Without Borders’ plan

Why it matters to you

If you’re using Mobile Without Borders and use your device a lot in Canada and Mexico then you may be affected by the cap.

T-Mobile unveiled Mobile Without Borders to great fanfare in 2015, a plan for customers that added unlimited calling, texting, and 4G LTE data throughout Mexico and Canada at no extra cost.

It meant that using your phone or making a call in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. would be “just like going out of state,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said at the time. “Go from New York to Canada, or from California to Mexico; it’s just like going from Idaho to Texas, from Georgia to Kentucky.”

Two years on and the Uncarrier has decided to slap a monthly limit of 5GB on LTE data before throttling speeds. Why? “In order to prevent usage beyond the intent of the product,” according to T-Mobile.

The change comes into effect on November 12, 2017, and hits customers on T-Mobile One, One Plus, Simple Choice, and legacy rate plans.

Once you reach the new 5GB limit of high-speed data in Canada and Mexico (or your high-speed data allotment is reached, whichever comes first), connection speeds will be throttled to just 128kbps, or 256kbps for T-Mobile One Plus customers. If that’s a problem, then those on postpaid T-Mobile One plans can also add T-Mobile One Plus International for an extra charge and receive unlimited high-speed LTE in Mexico and Canada, T-Mobile said.

When the new cap kicks in, some customers traveling to Canada and Mexico might want to know how they’re doing with their data. For those on an unlimited high-speed plan, T-Mobile says it’s going to send out alerts when you hit 80 percent and 100 percent of your 5GB data limit. You can also check overall data usage by dialing the short code #WEB# on your device.

The company said that less than than 1 percent of people with Mobile Without Borders travel to Mexico and Canada and use more than 5GB a month, indicating the cap will have little impact on its customers. But for the 1 percent, whether they’re travelers hooked on YouTube or business people relying on the service, it could be problematic.

For more information on the upcoming change and a list of related FAQs, check out T-Mobile’s dedicated webpage on the matter.

A San Francisco official wants robots to be taxed just like people

Why it matters to you

Robots are eating our jobs. This Californian grassroots initiative proposes one possible answer.

Whether it’s immigration, health care, taxes or the environment, there are plenty of topics which drive voters. One that is not quite as much of a hot-button topic as it maybe should be? The impact of automation on employment. As we have covered here on multiple occasions, artificial intelligence and robotics is likely to have a massive impact on jobs, long before we need to start worrying about things like superintelligence and the technological singularity. With that in mind, a San Francisco official is actively pushing for a “robot tax,” and a more thorough examination of what the rise of the robots is likely to mean for us.

What San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim has created is a statewide grassroots coalition called the “Jobs of the Future Fund,” which sets out to create a communal fund that will help ease the transition as robots take on more and more of our jobs. To do this, it proposes that employers who replace humans with robots or algorithms should continue to pay payroll taxes to fund training, education and new opportunities for humans. In this way, workers can benefit from the automation revolution, rather than just those at the very top.

“Many experts predict that millions of American jobs are at high risk of being replaced through automation; some studies found as much as 47 percent,” Julie Edwards, a spokesperson for Kim, told Digital Trends. “We need to start thinking now about how we can smooth this transition to ensure these workers have the training and education they need to continue to access good-paying, middle-class jobs.”

The original idea for the Jobs of the Future Fund was based on a concept first mentioned by former Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates earlier this year, which Kim has picked up and run with. It’s more of a conversation starter than anything, but it’s definitely helping raise awareness of an important issue.

“The changes that automation could bring to our workplaces potentially rival the job losses of the Great Depression,” Edwards said. “This could be the biggest economic challenge our generation will face and it’s critical we build the support among the public, political leaders and employers to get ready for that challenge now.”

If you live in California and want to get involved, you can head over to www.jobsofthefuturefund.com and sign up. If you live elsewhere, maybe visit the site and then start hounding your own politicians for something similar!

Emporio Armani Connected smartwatch review

Smartwatches need to look good, and as luxury brands enter the market, we find they end up producing some of the best-looking wearables. One of the latest is the Emporio Armani Connected, Armani’s first Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch. It’s unquestionably attractive, with a name that oozes class, style, and sophistication. In our Emporio Armani Connected review, we see if the watch is all style and no substance, and if it is, whether it really matters.

Understated and stylish

The reason you’ll buy the Emporio Armani Connected is because you like the way it looks. Smartwatches like this, and others from Diesel, Movado, and Fossil, are all technically identical. The differences are in the way the watch looks, the straps and bands, and the custom watch faces. It’s like shopping for a traditional timepiece from all these companies. You’re choosing the watch based on how it looks on your wrist, not how the tech enriches your life. Sound harsh? It’s really not. It’s the essence of how smartwatches should be.

There are five different models of the Emporio Armani Connected, each made from slightly different materials, and with different strap designs. Our review model is (in our opinion) the best looking. It’s made from black-plated stainless steel, and the strap has a mixture of polished and matte links. Look closely at the crown and you’ll spot the Emporio Armani logo. It’s flanked by two secondary buttons to control the Android Wear operating system.

The Emporio Armani Connected is stealthy, smart, and surprisingly thin. Like the Diesel On Full Guard smartwatch, this is a new generation of Android Wear wearables, with a slimmer body that doesn’t sit so boldly on the wrist. It’s easier to wear with shirts, and looks more like a traditional analog watch, rather than a bulky piece of tech. Our review model has a metal link strap, which did painfully catch wrist hair sometimes. Adjusting the size of the band can be done yourself with the right tools, or taken to a jeweller.

If you don’t like the stealth black, there is a silver stainless steel version, a silver stainless steel and gold model, as well as two with leather straps and either a steel or gold body. The straps are also quick-release, so it’s easy to change the look, with Emporio Armani selling its own reasonably priced bands too. We rather like the rubber strap listed here.

The Emporio Armani Connected is stealthy, smart, and surprisingly thin.

The beauty of a smartwatch is you can change the watch face at a moment’s notice. Armani has included several branded watch faces, which are highly customizable. Everything from the color of the hands, the background, the complications, and the digits can be switched to suit your own tastes. It’s easy to do, making it realistic to change the style to match what you’re wearing daily. That’s before you try out the hundreds of third-party watch faces available through Google Play. This is where Android Wear wins over the Apple Watch — you’re not restricted to a few official watch faces.

The AMOLED screen isn’t too small: It’s bright, clear, and the always-on display — where a simple watch face is displayed to save battery — is legible even in sunlight.

This isn’t a cheap watch, and it doesn’t feel like one. It’s understated, stylish, very well made, and light enough to wear every day. Its presentation is superb, right down to the cool travel case it comes in. Judged purely by design, it’s worth the investment; but what happens when we look closer?

Android Wear 2.0

Android Wear is the wearable operating system from Google, and this year the company introduced version 2.0, which introduced many new and important features to the platform — from the Google Play Store and access to the Google Assistant, to a simplified design. Nearly all Android Wear 2.0 watches will feature the same software — the user interface isn’t different on each watch unlike Android phones. Manufacturers can, however, create micro apps that personalize the watch closer to the brand.

Diesel has a micro app that acts like a special interactive home screen, and Michael Kors offers an Instagram-focused My Social app. The Emporio Armani Connected foregoes all that and sticks to the bare minimum — what you see is what you get.

Emporio Armani EA Connected Smartwatch review watchface shapes

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Android Wear 2.0 includes Google Assistant, which is called up by long pressing the crown. The Assistant uses voice control, meaning you have to get over any fears of talking to your watch in public. Like Assistant on your Android or iOS device, it’s effective and understands a growing number of natural, conversational phrases. The microphone doesn’t need to be right next to your mouth to pick up voices, but still struggles with noisy environments. Android Wear’s keyboard still frustrates because it’s a bit small, but at least you can swipe across it with your finger, or scribble letters to form a phrase. There’s also Smart Replies, which uses on-device machine learning to offer up short, contextually-relevant phrases you can quickly use in a conversation.

Notifications are still a lengthy list without much categorization, but it’s better than it used to be in Android Wear 1.0. The Google Play Store is accessible in version 2.0, and there’s a reasonable amount of apps available for your smartwatch. It’s easy to use on the watch so it you are looking for an app, it’s not a nightmare, but it’s still just a long list of mediocre apps to scroll through. Android Wear (and wearables in general) work best with notifications, calendar access, navigation, and increasingly, music. Load music onto the watch, connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones, and you’ve got a convenient music player that’s ideal for workouts. The Google Play Music app is well designed, with large, easy-to-tap buttons.

While controlling Android Wear is primarily done with the touchscreen, you can scroll through menus, messages, and lists by twisting the Connected’s crown. This is similar to the rotating crown on the LG Watch Sport and the Apple Watch. It’s very sensitive, so a gentle touch is required if you don’t want to go zipping through any menus at an incredible pace.

What doesn’t the Connected have?

This isn’t a wearable for the tech-lover; it’s a smartwatch for the fashion-lover.

This isn’t a wearable for the tech-lover; it’s a smartwatch for the fashion-lover. It has no special features at all. It doesn’t have a heart rate sensor, so it’s not one for fitness fanatics; no GPS; and it doesn’t have an eSIM to enable voice calls and messages when untethered from your phone. It’s not modular like the latest Tag Heuer, and there isn’t a flashier model with a sapphire screen and more luxurious materials available, like the Apple Watch.

It doesn’t have especially long battery life either, even without energy draining features like a heart rate monitor. If you turn the watch off each night, then you’ll just about get two working days from it. If you forget, then it won’t last through the second day. Charging takes an hour or so, and is performed by magnetically attaching the watch to a small charging tab. It’s small and easy to carry around, but not exactly luxurious. It’s also the same as you get with most other fashion smartwatches developed by the Fossil group. The final feature it doesn’t have is NFC, so the watch doesn’t have Android Pay.

Not as fast as an Apple Watch Series 3

A Snapdragon Wear 2100 with 512MB of RAM powers the Connected, which has become the standard for most Android Wear 2.0 watches released over the past year. It’s not slow, but it’s hardly a rocket ship either, and there are pauses while apps or features load up. However, if all you’ve used is Android Wear 1.0, then it’ll feel like traveling in hyperspace by comparison. What it’s not is an Apple Watch Series 3, which is considerably faster, smoother, and more responsive.

Emporio Armani Connected touchscreen smartwatch ART5002 Compared To

Android Wear is designed to work with Google’s Android mobile OS, and it connected to various smartphones without a problem. If you own an Apple iPhone, an Android Wear app is also available to download through the App Store, ready to link any Android Wear smartwatch to your phone. We had no trouble pairing the two, but there are fewer features available when the watch is used with an iPhone. For one thing, you’ll have to keep the Android Wear app running in the background on iOS.

Price, warranty, and availability

This is an Armani watch, and as we have already mentioned, it’s not cheap. The basic stainless steel model with a leather strap is $345, while the metal band models are $395. Additional straps from Armani range between $25 and $35. Our recommendation is to grab the stainless steel model in silver as a gift set. It costs $395, and comes with a black leather strap too. The straps have quick release fittings, so it can be swapped in moments. The Connected can be purchased through armani.com.

The company offers a two-year warranty, where it will replace your unit if there are any manufacturing defects.

Our Take

Just like anything with the name Armani attached to it, wearing the Emporio Armani Connected smartwatch is about the way it makes you feel, and not what it actually does. Having a “bare essentials” feature list means the tech-smarts don’t overshadow the sophisticated style.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. If you have an iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 3 is better. If you own an Android phone, we need to clarify the meaning of better. If you want more features, the $300 Huawei Watch 2 and $350 LG Watch Sport both do more; but they don’t look as good. A better look comes down to personal preference. The $325 Diesel On Full Guard, the $350 Michael Kors Access Grayson and Sofie, and the $595 Movado Connect all have different looks. Not better necessarily, but maybe more to your individual taste.

We also like the $295 Emporio Armani hybrid smartwatch, confusingly also referred to as the EA Connected. It doesn’t run Android Wear or have a touchscreen; but the style is fantastic, and it performs simple features like delivering notifications without any fuss. It’s also cheaper, and doesn’t require charging.

How long will it last?

There are two aspects of the Emporio Armani Connected that affect its lifetime: The battery and the software. The battery will inevitably lose its ability to hold a charge, but that shouldn’t happen for at least two years, and by that time, Google and Armani may stop sending the watch software updates. However, the watch will continue to work beyond this time. No specific water resistance level is given, so we’d suggest not showering with it on.

Should you buy it?

Yes, there’s no reason not to if you like the look, and are partial to the Emporio Armani brand. We continue to wear the watch even though the review is complete, which says a lot about its attractiveness and comfort. It does everything we want from a smartwatch, without overloading with rarely used, energy-sucking features. It provides designer cool without the high prices attached to the slick, minimalist Movado Connect, or other big-name smartwatches from Montblanc and Tag Heuer.