All posts in “smartwatches”

The Apple Watch Series 4 is everything previous versions should have been

The Apple Watch Series 4 comes with two new, larger screen sizes: 40mm and 44mm.
The Apple Watch Series 4 comes with two new, larger screen sizes: 40mm and 44mm.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

I bought the original Apple Watch “Series 0” back in 2015, and it served me well for a year until I felt overwhelmed with receiving notifications on my wrist. (Phantom vibrations are a real thing. Look it up!)

Series 1, 2, and 3 of the smartwatch introduced welcome updates like a built-in GPS, water-resistance, and then cellular connectivity, but I’ve never felt that any of them were compelling enough to spend more cash on. 

But Apple’s just-announced Apple Watch Series 4 might change my mind.

Apple kicked off its annual fall iPhone event with the new Apple Watch Series 4. Since the original Apple Watch, the smartwatch has rocketed its way to become the No. 1 watch in the world (according to Tim Cook).

He might be biased, but he’s not wrong. Despite a slow start out of the gate, the Apple Watch has destroyed the competition. Just about every consumer tech company has abandoned making new WearOS smartwatches (though that could change now that Qualcomm’s got a new smartwatch chip that might incentivize new projects) and they’ve only remained on life support thanks to fashion brands.

Just look at how the screen's corners now match the rounded corners.

Just look at how the screen’s corners now match the rounded corners.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Samsung’s still plugging away with the Galaxy Watch. It’s got really great multi-day battery life, but it’s still fundamentally unchanged from the previous Gear S4 and Gear Sport.

For the first time, the Apple Watch Series 4 finally feels like a major leap forward for a smartwatch compared to its original.

The smartwatches now come in two new screen sizes: 40mm and 44mm — a jump up from the previous 38mm and 42mm — without any significant change to the watch case itself.

The screens are over 30 percent larger than the Series 3 and sport curved corners that blend more seamlessly with the bezel.

And the bigger screen is immediately noticeable. There are more pixels for displaying watch face complications and content. You’re just not covering as much of the display when you swipe on it, which makes you actually want to engage with stuff like notifications.

They're thinner and lighter.

They’re thinner and lighter.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Many of the new watch faces, such as the fire and Breathe app-based faces, look more organic on the screens.

All your existing Apple Watch bands still work with the Series 4, which brings me comfort. The Series 4 is thinner and lighter than the Series 3, making it less bulbous on the wrist — another comfort.

The Digital Crown has haptic feedback and can take an ECG.

The Digital Crown has haptic feedback and can take an ECG.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Also, the Digital Crown is now more than just a dial for scrolling. Place your finger on it and the Apple Watch can take an electrocardiogram (ECG), which you can then provide to your doctor. It can detect if you’ve fallen and then call for emergency assistance.

I didn’t get to try any of these features, but they definitely seem super practical. I could see both of them being very useful for anyone who wants to keep closer tabs on their aging parents or grandparents. 

Bigger screen for displaying more content.

Bigger screen for displaying more content.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The Apple Watch Series 4 also feels vastly more responsive. I tried the Series 3 for a few weeks, but watchOS never exactly felt really speedy. It does on Series 4. 

At the end of the day — yes — the Apple Watch Series 4 is still a smartwatch. And it’s admittedly kind of pricey, starting at $399 for the non-cellular 40mm version. You still use it for the same things pitched with any of the previous versions: fielding notifications, tracking your health, making phone calls and texting, etc.

But the developments that come with the Apple Watch Series 4 make using the smartwatch an all-around nicer experience now, because the screen’s not so small that you need to squint to see anything. 

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Non-Apple smartwatches are about to get interesting again

It’s no secret that the Apple Watch is a dominant force in the smartwatch market. And it’s likely going to get more popular after its expected refresh on Sept. 12, when it will most likely get a larger screen and haptic feedback sensors. In total, the soon-to-be-released version of the Apple Watch will probably bring more people to buy a smartwatch and increase Apple’s lead over the competition.

But Qualcomm, one of Apple’s biggest rivals, is preempting the iPhone maker just a few days before its big event with the new Snapdragon Wear 3100 platform. The chipset was designed by Qualcomm in tandem with Google’s Wear OS team and promises to bring better battery life to the next-generation of Wear OS watches. Furthermore, it might be the resurgence that Wear OS needs.

For the uninitiated, Android Wear was renamed Wear OS earlier this year, and it got a revamp in features like the Google Assistant, Google Fit, and a new notifications UX. The 3100 platform works in conjunction with these new Wear OS features to improve battery life and enable new experiences.

Image:  GOOGLE, MASHABLE COMPOSITE

The Wear 3100 platform is built on an ultra-low power system architecture that has a QCC1110  co-processor inside. The co-processor is tiny at ~21mm and supports the central quad-core ARM processor. While it’s small in size, the co-processor can handle keyword search almost entirely on its own, which means it will likely power the Google Assistant and background processes — ultimately making your smartwatch faster and more responsive.

On the battery side, Qualcomm has enabled three different modes that customize the battery life depending on a user’s needs. Enhanced Ambient Mode seems to be the most featured filled, as it doesn’t cut back on display brightness, the number of complications, or with navigating the watch. Traditional Watch Mode will stretch out the battery life for an extended period, which likely results in a slower experience at a lower brightness setting. Lastly, Dedicated Sports Mode allows you to have GPS and heart rate turned on for long periods. Whether it be a triathlon or a marathon, the watch has you covered.

Image: qualcomm

Qualcomm’s magic trick for this to happen is to offload the processes from the central quad-core processor to the QCC1110 co-processor. It seems that these might be modes that Wear OS will have the option to engage, or it might be smart enough to know when to switch the processes over. This ability to stretch out battery life is a core affordance of this platform. In the end, Qualcomm is estimating that this new processor can last 4-12 hours more than the previous Wear 2100 platform.

I’m a bit skeptical for now, especially given the broad range for expected battery improvement, but I’m eager to see this new platform in action on some future Wear OS watches. Also, what is a platform announcement without at least some manufacturers saying that they’ll be building for it?

Well, Fossil Group, Louis Vuitton, and Montblanc are the first launch partners to use the new Snapdragon Wear 3100 Platform (pretty great brands if you ask me). It ends up being a similar story as high-end fashion brands are still the first to flock towards Wear OS. The good news is that this list will likely grow, and while Google doesn’t have a Pixel smartwatch coming this year, who knows in 2019 there could be one with this chip.

Also, consumers should expect a range of watches to arrive as the 3100 platform will come in Bluetooth and WiFi, GPS, and 4G LTE variants. The chips are shipping today, so expect a new wave of Wear OS watches soon.

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This is probably what the next Apple Watch will look like

Apple will likely announce a new Series 4 Apple Watch at its Sept. 12 iPhone event.
Apple will likely announce a new Series 4 Apple Watch at its Sept. 12 iPhone event.

Image: luke leonard/mashable

It’s gotta suck to be Jony Ive and the crew at Apple right now.

Following the leak of the alleged next-generation 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch “iPhone XS,” another leak has now revealed what looks like the next-generation Apple Watch.

The new leak for what is likely to be called the Apple Watch Series 4 comes from software developer Guilherme Rambo, writing for 9to5Mac

The alleged press image for the unannounced Apple Watch suggests the smartwatch will receive a major hardware refresh, in line with many previous rumor reports.

It appears the new Apple Watch will have a larger display; the leaked image shows a new watch face with more room to display watch complications (the app shortcut widgets).

The watch case itself also appears to be slimmer with a flatter, possibly a haptic-based side button instead of a physical one. It also looks like the red dot on the digital crown that differentiated the Apple Watch Series 3 from previous models will be a less distracting ring instead.

It’s unclear how Rambo managed to obtain the alleged Apple Watch and iPhone XS images. However, his track record, has been solid in the past. Last year, he discovered a glyph showing off the then unannounced iPhone X with all of its notch glory from within the leaked HomePod firmware.

All of Apple’s new products will be revealed on Sept. 12. So sit tight and enjoy the downtime because things are going to be crazy in only a few weeks.

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Google’s Wear OS gets a new look

Wear OS, Google’s smartphone operating system that was once called Android Wear, is getting a new look today. Google says the overall idea here is to give you quicker access to information and more proactive help. In line with the Google Fit redesign, Wear OS now also provides you with the same kind of health coaching as the Android app.

In practice, this means you can now swipe through multiple notifications at once, for example. Previously, you had to go from one notifications card to the next, which sound minor but was indeed a bit of a hassle. Like before, you bring up the new notifications feed by swiping up. If you want to reply or take any other action, you tap the notification to bring up those options.

Wear OS is also getting a bit of a Google Now replacement. Simply swipe right and the Google Assistant will bring up the weather, your flight status, hotel notifications or other imminent events. Like in most other Assistant-driven interfaces, Google will also use this area to help you discover other Assistant features like setting timers (though I think everybody knows how to use the Assistant to set a time given that I’m sure that’s 90% of Assistant usage right there).

As for Google Fit, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Wear OS is adapting the same circle design with Hear Points and Move Minutes as the Android app. On a round Wear OS watch, that design actually looks quite well.

While this obviously isn’t a major break from previous versions, we’re definitely talking about quality-of-life improvements here that do make using Wear OS just that little bit easier.

Google Fit gets a redesign, adds Heart Points and coaching

Google Fit is getting a major update today. The company’s activity tracking app has been around for a few years now but until today, it pretty much worked and looked that same as on the day it launched. Today’s redesign is quite a departure from that old look and feel, though, and it also introduces quite a few new features that help take the service in a new direction.

The most obvious new feature in the new version is that instead of only focusing on active minutes (or ‘Move Minutes’ as they are called now), Google has now introduces the concept of Heart Points. With this, you don’t just score points for moving but the app will also give you extra points for activities that actually get your heart beating a bit faster. Google Fit will give you one point for every minute of moderate activity and double points for more intense activities (think running or kickboxing). You won’t be able to buy anything with those points, but you’re more likely to live longer, so there’s that.

Like before, Google Fit will automatically track your activities thanks to the sensors in your phone or Wear OS watch. You can always manually add activities, too, or use apps like Strava, Runkeeper, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal to get credit for the workouts you track with them.

What’s also new in this update is actionable coaching, something that was sorely missing from the old version. It remains to be seen how useful this new feature is in day-to-day use, but the idea here is to give you feedback on how active you’ve been throughout the week and help you stay motivated.

What I’m actually the most excited about, though, is the new look and feel. Based on the screenshots Google has shared so far, the app now provides you with far more details at a glance, without having to dig into timelines (which weren’t all that usable in the old version to begin with).

The new version is now rolling out to Android and Wear OS users.