Apple Watch price and release date revealed at launch

After months of waiting, the eagerly anticipated Apple Watch was finally launched yesterday at an event in San Francisco. While most details on the Apple Watch had already been unveiled at an event back in September, it was the price and release date that interested parties were waiting to hear.

apple_watch_iwatch_2Unsurprisingly it ain’t going to be cheap, with prices starting at £299 for the entry level Apple Watch Sport model, and ranging up to a whopping £13,500 for the top of the range Apple Watch Edition version.

This massive variation in price has no bearing on the specs of the smartwatch, but rather the materials that it’s made from. The cheapest model, the Apple Watch Sport has an aluminium casing, while the regular Apple Watch is stainless steel and Apple Watch Edition 18 carat gold.

With 38 different models, Apple claims “there’s an Apple Watch for everyone”, assuming, of course that everyone has at least £300 to shell out on a device to complement their already heftily priced iPhone 5 or 6. However, those with plenty of disposable income will be able to choose between two different sizes (38mm and 42mm), the three different casings, and a range of different straps and watch faces, to suit their individual style and budget.

The Apple Watch will go on sale on 24 April, with pre-orders opening on 10 April.

Will the Apple Watch finally kickstart interest in smartwatches and bring them into common usage? If anyone can do it, it’ll probably be Apple.

Ikea to release range of wireless charging furniture

idea-wireless-charging-furniture1.siSwedish furniture giant Ikea is to release a range of furniture with inbuilt wireless charging spots that will recharge any compatible device by simply placing it on the area.

Unveiled at this year’s Mobile World Congress, which is currently taking place in Barcelona, Ikea’s Home Smart range includes lamps, bedside tables and a coffee table, as well as stand alone charging pads that can be placed on any surface in the home.

The furniture uses the QI wireless charging standard, which is now built into an increasing number of smartphones, including the newly announced Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

Ikea Home Smart rangeAlthough there are currently over 80 QI-compatible handsets on the market, the system will not work for all devices, which is something Ikea has addressed by producing charging covers for incompatible iPhone and Samsung handsets.

There are still many issues with wireless charging that need to be ironed out before it becomes a perfect solution to messy cable overload, but with the Home Smart range, Ikea has certainly taken a step in the right direction.

The Home Smart range goes on sale in the UK and North America in April 2015, with prices starting from £30.

What do you think of Ikea’s wireless charging furniture?

It’s Pebble Time!

Three years after Pebble launched its, and one of the first, smartwatches on Kickstarter, the company has announced that it will be using the crowdfunding platform to release its next generation smartwatch, the Pebble Time.

Pebble TimeThe original Pebble smartwatch was a great product at the time and forged the way for much larger companies such as Samsung, Google and Apple, but as these companies have started to develop much more sophisticated wearables, the Pebble smartwatch was starting to look pretty dated.

However, the new Pebble Time looks every bit as good as its competitors, if not better. The previously bulky device has been scaled down and is now 20% slimmer than its predecessor. The housing now also has a slight curve in order to fit better around the wrist.

The new Pebble now also has a colour e-paper display, which can be left on continually and still have 7 hours battery life. It also has a microphone, which can be used to send short voice replies to messages and notifications. Like the original, it is water resistant, and now also comes with a scratch resistant Gorilla Glass screen.

One of the biggest changes to the new Pebble is its new operating system, which is based around time (hence the name) and arranges alerts on a chronological

After the original Pebble raised over $10 million (£6.4 million) on Kickstarter, establishing itself as a contender in the burgeoning smartwatch market, you could question why they have gone back to Kickstarter to fund their latest venture. Eric Migicovsky, Founder and CEO of the company has responded to that by saying :

“The reason why we’re going back to Kickstarter is because we’re still a small company. We’re battling the largest company in the world. And we want to speak directly to our community. We want to bring it directly to the people who matter”.

The community is obviously listening as this time round the campaign raised almost $10 million in 24 hours, with 43,000 backers choosing to put a down payment of $179 (£115) on the new Pebble (it will be $200 when it goes on general sale) and wait for it to be shipped in May, even with the eagerly awaited Apple Watch scheduled for release in April.

It looks like Apple’s got competition on its hands.

What do you think of the new Pebble Time?

View-Master gets a virtual reality makeover for the 21st century

view-master_1I loved my View-Master as a kid and can still vividly remember clicking through 3D images of Worzel Gummidge (youngsters, Google it) with a mixture of excitement and terror. So when I heard the news that it’s being reinvented for the kids of today with virtual reality replacing static 3D images, and smartphones replacing the cardboard photo discs, I was overcome by nostalgia and couldn’t wait to find out more.

Mattel, who manufactured the original View-Master, has teamed up with Google to bring its Google Cardboard virtual reality software to their next generation viewer.

The viewer itself resembles other virtual reality headsets on the market but is also reminiscent of the original View-Master, and even bears the same distinctive red colour.

View-Master-ftHowever, instead of slotting a cardboard disc of pictures into the viewer, the updated version works by inserting your (Android) smartphone into the device. A range of themes including “San Francisco”, “Solar System” and “Dinosaur Adventure” can be purchased through the app, which can then be viewed and explored in 360 degree 3D.

So as to adhere to the original, the themes can also be purchased in the form of plastic “experience reel”, which emulate the cardboard originals, but rather than being slotted into the viewer, they are scanned in order to access and navigate the content.

The new View-Master is expected to be released this autumn and will cost around $30 (£20), with “experience reels” coming in at $15 (£10) for three. Might have to get one for myself…!

What do you think of the new View-Master?

Amazon Fire TV Stick released in the US

Amazon Fire TV StickThe Amazon Fire TV box was released in the US back in April to rival other set-top streaming boxes such as Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast. With 2GB of memory, a super fast quad-core processor, voice activated technology that actually works, and gaming capabilities, Fire TV has been lauded as  a real contender in the battle for set-top streaming supremacy. The only downside being its $100 (£64) price tag.

With Roku and Chromecast coming in portable HDMI stick form, it was only a matter of time before Amazon repackaged Fire TV and put it in a stick. The Amazon Fire TV Stick has just been released in the US and is a much more affordable $39 (£25), or only $19 (£12) if you subscribe to Amazon Prime.

With the reduced price and size comes an inevitable trade off in specs, which are pretty much halved. The Fire TV Stick only has 1GB of memory, a dual core processor, a cheaper remote that doesn’t have voice search, and only around half as many games that are run more slowly. However, as a portable streaming device, it serves its purpose well and compares favourably with its competitors.

Unfortunately, as with Fire TV, which was only released in the UK in October, us Brits are going to have to wait for the Fire TV Stick. As before, Amazon haven’t made any comment on when it will arrive on these shores but it’s expected to be some time in the new year.

Do you use a portable HDMI streaming stick? Do you like the sound of Amazon Fire TV Stick?