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?

Microsoft steps into the wearables arena with the Microsoft Band

While chunky smartwatches are taking a while to catch on, fitness bands are big business, with more and more companies targeting this area of the wearables market

Microsoft Band-1200-80Microsoft is the latest to get in on the action with the release of the Microsoft Band, which has all the functions of your average fitness band, plus a bit more. Intended to be worn 24 hours a day, the relatively unobtrusive Band offers 24 hour heart rate tracking and sleep monitoring as well as GPS mapping and a range of guided workouts, through the Microsoft Health platform.

With its first foray into the world of wearables, Microsoft will undoubtedly be looking to rival the Apple Watch, and although the two are very different products, Apple could well have a challenge on its hands. Or should that be wrists?

Although predominantly a fitness monitor, Microsoft Band also alerts you to Incoming calls, texts, emails, social media updates, calendar alerts and other information. Windows users can also access Cortana via the band.

One big selling point for the Band is the fact that it’s cross-platform, with the Microsoft Health software is available on iOS and Android as well as Windows Phone.

Another is its price point, which at $200 (£125) is pretty reasonable considering its functionality, and considerably cheaper than the $350 (£220) Apple Watch.

What do you think of the Microsoft Band? Do you think it can rival the Apple Watch?

nPower offers free Nest Learning Thermostat to customers

If you’ve been toying with the idea of getting a smart thermostat, but been put off by the price or overwhelmed by all the different brands that have suddenly appeared on the market, nPower could have the solution you’ve been waiting for.

nest_coolingThe energy provider has decided to offer a free Nest Learning Thermostat plus free installation to customers who sign up to its new ‘Intelligent Control – October 2016’ electricity and gas tariff. This ‘dual fuel’ tariff guarantees a fixed price until October 2016 and price comparison website uSwitch says that it “represents great value for anyone looking to purchase a Nest Learning Thermostat”, which normally costs £249 including installation.

Their findings are based on the average household so you should consider your energy consumption before being seduced by the offer, but it’s certainly a great deal if you fit into that bracket.

The Nest Learning Thermostat can detect when you’re home, learns your daily and weekly routines, and then automatically controls your heating system accordingly. It also allows you to control your heating remotely via your smartphone when you deviate from your usual routine. Nest claims that the device can save you around £150-£200 a year on heating bills.

Nest first teamed up with nPower earlier this year to offer the Learning Thermostat for £99 on a different tariff, however the latest deal offers a much more tempting proposition.

Are you tempted to get a smart thermostat, or perhaps you already have one? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below…

BlackBerry Passport to launch on Wednesday

BlackBerry is to launch its latest smartphone, the Passport at events in Toronto, London and Dubai tomorrow, and it will go on sale in selected stores immediately afterwards.

BB_PassportSince it’s first appearance back in June, the BlackBerry Passport has drawn attention for its unusual square shape, which the company has adopted in order to break away from the conventional rectangular shape and do away with the need to switch between portrait and landscape modes.

The 4.5 inch HD screen is said to offer a “better viewing experience” for images, videos and documents. Whereas rectangular screens display approximately 40 characters per line, the Passport will display 60 characters per line, which the company says makes it “the ideal device for reading e-books, viewing documents and browsing the web”.

As with many of BlackBerry’s devices, the Passport is being targeted more at businesses than the mass market and a recent blog post cited architects, mortgage brokers and medical staff as professionals who would benefit from its unorthodox dimensions.

In addition to the large touchscreen, the handset will also feature a physical keyboard.

The Passport will go on sale for $599 in the US, which BlackBerry admits deliberately undercuts equivalent devices from its competitors in order to “get the market interested”. The price may vary in other countries due to sales taxes and tariffs.

What do you think of the BlackBerry Passport?