Accessories

LG G5 Hands-On

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LG puts the fun back in function with the announcement of its latest flagship smartphone at Mobile World Congress, the LG G5. It has everything a 2016 flagship is expected to have: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, Quick Charge 3.0 that promises 83% of battery after 30 minutes of charging, a fingerprint scanner, quad HD display, USB Type C, Android Marshmallow, and great cameras.

The G4 had one of the best smartphone cameras in 2015 so it’s no surprise LG retained most of its features. Simple, Auto, and Manual modes are still there, giving users more flexibility when taking photos.

LG also retained the same 8MP front-facing camera but added “selfie flash” – an extra white space framing the screen that illuminates the face when activated.

But what’s new are the phones two main cameras. Yep, it’s got two.

You can now switch from the main 16MP camera that’s also found on the G4 to a new 8MP shooter with a 135° wide field of view that captures more than what the human eye can see.

On the G5, the app drawer appears to be missing but we found out this can be fixed in the Settings menu under Home Screen.

First introduced by LG in the V10’s secondary screen, the G5’s main display also gets the Always-On feature to show time, date, and notifications. LG claims it only eats 0.8% of battery life per hour or about 5% per day.

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All of this are packed into a completely new design and form factor. Gone is the plastic and leather, slightly curved smartphone with sharp edges. Filling in the LG G4’s leather shoes is an all-aluminum unibody.

You can still hot swap batteries though thanks to a new innovative design.

Its trademark back side volume rocker has been moved to the phone’s sides leaving only the power button and dual cameras at the back.

But what really sets the G5 apart from all the other flagships this year is its modular design. And this is where the real fun and excitement begins. LG calls it an adventurous theme park in your pocket.

Aside from being able to replace your battery in case you run out of juice, it also allows you to attach accessory modules to expand the phone’s capabilities.

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One press on the lock button and the cap along with the 2800 mAh battery comes off revealing the hollow insides of the phone when you pull it out all the way.

Removing the cap and reattaching the battery to the modules is not as intuitive as it looks. We had to be coached before we got it right.

The modules LG introduced at launch were the LG Cam Plus and the LG Hi-Fi Plus.

The LG Cam Plus is a camera grip that turns the phone into a point and shoot camera. It has a toggle button at the bottom that launches the camera, a zoom dial, a dedicated shutter button, and a button for video recording.

It’s also packed with an additional 1200 mAh battery providing the G5 a massive 4,000 mAh battery life.

For audiophiles and improved media consumption, LG also introduced the LG Hi-Fi Plus, a 32-bit digital to analog converter or DAC made by top-tier audio manufacturer Bang & Olufsen.

It offers high-quality audio that would usually only be available through high-end audio devices.

At the bottom are its own headphone jack and USB-C port making it a stand-alone DAC, compatible with other phones.

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LG also introduced a wide-range of companion devices for the G5 which they call Friends.

These ‘Friends’ include the LG 360 VR, a virtual reality headset that’s much smaller and lighter than its rivals. It only weighs 118g – that’s ⅓ as heavy as competing VR goggles.

The LG 360 Cam – as its name implies a 360 degree camera with two 13MP 200-degree wide angle lenses, a 1,200mAh battery and an expandable 4GB internal memory.

And the LG Rolling Bot – a round, remote-controlled toy that has a built-in speaker and an 8MP camera, perfect for home surveillance. It’s packed with a 5000mAh battery and is smart enough to go to the charging dock when it’s about to run out of juice.

Accessories

Fossil Hybrid HR review: Exceeding expectations

Who needs a man when you have the Hybrid HR?

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These days, the qualities I look for in a man are the same things I look for in a watch: smart, good-looking, long-lasting, and more important, a great travel companion.

The search isn’t easy. Smartwatches have come and gone in my life mainly for two reasons: they have poor battery life and/or are hideous.

Walking around Brooklyn the day I took the Fossil Hybrid HR out of the box

For those same reasons, only the Fossil Q Hybrid smartwatches remained constant on my wrist for the last three years. When I learned that Fossil released the Hybrid HR, I got excited — until I saw that it promises only two weeks of battery life, that is.

A two-week battery life is already huge leap forward if you’re coming from a WearOS device or an Apple Watch. If you’re used to the original Hybrid line like me however, two weeks is not a lot.

Still, I wanted to give it a chance. It can do far more than the original hybrid after all, and it has a heart rate sensor, so the trade off might be worth it.

Polished looks

The one I have is the Hybrid HR Charter, with a rose gold stainless steel mesh strap and a white watch face. On the app it shows that it’s also called Diana.

Just like the late princess, it’s stylish, refined, and elegant as far as smartwatches go. There’s a version with a black watch face and rose gold combination as well, which I think is a perfect look for winter.

It comes with traditional watch hands and dials, but in the middle is a cutout for what Fossil calls a read-out display. This is similar to the e-ink display you’d find on a Kindle and other e-book readers. Unlike Kindle displays and regular smartwatch displays, the read-out display is not touch screen; all navigation is done through the three physical buttons on the right.

The physical buttons do three things primarily: up, select, and down. They can also be set to do other functions when not selecting from a menu. From the home screen, I set the top button to show my wellness stats, the middle button shows the weather including chance of rain and highs and lows throughout the day, while the bottom button is a shortcut for tracking my workouts.

The read-out display shows up to four bits of information at a time that you can customize on the Fossil Hybrid app. It can show a second timezone, day and date date, resting heart rate, the weather, chance of rain, calories burned, active minutes, steps, and battery life.

On the Fossil Hybrid app, you can set presets and easily switch between them, depending on your activity. I set mine to show the day and date, my resting heart rate, a second timezone set to Barcelona, and the weather. These are the information I’ll always want to know without checking my phone, whether I’m traveling, working out, or just reading a book on a lazy Sunday.

It can also be set to show nothing and look like an analog watch if you want it to. You can still see all the data it records through its sensors on the app.

The background is cuztomizable, too. Fossil has a few classy black and white patterns you can choose from.

Alternatively, you can use any photo from your gallery and it will be converted into a black and white, e-ink version. I found that it works better with photos with a lot of negative space. Here’s what it looks like with a photo of the sunrise over rock formations in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Basic fitness tracking

The main reason I gave the Hybrid HR a chance, is that unlike the original Fossil Q Hybrid models, it comes with a heart rate sensor. This is what I liked about the other smartwatches I’ve tried before, including the Fossil Q Gen 4. Knowing how unfit I was by seeing my resting heart rate made me want to live a more active lifestyle.

The Hybrid HR can track exercises although it’s not exactly made for that — there are more capable wearables if that’s what you’re looking for. The mesh band is replacable with any standard 18mm watch strap, so I bought a gray silicone strap from Fossil for when I do my workouts.

I don’t remember the last time I tracked my workout using a smartwatch, but I do remember arriving at the gym a handful of times with a dead battery.

Two months in and I have yet to get into the habit of putting it on whenever I work out, as well as remembering to start and stop the tracking function, so I have yet to see any real pattern from the readings.

My resting heart rate during a core workout (left) and a leg day (right)

When I did remember, the app recorded that I burned 79 calories and a maximum heart rate of 139 bpm during a 34-minute core workout. It recorded a total of 243 calories burnt one excruciating leg day, and an understandably maximum heart rate of 193 bpm.

The Fossil Hybrid HR is able to track sleep — on a flight (left) and on my bed

It also has a sleep tracker, and I’ve kept it on a few times while I dozed off. This isn’t a feature that I see myself using and checking a lot but I’m amazed at how it knew exactly when I fell asleep during flights, the specific moments when I woke up to drink water, or adjust my position.

You can also set it to send you alerts when you’re inactive. I set it to notify me every time I haven’t moved for one hour starting from 11:00 AM and end at 9:00 PM, which is generally the time I spend in front of my computer on weekdays. This has especially become helpful during quarantine since I live in a tiny New York apartment and have very little room for movement.

Better battery life than expected

Apart from being so well-designed, not having to charge the original hybrid smartwatches from Fossil was the reason I loved them. I already have way too many devices that need charging, and I don’t need to bring yet another cable with me when I’m traveling. Packing as little as possible is difficult as it is.

In the last two months of using the Hybrid HR, I found that its battery doesn’t last me two weeks as Fossil claims — it lasts an entire month!

Matching my monotone outfit at a briefing in San Francisco

During my trips to San Francisco, back to New York, then to Barcelona, Budapest, and Madrid through the month of February, not once did I take the charging cable out to juice it up. I could have forgotten to pack the cable through all these trips and I would have been perfectly fine.

I can point to two reasons why the Hybrid HR’s battery life has been impressive: its read-out display doesn’t consume as much power as other smartwatch displays, and I’ve had most notifications turned off from the very beginning.

Munching on pintxos in Barcelona

While most people wear smartwatches to get notifications without picking up their phones, I’m the complete opposite. I wear a watch so I can see the time at a glance, not to get distracted and for my productivity to get disrupted.

Any work-related apps like Gmail and Slack have never had access to my wrist — only apps that me and my closest friends and family use to communicate did: Messages, Whatsapp, and Instagram Direct.

The Fossil Hybrid HR finally showed a low battery notification after four weeks of use

After a month I turned off both Whatsapp and Instagram Direct as well, and only left notifications on for Messages for three important contacts on my phone who also use SMS and iMessage sparingly. This meant that my watch now only vibrates and gets to interrupt me for something very important and whenever it tells me to move.

In March, when it finally buzzed to say that I had 7 percent battery life remaining, it took a little over an hour for a full top up. A 30-minute charge can get to 68 percent, which, based on my experience could very well last me more than two weeks of use.

My only complaint, having used the original hybrids from Fossil, is that the Hybrid HR no longer shows up under the Batteries widget on my iPhone. The only way for me to know how much battery I have left on the watch is by going on the app or by changing one of the widgets on the watch. It’s a minor issue, but I’m hoping this is something that can be addressed via an update in the future.

Is the Fossil Hybrid HR your GadgetMatch?

The Fossil Hybrid HR is the answer to the current crop of smartwatch’s biggest pain points: looks and battery life. For my lifestyle, and the way I use watches, it makes the most sense.

That I can travel and not worry about topping it up every night, while still getting the information I need is a godsend. Knowing what the weather is like at a glance, without asking my Smart Clock or checking Accuweather on my phone, is convenient when I’m planning what to wear given the fleeting weather. Seeing my resting heart rate at any given time, motivates me to exercise and stay fit especially at a time when taking care of one’s health should be everyone’s priority.

What keeps this smartwatch from being perfect, is the lack of a menstrual cycle tracker. I would love to get monthly reminders a few days before my period starts, so that I can anticipate and monitor my mood swings, spotting, and intense cravings. Maybe that’s something that can be included in future iterations.

Books and brunch in Budapest

Sure, its battery only lasts one month versus the 8-12 that I was used to getting from the original hybrid models, but the added features are far more useful than the tiny inconvenience of having to charge it every four weeks; not to mention the fact that I no longer have to deal with buying and throwing away batteries that most likely end up in landfills.

I have been in a committed relationship with Fossil Hybrids for over 3 years now, and with the way things are with the Hybrid HR, that isn’t going to change any time soon.

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Huawei Sound X with hi-end audio launches

Will work seamlessly with the P40 series

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Huawei is slowly but surely venturing out into more and more devices. After wearables, the company is now showing off a hi-end speaker — the Huawei Sound X.

It’s never easy to describe sound on text but Huawei claims the Sound X “will revolutionize high-end acoustic technology with sonorous audio that leaves an enduring, life-altering impression on the listener.”

It was made in collaboration with Devialet — a global audio brand known for its High-Fidelity products.

It’s not a smart speaker in the way that there’s a voice assistant integrated like the Google Home or the Amazon Echo, but it does have some ‘smart’ qualities.

For instance, it will work seamlessly with your Huawei P40 series phone. Gently tapping your phone against the Sound X transmits audio to the speaker.

The audio, Huawei says, is lossless and low-latency and can be tweaked thanks to a proprietary EMUI 10.1 multi-device control panel. Think of like Huawei’s own version of Apple’s AirPlay.

Another thing that Huawei is proud of about the Sound X is how compact it is compared to other speakers that promise to deliver the same level of hi-end audio. It’s able to deliver 60W of bass despite being relatively smaller than other speakers with the same capability.

The company says the “exterior design was inspired by the golden dome of the black, glazed surface hints at the robust sound that seems to emanate from a bottomless well.” But it really just reminds of Darth Vader from Star Wars.

The press photos even have the Sound X in this red room of sorts. Screams Sith to me.

Imagine playing the “Imperial Death March” on this thing! Whether you see the resemblance or not, it does kind of look cool.

SEE ALSO: Huawei P40 Series with ‘visionary photography’ now official

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Qualcomm’s new chipset could bring noise-cancellation to budget earbuds

Expect affordable earbuds soon

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Qualcomm unveiled two new Bluetooth audio chipsets intended for use in truly wireless headphones. For the end consumer, this could provide active noise cancellation (ANC), voice assistant support, and more.

It has unveiled two new chipsets — QCC514X (premium tier) and QCC304X (entry-level line). Both shall support Qualcomm’s TrueWireless Mirroring technology that requires connecting via Bluetooth to just one of the earbud. It’s useful as it will allow either earbud to be used alone without interruptions.

The new chipsets will also produce better battery life – offering up to 13 hours of playback based on a 65mAh battery, according to Qualcomm. Usually, active noise cancellation consumes more battery power.

The dedicated noise cancellation hardware integrated into the chipset enables super-low latency leak-through of the outside environment. It enables genuinely natural awareness of the surroundings. It’ll also come handy when you’re onboard a flight or trying to concentrate in an office environment where ambient noise is higher than usual.

The chips also bring voice assistant support with them, but the premium QCC514X features always-on voice support. Meaning you won’t have to manually long-press a button to summon the virtual assistant. With direct support in the entry-level chipset as well, it’ll make this feature more widely available in affordable earbuds as well.

Qualcomm has also promised “premium wireless sound and voice quality.” The smartphone industry started omitting the 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of USB-C or wireless earphones. The wireless options have often been quite expensive, and with wired ones, you either have the opportunity to charge your phone, or listen to music or watch a movie. More affordable options should automatically start solving this dilemma.

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