Quite a lot of us have done away with the landline telephones that used to be a staple of homes in the developed world. A 2013 survey concluded that over 40% of US households had ditched their standard landlines phones, driven by younger users relying exclusively on their cell phones. But according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, both Google and Amazon are looking to revive the landline (well, VOIP line anyway) as a bonus feature in their voice-controlled Wi-Fi speakers, the Google Home and Amazon Echo/Tap/Echo Dot. Read More
Here's an interesting example of a product getting better with age. The Amazon Tap speaker was introduced as a mobile, battery-powered alternative to the Echo, with access to the same Alexa voice commands, but limited in that it could only accept said commands with a button press. This made the less-expensive Tap, while interesting, not all that much better than a smartphone for voice searches. But the latest firmware update from Amazon enables hands-free Alexa commands, like the Echo and Google's Assistant on the Google Home. Talk about a value add. Read More
The Huawei Mate 9 was announced in November and set to launch in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, with no sign of US availability. Now at CES, the company has announced that it's bringing the giant phone across the Atlantic (or Pacific, depending on which way you're traveling) and making it available for purchase immediately.
The Mate 9 is a large phone with a 5.9" 1080p IPS LCD and a massive 4000mAh battery that should easily last 2 days and charge quickly with "SuperCharge technology." It packs Huawei's new Kirin 960 processor, with ARM Cortex-A73/A53 Octa-core CPU and Mali G71 GPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and Huawei's now signature collaboration with Leica in the camera department: on the back, the Mate 9 has a dual-lens camera with a 12MP RGB sensor and a 20MP monochrome sensor. Read More
The Amazon Echo and its integrated assistant Alexa have seen a lot of success and popularity over the past year, and now more companies have been tempted to build their own iterations of the product. Some, like Lenovo, have decided to nearly copy the entire idea, from the form factor to the Alexa integration. The result is the Lenovo Smart Assistant Speaker.
It's a cylindrical tower, much like the Echo, with a speaker grille at the bottom and what seems to be a rising control panel with volume and trigger buttons and an array of 8 360-deg far-field microphones with noise suppression that can pick up voices from up to 5m away. Read More
Every now and then, we all can't quite make out what somebody just said. Sometimes, you fill in the blanks with whatever it is you've been thinking about. If Amazon's Alexa works the same way, this video will really make you wonder what's been on her mind. Read More
In light of the recent release of Google Home, it should come as a surprise to no one that former king (or queen) of connected speakers, the Amazon Echo, would start seeing more deals. Well, here it is. The Echo is $140 on Amazon today in both colors, which is a savings of $40. Read More
Lately I've been looking at security cameras for homes and small businesses. Among the different options, Blink makes a very compelling proposal. Forget about wires and always-on connectivity, forget about monthly plans and limited server storage, the system works wire-free, hassle-free, and well, completely free after the hardware purchase. You just need to put in 2 AA batteries and they'll last up to 2 years, getting triggered only when motion is detected and uploading 5-10sec clips to the cloud.
The one problem with Blink though? Until today, it didn't integrate with any other smart home product. That summarizes most of the complaints on its online reviews: users say that you have to manually arm/disarm each camera separately in the app. Read More
Amazon took to its developer blog today to announce that Alexa, its very successful smart home speaker, will be supporting scenes. These will allow users to speak simple commands to set predefined conditions on various connected devices. Prior to this announcement, interaction with them was limited to specific manufacturer apps. Read More
The smart home revolution doesn't seem to be coming as quickly as some had hoped, but whenever it does break out, Amazon intends to be on the ground floor. To that end, the latest addition to Alexa's growing list of voice control connections is Control4, a semi-proprietary collection of home automation tools. The company announced a new Alexa skill that works with the Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, and any other device that can connect to the voice service. Read More
Sonos and Spotify may not be exclusive, but they are in a relationship. Last year we watched a Sonos app update gain Spotify radio integration. Soon Spotify will add the ability to manage Sonos speakers from inside the Spotify mobile app. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. That's how some relationships work. Read More