Apple Encourages Developers to Update watchOS Apps
Apple is encourage developers to update their watchOS apps for the Apple Watch Series 3 and watchOS 4.
Enable your watchOS apps to connect anywhere and anytime, even without a phone nearby, by updating for watchOS 4 and Apple Watch Series 3. Take advantage of increased performance, new background modes for navigation and audio recording, built-in altimeter capabilities, direct connections to accessories with Core Bluetooth, and more. In addition, the size limit of a watchOS app bundle has increased from 50 MB to 75 MB.
Apple also notes that starting April 1, 2018, updates to watchOS 1 apps will no longer be accepted. Updates must be native apps built with the watchOS 2 SDK or later. New watchOS apps should be built with the watchOS 4 SDK or later.
Apple Watch will soon connect with your gym equipment to more accurately track how you work out
Most of us will hit the “quick start” button at the gym, which means we don’t get very accurate results on workout intensity or calories burned.
Apple has figured out a way to change that.
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images
A person uses an Apple Watch Series 3 at the Apple Omotesando store on September 22, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.
Most of us don’t bother to check our heart rate using the sensors built into gym equipment, or share any information about our weight and age. When we hit the “quick start” button, we start a workout quickly but don’t get very accurate feedback from these machines about heart rate or calories burned.
Apple has figured out a way around that with a new software offering called GymKit.
The company showed off demos at a gym called FitnessFirst in Australia, where it launched GymKit this week. It essentially integrates the Apple Watch with popular equipment like treadmills and rowing machines, all via NFC. At that point, data will begin transferring between the two devices.
The idea is to get a far more realistic picture of calories burned based on factors like a user’s weight and the intensity of the workout, versus relying on the average measurement.
GymKit compatible equipment is currently being developed by TechnoGym, Life Fitness, StairMaster, Schwinn and others. It is currently only available at that one gym in Australia, but will expand to more countries in the coming months.
WATCH: Would you exercise daily for a discounted Apple Watch?
Would you exercise daily for a discounted Apple Watch?
Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2 Models Drop to $244 in 38mm and $274 in 42mm at Dick’s Sporting Goods
Dick’s Sporting Goods has discounted the aluminum Apple Watch Nike+ Series 2 by about 33 percent today, marking a notably low price point for the second-generation device ahead of Black Friday. The deal is part of the retailer’s holiday flash sale, with 38mm aluminum cases priced at $243.98 while 42mm aluminum cases are at $273.98. There were non-Nike+ models on sale, but most have now gone out of stock.
Visit Dick’s Sporting Goods’ website here to check out all of the models on sale, which as of writing include a few colorways of the Apple Watch Nike+ in 38mm and one version of the 42mm. The flash sale ends tonight at 10 p.m. ET, or while supplies last, so be sure to take advantage of the deal quickly if you’re interested.
This is the latest price drop for Series 2 devices this fall, with the last major sale hitting Best Buy with 38mm cases at $270 and 42mm cases at $300 — a deal that’s still going on today. While Series 2 models lack the LTE capabilities and faster processing speeds of the latest Series 3 device, last year’s edition is still a reliable investment and could be a cost-cutting gift alternative for those looking to save some money over the holidays.
In regards to upcoming Black Friday deals on the Series 2 models, we haven’t yet heard anything specific, but there will likely be some discounts at the major resellers and retail locations. A notable discount for the Apple Watch Series 1 has been confirmed, however, with these devices starting as low as $179.99 at Target and Macy’s on Black Friday. Visit our Black Friday Roundup for information on Apple Watch sales and more coming next week.
For other sales happening now ahead of the shopping holiday next week, head over to our full Deals Roundup.
The artificial cartilage is very flexible yet resistant to tearing.PHOTO SOURCE: JOSEPH XU“We know that we consist mostly of water — all life does — and yet our bodies have a lot of structural stability,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering at U-M, who led the study. “Understanding cartilage is understanding how lifeforms can combine properties that are sometimes unthinkable together.”
Many people with joint injuries would benefit from a good replacement for cartilage, such as the 850,000 patients in the U.S. who undergo surgeries removing or replacing cartilage in the knee.
While other varieties of synthetic cartilage are already undergoing clinical trials, these materials fall into two camps that choose between cartilage attributes, unable to achieve that unlikely combination of strength and water content.
The other synthetic materials that mimic the physical properties of cartilage don’t contain enough water to transport the nutrients that cells need to thrive, Kotov said.
Meanwhile, hydrogels — which incorporate water into a network of long, flexible molecules — can be designed with enough water to support the growth of the chondrocytes cells that build up natural cartilage. Yet those hydrogels aren’t especially strong. They tear under strains a fraction of what cartilage can handle.
The new Kevlar-based hydrogel recreates the magic of cartilage by combining a network of tough nanofibers from Kevlar–the “aramid” fibers best known for making bulletproof vests–with a material commonly used in hydrogel cartilage replacements, called polyvinyl alcohol, or PVA.
In natural cartilage, the network of proteins and other biomolecules gets its strength by resisting the flow of water among its chambers. The pressure from the water reconfigures the network, enabling it to deform without breaking. Water is released in the process, and the network recovers by absorbing water later.
This mechanism enables high impact joints, such as knees, to stand up to punishing forces. Running repeatedly pounds the cartilage between the bones, forcing water out and making the cartilage more pliable as a result. Then, when the runner rests, the cartilage absorbs water so that it provides strong resistance to compression again.Like natural cartilage, the artificial cartilage withstands stresses by releasing water and can later recover by absorbing waterPHOTO SOURCE: JOSEPH XU
The synthetic cartilage boasts the same mechanism, releasing water under stress and later recovering by absorbing water like a sponge. The aramid nanofibers build the framework of the material, while the PVA traps water inside the network when the material is exposed to stretching or compression. Even versions of the material that were 92 percent water were comparable in strength to cartilage, with the 70-percent version achieving the resilience of rubber.
As the aramid nanofibers and PVA don’t harm adjacent cells, Kotov anticipates that this synthetic cartilage may be a suitable implant for some situations, such as the deeper parts of the knee. He also wonders whether chondrocytes might be able to take up residence inside the synthetic network to produce a hybrid cartilage.
But his potential applications are not limited to cartilage. He suspects that similar networks, with different proportions of aramid nanofibers, PVA and water, may be able to stand in for other soft tissues.
“We have a lot of membranes in the body that require the same properties. I would like to evaluate the space,” Kotov said. “I will talk to doctors about where the acute need is and where this intersection of the properties will allow us to make best headway and biggest impact.”
Kotov is a member of the Biointerfaces Institute, which provides shared space for researchers from U-M’s engineering and medical schools. He is also a professor of chemical engineering, materials science and engineering, and macromolecular science and engineering.
The study, recently published in Advanced Materials, is titled “Water-rich biomimetic composites with abiotic self-organizing nanofiber network.” It was supported by the National Science Foundation, with additional funding from the Department of Defense. The university is seeking patent protection and partners to bring the technology to market.
Apatient in the U.S. has become the first person to receive an injection of an experimental therapy meant to edit a genetic error in his DNA. The use of gene editing to correct cells in the body represents a scientific milestone, but the case also points to a troubling medical dilemma.
The patient, Brian Madeux, 44, of Arizona, is part of a clinical trial testing a gene-editing approach for Hunter syndrome, a type of metabolic disorder that slowly destroys the body’s cells. The life expectancy of people born with the disease is 10 to 20 years, so most patients are children. For now, the trial Madeux is enrolled in is only open to adults. So young patients who desperately need the therapy to survive will need to wait to get it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants companies to show that a treatment is safe in adults before it can be used in children. Sangamo Therapeutics, the company conducting the trial, is aiming to treat nine adult patients before it can admit children into the current trial. But Sandy Macrae, CEO of Sangamo, says treating children at an early age is the ultimate goal.
“That’s where the real medical need is. We want to try to address this disease before any of the consequences happen, rather than in adult patients where many of the features are already fixed,” he says.
Hunter syndrome occurs mostly in boys and affects many different parts of the body. It’s caused by a mutation in a gene called MPS II, which provides the instructions for making an enzyme that breaks down large sugar molecules in cells. When this gene is mutated, these sugar molecules build up within cells. This often causes enlarged tissues and organs, and in patients with a more severe type of the disease, it leads to cognitive decline and early death.
Though the exact number of people living with the disease is unknown, the Hunter Syndrome Foundation, a patient advocacy organization, estimates it at about 500 people in North America and 2,500 people worldwide. Jeanette Henriquez, who founded the Hunter Syndrome Foundation, says it will probably be difficult for Sangamo to find enough adult patients to test the therapy but is optimistic that it will eventually be tested in children.
“The community is very hopeful, and I am personally very hopeful about the results of this trial,” she says. Her seven-year-old son, Dominic, was diagnosed with the disease in 2011.
The Sangamo therapy uses a gene-editing technology called zinc finger nucleases rather than the newer CRISPR. It’s designed to insert a correct copy of the MPS III gene into liver cells. Sangamo hopes this should enable the liver to produce a lifelong and stable supply of the enzyme the patient lacks.
Henriquez says that despite her optimism, she’d be reluctant to enroll her son in the trial if it became open to children, because gene editing comes with risks. A major worry is what happens if the editing machinery doesn’t get to the right part of the genome and instead makes unintentional cuts elsewhere.
Sangamo previously used its gene-editing technology to alter the cells of HIV patients outside the body and then infuse them back into the patient in hopes of eradicating the virus. The approach was supposed to make cells resistant to the virus. Macrae says the therapy is safe but was not effective enough to allow patients to stop taking their antiretroviral medicines, the common treatment for HIV.
ecobee is the maker of what I consider the best HomeKit thermostat on the market, and the new version called ecobee4 adds built-in Amazon Alexa voice control and works with Google Home. ecobee4 offers the same features as the HomeKit-enabled ecobee3 which we reviewed last year, so should iPhone users spend the extra money on the new version?
What does Alexa add?
You could already control ecobee thermostats with Amazon Alexa using Amazon Echo smart speakers, and building in Alexa basically turns ecobee into a mini Echo speaker on your wall.
ecobee4 features a built-in microphone and speaker system as well as a new LED indicator. The microphone listens for the Alexa hot word, then the blue LED fires up to let you know Amazon Alexa Voice Service is listening.
It’s not a subtle light and I generally dislike LED status lights on electronics, but it only lights up when Alexa is actively listening which is a nice privacy feature. If you never use Alexa or deactivate it, you’ll never see the blue light.
Building Alexa in lets you control ecobee with voice directly from the thermostat. This includes changing between heating and cooling modes and setting specific target temperatures. Alexa can also switch ecobee between home and away modes plus activate and cancel temperature holds. If you don’t already have an Alexa speaker nearby, it’s a nice way to interact with ecobee hands-free.
ecobee can also be controlled by voice with Siri on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV, and with HomePod when Apple’s smart speaker launches in December. ecobee also introduced Google Home integration this week so the smart thermostat works with all three major voice assistants.
Alexa in ecobee isn’t limited to just thermostat control. You can set timers and alarms on ecobee4, ask for weather updates and news reports, and even stream music directly on the smart thermostat. The speaker quality is acceptable for spoken audio, but it’s not really intended to be a music speaker however.
ecobee4 actually connects to any Alexa skill enabled in Amazon’s Alexa app that’s associated with your Amazon account. Having ecobee4 as an Alexa input device is practical for smart home control like controlling connected lights and other nearby smart home accessories.
ecobee app, Alexa app, and Google Assistant app on iPhone X
You can also get rather silly with Alexa on ecobee4 since it’s the full version of Amazon’s voice assistant. For example, my four-year-old daughter finds it entertaining to ask Alexa (who she often calls Zelda by mistake) to read her a bedtime story or tell a joke.
There are skills that you can configure to work with these requests, and I overheard the thermostat reading the full authorized biography of Steve Jobs (the only book in my Kindle account) after she asked the thermostat to just read a story. “Alexa, stop.”
ecobee4 initially had an issue with wanting to activate anytime it heard Alexa even if you were talking to another Alexa device closer to you, but a firmware update rolling out adds Echo Spatial Perception which tries to make only the closest Alexa device respond when prompted.
I don’t actually have a real Amazon Echo in my house, but my Sonos One is nearby in my kitchen works like a hi-fi Echo with Alexa built-in. I have noticed ecobee4 playing its own music when I’ve asked Alexa on Sonos to play a station, but ESP should address this when fully rolled out.
ecobee4 also features an on-screen push-to-talk button to active Alexa, a volume slider for speaker output, and an optional mic mute toggle lets you temporarily disable Alexa input without deactivating Alexa completely. This is only meant to be a temporary state, however, as the blue LED indicator light becomes persistently fired up as a red indicator.
Which should you buy?
The upgrade from ecobee3 to ecobee4 isn’t necessary unless you just really want Alexa built-in, but new ecobee customers will need to decide between two models. ecobee4 with Alexa retails for $249 while ecobee3 lite goes for $169; both work with Apple HomeKit and can be controlled from iPhone and iPad.
Both ecobee thermostats also work with room sensors for detecting presence and temperature, but these are sold separately with ecobee3 lite, while ecobee4 includes one room sensor and features presence detection on the thermostat itself.
Additional sensors are sold in packs of two for $79. ecobee uses these sensors to know where in your home to focus on heating and cooling based on presence and average temperature.
ecobee access from Control Center on iPhone X
ecobee4 also works with accessories like humidifiers, dehumidifiers, ventilators, ERVs, and HRVs while ecobee lite does not. Read our ecobee3 review for an in-depth look what smart features ecobee offers.
ecobee3 lite is fine for a lot of customers. It offers thermostat control from iPhone and iPad apps, Siri control, smart heating and cooling features, works with Amazon Echo speakers, and supports add-on sensors.
ecobee4 and ecobee lite both work with Apple’s Home app
For most people, I recommend ecobee3 lite if you just want to get started with a HomeKit thermostat and don’t care about the expansion features yet. Building Alexa in to ecobee4 does make it an interesting product, however, even if you only care about HomeKit.
GOOGLE PIXEL BUDS REVIEW: THE FUTURE SHOULDN’T BE THIS AWKWARD
Fiddly, frustrating, yet sometimes incredible
all it a hardware company or not, Google has been making a lot of new physical products lately. Some have been fantastic. Others exhibit the kinds of glaring growing pains typically associated with first-generation hardware.
The Pixel Buds are the perfect example of this dichotomy. On one hand, they do some of the wireless earbud basics well, and they mix in some smart features that tease a seemingly inevitable future where we all have computers in our ears.
Largely, though, Google comes up short with these $159 wireless earbuds. The Pixel Buds are full of little flaws that make life with them a frustration. Yes, this is first generation hardware. But it’s also coming from Google, which hasn’t been shy about raising expectations for its new hardware division. For the Pixel Buds, at least, it’s better to lower them.
Google’s hardware unit announced Pixel Buds earlier this year, a pair of wireless earbuds (aka corded wireless earbuds aka neckbuds) designed to work best with Google’s Pixel phones. There are many reasons why Google would want to take a swing at this part of the market, but the two biggest are that it’s growing, and that (with the death of the headphone jack) wireless earbuds give companies a chance to offer competitive features to customers who stay in their ecosystem.
But before we get to all that, let’s start with the basics. Google’s Pixel Buds are two Mentos-sized earbuds chained together by a fabric-covered cord. They pair to your smartphone over Bluetooth and work best with the Google Pixel 2. But they are also compatible with most any modern smartphone for simple things like streaming music.
The outside of the right earbud is also a touchpad; tap to play or pause, swipe forward or back to turn the volume up or down. A double tap will, on Android phones, tell you the time and read out your most recent notifications.
There’s curiously (and frustratingly) no control for skipping or going back a track. This can be triggered via the Google Assistant, which is activated with a tap-hold gesture, but not every app supports playback controls via voice. To my dismay, I discovered this while, when listening to Childish Gambino, I got to the part of his most recent album where I always, without fail, skip “California.” Except this time, I couldn’t do that without pulling out my phone, because I was listening on the Apple Music Android app. (Ecosystem lock-in is real, sue me.) Thus, the Pixel Buds are the reason I heard that song for the first time in almost a year. For this, I will never forgive Google.
On smaller wireless earbuds, I typically prefer touch controls over physical buttons, because with the latter I wind up usually jamming the tip of the thing further into my ear canal. That’s an unpleasant and dangerous action that touch controls help users like me avoid.
But the touchpad on the Pixel Buds is frighteningly sensitive. I experienced lots of accidental taps and swipes during attempts to control my music or podcasts. What’s worse, though, is the Pixel Buds’ touchpad almost inevitably registers an errant touch when you’re either trying to stow the earbuds in their case, or leaving them hanging around your neck.
The earbuds don’t recognize that they’re out of your ears so the touchpad is active until they’re in the case. (This also means there’s no way to turn the earbuds off until they’re in the case.) Unless you’re extremely careful, you’re destined to lose your precise place in the playlist or podcast you might have been listening to. It’s an embarrassing oversight.
When your music is actually streaming, the Pixel Buds sound pretty good, at least compared to other earbuds with this “open” style — though they’re a far cry from the quality of the Bose SoundSport Free. The Pixel Buds reproduce audio clearly, and there’s a bit more depth to that audio than I expected from this form factor.
They last a reasonably long time, too — more than four hours at a time as long as you’re not using the Assistant too much. It also streams music without any hiccups in the connection. While many truly wireless earbuds struggle mightily in this part of the experience, Google’s take on the neckbud design is rock solid.
While the Pixel Buds can sound good in a quiet room, the open air design — Google calls it “Semi-Occluded” — means the music listening experience is a total gamble in loud, outdoor settings.
The Pixel Buds are so open that it felt like they blocked almost no sound at times. Unless I had music cranked all the way up, I heard everything around me when I was wearing the Pixel Buds. This is especially a problem if you’re using them in a big city like New York. Trucks, buses, trains — anything that whirred by or made a noise wound up interrupting or drowning out the music I was trying to listen to. And podcasts? Forget it. I was better off pausing them until the environment around me quieted down. I even heard other people’s music coming from their headphones while I had the Pixel Buds in.
Open air earbud or headphone designs are always going to be polarizing. I struggled with the same problem last year when testing Apple’s AirPods, and again last month when trying out Bose’s SoundSport Free. And in the right setting, like when you’re running, there are good reasons why you’d want to be able to hear your surroundings. But when it comes to all-around use, the Pixel Buds prove deficient.
Of course, this is Google, so the company is promising more than just the basics with the Pixel Buds. The most whiz-bang feature being promoted is that they can supposedly handle real-time translation. It’s a promise that’s been made by legitimate wireless earbud companies like Bragi and a plethora of sketchy startups, but one that’s not really been delivered on just yet.
The Pixel Buds do let you tap, speak, and have your words read out in another language. Abstractly, that’s amazing. In practice, though, the idea is less fantastic.
That’s because the Pixel Buds simply leverage the existing Google Translate app on your phone. Once you have the Pixel Buds paired to your Pixel phone (yes, translation is only available on Pixels), you can tap the right earbud and speak one of a few variations of the prompt: “help me speak [language].” (The coolest sounding one? “I need a Russian translator.”)
This opens up the Translate app on your phone, and from here you’re able to just tap the right earbud and speak, and the earbuds will send your message to the phone where it is typed out and read aloud in the chosen language.
The translation part of the experience is fine. In my testing, the Pixel Buds / app combination handled basic sentences and conversations across five of the more than 40 supported languages well, though the translations are sometimes a little crude and often lack any sort of nuance. More than one of my coworkers blushed or laughed at the way Google Translate relayed my requests for help to find the nearest bathroom. Others said it sounded like a five-year-old. Natt Garun said the Thai translation made me sound sleepy.
Moving part of the Google Translate experience to the Pixel Buds is a neat demo. And maybe one day we’ll all have earbuds in our ears that are capable of doing real-time translation. They might even be made by Google. But trying to speak to someone who only knows a different language is awkward enough. Having a phone and fancy wireless earbuds in that mix doesn’t do any favors to the exchange.
The other feature Google is promoting heavily with the Pixel Buds is the Google Assistant. And here, the hype is justified. Google Assistant on the Pixel Buds is stupid fast. You just tap and start speaking. There’s no waiting for the phone to send you a signal that it’s heard you and is ready to decipher your prompt. It’s tap, speak, and you’re off to the races.
It’s so fast that I found myself looking for excuses to use Google’s digital assistant, whereas normally I completely avoid it for anything other than alarms or weather. That’s especially true with respect to triggering the assistant via headphones, something I almost never do considering the lag that’s typically involved.
Instead, I found myself using Google Assistant way more than I ever do. I’d get up from my desk at the end of the day and ask it how long it will take me to get home on the subway. I’d come up from the subway station in Brooklyn and ask the assistant to read me the news. I checked the weather so often that I wouldn’t be surprised if I start getting served Google ads for meteorology school.
The Pixel Buds do work with iPhones, but what you should know is that you can’t use them to trigger Google Assistant. That might sound obvious — Google and Apple aren’t exactly cozy enough with each other to make all their services available to the other’s customers. But Google does allow the Assistant-equipped Bose QC35 II headphones to trigger Google Assistant on an iPhone. Asked about this discrepancy, Google said, “We focused on providing a great experience on Pixel and Android devices from setup to use, optimizing Pixel Buds for the Assistant experience on those devices.”
The smallest, but maybe most persistent annoyance I came across with the Pixel Buds is the way that they fit — both in my ears, and in the carrying case.
Google opted for a braided cord to connect the Pixel Buds, which slides through a hole and forms a small loop above each earbud. This loop is supposed to sit in one of the arches in your ear, bracing the earbud so it doesn’t fall out.
The problem is that, over time, the cord slips. This happened to me when I’d left the earbuds out of my ears for a while, and I especially noticed it when I pulled them out of the case. Simply put, the mechanics involved in putting the earbuds away and eventually retrieving them from the case was enough to “reset” the position of the cable. This meant that I had to adjust the loop on each earbud every time I wanted to put them in my ears.
But this would also happen while I had the earbuds in my ear. After a day or two, I found myself constantly fidgeting with this part of the Pixel Buds. I’d be pulling them out of my ears while walking down the street to tug at the braided loop to get it back to the length that best fits.
Out of the box, the friction where the cord splits the earbud seemed like it would be enough to keep this from happening. But I’m just one week in, and it already feels like there’s more slack in the cable.
Getting the Pixel Buds in their carrying case is a small struggle of its own. Each earbud needs to be plunked just so into its respective charging cradle. Get the angle wrong, and either the case won’t close or the earbuds won’t start charging. Get it right — whew, congrats! — and then you have to wrap the cord around once and up between the buds in such a precise manner that Google’s including a sticker in the case that diagrams the maneuver.
I’ve tried to wrap the cable other ways, assuming that maybe Google was just offering up a best practice with this sticker. But It really does seem like it’s the only way, driven by an apparent desire to get the case down to its slimmest possible stature.
The fumbling I experienced with getting the earbuds into the case is a shame, because I really do like it otherwise. It’s small enough that it slips into my pants pockets without uncomfortably stretching them. The soft-touch fabric finish feels better than cold plastic. And it carries almost a day of extra battery life — you can even get an hour of listening with just 10 minutes of charging.
Taken alone, many of the problems I encountered were admittedly little frustrations, but add them all up and you wind up with a grating experience. Google’s newness to the category is obvious after you spend a little time with the Pixel Buds.
The Pixel Buds tease some really fantastic ideas that I hope Google will someday deliver on. But this is a first-generation product in the bad kind of way, and it looks even worse when you compare it to Apple’s growing success with the AirPods. Futuristic features are only worthwhile if they are paired with something you enjoy using right now. The Pixel Buds only get half that equation right.