I don't like to recommend Kickstarter projects too much, because I've been burned and I hate to let others down. But once in a while a project comes along, like the Pebble watch I backed on Kickstarter, that makes it worth it. That was an example of an existing smartwatch firm, with a good design, and experience, and enough money already raised to make the product a reality (eventually.) There's another project, the Pronto power pack, from a group who has experience in the field, the backing of Shark Tank's Mark Cuban, and way more than the $50,000 they sought already raised. So the signs are good.
While all the attention in the smartwatch arena was on Apple, Microsoft snuck in a wearable that looks more like a fitness band, but offers some smart tricks. Most notably, while the Microsoft Band works (best) with Windows Phone, it also works with Android and iOS. When you're in third place, you have to acknowledge the leaders, and Microsoft made sure their wearable worked with the top two platforms. However, Cortana, Microsoft's answer (and some might say a superior one) to Siri is the only voice command option. This could be a Trojan horse to get people to try the band and then migrate to a Windows Phone to take full advantage. But the Apple Watch should be out soon enough.
I've used the Lowe's Iris home automation system for quite a while and though the technology is decent, the interface is lacking. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to try the Piper from Icontrol for an extended amount of time, and I really like it. It addresses many of the deficiencies in the Iris system. For starters, it's compact and integrated whereas there were a lot of pieces in the Iris system. Instead of a separate motion detector, environmental (temperature, humidity, light, and sound) sensor, hub, and camera, the Piper has that all in one sleek unit.
When Apple preannounced their Apple Watch, some naysayers complained that the watch doesn't work as a standalone device. It requires an iPhone to be fully functional. But those critics should be careful what they wish for. There are competing smartwatches that can accept a SIM card and access the Internet directly via a cellular carrier, but those wearables may require a data contract, and that can cost as much as a phone or tablet would cost.
Recently, I wrote about how some retailers like CVS and Rite-Aid are blocking Apple Pay, even though they already had the equipment in place to accept it. They are favoring their own digital payment system, CurrentC, developed by a consortium of retailers. Even though CurrentC is in beta and uses inferior technology (QR Codes vs NFC) and requires linking to your bank account or a gift card (causing customers to forgo credit card protection and benefits like points), these retailers are sticking to their guns. And CurrentC is getting hammered in App Store reviews. And it's already been hacked, leaving many users worried.
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently spoke with The Wall Street Journal at their WSJD Live event and discussed the Apple Watch and Apple Pay, with a brief mention of Apple TV. He approved of HBO's plans to unbundle HBO GO from a cable subscription, allowing new customers to get HBO without requiring cable, similar to Netflix.
In a remarkable display of tone-deafness, a pair of pharmacies are not only choosing not to accept Apple Pay, but they are disabling their existing NFC (Near Field Communication) registers specifically to stop Apple Pay from working. CVS and Rite-Aid already had NFC terminals that accepted Google Wallet, and could also accept Apple Pay, but they have turned them off.
The good news that was buried in the iPad Air 2 (and iPad mini 3) announcement was that the cellular models would ship with a carrier-independent SIM card. This meant that users could decide which carrier to activate without being locked in. Unfortunately, the reality isn't quite as straightforward. As we wrote earlier, Verizon still requires their own SIM. But now we're learning that AT&T will "lock" the Apple SIM to AT&T's network the first time you activate it.
The recent blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy broke the mold for superhero movies. The characters, while part of Marvel's stable, were not traditional heroes like Thor, Iron Man, or Captain America, and the lead actor hadn't carried a film before. Even two of the lead actors, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, were just voices for a wisecracking raccoon and a tree with a limited vocabulary ("I am Groot!")
Recently, Apple expanded their beta programs for iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, making it easier for non-developers to gain access (legitimately) to pre-release software. Now they're making it easier for developers to do the same with their apps. I've used Testflight before as a way to share unreleased and beta versions of apps with colleagues and customers, but you were limited to 100 devices and the process could be a pain.