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Monthly Archives: July 2013

shine3

Fitbits. FuelBands. UPs. The market for smart, connected activity trackers continues to get ever-more crowded. And yet, there’s not an obvious winner yet.

Misfit Wearables’ Shine is a new entrant in the space and they may have the most beautifully-designed piece of hardware yet. The company behind the Shine is itself a homage to Apple founder Steve Jobs’ famous “Think Different” campaign and the famous 1997 commercial that began with the line, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits.

Backed by Founders Fund and Khosla Ventures, the company was co-founded by Sonny Vu, who built up a glucose-monitoring business called Agamatrix that had the first official medical device add-on to the iPhone, and former Apple CEO John Sculley. For a small startup, they have an impressively multi-national team with industrial designers in San Francisco, data scientists in Vietnam and manufacturing in South Korea and Japan.

The Shine is a tiny circle not much larger than a quarter that’s made from Japanese metal or aircraft-grade aluminum. It has LED lights beneath the surface that glow through minuscule holes on the metal itself. Those lights form a ring, indicating how far a person is toward completing their activity goals for the day. You tap the Shine twice to see how much progress you’ve made. If half the lights shine, you’re halfway done. If they complete a circle, then you’ve hit your goal.


I had a chance to test it out for a week or so, tracking everything from regular walks to dancing and downhill mountain biking.

Overall, I love the product. It looks like a piece of jewelry in many ways, and while I’m not an industrial designer myself, several other friends who work in hardware were impressed by the make and form of the Shine.

It is not plastic like a Fitbit. Then because it doesn’t have to be worn as a bracelet like the FuelBand or Jawbone UP, it looks a lot more elegant, especially if you’re a woman and want something more discreet. The Shine is comparable in price to its competitors at $99.95. The Fitbit is about $99.95, the Jawbone UP is $129.99 and the Nike FuelBand is about $150.

The Shine has four different accessories: a wristband, a necklace, a watch and a magnetic clip that makes it easy to attach anywhere, from your shoe to your sleeve to your shirt. My preferred accessory was the magnetic clip, but I didn’t have a chance to try out the necklace or watch.

Throughout the day, the Shine tracks how much you walk or run. It also handles sleep, swimming and cycling, but you have to program it. To do that, you tap the Shine three times, and it will recognize whichever activity you set up in the paired app. Unfortunately, like the other activity trackers, it doesn’t handle yoga (and as someone who practices pretty much every day, the Shine and other competing products are missing out on an hour of physical activity).

The tapping is a bit hard to learn. Sometimes I would tap with two fingers and sometimes with three. Sometimes the Shine would misinterpret a few taps as a signal to record a different type of activity instead of showing me my results so far. You can also use it to tell time with different lights glowing to represent the hour and minute hands of a watch.

“The data science to get the double tap is hard,” Vu told me. “There is no on and off button for the Shine and everything is powered by sensors.”

Indeed, the only way to turn the Shine off is for the battery to run out or for you to remove it.

That underscores the huge benefit of the Shine, which is that it doesn’t need to be charged every few days or weeks. It has a simple coin cell battery that needs to be replaced once every four to six months. It’s also waterproof to a depth of 50 meters. I dunked it in a river in the Sierra Nevadas this weekend and it came out fine, but you could theoretically scuba dive with it, too.

The data transfer to the iPhone is also beautiful. You can see how it works below. The Shine uses a simple Bluetooth connection, and the app directs you to place the Shine on a circle on the iPhone app’s screen. Circles radiate outward before the iPhone picks up the activity data in the Shine.


The paired app tells you how many points you’ve achieved in a day. The Shine doesn’t do “steps” because it would be hard to swim in steps. The middle-range goal of 1,000 points per day requires walking for 1.5 hours, running for 35 minutes or swimming for 25. You can move points higher as you please.

Overall, I was really happy with the product. It is just that much more beautiful looking than the standard Fitbit or FuelBand. For women who are turned off by the look of the bracelet trackers, it’s probably the ideal choice.

The Misfit Shine is only compatible with the iPhone for now, which was surely disappointing for Android-using supporters of the Shine who backed it on Indiegogo.

The company had a successful campaign on the crowdfunding site late last fall where they racked up 8,000 supporters in 64 countries, hit their goal in nine hours and went on to raise $850,000. That was nearly nine times as much as they targeted. Like many other hardware startups, Misfit Wearables used crowdfunding more as a marketing strategy than as a capital source. Misfit had no problem raising from some of the Valley’s better-known VC firms, and this product shows why.

samsung-logo

As the worldwide smartphone market slows, Samsung’s second-quarter earnings showed that it is beginning to feel the pressure despite being the world’s top smartphone vendor.

Samsung said its Q2 2013 operating profit increased 47.5% to $8.5 billion, in line with the company’s own estimate. Operating profit at its mobile division, which accounts for two-thirds of the company’s revenue and is its biggest earnings driver, rose 52% to 6.23 trillion won ($5.6 billion), but fell 3.5% from the previous quarter.

The reporting period included the launch of the Galaxy S4, Samsung’s flagship phone and its main rival to the iPhone. One month after the Galaxy S4 s launch, Samsung said it’d hit a record 10 million channel sales, but the Korean tech giant is under the same challenges as Apple thanks to a slowing global smartphone market and shrinking margins. Earlier this week, Apple reported weaker international sales, due in large part to a dramatic revenue plunge in China.

Samsung said that smartphone sales will continue to be slower in the third quarter.

“Entering into a typically strong season for the IT industry, we expect earnings to continue to increase,” said Samsung head of investor relations Robert Yi in a statement. “However, we cannot overlook delayed economic recovery in Europe and risks from increased competition for smartphone and other set products.”

122486570 520x245 LearnVest wants to fix your poor spending habits, nabs $16.5M to scale its financial planning service

Financial planning startup LearnVest has its heart set on fixing your poor spending habits – and minting money because of them. Now, after polishing its product and launching on the iPhone, LearnVest is gearing up for expansion with a new round of funding: $16.5 million in funding, to be exact, with investments from Accel Partners, American Express Ventures, Claritas Capital and others.

Sitting nicely alongside this news, LearnVest, which offers both a money management app and advising services, is also announcing its first West Coast office. The space, located in Phoenix, will serve as the company’s hub for housing and training financial planners. We’re told LearnVest’s new space will hold about 25 people, and that the company plans to “scale up to a few dozen.”

LearnVest as a company has seen success with its product – according to CEO Alexa von Tobel “the product works; now we’re scaling [it].” Gearing up for this expansion, LearnVest tells us it has new distribution plans in the works, including partnerships with undisclosed companies that offer LearnVest services to their employees.

A “major commercial partnership” is also apparently coming, which could involve American Express, given its fresh stake in LearnVest. We’ll be sure to update you on that deal as news surfaces. Until then, you can check out LearnVest here.

Image credit: Thinkstock

1600404101 645x250 520x245 Starbucks adds Duracell Powermat wireless charging stations to its coffee shops in Silicon Valley

Starbucks is quickly becoming the ultimate chain of Internet caf s due to its solid Wi-Fi connectivity, free app vouchers, access to The New York Times website and now, reliable wireless charging.

Following a successful roll-out across Boston, Duracell announced today that it will be fitting the Duracell Powermat in a number of Starbucks stores across the Silicon Valley area. These wireless charging spots are fitted directly to the tables, giving consumers the ability to recharge their various electronic devices while sipping a cup of hot joe.

The caveat, it would seem, is that these charging spots require the user to own a Powers Matters Alliance (PMA) certified device or smartphone case. Duracell sells these independently for the iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III, but that seems like an awfully restrictive range of devices – we’ve reached out to the company to see if it’ll support more handsets in the future.

For reference, AT&T announced in April this year that it would be integrating wireless charging within a select number of smartphones by 2014. Blackberry, HTC, LG and Samsung, among others, are also signed up with the PMA.

The selective roll-out in Silicon Valley, combined with the need for a specialist device or case, restricts the scope of the program and how useful it will be to the majority of global Starbucks coffee lovers.

What it does show, however, is a glimpse at how the company wants to expand the in-store Starbucks experience and make it increasingly tempting for people to come in on a regular basis. A fast, stable Wi-Fi connection is now a given for almost any Starbucks store – it’s easy to see how wireless charging could quickly become just as prevalent.

“We know that our customers use our caf s in a number of ways beyond buying coffee. For some, it’s their home office, for others it’s their place to get away and have some time to themselves. More and more customers are using Starbucks as their home base and they are looking to recharge in a number of ways,” said Adam Brotman, chief digital officer, Starbucks Coffee Company.

A similar effect has been achieved inadvertantly in Apple stores – consumers walk in all the time to charge their iPhone or iPad – so Starbucks would be wise to expand the number of stores offering Duracell Powermats as quickly as possible. People increasingly need to charge their smartphones in the middle of the day – we use them more and more with power-hungry apps – so more places to charge will never be unwelcome.

Image Credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Angry Birds Friends crashes onto Apple and Android devices, Thursday May 2. Fans of Facebook games might already be familiar with the social version of Rovio’s Angry Birds, as it appeared as a Facebook app last year.

Play against your friends in a competitive version of Angry Birds with a familiar style of gameplay fans have come to love. Rovio added a series of power ups designed to give Angry Birds Friends a bit of variation from the original games. However, all of your favorite birds return from previous titles, with the exception of the Mighty Eagle.

In game social currency is called Bird Coins and you earn them from defeating your friends in four different competitive modes. It is also believed that more Bird Coins can be bought through micro-transactions in app.

Get Angry Birds Friends this week at the Apple App Store and all Android App retailers and join your friends in bird flinging fun.

So once again we find the month of May upon us, Spring flowers, nice weather (hopefully) and the announcement of the next Call Of Duty. In usual fashion the Internet beat the official reveal to the punch. Rumors were rampant but it was a listing by the online retailer Tesco Direct that really flamed the fire. This week a strange image on the Official Call Of Duty website appeared that has now since morphed into the confirmation that “The Ghosts Are Real” and what appears to resemble the beloved Ghost character from the Modern Warfare series.

If you are a fan of the series it should come as no surprise Infinity Ward will be handling the developing of this years installment of the COD franchise. Tina Palacios, Infinity Ward’s Community Manager, tweeted “soon” a few days ago, which I can only assume was in reference to COD. Officially Call Of Duty Ghosts will be announced today May 1st.

IGN has confirmed the title and release date of 11-05-2013 through a Gamestop promotional poster they were provided with. The poster offers no platform information but it’s widely believed Call Of Duty Ghosts will be available on PC, current generation consoles as well as next generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

Check back real soon, I will be following up this story with all the details and a trailer once they “officially” become available.

IronPatriot

Some of us fans have been waiting for a Marvel Lego game and were happy to hear the announcement that we would be mini-figing it this fall as our favorite Marvel heroes. Not much has come out since that spectacular Game Informer reveal until now that is.

Okay really we found out that there will be some spiffy pre-order bonuses. The coolest of the bonuses lie at your local Wal-Mart where you can snag an exclusive Iron Patriot mini-fig. Woot! Heading to the old Gamestop and plunking five bucks down will get you the pretty sweet Spider-Man keychain. Powerup Rewards members will almost score a free DLC pack. Lastly, pre-ordering at Amazon gets a fresh $10 games credit.

Hit the break to check out the trailer, pay attention to the shadow at the end! Marvel Lego heroes will hit consoles and PC this fall.

Created by MDKGraphicsEngine - Licensed to LEGO System A/S

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