Rumor: Apple Building Bluetooth Smart Watch

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According to Chinese gadget news site Tech.163, Apple may be in the process of developing its own smart watch that connects to your Apple devices via Bluetooth. Based on the report, Intel will be working with Apple to create the smart watch, with a 1.5-inch PMOLED display made by RiTDisplay with ITO-coated glass.

Apple has long had a small hold on the watch market thanks to its iPod nano, which is easily attached to a wrist band turning it into a full-functioning watch.

Recently, however, smart watches have grown increasingly popular. Sony, for instance, has a new offering called the Smart Watch, and we can’t forget how Pebble blew up Kickstarter with it’s e-paper Smart Watch that connects to iOS and Android devices.

Users are looking for more and more connectivity, and as it stands now, an iPod nano with no Bluetooth connection to a user’s phone or tablet is becoming less attractive.

Throughout the past year, there have been many questions over when and if Apple will join the Smart Watch race. Today marks one of the first semi-substantiated leaks.

However, I’m approaching this with a hefty helping of salt. Even if Apple is making a watch, it will be quite a while before we see any real evidence of it. Plus, there’s no proven market for smart watches yet, even with the success of Pebble and MetaWatch.

According to the source, Apple will launch this smart watch later next year.

Whether or not that’s true, this will likely excite multitudes of geeks who clearly see value in such a device, as proven by Pebble and others.

It won’t be revolutionary, per se — many have already entered the smart watch space — but Apple has a knack for making niche devices mainstream. Just take a look at tablets. Before the iPad, the main question on everyone’s mind was whether or not tablets would be used in everyday life.

If this rumor proves true, Apple is probably doing the same thing it did with tablets to the idea of the watch. Low-power Bluetooth 4.0 makes wearable connected tech more practical, and with Apple’s design touch and software ecosystem, a smart watch could appeal to more than just gadget geeks.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

In Praise Of Dangerous Toys


When I was growing up, my dad taught me that potassium nitrate, sulphur, and charcoal made gunpowder. He told me that you could add iron to the mix to get a red flame and that acids wouldn’t eat through your test tube. Then he sent me into the basement to make whatever I wanted while he read the paper.

That was, arguably, a long time ago. All that’s changed. As this NY Times story notes, the days of making bombs (mine were unpacked and placed in toilet paper rolls, to be clear, so I wasn’t setting off pipe bombs) are long gone.

“Basically, you have to be able to eat everything in the science kit,” said Jim Becker, president of SmartLab Toys, who recalled learning the names of chemicals from his childhood chemistry set, which contained substances that have long since been banned from toys.

Instead, we must neuter the science our kids are learning and hope against hope that the guys at Mythbusters can keep our kids entertained enough to consider going into STEM subjects. Once we built rocket scientists by giving them an Estes engine and a paper tube. Now you can’t set off a model rocket anywhere in New York unless you own hundreds of acres of unspoiled fields (no one in New York does).

Kids don’t have a chance to play with dangerous things anymore. I try to change that when I can. I got my son the Bandit rubber band gun which we built on the night after Christmas. I took him outside in my parents large back yard to shoot a Red Ryder and go over gun safety. I would, if I could find it, dig out my old chemistry set so all three kids could know the joy of making red fire. I’m encouraging my daughter to dabble in electricity by giving her a Roominate. I want them to break stuff and learn how to put it back together.

I support the right to tinker. I want my kids and yours to build the next rockets to Mars. I want them to see the world as a series of reactions, and I want them to be able to measure those reactions in order to cure disease, crime, and hunger. We have a Makerbot at the house because I think that simply having a thing in the house, that the kids have it somewhere in their minds that they can 3D-print a green plastic skull, is important.

So here’s to the banned chemistry sets and dangerous capacitors. Here’s to the code that formats the C: drive. Here’s to the sharp-edged Lego kits that let you build a robot or moon station or monster. Next year let’s get the kids potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulphur and teach them how to use them responsibly and intelligently. Here’s to the dangerous toys.

Image of GonKiRin the Dragon.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Apple Exploring Alternative Wind Power Technology And Motion-Control Mac Mice

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Apple’s patent filings today reveal one concept outside their usual product-focused applications, detailing a method for harnessing wind power in a manner different from that employed in traditional turbines. Electricity gathered from a wind turbine would be converted to heat energy and stored in a “low-heat capacity fluid” in Apple’s patent, allowing it to be tapped on an as-needed basis whenever the wind dies down.

It all gets pretty technical, but painted in broad strokes, the system would potentially use the motion of the rotor shaft moving against a “low-heat capacity fluid” (such as ethanol or mercury, for instance) to generate heat through friction between the two surfaces. This can then be transferred from the storage fluid to a working fluid which is then boiled off to release steam. The steam powers a turbine, converting the energy to usable form.

Apple’s system differs from basic wind-power generators that are highly subject to variances in wind power, as well as systems that use batteries to store energy made through rotational energy for later use when wind isn’t actively making that much power. Instead, it is designed to make wind power available on a more “on-demand” basis, which is of significant importance for facilities requiring a constant, uninterrupted power supply. That likely explains why Apple is pursuing this kind of tech: Its massive data centers have huge power requirements, and the company has stated its commitment to harnessing wind, solar and other alternative energy sources to help keep these facilities running smoothly.

So far, Apple has been working mostly on building solar farms and biogas generators to help fulfill its energy needs at data center locations like the one it has in Maiden, NC, and competitor Google recently revealed that it has powered a data center with wind power for the first time.

In a second filing published today, Apple is back on track with its more consumer-oriented patents, this time detailing an evolution of the mouse that would bring more gesture controls to the input device. The additions would allow a mouse to detect tilting, tilt-sliding, lifting and other gestures to add additional command capabilities to the mouse’s basic clicking, movement and scrolling. It’s sort of a Wii Remote-lite, which is likely an easier control paradigm for traditional desktop computer users to adopt than anything more drastic.

This is interesting is because Apple is still showing an interest in iterating on its input device design, which still requires a lot of improvement. The Magic Mouse, while promising with its multitouch surface, is in practice a frustrating device to use. Apple traditionally hasn’t done great with mice, and it’ll be interesting to see if it can do any better while adding motion control into the mix, if this patent ever turns into a shipping product.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Samsung Reportedly Targeting 510M Phone Sales In 2013, Including 390M Smartphones

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Samsung is looking to move around 20 percent more mobile phones in 2013 than it did in 2012, according to a new report from The Korea Times. The Korean electronics firm wants to ship 510 million phones in the New Year, which exceeds the 420 million it projected for 2012. The 2013 increase adds anticipated holiday sales to its existing 288 million total devices sold through September. Around 76 percent, or 390 million, of that 510 million will be smartphones, according to a key Samsung supplier speaking to the Korea Times.

These figures are very optimistic compared to earlier projections from Gartner, which pegged Samsung at around 300 million smartphone sales next year at the upper limit. Samsung has since shown itself as a very strong competitor in the latter half of the year, thanks to devices like the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note 2, which have helped the smartphone maker become the top global cellphone brand in 2012, finally overtaking Nokia to win that honor, according to iHS iSuppli projections.

While Samsung execs see a possible slowdown overall for smartphone demand, the company will offer Windows 8 devices and smartphones shipping with TIZEN – a joint project with Intel — in addition to its existing stable of Android-based handsets. It also claims in the report to be considering “better pricing” in developing markets to drive growth, and provide LTE-capable handsets at lower costs in more established markets like North America.

Put in perspective, Apple’s iPhone sales for 2012 totaled just over 125 million, so Samsung’s plan would see it outselling its strongest smartphone market rival by a considerable amount and outpacing its other Android handset maker rivals by even more of a gap. Given how strong the Korean electronics maker has come on in both the Android OEM race and overall smartphone market, that’s not too surprising or unrealistic an expectation for 2013.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

BlueStacks’ App Player For Mac Launches Beta: Now You Can Run Over 750,000 Android Apps On Mac


BlueStacks, the startup known for bringing Android applications to desktop PCs, is today releasing its App Player for Mac into beta, following its previous Mac alpha release in June. At the time of the original Mac launch, the selection of apps was limited – there were only a handful of apps available like Fruit Ninja and Pulse, for example. But with today’s beta release, the company is now offering access to 750,000+ Android apps on the Mac.

The company worked with app developer partners like HalfBrick, Pulse and Handygames in the past, and will continue to do so on the Mac beta, but it can now also run any other off-the-shelf Android application as well, thanks to its patent-pending “Layercake” technology.

In the months prior, BlueStacks had been working to expand its install base, forming partnerships with chipmakers like AMD (also an investor) and Asus, the former which will see its software pre-installed on over 100 million units, the company announced earlier this month, and the latter which will offer 22 million pre-installs. The startup also noted earlier in December that it has passed 5 million organic installs of its software across the Windows and Mac platforms. Today, that number has grown to 5.3 million. And while BlueStacks is debating whether to confirm the number of active users, we’re told that the number is “very healthy.”

Until now, BlueStacks was very much targeted towards the PC crowd, not just because of the potential for pre-installation partnerships like those above, but also because mobile app developers looking to reach the Mac install base are likely to just build both an OS X and iOS app for their users.

But that’s not always the case – some mobile developers (whether mobile-first or mobile-only) are late to address the desktop market entirely. As BlueStacks VP of Business Development John Gargiulo pointed out to me, for example, the Mac beta release means that Mac users can run Flipboard on the desktop for the first time ever.

For developers, BlueStacks is also hoping that the Mac launch will help make going “Android-first” more attractive, Gargiulo explains.

“We look at it from the POV of our mobile developer partners – they start out by deciding, what mobile platform do we build for first? What’s going to get the most distribution? Now with BlueStacks, building for Android first means they’ll get on all PCs and Mac,” he says. There are many ways to monetize the Mac distribution, too, in addition to the in-app purchases developers can offer (without sharing a cut with Apple). BlueStacks will announce its further monetization plans in Q2 2013.

The beta has no exact end date at this time. It will run as long as it takes, Gargiulo tells me. Going forward, the company is now working to add a new proprietary App Discovery system in the Mac App Player, which will allow users to find the apps they like more easily. That’s definitely an interesting feature idea – app discovery today is broken, and if BlueStacks is planning to participate in this space, it may be one of the few companies – outside of Google, Apple, Amazon and other app store makers – which will have enough data, thanks to its pre-installs, to help it better its app suggestions for users.

The new Mac Player is available now from the BlueStacks homepage here. 

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