In a first, Amazon launches a battery-powered portable Echo speaker in India

After launching nearly a dozen Echo speaker models in India in two years, Amazon said on Wednesday it is adding one more to the mix that addresses one of the most requested features from customers in the nation: Portability.

The e-commerce giant today unveiled the Echo Input Portable Smart Speaker Edition, a new variant in the lineup that includes a built-in battery. The 4,800mAh enclosed battery will offer up to 10 hours of continuous music playing or up to 11 hours of stand-by life, the company said.

“Portability has been one of the most requested features in India,” said Miriam Daniel, VP of Alexa Devices. “You want to be able to carry Alexa with you from room to room within your homes. So we have designed something just for you.”

The battery-powered Echo model, designed exclusively for India, is priced at 5,999 Indian rupees ($ 84). Users can currently purchase it at an introductory price of 4,999 Indian rupees ($ 70) and the device will begin shipping on December 18.

Other than the built-in battery pack, the new speaker model offers an identical set of features — access to some 30,000 Alexa skills, compatibility with a range of home devices, of course, support for Alexa voice assistant — as other Echo variants. (The new model additionally carries an array of four LEDs that light up when a user taps the power button to show battery level.)

More to follow…

Gadgets – TechCrunch

The FrankOne is a simple and portable coffee brewing gadget

The FrankOne coffee maker, fresh off a successful crowdfunding campaign, is now available for purchase, and I got a chance to test out one of the first run of these funky little gadgets. While it won’t replace my normal pourover or a larger coffee machine, it’s a clever, quick, and portable way to make a cup.

Designer Eduardo Umaña pitched me the device a little more than a year ago, and I was taken by the possibility of vacuum brewing — and the fact that, amazingly, until now no one from Colombia had made a coffee maker (it’s named after Frank de Paula Santander, who kicked off the coffee trade there). But would the thing actually work?

In a word, yes. I’ve tested the FrankOne a few times in my home and while I have a couple reservations, it’s a coffee making device that I can see myself actually using in a number of circumstances.

PA150003

The device works quite simply. Ground coffee goes in the top, and then you pour in the hot (not boiling!) water and stir it a bit. 30-50 seconds later, depending on how you like it, you hit the button and a pump draws the liquid down through a mesh filter and into the carafe below. It’s quick and almost impossible to mess up.

The resulting coffee is good — a little bit light, I’d say, but you can adjust the body with the size of the grounds and the steeping time. I tend to find a small amount of sediment at the bottom, but less than you’d get in a cup of French press.

Because it’s battery powered (it should last for ~200 cups and is easily recharged) and totally waterproof, cleaning it is a snap, especially if you have a garbage disposal. Just dump it and rinse it, give it a quick wipe and it’s good to go. It gets a bit more fussy if you don’t have a disposal, but what doesn’t?

PA150010

I can see this being a nice way to quickly and simply make coffee while camping — I usually do a French press, but sometimes drip, and both have their qualities and limitations. The FrankOne would be for making a single cup when I don’t want to have to stand by the pourover cone or deal with disassembling the French press for cleaning.

It’s also, I am told by Umaña, great for cold brew. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I don’t really like cold brew, but I know many do, and Umaña promises the FrankOne works wonders in a very short time — four minutes rather than an hour. I haven’t tested that, since cold brew tastes like bitter chocolate milk to me, but I sincerely doubt he would mention it as many times as he did if it didn’t do what he said.

There are, I feel, three downsides. First, you’re pretty much stuck with using the included glass carafe, because the device has to create a seal around the edge with its silicone ring. It didn’t fit in my biggest mug, but you might find an alternative should the carafe (which I have no complaints about — it’s attractive and sturdy) crack or get lost.

PA150017

Second, it doesn’t produce a lot of coffee. The top line as indicated in the reservoir is probably about 10-12 ounces — about the size of a “tall” at a coffee shop. Usually that’s a perfect amount for me, but it definitely means this is a single-serving device, not for making a pot to share.

And third, for the amount of coffee it produces, I feel like it uses a lot of grounds. Not a crazy amount, but maybe 1.5-2x what goes into my little Kalita dripper — which is admittedly pretty economical. But it’s just something to be aware of. Maybe I’m using too much, though.

I reviewed the Geesaa a little while back, and while it’s a cool device, it was really complex and takes up a lot of space. If I wanted to give it to a friend I’d have to make them download the app, teach them about what I’d learned worked best, share my “recipes,” and so on. There was basically a whole social network attached to that thing.

This is much, much easier to use and compact to boot. It’s a good alternative to classic methods that doesn’t try to be more than a coffee maker. At $ 120 it’s a bit expensive, but hey, maybe you spend that on coffee in a month.

And by the way, you can use the discount code “TC” at checkout to get 10 percent off — this isn’t a paid post or anything, Umaña’s just a nice guy!

Gadgets – TechCrunch

The Analogue Pocket might be the perfect portable video game system

Very few modern tech companies have executed on their mission as consistently, and at such a high level of quality as Analogue. Analogue’s obsessively engineered modern consoles for old-school physical cartridge video games are museum-quality hardware design, housing specially tuned processors that offer pitch- and pixel-perfect play of all NES, Sega Genesis, SNES and other retro console games on modern HD TVs – and their new $ 199 Analogue Pocket aims to provide the best way to play classic portable console titles in similar high fidelity.

The Analogue Pocket is a portable gaming console that can play the entire library of Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games out of the box – natively, without emulation, so that the gaming experience is exactly as you remember it (or as it was intended, if this is your first experience with these classic titles). That’s not all, though: Using cartridge adapters, the Analogue Pocket can support Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color, Atari Lynx and other games, too.

4 Analogue Pocket All

It uses two FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) which are processors that have been programmed specifically to play these games back as they were originally intended, mimicking the the operation of the original silicon found in the consoles that these games were designed for with the faithfulness of true restoration hardware. The result is a great gaming experience that will feel like the original – but played on the Analogue Pocket’s much more impressive hardware, which offers a 3.5-inch, 1600×1440 LCD display that provides a very high-resolution 615 ppi. For those keeping tracks that’s ten times the resolution of the original Game Boy display. And it’s color tuned for amazing color rendering and brightness – it could actually be the best display on a dedicated gaming device, period, let alone for a retro console.

The Analogue Pocket also works with an accessory called the Analogue Dock (sold separately, pricing TBD), which adds HDMI out and Bluetooth/wired controller support, to turn the Pocket into a home console for your big screen TV, too. The dock offers two standard USB ports for wired controllers, and its Bluetooth support works with any of 8Bitdo’s excellent gamepads. It’s basically a Switch but for all your favorite Game Boy series games, and with what looks like much better quality hardware.

6 Analogue Dock

That would be plenty to offer in a portable console, but the Analogue Pocket is designed to do still more. It has a built-in synthesizer and sequencer for making digital music, and the second FPGA it’s packing is designed to be used specifically for development. It allows the development community to bring their own cores to the platform, which means it could potentially support a whole host of classic and ported games in future.

Analogue Pocket is set to release some time in 2020, with a more specific date to be announced later on. It’s a natural next step for the company that delivered excellent gaming experiences via the Nt Mini, the Super Nt and the Mega Sg, but it’s still a nice, exciting surprise to find out that they’re tackling the rich history of mobile gaming next.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

The portable $399 Sonos Move is like having two great speakers in one

Sonos has released their first ever portable speaker with a built-in battery: The $ 399 Sonos Move, which starts shipping to customers on September 24. After spending a few days with the Move, I can confidently say that it offers everything that’s great about the Sonos wireless audio system, but with all the added advantages of a speaker you can freely move around the house – or take with you on the road.

Size and sound

The Sonos Move is not a small speaker – it’s about 6.61 lbs, and nearly 10-inches tall by 6.3 inches wide and just under 5-inches deep. If you were maybe expecting it to be around the size of the Sonos One, you’re in for a shock because it’s quite a bit bigger, as you can see from the photo below.

Sonos Move Sonos One 1

Nor is the Sonos Move just a Sonos One stacked on a big battery and wrapped in a new exterior shell – the company tells me it’s a brand new design in terms of the internals, too. The company set about designing a different speaker because the Move will suit different uses vs. the One, since it’s designed to be used in all environments, including outside in open air.

The result is a speaker that can get a bit boomier than the Sonos One, with deeper lows that seem to anticipate it having to compete with a lot more ambient noise. The sound profile is also helped by a downward-firing tweeter which is used to create a wide sound stage for the Move, which in practice means it does a very good job of evenly blasting music at a spread out group at, say, a picnic or a camp fire.

Indoors and out, the Sonos Move provides the kind of quality audio you can expect from any Sonos device, and it seems nearly equally impressive on both Wifi and Bluetooth modes in my testing, though Wifi does seem to have the edge in terms of quality. You can also pair two of the Move together for true stereo sound, thought since I only had one review device on hand I wasn’t able to personally test this out.

Wireless and weather-resistance

The Move’s highlight feature is its ability to move around and operate on battery power, and that’s why it offers two different connection modes. You can use it as a standard Sonos Wifi speaker, connecting it to your Sonos account and having it show up in your Sonos app the same as any other speakers made by the company, which you can group and control as usual.

Sonos Move 9

In Bluetooth mode, you pair it just like you would any Bluetooth speaker, directly to the device from which you want to play music. A button on the back switches modes, and the first time you switch to Bluetooth the Move will automatically enter pairing mode, making it super easy to connect your phone. I was set up on Bluetooth within just a couple of minutes.

A convenient built-in handle is located on the back of the Move just above the pair, power and Sonos system connect buttons. It’s one of the highlights of the design, and since it’s part of the exterior shell, it should be rock solid in terms of durability. Overall, the device feels like it’s incredibly sturdily built, also, and Sonos advertises it as weather and shock-resistant speaker that isn’t afraid to take a tumble or handle a little light rain.

In Bluetooth mode, you won’t have access to either Alexa or Google Assistant, even if you’ve set those up on the Move to work with your home system. Nor will it work in a stereo pair with another Sonos if you’d done that, or show up in the Sonos app for multi-room control. But at home, you can just use the Wifi mode as you move it around the house or to the backyard and still take advantage of all those. While you’re out and about, you’re much more likely to just want a basic wireless speaker anyway, so not having access to these features on Bluetooth really doesn’t have any impact on usability.

During my testing, wireless connectivity was solid on both Wifi and Bluetooth modes, with no dropouts or stutters. Even leaving aside the Sonos aspects of the speaker, it’s also likely the best-sounding Bluetooth weather-resistant speakers I’ve ever tried, at this or any other price range.

Voice assistants and auto Trueplay

Sonos Move 6

The Sonos Move also features built-in support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, both the virtual assistants that are also available on the Sonos Beam and the Sonos One. Built-in farfield mics do a great job of picking up voice commands, and if you’ve used either of these assistants before on other Sonos hardware, you’ll get the same great experience here – provided you’re on Wifi and not Bluetooth, as mentioned above.

Sonos has added a new trick to the Sonos Move using the mics it includes for use with these voice assistants, too: Auto Trueplay. This is a version of its Trueplay sound tuning feature, which it includes in other Sonos speakers. Normally, however, you have to do the process manually using your smartphone’s mic to evaluate the sound. The Sonos Move uses its own mics to adjust automatically – and it does it constantly, changing the sound profile to match your space as you move it room to room, or even outside.

In actual use, the effect is subtle, which it should be since the sound is adapting over time. But I found that it undeniably made a difference, and that listening to the same song initially upon switching the Move’s location, and then after a period of time (I tried an hour or so) produced obvious benefits in terms of the sound of the second listening.

Charging and battery

Sonos Move 5

Sonos has done a great job with all things related to their first battery-powered speaker. The built-in power source is rated for up to 10 hours of continuous playback according to the company, and in my testing, I actually got north of that, but of course your mileage will vary depending on what kind of connection you’re using and at what volume you’re playing music.

Charging is handled two ways, which is a very welcome bit of adaptability that suits the Move’s dual nature as both a Sonos network speaker and a portable audio device. There’s the charging base that comes in the box, which you can see above. This has metal contacts that provide power via connection points on the back of the Move, while providing an attractive and stable base for use in your Move’s more permanent ‘home’ location.

Then there’s a standard USB-C port located on the base above the charging contacts, which is perfect for use when you’re taking the Move on the road, or if you’re just using it outside but near an external outlet and don’t particularly feel like moving the charging base. It’s another example of how the Move can do double duty with smart design elements that don’t require any compromises on the user’s part.

Sonos Move 8

Where it fits in the Sonos line

The Sonos Move is unlike any other speaker in the Sonos lineup. It plays nice with the rest, but only to a point: The Move can’t act as rear satellite speakers or pair with the Sonos Sub, for instance, something which the rest of the lineup can all manage. Sonos says this is because the speaker was designed to move around the house, so it doesn’t make sense for it to be tied to a more permanent installation, as in a home theater or sub-supplemented arrangement.

That said, it’s a solid choice as both an addition to an existing Sonos network, or as your first Sonos device. In the first case, it’s the best way to add a patio-friendly Sonos-compatible speaker to your setup without having to drill into your walls or call home installers; in the second, it’s a great all around wireless speaker if all you really need is one, since it can follow you around the house, adapt its sound, and even pack in the car for road trips or a day at the beach.

Sonos Move 3

Bottom line

At $ 399, the Sonos Move is definitely expensive for either a Bluetooth speaker or a wireless home smart speaker. But when you consider that it’s both, and that it delivers all-day battery life on a single charge; intelligent adaptive sound to ensure it sounds best wherever you’re using it; and the ability to stereo pair and work with other Sonos devices if you want to expand your setup later, it starts to seem a lot more economical – especially when sized up against equally priced speakers that lack half those features, like Apple’s HomePod.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Zhiyun’s Smooth-Q2 aims to be the most portable quality smartphone gimbal available

Zhiyun has been steadily rolling out new gimbals for smartphones and dedicated cameras for a few years now, and the company’s quality and feature set has improved dramatically over time. Now, it’s launching the Zhiyun Smooth-Q2 smartphone gimbal on Kickstarter, with the aim of delivering a “truly pocket-size” gimbal that has all the bells and whistles you could ever want or need.

The Smooth-Q2 is indeed a portable powerhouse – the company sent me a pre-production unit to test, and though it’s not the final shipping hardware, it already works and feels like a polished, quality device. The first thing you’ll notice right away about the Smooth-Q2 is its size – it can indeed slip inside a coat or pant pocket, though you’ll need a fairly deep one to make that work. Even if you don’t necessarily have a compatible pocket, it’s hard to beat the Smooth-Q2 for sheer portability, and that’s bound to save you some packing space when you’re getting ready for your next trip.

Smooth Q2 1

There’s another recently released small-size smartphone gimbal on the market – the DJI Osmo Mobile 3. That has a clever method of folding down for easier packing, but the Smooth-Q2’s design, while similar in overall footprint, means it’s much easier to put in your actual pocket (or pack in a bag’s side pocket) than is the DJI version. And while both are incredibly easy to balance even if you’re a gimbal novice, I found the Zhiyun was actually the simpler of the two.

The Zhiyun Smooth-Q2 also feels more solidly constructed, though its simpler controls (it doesn’t have a trigger around or a zoom lever) may leave some creators wanting. There are some other advantages here, too, however – a quick release spring-loaded clip means you can detach your smartphone quickly for other uses without unbalancing the gimbal, and go right back to shooting when you’re done. Plus, you can connect via Bluetooth and control your smartphone’s native camera app directly, instead of relying on their ZP Play app – which you can still use for features like object tracking.

The Smooth-Q2 offers 16-hours of battery life, so you should easily make it through a day without requiring power, and it can do time lapses, with or without programmed motion, a vortex mode for capturing crazy rotational footage, and an aluminum body that should be able to withstand less-than careful stowage in your bag.

In terms of quality, the Smooth-Q2 really delivers in early testing with my iPhone XS Max, and I’ve included two quick sample clips so you can see for yourself. These are shot in the gimbal’s basic PF mode, in which the camera pans as you turn the gimbal side to side.

Zhiyun’s crowdfunding these but the company’s history and reputation mean that you can count on them to deliver. The entry-level price is set at $ 109 U.S. for backers, which is a $ 30 discount off the planned retail cost, and they should ship to backers in October according to the company.

Smooth Q2 2

Gadgets – TechCrunch