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Fitbit steps into voice control with Versa 2

The Versa 2 is Fitbit’s first smartwatch with an on-device microphone for voice commands.

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Fitbit has announced the launch of Fitbit Versa 2, the next generation of its popular Versa smartwatch. The Versa 2 delivers a new swimproof design, which includes innovative sleep features like Sleep Score and smart wake, and is packed with more advanced health, fitness and smart features. 
For added convenience, Versa 2 debuts an on-device microphone, which enables voice to text (on Android-linked devices only), along with a Spotify app that allows users to control their music and podcasts, and Fitbit Pay. Coupled with faster performance, thousands of apps and clock faces and a brighter, a crisper display with an optional always-on mode Versa 2 is a 24/7 health and wellness companion – now with 5+ days battery life.

“At Fitbit, we believe that health belongs to everyone and that people should not be priced out of having access to devices and features that can help them improve their health,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “That’s why we’ve designed Versa 2 to be a premium, full-featured and easy-to-use smartwatch at an accessible price point. 
“Building on the success of our original best-selling Versa smartwatch, we believe the added value and innovation in Versa 2, with new features like a Spotify app and advanced in-app and on-device sleep features, will bring more users into the smartwatch category, allowing them to unlock the benefits of better health.”

Sleep is critical to maintaining overall health and wellness, and when surveyed by Fitbit, nearly two-thirds (64%) of participants list sleep as a very important health and fitness priority. Fitbit pioneered wearable sleep tracking more than 10 years ago, making information previously only available from a medical professional, widely accessible on the wrist. 
As a leader in tracked sleep, it has applied learnings from more than 10.5-billion nights of sleep tracked to innovate in this critical area of health, and the latest sleep features will not only help you better understand your sleep, but provide the features to help you improve it:

  • Sleep Score: Receive a nightly score within the Fitbit app for better insight into one’s sleep quality. The score is based on heart rate (sleeping and resting), restlessness, time awake and Sleep Stages. 
  • Smart wake: Coming soon to all Fitbit smartwatches, smart wake uses machine learning to wake users during an optimal time of their sleep cycle, while in light or REM sleep, based on a pre-selected 30-minute interval, so they wake up feeling more refreshed. 
  • Estimated Oxygen Variation Graph: Coming soon, this graph will provide users with an estimate of the variability of oxygen levels in their bloodstream. The data is derived from a combination of the red and infrared sensors on the back of your device. Being aware of short term variations in the oxygen levels in your bloodstream may indicate variations in your breathing during sleep.

Added convenience and smart features

Versa 2 comes with more features to add convenience, like Fitbit Pay, so users can make secure wallet -free payments at retailers with contactless payment functionalities. 

Fitbit is also adding the Spotify app experience to Versa 2, allowing Spotify Premium subscribers to control music and podcasts from the wrist. Fitbit has said the Spotify app is not fully available in South Africa yet, but will likely become available soon after the launch of the Versa 2. Deezer fans are in luck though: Versa 2 has the ability to store and play 300+ songs from one’s personal music library and add Deezer playlists. 

Pricing and availability

Versa 2 will be available for R3,999 in black with a carbon case, petal with a copper rose aluminium case, and stone with a mist grey case; accessories will be available from select local retailers. Versa 2 Special Edition will be available for an R4,999 in navy and pink with a copper rose aluminium case and smoke with a mist grey case. Versa 2 will be available in stores mid-October from select local retailers. 

Premium personalised workouts with Fitbit Premium

Fitbit has also announced Fitbit Premium, a paid subscription service in the Fitbit app that takes a user’s unique data to deliver Fitbit’s most personalised experience to date, with actionable guidance and coaching to help users achieve their health and fitness goals. Premium leverages insights from 10+ years of Fitbit data, as well as academic and medical expertise, to help users move more, sleep better and eat well with customised programs. A 90-day free trial of Fitbit Premium will be available on the Versa 2.    

Fitbit launches an updated, affordable Aria smart scale

Fitbit has also announced the Fitbit Aria Air, an affordable Bluetooth smart scale. This will be available locally for R1,099 at select retailers. 

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Firefox encrypts all web history in US

Firefox has received a serious upgrade to encrypt communications with the Domain Name System to stop other agents from tracking where users go on the web.

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Firefox has begun the rollout of encrypted DNS over HTTPS (DoH) by default for US-based users. The rollout will continue over the next few weeks to confirm no major issues are discovered as this new protocol is enabled for Firefox’s US-based users.

If you’re outside of the US and would like to enable DoH, you can do so by going to Settings, then General, then scroll down to Networking Settings and click the Settings button on the right. Here you can enable DNS over HTTPS by clicking, and a checkbox will appear. By default, this change will send your encrypted DNS requests to Cloudflare.

Users have the option to choose between two providers — Cloudflare and NextDNS — both of which are trusted resolvers. Go to Settings, then General, then scroll down to Network Settings and click the Settings button on the right. From there, go to Enable DNS over HTTPS, then use the pulldown menu to select the provider as your resolver.

A little over two years ago, Firefox began work to help update and secure one of the oldest parts of the internet, the Domain Name System (DNS). To put this change into context, a description of how the system worked before DoH is needed. 

DNS is a database that links a human-friendly name, such as www.mozilla.org, to a computer-friendly series of numbers, called an IP address (e.g. 192.0.2.1). By performing a “lookup” in this database, your web browser is able to find websites on your behalf. Because of how DNS was originally designed decades ago, browsers doing DNS lookups for websites — even encrypted https:// sites — had to perform these lookups without encryption. 

Because there is no encryption, other devices along the way might collect (or even block or change) this data too. DNS lookups are sent to servers that can spy on your website browsing history without either informing you or publishing a policy about what they do with that information.

At the creation of the Internet, these kinds of threats to people’s privacy and security were known, but not being exploited yet. Today, many know that unencrypted DNS is not only vulnerable to spying, but is being exploited. As a result, Firefox will now be performing DNS lookups in an encrypted HTTPS connection. This helps hide your browsing history from attackers on the network, and helps prevent data collection by third parties on the network that ties your computer to websites you visit.

Since Firefox’s work on DoH began, many browsers have joined in announcing their plans to support DoH, and major websites like Facebook have moved to support a more secure DNS.

Firefox says it will continue to explore enabling DoH in other regions, and is working to add more providers as trusted resolvers to its program. 

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Huawei’s MatePad Pro proves the tablet isn’t dead

In Barcelona yesterday, Huawei released a professional-facing tablet called the MatePad Pro, which directly competes with the Apple iPad Pro and Samsung Galaxy Tab S6.

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At a press conference in Barcelona yesterday, Huawei unveiled a new range of devices, including a foldable smartphone called the Mate Xs and a new professional facing tablet with a stylus, called the MatePad Pro.

The tablet has a strong resemblance to the 11-inch iPad Pro, but has slimmer bezels than that of Apple’s tablet. The MatePad Pro features a 10.8-inch AMOLED display at 2560 x 1600 pixels. It also has 540 nits of brightness and a DCI-P3 colour gamut.

It’s powered by the Kirin 990 SoC, and comes in two RAM configurations – 6 and 8GB variants. Storage also ranges from 128GB to 256GB.

The rear camera is a 13MP sensor, which is ideal for document scanning and shows Huawei’s research and development has paid off with this device. It also features an 8MP camera on the front, making it great for video conferencing.

The MatePad Pro 5G has Wi-Fi 6 and, of course, 5G built-in, which makes it a connectivity powerhouse for those who want to do latency-sensitive tasks like online gaming or video conferencing.

Like the professional tablets out there, it supports a stylus called the M-Pen, which performs on par with the Apple Pencil and S-Pen. It can provide a user with up to 4096 points of pressure sensitivity, so drawings made on the tablet will closely resemble drawings made on real-life media.

It houses a 7250 mAh battery with 40W Huawei SuperCharge, and it also supports 15W wireless charging. To top all of that, it features 7.5W reverse wireless charging, in case a user needs some extra battery life on their phone and doesn’t have a power source available.

The only thing missing is, you guessed it, Google Mobile Services. That means users won’t be able to use Google services like Gmail, Play Store, YouTube, among many others. What it does come with is Huawei Mobile Services, which runs most of the apps one would need anyway.

The MatePad Pro will be available in four colour variants: Black, Green, Orange, and White.

The Huawei MatePad Pro has a starting price of €549 for the Wi-Fi version with the 6 GB+128 GB configuration and ranges up to €949 for the 5G version with 8GB+512GB.

The tablet is set to go on sale on 12 December. However, this is only for China and there’s no information on international availability. 

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