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Galaxy Gear Fit gets thumbs up

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Alongside the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S5 was a new Galaxy Gear smart watch and the Galaxy Fit. LIRON SEGEV reviews the latter and although not being too fond of wearable devices, was impressed with its performance.

At the 2014 Mobile World Congress, Samsung not only revealed its flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone, but also announced a new and Gear 2 smartwatch and the Gear Fit fitness bracelet.

The Gear Fit takes direct aim at the very successful fitness band market that is currently dominated by the Nike Fuelband and the FitBit to name a few.

I took the Gear Fit for a spin to see what this wearable tech is all about. I don’t like this wearable tech trend so what I found was rather surprising.

The Samsung Gear Fit hands-on review

Look and feel

The Gear Fit is a band shape, made of rubber and has two metal studs to secure the strap onto wrist. It weighs only 27 grams and is rated as IP67 which makes is water and dust resistant.

The screen is a highly responsive curved AMOLED that is easily read, even in the outdoors.

The Gear Fit can be worn on the left hand or the right hand and has the option to rotate the screen so that info can be displayed horizontally or vertically. There is a on/off button on the side of the device.

Gear Fit apps

The Gear Fit is preloaded with apps and currently there is no ability to load other apps on the band. To navigate the device, simply swipe your finger to change the various screen pages. Each page has 3 icons that launch the pre-installed apps.

The background is customisable and the rubber straps are changeable if you purchase the additional colours bands.

The Home screen displays the Time, Date and local Weather.

Swiping to the next screen page shows a Pedometer app which counts your steps. You are able to start, stop, pause and view history all from the band. This is ideal, as you no longer depend on the phone and the battery draining app to count your steps. The pedometer continues to work regardless if you have your phone with you or not.

Other exercise apps include walking, cycling, running and hiking. Again, no phone is required for these to operate and keep a record of your steps.

The Gear Fit has a Heart Rate monitor so you can monitor your heart rate wherever you are. Whilst not “medically accurate” the Gear Fit reading is roughly the same reading as the one I got with a chest strap. Not bad for a heart reading based on a pulse of light on a wristband.

The next screen page shows the Timer, Stopwatch and Sleep functions which monitor how many hours at night you were motionless. When you enter the sleep option you can tap on Blocking Mode which stops all messages and notifications from being pushed to your Gear Fit.

The Notifications icon is where you access Instagram, SMS, e-mail, WhatsApp, Facebook and any other messages you set up in the Gear Manager. This is also where you can see your missed calls.

The Media Controller app allows you to control the music on your companion device. This works rather well when you connect the device to external speakers and have full control on your wrist. What I really like is the ability to control any 3rd party music apps like NMusic and Simfy.

The Settings allows users to adjust the Clock, Wallpaper, Display, Bluetooth. A battery indicator is also displayed here.

On the next page is the Find My Device icon to track down the companion phone. As soon as it is pressed, the phone starts to ring, even if it was previously set to vibrate or mute. Another trick to prevent leaving your phone behind is that as soon as you are out of Bluetooth range your Gear Fit vibrates reminding you to take the phone with you.

Gear Fit Companion

The Gear Fit is built to pair with the following Samsung devices: Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4 Zoom, Galaxy S4 Active, Galaxy S4 Mini, Mega, Note 3, Note 2, NotePro 12.1, Note 10.1.

The Gear Fit makes a Bluetooth 4.0 connection between the device which is simple to set up after you install the Gear Fit Manager software from the Samsung App store.

The latest update of the Gear Fit Manager allows you to have even more control of the look and feel of the Gear Fit directly from the phone. For instance, icons can be grouped and re-arranged as you feel fit.

* Follow Liron Segev, aka The Techie Guy, on his blog at thetechieguy.com, or on Twitter at @Liron_Segev

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Nokia 9 PureView pioneers new camera tech

Nokia packed five camera-lenses into its latest high-end flagship, but does more lenses mean better pictures? BRYAN TURNER took it for a test run.

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Nokia is not new to the high-end mobile photography market. In 2012, it led Mobile World Congress (MWC) with its 41MP Nokia 808 PureView. This year, Nokia returned to MWC with its next PureView handset: the Nokia 9 PureView.

Instead of pushing megapixels, the mobile device maker chose to focus on intelligent exposure and sharp focus quality. It achieved this with a set of five cameras on the rear of the device – the most ever on the back of a handset. All of the lenses are 12MP f/1.8 lenses, and three of them are monochrome. The five lenses work in tandem to blend the best parts of a captured image. This is achieved through software image blending, which has been trained to know what’s good and bad about the image. 

Why monochrome? 

Lighting is dramatically improved with a monochrome sensor. About 2.9x more light can be captured with a monochrome sensor when compared to a conventional sensor. Huawei showed off the advantages of integrating a monochrome camera with the P9. 

Why three monochrome lenses? 

Detail can be captured at three different lighting settings, one to absorb a lot of light, one to absorb a little less light, and one to absorb very little light. These photos can then be blended into one great photo, without the user having to worry about setting the camera’s exposure manually.

The monochrome mode captures photos in crisp detail, while giving an authentic dramatic monochrome photography feel.

Only five lenses have been mentioned so far but the back of the device sports seven holes. The sixth hole is for the flash and the seventh is for the depth sensor. This sensor captures the depth of an image, so autofocus can be a little sharper and focus depth on bokeh images can be adjusted after the picture is taken. This adjustment feature is especially useful when a subject’s hair has been “bokeh’d out”.

Click here to read about the other features of the Nokia 9 PureView.

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Product Reviews

Bose Portable: quality at a price

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The Bose SoundDock Portable looks great and performs well, but SEAN BACHER finds the price doesn’t justify the better sound quality.

Since its inception in 1964, American-based audio specialist, Bose, has built a name synonymous with quality. Along with that, it has built a reputation of being more expensive than many of its competitors, but not deterring many from making the expensive investment. The mini sound speakers are quite often used in boardrooms, bars and restaurants around the world and offer crystal-clear sound that rivals most speakers twice their size.

Testament to the Bose sound quality is that it is used as the standard audio system in luxury cars like Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and according to Wikipedia, Bose products can be found in many military and NASA applications.

It is therefore not surprising to find Bose accessories compatible with smartphones. One example is the Bose SoundDock Portable. A portable docking station for iPhones and iPods that works off rechargeable batteries.

We put the Bose SoundDock Portable through the Gadget Five Question User.

1. Ease of use (including set-up)

Although the Bose SoundDock Portable, comes with instructions, they are not needed and in most cases, it will be ready to operate the minute it is removed from the box and an iPhone or iPod is plugged into it.

If the batteries on either the phone or docking station are flat though, the charger needs to be plugged into it before it can be used. You don’t need to wait for the batteries to charge fully before using it.

Bose has taken the minimalist approach with the SoundDock as on the right are two touch-sensitive Volume buttons and that’s it. No Power or other controls. The included remote is also very easy to use. It uses standard Play, Pause, Volume and Skip buttons, all well labelled.

The front of the docking station is made up of a silver grill, below which is the retractable iPhone dock. Although the casing around the connector is designed to accommodate an iPhone’s protective skin, it was not big enough to for the bumper I had on my phone, which meant I had to take the phone out of the case every time I wanted to plug it in.

On the plus side though, unlike many other portable docking stations, the Bose will charge a docked phone even if it is just running off battery power.

The Bose SoundDock Portable’s ease of use along with its elegant design cannot be faulted. But its dock connector counts against it.

Score: 18/20

2. General performance

The two front facing speakers offer crisp sounds and when the volume is cranked up all the way the SoundDock does not distort at all and is deafeningly loud.

At the rear is 3.5mm jack, allowing you to connect non-Apple phones, MP3 players and other audio equipment.

According to Bose, the 1 900mAh rechargeable battery pack will offer up to three hours of music at a maximum volume a different approach to rating battery life as most other vendors rate operating times at ‚”typical listening volumes‚”. I have been using the SoundDock on and off and not at full tilt for the past week without having to plug the mains adapter in yet.

This is however a good thing. Although the Bose SoundDock Portable is elegant and well made, Bose didn’t pay to much attention to the adaptor. It is a bit bigger than two cellphone chargers placed next to each other. It monopolises all the other electrical outlets, when plugged into the wall, meaning you need a dedicated plug for when you want to charge the battery.

The Bose SoundDock Portable provides a beautiful sound, its battery life is great, but the giant-sized charger is a complete let down.

Score: 12/20

3. Does it add value to your life?

Unlike many docking stations that are designed for bedside listening, the Bose SoundDock Portable is powerful enough to offer good sound in an average sized dining room or lounge.

Weighing in at just under three kilograms, it is not the lightest of them all, but the rear, recessed-handle makes carrying it fairly easy. (A carry bag is available as an optional extra.) Overall, it is a nice addition for a picnic or where an electrical outlet is not available.

18/20

4. Innovation

Sound docks have been around for years, and although the SoundDock offers superior sound, it offers nothing in the way of innovation. In fact, the lack of Bluetooth or any wireless connectivity for that matter is limiting.

13/20

5. Value for money

Much like the die-hard Apple Mac fans that will spend more on a product that performs much the same as cheaper alternatives, you get the same in the audio/visual world.

This becomes especially clear when reading the various reviews posted on the Internet. Reviewers either dislike the Bose SoundDock Portable due to it price, while others like it, saying the sound quality justifies the price.

But at R5 000 for a docking station I would have to agree with the former reviewers. R5 000 is ridiculously overpriced, even though it offers superior sound.

10/20

Conclusion

There is no faulting the Bose SoundDock Portable in terms of elegance and sound, but its clunky charger and high price are complete turnoffs.

Total score: 71%

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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