Apple’s Wearable Faces Massive Competition

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Apple’s upcoming wearable device, based on iOS, will run third-party applications and may come with an App Store, reports 9-to-5 Mac. To be revealed on Tuesday, the wrist-worn Apple wearable is not expected to be released until early next year. It will boast a fashionable appearance, but still function as a smart watch with fitness-centric features.

Rumors say the device includes a miniaturized system-on-a-chip with a multitude of sensors ranging from sweat detectors to pulse readers to motion sensors. The device is also expected to include an NFC chip to act as a conduit for Apple’s upcoming mobile payment system. One of the developers with access to the pre-release SDK is Facebook. The social network is also experimenting with ways it can leverage the new Notification Center widget APIs. Apple likely wants to demonstrate some third-party wearable apps at Tuesday’s event. The wearable device will make good use of the new Continuity, Handoff, and Widgets features for iPhone users to be able to easily transfer content from the smartphone to the wearable and vice versa.

Of course Apple will have lots of wearable competition. Here’s a rundown of the smartwatches announced at the IFA show in Berlin last week:

  • The Moto 360 went on sale last week for $250 via Motorola’s site, and it would seem the Android Wear-powered smartwatch is already backordered. On board is standard Android Wear, and that piece of software is being powered by 512MB of RAM and a TI OMAP 3 processor. All of it is displayed on a round 1.56-inch display with 320 x 290 resolution, and it should last up to a full 24 hours with its 320mAh battery. It remains to be seen whether the TI OMAP chipset can keep up with the Snapdragon 400 found in competing models.
  • The Samsung Gear S can make calls without being teathered to a phone, unlike previous versions. It features a heart rate monitor and a nanoSIM card slot, and a UV sensor which will keep an eye on radiation levels for you. Samsung Gear S specs; Tizen OS, 2-inch Super AMOLED (360x480p), 1 GHz dual-core processor, 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of ROM, 300 mAh battery, IP67 rating. Text input capabilities are provided by Fleksy keyboard.
  • The LG Watch R, LG’s attempt a circular smartwatch will hit stores on October 14th, though it’s unclear which markets will see the watch first. Specs include a 1.3-inch POLED display with resolution of 320×320, 245PPI, Snapdragon 400, 512MB RAM, 4GB storage, Bluetooth 4.0, Sensors: 9-axis, PPG, Barometer, heart rate monitor.
  • Sony’s Smartwatch 3 is an Android Wear device. The interface is strongly reminiscent of Google Now for Android with its card-based approach to delivering notifications and data gathered from the device’s sensors. Sony added to the experience by connecting the watch to its Lifelog app.
  • Sony’s original SmartBand was upgraded to the new SmartBand Talk, a wearable that does many of the same physical activity tracking and life logging functions, but also handles calls and control your phone with your voice, and there’s also things like notifications and more. It has a 1.4-inch e-paper display. The display has a resolution of 288 x 128, and other specs include an ARM Cortex-M4 CPU, 2MB memory and a 70mAh battery that will give up to 3 days of battery life — at least according to Sony. There’s also Bluetooth, NFC and Sony’s now-standard IP68 waterproof tech
  • The Asus Zenwatch sticks to the “standard” rectangular design and is made primarily from stainless steel and has a slightly curved display. The display uses AMOLED technology and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 with genuine stitched-leather strap and quick-release clasp by an Italian designer. It runs Android Wear, features over 100 built-in watch faces, double-tap on the watch face to find your phone, and automatic phone unlock. Other features include the ability to trigger a camera shot via the watch, and a heart rate monitor.
  • Alcatel’s Wave Smartwatch offers notifications, step counts, heart-rate monitoring, music controls, and remote camera control. Plus a variant version will soon include a translucent solar panel on the face for drip recharging. Really inexpensive; €99 ($129 / £78 / AU$137)
  • Huawei is said to be prepping another wearable they’ll launch next year — this time running Android Wear.

This list was compiled from articles on PocketNow, Android Authority, Phone Arena, Phone Scoop, Phandroid, C/Net, and Engadget

Sprint Offers International Wi-Fi Calling

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Sprint will begin offering International Wi-Fi Calling back to the United States at no additional cost starting with an over-the-air software update to Samsung Galaxy S 4 with Sprint Spark rolling out now. This new feature allows those traveling abroad with Wi-Fi Calling enabled phones to make and receive calls to friends and family in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico at no additional charge while connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Three of the four major wireless operators in the US have announced they’re deploying voice over LTE service (excepting Sprint). Voice over LTE will eventually replace existing 2G voice service. Currently LTE is a data-only service, with voice routed through their separate 3G infrastructure.

Wi-Fi Calling lets Sprint customers use voice and messaging services over existing home, office and public Wi-Fi networks. Available at no additional charge to Sprint customers with a compatible Android smartphone, it offers improved voice, data and messaging services in locations that previously had limited or no mobile network coverage.

Sprint’s HD Voice transmits and receives a wider octave range on traditional cellular networks. HD Voice actively detects background noise and minimizes its presence, making your voice and the voice on the other end of the call more defined and easier to understand.

WiFi calling essentially allows cell phone packets to be forwarded to a network access point over the internet, rather than over-the-air using cellular providers. Since the system works over the internet, a UMA-capable handset can connect to their service provider from any location with internet access. This is particularly useful for travellers, who can connect to their provider and make calls into their home service area from anywhere in the world.

Say you take your Wifi phone to France, you can connect to Wi-Fi Calling and call your friend in Seattle. The call is billed like a local call to Seattle (e.g. it comes out of your bucket of minutes), with no international roaming fees. But if you’re in France and you call a French number (+33 …) then it’s billed like an international call to France.

Wi-Fi calling is available on T-Mobile and others, using special Wifi handsets or with smartphone apps like Kineto.

Kineto Wireless, a major supplier of telco-OTT solutions, says it has added a suite of Smart Calling services to its downloadable Smart Comms smartphone application for mobile operators. The new services include the ability to make and receive cellular calls and SMS over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi), 2nd line service, home line calling, and international VoIP calling.

CTIA Wants Faster Cell Siting

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CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker wants the FCC to take further steps to reform the wireless cell siting process to speed up the deployment of network infrastructure, notes Fierce Wireless.

In an op-ed in The Hill, Baker wrote that “a commonsense national approach to further streamline and modernize the wireless siting process is long overdue” and has bipartisan support. She noted that small cells and Distributed Antenna Systems are becoming integral to network topologies and deployments, but that they are still treated like 250-foot cell towers by many municipalities.

The CTIA chief, herself a former FCC commissioner, wants the FCC to “limit the ability of state and local authorities to delay the collocation and replacement of wireless infrastructure that have minimal impact on communities.”

Wireless carriers, tower companies and infrastructure providers have long complained of delays in the permitting and zoning process, including for equipment that is collocated with an already-approved cell site or with replacing equipment on a site that has already been zoned and approved.

Baker also wrote that the FCC should “curtail unnecessary delays at the local level by imposing a 45-day limit on collocation approvals. After all, as Congress recognized, these wireless facilities already have received the necessary zoning approval, so why impose further impediments?”

In terms of DAS and small cells, she wrote that their small size and flexibility “warrant streamlining the environmental and historic review processes–including the adoption of certain exclusions–for deployment of these facilities.”

In order to expand on the anywhere, anytime connectivity, the CTIA claims the industry needs access to more licensed spectrum, towers and antennas.

Samsung Adds Nokia Maps to Phone and Watch

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Nokia’s Here Maps are coming to Samsung Android and Tizen phones, report Engadget. Nokia’s maps work offline, so no celluar connection is required once regional maps are downloaded to the device. HERE for Android will let you download entire countries and regions, much like TomTom, or OpenStreetMap-powered alternatives such as Skobbler (now owned by Telenav).

Nokia (the part that wasn’t sold to Microsoft) today announced that it will bring Here Maps to Android for the first time, giving Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners advanced access to its own Google Maps alternative. The Korean smartphone maker has an existing deal to provide Nokia’s Here Maps to their Tizen wearables, such as the 3G-enabled Gear S smartwatch, which goes on sale in October.

By tapping on your location in HERE for Android, you can send a Glympse notice to friends to let them know you’re on your way. Glympse is a free and simple way to share your location in real time with people you trust.

On the Samsung Gear S, HERE is powering an application called Navigator, which offers turn-by-turn walk navigation and public transit routing. The app provides a complete stand-alone experience, including the ability to store map data locally on the device and use it offline for navigation, directions and search.

To get the most out of Navigator on a Samsung Gear S watch, you can also pair it with a the HERE app (beta) which works with the Samsung Galaxy family of devices. With the app you can plan and calculate routes for walking and public transit on your phone and then send them to your smartwatch. The app will be made available for download from the Samsung GALAXY Apps store when the Samsung Gear S hits stores.

If you go online you can use more advanced features, like live traffic and real-time transit schedules. You can also share the places you find with family and friends and save your favorite destinations into Collections that can be synced with other devices and

Samsung also announced today a partnership with NIKE, introducing the Nike+ Running App for Samsung Gear S watch/phone. The app utilizes the new Samsung Gear S’ built-in Bluetooth and 3G connectivity. With the pre-loaded Nike+ Running App on the Samsung Gear S, users can leave their phones at home.

A Nike+ app for Android was released earlier this summer, although there is no Android Wearable support yet.

Deutsche Telekom: Buy US for $35/share

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Deutsche Telekom put a valuation of at least $35 a share to any business willing to buy its T-Mobile US unit, the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., reports Bloomberg.

T-Mobile’s stock price rose 0.3 percent to $29.92 at 9:48 a.m. in New York, adding to yesterday’s 1.4 percent gain. Deutsche Telekom owns 67 percent of the Bellevue, Washington-based company, which has a market value of $24 billion.

T-Mobile rejected a $33-a-share bid by France’s Iliad this month, but hasn’t received an increased offer, according to reports.

Iliad rattled France’s wireless market with rock-bottom-priced packages that have led to a two-year tariff war with incumbent operators. BNP Paribas SA and HSBC Holdings Plc had agreed to lend Iliad as much as $13 billion to finance its bid, a person with knowledge of the deal has said.

A deal with Sprint may have valued T-Mobile at about $40 a share, has gone South. Deutsche Telekom would consider forgoing a higher price if that means avoiding the uncertainty of a prolonged regulatory review of a deal that would reduce the number of nationwide carriers to three from four, other people familiar with the matter have said.

In the absence of a good enough offer, Deutsche Telekom is focusing on the U.S. spectrum auctions. Management left open yesterday how T-Mobile plans to finance the purchases, the person said. The operator faces its first auction of wireless spectrum, of so-called “AWS-3 bands,” starting Nov. 13, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

For next year’s auction of coveted 600-megahertz bands, which allow larger areas of coverage across the countryside and inside buildings, Hoettges is pressuring regulators for favorable conditions to help T-Mobile offset the deeper coffers of its larger rivals.

Samsung Gear S: Smartwatch Untethered

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Samsung is taking the wraps off the Gear S with can send and receive messages or make calls without an accompying smartphone. There’s a 3G modem inside. While it may not be especially fast, it doesn’t require a Bluetooth-connected phone or WiFi.

It features a 2-inch AMOLED screen plus a dual-core 1GHz CPU along with GPS, heart rate and motion sensors. It’s powered by a 300mAh battery that Samsung says can last up to two days. It runs Tizen instead of Android Wear, with pedestrian navigation available from from Nokia’s HERE and support for Facebook.

In the run up to IFA next week Samsung is also bringing the Gear Circle headset that pairs with a phone over Bluetooth, letting users hear notifications, use voice commands or listen to music through the earbuds.

Meanwhile, LG’s G Watch, one of the first Android Wear devices, has a round smartwatch successor, the G Watch R. It needs to be tethered to a smartphone (via Bluetooth) for any voice communications.

The G Watch R’s key feature is its display, says The Verge, with a 1.3-inch Plastic OLED panel that takes up 100 percent of the watch’s round face. LG promises that it’s viewable in sunlight and clear from any angle. The screen rests in a stainless steel frame, and comes with an interchangeable calf skin leather strap. This device looks perhaps more like a normal analog watch.

It’s powered by Android Wear, so it offers the same Google Now-based experience. You’ll get notifications, easy access to notes and calendar and directions. It’s powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor and 512MB of RAM, plus 4GB of internal storage. It has a heart-rate monitor, unlike the G Watch, plus a handful of health and fitness apps that should make the G Watch R a little more useful as a fitness tracker.

Motorola’s Moto 360, another round Android-powered smartwatch, will have a retail price of $249 and features a heart rate sensor and inductive charging system. The wearable will be introduced next week at IFA in Berlin.

Apple now plans to unveil a new wearable alongside the two next-generation iPhone on September 9, according to Re-Code. The new device will use of Apple’s HealthKit, a health and fitness platform, and Apple’s HomeKit, their new framework for controlling connected devices.