The BlackBerry Future: Software and Automobiles?

Once the darling of business-minded mobile phone users, BlackBerry is now in the midst of a huge slump. And not the kind that can be fixed by a chiropractor! While the chumps people in charge at BlackBerry scramble to figure things out, consumers are left to wonder “well, what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks does this mean for me? If anything?”

Wonder no more! The future may be bleak for BlackBerry but like any relationship cut short, it’ll all end up alright. Here’s the skinny on what BlackBerry’s 2013 woes mean for us consumers and where we can expect the BlackBerry future to take us all.

A Niche Needs Filled

BlackBerry has always catered to businessmen and women. Most notably through the signature QWERTY keyboard. You know, that beloved and distinguishing little feature that BlackBerry abandoned earlier this year with their BlackBerry Z10.

BlackBerry's Old Lineup
Look at those gorgeous QWERTY keyboards! Oh, why did BlackBerry forsake you?

Forget their latest attempt with the Q10. The BlackBerry Q10, reviving the QWERTY keyboard, was released this September. But by then it was already too late. A poor effort this year by CEO Thorsten Heins has left BlackBerry outside the loop to watch businessmen and women opt for more productive devices from Samsung, Microsoft and Apple. Even Nokia is getting in on the action!

Tablets are becoming more prominent and will continue to do so after the highly productive Microsoft Surface 2 and Nokia Lumia 2520 announcements. Apple, notorious for being a more “creative” device than one of productivity, has put forth an effort with their newly collaborative iWork software. Companies are taking steps to fill the productivity niche which right now is wide open.

Keep an eye open over the next year to see who comes out ahead. It’ll take a game changing feature targeted directly at businessmen and women to win the market. Who knows? Maybe BlackBerry will make a comeback and end up in another President’s hands in 2016!

Obama on BlackBerry Smartphone

Two Lights in the Foggy BlackBerry Future

With no longterm CEO and little loyalty among consumers, the BlackBerry future is a difficult one. Luckily, the company only needs to look at the Apple comeback to know that they aren’t yet down and out.

But what can BlackBerry do to regain their former relevance? Here are two outside suggestions for BlackBerry’s future that could be spot on.

  • Interim BlackBerry CEO John Chen recently said “BlackBerry employees need to start thinking differently about the company and accept that we’re really not in phones but we’re in phones for software, for services.” A shifted focus from handsets to software could be in the BlackBerry future. Software like BlackBerry Messenger is already available across Android and Apple devices. The trick will be winning over our attention (and our cash money). BlackBerry handsets aren’t going away altogether, but consumers can expect more attention to software in the near future.
  • Could the BlackBerry future be tied to the future of the automobile industry? Technology reporter John R. Quain writes:

Blackberry has a significant play in the next major technological revolution: the automobile. Back in 2010, Blackberry purchased a little known Ottawa-based company called QNX Software Systems (Canadians are so modest). Ostensibly, the idea was to use QNX’s operating system software to power a growing panoply of Blackberry devices, including a tablet computer (we all know how that went). But QNX’s real strength, indeed what it’s famous for in the tech world, is what’s in the car.

    John goes on to detail a future in which cars talk to each other (vehicle-to-vehicle communication or V2V) to avoid traffic jams, accidents and road hazards like black ice. John’s suggestions for the future of BlackBerry are futuristic but they may not be far off given BlackBerry’s work with auto makers in the past. If nothing else, the prospect of soon being able to nap while driving is making us giddy enough to pass out!

Is BlackBerry doomed to fail or will we witness a triumphant return? Or, will the BlackBerry future be tied to something other than handhelds, such as automobiles? Let us know your thoughts on BlackBerry’s future in the comments below!

8 Wearable Tech Exposed: Gimmicky or Useful?

When news broke this week that Google will be releasing a smartwatch within months, half of the internet went into a frenzy. The other half shrugged and went back about their lives. The truth is, wearable technology isn’t mainstream yet. But it has the potential to be.

For wearable tech to become mainstream though it needs to prove that it makes life easier. Technology is a huge part of our lives, sure. But it will take a strong argument to convince people that gadgets should be fashion accessories. Wearable tech needs to stay trendy, relevant and most importantly, useful. Remember beepers?

Let’s take a look at some of the wearable tech out there and decide: is it a gimmick or is there real value?

Smartwatches

Like it or not, smartwatches are gimmicky. At least right now. There has yet to be a smartwatch released to bring the wearable tech into the mainstream. However, rumors of an Apple and Google smartwatch could potentially make the technology popular with consumers. Let’s take a look at a pair of available smartwatches and what they fail to bring to the market.

Pebble Wearable Tech
Pebble – Gimmick!

The Kickstarter-funded smartwatch Pebble is one of the most popular wearable techs available now. Pebble uses minimalism to differentiate their device and offers the things you’d expect from a smartwatch: email notifications, texts, some apps, etc. And it’s also definitely a gimmick. It looks cool, but the Pebble smartwatch doesn’t actually have any game changing features. There’s nothing I can do with the Pebble that can’t already be done on my phone. We’ll wait for the next edition, thanks!

Samsung Galaxy Gear – Gimmick!
Maybe the ultimate smartwatch gimmick, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is a wearable tech fail. For one, compatibility for the Galaxy Gear is limited to only two Samsung devices as of this post. Secondly, and similarly to Pebble, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch fails to offer consumers a must-have feature. Not to mention around a third of all Galaxy Gears bought at Best Buy have been returned. Smartwatches are gimmicky and unless Google or Apple can break things open with their inevitable devices, smartwatches will likely be outside the mainstream for some time.

Smart Fitness

As it stands now, fitness is the most likely place to find legitimately useful wearable tech. And let’s be real: anything that makes working out easier is totally cool with us! Anyway, fitness and health are not gimmicky at all. Here are two useful wearables for fitness and the “Quantified Self” movement.

Run-n-Read Wearable Tech
Run-n-Read – Useful!
The Run-n-Read will never be a mainstream wearable technology but this little device sure is useful for bookworms on the move. This fitness/multitasking wearable tech syncs with your smart device and clips to your shirt or headband. Hop on the treadmill with an ebook open on your device and the Run-n-Read will adjust the text so it’s readable as you move. The Run-n-Read may seem gimmicky given how limited the functions are. But that’s actually what makes it useful! It addresses a specific problem and effectively solves it. That’s how you make a useful product.

AIRO – Useful!
Stress level is a hard thing to measure. The upcoming AIRO wristband is about to change all that! By using measurable stats like sleep, eating habits, exercise and heart rate, the AIRO wristband can give consumers a good idea of how stressed they actually are. Health is no gimmick and being able to monitor something intangible like stress is not only useful, it’s the future of health technology!

Smart Apparel


Wearable tech isn’t limited to electronics that are clipped on shirts or strapped on wrists. There are even plenty of smart apparel available. Shirts that change colors when sweaty, smart socks and Funderwear are just a small sampling of the smart apparel out there. But is smart apparel a gimmick?

Nike Hyperdunk+ – Useful!
Basketball sneakers are not safe from the wearable tech movement. The Nike Hyperdunk+ basketball shoes are perfect for the baller with big time aspirations. The shoes sync up to your smart device and tell you excatly how high you jumped, how quickly you moved and how hard you played. The statistics give real insights that players can use to tighten up their game making the Nike Hyperdunk+ wearable tech extremely useful. At least for hardcore players. Here we have another case of a niche wearable tech proving useful. Starting to see a trend?

Stealth Wear Wearable Tech
Stealth Wear – Gimmick!
Scared of the NSA or government drones spying on your every move? You, my friend, need to chill out Stealth Wear. This futuristic fashion statement will hide you from unwanted surveillance and effectively draw stares everywhere you go. We would destroy all of our gadgets and move to Madagascar before we made Stealth Wear part of our wardrobe. Do we really need to say it? GIMMICK!

More Wearable Tech

SIGMO – Useful!
SIGMO could possibly be the least gimmicky of all the wearable tech listed here. Have you ever been out of the country? Or maybe had to do business with someone who doesn’t speak English? That’s where SIGMO comes in. This little device provides real time translations in over 25 languages. Now your Spanish vocabulary will be deeper than “mas cerveza por favor”! Check out the product demo:

Google Glass – TBD
Did you really think we’d forget about Google Glass? This smart device has been talked about all year and is considered the poster child for the future of wearable technology. There are plenty of ways that Google Glass could prove to be useful as a wearable tech. Having access to information at a second’s notice is advantageous. So is being able to live-capture moments with video and photo. But where Google Glass will prove most useful as a wearable tech will be with augmented reality interfaces. Imagine being in a new city, equipped with Google Glass. You have no idea where your hotel is, but with Google Glass, you can have a visual trail that leads you right to the doorstep. Google Glass definitely has potential. But first, it has to come to market.

Wearable Tech in Conclusion

Wearable tech has a long way to go before we’re all adopting it. In the early stages of the wearable tech movement, there are various trends evident. For one, wearable tech has a better chance of being useful if it appeals to a specific niche. Smartwatches have failed to break into the wearable tech mainstream because they don’t provide functions beyond what is already available on smartphones. Smartwatches that include a fitness aspect however, provide a function unavailable or limited by a mobile phone. Wearable tech is an unlikely story of function over form.

That’s not to say form isn’t important! Stealth Wear clearly appears to a niche, albeit a highly paranoid one. But it’s outlandish design make it unlikely that we’ll be seeing folks rocking Stealth Wear at the mall. The future of wearable tech relies on smart design and even smarter functions.

What do you think about wearable tech? Is there a gadget out there that you think is the most useful thing ever? Tell us about it in the comments below or connect with us on Facebook!

Nokia Lumia 2520 vs. Microsoft Surface 2: What the Experts Think

Last week we spent a lot of time talking about Apple and haven’t taken the time to explore tablet reviews for the Nokia Lumia 2520 and Windows Surface 2. Both of these tablets were also premiered last week on Tuesday, October 22. While Apple clearly won the majority of hype from tech bloggers, the Lumia 2520 and Surface 2 are both worthy of a tablet review.

With no Lumia 2520 or Surface 2 readily available for my eager paws to play with, it’s time to turn to the experts. And anyway, the internet is rife with tablet reviews for both the Nokia Lumia 2520 and the Microsoft Surface 2. Let’s check out the key points from a few expert tablet reviews instead!

Without further ado, here are what the experts are saying about the Nokia Lumia 2520 and the Microsoft Surface 2.

Nokia Lumia 2520 Tablet Review

Nokia Lumia 2520 Tablet Review

Nokia released their first tablet last week: the Nokia Lumia 2520 which will be released later this year for $499. While the tablet didn’t garner Apple iPad Air levels of excitement, the experts seem to agree that there’s a lot to like about the Lumia 2520.

“Overall it looks and feels incredibly solid, if not a bit predictable: its unibody polycarbonate design and sleek curves scream to the world that it’s very much a Lumia device, regardless of its screen size. There are four colors available: red or white with a glossy finish, and black or cyan with a matt finish.” – Brad Molen of Engadget

“It really takes Nokia’s design language and places it almost perfectly into a tablet form factor. The 1920 x 1080 display is perhaps one of the best I’ve seen on a tablet. Viewing angles are great and the brightness is equally impressive. Color reproduction is incredibly accurate, and it’s clear Nokia has really aimed high with the display on its first tablet.” – Tom Warren of The Verge

The display is clearly one of the top assets of the Nokia Lumia 2520. Most expert hands-on tablet reviews make mention of the brightness and rich colors.

“Nokia is particularly proud of the Lumia 2520′s display, and with good reason. It’s not just resolution – though being Full HD doesn’t hurt – but brightness and viewing angles, with the slate cranking up to 650 Nits at most. You won’t need that sort of brightness indoors, but the promise is far improved outdoor visibility. Either way, colors are bright and vivid, and the backlighting is even.” – Chris Davies of SlashGear

Like the Windows Surface, the Nokia Lumia 2520 can be used with a keyboard case. According to most experts, the keyboard case is an awesome feature.

“Not only does this case unfold into a keyboard, but it has two USB ports on the back, and it folds up into a tablet protector. It’s the best tablet keyboard case I’ve seen yet.” – Sascha Segan of PC Magazine

Nokia Lumia 2520 Keyboard

Where Nokia falls desperately short is with their offering of apps, a complaint echoed by most of the Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet reviews I read. To be fair though, this is more the fault of the Windows operating system as opposed to Nokia’s Lumia 2520 hardware.

“But no shiny shell can solve Windows RT’s central problem, which is that it’s completely confusing for consumers. Go to a GameStop and try to buy a “Windows” game – it won’t run on this “Windows” tablet. See a link online to download a “Windows” app; that won’t run either. While you can indeed find apps by going into the app store on the device, the entire external universe of marketing, advertising, and word-of-mouth chatter about Windows drives people to x86 apps that won’t run on an RT tablet.” – Sascha Segan

Microsoft Surface 2 Tablet Review

Microsoft Surface 2 Tablet Review

Microsoft looked to do with their second tablet what they couldn’t with their first: impress people. Did the Microsoft Surface 2 receive more positive tablet reviews this time around? Let’s see what the experts had to say!

“Getting our hands on the Surface 2, the tablet instantly feels sturdier than the last iteration. It might be partially because the tablet is now made of just two magnesium pieces (the shell itself and the kickstand), but it simply feels like a thin, solid slate of silvered metal topped with glass, giving it a very industrial look.” – Kevin Lee of TechRadar

“At first glance, some of the pain points have indeed been addressed: the ClearType display, for instance, now runs at 1920 x 1080, rather than the 1366 x 768 of the initial model, making for crisper text and more detailed images. There’s certainly less of the fuzziness around text that we noticed on the first-gen version.” – Vincent Nguyen of SlashGear

Two of the most praised features in the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet reviews were the tablet’s keyboard options and the kickstand, which was upgrading with an extra viewing angle.

“Oddly the most impressive pieces of tech to come out of the new Surface line were actually the new Touch and Type Covers. The new, thinner Type Cover offers slightly quieter word processing for the tack-tack self-conscious library goers. But the real show stopper was the new Touch Cover. The cover lets you do even more with an array of 1,092 touch sensors, whereas the old Touch Cover only packed 80.” – Kevin Lee

“Personally, I prefer the physical keys of the Type Cover 2 over the printed keys of the Touch Cover 2, but Microsoft has done some neat engineering tricks on the super-thin keyboard so that it’s faster and far more accurate. My tests bore this out. The Surface body is also unusual in the tablet space because it features a built-in kickstand. Surface 2 gets a second kick setting, something I appreciated as I worked with the it on my lap in a variety of settings: sometimes the more upright setting worked better and for others, the more laid-back one was just right. The second lower setting is also a lot more useful for counter viewing — if you’re standing up.” – Lance Ulanoff of Mashable

In Conclusion

While it’s impossible to draw a solid conclusion about either device without actually playing around with them, the experts paint a good picture of what to expect. Microsoft did a good job upgrading things like the Surface’s display, kickstand and keyboard. According to the experts though, the Microsoft Surface 2 falls short in most other aspects and little has changed from the first Microsoft Surface. Nokia, however, put forth a strong effort for their first tablet. The Nokia Lumia 2520 display, rich colors, keyboard and durable design show that Nokia is headed in the right direction.

Where Nokia, Microsoft and Windows all need to improve is in their offering of apps and the consistency of the operating system across devices. Many experts complained about finding updates and/or apps that weren’t operational on their particular device. This is a problem specific to Windows and one that will need to be figured out soon. If not, the Windows operating system will have a very hard time gaining more ground against Apple’s always consistent operating system.

Have you had hands-on time with either tablet? Which features were you most impressed/unimpressed by? Give us your tablet review in the comments below!

5 Forecasts on the Future of Consumer Electronics from Yesterday’s Apple Event

Yesterday’s Apple event from San Francisco showcased a handful of new Apple products that are sure to impact the future of consumer electronics. Including the newly-named iPad Air! And we’re not surprised. Apple has been doing things other tech brands could only dream of for over 10 years! They do a phenomenal job at recognizing trends and outpacing them. It’s because of this trendiness that we can safely look to Apple to gauge where the market is headed as a whole.

Here are 5 forecasts on the future of consumer electronics based on what was presented at the October 22 Apple event in San Francisco.

Forecasting the Future of Consumer Electronics

  1. Design “WOW” factors. Apple changed the game in 2007 when they turned the cell phone market on its head with the iPhone. They did it again with their new desktop. Now we have the straight from Star Wars Apple Mac Pro. By designing a desktop computer better suited for a mantlepiece than the floor, Apple has challenged other companies to put added focus into what their product looks like when they’re turned off. Smartphones and wearables are already fashionable so it was only a matter of time before their focus shifted into our homes.
    Apple's Future of Consumer Electronics
  2. Even MORE attention to what we want. Yesterday, Apple made sure to cater to their fanboys and girls by way of adding highly demanded features and improvements to their already existing gadgets. The new operating system (which is available for free to everyone!), OS X Mavericks, gives us extended battery life and the iPad Mini has been fitted with a retina display. Just as technology has made it easier for us to interact with brands over social media, it’s that much easier for brands to listen to us. Social media is growing and companies are continuing to tune in to what their users are saying. Look for tech companies to include us more in deciding the future of consumer electronics. And if they don’t, well, we’ll take to Twitter!
  3. If the device doesn’t make human networks easier to access, it’s irrelevant. The future of consumer electronics is one of connectivity. Whether it be on social media, collaborating on Google Docs or seamlessly sharing photo albums with contacts, people want instant access to other people. Yesterday, Apple made strides to a more connected world by adding collaboration to iWork. In a somewhat lame moment before Apple’s iPad Air announcement yesterday, Apple senior vice president of Internet software and services Eddy Cue and Apple vice president of productivity applications Roger Rosner collaborated on an even more awkward poster. Demo aside, the point was received. We will now be able to collaborate on higher level creative projects than ever through OS X Mavericks.

    Eddy Cue
    Image via Macworld
  4. Increasing perks while decreasing price. While sometimes it may seem like Apple isn’t aware that we actually like to have money in our pockets at the end of the month, they do deserve some kudos for dropping the price of the new MacBook Pro a very nice $200 from last year’s model and then hitting us with a $3000 desktop. They added specs, took away size and even gave us OS X Mavericks for absolutely nothing. As an added bonus, we didn’t have to pay extra for the iPad’s new name! It’s not certain that Apple will continue giving out future upgrades for free. However, it feels good to see Apple making the load a little easier to bear this holiday.
  5. Innovation must be green. Apple made it a point to show us at their event yesterday that they are innovating responsibly and no, I don’t mean they build things soberly. They’re moving towards greener practices! After each hardware demo we were shown how Apple is contributing to a healthier planet. By no means should we believe that Apple is currently creating environmentally neutral products, but rest assured that consumer electronics are headed in that direction!

What’s Your Forecast?

Do you think Apple changed the future of consumer electronics? Tell us what you think about the October Apple event in the comments below!