Review: iHere Rechargeable Item Locator

ihere item locator

Do you lose your keys, phone or other items frequently? We know its difficult to find an item when its lost in your own house. Nonda’s iHere is a nifty little device which you can attach to any item that you tend to lose frequently. Then, when you lose it next, simply open up the iHere app on your smartphone and tap the find button. iHere will start making a noise directing you to its (and eventually the item you are looking for)’s location.

iHere works on low power bluetooth and pairs with your phone. It has a rechargeable battery which lasts several weeks on a single charge. The device can be charged using any USB charger. The main features are:

  1. Item locator
  2. Phone locator
  3. Phone camera shutter button

Design

iHere is made of good quality materials and shows the same level of workmanship as other Nonda products. It is extremely lightweight, yet feels very robust. The material is prone to scratches, but honestly, you cannot avoid getting scratches on this thing owing to where all it will end up if its attached to your keys.

i here charger

The device charges using a USB cable. Charger is the only part of the package which feels flimsy and cheaply made. Not sure why Nonda cut corners here.

Usage

iHere pairs with your phone over bluetooth. The pairing process is very simple and straightforward. If you lose your item, just open the app and tap on find. iHere will start to make noise leading you to the item. This also works the other way round if you lose your phone. Just press the button on iHere and your phone will sound the alarm, even if it is on silent – pretty neat.

ihere-locate-device

In addition to finding your phone using the button on iHere, you can also choose to perform any of the following actions:

  • Voice recorder – Record quick voice memos.
  • Car finder – Click the button on iHere when you park your car and it will trigger the app on your phone to store your current GPS location. Later, when you return back to the parking lot, open the app to guide you to your parked car’s location.
  • Take selfies – iHere can also be used to take selfies with the button acting as the camera trigger.

ihere button functions

iHere also beeps when the phone goes out of range in order to tell you that you may have forgot your phone somewhere. Although helpful, this feature may turn annoying in large sized homes where moving from one corder to another may lead to the device beeping.

Packaging

Like its other products, Nonda has put in a lot of attention to iHere’s packaging. The packaging box feels like its built from premium quality materials and keeps the device safe and in an easy to unpack position.

ihere packing box

ihere unpacking

Conclusion

iHere is a great addition to your keyring. Although it is pegged as a key finder, I used it more to find my phone rather than the keys. But either way, its an inexpensive yet very useful device which will help you save a lot of time in situations of distress. Because of the simple design and overall ease of use, we rate iHere at 5 out of 5 stars. We really could not find any issues with this nifty little device.

iHere retails for about $15.99 on amazon and $19.99 on nonda.

Review: Zus Smart USB Car Charger and Car Locator

zus logo

There are many in-car USB charges available to juice up your devices while on the move. While you may not have paid attention to the modest little charger plugged in your car’s 12V accessory socket, there are a plethora of innovations going on in the segment to make you consider upgrading the device.

First came dual USB chargers. Followed by high powered ones (the ones which can charge your device faster – really useful when using GPS). Then came smart ones which would identify the plugged in device and deliver the charging power to best suit the device. Nonda’s ZUS is a few steps ahead of the curve.

Lets go through the specs first:

  • 2 smart USB charging ports
  • Up to 4.8A output, fully charges 2 iPads in 3.75 Hours
  • Smart Car Finder
  • US Military MIL-STD-810G Grade High Temperature Standard. German Bayer PC + Titanium to withstand temperatures up to 100°C/212°F.
  • In built cooling system to keep the charger at a lower temperature.

Design

The ZUS is a great looking charger with a solid and plush feel. The product is made of premium components and you can feel it when you hold it in your hands. The build quality is stellar. There is also a 24k gold limited edition available on amazon.
 
zus-charger-design 

Usage

Apart from being “smart” in a traditional way of detecting the best charging power for the plugged in device, ZUS is also a car finder. Here is how it works:

  1. ZUS has a bluetooth chip built in.
  2. You download the app and pair your phone with ZUS.
    ZUS iOS app
  3. ZUS detects when you have parked your car and tells your phone to record your current location. You don’t need to do anything – the app notifies you that it has recorded the parking location.  You can even set a parking timer if you are parked in a metered zone.
    zus app parking timer
  4. When returning to your car, you open the app and it leads you in the direction of your car. You can switch between compass and map views.
    zus-car-locator zus-car-locator-2 zus-car-locator-3

The whole process works flawlessly. Every time. Why would you need a car charger to record your car’s parking location on your phone you ask? You don’t. But you need a way to tell your phone that you have parked and that its time to record the location. Traditionally, car finder apps have relied on the premise that humans beings are diligent/attentive/careful/patient enough to open the app when they park their car and tell the app to record the location. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. Recording the car’s location is not the part of the problem to solve, telling the app is. The folks at Nonda made ZUS to solve the right part of the problem. It sits humbly in your car’s accessory socket to serve the regular purpose of charging your phone in the car and as soon as you park it, it tells the app to record the location. No human intervention is required. How does ZUS know you have parked your car? Simple:

  • In most vehicles, when you switch off ignition, the accessory socket is turned off. ZUS uses this event to derive that you are parking the car.
  • In the vehicles where the accessory socket is not turned off when the ignition is switched off, ZUS relies on Bluetooth to determine if your phone is nearby. If you are heading away from your car, it derives that you have parked your car and tells the app to record the location. This feature will also work in the scenarios where you might be making a quick trip to a store and leave the car’s engine turned on because someone is sitting in the car. Pretty neat.
The only improvement I would like to see here is to have the ability to add common locations you frequent to disable ZUS from recording your parking location every time you visit there. you really don’t want to be notified when you are parking your car in front of your home. Having an ability to setup such locations in the app would be great.

Packaging

Nonda has paid a lot of attention to ZUS’s packaging, Its elegantly packed in a white box with the product attached using almost invisible notches. The packaging looks great on the shelves and feels like a premium product.
 
zus-charger-packaging zus-charger-unboxed

Conclusion

If you live in an area with huge parking lots, this thing is going to save you a lot of time and effort finding your car. If you live in a city and park on metered slots, this thing will also help you avoid getting your car towed. The only place where it will not work reliably is underground parking lots because there is no way for your phone to find the current location. But that is a reasonable limitation to have with all that it has to offer.

As of today, ZUS retails for $33.99 on nonda.co. If you have multiple cars, Nonda offers discounts if you buy 2 or 5 units together. ZUS is also available on amazon for $35.99.  According to us, the price is reasonable given the value the products adds to your everyday life. With a beautiful and robust design, coupled with super useful & cool features, we rate the ZUS at 4.5 out of 5 stars. The half star is taken away because of the missing home geofencing option I mentioned earlier.

BTW, the 24k Gold Limited Edition is currently available, if you have $499.99 to spare (and really want to increase the chances of your car being broken into).

Breaking: Netflix now Available Officially in India

netflix logo

CES 2016: Netflix announced in a press event at CES 2016 in Las Vegas that it is going global. The company said that starting immediately, it is available in almost all the countries of the world except a few (Crimea, North Korea, Syria & China).
netflix-plans-pricing-India
The plans for India start at INR 500 per month and go up to INR 800 per month. The pricing is similar to US pricing and pretty close to what you would get after converting the USD plan rates to INR. However, do not expect all the US content to be available in the Indian version. Netflix says it is still working to get distribution rights for many titles (including some of the original content the company has produced).
If you are wondering how much data will be used while watching Netflix, check this page. To find out what all countries Netflix is available in, check this page.

TataSky Launches Transfer Set Top Box

tatasky transfer

TataSky has launched a new DVR Set Top Box which enables customers to transfer recorded content to their devices and to watch later anywhere. This technology is similar to what Comcast offers its customers in the US. Here is how it works:

  • Record the content you want to watch later.
  • Transfer the recorded content to your device via the TataSky mobile app.
  • Watch the content anywhere, anytime you want.
  • You can also stream the recorded content to your device over WiFi in your home. This is useful in scenarios when someone else is watching something live on the TV.

Note that you will have to subscribe to a Transfer Pack to avail this feature. The transfer pack can be added to a maximum of two devices per subscriber ID.

The new set top box with connection costs INR 9300 which is very steep in our opinion. TataSky should introduce contact based pricing plans to reduce this entry price.

iOS 9 is now Available

ios9 logo

Apple’s latest mobile operating system is now available for download. iOS 9 focuses majorly on performance improvements and is compatible with iPhones up to 4S and iPads up to original mini. Here are some key changes in the new version:

  • Battery life improvements.
  • A new system wide font. This is the same font used in Apple Watch.
  • A new News app to subscribe and catch up to  news.
  • Improved notes app supporting photos, sketches & lists.
  • Transit directions in Maps.
  • Store cards in Wallet (previously passbook) in addition to Financial institution cards.
  • Far better multitasking features for the iPad.
  • Smarter Siri.
  • 6 digit passcodes.

The battery life improvements alone make this upgrade worthy. Head to Settings – General – Software Update on your device to update to the latest version.

Apple announces the new Apple TV

apple tv 2015

In addition to launching the new iPhone 6S and the iPad Pro, Apple also announced the much awaited refresh to their Apple TV. It was long due an update for the small yet mighty powerful device that has been silently gaining momentum in our living rooms.

The new Apple TV is slightly taller than its predecessor, however, it is far more powerful. Here are the specs:

  • 64 bit A8 chip
  • Siri Remote with touch interface, accelerometer and gyroscope
  • HDMI 1.4 with CEC
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • tvOS
  • Available in 32GB and 64GB

The new tvOS and the Siri remote are the two instrumental changes in the new Apple TV. Together, they offer a new way to control your TV. In addition to a touch based control, the remote has dual microphones and a Siri button. You can ask Siri to do stuff and search for titles. During playback, Siri can also answer your questions about the content being played or anything else going around the world. You can also ask Siri to turn subtitles on or off and asking “what did he say?” will rewind the playback 30 seconds back. The remote can also control your TV/AVR via HMDI CEC.

Probably one of the best new features is Siri’s ability to search for titles across the installed apps. Let’s say you ask Siri to search for The Imitation Game and its available on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. Siri will display all the options to you to choose from. Some other set top boxes have been doing that, but then again, they do not have AirPlay or the iTunes Store.

The updated processing power also lets you play high end games on the new Apple TV. You can use the Siri remote as a Wii type controller or but 3rd party dedicated game controllers (like the Nimbus Steelseries Controller).

Apple is also encouraging developers to build general purpose apps for the Apple TV. So expect to see apps from GILT, AirBnB and others. Not sure how successful these will be, but supporting all the platform using a single app package is a dream come true for developers.

Meet the new iPad Pro

NewImage

There was no surprise when Apple launched a bigger iPad at its press event on September 9th. There have been several leaks suggesting that Apple was working on an iPad with a screen as big as a laptop. The iPad Pro, as Apple is calling it, is, for the lack of a better descriptor, almost a laptop. Here are the specs:

  • 12.9 inch screen.
  • A9X chip with embedded M9 co-processor and a new memory architecture.
  • 8 megapixel iSight camera and 1.2 megapixel FaceTime HD camera.
  • Dual microphones.
  • Apple SIM.
  • Four speaker audio.
  • Apple Keyboard and Pencil support

This new iPad is aimed at serious professional work. With the fastest processor and advances in the display, the iPad Pro is aimed at professionals who are looking for an optimal balance of productivity and portability. With the Apple Pencil and the keyboard, Apple deviates from its long term stand of using fingers as the only way to interact with its touch screen devices.  This shows that they are willing to prove themselves wrong in order to deliver what the consumers want (and make lots of money).

We are yet to see what professionals think about the Apple Pencil and the keyboard, but they seem great from the first look. Here is a video showing the Apple Pencil in action:

The new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are here

NewImage

Apple announced the latest iPhones at its press event on September 9th. The new iPhone are now available for pre-order and will be available in stores on September 25th. Keeping with the tradition of the ’S’ series, they look strikingly similar to their predecessor. Apple says that everything about them have changed. Here are the specs of the new ones:

  • The latest 64 bit A9 chip with embedded M9 co-processor chip making it even more energy efficient.
  • 12 megapixel camera with new iOS capabilities to take live photos – photos that have a small amount of video captured around them.
  • 4K video recording.
  • 5 megapixel FaceTime HD camera with the added capabilities of the screen acting as the flash.
  • Faster Touch ID sensor.
  • Always on Hey Siri.
  • Aircraft grade aluminum body.
  • 3D Touch – a pressure sensitive touchscreen that can be used to interact with the operating system in a whole new way.

Arguably the most touted feature in the new models is 3D touch. Apple is known for implementing things in the right and the most intuitive way. For years, ‘it just works’ has been their USP. While many other have already tried incorporating pressure sensitive touch and UI elements in their devices before, the reason everyone is rejoicing on iPhones offering them means that the others haven’t gotten it right yet.

3D touch enables a whole new layer of interactions with the device. With the main focus on improving the efficiency of our interaction with our devices, 3D touch enables you to peek at content (emails, messages, photos, links) by hard touching (pressing?) on it. Touching harder will open (pop) that content without the need of the previous explicit normal touch. It might sound trivial, but once you get used to it, it will become a second nature and can save a lot of taps and swipes. Another way Apple is using this technology is by offering quick actions when you 3D touch an app’s icon. This gesture opens a customizable menu giving you quick access to the features you might use more often. For example – 3D touching the camera icon may give you options to take a selfie, or record a slow motion video – something which would have otherwise taken you a few taps. It will be really interesting to see what developers are going to do with this new technology. Games are already lined up to take advantage of this.

Here is a video in the god like baritone of Sir Johny Ive explaining the 3D touch technology in the new iPhones:

And here is the new ad Apple made for the iPhone 6S:

You can pre-order the iPhones here: http://www.apple.com/shop/buy-iphone/

Intel and Micron Announce Storage 1000 Times Faster than Current Flash Storage

intel-logo

Intel and Micron have announced a new 3D XPoint memory technology that is 1000 times faster than the current NAND bases flash storage options. A breakthrough in computer storage, this  is the first new type of non volatile computer memory created in 25 years.

Intel is already mass producing the memory and it is expected to go on sale in 2016.  The technology is also more durable than the current standards and can enable a whole new set of applications ranging from real time tracking of diseases to 8K computer gaming.

Here is an interactive diagram of the new storage technology:

The storage products are expected to be expensive at first with prices going down with time.

[via 9to5mac]

I Bought an Apple Watch and Returned it

apple watch logo

I was one of those people who pre-ordered the apple watch at 12 am on April 10 and still got the shipping estimate of June. I had bought the Space black stainless steel with link bracelet. It cost a whooping $1195 with taxes here in California and I was praying that it better be god damn good to justify that price. Sadly, it wasn’t. When I got it on June 2nd, after the usual adrenaline rush of unboxing an apple product subsided, and after using it for about a week, I came to the conclusion that this is a product that Steve Jobs would never have let to be launched in its current state. But then again, he let 1st generation iPad to be launched. So I am not sure. Surprisingly, battery is not the problem.

Looks

One of the first things that I noticed is that it does not look as good as Apple shows it in the ads and on apple.com. Those are enlarged and processed images with reflections that make it look like something from out of this world. Turns out, its not. Don’t get me wrong. It still looks awesome and way better than all other smartwatches out there. Just not as good as it looks in official photos. Having spent a huge sum of money based on these images alone (the exact model was not available in the store I went to try it on), I was disappointed.

apple watch

Screen activation

The second thing that bothered me was that the screen won’t activate in a lot of highly probably real world scenarios. I understand that Apple needs to keep the screen off to preserve battery life and activate it when you tilt your wrist. But for me, it did not activate in a lot of scenarios:

  • While biking when I tilt my wrist just a little while still holding the handlebar.
  • When working on a desk (sitting or standing) and I tilt my wrist a little to look at the watch.
  • When my arms are folded and I want to glance at my watch by tilting my wrist a little while still keeping my hands folded.
  • While lying down, playing a game on my iPhone and trying to glance on my watch by tilting the wrist a little.

All the above scenarios are so common that the watch started to annoy me by not working in those. This is when I never look at my watch for finding out the current time. Imagine the horror if I do.

Slowness

I read in the reviews that the watch is very slow. I still wanted to see it for myself what they are talking about. And the reviews are not lying. This is 2015 and you expect a product being launched during this time to be super fast and reliable. Apple is going to allow native apps in the next watchOS. This should have been taken care of at the time of the release. And I don’t even know if its going to solve the problem. The Watch’s processor seemed too slow to me to take the load of what we want it to do. A lot of the widgets crashed for me. That just reflects poor coding. The next release of iOS and watchOS is going to focus on performance and bug fixing. If Apple has to focus a release on performance and bug fixing, that itself is not a good sign. These two things were considered as default in any software that Apple shipped. It just reflects that the leadership team is focussing on aggressively releasing stuff even if it is poor in quality.

Digital Crown

I rarely used the digital crown. I think it is a great invention and incredibly precise and accurate. However, with people used to touching screens so much, the 1st instinct is to always use the screen to scroll or tap buttons. And with Apple’s super accurate touch (and force touch), the digital crown is basically redundant. A problem which arises due to using the touchscreen instead of the digital crown is that you end up smudging the watch screen with your fingerprint a lot. And given that its a tiny screen, the finger prints are far more visible on it than on your phone’s screen.

No use for thumb

The primary finger I use on my iPhone is my thumb. It is also used a lot on my MacBook’s keyboard for hitting the space bar. Unfortunately, the thumb has no use in the apple watch as there is no button on the left side of the watch. Atleast in the orientation I wear my watch (on my left wrist). This left my thumb stranded a lot of times. And its a weird feeling.

Siri

There is no way to correct Siri’s speech to text errors on the watch. With an Indian English accent, its difficult and frustrating a lot of times even with the correct accent selected in your iPhone’s settings. I also noticed that Siri did not have good enough ambient noise cancellation. When outdoors on a busy street, Siri on my Apple Watch continued to listen (the noise) long after I had stopped speaking. The iPhone’s Siri worked perfectly in the same environment. It might be because of the microphone design on the watch, but its super annoying.

Another intermittent issue I faced was that the touchscreen did not register my taps while walking or biking. So if there is an incoming call, tapping on the answer button wont do anything unless you are standing still. It looks like the watch software focuses on preserving the battery and avoiding erroneous taps and inputs which are bordering on some edge cases which need to be perfected and tested thoroughly before it is ready for power users.

There are a lot of good things like seamless handoff, quick replies, health tracking etc., but they were not enough for me to keep the watch. Even the features introduced in the WWDC keynote failed to impress me enough to buy this version again. The apple watch to me, feels like a product rushed to launch before it was ready and I will likely wait until the next iteration(s) to get my hands on one.

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