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Sony SmartWatch 3 Review


Sony’s new Android Wear-powered SmartWatch 3 bucks a trend of the company releasing devices that use their own wearable platform, opting instead to jump on the bandwagon that includes a host of other Android wearable OEMs. It ends up being a big benefit, when you compare this device against previous SmartWatch models, which have proven overwhelmingly uninspiring.


  • 1.6″ 320×320 display
  • Quad-core ARM A7 1.2GHz processor
  • 4GB storage, 512MB RAM
  • IP68 water/dust resistance
  • MSRP: $250
  • Product info page


  • Built-in GPS
  • Sport-ready design


  • Boring design
  • Pricier than more exciting options


Sony’s design on the SmartWatch 3 might be described as “minimal” or “classic” by some, but to me it’s just boring. The look of the device reminds me of what you might find in a reference document made available to Android Wear OEMs – the generic and prototypical Android Wear hardware that is intended as a placeholder, rather than an actual shipping gadget.

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This is even more disappointing because the SmartWatch 3 arrives at a time when it seems like other OEMs were just getting it, so to speak, in terms of realizing that the key to distinguishing oneself in a market where the software is essentially cookie cutter is by providing a unique angle on design. Sony’s watch feels like it has much more in common with the rushed offerings available at Android Wear’s launch than with more mature watches like the G Watch R or Asus ZenWatch.

While uninspired, the SmartWatch 3’s design does provide some benefits; the silicon band is durable and comfortable, plus it can be worn during all kinds of activity. Sony’s decision to make the watch unit itself swappable, rather than using a standard band, has advantages if it comes up with a line of different types of cases to house it, but feels limiting at launch with only color options to choose from.

One other thing that Sony has done right with this – they’ve made it so that it charges via standard micro USB, via a port on the back. It’s so much better than the proprietary chargers every single other device maker seems to be opting for that it almost makes up for the overall ‘meh’ look of the watch. Almost.


I’ve said this so many times now I feel like a broken record, but Android Wear devices are mostly of a piece when it comes to feature sets. They all offer notifications from your connected Android smartphone, they all allow for voice commands, and dictated response to messages in apps that support those features. They all track your steps, too.

Other things they don’t all do include tracking your heart rate, and the Sony SmartWatch lacks the sensors necessary for those features. This is not, in fact, a major strike against it: heart rate tracking on these devices is of limited value at best, since they can only take your pulse after you stay very still for a few minutes, and then you only get a snapshot of a moment in time. If you’re an athlete doing heart rate-based zone training, this is worthless, and if you’re just an average person, it’s mildly interesting for the more curious, but mostly useless for just about everyone else.

As for what Sony does include, the SmartWatch 3 is the first Android Wear device with onboard GPS. That GPS comes in handy now that Google has added support to Android Wear as a platform for its powers, and this makes it much better for using when you’re out for a run without your phone attached. The app works with Googles’ own MyTracks, and combined with offline Bluetooth and song storage, it can replace a lot of basic fitness trackers and works as a competent smartwatch when connected back up at home.

The SmartWatch 3 also has a hidden payload: It supports Wi-Fi connections directly on the watch, but that’s not a feature supported by Android Wear yet, so for now it remains a tantalizing, albeit toothless aspect of the device’s overall design.


Sony’s SmartWatch 3 performs well as a dedicated fitness device, but in that capacity it competes with gadgets like the TomTom Cardio and Garmin’s devices. Many of those have continuous heart rate monitoring, which is even more appealing for hardcore fitness enthusiasts, in addition to GPS and fitness coaching support.

That said, the SmartWatch, in keeping with its rudimentary but effective design, offers a steadfast Android Wear experience overall, ticking the boxes without really excelling in any particular area. Its battery life is around a day with always-on screen, under the life leader LG G Watch R but on par with most other Android smartwatches out there.

The display is weaker than most on the SmartWatch 3, however, perhaps owing to the transflective tech used to make the LCD easier to read both in bright light and darker situations. It succeeds when the screen is in its passive mode, but it does not look good when the LCD is actually active, and as a result the benefits that come with using transflective tech are mostly missed.

Bottom Line

Sony’s SmartWatch 3 is one of the latest in Android Wear devices, but it has some failings I’d expect from much earlier entrants. The painfully neutral design feels as though it won’t be able to win over anyone with looks alone, and the lacklustre display really pales when measured against others on the market. The device’s saving grace is its use of onboard GPS, as well as that future gift of local Wi-Fi, both of which make the SmartWatch 3 the best Android Wear device for those looking to take advantages of updates to the platform and third-party apps as they come in. That means making some bets on the future, however, and it’s impossible to say that better hardware won’t be available from others by the time that happens.

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This Little USB Necklace Hacks Your Computer In No Time Flat


Quick! The bad guy/super villain has left the room! Plug in a mysterious device that’ll hack up their computer while an on-screen progress bar ticks forward to convey to the audience that things are working!

It’s a classic scene from basically every spy movie in history. In this case, however, that mystery device is real.

Samy Kamkar — developer of projects like that massive worm that conquered MySpace back in 2006, or SkyJack, the drone that hijacks other drones — has released a video demonstrating the abilities of a particularly ridiculous “necklace” he sometimes wears around.

Called USBdriveby, it’s a USB-powered microcontroller-on-a-chain, rigged to exploit the inherently awful security flaws lurking in your computer’s USB ports. In about 60 seconds, it can pull off a laundry list of nasty tricks:

  • It starts by pretending to be a keyboard/mouse.
  • If you have a network monitor app like Little Snitch running, it uses a series of keystrokes to tell LittleSnitch that everything is okay and to silence all warnings.
  • It disables OS X’s built-in firewall.
  • It pops into your DNS settings and tweaks them to something under the hacker’s control, allowing them to replace pretty much any website you try to visit with one of their own creation.
  • It opens up a backdoor, then establishes an outbound connection to a remote server which can send remote commands. Since the connection is outbound, it eliminates the need to tinker with the user’s router port forwarding settings.
  • It closes any windows and settings screens it opened up, sweeping up its footprints as it heads for the door.

So in 30-60 seconds, this device hijacks your machine, disables many layers of security, cleans up the mess it makes, and opens a connection for remote manipulation even after the device has been removed. That’s… kind of terrifying.

While the video above focuses on OS X, the methods tapped here aren’t exclusive to Apple’s platform. Kamkar says everything shown so far is “easily extendable to Windows or *nix.”

So what can you do to protect yourself from things like this? Not a whole lot, really — that’s why attacks like this and BadUSB are so freaky. A lot of these flaws are inherent to the way the USB protocol was designed and implemented across so many hundreds of millions of computers; short of filling your USB ports with cement or never, ever leaving your computer’s ports unattended while out and about, there’s no magic fix.

[via Hacker News]

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Duet Makes Your iPad A No-Compromise Display For Your Mac


iPad-as-secondary-display apps have been around almost as long as the iPad, but most who used them once have seldom used them since. These things mostly work over Wi-Fi, and work poorly over Wi-Fi at that, with unwatchable video performance, choppy animation and tons of lag, even in the best of circumstances. Duet, a new app from a team that includes ex-Apple display engineering talent, changes all of that with a secondary display experience on an iPad (or even an iPhone) that feels like magic.

I was initially highly sceptical of Duet founder Rahul Dewan’s claims regarding his app’s performance – lag free performance, even for games (on recent Macs) with 60fps refresh rates? Sounds like a “go home, you’re drunk” situation. But Duet manages it, and with minimal installation headaches, too.

The key to the magic is using a wired connection (via Lightning or 30-pin dock connector) and the mandatory installation of a new display driver on your Mac that will recognize the connected iPad as a monitor. This does require a restart, which if you’re like me and almost never do that, plus have thousands of things open, can be a bit annoying. But once you boot back up, Duet is installed as a menu bar application, and provides a helpful tooltip window at first launch to get you started.

On the iPad side, you simply purchase and install Duet from the App Store and then open it to get things going, then so long as you’re connected via cable to your Mac and the OS X application is already running, it should find your iPad and automatically add it as another display, just like those you’d connect via Thunderbolt, DisplayPort or HDMI. You can adjust frame rate and resolution according to your machine’s performance capabilities, and your battery conservation needs.

The issues that I found were minor – some strange artifacting appeared on one of my other external monitors, a remnant of a moved Finder window that disappeared when I brought my mouse cursor to the area; and high CPU usage, which didn’t otherwise appear to affect performance of apps including Final Cut on my office iMac, but which might affect battery life considerably when used with a notebook. Neither issue will prevent it from becoming a daily use utility, however.

Dewan told me he created the app based on a wish expressed by his father that he able to use his iPad in this manner, after which he battened the hatches and created Duet in an intense development cycle covering just 30 days – aided by his experience as a display engineer working at Apple on both the Mac and iPad side.

Duet works with only one iDevice at a time for now, but support for additional devices, as well as improved CPU usage and even Windows support are planned for the future. The app is $10 on the App Store for a limited time, and the companion app is free. If you’ve ever bought a secondary display app in the past, or wanted to but were scared off by questionable performance, you must get this one.

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Jawbone UP3 Likely Won’t Ship In Time For Christmas After All


If you had plans to tuck a Jawbone UP3 under the tree for someone this year, it’s probably time to start thinking about something else.

When Jawbone first told us about its plans to release a new fitness tracker, the company wouldn’t give us an exact date — only that it was coming “later this year.” Turns out even that might be a stretch.

According to some sleuthing by Wareable, the shipping estimate for pre-ordered units has only slipped further and further away over the past few weeks. In November, it read “6-7 weeks”; a month later, it’s slipped to “8-9 weeks.”

Sad trombone.

According to comments from Jawbone, the first batches of UP3 bands are now set to arrive in early 2015 for those who ordered earliest. Those people are also being offered $40 in credit or a free Jawbone Move (usually $50) to help take some of the sting off. As for everyone else who isn’t already in the queue, you’re probably looking at closer to February/March.

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New Secret Is A Shameless Clone Of Yik Yak


It is.





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RebelMouse Expands Its Publisher Tools With The River, A Personalized Newsfeed


RebelMouse first launched as a way for people to aggregate their social network updates into a “social front page,” but more recently, it’s been working to give publishers social tools for their own websites and apps, through a platform called Rebel Roar. Now it’s rolling out the latest piece of Rebel Roar — The River.

If you’re on Facebook or pretty much any other site with a newsfeed, the look of The River should be pretty familiar. Except it’s probably less random, since it’s tied to a specific site or community. Basically, The River creates a place where people can track community activity based on the people and the topics that they follow. And yes, it works in mobile apps, too.

It can be a challenge to build an online community, but RebelMouse founder and CEO Paul Berry (formerly CTO at the Huffington Post) pointed to a few features that help ensure that people aren’t just staring at an empty feed and wondering, “Where is everybody?” For one thing, he said it “ingests social graphs from all the networks, so that you’re not starting from zero.” Or, if you have a favorite writer or editor (ahem), you could follow them and see whenever they publish a new article on the main site.

Plus, you’re not just seeing comments, but other activities like follows and likes, which should give you get a good sense of what other people are reading and who they’re following. For example, animal news site The Dodo  just launched its version of The River this week, and when I signed up, I was presented with a feed of recently published stories, no following required.

The River is interesting in and of itself, but I also wanted to talk to Berry about the broader strategy behind Rebel Roar, a platform that also includes the ability to A/B test headlines and feature social widgets like quizzes and polls. He said Rebel Roar is supposed to help companies fight back against online readers’ tendency to read one page or article and then go away.

Berry said this doesn’t reflect a change in direction for RebelMouse, but rather “iterating on the same thing.” He added, “More and more, at RebelMouse we’ve become obsessed with super charging content, growing audience, and turning that growth into lasting and loyal community.”

For some users, it’s enough to create the aforementioned social front page on the RebelMouse site, but there are publishers and brands who, understandably, want to build their own communities on their own sites.

“Really, the transition is we’ve evolved into a B2B SaaS company [i.e., a business that sells subscription software to other businesses],” he said.

Asked how many users RebelMouse has, Berry said there are 4.2 million overall, including 1,650 paying clients. He also noted that Rebel Roar is accelerating, since the time needed to create a Roar site has gone from months to weeks to days.

Rebel Roar and The River from RebelMouse on Vimeo.

Featured Image: RebelMouse

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