Amazon Buys Ring; Apple Watch Tracks Skiing & SnowBoarding; Cheaper Fitbit Coming; BMW Smartphone Car Key

Amazon has swallowed up Ring, the smart doorbell and video maker. Ring’s WiFi equipped doorbells with cam detect when there is someone at the door, and notify you via your smartphone or tablet, and allow talkback. Geekwire.com says Amazon claims it will let Ring operate pretty autonomously like they have done with Zappos and Twitch, but expect tighter integration with Alexa powered devices as the online giant moves further into IoT.

As of today, if you have an Apple Watch Series 3, you can track skiing and snowboarding activity. Macrumors.com reports that apps snoww, Slopes, Squaw Alpine, Snocru, and Ski Tracks have been updated to enable custom tracking of specialized metrics including: total vertical descent and horizontal distance, number of runs, average and maximum speeds, total time spent, and of course, calories burned. Right now the SkiTracks app is integrated with Activity and Workout, so it will show up as credit towards Activity rings, and Snowcru will port active calorie measurements to the Activity app. Besides a Series 3 watch with the altimeter function, you’ll need WatchOS 4.2 or later. The apps are in the App Store now.

Fitbit didn’t get the kind of sales they wanted with the $300 Ionic smartwatch when it came out last fall. Now, cnet.com says they are close to rolling out a lower priced watch. Leaked renderings show a more rounded case, and the lower line watch won’t have GPS, but will have 50 meter water resistance. The lower priced watch apparently looks a lot like the Pebble Time Steel, which Pebble was making before Fitbit bought them a couple years ago. No pricing or precise release date is out as yet.

BMW showed a smartphone enabled car locking and unlocking at Mobile World Congress this week. According to mashable.com, the BMW Digital Key will be available to owners with Samsung smartphones. Besides the lock function, you can start the car from the phone, and there’s a wireless charging pad. Apparently, up to 5 family members will be able to use the feature, as long as they are on Samsung phones. BTW, you will still need the physical key fob to drive…for now.


UK Military Picks iPhone Over Android; Fitbit Cutting Staff 10%, Focusing On Software

Due to security concerns, the British military has gone for the iPhone 7 instead of Android. According to bgr.com, they feel the overall security is tighter. BT Group is adding some additional security level for them on the handsets. They had originally looked at the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, but just couldn’t lock it down enough, according to TechRepublic.

The wearables market still hasn’t caught fire as many expected it to, and now Fitbit is cutting 10% of its workforce. Arstechnica.com reports that the company is pivoting to software and may be developing its own app store. The cutback is expected to reduce costs $200 million as Fitbit is getting ready to announce lower than expected Q4 earnings. Fitbit did show a freshened app at CES. With purchases of both Pebble and Vector, a European smartwatch startup, it’s possible that Fitbit may be writing a complete OS that could power a future full blown smartwatch.


Galaxy S8 Goes Stereo; iPhone 7s Will See Red; Fitbit Buys and Kills Pebble

Samsung has had some of it’s best successes borrowing things from Apple, so one would think they’d poach the dual cameras of the iPhone 7 Plus for the Galaxy S8. Well, according to bgr.com, the feature they are thinking about grabbing and highlighting is actually stereo speakers. This rumor comes from Fone Arena, and Samsung will not only pick up on iPhone’s stereo speakers, but look to HTC for the marketing. HTC has featured a stereo setup they called BoomSound, and Samsung will be cooking up a flashy name for theirs. Sadly, it won’t be Harman. Although they bought the upscale audio company, they won’t be able to integrate Harman luxury tech into the Galaxy series until 2018.

Apple iPhones are going to see red next year….and we’re not talking about Product (Red.) 9to5mac.com reports they will actually have a red chassis color to add to Black, Jet Black, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. 9to5mac.com picked up the rumor from Macotakara, which correctly touted the demise of the headphone jack. They do differ with KGI Securities, though on the upcoming iPhones. The Japanese site says there will be a high line iPhone 8 with wireless charging and the glass case, but the other two models will be named iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, and will keep metal cases without wireless charging, but will get upgraded internals.

Fitbit has officially bought Pebble. Thenextweb.com says, they also took about 40% of the employees…virtually all from the software side, and they are killing off the smartwatches and Pebble OS. They will be doing more to develop apps for Fitbit products, and haven’t decided if they will even use the Pebble brand. People who contributed to Kickstarter for upcoming Pebble products will get refunds.


Updated Automatic Smart Driving Monitor

Automatic has rolled out its second generation smart driving monitor. The gadget plugs into the ODB2 port on your car….and by ‘your car,’ that’s all cars built since 1996. Cnet.com says the new gadget not only gives you driving data and tracks mileage and fault codes, but works as an app store for cars, with 20 apps available right now. A couple apps pull data so you can easily generate mileage reports for expense reporting, and another to split the cost of carpooling. It now works with Apple Watch and Pebble, with Android Auto integration in the works. Best of all, the second generation model is priced like the 1st at $99.95.

Apple Pay…after an initial splash last fall, has been pretty well operating under…or maybe even off the radar. 9to5mac.com reports that Apple just signed 34 new banks and credit unions, and now there are nearly 300 institutions using it. Trader Joe’s just announced in the last few days that they are starting to activate it in some stores, and Home Depot is moving towards most stores accepting it by the end of the year…although Home Depot says they play to accept as wide a variety of payment systems as possible. If you have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus and haven’t used it, here’s a tip: when you hold the phone near the terminal, don’t touch the fingerprint image on the screen, touch the home button…and touch, don’t PRESS the home button…pressing will activate Siri instead of authorizing the payment!