Olio Keeps Trying

You have to hand it to a company that keeps on trying…

Over the past year, I’ve done a lot with wearables. Again, here’s all the links to the articles I’ve written on them.

Microsoft Band

Fitbit Surge

Pebble Time

Apple Watch Sport

Olio Model One

Waterproof-Watch-5

This list is in sharp contrast to the state of the wearable’s market now. It’s not as prolific, and its currently stagnating a bit, as everyone – and every device – that’s still in the market tries to decide where the next step is.

Case in point – the Olio Model One. It looks awesome; but at the time of review, if you tried to use it past a 2-4 hour window, you’d be out of luck. The battery life was atrocious. It was effectively, unusable due to the battery burning through a charge, especially if it was out of range of your phone.

However, Olio hasn’t given up on the Model One; and despite me being bitterly disappointed and down on it out of the gate, I continue to be hopeful as new software updates come out for it.

Another case in point – Olio has recently released Model One Software Version 1.4; and boy..! What a difference a release (or two) makes!

Olio has included the following in this update:
Gesture – You can now select ‘High’ for a sensitive gesture response, ‘Medium’ for the current default that you’ve been experiencing with gesture on, or ‘Low’ for a less sensitive gesture response and optimum battery life. The gesture feature is located in Settings on your Model One.
Bluetooth – This update also includes improvements to Bluetooth connectivity,
Overall UI Improvements,
Battery Life optimizations for iPhone users

I’ve noticed the following with this update:

1. Battery Life – Battery life is improved by 3x. I can now make it through the day – 12-14 hours without having my watch run out of power. The device is now (in the most basic terms) usable. I can use it without having to recharge or worry about if and when (not it… WHEN) my watch will run out of power.

I still have to make certain that I take my phone with me to meetings. Bluetooth will still go haywire, trying to reconnect to my phone if I’m out of range…

This still needs to improve. The Model One can’t be considered a success here until it can go at LEAST 24-36 hours without needing a charge. Heck, the Microsoft Band version 1 (Part 1 Part 2) can do that.
2. Bluetooth – Yes, it connects quicker. Yes, it seems to find my phone better; but when it loses connectivity, it still searches like mad.

What needs to happen here is that if the phone goes out of range or the watch “loses” the phone, the watch needs to check your schedule. If you have an appointment during the time of communication loss, then the watch shouldn’t try to reconnect until after the appointment ends. Then it should try three times on its own, and then give up. The watch face should turn red (or give some other visual clue that its lost connectivity and has stopped trying on its own to connect) and then give the user the opportunity to reconnect manually. Olio Assist can house the settings.
3. Gesture Sensitivity – High is too high, low is too low, and medium… can be a weird combination of the two at times. Unfortunately, for me, medium is NOT “just right.”

Stay tuned. Olio promises many more updates and improvements to the Model One in the coming months. I’ll have an update on those that make an impact posted to Soft 32 as soon as I can.

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2015 Predictions

Here are my technology predictions for 2015…

Businessman Consulting Glowing Crystal Ball

If there’s one thing that you can count on every year, its that nearly every website and [tech] publication will have a best and/or worst of the [outgoing] year feature as well as a [my] predictions for the coming year feature. In fact, in many cases, it can be laughable. Many have come to expect both of these types of articles; and in fact its something that I’ve tried to embrace as much as I can, believe it or not.

While I haven’t done a best/worst of the outgoing year set of articles here on Soft32, I do enjoy making predictions for the coming year and then reviewing those predictions at the end of the year to see how I did. Those micro-look backs can be kinda fun. A lot can change in a year.

So without too much pomp and circumstance, here are my predictions for the coming year of 2015.

2015 Makes or Breaks Wearable Computing

A lot has been happening in the Wearable Computing category over the past 12 or so months. While there’s been little to no news on Google Glass and one can likely (thankfully??) declare it pretty much dead, wearables have taken off here at the end of 2014. There are a boatload of new fitness bands out there. There are also a great many new smartwatches hitting the market and while you can’t figure out what’s what without a program, its clear that something is about to happen.

2015 is going to be the year that either makes or breaks this computing hardware category. Period. This middle of the road, undefined but possibly probable burgeoning market gets defined in 2015. Remember, it’s the year that the Apple Watch is going to get released.

And that’s the lynch pin.

Apple’s Apple Watch is either going to totally set this market on fire where we see a TON of companies trying to jump on the me-too wagon, or I think the category kinda just fizzles and cools off. If Apple Watch can’t make it, I don’t think anything really will.

Wearable computing has been sorta hanging out in the background waiting for something to define it. Fitness bands like the Nike Fuel Band or any number of Fitbit bands, for example, have been out there for a while, and while the quantitative self is big in just about every mobile OS on the market today, if tools like Apple Watch don’t hit and hit big, then I think the whole category of computing devices just bombs.

Cost may be the biggest contributing factor to all of this, too. Apple Watch starts at $350 bucks; AND you have to have an iPhone to pair it with, at least in the beginning. That’s a big investment to make on top of your new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, or even iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s, the latter two, just now can be considered, “paid for” or fully depreciated. Spending an additional $350 bucks on top of either a subsidized or financed iPhone may be difficult for some to shoulder.

However, suffice it to say, that if Apple Watch doesn’t kill it, you can pretty much count on the rest of the market dying and this computing category fading away.

Phablets become more Relevant, but not in the US (yet)

Most computing users I know, want a bigger screen than what can be found on their phone or tablet. Maybe is the crowd I’m hanging out with as I *AM* getting a little older; but while tablets and smartphones are GREAT for computing on the go, most everyone that I talk to or associate with prefers having a bigger screen to compute on. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why phablets are becoming so popular.

Phablets are huge in the Asian markets. Many people there have one computing device and only one computing device, and having something WITH a big of a bigger screen is where they’re headed; but they still need a mobile phone. This converged device, if you will, or the phablet, gives them the [mobile] computing power they want and need; but also keeps it [mostly] affordable and provides that bigger screen.

In the US, while phablets are gaining in popularity, and I expect that to continue somewhat even here, many people consider them to be a bit too big. In those Asian markets I mentioned where a phablet may be a user’s ONLY computer, I can certainly understand their popularity. In the US, where most have access to a smartphone and a secondary computing device like a tablet, notebook or desktop PC, the urgency or need for a phablet isn’t as high as it is overseas.

I don’t see this trend taking any real hold, here in the US. Phablets are cool. Some of them are very usable, but I don’t see them eating too much more into the smartphone or tablet markets here. Phablets run in the 5″ to 6″ screen size range, and I don’t see users leaving their 7″, 9″ or 10″+ sized tablets for a 5″ or 6″ screen. Especially when we have access to another device, likely with an even bigger screen. We just don’t have the need. I don’t see those market conditions changing much in 2015, and such, the phablet, while an interesting and amusing dalliance here, won’t cannibalize the US tablet market too much more than it already has.

There is a possibility that this may change, as devices like the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy Note 4 gain in popularity, but I just don’t see it.

Mobile computing trends here in the States will likely stay the course in 2015.

Mobile Broadband becomes More of a Need than a Want

Mobile Broadband will see a HUGE gain in 2015. I think we’re going to see a big uptake on usage and you’re going to see carriers like AT&T and Verizon struggle to keep up with T-Mobile’s whole, no-contract, Uncarrier thing.

If Apple Watch takes off like I think it will – and I think it will end up being huge (and therefore the wearable market will also get bigger as everyone tries to jump on to ride the wave), you’re going to see more and more people need and want mobile broadband. I think we’re going to have issues going forward in this category. Mobile traffic is going to get congested, and there’s going to be an even bigger demand for additional mobile spectrum, beginning in 2015.

Competition is going to heat up and I think we’ll see the bigger carriers begin to shift away from prepaid and begin offering better postpaid (pay as you go) plans, as people find that they don’t want to be tied to contracts so much anymore.

Anyway you slice it, or how ever it happens, there’s going to be a huge push for bigger, better, faster, and MORE mobile broadband in 2015. Given the current spectrum allotments in the market that I’m in, I think mobile speed performance will also take a huge hit as a result. Its going to get slower before it gets faster with more available spectrum as the swim lanes get crowded with more devices and more mobile users.

T-Mobile Overtakes Sprint as the Number 3 US Wireless Carrier

I gave this its own prediction instead of piggy backing it on top of the last one simply because I think its big enough to deserve its own, separate prediction. T-Mobile is doing all the right things. I see them getting more and more popular in the bigger, more densely populated, metropolitan areas. As such, I see Sprint continuing to struggle to keep pace and T-Mobile will overtake the number three carrier spot, albeit, late in the year.

Microsoft Super Hypes Windows 10 Release, but it gets a Luke Warm Reception

It’ll be the thud heard ’round the world.

Microsoft is going to work their butts off unifying the Windows platform in 2015. There will be some really good things that will happen in the Windows 10 space before the replacement OS is finally released to the public in late 2015 (as in October – or Q4 – 2015).

I think Windows 10 is going to be a decent OS. I think its going to be better received than Windows 8 was. I think it will be preferred over Windows 8.x; but I’m not sure how much its going to matter.

Microsoft is making their apps and services available on other platforms – like iOS and Android – and doing so a lot quicker than on Windows. For example, Office for iOS and Android was available long before Office for Windows tablet or Windows Phone.

With Microsoft unifying the Windows Platform to include Desktop AND Mobile (Phone and Tablet) into one OS, I don’t see it being as relevant or as important as a Windows release may have been in the past. On the consumer side of the world, its not as critical as it used to be for me to have a Windows PC at home like I do at work. I can create and/ or modify documents for Work not only on my home PC, but on my personal tablet or smartphone, and those devices can be just about any device I’ve got. Microsoft no longer cares.

While Windows 10 is likely going to be a much better desktop OS than Windows 8.x, its not going to matter. IT departments are still not going to jump on the OS right away. They’re going to stick with what they have (most likely Windows 7) and continue to deploy that OS with new and existing hardware in the Enterprise. I also think Microsoft is going to unify development of Office versions for other platforms so that the same “version” is going to be available everywhere. It won’t matter what device or platform you’re on or using. Microsoft is going to have a version of what you’re needing to get work done on any and every platform so you don’t have to worry if what you’re updating at home is going to be usable or readable at work.

Computing is going to be a bit simpler as a result, and the emphasis is going to be taken off Windows as a platform. Windows 10 is going to be a good OS. Its going to be easier to use than Windows 8. Its going to have less issues than previous versions of Windows. However, its not going to matter as much, and as such, much of the thunder of a decent Windows 10 is going to be stolen by none other than Microsoft itself. When I say, “thud,” I don’t mean bad release. I mean, it ain’t gonna matter as much as it did in the past, because Microsoft is going to cannibalize their own market.

What do you think of my predictions? Am I on track, or off my nut? Will wearables fizzle out, especially if Apple Watch is a dud; or will it be a success even without Cupertino’s much anticipated contribution? Will Phablets be a big deal in the US, or will they continue to be a niche market here in the US? Are we going to need more mobile broadband beginning in 2015 or will usage remain flat? Will Sprint relinquish its number 3 spot in the Mobile Carrier market? Will T-Mobile become more of a success in 2015; or will things there maintain the status quo? Is Windows 10 going to be a big deal or will Microsoft sorta shoot themselves in the foot because they’re supporting all platforms, including desktop and mobile versions, of just about everything that matters to the world – meaning mostly Office in 2015; or will Windows 10 be a huge hit, breathing life back into the Windows PC market?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these and any other computing trends you think are going to take off or die in 2015. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below, and give me your thoughts on the year in tech to come?

 

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What’s all the Fuss with Wearable Tech

…and why should you care? Great questions. I recently saw something on this and have something to add.

In the 2010-2011 time frame, the realization that a well-established ecosystem could make or break a mobile platform was all the rage.  Apple, or more specifically Steve Jobs, had figured that out a long while back, and had been moving towards that direction after capturing the digital music market in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Today, there seems to be a new market emerging, and like the early development of the ecosystem, there aren’t a lot of people who quite get it.

Wearable Technology is supposed to be huge.

indexMany are asking how, when C|Net pronounced the Microsoft Spot Watch dead on 2008-04-23; and newer reincarnations like the Pebble have been met with mediocre success. While things like the Nike Fuel Band or the FitBit have been out for a while, they don’t quite fit the intended paradigm. They’re only a small part of the picture; and I’ll get to why shortly.

According to ComputerWorld, “Wearable computing is about augmenting your whole life and taking advantage of fast-improving Internet services without being glued to a screen all day.” This is only partially right. It’s more about the ecosystem the wearable tech is compatible with and (more importantly) the services you subscribe to and use with that wearable tech.  Because, if the companies involved can’t lock you in and/or sell you services related to the tech… what’s the point?

Your smartphone is going to end up becoming the hub or, mobile router if you will, in a personal area network or PAN that goes where you go. It lives within an ecosystem providing access to multimedia content, apps and connectivity that can be consumed, projected; and where all of the related data will be initially cached before moving on to permanent storage in the cloud. You consume it all – you guessed it – on the wearable tech.

Your mobile carrier will allow you to communicate as you do today, but not via voice calls.  Think VoIP.  You’re going to have devices that all interconnect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and trade information back and forth, all at the same time.  Your Nike Fuel Band or FitBit will likely be replaced by a shirt or other piece of clothing that can display states of your workout, right on your sleeve or pant leg. Built in, washable sensors keep stats on your vitals and accomplishments as you continue to work out. You’ll pay – reasonable, nominal fees – for the tech, the apps, and the connected services. Vendors make money not on the tech per sell, but on the (licensing or reciprocal agreements and) services that you use and consume.

Wearable tech is all about integrating technology into your everyday life, and about selling the services that make it transparent.  This is why the iWatch (or whatever Apple’s gonna call it) and other items like the FitBit or Fuel Band are (at least initially) a big deal. The better job they do on catching on, the better chance the rest of the genre will have, and the less work vendors will have to do in selling the concept to the general public.

In my opinion, for this to work, wearable tech is going to have to be ecosystem and smartphone agnostic.  It’s going to need to work with every ecosystem and every “modern” smartphone, without issue, and without missing any “critical features.”

What I’m most concerned about at this point, is how carriers and hardware manufacturers respond to the “agnostic” requirement.  They don’t tend to be very supported of interoperability or sharing their networks and other services with those that don’t pay to play. I’m hoping by the time this really takes hold, carriers understand that they are a utility and not much more.

What do YOU think? Is your smartphone going to become a mobile router? As network speeds and liability improves will converged devices break up back into separate phones, music players and personal information managers or will that functionality melt away to something else more compelling?

Why don’t you sound off I the comments below and let me know what you think?

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