Smartwatches Bring Advanced Features to Your Wrist

Wearable technology is set to dominate the mobile market in coming years. Google Glass has made waves among the tech press and should be available to consumers in 2014. Meanwhile, though nothing apart from rumors has yet emerged, predictions for an Apple iWatch abound.  Based on a report from ABI Research, the wearable wireless devices market, led by sports, fitness, and wellness segments, is expected to attain $6 billion revenue by 2018.

Smartwatches that sync with Android and iOS phones, however, are already plentiful. Large and small companies alike offer wristwatches that run apps and extend the capabilities of smartphones.

Pebble SmartwatchHere is a list of some of the top players in the smartwatch category.

  • Pebble Smartwatch: One of the earliest contenders in the smartwatch category, Pebble offers features like tracking your daily routines, enabling voice navigation without accessing your mobile phone, and more. The watch is designed to accommodate custom developed apps and work as a remote control for a smartphone. The battery lasts five to seven days. You can buy Pebble for $150.
  • Samsung Galaxy Gear - SmartwatchesSamsung Galaxy Gear: Another strong contender in the smartwatch category comes from the tech giant Samsung. The Smart Relay feature of the Galaxy Gear automatically displays the accompanying message on your phone when the notification appears on the Gear. Memographer takes quick snapshots using the camera on the wristband. S Voice enables hands-free calls, messages, scheduling, weather checking, and other functions. There’s also a pedometer for built-in fitness tracking. The device initially supported the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, with software updates for the Galaxy S4, S3, and Note 2 rolling out now. It currently supports about 70 built-in apps. The device is priced at $299.
  • Sony Smartwatch-2 - Android SmartwatchSony SmartWatch 2 - The best description of the Sony SmartWatch 2 might be a compact Android experience. It simply expands and enhances an Android smartphone experience by connecting over Bluetooth. It pairs with NFC phones with a single touch and vibrates when a notification is received from email, Facebook, Twitter, text messages and more. It can also act as a media remote. The watch is compatible with most smartphones running Android 4.0 or later and is priced at $199. Sony’s original SmartWatch is still available for $130.
  • Metawatch Strata and Frame - Water ResistantMetaWatch Strata and Frame – With two models, MetaWatch goes for ruggedness. The water resistant devices support Dual-Mode Bluetooth connections to iPhone and Android smartphones and let the user check messages, identify callers, control music, and monitor weather forecasts, stock prices, and a calendar. The battery lasts five to seven days. Social media, alarm, and cycling and running functions are planned. They start at $179.
  • i'm Watch Smartwatch Apps Developmenti’m WatchThis company appeals to the “dynamic, enterprising person who likes to be surrounded by exquisite things.” The watch is made in Italy and offers incoming call alerts, email and social networking notifications, fitness tracking, and control from the Internet through a service called i’mcloud. It starts at $299.

If you would like to develop apps for smartwatches, speak to one of our experts by calling (603) 881-9200 or emailing us.


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Google Releases Android 4.4 KitKat and Nexus 5

Android 4.4 KitKat Features

Just in time for trick-or-treaters, Google started handing out KitKat yesterday, along with a new smartphone running the latest Android operating system.

Although the tech rumor press had pretty much accepted Key Lime Pie as the moniker for the upcoming Android release, Google announced a partnership with Nestle at the beginning of September. The K-release (following Jelly Bean and Ice Cream Sandwich) was thus named KitKat.

New Features in Android 4.4 KitKat

For Android users, KitKat enables always-on voice searching, faster multitasking, wireless printing, integration of Google Maps into the phone dialer and caller ID, and, in a real productivity coup, emoji symbols built right into the default keyboard.

Options for app developers abound, too. Message Access Profile (MAP) eases communication between mobile devices and cars with Bluetooth capabilities. The operating system and apps can be optimized for low-memory devices with as little as 512MB of RAM. An Immersive Mode removes all UI elements like the Home button and top bar. Notifications can include more information like pictures and a chronometer. There’s also support for hardware infrared blasters and tougher encryption.

Nexus 5 Proves Popular

New Nexus devices tend to be hotly anticipated, as they receive Android updates more quickly than other phones and are sold inexpensively and unlocked for use on multiple carriers. The Nexus 5 was no exception, with rumors swirling about its specifications and release date for months. The $349 black and white models with 16GBNexus 5 Google storage were sold out as of the morning of November 1, with $399 32GB models expected to ship two to three weeks later.

The phone is built by LG and is internally very similar to that company’s G2. It uses the same 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, but has a smaller 4.95-inch display that nonetheless runs at a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080. The 8-megapixel camera uses optical image stabilization to reduce blur in photos. And of course it runs KitKat from day one.

Unlike the Nexus 4, the Nexus 5 supports LTE mobile broadband, giving it faster access to the Internet. Sensors include accelerometer, GPS, compass, proximity/ambient light, gyroscope, pressure, and hall effect. It also supports wireless charging, Near Field Communication, and HDMI out via SlimPort.


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Simplify Your Life with the Best NFC Apps Available

NFC or Near Field Communication is integrated into an increasing number of smartphones. Google Wallet is the first app that crosses our minds when we talk about NFC. However, NFC technology is not just limited to payment alone; it can be utilized for health care checkup and patient monitoring, parking systems, transportation, even creative interactive NFC apps.  For example, NFC technology is enabled at The Museum of London, which provides its visitors access to vouchers from the museum's shop and cafes and more information about various museum exhibits.

Various mobile phones support NFC technology, including Android models from Samsung, HTC, LG, and others. Here is a list of some of the best NFC apps developed:

  • Trigger App - NFC Payment AppTrigger (formerly NFC Task Launcher): This Android app is designed to do various tasks based on your surroundings. It’s distributed by an NFC tag seller, but can also perform tasks based on Bluetooth or WiFi networks. Actions include changing mobile data, volume, display brightness, and notification light settings; automatically checking in on Foursquare and Google Places; and sending messages via Twitter, SMS, or email. A Pro upgrade expands the triggers to include battery level, location, and time.
  • Samsung Tectiles App - Developing NFC App for AndroidSamsung TecTiles: There are multiple benefits of this Android app, which lets the user perform various tasks like change settings on the phone, launch apps, check in to places, update social status, make phone calls, and send text messages. To utilize the app the user needs to buy Samsung TecTile NFC Programmable Tags. The programmable NFC tags can be placed on the user’s business card, posters, check-in locations, etc. Although the app and TecTiles might work on non-Samsung devices with NFC, Samsung only guarantees functionality with a list of its own phones and tablets.
  • NFC Retag Free - NFC App Development ServiceNFC ReTAG FREE: As the name suggests, this Android app lets users repurpose write-protected NFC tags like hotel key-cards, price tags, access badges, key fobs, etc.  With the app the user need not write anything on the tag, and no data is sent to the Internet. Multiple activities and cycles can be combined per tag. The app can change device settings, toggle wireless networks on and off, launch apps and URLs, make calls, and set alarms.

If you would like to develop NFC apps, speak to one of our experts by calling (603) 881-9200 or emailing us.


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New Hampshire Business Owners Learn How to Leverage iPad

For the past couple months, Zco has been traveling around New Hampshire speaking to local business owners about the benefits of using iPads to increase productivity and sales. On September 17, it was a seminar organized by Small Dog Electronics, an Apple reseller headquartered in Vermont. Just last week, we were invited to the Apple Store in our own hometown of Nashua for a similar education event.iPad in nh Business

In both cases, a representative of Apple provided insights straight from the company itself. For instance, IT managers worried about the security of iPads need to address user habits first: about 50 percent of smartphone users don’t take advantage of the built-in passcode feature on the device lock screen, allowing anyone with physical access to use it.

Leveraging iOS Security

The good news is that iPads used for work can be managed centrally to enforce a passcode requirement, as well as other security measures like encryption and network access. In fact, even personal iPads can be managed under a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model.

Despite the iPad’s (and iPhone’s) origins as a consumer device, there’s a whole infrastructure in place dedicated to making it work in a corporate environment, in concert with Windows servers. Apple even provides an iPad in Business mini-site specifically for MDM (Mobile Device Management), BYOD, user app management, and other IT concerns.

Small Business Benefits in iOS 7

 

There’s also the fact that new iOS 7 devices activated after September 1, 2013, can download productivity apps Keynote, Pages, Numbers, iPhoto, and iMovie, previously $40 total, for free. With worry about creating and editing documents, presentations, spreadsheets, images, and videos gone, the iPad becomes a convenient and cost-effective business device.

Create Custom Apps for your Small Business

Custom Apps for Custom Businesses

We teamed up with Apple because our custom development expertise perfectly complements the iPad’s solid hardware and operating system foundation. Creating custom apps for corporate clients is our specialty.

Apps for businesses can take a couple different forms: customer-facing apps with a focus on marketing and internal apps that employees use to help do their jobs.

Branded Apps and Games

Customer-facing apps, often known as branded apps and games, enhance the relationship between companies and their customers. They might feature a complete e-commerce experience, extra functionality to use in brick and mortar stores, or even be a fun diversion with the company’s branding. Many offer rewards for using the app that can be redeemed in-store or online, a concept known as gamification.

Internal, Workflow, and Enterprise Apps

Internally, businesses can benefit from enterprise apps. Many businesses already use customized software to track workflow and organize sales campaigns; taking those functions mobile frees up the workforce to go where it’s needed.

Commercially available apps certainly have their place in the enterprise, but for sensitive and unique business functions, custom apps can be aligned perfectly with business objectives. Gamification in the form of sales contests or rewards for completing tasks can be built right into the app.

With consumers and employees alike taking mobile devices everywhere, it’s up to businesses to help everyone use them effectively in their daily interactions. Custom mobile apps can be developed to do exactly what each particular business wants.

To learn more about using the iPad in your business, give Zco a call at 603.881.9200 or email us!


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New iPads and Free Creativity Apps from Apple Announced

Apple introduced a whole passel of new hardware today, as well as updates to much of its most popular software. At the announcement event, CEO Tim Cook and crew unveiled two new iPads and four new laptops in addition to detailing features of other products that are now available.

New iPads Get Thinner & Faster

iPad Air

 

 

Since its first generation was released 3.5 years ago, Cook said, 170 million iPads have been sold. He also claimed that among all tablets, the iPad accounts for 81 percent of all actual use. On the iTunes App Store, 475,000 apps are specifically formatted for the iPad.

Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller took care of the details behind each new model.

First came the iPad Air with the same 9.7” Retina display as the iPad 4, but with a narrower bezel. It’s also 20 percent thinner, at 7.5mm, and lighter, at exactly one pound. The 5-megapixel camera captures 1080p video, and battery life for the device was pegged at 10 hours. It starts at $499 for 16GB of storage and Wi-Fi connectivity. Adding LTE mobile broadband bumps up that price to $629.

The new iPad mini, shipping in November, is simply called the iPad mini with Retina display. The 2048 x 1536 resolution screen was the most-requested feature for the mini, said Schiller. Like the iPad Air, the new mini is built around the 64-bit A7 chip and M7 motion co-processor. The 16GB Wi-Fi version costs $399.

Both new iPads come in dual-tone silver & white and space gray & black color schemes.

Apps Get Updates for Free

While new features were discussed, the biggest news about iLife and iWork was the price for each suite: free. Buyers of new iOS or Mac OS hardware can download the latest versions for free, getting iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers at no cost.

Also free? The latest version of Mac OS X itself, Mavericks. To qualify for the free upgrade, Mac owners must be running version 10.6 Snow Leopard or later and hardware from at least 2007.

New Macs Too

The line of laptops got a spec bump and price drop. The new 11-inch MacBook Air starts at $999, and the 13-inch starts at $1,099. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,299, while the 15-inch starts at $1,999.Mac Pro is a Monster

Although it comes in a small package, the previously-announced Mac Pro is a monster of a desktop workstation, with up to 1TB flash storage and 64GB RAM. The base configuration starts at $2,999 and will be available by the end of the year.

What do you think of the new hardware and software? Let us know in the comments!


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