Exclusive: Motorola Moto X Software Update Cures Its Wired Headset Headaches

Moto X lead small

The affordable, yet sophisticated Motorola Moto X succeeds in making life with a smartphone as simple, colorful and touch-free as possible, but until recently it stumbled with one of the most basic of all cell phone accessories: wired headsets with microphones.

Fortunately, a new Moto X system software update cleans up the glitch, allowing these headsets to work as they should. The free update is now being pushed out to AT&T and T-Mobile handsets. Moto X owners can wait for the notification screen to pop up or scroll through the phone’s settings to the “About Phone” section, where they can manually initiate the update.

When a Moto X with the original system software was tested with apps such as Skype and voice recorders, it often failed to recognize wired headsets with built-in mics. The earpieces would go silent and the mics wouldn’t transmit audio.

To see if your Moto X still has the original system software, download Skype and try this: Plug a wired headset with a mic to your Moto X and make a voice call to the “Echo/Sound Test Service” entry that’s preinstalled as a contact in Skype. Once connected, try to listen to the automated recording and try to record your voice when prompted.

If you have the original system software, you won’t hear and thing and won’t be able to make the recording. Try the call again without the headset–Skype should work fine. Skype and Motorola public relations representatives were contacted for comment about the wired headset problems; neither responded.

Screenshot_2013-10-04-17-49-17

A Moto X which once failed the Skype test now works perfectly after the five-minute software, which also cures other Moto X issues, was installed.

The wired headsets used for testing included Audiofly AF45 and Lenovo 57Y4488 earbuds and a Native Union Pop Phone handset. The above problems were limited to wired headsets with mics–they did not occur with wired headsets without mics or with wireless Bluetooth headsets.

The wired headset problems were ironic since the Moto X, which has three built-in microphones, actually works very well with voice-activated apps such as Google Now since one of the mics is used for noise cancellation. With the new software update, the Moto X becomes an even better value.

Moto X headset 1

Overall, the Moto X is a remarkable smartphone with good looks–which can be customized–and quality high-end features like a sharp, 4.7-inch display and a 10-megapixel camera. (Click here for full review).

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Motorola Moto X: Fun, Friendly & Fast Enough

Motorola Moto X

Motorola Moto X

Motorola’s Moto X smartphone is an admirable balance of style and usability. It doesn’t try to outdo Samsung, Apple and others in the race to squeeze in as many high-tech features as possible but instead aims to please with its hand-shaped curves, cool voice-activated features and touch-friendly camera.

The Moto X succeeds as a sophisticated mainstream smartphone but is no speed demon. Its user-friendliness and simplicity are apparent from the start: Instead of a cluttered home screen, the Moto X offers pretty much a plain vanilla Android home screen that allows the new owner do the customizing. And that’s not surprising since Motorola Mobility is now a division of Google, the maker of Android software.

To start the camera, you pick up the phone and twist your wrist twice–that’s it; the Moto X immediately switches to camera mode. To take a photo you can touch any part of the screen–there’s no need to hunt for a shutter button. The Moto X’s 10-megapixel camera uses Motorola’s ClearPixel technology, which allows each sensor to gather 75 percent more light, thus making it possible to get clear photos even in low-light situations. according to Motorola.

The Moto X can be customized with numerous color combinations for its keys and shell (including an all wood case available later this year) by ordering the unit via the Moto X website, which only offers AT&T units at the moment. Since the Moto X is manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas instead of somewhere overseas, online buyers can expect to see their new phones–already initialized with their Google accounts–in four days or less, according to Motorola.

Motorola's Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

Motorola’s Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

“We think this represents a very interesting future,” said Rick Osterloh, senior vice president for product development at Motorola during a press event in New York. He said the Moto X is aimed at “the mainstream user,” not the feature-frenzied geek.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

The Moto X uses what computing power it has fairly efficiently. It runs Android version 4.2.2 and has a dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon processor. Other top-shelf smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 have quad-core processors, but they also have more sensors and higher-resolution screens, making the additional processor muscle necessary.

Moto X Active Display

The low-power Active Display mode on Motorola’s Moto X.

The Moto X is built with what’s called the Motorola X8 computing system. It’s a set of eight processor cores assigned to different tasks. Why is this important? By using different cores for different tasks, the entire processor doesn’t have to be awake all the time–each core wakes up as it’s needed. This design extends the life of the Moto X’s 2200 mAH battery to a full day of average use, according to Motorola.

Two of the processor cores are used for basic application processing (this is what makes the Moto X a “dual-core” smartphone) and four are used for graphics processing, thus speeding up video and photo functions. The other two cores take care of voice commands and sensors like the accelerometer and the ambient light sensor and help the Moto X detect how fast you’re moving and what you’re doing with the phone.

When tested with voice commands, the Moto X worked very well and was able to verbally answer questions about the time, the weather, directions, baseball scores and many other queries. The quality of the speech detection is aided by the phone’s three microphones, which work together to cancel stray noises and enhance voices.

A useful Active Display shows notifications in a simple, low-power mode, thus letting you know if you have incoming e-mail, text messages or other items even when the phone is in standby mode.

The Moto X lists for $199 (16GB of user memory) or $249 (32GB) with a two-year plan and is sold by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular and major retailers.

Do you have a Moto X? How do you like it so far? Comment or vote:

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Retro Tech: Gadget Gifts Go Back to the Future

VTech Cordless Answering System LS6195

VTech Cordless Answering System LS6195

Back when all phones were wired and controlled by the old AT&T, the standing joke was that you could get a phone in any color you wanted
—as long as you chose black.

Today the seemingly clunky handsets attached to those old phones have made a comeback as colorful cell phone accessories and other retro-looking gadgets are making significant inroads onto holiday gift-shopping lists.

Native Union Pop Phone wired handset.

Native Union Pop Phone wired handset.

For example, Native Union’s Pop Phone handsets resemble the ones that graced grandpa’s rotary-dial phone but Pop Phones come in an assortment of colors—including black. The $30 wired handsets plug into any cell phone or tablet with a standard 3.5mm headset/microphone jack.

Unlike today’s skinny cell phones, the Pop Phone handsets fit comfortably between the chin and shoulder. A single button picks up and drops cell phone calls or pauses and plays music on MP3 players. The Pop Phone is also available in special editions and wireless versions.

Everything ION Tourmaline Infused Silicone Retro Bluetooth Handset

Everything ION Tourmaline Infused Silicone Retro Bluetooth Handset

The Everything ION Tourmaline Infused Silicone Retro Bluetooth Handset ditches the wire, but easily links with most Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and tablets. In addition to a call pickup/end button, the $50 handset has a volume control rocker button and an LED to confirm the Bluetooth connection. According to the company, the use of a wireless handset keeps potentially harmful radiation away from your head and the tourmaline-infused silicone can “stimulate the healthy flow of vital energy throughout your body.”

The VTech Cordless Answering System LS6195 (pictured at top, starts at $60) is a modern landline phone with a distinctively retro feature: The keypad is arranged in a circle like an old-style rotary dial. The slim cordless handset, which uses DECT 6.0 digital wireless technology, has its own display and backlit keypad and can be used as a speakerphone.

The base, which can also be used a speakerphone, has a small display inside the circular keypad. The unit’s digital answering system can save up to 14 minutes of voice mail and the Caller ID memory can store up to 50 numbers.

palbtgb_angle

Tivoli Audio PAL BT Bluetooth portable radio

Tivoli Audio, best known for its venerable Model One table radio with its huge analog tuning wheel, now offers the $300 PAL BT, an innocent-looking, digital-display-free portable AM/FM radio with a modern feature: Bluetooth connectivity. The PAL BT can wirelessly stream music from the many cell phones and other mobile devices compatible with the Bluetooth 2.1+EDR standard.

The Tivoli Audio PAL BT has a single 2.5-inch speaker, three analog knobs, including the trademark large analog tuning wheel, a preinstalled rechargeable nickel metal hydride battery pack, a headphone jack and an audio-in jack for wired devices. Pairing the unit with a mobile device is no different that pairing a Bluetooth headset with a cell phone—it only has to be done once. A $260 Bluetooth version of the Model One (pictured below) is also available.

Tivoli Audio Model One Bluetooth Table Radio

Tivoli Audio Model One Bluetooth Table Radio

Radio Silenz cherry

Tivoli Audio Radio Silenz noise-cancelling headphones

Tivoli Audio also offers the $160 Radio Silenz noise-canceling headset, which exudes a retro look through its liberal use of wood. The 2.6-ounce headset uses two 40mm drivers with housings made of solid wood in walnut, cherry or black ash finishes.

According to Tivoli Audio, the unit’s noise-cancelling technology reduces extraneous noise by up to 85 per cent. A “defeat” button turns off the noise cancellation and reduces the volume so users can have conversations without taking the headset off.

So what will tomorrow’s hot gadgets look like? Look around your home and get a preview.

Text  Copyright 2012
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Amazon’s New Kindle Fire HD Family: Take That Apple iPad!

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Not many companies can make Apple sweat, but Amazon has just turned up the heat with the new Kindle Fire HD tablet/ereader family: The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD ($199 with 16GB of storage; $249 with 32GB), the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD 8.9 ($299 with 16GB; $369 with 32GB) and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 4G LTE Wireless ($499 with 16GB; $599 with 32GB).

The classic 7-inch Kindle Fire, which recently sold out on Amazon.com, is back in the Kindle lineup with a faster processor, more memory and a really cool new feature: A lower $159 price tag.

New 7-inch Kindle Fire HD in portrait and landscape orientation.

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, which has a better display, more storage space and Dolby stereo audio but the same $199 starting price as the old Kindle Fire, is available for preorder now and will be in stores Sept. 14. The other models will be available Nov. 20.

As a family, the new color Kindle HD units are poised to make a huge impact in three key tech sales areas: the affordable entry-level tablet market, the muscle Wi-Fi tablet segment and in the do-it-all-always-connected-big-tablet competition. Apple may have something interesting in the works as it rolls out a new iPad or two this fall, but for now Amazon has delivered a stunning first punch to the 2012 holiday-season tablet market.

Aside from HD displays, the new Kindle HD units have two Wi-Fi MIMO (Multiple In/Multiple Out) antennas, which means that both antennas can receive data simultaneously on 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks, thus resulting in better wireless Internet reception, according to Amazon.

Also included in the new units are front-facing cameras, a custom version of Skype videoconferencing software, free unlimited cloud storage for Kindle media, Bluetooth wireless adapters for wireless headsets, speakers and other accessories and an HDMI out port.

With a starting price of $299, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is far more affordable than the least expensive Apple iPad, but offers an admirable array of features, including its 1,920-by-1,200-pixel, 254-pixel-per-inch IPS display and a 1.5 GHz, dual-core processor. It has the same look as the smaller Kindle HD, which has a 1.2GHz processor, in terms of its dark case and thick border around the display area.

The Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE Wireless offers the same features of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 plus high speed always-on LTE data service at a very competitive price: $50 a year for 250MB a month data, 20GB of additional cloud storage and a $10 Amazon app store credit.

Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the company’s Kindle press conference that Amazon was willing to lose money on hardware since it could make up the loss selling content in the Kindle Store.

The new Kindle units can take advantage of new Amazon content services, including Kindle FreeTime, which lets parents set time limits on content for their children. FreeTime will be available in October.

Also introduced Thursday were other Kindle devices, including two monochrome devices using new Kindle display technology:  the $119 Kindle Paperwhite and the $179 Kindle Paperwhite 3G.

Of course the best feature about all Kindle devices is easy access to Amazon’s huge arsenal of ebooks, audiobooks, MP3 music downloads, Android apps and other downloadable media. Amazon tries to make things easy on technophobes by providing a simple interface.

At Thursday’s unveiling in Santa Monica, California, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos readily admitted that Amazon was willing to lose money on hardware since it could make up the loss with content sales from its Kindle store.

In boxing, the best punch is often the one you get off just ahead of your opponent: Even if it doesn’t floor him, you have his attention. Apple, are you listening?

Images and video courtesy of Amazon.

Text © Copyright 2012

Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

info@paperpc.net

Samsung’s Mysterious Bluetooth S Pen: Talk to the Hand… Really

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen was silently introduced to the press after the Aug. 15 New York launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet.

James Bond would be proud. While the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen HM5100 doesn’t contain poison or shoot bullets, the handheld unit, like many of 007’s toys, isn’t as simple as it looks. While this new tablet accessory looks like a mild-mannered stylus, it’s actually a wireless Bluetooth handset you can make calls with.

As Samsung’s glitzy launch event for its new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet wound down on Aug. 15, members of the press were sent packing with a press kit which included the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen. Most recipients seemed unimpressed at the seemingly mundane going-away gift and quietly packed them away. It was only upon closer inspection later that many realized what the BT S Pen actually was.

The front of the box does little to describe its capabilities other than to mention that it’s “compatible with Galaxy Note series” and one side of the box simply reminds you that it can “Enhance your mobile smart life.”

However, the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen is basically a pen-shaped Bluetooth handset with a stylus that’s compatible with the magnetic resonance circuitry built into the display of the  Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. When the BT S Pen is used with the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, the tablet can detect more than a thousand levels of pen pressure. This means you can draw a thick line by pushing down harder on the screen with the S Pen and a thinner line by easing up on the pressure.

The BT S Pen has the same side button that comes on the S Pen styli packed with Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphone and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet plus a rocker switch to control volume and a power button that’s also used to pick up and disconnect calls. The BT S Pen pairs with any compatible Bluetooth device by holding down the power button for three seconds. The unit’s built-in battery can be recharged via a standard microUSB slot hidden below a cap at the top of the device.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen: It looks like a stylus, but it’s actually a Bluetooth handset you can speak into.

 So how does it sound? Surprisingly good. Since it’s easy to hold the tiny speaker grill close to your ear canal, volume is not a real problem. A small microphone is embedded in the middle of the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen, which can be set to vibrate when a call comes in.

The unit has an indicator light, but no display and doesn’t call out the number of the incoming call. The biggest disadvantage of the S Pen, however, might be the perplexed glances you might get from people who spot you chatting with a pen.

So when can you purchase the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen? Good question. (UPDATE: The BT S Pen is now available for purchase.) The product doesn’t exist on Samsung’s US website and the box itself doesn’t even have a UPC code printed on it. Since the current Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet is a WiFi-only device, the BT S Pen may–or may not–debut with a future version of the tablet with built-in cellular data capabilities.

So if you spot someone with a pen nestled in his ear who seems to be talking to himself, don’t take pity on him. Ask him where he got that pen.

UPDATE: The BT S Pen is now available for purchase.

Text and images © Copyright 2012
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
info@paperpc.net

No Foul! Wireless Charging Hotspots Coming to Madison Square Garden

iPhone with Duracell Powermat wireless charging sleeve next to wireless charging hotspot.

Duracell Powermat to install wireless charging hotspots in restaurants, bars and luxury boxes in the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”

If you remember the Patrick Ewing-era New York Knicks, you know they were tough enough to take a hard charge now and then for the team. In a few weeks you’ll be able to get a charge yourself–wirelessly and without the pain—courtesy of Duracell Powermat.

Duracell Powermat booth at the 2012 CES.

The company announced at last week’s 2012 CES in Las Vegas that it has been tapped by Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association and the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, to install wireless charging hotspots around the Manhattan arena.

If you have a iPhone or other smartphone or mobile device and you outfit it with a wireless charging sleeve, which will be sold at the Garden as well as at major electronics stores, you’ll be able to give your device a charge while it sits in front of you as you dine or drink or gently air your opinion about the officiating of the game below.

Mockup of Garden suite with wireless charging hotspot at 2102 CES in Las Vegas.

The Duracell Powermat wireless charging sleeves as well as those already available from companies such as Energizer adhere to a wireless charging standard named “Qi,” developed by the Wireless Power Consortium, which showed off a wealth of Qi-compatible devices at the 2012 CES. This means that any Qi-compatible sleeve will work with the hotspots at the Garden–not just those made by Duracell Powermat.

Wireless Power Consortium shows off Qi-compatible devices at 2012 CES.

An upcoming Duracell Powermat smartphone app will not only tell you how much power is left in your device, but it will also direct you to the nearest wireless charging hotspot.

If you use the app while you’re sitting in the Garden, you can use your phone’s camera to scan the arena and, through the magic of “augmented reality,” the app will generate pointers in the image to show you where the hotspots are.

Duracell Powermat smartphone app previewed at the 2012 CES in Las Vegas.

The new inductive charging stations will appear first in the Event Level Suites, which were added as part of the first phase of a three-phase renovation of the Garden last year. Eventually they will pop up in the Garden’s Madison Suites, the Delta Sky360 Club and in the 1879 Club presented by J.P. Morgan.

Entertainer Jay-Z is the new spokesman for the new Duracell Powermat wireless charging initiative at the Garden, which is a little bit ironic since he is a part owner of the nearby rival New Jersey Nets—soon to be the even closer Brooklyn Nets. Duracell Powermat LLC is a joint venture of Procter & Gamble, parent company of Duracell, and Powermat.

Text and photos Copyright 2012, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Paper PC Picks: Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker

It’s time for another season of Paper PC Picks, a selection of nifty gadgets and other electronic gear that make quality gift selections for the holiday season. These innovative products are culled from the hundreds spotted at trade shows and press events and during one-on-one meetings with tech-company representatives. 

So let’s get started, in no particular order, with another season of Paper PC Picks.

The Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker looks glitzier than your average Bluetooth wireless speaker, but at hefty prices starting at $300, does it really sound that much better than its cheaper competition? The answer, after a few minutes with a few units, is an easy “Yes.”

The Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker can handle the rumble of deep bass and the clarity of sharp high notes even though it’s about the size of a large, thick hardcover book. The reason for the audiophile-quality output is the internal design, which was engineered to minimize distortion and other audio maladies. During a recent Bose press event in New York, the media got a chance to look at an exploded view of how the SoundLink units are put together.

For example, at the center of the exploded view above are two waffle-shaped passive radiators responsible for enhancing deep bass tones. They’re installed opposite each other, which cancels out the internal vibrations they would otherwise produce, thus allowing the energy they conduct to be used for clear bass, not internal rumble and rattle according to Bose.

Also built in are four neodymium transducers used for high and middle audio frequencies. According to Bose, the 5.1-by-9.6-by-1.9-inch SoundLink is durable and designed to withstand reasonable amounts of moisture, including salt fog, which makes it usable on the beach. The internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery runs up to eight hours on a two- to three-hour charge, according to Bose.

The point of the Bose SoundLink Wireless Speaker, according to the Bose representatives at the press event, is to produce the best possible mobile sound out of the audio locked inside smartphones, iPods, tablets or other Bluetooth-enabled devices. The unit has a solid feel to it, but isn’t heavy at 2.9 pounds.

The pairing process to connect the SoundLink to my smartphone wasn’t difficult. Within moments clear, rich music was emanating from the unit. While it will pair with many devices, they need to support the Bluetooth A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) to work with the SoundLink–or any other Bluetooth wireless speaker. The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, for example, doesn’t support A2DP even though it does have a Bluetooth wireless adapter and thus failed at my attempt to connect it to the SoundLink.

Like other Bluetooth products, you have a range of up to 30 feet between the speaker and the Bluetooth-enabled audio device. You can also connect an audio device via an audio cable. A USB port is provided for future firmware upgrades.

The $300 standard version of the Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker comes with a fold-over dark gray Cordura nylon cover which doubles as a stand while the $350 LX version has a dark brown leather cover. Covers in other colors are available for $30 (nylon) and $50 (leather).

Expensive yes, but Bose doesn’t compete in the bargain audio market. If you’re picky about the quality of the music you listen to, the Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker may be worth it.

Text, video and first three photos Copyright 2011
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
Photo of four color cases courtesy of Bose