Fitbit Announces Versa 2 Smartwatch With Alexa


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Fitbit scooped up the remains of fan-favorite smartwatch maker Pebble several years ago, using that expertise to launch its own line of smartwatches. The Ionic came first, and then the smaller, cheaper Versa. Now, Fitbit is back with a second-gen smartwatch, a followup to the Versa predictably called Versa 2. The design is cleaner and more refined, and there’s support for voice commands via Amazon Alexa. It’ll also support Fitbit’s new paid subscription fitness service. 

The Ionic and Versa both focused on fitness and health tracking functionality, as you’d expect from a company like Fitbit. However, they brought some enhanced features that set them apart from the company’s watch-like fitness trackers including apps, custom clock faces, and smartphone notification management. 

The Versa 2SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce looks similar to the first-gen Versa, but there’s only one physical button on the side — the shortcut keys on the right edge are gone. The shape of the watch is also a bit more round and similar to the Apple Watch. The original Versa was already very similar to the Apple Watch, so the Versa 2 might be completely indistinguishable from a distance. 

Instead of the shortcut buttons, the right edge of the Versa 2 has a microphone. You can launch Alexa on the watch by pressing and holding the remaining side button. After linking your Alexa profile, you can get basic search results, control smart home devices, manage timers, and more. However, you won’t hear Alexa reply to your commands — the Versa 2 doesn’t have a speaker. That would have made it harder to water-proof. With the new microphone, the watch maintains its 50m submersion rating. 

All versions of the Versa 2 will have NFC for Fitbit Pay; only special edition versions of the original Versa had that. It will also support Fitbit’s new Sleep Score feature, which uses your activity throughout the day to determine how much sleep you need. It’s sort of like grading your sleep on a curve. However, the watch still lacks GPS, just like the previous Versa. 

The Versa 2 is available for pre-order today, starting at $200. That might be just a drop in the bucket if you also buy into Fitbit’s new monthly service. The Fitbit Premium service costs $10 per month and launches in 2020. Fitbit Premium features personalized health coaching, one-on-one training guidance, premium challenges, and more. If you buy the $230 special edition Versa 2, it comes with a 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium.

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Next Apple Watch could include new ceramic and titanium models – gpgmail


Apple’s next Apple Watch revision could include new materials for the case, including titanium and ceramic. That’s according to new assets pulled form the latest watchOS beta release, as uncovered by Brazilian site iHelp.br (via 9to5Mac). The new screens discovered in the beta show graphics used to pair the Apple Watch during setup, and list “Titanium Case” and “Ceramic Case” alongside model size identification info.

Apple has previously offered a ceramic Apple Watch, alongside its Series 2 and Series 3 models, with a premium price and white and black case options. The company hasn’t previously used titanium, but the lightweight, durable metal is popular among traditional watchmakers because it can really significantly reduce the heft of a watch case, while still providing a premium look and feel.

Last year’s Apple Watch Series 4 was the first significant change in body design for the wearable since its introduction in 2015, so it seems unlikely that Apple will change that this year again. The new physical design includes larger case sizes (40mm and 44mm, respectively, vs. 38mm and 42mm for previous generations), a thinner profile and a display with rounded corners and slimmer bezels.

Offering new materials is a way for Apple to deliver new hardware that is observably new on the outside, in addition to whatever processor and component improvements they make on the inside. Apple will likely also offer these alongside their stainless steel and aluminum models, should they actually be released this fall, and would probably charge a premium for these material options, too.

The Series 4 Apple Watch proved a serious improvement in terms of performance, and added features like the onboard ECG. Splashy new looks likely won’t be the extent of what Apple has planned for Series 5, however, especially since the company is revamping watchOS to be much more independent of the phone, which would benefit from more capable processors.


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Apple, Samsung continue growth as North American wearables market hits $2B – gpgmail


New numbers out of Canalys show strong continued growth for the North America wearables market for Q2. The market hit $2 billion value for the quarter, according to the firm, marking a 38% year over year growth.

It’s not exactly earth shattering, but it’s steady for a category that felt almost dead in the water a year or two back. Growth for the quarter was lead by Apple and Samsung, which marked 32% and 121% growth, coming in at first and third place, respectively — at 2.2 million and 400,000 units.

Fitbit, meanwhile, retained its number two position. The company show a modest 18 percent growth, owing the slow down to fewer smartwatches (versus fitness bands) shipped. That tracks with the company’s disappointing quarterly results as the new Versa Lite failed to hit the mark. The move marks a misstep for the Versa brand, which has otherwise contributed well to Fitbit’s bounce back.

Interestingly, while North America is the number two wearables market in terms of units shipped, it continues to be the most valuable. That’s likely due to higher unit prices, with the Apple Watch leading the pack, versus Xiaomi’s super cheap fitness bands, which have a much stronger foothold in their native China.


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Misfit Announces the Vapor X Smartwatch With Improved Hardware


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Google’s Wear OS platform has been lacking in compelling wearable hardware recently, but a new offering from Misfit might pique your curiosity. The Fossil sub-brand has just announced its third Android-powered smartwatch, the Misfit Vapor X. It compares very favorably with competing wearables, but it’s still hamstrung by Wear OS and the slow advances in wearable hardware. 

The original Misfit Vapor turned heads with its striking design. You might remember the original Moto 360 that launched in the early days of Wear OS (then Android Wear). That watch had a round display before that was common, a minimal metal bezel, and a “flat tire” cut-out at the bottom. The first Misfit from 2017 looked like a true successor to the Moto 360 with its full-circle display and sleek body. It followed that up with a similar Vapor 2 in 2018. However, both those watches ran the older Wear 2100 chip. The new watch steps up to the latest hardware. 

The Misfit Vapor X has a 1.19-inch round display and the same basic body style of past Misfit watches. It also comes with the standard 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage we’re used to seeing with Wear OS. There’s also a 300mAh battery that Misfit estimates at 24 hours of use in standard mode. 

Like the recently unveiled Fossil Gen 5 watches, the Vapor X has the newer Wear 3100 system-on-a-chip. It’s not much more powerful than the 2100, but a more efficient sensor processing platform helps ease the strain on the CPUs. It also supports additional low-power modes for better battery life. In battery saving mode, you should be able to get a few extra days of use between charges while still tracking your fitness stats and seeing notifications on the watch. 

The Vapor X still has Google Fit for tracking steps and exercise, but the app still lacks many of the features available from Fitbit, Apple, and even Samsung. Misfit hopes to sweeten the deal with support for the Fossil Cardiogram app. Announced along with the Gen 5 watches, Cardiogram allegedly watches for signs of sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension, and atrial fibrillation. The mechanism by which it does with a basic heart rate sensor is unclear. 

Misfit is selling the new watch on its website right now, and it’s on sale for $200. That price is only good for a limited time, though. The watch will eventually retail for $279.99.

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