Tech Retrospect: Apple event preview and smartwatch overload
Everything (well, almost) you need to know about Apple's September 9 event, plus more smartwatches than you have wrists. All that and more in this week's rundown of tech news.
Apple typically gives us just seven days warning of an upcoming event, leaving us scrambling to book flights, hotels, and to brush up on our live-blogging skills. This time, what with the holiday weekend coming up in the US, the fine folks in Cupertino gave us a bit of a break. The September 9 event we'd been expecting has been confirmed -- though the company is even more coy than usual about the content. The invite says only "Wish we could say more."
No worries, we have a pretty good idea of what's to come. A 4.7-inch iPhone 6 is all but a lock, and a larger version (perhaps 5.5-inches) seems quite likely as well. Earlier, we were all but sure near-field communication, or NFC, would not be present in the phone, but now the tides have turned, with expectations not only for NFC in both phones, but a new payment system to boot. Could that wallet in your back pocket or purse finally be approaching obsolescence?
Another area where NFC could help would be in pairing a smartwatch or other wearable device, and we're now expecting at least one of those, too. The so-called "iWatch" has been rumored for years, and the latest talk suggests that September 9 may be the day of its unveiling. We've not seen a single leak of the thing, so I'm still unconvinced it will make an appearance. If it does it'll likely ship a little later in the year. Either that, or Apple has a whole new manufacturing system for the thing that it's finally able to keep under total lock and key.
Regardless, it's shaping up to be a huge event, likely the biggest Apple has ever held. Interestingly, it's being held at the Flint Center in Cupertino, Calif., where the original Mac was unveiled, a product that went on to define Apple for two decades. One has to imagine that Apple's expecting similar greatness from whatever comes next. I, for one, can't wait to get out there and report on all the excitement.
It seems like just yesterday that Google dropped its Android Wear software for wearables and smartwatch on us, with both LG and Samsung launching their own devices. Now, the two companies have already unveiled successive products, not quite making their predecessors obsolete -- but coming awful close.
LG's new hotness is the G Watch R (or the "Type R" as I've taken to calling it). It is, as you can see, a lot more round than the rectangular G Watch. It also looks a fair bit thinner and infinitely more charming. There's a heart rate monitor, too, but we still don't know price or specific availability -- beyond a promise to have it out before the end of the year.
Samsung's new watch is a different beast altogether. Called the Gear S, it's the first of this new generation of smartwatches we've seen to include a 3G modem. Yes, you can use this without pairing it directly to a phone, though I can't help wondering what kind of hit that will place upon the battery life (slated to be up to two days). That means you can place calls directly on the watch, and even send text messages via an on-screen keyboard if you really hate your life. The hallmark here is of course the curved OLED display, with an impressive 360x480 resolution. It's running Samsung's Tizen operating system, not Android Wear, and I'm curious to see how the market receives it when it starts shipping in October. (Again, no pricing is known yet.)
Amazon buys Twitch for a billion
It seems like just yesterday Google was expected to drop a billion dollars in cash for gaming streaming phenomenon Twitch, but that deal apparently fell through at the 11th hour -- something to do with antitrust concerns, apparently. Luckily, Amazon was there to sweep in, paying some $970 million. This gives Amazon quick access to a compelling new experience for its FireTV, and a major play in the hottest source of online video of the moment. What comes next for the partnership remains to be seen.
Google unveils drone delivery with Project Wing
Amazon isn't the only one looking to get in on package delivery via autonomous means. Google this week unveiled its own program, called Project Wing. Part of the Google X initiative of mostly top-secret and generally cool technologies, Project Wing has been under active tests for somewhere around two years now. The 5-foot flying wings have been flown in Australia, which offers more lenient drone policies than the US. They soar like a radio-controlled plane until reaching their destination, then pivot vertically to hover while winching their cargo to the ground. After that, they take off horizontally again and fly home. It's pretty fascinating stuff.