Tech Retrospect: Apple Watch straps and AT&T's new throttling rules

With the Apple Watch strap market about to blow up, Apple releases some guidelines. Also, AT&T changes its rules on throttling, and Google accidentally announces its next version of Android. All that and more in your look back at the week in tech.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
4 min read

The Apple Watch is becoming an increasingly common thing on wrists of people out and about in the real world. Spotting them is helped by a very limited set of watch bands, but that'll be changing in the very near future. This week, Apple outlined its policies for third-party companies that want to make their own bands.

Appropriately titled "Band Design Guidelines for Apple Watch," Apple dictates necessary things such as dimensions and clasp details for a proper fit within the Watch itself, but also specifies that bands should fit comfortably and snugly and be made of materials that won't corrode or fail. Mostly logical stuff, then.

Adherence to these guidelines will be necessary to get an official blessing from Apple, but that hasn't stopped some others from going their own way. Casetify will sell you a custom-designed strap for your watch for $70, and there will be plenty more.

Apple Watch: A hands-on tour of Apple's first smartwatch (pictures)

See all photos

There was also a lot of talk this week about third-party straps making use of a "hidden" connection port inside the lower strap notch on the Watch. Apple isn't saying exactly what this connector is for, but at least one company is planning a strap that will charge the watch directly through this port. External battery in your watch strap? It's more likely than you think.

LG's G4 meets expectations, but doesn't exceed them

Watch this: LG's flagship G4 hits all the right notes

Research firm Kantar released its latest report on the global smartphone market this week, and LG was one of the biggest winners worldwide. That's thanks to quality phones like last year's G3, which has now been surpassed by the G4. The phone launched with fanfare thanks to the selection of custom backs the company is making available, including a lovely leather option, but CNET's review found it to be perhaps a little too predictable an update. It hits all the right marks, but doesn't exceed them. Still, with a replaceable battery and microSD slot, it will at least heal some wounds that Samsung opened by killing those features on the Galaxy S6.

NSA's bulk data gathering ruled illegal

Hold on to your tin foil hats: the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has determined that the NSA's practice of bulk gathering of information about calls placed nationwide is illegal. This practice, part of what was exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013, essentially sees the NSA casting a wide net over the entire US telecom industry.

"Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans," said the court.

As of now there is no action required on the part of the NSA, but Congress will soon need to vote on whether to reinstate these rules or draft revised ones. Hopefully this ruling gives them something to think about.

"Android M" to be unveiled at Google I/O

Captured by Juan Garzón/CNET

We're but a few weeks away from Google I/O, the company's developer conference that always has a huge focus on Android. Appropriate, then, that we're set to get our first glimpse of the next major version of Google's mobile operating system. The company published its list of developer sessions, and among them was the mention of "="" "="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="37384b3d-fb1b-4da3-a18e-b4c50e92a3e2" slug="android-m-dubbed-next-version-of-googles-mobile-os" link-text=" " section="news" title="Google closes in on Android M, the next flavor of its mobile OS" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"37384b3d-fb1b-4da3-a18e-b4c50e92a3e2","slug":"android-m-dubbed-next-version-of-googles-mobile-os","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"operating-systems"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Tech^Services and Software^Operating Systems","reviewType":null},"section":"news"}"> Given Google's history of letter-incrementing for each subsequent version of Android, M will be the successor for Lollipop. What will it be named? Perhaps Mounds? Mars Bar?

AT&T revises its throttling policies

AT&T/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

If you're still holding on to an unlimited data plan from AT&T, the sort relegated to history years ago, you'll be glad to know that the company is backing away from its policy of beginning data throttling after 5GB of usage. This throttling, which would slow your phone's connection to a crawl, raised the ire of the Federal Communications Commission. AT&T is still facing a lawsuit, but as a sort of preemptive bid to ease tensions the company said it will now only throttle data on towers that are "experiencing network congestion." That still falls short of my definition of "unlimited," but it's surely a heck of a lot better than before.

Watch the sun throw a fit

On a cold day you might wish our planet were a little closer to the sun, but after watching the video above you might be pretty happy we're keeping some distance. On April 28, the sun threw out a massive solar filament, basically a huge flare of material catapulted out from a sunspot. This coronal mass ejection reached half way to Mercury and could have caused some major disruptions to our wireless networking systems had it been headed in our direction. Something to think about as you're napping in the hammock this weekend.