Last year Apple first introduced the concept of its iOS mobile operating system and iPhone connectivity as "iOS in the Car." That prototype has been refined and reborn as a production-ready system dubbed CarPlay. For the many iPhone users, this connection promises to be the holy grail of car connectivity, as well as a great way to leverage their investment of time and money in learning, using, and buying media for the Apple iOS environment. CarPlay includes directions & maps, hands-free calling, text messaging, music, and more. Read on for my full run-down on CarPlay, available on select car models this year, and widely available next year. Image © Apple
Garmin recently released the second generation of its multi-sport Fenix GPS watch, the Fenix 2 ($399), with interface improvements, expanded smartphone connectivity, plus the addition of heart rate and running-specific features. Unlike Garmin's popular and multi-model running line, the Fenix 2 works for more sports, and significantly, also has navigation features that you can depend upon in the back-country. "The Fenix 2 combines the very best fitness and outdoor technology from Garmin into an easy-to-use wristwatch, making it the perfect training tool for multisport athletes," said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales. "Users can easily switch from advanced fitness training features like VO2 max, virtual partner and a recovery advisor, to the GPS tracking features like TracBack and ski mode, all while staying connected with smart notifications and LiveTrack." LiveTrack works with Garmin's smartphone app and is a feature that lets others track your location and GPS track in near-real time, as long as you are within cell tower or WiFi range. The Fenix 2, which is waterproof and ruggedized, does just about everything, including serving as a remote for Garmin's VIRB action camera. It's an impressive tool for the multi-sport athlete who spends time in the back-country. Image © Garmin
The AllTrails hiking app (free) for iPhone or Android smartphones strikes a great balance between simplicity and ease of use, and a robust feature set suitable for serious outdoor adventure. This is an app you'll use frequently if you are interested in hiking or backpacking, mountain biking, trail running, equestrian, or other trail recreation. Its GPS-powered features include: find trails nearest you, create tracks to save and share, add shareable photos directly from the tracks function, view topo maps, and more. The app is so popular and widely used that you'll find abundant and informative user reviews including star-ratings for most trails. Read on for my full review of the AllTrails hiking app. Image © AllTrails
At this week's Mobile World Congress, Samsung announced its latest entries into the emerging multi-function wristwatch market: The Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo. The Gear 2 models are the next generation of Samsung's Gear line, with the new watches running Samsung's own operating system, rather than Android. The watches include an array of functions, including:
- Bluetooth linkage to compatible smartphones.
- The ability to accept or ignore incoming calls or messages.
- Customizable notification options.
- Built-in Camera (Gear 2 only).
- Electronics products remote (compatible TVs).
- Music player with wireless Bluetooth headset.
- Heart rate monitor and fitness-coaching features.
The watches will be available in five colors and are to go on sale in April. Image © Samsung
The latest generation of compact action cameras are changing the way we see the world. They provide super-sharp video (and even slow-motion) from just about any perspective you can dream up, with the help of a wide range of mounting options. Most cameras are also available with waterproof cases good to dive as deep as 60 meters for snorkeling and Scuba diving enthusiasts. The cameras also capture sound, and many have remote mic options. More and more cameras are being equipped with remote control options and smartphone app control options. A handful of HD video action cams are available with built-in GPS location capability. Each manufacturer has a different approach on what to do with the location data, but at a minimum you can record and overlay tracks, speed, distance, and other social-media-shareable stats. Read on for my review of five HD video cams with GPS. Image © Garmin
Earlier this year, Garmin introduced its entry into the growing ruggedized video action-camera category, the VIRB. At the time, Garmin promised a free remote-control app for the camera, and it recently delivered the VIRB app. "The Garmin VIRB app lets your access and control your VIRB Elite HD action camera using Wi-Fi," states Garmin. "Turning your smart-phone in a wireless remote control, the app gives you the ability to stop and start recording, preview videos, control camera settings such as resolution, frames-per-second, and more." There are many situations in which the remote capability would come in handy with an action cam. The app works only with the VIRB Elite model. Image © Garmin
Ricoh camera has jumped into the growing action-cam market with a WG-4 GPS model ($379, available in black or blue) that shoots still images and video. The WG-4 is rated waterproof to 14 meters, and is shock resistant (tested up to a two-meter fall), as well as dust-proof and crush-resistant. Also important in an action cam, the WG-4 includes a dual shake-reduction system that minimizes the effect of camera shake on final images and videos. On the GPS side, "The WG-4 GPS comes equipped with a sophisticated GPS module, which automatically records position data and travel log data onto captured images and adjusts the built-in clock to local time," states Ricoh. "Its pressure sensor and digital compass also allow the user to check the pressure, altitude/underwater depth and direction of a shooting location on the camera's LCD monitor." The new WG-4, plus a rugged camera mount (shown in photo) are to be available in March. Image © Ricoh
Garmin's heads-up display (HUD+) ($149) is a low-profile device that sits on your dashboard and projects a futuristic on-the-windshield display. The display includes turn-by-turn directions and many other features we associate with a high-end dedicated car GPS. These include estimated time of arrival, lane assist (advance guidance on the correct lane for an exit), plus speed, traffic, and safety camera alerts, all linked to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Garmin has just released the free companion app for its very latest HUD+ hardware. The app includes on-board maps, "real view" of major interchanges, and even current and forecasted weather conditions. Image © Garmin
TomTom has just released the companion smartphone app (free, no in-app purchases) for its GPS sport watches. "The MySports mobile app automatically connects with TomTom Runner and Multi-Sport GPS watches to upload key performance information, including distance, time, and calories, using Bluetooth Smart technology," states TomTom. The app also automatically uploads data to online community and training-log platforms such as TomTom MySports, RunKeeper, and MapMyFitness if you set it to do so. The app also keeps TomTom watches updated with the latest GPS almanac data for quicker position fix and startups. Much of your key summary data activity appears right on the app, so you may need to visit your in-depth online training tool only occasionally. The MySports app is available in the Apple App Store, with an Android version to be released soon. Image © TomTom
Garmin continues to stretch its lead in the handheld golf GPS market with the introduction of new Approach G8 and G7 models. The $399 G8 becomes the new top of the line from Garmin. It boasts an all-new chassis that is slimmer and lighter than its predecessors. It also has Garmin's largest golf GPS screen, at 240 x 400 pixels and 1.5 x 2.6 inches. As you might expect, the G8 has every feature you can imagine and some you may not have thought of. Like other Garmins, it comes with a free, and free-to-update database of 30,000+ courses world-wide. It also has Smart Notification technology, which communicates with your smartphone to receive emails, texts, and call alerts (I won't be using those on the course!). Garmin is also in the process of adding golf tracking features to its free online Connect services, so the G8 will feed stats to Connect when you are ready to keep a log and to analyze performance and scores. A new PlaysLike feature adjusts distances for uphill and downhill terrain if you opt to use it. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts 15 hours in full GPS use. Other features include touch-targeting, manually moveable pin, shot distance tracker, stat tracker, and digital scorecard. A new G7 model ($299) shares most of the same features but has a smaller screen. Watch for my on-course Golf GPS reviews later this spring. Image © Garmin