Geek Toys – The future of Apple TV

As WWDC approaches, I once again hope for a new Apple TV. The Apple TApple TVV has so much potential, and so much disappointment associated with it. Will WWDC be the time when we finally see an update? The bigger question is, with such strong competition from other products, has Apple already missed the boat?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I would like to see in a new Apple TV. There has been a lot of change in the last few months around home entertainment, and if Apple really wants to own the space, it has to adapt to compete. There are some key features that I think could make Apple TV ready to own the space again.

Siri

When I hear people discuss using Siri on an Apple TV, I rolled my eyes. I hate Siri. I refuse to use Siri. However, that changed just a little when I received an Amazon Echo. Amazon has knocked voice recognition out of the park! Alexa is fast, error free, and simply amazing. It is so good, I actually caught myself preparing to say “Thank you” to a piece of hardware! Each morning I ask Alexa for the news and my commute information. I use it when cooking for timers. Alexa is the only reason I use Prime Music. Let me repeat that. I began using Amazon Prime Music only because Alexa made it so easy. Make Siri that good on an AppleTV, and I get it now.

Facetime HD camera and mic

I do not understand why this hasn’t happened before. An Apple TV that could connect via FaceTime, is a no brainer in my opinion. Besides the ability to talk with relatives and friends through a TV, a camera could provide a lot of other features. The camera or mic could be used as a detector for HomeKit automation. Add some face recognition, and use it to choose the profile, and permit or deny content based on age restrictions. The list goes on and on.

HomeKit Integration

Imagine the Apple TV turning on lights when motion or sound is detected. It could also provide the remote view capabilities required by those of us who regularly travel and would like to check on our homes. This would be an easy way to integrate HomeKit and directly compete with the existing products on the market from Belkin and Wink and many other companies. I love my Wink Hub and the attached lights, sensors, and outlets. I hope that Apple gets the integration right.

4K

Apple has built the 5K iMac to encourage 4K content creation. 4K content only becomes valuable once there is an easy way to consume that content. Apple TV should be that avenue.

Glances and notifications

The notifications on Watch are the reason I love my watch. There is no reason why this same thing shouldn’t work as a pop-up on the Apple TV.

A decent remote!

Apple works hard to refine every detail of their products, which leads me to ask. What happened? The AppleTV Remote is simple, small, and sleek. It is also the worst of the worst of the entertainment hub remotes. It uses IR, which means it must be in direct line of site of the AppleTV. Anyone who has used both an Apple TV and a Roku or Amazon Fire TV understands what I am talking about. The Roku and Fire TV remotes can be oriented in any direction, and yet they still work. The devices themselves can be hidden behind TVs or in closets and they still work. Not so for the AppleTV. It is time to move to BluetoothLE for the remote and show IR the door.

Games, apps, blah blah, blah.

I don’t play games. I try to care…but I don’t.

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Geek Toys – Jabra Motion UC

Last week, I reviewed the Jabra Speak 450, which was provided by Jabra for a review.

Jabra Motion UC

Jabra Motion UC

This week, brings a review of the Jabra Motion UC. You will notice there is no disclaimer this week, as my Jabra Motion UC was supplied by my employer for testing, not by Jabra directly.

The obvious question is, why am I reviewing a product, when I have no obligation to do so? The answer is simple, because I REALLY like this bluetooth headset.

The model that I received included a dock/case, Jabra Link 360, and charging cable. The dock/case is quite ingenious, making it easy to store and travel with all of the accessories, while also providing a dock when at your desk. The case has traveled with me for a couple of trips, and has held up extremely well.

Battery Life

My average Tuesday is packed with meetings. I regularly have 8-10 meetings in a single day, all of them via phone, Lync, or Webex. With this schedule, the only time the headset goes into the charger is during lunch. The specs report 7 hours of talk time. While I have never tracked talk-time for a charge cycle, I have never found myself without battery.

Audio Quality

The loudness and clarity of the headset is very good. The noise rejection is also very good. The headset has two mics, which are back-to-back. With this setup, one mic is always used to pickup voice, the other is used for noise identification and isolation.

Comfort

The headset fits behind and over the ear. Its fit and weight make it very comfortable. Once I adjusted to the fact that it never felt tight on my ear, I was suprised by how well it held on. Short of head banging to an 80’s hairband, its going to stay with you.

Improvement Needed

There are two things that I would like to see improvement in. The first is the way the headset is switched from ear to ear. The process requires spinning the rubber earpiece on it’s mounting surface. This isn’t easy to describe, and it isn’t easy to do. The second issue has to do with the volume control. The touch control sometimes requires multiple swipes before it responds; other times, a simple bump is all that is required.

Wrap-Up

Despite the two areas that I would like to see improvement in, this is the best bluetooth headset that I have owned out of nearly a dozen units. It is comfortable, the battery last long enough for an entire day, and the range is exceptional. Ultimately, if I were to leave my current employer tomorrow, I would buy a Jabra Motion UC.

Geek Toys – Jabra Speak 450 for Cisco

Jabra Speak 450

Jabra Speak 450

First, a confession. This review is WAY overdue. I have been slammed at work recently, and that has carried well over into my evenings and weekends. The good thing about being busy with my company is that it usually involves travel. When trying to review a Bluetooth speakerphone, travel is exactly what you need.

I received the Speak 450 from Jabra to review in early August. Since that time, I have tested it in quiet environments, in loud noisy construction zones, and in a couple of airports. The device is branded Cisco, so there is no doubt which products it should work well with. However, I tested it with Cisco IP Communicator, Skype, and Microsoft Lync, and found all three to function similarly well.

The design screams “Cisco”. While the Speak 450 comes in two colors, I received a grey device that matches Cisco endpoints well. The angled speaker directs sounds towards the user, and the large buttons responded as expected. The unit I received included a Jabra Link 360 bluetooth adapter. I tested with the adapter, and with standard bluetooth connectivity. Test systems included two MacBook Pro’s (2010 and 2013), a Windows 7 laptop (with Link 360 adapter), an iPad and an iPhone.

Battery Life

One of the most important aspects of a battery powered speaker is runtime. The spec sheet list a 15 hour battery life. I found this to be closer to 12 hours from my use. While that is a considerable difference, I honestly had to work to keep from accidentally charging it before running it down. Also, a great feature of the device is the ability to plug into your computer via USB, working even on a dead (recharging) battery. With this ability, I don’t think it is possible to be caught in a situation where the Speak 450 cannot be used.

Sound Quality

The sound quality of this device is very good. The speaker puts out a good volume level without distorting excessively. Users always stated that they could hear me clearly.

The secret to the microphone quality is the location of the microphone. It is located low and center on the device. It is designed to pick up audio that is bouncing off a table, or other hard surface. The spec sheet list a 120 degree coverage area, which means it rejects most unwanted room noise. This was key when working in an office that was in the middle of construction. As long as I had the speaker between me and the construction noise, so that the mic was pointing away from the source of noise, users couldn’t hear the sander, hammer drill or air compressor. This great sound rejection comes at a cost however.

My only complaint about the Speak 450 is that it can only be used by a max of 3 people. The coverage area fits three people OK as long as they are sitting around a table, relatively close together. When a fourth person is added to the mix, they are going to feel frustrated. The speaker points away from them, making it harder to understand, and they will be asked to repeat themselves regularly. If you are looking for a conference room mic for a standard 6-8 seat room, this isn’t it.

Wrap-Up

The Speak 450 from Jabra is well built, able to handle travel in a backpack without issue, provides very good audio quality and noise rejection, and has excellent battery life. While not ideal for large meetings, it is capable of handling 3 active participants with very good results. Would I buy it? Yes.

***Disclaimer – I received a Speak 450 from Jabra to review for this article. Jabra has asked for my opinion only. This post is entirely my opinion, without inference or editing by Jabra.***