Audible brings its audiobook library to the Apple Watch

Didn’t get your fill of Amazon news among the 70 or so announcements at today’s Alexa event? Good news, Audible’s got something to add to the deluge. The Amazon-owned audiobook site just announced the availability of its Apple Watch app.

The offering brings pretty much what you’d expect. You can listen to audiobooks and manage your library directly from the small screen. It’s a pretty logical next step for the service, given the focus Apple has put on smartwatch audio, between last year’s addition of an LTE version of the watch and the recent announcement of a native podcasting app for the platform.

This also goes a ways toward justifying the recent addition of Aaptiv fitness routines, which Audible added a few weeks back. The offering made some sense on the phone, but bringing the course directly to a fitness/health-focused product like the Apple Watch helps complete that vision. Those workout and meditation offerings are free to Audible users through September of next year.

Review: Apple Watch Series 4

Roughly two-and-half minutes into my run, the watch kicks in. There’s a haptic buzz on my wrist.

“It looks like you’re working out,” the watch face reads. That’s followed by a big, yellow button, suggesting I start an indoor run. I tap the neon button and the clock starts, comping me a reasonable approximation of the time it took for the Watch to be sure what sort of activity it was detecting.

I wasn’t actually planning to test the feature on this particular run. In all the stretching/music picking/treadmill setting pre-run ritual, I’d just forgotten to set the damn thing. It feels like a small thing, but, then, most of the updates are relatively small in the grand scheme of things. In the case of the Apple Watch, radically departure would almost certainly be a bad thing.

You see, there are smartwatches and then there’s the Apple Watch. That’s not so much a tacit endorsement of the product, so much as an objective analysis of the numbers. Numbers from IDC earlier this year show Apple leading all wearables on the strength of its single smartwatch.

In fact, the company accounted for more than half of smartwatch shipments last year. Simply put, the Apple Watch has long represented a rare bright spot in a flagging wearables category. The device has been successful enough for long enough that analysts are once again bullish on the category going forward. That’s an impressive feat by any measure.

So what’s a market-dominating smartwatch maker to do? For Apple, the answer is two-fold. First, improve upon the overall experience without altering anything too much. With the Apple Watch Series 4, that means subtle hardware improvements like a larger screen while maintaining a similar form factor, as well as tweaks like the addition of haptic feedback to the Watch’s crown.

After all, Apple’s success doesn’t lie in any single standout feature. Rather, as with the iPhone, the company has excelled in providing an overall hardware and software experience that makes it possible to use the product mostly without thinking — as evidenced by the above workout feature.

Second, show the world precisely how committed you are to health. Even with the existence of cheaper fitness trackers, health and fitness have long been understood to be the primary drivers in smartwatch sales. For Fitbit, that means pivoting much of the company toward health care.

For Apple, it’s finding ways to have the Watch taken more seriously as a health-monitoring device. While it’s true that the product won’t be replacing medical products any time soon, the wearable has the decided advantage of constant monitoring.

That means, unlike hospital equipment and other pricier technology, it can be worn as a kind of safeguard. New features like the ECG (electrocardiogram) monitor on the rear of the device and automatic fall detection aren’t aimed at replacing doctor checkups. They’re safeguards for those times when users aren’t in a doctor’s care.

Analysts have bet much of the category’s future growth on Apple’s ability to identify and target new markets. Having cornered techies and a younger demographic, older users and those with health problems present a clear way to expand the Watch’s existing base.

Day to day

I wear a lot of smartwatches. It’s a byproduct/perk of the job. Between reviews, however, I always come back to the Apple Watch. For one thing, while I switch back and forth between Android and iOS handsets, my primary phone is an iPhone. One of Apple’s biggest appeals has been its ecosystem. The products just work well with one another to a fault — and once you’re locked in, it’s hard to get out.

That’s not the sole reason, of course. Google, Samsung and Fitbit all have iOS apps now. And while integration isn’t perfect, it’s certainly usable. The fact is that the Apple Watch is an elegant solution from both a hardware and software standpoint. It walks the key wearable line of being engaging when necessary and fading into the background the rest of the time.

Contrary to early reports (and speculation over that event invite), Apple stuck with the squircle (it’s a real geometry term, look it up) this time out. The design was a bit polarizing early on, but I suspect most users have since come to appreciate the things it affords, including the ability to fit more text on the screen.

The face of it

Of course, that’s doubly the case here. The clearest difference on the hardware side of the increased display size, which, like the iPhone X, Apple managed to increase the screen without making much of a dent in the overall footprint.

The Series 4’s case is slightly larger and wider than its predecessor, but it’s not really noticeable unless you happen to have two side-by-side. Even with the slightly larger surface area, the Apple Watch remains one of the more wearable wearables.

If you’ve used an earlier version with any regularity, on the other other hand, the increase in surface area is pretty readily apparent, especially when an email notification comes through. It also means app developers can jam in more detail and the Watch’s faces can feature additional complications (a descriptor I suspect makes Apple designers die inside a bit every time they have to utter it).

With the 30 percent larger display, you can add things like the Breathe app to the face for easy access. It’s a rare instance of the company pushing to bring more detail to a surface, but with the limited real estate afforded by a smartwatch screen, you take every precious millimeter you can get. The fact that the bezels are smaller also means app designers don’t have to lean as heavily on black backgrounds to help mask the unused space.

On the case

Apple also managed to make the new watch thinner than its predecessors. The benefit there is obvious when it comes to making a product designed to be worn on the body. And the slightly larger case size means Apple was able to accomplish this without having an impact on battery life.

It’s an interesting choice, given that much of the competition has zeroed in on battery life with recent upgrades, including, notably, the new Galaxy Watch, which Samsung rates at “several days.” With good reason — battery has long been one of the biggest issues with smartwatches.

As with earlier versions, Apple rates the Series 4’s battery at “all day,” which certainly lines up with my own testing. Even so, I would happily trade a millimeter or two of thickness for some additional mAhs. As it stands, you should be able to get through a day’s use without worrying about finding a charger, but the peace of mind of more battery life is always welcome.

I admit I didn’t think much of the digital crown when Apple mentioned it on stage. If anything, it sounded like a sort of parlor trick. When I finally had a chance to try the device on at the event the other week, however, I was surprised at how much I dug it.

Spinning the circle really feels like turning a mechanical dial. And when there’s nothing on screen to move by spinning it, the feedback simply shuts off. Again, it’s a small touch, but a nice one, nonetheless. This is still probably the one spot where Samsung really has a leg up on Apple. The Galaxy (nee Gear)’s spinning bezel is still my favorite method for interacting with smartwatch menus (and the top reason to consider a Samsung model). Though the new digital crown is a fairly close second place.

For your health

Apple devoted a good amount of the Apple Watch’s stage time to health and wellness. And understandably so. The company firmly believes that the product’s capabilities as a health monitor are the way forward for the Apple Watch. Added sophisticated tools like the ECG also go a long way toward the company continuing to position the wearable as a premium product.

After all, budget devices from companies like Xiaomi represent the other key growth area in the fitness space. Apple has also seen a surprisingly successful competitor in the form of the $200 Fitbit Versa. Sure, the company got off to a rocky start, but its latest Pebble-esque smartwatch looks to be a bonafide hit. And it’s a pretty solid solution for those looking for a low-cost or Android-friendly solution.

ECG is an interesting addition, because for most users, it’s not an everyday feature. It’s a great addition for older users and those with existing conditions. Information collected day to day can be shared with doctors via the Apple Health app. For the rest of us, the product has the potential to flag irregularities and things like atrial fibrillation.

No one is suggesting an FDA-approved feature can or should replace a doctor, but if it helps shed some light on heart issues, that’s certainly a net positive. And that’s really where the Apple Watch thrives as a health care device — it offers potential insight into larger issues. That includes the addition of things like low heart rate notifications in watchOS 5 (which joins the high heart rate notifications from its predecessor) and the irregular rhythm notifications that arrive via the ECG.

The feature won’t be available until later this year, so I wasn’t able to test the thing. And when it does arrive, it will only be available in the U.S., likely due to the intricacies of different health regulatory bodies from country to country. When it does arrive, it will work as follows, per Apple: “Simply touch the Digital Crown to generate an ECG waveform in just 30 seconds. This data can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation — a serious form of irregular heart rhythm — or sinus rhythm, which means your heart is beating in a normal pattern.”

That means the crown is essentially doing double duty, serving as one of two electrodes (the other is on the rear of the watch) for measuring heart rhythms. It’s a pretty novel addition to an existing feature.

Fall detection is the other feature I’ll readily admit I wasn’t able to properly test this time out. The feature is automatically enabled for users aged 65 and over. Everyone else will have to manually enable it via the iPhone app under the Emergency SOS setting. When it detects a fall, an Emergency SOS screen will pop up — not dissimilar to those Life Alert devices from the 80s. If the wearer is unresponsive for a minute, it will send out the alert.

I can, however, attest to the fact that I didn’t register any false alerts while wearing the device. Slamming your hands on the desk or collapsing into your bed won’t set it off. Apparently stunt people and others trained at falling won’t be able to set it off, either. I tried taking a few controlled spills into my rabbit’s floor pads, with no results beyond sore hands and a confused bunny. Don’t try this at home, kids.

Watch this space

There are other fun features scattered throughout. Walkie Talkie is a cool one. It’s more of a fun novelty than an indispensable addition. It’s a quick and easy way to communicate with fellow Apple Watch owners over Wi-Fi or cellular, sending through transmissions with the push of a button. It’s also a good way to take advantage of 50 percent louder speakers.

The Series 4 isn’t the kind of refresh that justifies upgrading from the last generation, especially given the $399 and $499 starting prices for the standard and LTE models, respectively. But there’s certainly enough here to keep the Apple Watch at the top of the smartwatch heap. The addition of serious health features like ECG and fall detection further lay the groundwork for a what the device — and category — will become, going forward.

Withings returns from the dead with Steel HR Sport watch

Any time a smaller company is gobbled up by a larger one, you assume the worse. In the case of Nokia buying Withings, that’s more or less what happened. First Nokia launched a handful of products under its own name and ultimately dropped the French health hardware company altogether.

Four months ago, one of Withings’ co-founders bought the brand back from Nokia. And today, the innovative French hardware company returns with a new take on an old product. The Steel HR Sport. It’s a welcome return for what had become one of my favorite fitness trackers, prior to the brand’s untimely demise, back in May.

The Steel line’s simplicity has always been among its most appealing features. The original, launched in 2014, was one of the early hybrid smartwatches — a fairly standard analog timepiece that hides some smart features below the surface. The devices feature a small monochrome display up top for notifications and menus, along with a small secondary gauge embedded in the face that displays the percentage toward a daily fitness goal.

The Steel HR Sport brings some key updates to the line, including the ability to track 30 different activities, including yoga, volleyball, rowing, boxing, skiing and ice hockey. The watch also provides “Fitness Level Assessments,” which gauge things like VO2 max to provide a better overall picture of health. And while there’s no GPS built in, the watch uses the phone to track distance, elevation and pace and map runs.

Aside from the aesthetic appeal, battery life has always been one of the biggest upsides of these hybrid devices, and the new watch certainly fits the profile with 25 days on a charge, plus an additional 20 days in standby mode. That means that, unlike much of the competition, the watch actually can track daytime and nighttime activity, without needing to recharge.

Unlike the Steel HR, which came in both 36 and 40mm sizes, the HR Sport is only available in the latter — though that’s still quite a bit more compact than a number of smartwatches on the market. It’s available today for $200.

Kegel trainer startup Elvie is launching a smaller, smarter, hands-free breast pump

Elvie, a London-based startup known best for its connected Kegel trainer, is jumping into the breast pump business with a new $480 hands-free system you can slip into your bra.

Even with all the innovation in baby gear, breast pumps have mostly sucked (pun intended) for new moms for the past half a century. My first experience with a pump required me to stay near a wall socket and hunch over for a good 20 to 30 minutes for fear the milk collected might spill all over the place (which it did anyway, frequently). It was awful!

Next I tried the Willow Pump, an egg-shaped, connected pump meant to liberate women everywhere with its small and mobile design. It received glowing reviews, though my experience with it was less than stellar.

The proprietary bags were hard to fit in the device, filled up with air, cost 50 cents each (on top of the $500 pump that insurance did not cover), wasted many a golden drop of precious milk in the transfer and I had to reconfigure placement several times before it would start working. So I’ve been tentatively excited about the announcement of Elvie’s new cordless (and silent??) double breast pump.

Displayed: a single Elvie pump with accompanying app

Elvie tells TechCrunch its aim all along has been to make health tech for women and that it has been working on this pump for the past three years.

The Elvie Pump is a cordless, hands-free, closed-system, rechargeable electric pump designed by former Dyson engineers. It can hold up to 5 oz. from each breast in a single use.

It’s most obvious and direct competition is the Willow pump, another “wearable” pump moms can put right in their bra and walk around in, hands-free. However, unlike the Willow, Elvie’s pump does not need proprietary bags. You just pump right into the device and the pump’s smartphone app will tell you when each side is full.

It’s also half the size and weight of a Willow and saves every precious drop it can by pumping right into the attached bottle so you just pump and feed (no more donut-shaped bags you have to cut open and awkwardly pour into a bottle).

On top of that, Elvie claims this pump is silent. No more loud suction noise off and on while trying to pump in a quiet room in the office or elsewhere. It’s small, easy to carry around and you can wear it under your clothes without it making a peep! While the Willow pump claims to be quiet — and it is, compared to other systems — you can still very much hear it while you are pumping.

Elvie’s connected breast pump app

All of these features sound fantastic to this new (and currently pumping) mom. I remember in the early days of my baby’s life wanting to go places but feeling stuck. I was chained to not just all the baby gear, hormonal shifts and worries about my newborn but to the pump and feed schedule itself, which made it next to impossible to leave the house for the first few months.

My baby was one of those “gourmet eaters” who just nursed and nursed all day. There were days I couldn’t leave the bed! Having a silent, no mess, hands-free device that fit right in my bra would have made a world of difference.

However, I mentioned the word “tentatively” above, as I have not had a chance to do a hands-on review of Elvie’s pump. The Willow pump also seemed to hold a lot of promise early on, yet left me disappointed.

To be fair, the company’s customer service team was top-notch and did try to address my concerns. I even went through two “coaching” sessions, but in the end it seemed the blame was put on me for not getting their device to work correctly. That’s a bad user experience if you are blaming others for your design flaws, especially new and struggling moms.

Both companies are founded by women and make products for women — and it’s about time. But it seems as if Elvie has taken note of the good and bad in their competitors and had time to improve upon it — and that’s what has me excited.

As my fellow TechCrunch writer Natasha put it in her initial review of Elvie as a company, “It’s not hyperbole to say Elvie is a new breed of connected device. It’s indicative of the lack of smart technology specifically — and intelligently — addressing women.”

So why the pump? “We recognized the opportunity [in the market] was smarter tech for women,” founder and CEO Tania Boler told TechCrunch on her company’s move into the breast pump space. “Our aim is to transform the way women think and feel about themselves by providing the tools to address the issues that matter most to them, and Elvie Pump does just that.”

The Elvie Pump comes in three sizes and shapes to fit the majority of breasts and, in case you want to check your latch or pump volume, also has transparent nipple shields with markings to help guide the nipple to the right spot.

The app connects to each device via Bluetooth and tracks your production, detects let down, will pause when full and is equipped to pump in seven different modes.

The pump retails for $480 and is currently available in the U.K. However, those in the U.S. will have to wait until closer to the end of the year to get their hands on one. According to the company, it will be available on Elvie.com and Amazon.com, as well in select physical retail stores nationally later this year, pending FDA approval.

Can Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Wear chip breathe life into Wear OS?

Snapdragon’s been talking up its new wearable chip architecture since Google I/O back in May. The component giant finally took the wraps off the product at an event earlier today in San Francisco.

As one imagines from the I/O partnership, Wear 3100 has Google’s smartwatch operating system firmly in its sites. And not a moment too soon, really. In spite of a handful of updates, Wear OS has felt pretty stagnant for some time. Not even the rebrand from Android Wear could help shake loose the cobwebs.

The new architecture replaces the 2100. Qualcomm’s chips are currently shipping in more than 100 different Wear OS watches by 25 different brands, according to the company. Honestly, I’m mostly surprised to hear that Wear OS devices have hit the triple digits. After all, category leaders like Apple, Fitbit and Samsung have all opted to invest in their own software ecosystem, rather than embracing Google.

Interestingly, the first three partners for the new chip are luxury watch makers, rather than tech companies like LG or Huawei. Fossil Group, Louis Vuitton and Montblanc have all signed up to use the tech, perhaps marking the perceived way forward for the operating system. A Pixel Watch launching at Google’s fall event also seems like a very likely possibility, given the timing of the news.

Extended battery life is the main thing here — that, after all, has long been the bane of smartwatch makers. The new chip also brings new modes, include a “Traditional Watch Mode” to cut down on battery use and a “Rich Interactive Mode” for a more robust experience.

The new chip starts shipping for mass production today.

Seismic debuts robotic-assistive Powered Clothing undergarments

Powered Clothing is not a robotic exoskeleton. Not in the standard understanding of the term, at least. Seismic CEO Rich Mahoney wants to make that much clear. 

“Exoskeletons are what the public understands, with regards to wearable robotics,” Mahoney told TechCrunch in an interview ahead of the product’s debut onstage this week at Disrupt. “We’re absolutely not an exoskeleton. Part of our insight we saw is that everyone is wearing clothing and no one is wearing robots.”

Around the TechCrunch office, we’ve taken to calling the product “robotic underwear,” something that paints a bit more accurate a picture of what you’re getting yourself into. The product is designed to offer similar assistive functionality to what you get with SuitX or Ekso, albeit on a smaller scale, in a more discreet package.

“Our first product is integrating what we call intelligent wearable strength, focused on the core,” says Mahoney. “It symbiotically provides assistant to the hips and lower back to support mobility and posture. There are many people that can use that, but we’re really focusing on where the need is. It’s the broad consumer, wellness market.”

The company’s initial demographic is the aging baby boomer generation — wearers who are still mobile but can use an extra assist from Seismic’s textile-based tendons. It’s a far more subtle take on the company’s original model, a DARPA-funded spin-off of research organization, SRI International.

In those prehistoric days of 2016, the company was known as Superflex, and the product looked something a bit more akin to a bionic wetsuit. These days, the company employs a number designers alongside its robotics staff to deliver a wearable that’s, well, a bit more wearable.

“We understood that we were an apparel company and really saw a consumer-facing brand as being the way we wanted to approach the market,” says Mahoney. “We really have to think about what people understand and how we can bring functionality to clothing, while maintaining comfort, aesthetic and emotion. Really, our company is a fusion of apparel and robotics.”

Powered Clothing will come to market in limited quantities this year at a price “similar to high-end, premium apparel.”

Samsung Galaxy Watch review

The industry is forever chasing the Apple Watch. After all, the smartwatch has been a rare bright spot in a plateauing wearables category. Even Fitbit recently found itself heading in that direction, finding a fair bit of success with the Versa.

Samsung’s approach, on the other hand, has always been very, well, Samsung. The company’s watches are big, hulking things, covering chrome with a kind of Swiss Army knife approach customary of its various other products.

Announced alongside the Note 9, the Galaxy Watch wasn’t the departure many expected. While the name implied a potential shift toward Android Wear, the company is intent on sticking with Tizen. And why not? Samsung’s spent a lot of time making Tizen its own — multiple generations have been devoted to tweaking the operating system to its specifications.

It’s the result of a pretty clear cost-benefit analysis. The biggest drawback of not embracing Wear OS is the relative lack of third-party app support on Tizen. The biggest advantage: support for Samsung’s unique bezel-based navigation. To this day, it’s the best of the bunch, beating the more finicky crown control most of the competition relies on. It was an early choice for the company and continues to be one of the best elements of Samsung’s watches.

That’s as solid a foundation as any, really. Several different models have helped the company fine-tune its watch offerings, including last year’s Gear Sport, which finally found Samsung introducing a much more manageable 42mm model. It was the first such device from the company that recognized not every user is looking to place a massive device on their wrist.

The fact that there’s been a name change here owes much more to branding than it does any sort of radical departure on the hardware side. Instead, the watch is more of a fine-tuning for the line. Multi-day life aside, there’s not enough here to justify an upgrade for those who own a recent generation, but over the course of several years, Samsung has slowly been fine-tuning one of the better smartwatches in the game.

I wore the Galaxy Watch around for a few days, and used every opportunity I could to quiz others on their thoughts about the aesthetics. The results were largely positive. I don’t know that any onlookers were particularly wowed, but in most cases folks said they would consider wearing the watch. That’s certainly something.

Samsung’s among the companies that have subscribed to the notion that smartwatches ought to look like watches — an entirely different school than the Apple Watches and Fitbit Versas of the world. If I’ve had one complaint about the company’s design choices, it’s the push toward over-detailing — all of the numbers and notches. The design language clearly draws inspiration from sport watches.

For me, the pinnacle of the line was the hyper minimalist S2. It was subtle, modern and went pretty well with just about anything else you had on, from work to work out. Samsung, clearly, has gone in an altogether different direction here, targeting those who have a fondness for the classic outdoor style from companies like Casio. That said, the design is thankfully more subtle than past versions (see: the Gear S3 Frontier).

More importantly, in terms of appealing to a wider audience, the watch finally gets two distinct sizes — 42 and 46mm. The groundwork for the decision was laid with the last year’s Gear Sport, which brought a smaller size into the mix. The addition of the 42mm case makes the Sport somewhat redundant, though the company tells me it’s keeping it around for the time being.

It’s a smart move on Samsung’s part. By just going large with the watch, the company was ceding a large potential user base to Apple, including a big portion of female smartwatch wearers. Now that Fitbit is serious about smartwatches, the company clearly needs to do more to appeal to a larger segment of Android users.

The company’s watches have always felt large on me, and I’m around six feet tall. When I asked smaller colleagues to try them out, they looked downright cartoonish. The 42mm version fits much more comfortably on my wrist — though if you have a smaller stature, I’d strongly encourage finding a store and trying one on first. Even the smaller version is by no means compact.

The spinning bezel is back, because of course it is. It’s long been the best part of Samsung’s watches. It’s also the best smartwatch control mechanism in the industry, including Apple’s crown. It’s swift, it’s smooth and it’s much easier to use when exercising. That said, I still find myself using the side buttons with more frequency — they’re a much easier way to get where you’re going quickly.

The bezel is apparently the main reason for keeping Tizen around — Wear doesn’t support that sort of input method. And honestly, it’s a pretty good justification. Besides, Samsung’s done a lot to tweak the operating system to its specifications, and we’ve got a pretty good and well-rounded wearable operating system as a result.

There are a number of good reasons to go with Google’s OS, including better Android integration and a more robust app store, but Samsung’s always been interested in developing its own ecosystem — and besides, Tizen isn’t broken, so Samsung ain’t fixing it, as the saying goes.

Exercise tracking is another bit that’s benefited from several generations of tweaks. Fitness is pretty widely understood as the primary driver of smartwatches’ purposes, in spite of the existence of fitness trackers, and as such, all the major players are constantly attempting to one-up one another.

There’s nothing exceptional here on the exercise side, but the Galaxy watch is a workhorse. There’s autotracking on board and 40 trackable exercises. I’m a runner, and found the tracking to work pretty well, along with plenty of reminders to get off my lazy ass. Not great for my self-esteem, but good for my waistline, I suppose.

There’s sleep tracking on board, as well, though that’s become a pretty standard feature across all of these devices. More compelling is the addition of stress tracking. The feature reads the wearer’s vital signs to paint an overall picture of their mood. I’m sure the science behind all of this is lacking, and it generally read me as “neutral” (which, as anyone who has ever met me will tell you isn’t the best word).

That said, I’m sure there’s something in the psychology of it all. Like Fitbit and Apple’s reminders to breathe, there’s something to be said in the simple act of taking a moment to recognize your mood. Like a meditation body scan that reminds you that you’re constantly clenching your jaw, focusing on your mood and breathing goes a surprisingly long way toward de-stressing.

The Galaxy Watch isn’t the revolution Samsung suggested (but marketers are gonna market). That the company spent so little time on the product during the recent Note 9 event was at least partially a product of the fact that it’s more fine-tuning than anything else. There is, however, one piece that really stands out — and it’s perhaps the largest quibble with the smartwatch category of all.

Samsung says the 42mm’s 270 mAh battery will get you up to three days of life and the 46’s 472 mAh will get you up to four. That’s a bit of wishful thinking in my experience, but it’s not far off. Wearing the watch straight both day and night, I was able to squeeze just over two and a half days — pretty impressive, so far as smartwatches go. It’s also a bit of a necessity for something designed to be worn to bed.

It’s the best addition to the watch this time out. It’s not enough to help the device truly stand out from an overcrowded and underselling category — especially one where a single player is utterly dominating the sales charts. But Samsung’s still got one of the better devices in the game.

The pricing remains, well, pricey. The 42mm runs $329 and the 46mm is $349. It’s an additional $50 to upgrade either one to LTE. That puts the product roughly on par with the Apple Watch. From an Android user’s perspective, however, the real competition is the far cheaper ($200) Versa. Things have shifted a bit since Samsung’s last major watch release, with Fitbit becoming the major player in the Android-compatible smartwatch field. Samsung’s at a bit of a crossroads.

For now, the company seems content to go directly after Apple. Competing on that field is going to take some serious innovating. The Galaxy Watch isn’t that, but it’s a perfectly solid choice for Android users.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy Watch are available now

Need something to put on that new Wireless Charging Duo? Good news — the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy Watch are available now. Here’s the my full 3,000 word review of the Note 9. The TLDR version is, essentially:

  • Good screen
  • Very good camera
  • Decently long battery
  • Interesting new S-Pen tricks
  • Way, way too pricey

As for the Galaxy Watch, well, I’m wearing that one as I type this. Expect a review in the near future. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the experience and am glad the company finally opted for a smaller size — even if that one might still be too larger for many wrists.

Both devices are available in a bunch of places, but it’s different SKUs for different vendors, so here’s the info straight from Samsung:

The 128GB Galaxy Note 9 can be purchased through carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless and Xfinity, along with Best Buy, Costco, Sam’s Club, Straight Talk Wireless, Target, Walmart, Samsung.com and the ShopSamsung app. The 512GB version is available at select retail locations and online at AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, U.S. Cellular and Samsung.com.

And here’s the same for the Galaxy Watch

Starting at $329.99 for the 42mm and $349.99 for the 46mm, is now available at Amazon, Best Buy and Samsung.com in the U.S. The Galaxy Watch LTE version is also available today, at Samsung.com and T-Mobile starting at $379.99 for the 42mm, and $399.99 for the 46mm.

As for the Galaxy Home smart speaker, your guess is as good as ours.