Technically speaking: April 2018’s best technology launches
Our bi-monthly dissection of the best technology happenings the world over
Master & Dynamic cables
Master & Dynamic has long touted the timeless nature of its headphones, from their high-end leathers to their durable metals. It must have balked, then, when Apple and Google changed the game by allowing the headphone jack to drift into technology’s overfilled attic, (alongside cassettes, Walkmans and catch-up TV), forcing emphasis onto wireless Bluetooth headphones, and rendering your favourite M&Ds incompatible. With the launch of the brand’s new Digital Accessories branch, M&D is going the extra mile to ensure that its original offerings live far into the future.
The Lightning to 3.5mm Audio Cable consists of a 1.2 m cord with a 3.5mm plug on one end and a Lightning connector on the other. These cables can replace the standard 3.5mm to 3.5mm cables included with the headphones, allowing them to be used without requiring a separate headphone jack to Lightning adapter. As well as solving a genuinely frustrating problem, the cables look better than most too, encased in heavy-duty woven fabric.
‘As the technology around us changes, we’re working to ensure that the Master & Dynamic products you know and love can be a part of your everyday life for decades to come,’ explains Master & Dynamic’s founder and CEO Jonathan Levine. The argument? Yes, you’re paying a premium for that Master & Dynamic branding and design, but you're also paying for the longevity that comes with it. We’re sold.
Ikea made its first foray into the smart home in 2015 with smart chargers, expanding its repertoire with smart lighting last year. Now its edged into audio with its first Bluetooth speakers: large, minimalist boxes that slot neatly into existing Ikea shelving systems.
The Eneby 20 and 30 embody the benefits (and pitfalls) associated with the Swedish furniture giant. They’re not the speakers for sound enthusiasts (and aren’t priced as such) but they are a functional and understated option. Under an industrially-edged handle, a single white dial controls sound, and connecting to Bluetooth is equally as Ikea-simple, though you can always connect to an audio source using a headphone jack, too. As the smart home takes off, the simplicity – and modesty – of these speakers is refreshing. They’ve got all the connectivity and mod-cons you need (for now), with zero fuss.
For those looking for something a little more sophisticated, the Eneby launch follows last year’s announcement that IKEA would be launching a collaborative collection with Sonos in 2019 as part of its Home Smart initiative, which will no doubt see the furniture stalwart upping the complexity and abilities of its smart audio offerings; helping to solidify Ikea’s transformation into a committed smart home force.
This month, Fitbit launched its latest fitness tracker, the Versa; pitching it as ‘the smartwatch for all’. Design-wise, on first impression, little has changed from the already fit-for-purpose Ionic (released last year). Only when you pick it up do you realise where advancements have been made. Certainly the lightest metal smartwatch currently available in the US market, it comes close to being the lightest ever made.
It offers a comfortable design (thanks to a feather-light, anodised aluminum case, that is slightly tapered and angled in its design to fit small or large wrists) and a simplified new dashboard, for easier access to your health and fitness data. Heart rate tracking, onscreen workouts, and automatic sleep monitoring meet smart features like quick replies on Android, wallet-free payments on Fitbit Versa Special Edition, and on-device music – all with 4+ days battery life. It’s a powerful thing for something that weighs, and feels on the wrist, like little more than a bangle.
New (but largely unsurprising) research from Nokia has found that lack of sleep is linked to an increased likelihood of being overweight, being less active and being more likely to have hypertension. Never fear: the hardware veteran has made its first foray into sleep tech (yes, that’s a thing now). Nokia is becoming quite the leader in the connected health revolution, having already launched smart thermometers, weighing scales and other such gadget geekery.
The Wi-Fi enabled sleep sensor, which you place under your mattress, tracks your sleep cycles, heart rate and can even detect snoring, providing you with detailed insights into sleep patterns, all while you’re dreaming away.
Dyson Air Cool
Continuing the trend for easy data access, Dyson has launched its first air purifier with an LCD screen, to let you know what pollutants are flying round – and settling – in your home.
It’s a lot of information on a tiny screen. But, as a species, aren’t we getting used to reading these miniature LCD offerings? And one suspects it isn’t something you would monitor daily, but instead take a cursory glance at every once in a while – perhaps after a particularly heavy traffic jam outside your city-centre studio.