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‘WonderCube:’ A multi-function keyring for your phone

Clever idea. It’s a USB/lightning cable, card reader, phone stand, light and emergency charger — all wrapped up in a 1″ cube that attaches to a keyring. It’s already over its IndieGogo goal of $50,000 (over $63.4K as of this posting.) At its retail price of $70, I’m less of a fan, but the $50 early bird price seems reasonable.

Especially clever is the emergency charging feature. A flip of lid reveals a 9-volt battery connector that the company says can provide 3.5 hours of talk time.

App Camp for Girls expands program to new cities

I’m a big fan of App Camp for Girls, the Portland, Oregon-based organization whose mission is “to empower girls by providing engaging and accessible educational programs in software development.”

Founded by my friend Jean MacDonald, co-founder of Smile Software, App Camp for Girls “seeks to address the gender imbalance in technology professions by inspiring middle-school age girls with a broad introduction to the process of app development, from brainstorming and designing ideas to building and pitching their apps.” It’s a terrific goal and I was thrilled to hear that the group is expanding its presence to other areas of the country, including my own Garden State.

The rub? The deadline for applying is March 17th and the program is open to girls local to the camp’s location, who will be entering 8th or 9th grade in Fall 2015.

Dates and Locations for Summer 2015

    Vancouver, BC: July 6-10, 2015
    Seattle, WA: July 13-17, 2015
    Central New Jersey: July 20-24, 2015
    Portland, OR: July 27-31, 2015
    Portland, OR: August 17-21, 2015

If you have — or know — a girl who qualifies, do whatever it takes to get her registered. You could change her life.

Watching the watch watchers

In just a few hours, the speculation about the Apple Watch will be over (at least most of it) and we’ll have cold hard facts, lots of finger pointing about who got what wrong, and lots of spinning to explain how someone may have gotten it wrong, but they really didn’t mean it that way so they were actually right. We’ll also get a few people blaming Apple for their own wrong guesses. (Those are my favorite.)

For me, the most interesting questions have been around how much the watch will cost in its various iterations and what kind of upgrade path there will be (if any.)

On pricing, I’ll take the under on pretty much any published speculation. I agree with a lot of what Kirk McElhearn had to say on the topic:

The Apple Watch Edition is not a luxury watch; it’s just a gold-cased version of the cheaper watch. There’s nothing exclusive about it, nothing special. It’s not like more expensive watches where you pay for complex machinery. Yes, there is gold; that will make it more expensive than the other models. But not that much. Estimates of the cost of the gold suggest that the metal would cost less than $1,000.

As such, I think the list price for the base model Apple Watch Edition will be $1,999. There will certainly be a price differential by size, and it could be a couple hundred dollars for this version. In addition, the watchbands will cost as much as several hundred dollars. There’s just no reason to pay more. I repeat, this is not a luxury watch; this is a smartwatch with a gold case.

I’ve been saying all along that the Apple Watch, for all its fashion focus, is still primarily a piece of technology. A Rolex doesn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars just because of the weight of the gold in it. It cost what it does because it’s a finely crafted, mechanically complex piece of machinery-slash-jewelry, and it has the Rolex name on it. It — and other luxury watches — are heirlooms, designed and priced to be handed down from generation to generation. An Apple Watch may be finely crafted and technologically complex, but it it will be obsolete someday — probably someday soon. There is no Rolex 1.0, but there will almost certainly be an Apple Watch 2.0.

That’s why I think Daring Fireball’s John Gruber is off base. I think he sees the Apple Watch as a luxury watch — the former on equal terms with the latter. I also have trouble with the sheer number of SKUs (price points) he sees. Between different prices for watch sizes and bands, Gruber estimates 16 different price points. That feels unwieldy to me. Although I agree that the different bands have to come at different prices, it doesn’t seem Apple-like to me to charge different prices for each size of the watch. And before you start pointing out the price differences between a 16, 64 and 128MB iPhone, I don’t equate watch size with something like storage capacity.

Who knows? Maybe my pricing speculation is more wishful thinking than analysis, but I sure hope Gruber is wrong this time.

What about upgradability? If the Apple Watch is indeed going to be seen as more of an heirloom than an iPad, it needs to have some protection from obsolescence. There are two ways to do that: Make the innards of the watch easily swappable with new versions, or offer a buyback program to soften the blow of buying that Apple Watch 2.0. The first solution works if you think the styling of the Apple Watch is set for a good long time. That seems a long shot, given Jonny Ive’s and the company’s propensity for better, faster, thinner. Swapping out new “watch guts” also seems like a logistical challenge: Would Apple Store employees have to be trained in watchmaking so they could make the upgrade on the spot? Would one simply trade in your old watch for a new one, with Apple doing the recycling later? Or would there be a delay involved: Drop off your old watch and wait for it to be shipped to Cupertino (or China or Texas), upgraded and sent back to you or your local store? All that hassle makes a buyback program make more sense to me, but would Apple even address such a far-in-the-future issue at this event? Maybe not.

And then there’s the question of battery life — not just how many hours in a charge, but how many charges in a battery’s lifetime. If Apple is going to charge a premium for the watch — if it is going to be something we pass down to our children, there has to be a reasonable process to replace the battery. A watch that has to be charged every night is one thing; one that has to be charged several times a day because the battery’s old? That’s just not workable.

Even beyond the cost questions, I’m looking forward to hearing more about what the watch can do. Did we hear about all it’s features last fall? I doubt it. I’m eager to hear more about battery life

In any case, we’ll have at least some of the answers in a few short hours. At $349, I’m almost certainly in the market — if for nothing else than to be able to write about it. But I’m holding out hope that the stainless steel version is within my reach, and that Apple will have the right answers to all these questions.

‘Hanging by a thread’

I was a guest on the British Tech Network’s Mac Show this week, along with Chris Breen, Josh Centers, Adam Christianson and Host Ewen Rankin. We had a great time speculating on what Chris will do as he leaves Macworld for that “fruit-flavored technology company.” We also talked a lot about the Apple Watch, what Pebble’s Kickstarter project for its own smart watch means for consumer appetites, Apple’s March 9th event and other assorted nonsense.

As usual, it was a tremendous amount of fun with a great panel of smart, funny people. The Mac Show has a bright Chat Room as well, and they add a lot to the program. It’s worth listening to (and subscribing) whether you’re interested in hearing my ramblings or not.

The show can be found on the British Tech Network’s website.

RIP Leonard Nimoy: 1931-2015

Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Mr. Spock in the Star Trek franchise, passed away today from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 83.

Nimoy had a long and storied career both as Mr. Spock and in other ventures. He set the standard for how aliens were portrayed in science fiction, elevating the character from the green-skinned monster that had been the norm to that point. He became a sex symbol, role model and icon, making it OK to be “different.”

Nimoy became a Twitter celebrity in his final years. His last tweet is a sweet, poigniant reminder:

Rest in peace, Leonard Nimoy. You lived long and prospered.

Macworld Review: Vivosmart finds its place by not trying to be a smart watch

My latest Macworld article is a review of Garmin’s Vivosmart. It’s a fitness band that looks to differentiate itself from Apple’s offering by being a fitness tracker with smartphone features, rather than a smartwatch that also happens to track your activity.

I think it’s a smart move by Garmin: get a great fitness band with some useful features at half the price of the Apple Watch. And you don’t have to wait until April to get one.

You can read the full review on Macworld.com.

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