Dream Of Gadgets And Nightmaresgadget Peek: Flexible Phone, Smart Play, And Big Speakers

9 Sep

xl-2016-amazon-echo-dot-2Welcome to another edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that shuttles aside moving boxes long enough to pore over the latest in gadget announcements.

Among the packing peanuts this week are a bendable phone from Lenovo, a scale that can track your heart’s health, a running shoe that doubles as a game controller, and a refined speaker for streaming audio.

As always, these are not reviews — partly because some items are currently just concepts. The ratings denote only how much I’d like to try each with my own hands — or wrists, in the case of our first product.

Bending Time

Lenovo has peeled back the curtain on a smartphone that you can wrap around your wrist, sporting a full-color screen.

The “CPlus,” as Lenovo calls the prototype, runs Android and has a 4.26-inch display. It will be available in 12 colors if and when it goes on sale.

It’s clear bendable smartphones will be a viable consumer product in the near future, though I’m still struggling to imagine ever wanting to wear a phone on my wrist. I don’t wear a watch, so something with a far bigger screen would require a great deal of adjustment.

I do see some practical usefulness here, as I’d be less fearful of keeping a phone in my back pocket where it may bend and break. It might prove a little easier to watch videos while lying down if I bend the screen just enough to make it more stable.

Neither of these are especially strong selling points for me, however, and I’ll probably be happier sticking with a smartphone I don’t have to tussle with before I can see everything on the screen.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Curved Calls

Smart Heart

Withings’ Body Cardio smart scale can measure much more about your body than a typical fitness tracker can. The higher-end version seems worth the US$180 investment.

It can detect your pulse wave velocity, which is the speed at which blood circulates in your body and which seemingly provides a glimpse of your heart health.

It also measures a range of other key metrics, including body-mass index, weight, your body composition — that is, the breakdown of fat, bone, water and muscle mass — and your standing heart rate. The less-expensive model, at $130, measures everything but blood circulation.

You can, of course, track all of these measurements over time with a smartphone app. While there’s no real substitute for seeing a doctor and getting a proper checkup, Body Cardio seems like a good way to keep tabs on your health on a day-to-day basis.

If only it could take care of the actual workout part of burning fat and building muscle too.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Critical Measurements

Gaming Gym Shoes

I go back and forth over whether I enjoy products that along with an overt use have a secret, secondary, somewhat unrelated function — but there’s no way I’m not going to love the daylights out of a sneaker that doubles as a game controller.

The controller isn’t entirely out of place here. Lenovo’s sneaker has fitness tracker functions, and the controller works with a mobile game that falls under the “endless runner” category — it’s essentially a platform game in which the object is to get as far as you can through an often-infinite course in a single run.

It’s not quite clear how the game works, since the sneaker is a prototype. Rest assured, the sneakerhead in me is determined to start racking up those high scores as soon as possible.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Tired Feet

Double Delight

Solo and Duetto are hardly the most original connected speakers — they play audio from almost any source and can be controlled using an app. What sets them apart is the quality of the build. They look gorgeous, and there are few other connected devices in general — let alone speakers — that are aesthetically pleasing.

What’s more, you don’t need to use an app to control the speakers. It’s optional, as you can use preset buttons and dials to play FM radio, Spotify playlists, or whatever else you’d like. That frees up your phone for regular use, including any apps that play audio independently, and conserves the handset’s battery a little more.

The only difference between Solo and Duetto is the latter has a double speaker for stereo audio. I’m extremely tempted to get one of these through the crowdfunding campaign. Solo starts at pledges of $200, and Duetto starts at $300. Those seem like fair prices for an unquestionably beautiful system. My biggest problem will be in finding music befitting such an opulent design.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Walnut Wonders