Nike axes FuelBand hardware; Can Samsung capture market share with Gear Fit and S Health offering?

Late last week Nike announced plans to shut down its Fuelband hardware division, starting immediately by laying off around 50 of its employees working on the project. Instead of supporting the Fuelband hardware, Nike will focus on the software it develops to help individuals track their fitness and activity levels.

This is an understandable move by Nike, especially with the rapid rise in companies and hardware devices that have entered the wearables market over the past 12 months.  Nike can now instead focus on its best offerings, and their activity tracking software is undeniably one of the best out there (although one of my biggest issues with Nike apps is that most are mutually exclusive, not allowing you to import/export data between Nike apps).  Nike will be fine.  Besides their individual apps being successful, their strong partnership with Apple will surely grow.  In fact, there is some speculation that the Apple partnership and the possible release of an Apple hardware device (iWatch, for example) forced Nike to dump their possible competing device to appease Apple.  Again, speculation, but interesting nevertheless.

The new Samsung Gear Fit, complete with tons of health and activity tracking integrated with S Health.

The new Samsung Gear Fit, complete with tons of health and activity tracking integrated with S Health.

So with so many players in the wearables space, and a few of those specializing in the health and fitness vertical, who can gain market share by Nike shutting down Fuelband?  I believe the best candidate could be Samsung.  First, the disclaimer: I am in fact a devoted Samsung fan. I own a Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear (first generation).  My future purchase plans include Samsung devices (TV, next smartphone, tablet, and possibly a home monitoring setup with all Samsung products).  I am getting fully in bed with Samsung and their eco-system.  That said, there are some undeniable facts separate from my personal use that prove Samsung has a chance to capitalize on Nike's hardware shutdown.

Samsung has hardware figured out

Samsung devices are solid - both in design and hardware components.  The S-series of smartphones are durable (I don't own an S5 but got to experience one hands-on and the reviews have confirmed my thoughts that it is a great design), as is the Gear smartwatch.  Samsung products don't feel cheap to the touch, where as some products like the Pebble and Jawbone UP have had design issues, comfortableness issues, and broken parts after moderate use.

Samsung has made strides in innovation

From development of products all over the home and personal technology devices, Samsung has made huge strides in innovation.  From screen sizes to software, Samsung has built an eco-system that they can continue to grow, as long as they keep the products related enough to connect with each other.  Samsung also innovates very quickly.  The S-series of phones consistently comes out with a new generation every year, and the newer models are more than just a few tweaks from the previous generation.  The first generation of the Gear came out in Fall of 2013. Second generation Gear devices (three of them total) have hit the market six months later.  The tablet line has been a strong seller for Samsung as well.  And I am not even mentioning all of the other household appliances that Samsung develops.  Samsung moves fast, usually outpacing rivals like Apple and HTC.

Samsung has huge potential in "S Health" software

If we look at just the health and fitness space Nike's Fuelband is exiting, Samsung has S Health - which is their play on health and activity tracking applications that run on Samsung devices.  In my opinion S Health still has a long way to go, but you can tell Samsung is invested in the long-term given its implementation in all of the recent devices (Note series, latest S5 smartphone, and the new Gear Fit have strong S Health integration).  And S Health doesn't require you have a Samsung device. The app can read select other wearables to get health data into its platform.  But if you take S Health and consider all of the Samsung products it could be integrated into, like the TV and refrigerator, for example, there are no limits to the possibilities.

While I understand that a lot of the Fuelband fans will not look to Samsung to fill their wearable need, I think there are some strong arguments why Samsung's combination of strong hardware, S Health, and integrations across multiple other Samsung products (both in the home and personal tech) could bring some serious punch to the health management space.

HBO's new series "Silicon Valley" offers humorous look at the life of a programmer and his start-up

Are you a fan of the 1999 cult-favorite movie "Office Space"?  Maybe a younger version of yourself was a fan of "Beavis and Butthead" or "King of the Hill" back in the day?  Well the creator of those two pop culture TV and movie hits is back with a new series on HBO called "Silicon Valley".  The new series more closely relates to "Office Space", and it is worth the look.

"Silicon Valley" centers on six programmers, led by Pied Piper (the fictional product in the show) creator Richard Hendricks, who are living together and trying to make it big in the Valley.  The series kicked off on April 6, 2014 and will run eight episodes in length for the first season.

Obviously one barrier-to-entry of enjoying this new series is that it is an HBO-exclusive.  So one move that I think was smart on HBO's part was putting the first full episode on YouTube, in an attempt to get you hooked on the show.  Worked for me. Now three episodes in, I hope the plot continues to develop and we get a couple of great seasons out of "Silicon Valley".

You can stream the first episode below.  Would love to hear your thoughts on if "Silicon Valley" has what it takes to be a hit for HBO.

Dropbox announces Mailbox for Android; releases updates which include 7-inch tablet support

Recently cloud storage provider Dropbox announced a series of new products to their service (which we mentioned in an episode of Minnesota Tech News Daily).  Two notable new additions were photo management app Carousel and the much anticipated Mailbox for Android.  I will touch on Carousel in a separate article, but wanted to highlight some of the key features of the Mailbox app.

Mailbox for iOS has been out for some time, and in fact was so popular that it required a waiting list to get access to the app.  Android users have waited long enough, and were incredibly happy to hear Dropbox's announcement that an Android version was ready for installation.  Of course I grabbed the new app right away and dug in.  Joshua Bane from Bane Tech posted a video on YouTube showing the setup and screens from the app, which you can check out below:

At the time of download, I was disappointed to not see a tablet version since a lot of my evening time is spent on my Nexus 7.  But overall, I was incredibly happy with using the mailbox app over the regular Gmail app.

Then yesterday - just a few short days after the initial launch of Mailbox for Android, an update hit the Google Play Store.  Below is look at what made the "What's New" section for the update, including 7-inch tablet support!

My Overall Thoughts on Mailbox for Android

Mailbox is such a useful app for many reasons.  The simple swiping action makes it super easy to handle emails in multiple ways - whether it is to archive them, defer them to a later time, or file them. No multiple clicks or actions, just a simple swipe motion. Also, the app is doing a great job learning my habits when it comes to certain messages, knowing when to just auto-swipe them away without me having to do it.  Mailbox makes for a great app for someone looking to improve productivity in terms of email management.  I like it a lot and probably will be sticking with it for the foreseeable future.

Google Play Store Mailbox app update screen showing some general bug fixes and added support for 7-inch tablets.

Google Play Store Mailbox app update screen showing some general bug fixes and added support for 7-inch tablets.

Podcast app Pocket Casts updates Android version with perhaps best "What's New" description ever

I have already written about my love for the Pocket Casts app and about how it is my new go-to app for playing and discovering podcasts, but now I have a whole new respect for the team over at Shift Jelly who developed the app.  An update was released today, and with it perhaps the best "What's New" description in app history.  Enjoy!

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A Review of the Snapdragon BatteryGuru Mobile App

As smartphones and tablets have gotten larger and more powerful, the one thing that has struggled to keep up in the performance category is battery life.  I feel like I get pretty good battery performance from my Samsung Galaxy Note 3, but am always still on the lookout for methods and apps to help optimize my phone's battery to the fullest extent.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into the Snapdragon BatteryGuru app (developed by Qualcomm) in the Google Play Store.  I am not a big fan of battery monitoring/management apps, but since this one was developed by the maker of the processor in my phone, I thought it would be worth a try.  So I downloaded and installed it.  It is two weeks later and now I have some thoughts on it.

The presentation below walks through the app screen-by-screen and offers my perspective on how it has worked so far...