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Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

I will be the first to admit I was dubious about the WHOOP 4.0. In short, a fitness tracker without a screen sounds a lot like a glorified bracelet. However, after nearly a month strapped into WHOOP’s ecosystem, I humbly admit I’m changing my tune. The WHOOP 4.0 hasn’t only convinced me a screen isn’t necessary, it has me questioning if I want to go back at all.

A battery built for all-day wear

Like past generations, the WHOOP 4.0 is intended to remain on your wrist, including while charging. The upgraded battery pack is even water resistant and can join you and your WHOOP band during a shower if that’s ever necessary. A swift double tap on the battery will display its charge level. A red status light means you are low and a green one means you have juice left in the tank.

And also all-night wear

Another unforeseen plus of the screen-free wearable is disruption-free sleep. Despite sleep modes and preset schedules, I am often distracted by my smartwatch in bed. If I’m not being woken up by a bright screen, I’m already awake, disabling sleep mode to send one last trivial text.

Not only is the WHOOP 4.0 comfortable enough to wear while sleeping, but it accurately tracked my sleep. The latest model added SpO2 tracking as well as a temperature sensor, and both are leveraged for overnight data. It was spot on for sleep and wake times, and my sleep stages aligned closely with my Fitbit Versa 3, a notably accurate sleep tracker. As with other data sets in the WHOOP app, I appreciate how well-organized sleep analysis is provided. Since these features are largely carried over from the previous model, I won’t go into too much detail.

The band is a very accurate sleep tracker, and WHOOP successfully turns your sleep data into actionable insights.

Personally, I found the Journal feature of WHOOP’s sleep-tracking suite quite useful, although the daily prompt is somewhat aggressive. “What happened yesterday?” immediately gets my heart rate up. As before, users can specify what behaviors they want to record and then analyze how those behaviors affect their sleep over time. I saw predictable trends when it came to caffeine and alcohol consumption, but I was somewhat surprised to see how much my sleep correlated with hydration and certain mental health factors such as gratitude, outdoor time, and social fulfillment.

This aspect of the WHOOP experience is a great example of how an unobtrusive tracker can provide very real value when paired with a robust app. The sleep insights WHOOP provides are easy to translate into practical changes.

Like Nebraska, WHOOP is not for everyone

Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

WHOOP cuts out a lot of the details that can turn fitness tracking into an obsession with stats instead of an avenue for wellness. However, athletes who rely on real-time data such as pace, distance, or heart rate zones will not be fans of the screen-free wearable. Likewise, outdoor enthusiasts looking for navigation tools and onscreen mapping should also shop elsewhere. If you often need to know the time, WHOOP can’t help you either. Admittedly, that last one took some getting used to.

The WHOOP band offers absolutely no on-wrist benefits beyond aesthetics and a surprisingly effective alarm. (The haptic is new in this generation, and, if enabled, will wake you during the optimal sleep cycle.) Everything else happens in the app, where WHOOP emphasizes the balance between how hard you work and how your body recovers.

WHOOP 4.0 review: Should you buy it?

Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

All that being said, the pricing structure of the WHOOP 4.0 may still warrant hesitation. While the strap offers a passive tracking experience, the subscription structure is anything but.

Technically, the WHOOP 4.0 hardware is free. Rather than paying for the tracker itself, interested buyers are required to commit to a 12-month membership. Each month, WHOOP pulls $30 out of your wallet, making the device a relatively expensive investment in the long run. If you are willing to pay upfront, you can lower the monthly price by about $5.

With its subscription-based pricing structure, the WHOOP 4.0 is far from an affordable tracker.

At face value, $360 isn’t totally outside the realm of logic for a reliable fitness tracker. After that first year though, the ongoing fee is no bargain. If you keep your devices for multiple years, the cost of the WHOOP 4.0 is more comparable to premium devices like the Apple Watch Ultra or Garmin Fenix 7. Unfortunately, subscription fees are a growing trend. However, I can get a lot out of my Apple Watch without paying for Apple Fitness Plus, and many people successfully use Fitbit devices without opting for Fitbit premium. WHOOP is unique in that the membership is necessary to use the device in any capacity.

If you do buy in, you are at least taken care of in terms of future-proofing. Should WHOOP release a new generation of hardware during your membership, you will automatically be eligible for the upgraded model.

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The 2023 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid Surprised Me

The 2023 Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid surprised me

Selling patience as a virtue to the super-rich who make up Bentley’s clientele seems like a challenge even for the etiquette-schooled British automaker, but with the promised shift to full electrification still a few years out, it’s cars like the new 2023 Flying Spur Hybrid which will bridge gasoline and green. Eventually, Bentley plans to retire its V8 and W12 gas engines altogether but, until that happens, the third addition to the Flying Spur line-up offers a taste of what’s to come.

Despite what preconceptions you might have about Bentley’s audience, the automaker’s own research suggests its owners are unexpectedly open to electrification. Over 60% apparently said they were “ready” for a fully-electric Bentley when the question was posed in 2023, more than double the number from the previous year.

Source: Bentley

Bentley isn’t expecting its buyers to be entirely new to EVs, and there’s the assumption that many will already have a fully-electric car – and the charger for it – in their capacious garage. What they don’t have is an electric Bentley, something the Bentayga Hybrid already hinted could be a winner. Currently, 1 in 5 Bentayga sales are of the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version, and now it’s the turn of its sedan cousin to blend in some volts.

The Flying Spur is a handsome sedan, gracefully huge, though safe from cartoonish proportions. For its first hybrid model, Bentley wisely opted for a deft touch: you could easily miss the “Hybrid” badging just aft of the front wheels, and the second panel hiding the charging port.

Source: Bentley

Few cars run the gamut so broadly as the Flying Spur does when it comes to overall tone. Want all the chrome and classic colors? The new PHEV looks right at home. Appetites run to the avant-garde? 22-inch wheels and Azure Purple paint are just one option there. Meanwhile, if sleek-and-sinister is the goal, a chrome delete and black wheels leave the Flying Spur looking like a whole different – and menacing – car. Pricing is yet to be confirmed, though expect things to start at around $210,000 before you start going wild with the options.

Source: Bentley

Just as with the Bentayga, the gas-electric model makes a solid argument from the outset that it’s the Flying Spur to have. Electrification feels, quite honestly, like the obvious end-game for luxury vehicles: that instantaneous hit of torque when your foot grazes the accelerator suits perfectly the ethos of “I want it now.”

The E-Motor contributes up to 295 lb-ft to the Flying Spur Hybrid’s torque, and up to 134 horsepower. The 2.9-liter V6 twin-turbo gas engine has 406 lb-ft and 410 hp to play with. Total system power is 536 hp and 553 lb-ft, down ever so slightly compared to the 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbo, but not by much.

Source: Bentley

Because of the way that power is delivered, though, the hybrid feels more potent, more eager. It’s something we’ve seen again and again with electrified vehicles, and it’s a valuable reminder that there’s more than numbers on paper to define how a vehicle feels in the real world. The Flying Spur Hybrid is about 400 pounds heavier than the V8 – which was already hefty, with a curb weight north of 5,100 pounds – but the E-Motor more than makes up for that in practice.

Of course, that’s assuming you have electricity. Bentley’s focus here isn’t really EV-only driving – final EPA numbers aren’t available, but figure on around 25 miles of that at most – and the E-Motor weighs in to smooth out the 8-speed DCT gearbox’s shifts and work in tandem with the V6 for maximum performance. If you’ve programmed a route into the navigation, the Flying Spur Hybrid will proactively decide when to use gas, when to use electric, and when to blend the two, aiming to have you arrive with the battery just depleted. That prediction worked surprisingly well.

Source: Bentley

Skip the navigation, though, and the car can’t do the fancy math. There’s more chance, then, of you using up all the battery’s charge and discovering you’re down to the V6’s power alone: they’re not embarrassing numbers, but then this is not a lightweight car.

The hybrid system will top up the battery along the way courtesy of regenerative braking – which requires a little finesse to balance with the transition to the Flying Spur’s vast iron brakes – and excess power from the gas engine, but there’s no explicit “Charge” mode in the way that stablemate Porsche offers on its PHEVs. Bentley says that was a conscious decision, since using the V6 as a generator really isn’t that efficient compared to plugging in.

Source: Bentley

The other downside is the soundtrack. Normally, the Flying Spur Hybrid wafts with a gentle thrum, subtle and eminently suited to super-lavish limousine duties. Plant your right foot, though, and the V6’s more mainstream growl just can’t match the bark of Bentley’s V8, nor the furied whoosh of its W12.

It’s not a bad noise, it just isn’t quite as melodramatic or refined as you might hope for. Saying that, the Flying Spur’s ability to glide in electrical near-silence at speeds up to 80 mph more than makes up for it. Bentley’s four-door was already quiet, but the combination of reduced vibration and noise leaves the cabin with cathedral-like hush.

Source: Bentley

More eager drivers may be disappointed to discover that the Bentley Dynamic Ride and all-wheel steer option can’t be added to the hybrid car. That means no trick anti-roll bar to quash lean, and no rear axle steering to magically shorten the impact of the near-126 inch wheelbase. The three-chamber air springs and continuous damping control still work their relative wonders, and the Flying Spur Hybrid sweeps imperiously through the curves, but the Flying Spur V8 keeps the crown for the most impressive ride.

Source: Bentley

The reality is that, when the gas kicks in, there’s as close to a sense of disappointment as you can get in a modern Bentley. That vague awareness of a missed opportunity for the Flying Spur to be entirely electric, and reap all the obvious benefits from such an arrangement.

Make no mistake, this hybrid configuration does pay dividends. Economy in the high twenties is impressive for the segment, the EV refinement is there, and that instant torque is addictive. Nonetheless, it isn’t difficult to imagine how prodigious the Flying Spur would be as a fully-electric vehicle.

Source: Bentley

Bentley does have a BEV on the roadmap for 2025, mind, though it’s not taking about which model will be its first pure electric. I’d expect an SUV rather than this stately sedan, to begin with. By 2030, though, its entire line-up will be BEV.

Source: Bentley

What’s stopping that transition now? Bentley’s argument is that not only does electric vehicle architecture need some final refinement, but that the infrastructure simply isn’t at the stage it needs it to be. Given the patchy nature of public chargers, it might have a point: if true luxury is the absence of worry, the status-quo of hunting down a DC fast charger – and crossing your fingers it’ll be functional and as swift as promised once you get there – is a far cry from the laissez faire ownership experience that Bentley promises.

Such charging stations aren’t a concern of the Flying Spur Hybrid. It can handle a 7.2 kW Level 2 charger at most, taking about 2.5 hours to fully charge the 380V battery tucked under the trunk.

Source: Bentley

Inside, Bentley’s continuing demonstration that it’s on top of the game for cabin quality makes this no less pleasing than any other Flying Spur. There’s wood, and leather, and metal of course, but it’s what the artisans and engineers at Crewe do with them that stands out. Trim fluted and machined; bookended veneers; hide door panels and seat surfaces with such detail to the stitching and sculpting, it’s as though some accommodatingly-knurled cow was bred especially for the purpose.

Source: Bentley

As always there’s a lengthy list of “standard” trims and finishes, before you get to the even more custom excesses of the Mulliner division. The handiwork of Bentley’s bespoke team can be as light a touch as a discreet monogram, through to the complexities of entirely unique paintwork.

Source: Bentley

Certainly, the Flying Spur Hybrid satisfies Bentley’s own goals here. The automaker wanted a lavish sedan with no sacrifice on overall range, together with better economy, all wrapped up in class-leading luxury. Yet it’s hard not to see the blending point of old-school gas with the new electric drive as being the crux of the Flying Spur Hybrid’s small annoyances beyond those achievements.

It’s not alone in that: plug-in hybrid cars generally strike a compromise in their delivery of internal combustion reassurance with new green credentials. If the Flying Spur’s balance there stands out more than is the case with other, more humble hybrids, it’s only because Bentley and compromise so seldom ride together.

Source: Bentley

As an addition to the Flying Spur range, this PHEV will undoubtedly find favor with buyers just as the Bentayga Hybrid already has. As a tease of just what we can expect from a fully electric Bentley, though, it’s genuinely exciting. The demise of the storied W12 gas engine may be sad, but it’s hard to argue against the idea that electrification’s torque and temperament are just what Bentley has always been aiming for.

Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) Hands

Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) Hands-on

Android is now three years old, and with v4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Google has given it perhaps the biggest update yet. With elements pulled in from Gingerbread and Honeycomb, ICS also has plenty of new functionality debuting on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. We’ve spent some hands-on time with Android 4.0 on the new Nexus, so check out our first impressions after the cut.

The big takeaway is how consistent Android feels in this 4.0 release. Google has obviously worked hard to not only introduce new features but bring the older functionality up to speed so that everything fits together seamlessly, addressing a common criticism by iOS users that Android can feel piecemeal. The Roboto font looks great on the Galaxy Nexus’ high-res display, and the animations shown in page transitions and when you tap on-screen icons like the new virtual buttons for home, back and menu are eye-catching enough to be interesting but not so involved as to slow the overall experience down.

The homescreen is more flexible now, with similar widgets to Honeycomb but resizable in Ice Cream Sandwich. Rather than just a selection of different sizes, you can now pull widgets to expand them, useful for showing more of your inbox or calendar. iOS’ folder creation system – dragging and dropping icons on top of each other to quickly create a new folder – now appears in Android 4.0, and you can reorganize icons within that folder as well as pin it to the favorites tray at the bottom. Both apps and speed-dials can be put in folders.

The iPhone 4S has Siri, while Android sticks with its existing voice control system – now supercharged for real-time dictation. Rather than speaking, waiting and then watching a block of text appear, you can now see your words appear in real-time, including dictating smiley faces. It was hard going fighting the background noise at the demo center here to get an accurate impression of how well it all works, so that will have to wait until the full review. Still, it gave us a chance to try the new text control tools for the onscreen keyboard – like tapping a word for the in-line spellcheck – a system which works well. Cut/copy/paste has been boosted with the ability to drag highlighted text around the page.

Android Beam is the other big, eye-catching feature, Google using NFC to transfer webpage links, Android Market listings, YouTube links, people cards and more. NFC’s promise has always been about simplicity, and Ice Cream Sandwich delivers: hold two Galaxy Nexus phones back to back and, if the app you’re in supports Beam then a dialog automatically pops up to send the information. Tap the display and it shoots across – it’s easy to do even if you’re not looking at the screen. Sensibly Google has bundled the Android Beam APIs with the 4.0 SDK, available now, so third-party apps will be able to join in, something which could well have more of an impact on NFC adoption than mobile payments.

Ice Cream Sandwich hands-on demo

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Android’s browser has been reworked, now supporting up to 16 simultaneous tabs navigated between using the same UI as for the app switcher. A side-swipe shuts down an unwanted tab. Bookmarks are pulled across from Chrome on your desktop, but more useful is the new “Request Desktop Site” option in the menu which attempts to pull in the full webpage rather than the default mobile version many sites serve up. It’s a big improvement on trying to dig around a site’s page for an often well hidden option for the full site, and worked well on the test pages we tried it with. There are also new incognito mode options and the ability to see the most visited pages, as well as an offline page save so that you can come back to a site – images and all – even without a connection.

Google’s Face Unlock system for the homescreen obviously depends on your registering your face with the 1.3-megapixel front camera, but in the demos we’ve been shown it works well. If it can’t recognize you – we’ll have to wait until review samples arrive to see quite how often that happens – the regular gesture/pin unlock options are available too.

iPhone 4S vs Galaxy Nexus camera speedtest:

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Video, meanwhile, supports 1080p HD from the Galaxy Nexus’ 5-megapixel optics, and adds continuous autofocus during recording along with the ability to zoom. Timelapse recording is also supported natively, another app you won’t need to download. Most useful is likely to be the ability to capture photos while simultaneously recording video, which works well.

While Android phones have not necessarily always offered the best battery life, Google has always delivered the best tools for monitoring power usage. That focus has carried over to data usage in Ice Cream Sandwich, with the ability to track and limit what’s using mobile data and when. As with power there’s a simple graph showing your consumption, though with a predicted data use trajectory for the rest of the month rather than an estimate of what runtime you have left. Pull down a capping line and you can set a warning alert for if you exceed, say, 1.5GB each month; optionally you can have the phone lock down mobile data altogether after that point, great if you’re roaming internationally and only have a limited amount of data before facing extortionate per-MB fees.

Stats-hounds will love the granularity on offer, with the ability to zoom in on a specific part of your historic use and see which apps have been using what data. There’s differentiation between foreground and background data use, too, which is great to see what’s been quietly chomping away at your bundle, and you can block background data use on a per app basis.

The best aspect of Android 4.0 is how it all sits together. Google’s smartphone OS has always been more flexible than rivals, but it’s also felt more ramshackle: sacrificing some consistency along the way. Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t fix that completely, though it’s a big improvement on what we’ve seen before. Integration of multiple third-party services, like Facebook, Twitter and the like, is handled with zero fuss and in a way that appears seamless. Google is still polishing the release build, and so there was some performance jerkiness at times, but when it moved fast it simply flew on the Galaxy Nexus’ 1.2GHz dual-core.

Google couldn’t say when other devices might get Ice Cream Sandwich upgrades, so it seems the only way – for the moment, anyway – will be grabbing a Samsung Galaxy Nexus when it hits shelves in November. From what we’ve seen today, of both Samsung’s hardware and Google’s software, that’s something we’re very much looking forward to.

Galaxy Nexus Hands-on:

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Replacing The Framework’s Cpu Made Me A Believer In Upgradeable Laptops

It’s not that I didn’t believe in the concept of a notebook that lets you replace or upgrade every single component when I reviewed the Framework laptop last year. In fact, I took the original Framework laptop out of the box and stripped it down to its base components and then reassembled it without violating any warranty.

It’s just that for an upgradeable laptop to actually be real, you have to be able to purchase that promised upgrade.

the original framework laptop review

Framework

Read our review

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Color me cynical, but I’ve seen many companies much larger and richer than Framework promise the moon over the last 20 years, only for all to fail. Before you “well, awkshully” me, I know other companies have delivered upgrades over the years but those typically have been in very narrow windows of parts availability with no real promise of going further down the road.

Framework should (in theory) be capable of offering multiple generations of upgrades without a hitch—so long as the company survives to do it.

And that’s why I’m officially a believer in the Framework now: It’s actually delivered an upgrade for its original laptop just one year later.

In this case, you can take the Framework’s original 11th-gen, 4-core Intel Core i7-1185G7 and easily upgrade it to a 12th-gen, 12-core Core i7-1260P or a 14-core Core i7-1280P.

I did so by taking an original model Framework and swapping the board out for a 12th-gen CPU. Along the way, I also upgraded the wireless network from Wi-Fi 6 to Wi-Fi 6E and had a functioning, faster laptop booted into the OS in under 30 minutes. Framework has also since made design changes to the laptop to address various complaints, adding a stiffer lid and stronger hinges. While I didn’t do those upgrades, I could have, since the company sells them to its customers as well.

To be honest, it’s amazing Framework has gotten this far. The challenge with upgradeable laptops hasn’t been in the design or engineering, if you ask me—it’s been making a business case for serviceable notebooks.

That means Framework has to sell enough of the laptops to make it worth its while. Framework customers can’t abuse them, either.

By abuse, I mean like the Asus whitebook upgradeable laptop program 15 years ago. Asus officials told me part of the reason they threw in the towel was due to customers damaging the laptops while building them and than sheepishly returning them as defective, leaving the company to hold the bag.

You can see the upgraded 12th gen motherboard in the Frameworks in place while the original 11th gen motherboard sits on top of it.

Gordon Mah Ung

If you look at the 11th-gen motherboard and the 12th-gen motherboard above, you can see they look almost exactly the same, despite both chips using different physical soldered sockets and package sizes.

This makes the upgrade a far easier motherboard swap. If the chips were still socketed, you’d need to remove the laptop’s cooler, swap out the CPU (with delicate pins), and then reattach the cooler, all of which risks damaging the exposed cores of the laptop chip.

With the RAM and SSD going into the same locations as the board that’s removed, less experienced customers are unlikely to be confused with where the components go as well.

With the only real pucker factor coming from reattaching the delicate display, battery and other ribbon cables, it’s actually pretty easy to do.

So what do you get for your troubles? I’ll cover the performance upgrades in a different story, but for most normal folks, it’s not worth it. The point here isn’t the value in the upgrade though. It’s that you can do it at all.

Adam Patrick Murray

Besides making laptop upgrades easier, I’ve come to realize the Framework opens the possibility for other upgrade avenues. It’s actually within the realm of reality for Framework to potentially offer an AMD Ryzen upgrade motherboard, or even one using an Arm-based CPU.

The challenge would be in obtaining the chips themselves, designing the boards for them, and doing the math to figure out whether there is demand for those—or not. But again: Those are business challenges, not necessarily technical ones. And it’s clear to me that Frameworks really could offer them if it made business sense.

That’s ultimately why I’m surprisingly excited by the upgraded Framework laptop, and the potential to swap out its guts for a 14th-gen Intel CPU or Ryzen 9000 chip down the road.

Yes, Framework has to survive to offer any future upgrades—but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m not as skeptical as I was. The Framework upgradeable laptop deserves all the praise it’s been receiving.

Framework

Review: Bluetooth 4.0 ‘Passport’ Smart Watch From Martian Watches

There were more than a few Bluetooth-enabled smart watches on display at CES this year. We were on-hand for the official press unveiling of the Pebble e-paper watch, which is expected to start shipping to over 80,000 backers later this month. We also spotted Martian Watches, CooKoo, I’mWatch, and a small handful of other watches designed to pair and work with your iPhone or other mobile devices. Many have seen the Pebble, up until now, as the frontrunner mainly due to the 10 million in funding it raised through Kickstarter. While rumor has it Apple is interested in creating a smart watch of its own, we will hear a lot more about smart watches in 2013 if CES is any indication. Over the past week and a half, I had the chance to put one of these smart watches to the test: the Bluetooth 4.0 “Passport” from Martian Watches.

A few things to note right off the bat: First, unlike the Pebble and I’m Watch, which integrate a larger display, the focus of Martian Watches is voice command. There is some debate whether a smart watch, one that the average iPhone user might use on a daily basis, should resemble an iPod nano-like touchscreen or a more traditional timepiece design. Martian Watches is going with the latter, but it integrates a small 96-by-16 pixel OLED display capable of displaying notifications and scrolling text for incoming messages and calls.

While Pebble and others hope to create an ecosystem of third-party apps that can run on small, touch-enabled displays, the name of the game is voice command for Martian Watches. That means, in the case of iPhone users, you’ll be able to activate and control Siri right from your wrist. It also means as Siri improves and adds more functionality, your Martian Watch does too. However, Martian packs some other non-Siri features that make it a true competitor to the other Bluetooth smart watches hitting the market…

Voice Commands/Siri: 

If you can do it with Siri, you can probably do it from your Martian Watch. The only downside is that sometimes Siri displays visual information in responses that will not be viewable on your watch. Asking for next week’s weather forecast, for instance, will display a seven-day forecast typically, while asking for tomorrow’s weather will provide an audible response from Siri. It’s sometimes just a matter of rephrasing your question to get a response you can hear.

For commands, such as setting reminders, creating new text messages, nearby restaurants, and movie listings, you can for the most part, as highlighted in the video above, navigate the entire process from the watch. You’ll also be able to send tweets with Siri, ask to check email, etc., but Martian told us third-party app integration is coming via an iOS app (the app will be limited to just sending notifications from third-party apps to the watch initially).

Display/notifications: 

Out of the box, Martian Watches have the ability to receive notifications for incoming calls and text messages (pairing is as easy as any other Bluetooth device). However, the upcoming iOS app will also enable notifications for third-party apps like Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, etc. As for the notifications themselves, text messages, for example, display the name of the sender followed by scrolling text for the first 40 characters. You can also ask to “read text,” if you would prefer to listen. The same goes for calls, with the name of the incoming caller displayed on the small OLED display. Vibrations—thanks to a “Light Touch” vibrating motor inside the watch— also accompany incoming notifications.

Sending/receiving text messages:

You can create and send new texts at any time just as you would with Siri. Activate Siri with a press of the top button and ask to “Send text to Mark,” for instance. You can also reply to incoming texts with a “reply” command. These types of commands worked flawlessly for me, and I didn’t have any complaints with the watch’s mic when interacting with Siri. Calling works the same way, but call quality is where I first ran into issues…

Calling:

While placing calls is as easy commanding Siri to “Call Mike,” I ran into some issues with call quality once engaged in a conversation. The speaker provided quite clear and totally adequate calling on my end, but the person receiving my call often had a hard time hearing me. This problem isn’t as much of one in quiet environments, but I was sometimes forced to hold the watch closer to my mouth than I would have liked when outside and around a lot of background noise. Martian noted that excessive background noise on the receiving end “causes Martian’s microphone to think the person is speaking, which in turn cuts off your speech.” The call quality is noticeably reduced on the watch compared to your iPhone, but it wasn’t enough for me to stop using the device and was only a real issue on about 10 percent to 15 percent of calls.

Design: 

Perhaps my favorite part of the Passport from Martian Watches is its aesthetic design. Having larger displays as the entire watch face, like the Pebble or I’mWatch, comes with a few benefits: larger text, customizable UI, easier content input, etc. However, it also forces you to walk around with an iPod nano-like gadget on your wrist, as opposed to a more traditional, formal watch design. The fact that Martian Watches is going for a more classic watch design isn’t an accident. They want you to be able to wear the Passport with a suit or during any formal occasion. That might justify the $299 price point (significantly more than the $150 Pebble). Some have theorized that a watch from Apple would aim for a similar blend of traditional watch aesthetics and functionality, despite the company selling many third-party watch band products for its sixth-gen iPod nano. Martian will also sell leather and stainless steel bands from its online store.

The Passport model I tried came in at 0.52 inches thick and 2.5 oz with a silicone band, and it wasn’t much thicker or noticeably uncomfortable compared to the designer watch I wear on a regular basis. Martian Watches will ship three models ranging from $249 to $299. All models have the same functionality, but the “Victory” and “G2G” models sport different designs:

More features: 

You can pre-order all three models from the Martian Watches website now with the first shipments arriving sometime in February or March.

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For Me, Carrie Fisher’S Leia Was More Than Just ‘One Of The Boys’

For me, Carrie Fisher’s Leia was more than just ‘one of the boys’

I was somewhere around age 7 when I first saw A New Hope, then just known as Star Wars, and it ignited many things in my young mind. A love for storytelling, a love for science fiction specifically, and the stubborn insistence that lightsabers must exist somewhere regardless of what everyone said. It wasn’t until I watched Return of the Jedi, though, that Star Wars — and Carrie Fisher specifically — revolutionized my understanding of life and my place in it.

Star Wars was many things to me — a classic battle between good and evil, hope that the underdog could persevere against seemingly impossible odds, and, of course, a fun look at an imagined distant future. A New Hope reflected the world I’d perceived and known up to that point: boys having fun and being important and the one token girl being, well, a princess. An admittedly badass princess, but still.

It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the Princess Leia presented in A New Hope, but I didn’t see anything outside of what I knew as normal. She was exactly what I expected the princess to be. Luke was the special Jedi who got a lightsaber and a vital role in changing the galaxy. Han had a huge ship and all these connections amongst many worlds. Princess Leia needed help.

I’d declared at a young age that I wished I was a boy because boys were important and got to have the most fun. I had this idea of what a princess was, and it involved a hefty dose of forced helplessness. Being a girl meant having a lot of pink toys and being admonished about all the things that weren’t ladylike, and while that didn’t describe the Princess Leia of A New Hope, I figured she’d had to put up with all that stuff, too.

Princess Leia was okay, but I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. And so I felt like someone must have made a mistake and I was supposed to be a boy. There couldn’t be any other answer, I’d figured.

Fast-forward to Return of the Jedi and the plot twist that my young self never saw coming: Luke had a sister, and that sister had the Force, and that sister was Princess Leia. To most adults it seemed like a somewhat cheesy twist, given the love interest angle of the previous movies, but to me it was something else entirely: the very first moment I realized girls could be just as special as boys. She wasn’t just a princess tagging along with the boys, she was just as important as them.

Fisher’s role in the Star Wars world took on a new form in Return of the Jedi, and she steered it masterfully. Princess Leia wasn’t just a stereotypical princess, and at the same time she wasn’t a stereotypical “one of the boys” character who tried too hard to be masculine as if the feminine aspects of her personality were shameful.

This point was driven home during the Endor battle scene in which Leia was both warrior and nurturer, being able to hold her own against Imperial forces without needing the boys’ help, and at the same time being gentle and loving toward the ewoks and, later on, having no qualms about donning a dress and braiding her hair.

It may sound like such simple things, but to many girls watching those movies for the first time, Fisher presented (and still presents) a look at what could be. You didn’t have to be a boy to be special. You didn’t have to be saved or sit on the sidelines, and you didn’t have to pretend to be a boy or act tough all the time. I stopped wanting to be a boy or be Luke, and I decided I wanted to be like Princess Leia instead: someone who could be a person instead of just a girl.

In light of Fisher’s passing, many narratives about her life will no doubt arise across social media in coming days. Many can’t seem to help pointing out her past drug use, and others dismiss her as just an actress. Like Leia, though, she was more than any single one thing: she was a person who lived a complex life, and she wasn’t afraid to be herself. Her influence will ultimately outlive any single narrative that may arise, and she’ll no doubt continue to influence young viewers for years to come.

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