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Are Smart Watches Really that Smart?

With the tablet market starting to mature and smart glasses still in their infancy, were is a hungry tech connoisseur to turn for the latest hot new product on the market? The answer may be the smart watch. After the Pebble smart watch was a smash hit on the crowd funding site kick starter, several small and large players are now clamoring to create their own watch and jump into the fledgling industry. One of the more notable recent device launches is the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch which is a companion device currently exclusive to the Galaxy Note III. The rumor mill is already swirling around Apple and Google as well after Apple recently trademarked the phrase “iwatch” in China and Google admitted to purchasing small Android watch maker WIMM Labs.

Smart WatchesOnce you look past all of the flashy features and sleek designs there is one big question still remaining, do I really need to own a smart watch? Determining the real life value of owning a brand new tech device like a smart watch is hard without giving it a test run, but understanding what its role is meant to be is a good place to start. So that being said, the first thing you need to know is that smart watches are NOT meant to replace your phone but merely work as an accessory in conjunction with it. Think of them as the worlds most advanced Bluetooth headset that you wear on your wrist. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is great example of what to expect from future smart watches; it sports a 800MHz single core processor, a 1.9MP camera, a beautiful stainless steel build, and about a 25 hour battery life. With no data or Wi-Fi capabilities of its own and a bare bones processor, the Galaxy Gear is completely dependent on the real brains of the operation which is still going to be your smartphone. It is important to note that smart watches are currently not universal; Pebble works with Android 4.0 or later as well as iOS but Galaxy Gear however is exclusive to the Note III with future compatibly updates promised.

Startup tech companies are starting to recognize the potential of the smart watch industry. With the technology moving faster than ever before, promises of cross-platform compatibility in the future for these devices will only spark the community’s  curiosity  and try it out. In fact, you can check out and find that there are now quite a handful of smartwatches being reviewed and marketed online.

The real value in these devices are their ability stay close at hand (no pun intended) and keep you up to date with all your notifications, social media happenings, and incoming calls without having to pull out your big bulky smartphone. Now your friends can ignore you while staring at a watch instead of being rude and pulling out their phone every five seconds. With so many people hooked on their smartphone like a bad habit it is no surprise that the industry is taking a turn towards convenience and keeping you plugged into what is happening in the world. Having a quick access camera attached to your wrist is an interesting and slightly creepy feature as well, being able to discretely snap photos and record 15 second videos from your wrist should prove to create some interesting fodder for Vine and Instagram.

Since smart watches are destined to be subjected to rain and shock damage while dangling out on a user’s wrist, durability is sure to be an issue. Luckily most smart watches created so far are at least water resistant and some are even touted to survive a brisk ocean swim. Pebble and Samsung claim that the displays of their devices won’t scratch easy and are resistant to shattering, but with the smartphone and tablet repair industries booming the jury is still out on that one. With the Pebble watch and Galaxy Gear setting you back roughly $250 and $350 respectively, durability is definitely something that needs to be addressed. After taking everything into consideration it is safe to say that nobody really “needs” a smart watch because they don’t really offer any new features that you can’t already do with your smartphone. However, if you’re in the mood to show off the newest flashiest tech on the market to make your friends drool than a smart watch may be just the product for you!

uBreakiFix – Adventures with a Cracked iPhone

Lately I’ve become an iPhone photo taking fiend. I shoot everything. Cars, people, bugs, rabbits (on a leash!), nothing is safe from my 5mp sensor. That is as it should be. I’m a photographer and I see things that often beg to be photographed. My iPhone lets me do just that because it’s almost always available.So, you can imagine my thought processes when, one night late last week, while viewing Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and the Moon through my telescope set up in my driveway, I figured I could use my iPhone to take a shot of the Moon through one of my lower powered oculars.I was using Waterfield Design’s Hint at the time so I had to remove my iPhone from that protective leather pocket to use the camera. I moved the camera lens around the ocular trying to fine the sweet spot where focused light could make its way to the camera’s sensor and show me lunar craters, up close and personal, on my iPhone screen. In doing so I found that I had to refocus the telescope. Without thinking, I sat my naked iPhone on the sloped hood of my car to make the necessary adjustments. In the moonlit dark, I heard my phone start to slide.A few months back a store opened in East Orlando with, at least in my opinion at the time, a very bad name; uBreakiFix. Every time I passed that storefront, situated next to a Papa John’s, and read that name I rolled my eyes.“Horrible name,” I thought. “Stupid name! Likely manned by some geek from a family with pockets deep enough to put up the cash for a fledgeling business. Parents were willing to do anything to get him off the couch and away from the Xbox. I’d have to be desperate to take my broken gadgets there.”

uBreakiFix East Orlando Store

When my iPhone hit the ground I knew instantly that the outcome of that fall would not be good. In fact, I felt the impact more than heard it. It was a sickening pang not unlike feeling a bone snap (but without the associated physical pain). I did not pick up the phone immediately. I put away my telescope first, having lost all interest in luna landscapes. I returned to pick up my phone, hoping for a bit of luck, knowing I’d get none.

My old iPhone screen. It doesn’t look very healthy.

When I pressed the Home button the backlight revealed several lines, like a spider’s web, running across the screen. Surprisingly, the screen still worked. I could tap open apps, read mail, and tweak photos just as I had before. I could not, however, play Temple Run without the possibility of imbedding a shard of glass in my swipe-finger.

What to do?

I did what any self respecting citizen of the Internet Age would do, I searched for iPhone screen repair online. There I found videos and blogs detailing how to remove and replace my screen, and lots of sites offering overnight service to have the repairs performed by a certified tech.

I was very close to buying a DIY kit when I saw a site for none other than uBreakiFix. I took a look and found that the store in my area is part of a nationwide chain, not some geek shop like I had originally believed. I also found that they would replace my iPhone’s cracked screen for US$100, and that it was possible to do it within a few minutes of taking delivery of the phone.

That’s what I’m talking about!

I jumped in my car, cracked iPhone in hand, and drove to that little store front next to Papa John’s. Inside this particular uBreakiFix, the decore has a small phone store/doctor’s office motif with chairs for those who choose to wait for their sick gadgets to get well. As I waited to be seen I overheard the guy at the counter explain the technical details of a repair to a customer. He laid out the operation as a good doctor might to concerned loved ones, with patience and without a hint of condescension.

That guy at the counter was Josh Galindo, who took a look at my phone when it was my turn to have my gadget examined, asked me a few questions, told me the cost, then said the repair would take about 45 minutes, depending on the workload of the techs in back. He was efficient, cordial, and accommodating. He took my busted iPhone and gave me a receipt, and I left.

Josh Galindo of uBreakiFix

I returned 30 minutes later, expecting to wait out the remaining 15 minutes playing one of the two arcade console game systems they had available in the waiting area, but almost as soon as I walked in the door Josh was handing me my renewed iPhone 4. From the time I first walked in till the time I left with a new screen on my phone was less than an hour. I realize your mileage may vary, but that should give some idea how efficient and professional the guys at this specific uBreakiFix are.

(Note: I did not tell these guys who I was or that I intended to write an article about them until after I had paid for my repair so that I could be sure I didn’t get special “Press” treatment.)

My iPhone is looking good thanks to a new screen

My iPhone is back and looking as good as new. uBreakiFix warrants their repairs for 90 days for parts and labor. I wish that were a bit longer. Other repair shops offer longer warranties, but I guess if your device wasn’t repaired properly you’d know about it well within the 3 month warranty period. So, this is a very minor complaint.

Bottom Line

Like the common cold, everyone gets Lubrica Digititis. When it strikes no gadget, regardless of protection, is safe from harm.

If you’re skilled and have steady hands, or are the adventurous sort then a do-it-yourself kit from uBreakiFix, Phone Doctors or other well known repair depots may be what you’re looking for.

If, on the other hand, you have Chronic Lubrica Digititis and would likely do more harm than good if you attempted to fix it yourself, or you can’t bare to be away from your phone for more than a few minutes at a stretch before withdrawal symptoms kick in, finding a local and reputable repair shop may be your only option. Especially if you’ve damaged your phone such that the manufacturer won’t touch it, as is the case with iPhone touch screens. (Apple can and will replace the back panel for US$30.)

Either way, it’s good to know that there’s a place nearby that can fix the gadgets we break and do so quickly and at a reasonable price. uBreakiFix appears to be such a place. Their growing list of walk-in stores, such as the one I went to, makes getting repairs a breeze.

I wish the warranty on my repair was longer, but 90 days is adequate to offer a reasonable amount of peace of mind.

I can’t speak about other repairs, or other locations, but if they are all as fast and efficient as the East Orlando store, and if you have an iPhone with a cracked screen then I have no qualms in suggesting that you Get It repaired Now* at uBreakiFix.

I never did get a photo of the moon. Bummer!

 · Vern Seward · Just a Peek