Amazon Jumps Into the Smartphone Business with the Amazon Fire Phone

As expected, Amazon announced its very first phone this afternoon. Much about the Fire Phone had been leaked, but there were a few interesting surprises along the way. Many of us have Amazon Prime, so we were excited to see what Bezos would present, and how they would differentiate the Amazon Fire Phone. Here’s what we now know…

Why Amazon Prime Music Makes Sense

Buzzfeed is reporting that Amazon is planning on expanding their Prime offerings to include music as well as books, movies, and free shipping. This has been speculated before, and the terms (no music newer than 6 months) fits with the backlist strategy of the rest of Prime. It also shows who Amazon Prime is truly aimed at: digital dilettantes.

Sprint’s HTC One (M8) Harman Kardon Edition Just One of Many Announcements

This morning Sprint announced their exclusive new HTC One  (M8) Harman Kardon edition. Also announced were Sprint Sound Sessions, a premium package of music and privileges and six months free of Spotify Premium for all new and existing postpaid Sprint customers. Sprint also said that they will will make it easier to join a Framily.  No, that’s not a typo.

What’s Your Daily Driver Smartphone (and Why)?

When we talk about a daily driver device, we’re referring to a smartphone that’s with us no matter where we go — our primary way of communicating with the world, our most favored device which, for now, just might come as close to the perfect device as possible.

It’s a Subscription World, and We Just Live In It

HP is causing a bit of a firestorm with their recent announcement that enterprise customers with HP ProLiant Servers will no longer have access to firmware updates past their initial warranty period unless customers have enrolled in a Care Pack Service or support agreement. Apparently HP did not see the irony in their blog post titled “Customers for life”.

Apple Calls iPod Declining Business – What Do You Think?

Apple announced its earnings yesterday, which featured loads of record-setting device sales numbers and revenue and profit figures so high they are hard to fathom. Even Mac sales saw a significant boost while the rest of the PC industry marked another double-digit declines. The one area not even mentioned? iPod sales, which continue their decline in a no-update year.

Spotify Grammy Predictions: How Did They Do?

So … did you watch the Grammy Awards? My family watched most, and with expectations set suitably low it was not a bad time. Spirited performances by Kendrik Lamar and Imagine Dragons easily offset the awful Katy Perry vocals, bland Taylor Swift showing, and plainly lip-syncing Pink. But the real question is … how did Spotify do predicting winners?

Spotify Predicts Major Grammy Winners Based on Listener Data

This weekend the Grammy Awards present the music side of insular industry self-celebration and back-patting. Trying to figure out who wins in the post-Esperanza Spalding years is as much about who the industry needs to ‘reward’ as anything else. But the folks at Spotify have used data gleaned from their streaming service over the last year to make predictions!

Rdio and Spotify Open Up Time Limits on their Free Services!

If you’re a casual web user of Rdio or Spotify, chances are you’ve hit against their limits on occasion. Aside from not getting to do ‘on demand’ listening, you get ads and time limits as well as some other minor limits. This week both services set aside limits for web users and now offer unlimited use of their radio services.

Dirty Music? Clean It Up with the Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS

I visited the Cambridge Audio suite during CES 2014. I put on headphones. I listened. The sound stinked. I put a Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS USB DAC / Headphone Amp between the headphones and laptop. The sound was amazing — you might even say magical! The recording was fine. It was the laptop amp and the DacMagic that made all the difference. It turns out the audio amp on a laptop is an amazingly cheap component of most computers. It is fine for notifications and the like, but when it comes to listening to music the amps fall short. They…

Blumoo Home Audio Remote Debuts at CES 2014?

The other day the local youth bureau called asking if my kids could help an older person set up a universal remote for multiple devices – and they declined because I was the only one in our house who knew our system! This is true for millions, making it great news as Blumoo Home Audio Remote Debuts at CES 2014!

Spotify Adds New Free Capabilities, 20 Markets, Led Zepplin Catalog!

While some folks express concerns about royalty payouts and business models, the reality is that people love Spotify because it allows them to listen to the music they want to when, where and how they want. And today they are announcing ways that even more people can enjoy the service, and an expansion of the free service for tablet users.

Korus Premium, Portable Wireless System Review – Part 2

In part one of this two-part review, we looked at the philosophy behind and technology within the new Korus line of wireless speakers. In part 2 we’ll be looking at the two speakers that were part of the initial launch of the line, as well as my thoughts on the speakers in specific and the line in general.

The Astak Neos – An Android Tablet for Family Fun and Copious Cooking!

I love to cook. I store most of my recipes in Evernote, so when making unfamiliar dishes I always need access to a smart device. Usually I’ll walk back and forth between the kitchen countertop and dining room table where my laptop sits, checking ingredients as I work. That’s all changed since I got the Astak Neos Android Tablet.

Ultimate Ears UE BOOM Gets an Alarming New Update

The $199 Ultimate Ears UE BOOM is one of the best Bluetooth speakers available. (Read our review.) The UE MIMI BOOM also impresses and when used as a stereo pair… wow. (Read the review.) A new firmware update teaching the UE BOOM an alarming new trick by improving audio and letting the UE BOOM become your alarm clock.

What’s Round, Covered In Wool, and Promises Awesome Sound? The Brand New Libratone Loop

I loved the Libratone Zipp I reviewed, and Elana still uses it daily. Now Libratone is introducing the Loop. This $499.95 wireless speaker packs AirPlay, DNLA, and Libratone’s PlayDirect when WiFi isn’t available. Set on the floor, a table, or hung on the wall it promises a great look and sound great. Features: Works wirelessly with iPad, iPhone and Android or Mac/PC, enabling awesome sound through AirPlay or DNLA Can be used without a Wi-Fi network router through Libratone’s patented PlayDirect™ technology Streams wirelessly from Internet radio stations and services such as Pandora and Spotify, as well as integrating with…

WiFi2Hifi 2 Brings New Capabilities to Remote Music Player App – But Is It Enough?

I thought I had done a review of the original WiFi2HiFi, but I’d actually just complained about the ordeal getting the copy I’d won in a website giveaway. But the app itself was good enough that when the new version was announced I was interested in trying it. My experience was not very good, with unexplained lost connections and dropouts. Type of app: Wireless audio app Platform/where to buy: iPhone/iPad; available in the iTunes App Store Developer: Clever & Son AG Description: Using the WiFi2HiFi application any iOS device in reach can tune in to the music you’re listening to on…

10 Reasons to Get Twerkin’ With iTunes Radio on iOS7!

Along with a rather anemic product announcement keynote, Tim Cook reiterated the upcoming release of iOS 7, and with it iTunes Radio. While some have called Apple ‘late to market’ with iTunes Radio, I would say they are launching at the perfect time. Some of the reasons include the established user base of iTunes, and profit struggles of streaming services. Here are ten reasons to get excited for iTunes Radio: iTunes Integration: If I am listening to something in iTunes and want to go to Slacker, I have to stop, exit, flip pages and launch. With iTunes Radio you just…

Orb Audio Review – Powerful Audio with a Unique Style

Mike reviewed the Orb Audio Mini-T stereo system back in December of 2011. You can read his review here, but all you really need to know is that when the time came to return the loaner unit, Mike was none-too happy. Yup, he really liked the system. The unit Mike reviewed consisted of two single Orb speakers, an Orb Super Eight subwoofer and the company’s Mini-T amplifier. The company sent me the same arrangements for a second-look Gear Diary review. The only significant change was the inclusion of the updated — and significantly more refined-looking — Mini-T. Was I equally…

What Subscription Services Are Worth a Place in Your Budget?

Sarah and I have been loving the new Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”. It’s incredibly well-written, has an amazing cast, and manages to add levity and entertainment to a relatively depressing premise (it’s not exactly happy time watching a protagonist navigate life in prison). I’ve been recommending the show like crazy and was surprised when Dan told me he recently cancelled his Netflix subscription. We use Netflix constantly and it didn’t occur to me that not everyone pays for the service! It sparked a larger discussion among the Gear Diary Editors about what subscription services we pay for…