Gadgets: A smart watch worth a look

June 5, 2014 

The first digital notification watch I tried earlier this year from Martian (Passport) worked well, and the latest, the Martian Notifier, ($129) works and looks even better.

It's advertised as "a watch to make life on earth easier" and after wearing it for a week I can confirm it really does. A quick peek at the watch for an email or message is so much easier than constantly taking my iPhone out, using my finger ID and then scrolling for the message.

At times I thought I was in an old "Get Smart" show when talking into my watch for a handsfree call, using the built-in mic and speaker.

Your smartphone or tablet connects via Bluetooth, so you get about 30 feet of range.

Set up takes a little time but the instructions are well explained and there really are only two buttons to use after setting the analog time.

Both buttons are on the left (top and bottom) and

are used to make selections and programming.

What I found really cool was that just a tap of the watch glass gets rid of pestering incoming calls -- which are displayed with caller ID -- email and text messages on the scrolling OLED display across the 6 o'clock area on the watch face.

After downloading the free Martian Notifier app (iOS and Android) the instructions run you through the pairing and set-up of many features. This includes some settings you will have to change on your smartphone.

Social media notifications, alarms and reminders can be sent to the watch; tapping the glass brings back the most recent notification (within the last 5 minutes).

Other features include using the watch for health and fitness, bank alerts, traffic reports, triggering your phone's camera shutter and even earthquake alerts.

As for the analog wristwatch, it's really an attractive piece, available in red, white and black face plates, with just about every color band imaginable for additional purchase, starting at $20.

The watch needs a microUSB charge every few days depending on usage. A separate analog watch battery is good for up to 2 years.

Details: $129 for the watch, optional designer bands range from $20 to $35; www.martianwatches.com/notifier

Protect phone from an accidental summer swim

Unfortunately, some do this accidentally, but being the brave sole I am, I chose to drop my iPhone 5s into my pool.

Actually I'm not that brave since my phone was encased with a Lifeproof fre for iPhone 5, making it waterproof. The case also was paired with the Lifeproof Lifejacket Float accessory for iPhone 5, which allows the case to float.

While fully enclosed the device still has full functionality, including the touchscreen and volume controls. Your charging port and headphone jack are closed but can be paired with a Bluetooth speaker while floating.

The Lifejacket is molded from soft, buoyant foam, designed with a high-visibility orange finish and includes a lanyard and wrist strap.

Lifeproof, part of the Otterbox family, makes everything to keep an iPhone, iPad, iPod or a Samsung Galaxy (S3, S4) weatherproof and floating in water. The cases aren't big and bulky like many others.

These products aren't new for the most part, Lifeproof just keeps up with the new devices as they come out.

Details: Prices vary on devices, Lifeproof fre is currently on a special for $59.99, LifeJacket for iPhone 5/5c/5s is $39.99; www.lifeproof.com

News reading simplified

PressReader, the app that brings thousands of newspapers delivered to your tablet (iOS, Android, Mac and PC) every morning has undergone a tremendous redesign to enhance the user experience.

The new design brings publications (newspapers and magazines) with just a touch of the screen to download. Many will find this useful to follow newspapers in Brazil for the upcoming World Cup soccer tournament being held there.

The design makes it easier to navigate your publications, or browse for new ones.

A new feature is the Home Feed, which creates a daily newspaper with the top news items you can customize. Along with the country of your choice you can add specific sections (news, sports, etc.) or your own specific categories, such as technology.

If your local daily paper doesn't have its own standalone app, there's a great chance you'll find it in PressReader, with more than 3,500 publications from 100-plus countries, according to the website.

In addition to the 344 dailies in the United States, choices include China, Canada, Italy and Zimbabwe to name just a small sampling. New titles are added almost daily.

Once you choose the papers you want to be downloaded you can get them daily or day to day, depending on your reading needs.

Details: Prices start at 99 cents; pressreader.com

Gregg Ellman, gadgets guru, can be reached at greggellman@mac.com. Follow him on Twitter @greggellman.

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