Archive for August, 2014

Ten tech products that died on arrival

Proof that no matter how much time, effort, and money you put into something, it may sink like a stone and stay at the bottom

ITworld’s own Andy Patrizio has declared Windows 8 dead on arrival, a product so out-of-touch with its intended audience that that it was doomed from the start. The tech industry is surprisingly littered with such sad stories of failure, many from extremely successful companies. These products take years to develop, and sometimes the train is hard to divert, even when it becomes clear it’s heading in the wrong direction. Many of these dead-on-arrival flops had high corporate hopes behind them; others were already giving off the stench of death, and were briefly released only to be mercifully put down in short order.

Apple Lisa
The first GUI-based PC available for mass purchase, the Lisa had a hefty price tag of nearly $10,000 and a powerful enemy in Steve Jobs, who had been forced off the Lisa project, which had been named after his daughter, a year before its 1983 release. As recounted by his biographer Walter Isaacson, Jobs told anyone who would listen that the new Apple project he had attached himself to, the Macintosh, was coming soon and would provide a GUI OS at a fraction of the price, all before the Lisa even hit stores. Although Lisa’s OS contained features like protected memory that wouldn’t hit the Mac until 2001, it never caught market traction and died by 1986.

If the Lisa died on arrival because of its looming successor, IBM’s PCjr, the subject of a massive marketing campaign and pre-release buzz that declared it would blow up 1983’s home computer market, was stillborn thanks to its older brother, the IBM PC, whose success had taken even IBM by surprise. While Big Blue hoped their reputation for quality would make people choose the PCjr over cheaper offerings from Atari and Commodore, most potential customers were looking for a stripped-down PC clone, not a computer that had a terrible keyboard and was incompatible with 40 percent of IBM software, including the all-important Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Flight Simulator. The PCjr was a massive flop.

Many users of enterprise software products are resigned to x.0 versions being buggy and are willing to wait for x.1 versions before writing them off completely, and in 1988 Ashton-Tate’s dBASE database was in a strong enough position that it seemed capable of riding out the vitriolic press reaction to its dBASE 4.0 release. But instead of getting to work fixing the bugs, Ashton-Tate had already dedicated engineering resources to an entirely revamped product, leading to a user rebellion that targeted the company CEO personally. It took a year for the company to change course, by which point dBASE had lost nearly a third of its market share. Ashton-Tate was sold to Borland in 1991.

Microsoft Windows ME
Microsoft spent most of the ’90s managing two separate OS lineages: Windows 9x, ultimately based on MS-DOS, and Windows NT, a business-focused OS that was considered too advanced for ordinary users. As the fin de siècle approached, Microsoft prepared Windows 2000, a successor to Windows NT 4 that would also serve as the general-purpose consumer OS. But less than a year before its release, Redmond admitted the consumer version wouldn’t be ready in time and instead announced Windows Millenium Edition, a buggy, lackluster update to Windows 98, which PC World called “Mistake Edition.” Windows XP, the true unification of the two codebases, came in 2001, and Windows ME was mercifully forgotten.

In 2001, the tech press was roiled by rumors of something, code-named “Ginger” or just “IT,” being plotted by inventor Dean Kamen, who had previously built advanced all-terrain wheelchairs. Some of the more hyperbolic possibilities bandied about were that it was an super-efficient Stirling Engine, or perhaps a scooter built around such an engine. In fact, it (or “IT”) turned out to be a scooter powered by ordinary electric motors, and while it has sold well enough into specific niche markets, the initial maniacally high hopes for it — that people would “build cities around it” — were so far from fruition from the moment of conception that we can call the dream of Ginger DOA.

Nokia N-Gage
In the early ’00s, many gamers were carrying both a cell phone and a handheld gaming device like a Nintendo Gameboy. So Nokia, then a wildly successful developer of cutting-edge phones, reasoned: why shouldn’t we make a device that combines both? The N-Gage, released in late 2003, had a dumb name, which many a tech device has survived, and a terrible design, which most do not; in order to use it as a phone, you had to hold it at an awkward angle that made it look like you were talking into a taco. The gaming controls were no great shakes either. Nokia shipped 400,000 to retailers, but fewer than 6,000 were actually purchased.

Apple G4 Cube
Is a computer with a spot in New York’s Museum of Modern Art really a failure? It is if you were aiming to make money from it. Apple’s G4 Cube, introduced in July of 2000, was touted as a groundbreaking aesthetic work, but it was also intended to serve as an intermediary product between the low-end iMac and high-end Power Mac. Unfortunately, Apple was also selling G4 towers with nearly identical specs for $200 less. That, plus the Cube’s poor expansion options and overall weirdness, lead to anemic sales out of the gate and the decision to kill the product after only a year. By the time MoMA added one to its collection, it was genuinely a museum piece.

Oqo Model 2
The mid-’00s saw on onslaught of tiny Windows-compatible “ultra-mobile PCs.” The briefly popular netbook evolved out of this category, but for sheer splash you couldn’t beat the weird, PDA-sized Oqo Model 02, which Bill Gates held onstage at CES in 2007, and which somehow got dubbed the world’s smallest “full-powered, full-featured personal computer” by the Guinness Book of Records. Oqo’s Wikipedia page lists a litany of awards the Model 02 won (with a prominent [citation needed] tag), but did anyone actually use one in real life? The numbers were very small. The company was bankrupt less than two years later.

Microsoft Kin
In 2009, Microsoft was working on not one but two Windows CE-derived smartphone OSes to take on the iPhone and Android. One, Windows Phone 7, established a new ecosystem that’s carved out a niche in the market. The other, Microsoft Kin, was an epic disaster. Created by the group that had built the Danger Hiptop, the Kin was supposed to be a social media-focused device for twentysomethings. But its social hub only refreshed every 15 minutes, you couldn’t use it to upload pictures to Twitter, and it lacked an app store. Nobody bought it. Less than two months after it was unveiled, Microsoft killed it and cut its losses.

BlackBerry PlayBook
In 2011, RIM was in trouble, and BlackBerry had been eclipsed by Apple and Android. In a Hail Mary move, the company bought itself a new and well-regarded operating system, QNX, and opted to first build it into a tablet device that would take on the iPad. While the tech specs were good, the execution was awful: the PlayBook lacked the ability to send or receive email and BlackBerry messages (one of the few remaining BlackBerry-unique features on the market) without a connection to a separate phone, and it introduced an bewildering set of new development environments that alienated longstanding BlackBerry app devs. Sales were much, much lower than expected, which contributed to the company’s current sad state.


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The iPhone 6 unknowns

What we don’t know far outnumbers, and outweighs, what we think we know.

Almost everything that the iOSphere thinks it knows about the iPhone 6 – expected to be announced Sept. 9 — is based on Apple’s past history. So, everyone “knows” the iPhone 6 will have a new processor, the A8. The reason is because every new iPhone except the 3g has had a new processor. Almost everyone is convinced Apple will make the iPhone body look more like the iPad body: rounded instead of flat sides. But beyond that, it’s all up in the air. Here are the Big Unknowns about how today’s iPhone might change.

Sapphire cover glass
It’s never been clear that Apple’s strategic investment in synthetic sapphire production was intended to create tens of millions of iPhone screens in 2014. Sapphire furnace maker GT Advanced Technologies, Apple’s partner in the project, said in early August that the Mesa, Ariz., plant was only just then ramping up to full production of the raw sapphire. The downstream cutting, shaping, grinding and polishing – all arduous and more time consuming because of sapphire’s hardness – will ramp up after that. Some observers think sapphire might appear first in the next iPod nano, and roll out to iPhones in 2015.

Display technology
The iOSphere has been obsessing over bigger-than-4-inch (diagonal) screens for the iPhone. But there are a host of emerging display technologies that may have as big or bigger impact on users. Quantum dots, from vendors like Nanosys, promise to make the LCD technology favored by Apple rival OLED in brightness, color accuracy and lower power demand. Metal oxide technology, from vendors like Cbrite, promise to transform LCD backplanes (which turn pixels on/off), resulting in higher resolution, and lower costs and power demand. Shown: Nanosys’ quantum dots film in LCD stack.

Recent speculation is that the expected Apple-designed A8 system-on-chip will run at 2.0 GHz (vs. 1.3 GHz for the A7 in the iPhone 5s), or that the rumored 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models will have, somehow, different A8 chips. But the A7’s Cyclone microarchitecture created a “desktop class” 64-bit processor for mobile devices and Apple has barely started to exploit its possibilities [See AnandTech’s march 2014 summary]. Apple could shift to a 20-nanometer (from 28nm) process, scale the clockspeed, and hold power demand steady; introduce other changes to reduce power demand overall; tweak internals to improve specific types of processing. And introduce apps that really show what Cyclone can do.

iPhone 5c and 5s currently both have 1GB of RAM. The 5c apparently uses low-power DDR2 (LPDDR2), while the 5s has LPDDR3, with a higher data rate and memory density, and greater power efficiency and bandwidth. Based on Apple’s historic RAM expansion, iPhone 6 could see a boost to 2GB of RAM, enabling the phone to handle more tasks at once. But the real benefits lie in a possible shift to LPDDR4, with 50 percent higher performance and 40 percent less energy than the fastest LPDDR3 today. Shown: SK Hynix’s 4-Gigabit LPDDR4 chip.

Wireless advances
Many expect iPhone 6 to introduce 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but the real advance would be a new antenna design to support two 11ac spatial streams, such as found in Broadcom’s BCM4354 chip, for a maximum downstream data rate of 867Mbps using an 80-MHz channel. Apple could boost LTE performance by adding a Category 4 modem, with up to 150Mbps of downstream throughput, such as Qualcomm’s Gobi MDM9x25 LTE modem. Near field communications (NFC) for mobile payments? iBeacon, based on low energy Bluetooth 4.0, is a better bet. [See “Apple’s iBeacon turns location sensing inside out”]

Battery life
Larger phones mean room for physically bigger batteries, with correspondingly bigger capacity measured in watt hours. But that doesn’t automatically translate into much longer battery life, if the CPU, screen, and radios are power-hungry. The iPhone 5s battery is rated at 3.8 volts and 5.92 Watt-hours. The larger and newer Samsung Galaxy S5 has a battery rated at 3.85 volts and 10.78 WHrs. That results in 20 and 13 percent improved battery life when web browsing over LTE and Wi-Fi respectively, according to AnandTech benchmarks. Apple’s focus has been on modest boosts in battery capacity while maintaining or slightly improving battery life even as it adds processing power and higher screen resolution.

9to5Mac recently reported that iPhone 6 may include a “barometric” – pressure – sensor. AppleInsider noted that the third iOS 8 beta build added support for Apple’s M7 motion coprocessor (shown here), allowing data from accelerometer, compass and gyroscope sensors to be accessed by the new Health app. The question is how Apple might exploit the M7, introduced with the 5s. One option: the M7 as a hub for a growing number of sensors, possibly including sensors on an Apple iOS wearable [See “M is for Mystery”, by Horace Dediu], or linked with Apple CarPlay. Semicon Research call this “sensor fusion” – “combining data from multiple sensors and deriving intelligence from that data.”

Model segmentation
In 2013, Apple introduced (as shown) two new iPhone models, the 5s as the lead phone, and the 5c as the mid-phone or mid-range phone; with the 4s now the entry-level phone. Within each model, there are different storage options, which are the basis of difference prices. Will Apple increase iPhone segmentation? The iPhone 5s is “translated” into the mid-range, perhaps being called the 6c, with a plastic body, and some internal hardware shared with the new higher-end phone. The rumored 4.7-inch phone is the new lead phone, iPhone 6; and the rumored 5.5-inch device could mark a new, more expensive iPhone model, the “6b” (for “big”) or “iPhone Air.” The existing 5c may continue as the 5c, becoming the new entry-level phone.

Scare headlines of $100 (or more) price hikes for iPhone 6 have been frequent. Yet Apple’s pricing practice has been very consistent, and the 5c is firmly set as the mid-range phone, $100 cheaper than the “lead phone,” the 5s. Blogger John Gruber wrote that “it sounds weird and somewhat un-Apple-y for them to raise the entry price for any product, let alone for their most important product.” Apple could raise the starting price for iPhone by dropping the lowest storage tier option. Or put a higher price tag on the rumored 5.5-inch jumbo-screen model.

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Twitter to remove images of deceased upon request

Twitter has some reservations in granting wishes of kin

Twitter said late Tuesday it will remove images and videos of deceased people upon the request of family members, but it put conditions on the policy.

The microblogging service made the announcement a week after the daughter of the late comedian Robin Williams said she would quit Twitter after receiving gruesome images of him from online trolls.

The move also comes as Twitter tried to delete images and video depicting the death of U.S. photojournalist James Foley, who was apparently killed by the militant group Islamic State, better known as ISIS.

“In order to respect the wishes of loved ones, Twitter will remove imagery of deceased individuals in certain circumstances,” Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler said in a message about the update to its policies.

“When reviewing such media removal requests, Twitter considers public interest factors such as the newsworthiness of the content and may not be able to honor every request.”

Twitter, which boasts 271 million active monthly users, posted details of the policy that require the estate or a person’s family member to provide documents such as copies of a death certificate and government-issued identification.

Family members or other authorized people can request the removal of photos or video of deceased people on Twitter “from when critical injury occurs to the moments before or after death,” it said.

Twitter still refuses to provide account access to anyone, even if they are related to the person who has died.

Women have been the target of threats an abuse on Twitter, and critics have urged the company to change its Twitter Rules. A year ago, it introduced an “in-tweet” abuse button to report violations.

But some have complained that it’s still impossible to stop determined trolls.

“Ive endured this for two years, and so have countless others,” Twitter user Imani Gandy recently wrote about the racist invective she suffers at the hands of one particular troll.

“He creates hundreds of accounts to tweet his inane ramblings to my friends, online acquaintances and even my work. He latches on to any tweet of mine and harasses anyone that I interact with.”

She criticized Twitter for being slow to act and having no solutions beyond suspending accounts, adding she and other users are trying to get Twitter CEO Dick Costolo to strengthen the service’s abuse policies.

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Google lowers search ranking of websites that don’t use encryption

The move is intended to promote better security practices across the Web

Websites that aren’t encrypting connections with their visitors may get a lower ranking on Google’s search engine, a step the company said it is taking to promote better online security practices.

The move is designed to spur developers to implement TLS (Transport Layer Security), which uses a digital certificate to encrypt traffic, signified by a padlock in most browsers and “https” at the beginning of a URL.

As Google scans Web pages, it takes into account certain attributes, such as whether a Web page has unique content, to determine where it will appear in search rankings. It has added the use of https into those signals, although it will be a “lightweight” one and applies to about 1 percent of search queries now, wrote Zineb Ait BahajjiA andA Gary Illyes, both Google webmaster trends analysts, in a blog post.

All reputable websites use encryption when a person submits their login credentials, but some websites downgrade the connection to an unencrypted one. That means content is susceptible to a so-called man-in-the-middle attack. Content that is not encrypted could be read.

Rolling out https is fairly straightforward for small websites but can be complex for large organizations that run lots of servers, with challenges such as increased latency, support issues with content delivery networks and scaling issues.

LinkedIn said in June it was still upgrading its entire network to https after Zimperium, a security company, found it was possible in some cases to hijack a person’s account. People using LinkedIn in some regions are flipped to an unencrypted connection after they log in, making it possible for a hacker to collect their authentication credentials.

Facebook’s Instagram was found to have the same problem last month. Instagram’s API (application programming interface) makes unencrypted requests to some parts of its network, which could allow a hacker on the same Wi-Fi network to steal a “session cookie,” a data file that reminds Instagram a person has logged in but which grants access to an account.

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Climbing Aboard the 3rd Platform

Recent news from IBM and Microsoft highlight the upheavals underway as the technology industry rapidly transitions to new realities.

IBM announced that profits were up even as revenue was down as it continues to shift away from hardware business lines and tries “to convert the future of technology into an opportunity rather than a threat.” Microsoft announced its largest layoff ever as it continues to “become more agile and move faster” toward cloud and mobile hardware!

These upheavals are due to the forces propelling mobile, social, cloud and big data into what IDC labels the 3rd Platform, “the emerging platform for growth and innovation.”

“The 3rd Platform will deliver the next generation of competitive advantage apps and services that will significantly disrupt market leaders in virtually every industry,” IDC seer Frank Gens said, in laying out the firm’s predictions for 2014, late last year.

When long-time nemeses Apple and IBM climb into bed you know the ground is shaking!

With access to cloud infrastructure and other resources, new companies can be created almost overnight – the advantages of size that large, established companies used to rely on have greatly diminished. Everybody needs to be more agile, more flexible and willing to sacrifice proprietary advantages when customers demand adherence to open standards.

With so much change, no organization can afford to stand pat on the networking architecture of the past. Enterprises are driven to simultaneously improve business processes while reducing IT costs.

In order to move beyond the physical limitations of yesterday’s architecture so they can manage the complexity of the ever more connected world, many enterprises are modernizing data centers. Seeking to transform infrastructure into assets, they are turning to virtualization and cloud computing to drive up availability and transition IT to a services orientation.

They won’t get there with traditional Ethernet networks that rely on a rigid hierarchical approach that creates inefficient traffic patterns and purposely curtails the scalability. A newer category of flatter Ethernet networks called Ethernet fabrics combine the familiarity of Ethernet networks with the data center-hardened reliability and performance characteristics of fabric technologies such as Fibre Channel to provide organizations with elastic, highly automated, mission-critical networks to meet rapidly changing requirements.

Ethernet fabrics are specifically designed for the virtualized data center environments needed to transition to the 3rd Platform. Rather than focusing on management of discrete physical devices and physical ports, they logically eliminate the management of multiple switching layers and apply policies and manage traffic across many physical switches as if they were one.

Trying to forestall movement to the 3rd Platform is, at best, a defensive strategy that attempts to maintain a static position in an incredibly dynamic environment. It doesn’t make sense to become more stodgy while competitors are increasingly agile. As the situations at IBM and Microsoft attest, market advantages that once seemed insurmountable can quickly erode in the face of rapid transformation.


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15 great apps for Android Wear

All Android Wear apps are not created equal. Here are 15 standout selections that actually add value to the smartwatch form.

Expand your Android Wear horizons
Google’s Android Wear platform is pretty powerful out of the box — but with the right set of apps, it can be made even more useful.

Any Android app can actually interact with a Wear watch via its regular notifications. Certain apps, however, take things a step further with advanced features and special interfaces.

Of course, just because an app works on a watch doesn’t mean it’s worth using. Wear apps shouldn’t merely be watered-down versions of what we have on our phones; they should provide meaningful value specific to the smartwatch form — in a way that actually makes sense for a wrist-based device.

These 15 apps accomplish that, and they’re well worth giving a whirl.

Wear Unlock for Android Wear
This app is one you’ll probably never open once you have set it up — but its presence will benefit you almost every day.

Wear Unlock ($1.99) turns your smartwatch into a wireless key for your phone: Whenever your watch is present and paired, your phone won’t prompt you for a PIN or password. When your watch isn’t actively connected, your phone will automatically lock itself and enable a security prompt.

That type of function is available natively in the Moto X — and will be built into Android itself starting with this fall’s “L” release — but Wear Unlock makes it work with any phone today.

Wear Unlock for Android Wear
This app is one you’ll probably never open once you have set it up — but its presence will benefit you almost every day.

Wear Unlock ($1.99) turns your smartwatch into a wireless key for your phone: Whenever your watch is present and paired, your phone won’t prompt you for a PIN or password. When your watch isn’t actively connected, your phone will automatically lock itself and enable a security prompt.

That type of function is available natively in the Moto X — and will be built into Android itself starting with this fall’s “L” release — but Wear Unlock makes it work with any phone today.

Wear Aware – Phone Finder
Your Android Wear watch is always on your wrist — and that means it can help make sure you never leave your phone behind.

Wear Aware (free) runs in the background on both devices and buzzes your watch anytime your phone moves out of range. That way, if you set the phone down and walk out of a room, you’ll figure it out before you get too far.

The app also allows you to manually page your phone from your watch so you can easily find it when it’s out of sight (like those times when it’s magically hidden between your couch cushions).

No single Android Wear app offers more possibilities than IFTTT. The app — which stands for “If This, Then That” — connects to the cloud-based service of the same name.

IFTTT (free) allows you to configure and run all sorts of recipes that bring together different types of Web-driven actions. You can use it to set the temperature on a Nest thermostat, for example, or to activate an appliance connected to a Belkin WeMo switch. You can even use it to trigger a fake call to your phone, if you’re ever desperate for an excuse.

Anyone can create and contribute new recipes, and the list of available options grows with each passing week.

PixtoCam for Android Wear
Google’s native Android Camera app has built-in Wear functionality: When you open the app on your phone, a card appears on your watch with a simple button to activate the shutter remotely.

Handy, sure, but that’s just scratching the surface of the ways Wear can interact with your phone’s camera. An app called PixtoCam ($1.99) actually lets you see through your phone’s lens anytime you open it on your watch. You can remotely snap photos or capture videos and even control the camera’s zoom and flash from your wrist.

The app’s interface isn’t great — but if you’re willing to put up with that, its functionality is fantastic.

Allthecooks Recipes
Allthecooks (free) is a prime example of how an app can adapt sensibly to the smartwatch form. The way it works is simple: You open the app on your phone and find a recipe you want to attempt.

Once you make a selection, the recipe automatically shows up as a card on your watch. You tap it to bring up step-by-step instructions formatted to fit the small screen. Each step is on a single card, and you swipe horizontally to move from one to the next.

That keeps your hands free while you’re cooking and allows you to glance down at your wrist for all the info you need — and that, my friends, is what a smartwatch is all about.

RunKeeper – GPS Track Run Walk
RunKeeper (free) makes excellent use of the smartwatch form. The app is designed to track your walks, runs and bike rides while providing detailed ongoing info about your progress.

Anytime you start a new activity, RunKeeper places a card on your watch that lets you view your current time, total miles traveled and miles per minute. You can pause or stop the activity by using on-screen buttons or by tapping a microphone icon and saying “pause” or “stop.” When you’re finished, RunKeeper gives you a summary card that shows all of your stats, including totals for the aforementioned measurements as well as the number of calories burned.

An optional $9.99/month subscription offers features like long-term statistics.

Golfshot: Golf GPS

Golfshot (free) turns your Android Wear watch into an intelligent guide for all your golfing adventures. You simply tell the app what course you’re playing on and it puts pertinent info on your watch’s display as you go.

Cards from Golfshot show you the distance from your current location to each hole, along with stats like the par and handicap for every stop along the way. You can also get the distance to the course’s hazards in order to keep track of upcoming obstacles.

An optional $4.99/month subscription enables enhanced features like 3D flyovers and personalized recommendations.

EchoWear Song Search
Google’s ability to identify a song on demand is an awesome feature for music fans — and with a screen on your wrist, it’s easier than ever to access that information.

Install EchoWear Song Search (free) on your Android Wear device and the next time a song that you don’t know is playing, tell your watch to “Start Echo Search.” The app will listen to the tune through the watch’s mic and then present you with a card showing the artist and track title.

Wear Mini Launcher
In theory, Android Wear is designed to revolve around voice commands and contextual information — but in reality, there are also times you’ll want to manually open an app or adjust your watch’s settings. The current version of the software doesn’t make those tasks easy.

That’s where a utility called Wear Mini Launcher comes in handy. Wear Mini Launcher (free) adds a hidden drawer that appears anytime you swipe over from the left side of your watch’s home screen. The drawer gives you quick access to all of your apps as well as tools to adjust the watch’s brightness, view the battery level of your watch and your phone, and remotely toggle things like your phone’s Wi-Fi and volume settings.

@here for Android Wear
Ever find yourself in an unfamiliar area and attempting to tell someone where you are? An app called @here (free) can help.

The app does all the work for you: When you’re in a new location, @here will place a card on your Wear watch showing your current address on a map. You can swipe sideways to see the name of the neighborhood and to get a closer view of the streets around you.

If you’d rather not get location cards automatically, you can also opt to have @here appear only when you explicitly ask for its assistance.

Emergency Alert for Wear
Emergency Alert (free) is an app you probably won’t need often — but one that might be worth keeping around just in case.

The app allows you to set a predefined emergency contact and message. You can then speak the command “Start Emergency Alert” into your watch to have the message delivered via SMS along with an interactive map of your location. (The app does require a single on-screen tap for confirmation to make sure you don’t trigger an alert by mistake.)

Of course, the app doesn’t have to be used only for emergencies; you could also employ it as a tool for quickly sharing your location with a specific friend or loved one to make it easier to meet.

Next time you need a ride, try speaking into your wrist. Lyft (free) lets you request a pickup via Wear with an easy-to-remember voice command: “Call me a car.”

Once a driver’s en route, the app delivers card-based updates to your watch that show you the vehicle’s estimated arrival time along with the option to cancel.

Lyft isn’t available everywhere, but if you’re in one of the places where the service is provided, its Wear integration delivers a top-notch — and thus far unmatched — experience.

Fly Delta
Flying the friendly skies? Grab the official Fly Delta app (free), and you’ll automatically get useful info on your Android Wear watch when you need it.

Delta’s app delivers nicely formatted updates about your itinerary along with mobile boarding pass barcodes so you never have to whip out your phone or physical documents. Its updates start appearing as cards as soon as you’re checked in.

(The American Airlines app (free) also provides similar functionality.)

1Weather: Widget Forecast Radar
Android Wear has its own native weather cards, but you can step things up a notch with the aid of 1Weather (free — an optional $1.99 upgrade removes ads).

The app’s main card shows you the current conditions for your area or any other area you select. Swiping over once gives you a glimpse at what’s ahead for the rest of the day — broken down into segments like “morning,” “noon,” “evening” and “night” — while swiping over a second time lets you look ahead at the four-day forecast.

Baby Time: Android Wear Lock
If you spend any time holding a small child, this app might be just what the doctor ordered.

Baby Time (free) offers an easy way to baby-proof your Android Wear watch: Just issue the voice command “Run Baby Time,” and your screen will go dim and stop responding to taps and basic swipes. To get the watch back in its normal mode, you’ll have to swipe up twice and then down twice — something even the most advanced infant is unlikely to do.

JR Raphael is a Computerworld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. For more Android tips and insights, follow him on Google+ or Twitter.

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