Fugoo Style Bluetooth speaker review: wireless audio never sounded so good

There’s hardly a home or office that doesn’t have at least one wireless Bluetooth speaker these days. (Or is that just me? Do non-tech bloggers have 4 portable wireless speakers?) Portable wireless audio has become the standard for listening to music in the home. There are larger more sophisticated versions like Sonos or Bose, but there are also many choices when it comes to smaller more portable speakers. Fugoo Style is one of those speakers. But how well does it perform and is it worth the price?

Features of Fugoo Style wireless speaker

Fugoo makes a variety of Bluetooth speakers in varying sizes, different levels of portability and several styles. The Style speaker is one of the chicest, but its good looks conceal a tough and durable interior. Fugoo says the speaker has a “fiber-reinforced resin shell and waterproof cloth covering that gives this speaker the protection it needs to last long past cocktail hour.”

The speaker is about the size of a small clutch purse or a portable coffee mug, and though it’s lightweight, it doesn’t feel cheap; it feels like it has some durability and heft behind it. it has a built in speakerphone and connects with Siri or Google Now.

It also has a changeable jacket, which is removed by pushing a release tab on the base. Without its skin, it looks very industrial, and still cool. Keeping the jacket on provides some measure of water or spill protection, so it’s probably best kept on.

Setting up Fugoo Style is easy

Setting up the Fugoo speaker couldn’t have been simpler; the first time you’ll turn it on, head to your device’s Bluetooth menu, and click on the speaker, which should have appeared in the Bluetooth devices list.  If not, you can touch the Bluetooth button next to the speaker’s power button and it should pop right up accompanied by a helpful and suave sounding male digital assistant’s voice.  I was connected and playing music in about 10 seconds. I love devices where set up is simple and flawless, so Fugoo gets high marks for this.

Fugoo Style Sound quality & volumeFugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speaker

It can be hard to find good quality sound in a small Bluetooth speaker.  Fortunately the Fugoo Style sounded great from the get-go. The device, thought it looks like a single speaker, actually hides 4 speakers inside its housing; two in each face and two others in the ends.

Fugoo says, “the FUGOO Portable Bluetooth Speaker has six symmetrically-placed drivers. The two tweeters deliver clean highs, two mid/sub drivers give midrange punch, and two passive radiators help bring out a full, deep bass. Together, these six drivers deliver a clean sound pressure level, filling large rooms and outdoor areas with rich, immersive sound.”

I definitely found the speaker powerful and room filling, and I tested it with several styles and genres of music.

My test Playlist with the Fugoo Style

► The Roots (Don’t Say Nuthin’)
► Pharell (Beautiful)
► Dave Matthews Band (American Baby)
► City and Colour (Comin’ Home)
► Robbie Williams (I will talk and Hollywood will listen)
► Tragically Hip (Poets)
► Kiev (Be Gone Dull Cage)

The bass was solid, and the high end didn’t sound tinny or buzzy. I was able to crank it to 2/3 volume without any noticeable distortion. At about 3/4 volume I did notice a raspiness creeping in to the vocals, but overall the sound was pretty good. The sound quality overall has quite a bit of depth and the music sounded true.Fugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speaker

The bass on Don’t say Nuthin and Poets was true and thumping, the vocals on Beautiful and Be Gone Dull Cage sounded soft and smooth, while the picking and the snare on American Baby were resonant and real. The acoustic guitar on Comin’ Home was hauntingly real. Subtle flute and clarinet, and the big symphonic drums on my Robbie Williams selection was delicately replicated, while Robbie’s voice cut through with vibrancy. I was quite impressed with the amazing sound quality I got out of this little speaker.

Fugoo adds, “the upward tilt of the speakers puts everyone in the sweet spot. So simply place your speaker in the center of a room and fill any space with sharp highs, bassy lows, and all-around premium audio.” I can’t disagree.

Does Fugoo Style have good battery life?

Many portable wireless Bluetooth speakers have a battery life in the 10-20 hour range. Fugoo Style boasts an astounding 40 hours of battery life. That’s well above many other similar speakers, so this gadget is a great choice if you’re heading to a campground or on a road trip for a weekend. I tested the speaker for about two weeks and never charged it once.

Bluetooth connectivity is outstanding on Fugoo Style

Fugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speakerThe speaker uses Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity which Fugoo says will give you solid connectivity up to 33 feet. In my tests I carried my iPhone 6 Plus all over the 1000 square foot main floor and didn’t experience any breakup of the Bluetooth signal. Heading downstairs (where I have seen digital signal breakup on other speakers) the Fugoo Style didn’t miss a beat. Again, I was impressed.

Overall review of Fugoo Style portable wi-fi speaker

This is an absolutely fantastic Bluetooth speaker. I have to say I wasn’t expecting very much from something this small and with such an eye to style, so I was happily blown away by the outstanding audio quality and durability. The dead-easy set up also gets top marks from me.

The 40 hour battery life is also a huge plus for me. I’ve been using it in my bathroom when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. I used to just use the small crappy speaker on my iPhone, but the easy connectivity, great sound, and compact size means it can sit in the bathroom for weeks on end and provide me with high-quality audio before it ever needs to be recharged.

I think the waterproof cover is also a great thing to have since you just never know what can happen at a party or gathering; a little insurance is nice.

In short, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this speaker to anyone who’s looking for a portable Bluetooth audio solution.

 The Fugoo Style costs $139USD or about $185CAD. Get more info here.

 

 

Smart padlocks mean lost keys, forgotten combos are a thing of the past

img_0885-1I was late for a bike ride, and tearing apart my closet and a cabinet looking for the key to my bike lock. Since it was nowhere to be found, I was forced to buy a new lock, only to find the key in a pocket weeks later.

Fussing with lost keys or forgotten combinations for padlocks is frustrating and as you see it can also cost you money. That’s why I was glad to try out a new solution: a smart padlock that can open with a tap on your smartphone screen. I was sent two versions of smart locks called Locksmart by Dog and Bone.

Set Up of Dog & Bone Locksmart locks

Set up couldn’t have been faster. In literally about one minute and three clicks on the smart phone I had both locks set up and ready to use. The Locksmart locks pair very easily with the phone, in my case the iPhone 6 Plus, and I had absolutely no bugs getting the system set up. Children and seniors would have no difficulty getting these high-tech devices going either; they’re made for real people, not just tech junkies.

Two different sizes: Locksmart and Locksmart Mini

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Locksmart Mini.

There are two different sizes of Locksmart locks. The first is a much larger and heavier round padlock known simply as the Locksmart. This one is obviously designed for more security and durability and would probably be best used on a gate, shed, or door.

The other lock is slightly smaller and lighter, and it’s covered in a full silicone wrap. This one is dubbed Locksmart Mini. I feel like this lock would be better used on things like school lockers, cabinets, or even luggage in a pinch.

How Locksmart locks work

Since pretty much everyone in the world knows how a padlock operates, I’ll focus on the features that make these locks different. With no dials, and no keyholes to speak of, the only way to operate these locks is via your smart phone.

Once you have the Locksmart app downloaded you simply pair the lock to your phone and then each lock  will appear in a list inside the app.

When you want to unlock your lock, you just tap the unlock button on the screen. The lock will snap open instantly.

Add an extra layer of security to the app

If you want to add a layer of security, in case your phone should fall into the wrong hands, you can adjust the opening settings so that you will need to use your fingerprint (if this feature is available on your smart phone or tablet) to open the lock. Similarly, you can set a numerical pass code that must be entered on the phone before the lock can be opened.
This would be handy not only if your phone is lost or stolen, but if you want to keep children who may have access to your phone from being able to open certain locks.

If you haven’t been connected to the lock in a while, or your phone has been too far out of range, or you have the power save feature enabled in-app, the lock may ask to be re-connected to your phone. This is done simply by pushing a small rubber button in the bottom of the lock. This has happeneddog and bone to me a few times, but the re-connection happens in about one second, so there’s no delay, and no fussing.

Instantly the app will tell you the lock is connected and the lock will pop open when you order it to. To lock it, simply snap the shank or shackle back into place.

Share access to visitors or repair people, or revoke it

Perhaps your lawn care guy has just arrived and needs access to your shed. You’re not home and neither are your keys, but that’s no problem, because from directly with in the app, you can grant access to anyone you want instantly. You can also revoke that access at any time.

The lock smart system will also keep track of who accessed each lock and when, so you can keep tabs on items you are trying to keep secure.

img_1051Winter-Ready: Works to -20

One of the main questions I had about these locks were whether they could handle our Canadian weather. Dog & Bone says these locks are good up to about -20°C. The locks are also weatherproof and can withstand rain, hail, snow, or heat up to 70°C.

Unlike another Bluetooth smart padlock I’ve tried out, these locks have notched shanks, allowing them to click shut with conviction. Some other bluetooth padlocks have smooth shanks that make me wonder if they’d be very easy to pry open. But not the Locksmart line; they don’t budge until given the digital command.

Batteries are rechargeable

You shouldn’t find yourself  recharging these padlocks very frequently. Powered with a lithium ion battery, Dog & Bone says a single charge will get you about two years of use, which equals about 3,000 opens before you will need to recharge it. The batteries are easily recharged via a micro USB plug in the bottom of the lock. A small battery indicator within the app give you ample warning when you need to think about re-charging.

The verdict: Locksmart by Dog & Bone

I loved these locks. They’re very convenient, extraordinarily easy to use and set up, and even when they go into Powersave mode and disconnect from your Bluetooth, they can reconnect in an instant.

Sharing access with others couldn’t be easier, so you’re never going to have to turn away a tradesperson, or neighbor needing to borrow some tools.

I have already transitioned to using these locks on our front and back gates, because they’re so easy and durable. I’d definitely recommend these to anyone needing a padlock.

Locksmart Locks are available through Dog & Bone’s website. Locksmart (large) is $89USD and Locksmart Mini is $69USD.

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Parrot Zik3 Headphones Review

parrot 3Just when I thought I’d seen it all when it came to headphones, I found myself surprised again! The Parrot Zik3 over ear wireless headphones seemed at first glance to be headphones like any other. It wasn’t until I started reading into and experimenting with all the amazing features these headphones have, that I realized how truly unique and revolutionary they are.

Set up: Parrot Zik3 Wireless Headphonesimg_1006

I give high marks to companies whose products are very easy to set up. No one wants to fuss with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections and multiple attempts at getting their new toy working. Fortunately Parrot has it figured out. Once these babies are out of the package, you’ll need to install the rechargeable battery, then fully charge them before first use. The battery compartment is accessed by a hidden magnetic compartment in one of the ear covers. Once they’re fully charged, all you need to do is go to your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu and connect them. My phone found the headphones on the very first attempt, and they connected instantly. I was ready to rock out!

It’s worth taking note that these headphones can only connect to one device at a time. Some other wireless headphones are able to connect to multiple devices at once, allowing you to have both your tablet and your phone connected at the same time, for example. But not in this case; fair warning.

Comfortable and padded: Zik3 Headphones are easy to wear

One of the things I hate the most about over-ear headphones is that they are often very uncomfortable; either instantly or after an hour of use they press on your ears and lead to achiness and itchiness. Not so with the Parrot Zik3. The earpieces are well padded, and large enough so that they fit comfortably around your ear without touching or pressing down on it. Even the headband is nicely padded for additional comfort. Another nice feature; the headphones will fold down flat so they can be stored away, or packed for easy travel.Zik 3 control

Control the headphones with touch

The Parrot Zik3 are controlled via a brilliant smart touchpad on the right ear cover. Drag your finger up or down the cover to adjust the volume. Tap it to play or pause or receive a phone call. This function is extremely responsive and works marvelously.

Features that are made for travel

Parrot Zik3 are an ideal pair of over ear headphones for traveling, thanks in particular to one of their great features; noise cancellation. These headphones, when paired to your smart phone or device, allow you to set different levels of noise canceling. For example, you can set them to block out any and all outside noise electronically. Meaning if someone else in the room is watching TV, kids are playing, or an airplane is droning on in the background, you can mute this outside noise and focus on your music, podcasts, TV, or whatever you’re listening to.

Similarly, if you do need to hear what’s going on outside those headphones, such as if you do you have little ones you need to keep one ear on, or you’re walking around in a high-traffic area and need to stay alert, you can set the headphones so that you can hear conversation, noise, and talking around you along with your music. It’s a great effect, and it sounds really neat to have your ears sealed inside these over ear headphones, but still be able to hear a conversation going on next to you. Parrot-Zik-3-Wireless-Headphones

The Zik 3 also have an optional cable to connect directly to your smart device so that if you are on the road and want to preserve battery life, you can.

Parrot Zik 3 – Neat features

These headphones have a unique ability to allow you to adjust the music you’re listening to. Using the Equalizer function, you can adjust the levels of bass or treble, and give the music a different sound. You can choose ‘pop’, or ‘punchy’ sound,  or to put the focus more on the vocals. Whatever way you like to hear your music, these headphones allow you to adjust for it easily by selecting your option with the touch of your smart phone screen.

Another setting called Concert Hall allows you to adjust what I can only describe as the size of the sound in your ears. Selecting ‘living room’ for example gives you a more direct and intimate sound then the concert hall setting which provides a much bigger more 360° sound picture. It’s a neat effect that’s hard to describe, but fun to play with. Parrot’s website explains it like this: “The Concert Hall effect externalizes the music and reproduces the sound of a real stereo system. Several concert hall acoustics are reproduced for a harmonious and more natural listening experience, which also reduces tiredness during long listening sessions.”

Make and receive phone calls with Parrot Zik3

The Zik3 phones are able to work with your cell phone; no longer do you need a microphone and cables to make or receive calls with your headphones. These headphones have all of that built in. To receive an incoming call, you just tap the touchpad on the right ear cover. Music is muted and the built-in microphone picks up your voice. The headphones also have a caller identification feature you can enable where the headphones will use your phone’s directory to announce who’s calling so you don’t need to pull out your phone. I found the headphones were perfect for conference calls, allowing me to take notes without cords snaking across my desk.img_1008

More smart features: music stops if you take them off, starts when you wear them

Parrot has developed a ‘movement recognition algorithm’ which allows the headphones to react to your head movements.  Pull the phones off your ears and put them around your neck to stop the music or switch off a call. When you’re ready to resume, put the headphones back over your ears and the music or podcast starts up again. Never miss a thing!

Also handy; when starting up, the Parrot Zik 3 will automatically connect to the last device it was connected to. You can disable this feature if you use more than one device with your Parrot Zik. The Zik 3 also has an auto-off timer you can set, so if you’re they type who’s bound to forget your headphones are powered on, these will automatically shut off for you to save battery life. Speaking of battery life, these headphones are rechargeable via USB, and of course you can use them with a mini cable if you don’t want to go wireless.

Overall: Parrot Zik 3 Review

I really, really like these headphones. They’re very comfortable, they sound great, and the adjustable features mean you can fine tune any music or audio to your own personal listening preferences.  I think the  noise cancelling feature is one of the most useful; being able to block out noise in the comfort of the home is smart, and it’s also clever to be able to let in some of that external noise when you’re on transit, or walking in the street.

I also like the fact these phones fold flat for easy travel and transport too. I short, I’d definitely buy these as my next pair of headphones.

For more info, check out Parrot’s website. The Zik3 retail for $399 USD, and come in a variety of cool colours.

 

Always losing your keys, wallet, phone, remote, bag? You need a Pebblebee Honey tracking device

pebblebeeIf you’re the forgetful type, life just got easier.  A new tracking device from Pebblebee can help you find your lost stuff, not just inside your house, but anywhere in the world.

Pebblebee Honey is a small, flat circular tracking device about the size of a large coin. It holds a CR2430 lithium battery which can easily be swapped out when it reaches the end of its lifespan. The Pebblebee can be attached to your key ring, tied to or placed inside anything you want to track, or even stuck on to your wallet, phone, bike, remote control.. whatever. The tracker, combined with the free app will show you a map view of where your device is, and help you manage multiple trackers.

This device has some smart functions built right in; for starters it has a rangefinder, so when you’re tracking the device, you can tell how near or far you’re getting, and it has an audio alert function, so that when you get within a certain distance, you can have the tracker squawk out a sound to help you pinpoint the location. A small LED light is another option to spot the device in the dark. As an aside, it also comes in a really cute and small tin.

Surprising versatility: remote photo shutter too!

One neat feature this device has that I’ve not seen in other trackers is the ability to use the Pebblebee as a remote shutter for your smartphone.  The tiny on/off button on the side actually has double function.  Just adjust the pre-loaded settings to find your phone or take a picture using the button on your device.

How it works

Your Pebblebee communicates with your phone using Bluetooth LE technology. That signal will have a strong connection up to 150 ft depending on obstruction. Inside, your device will experience limited visibility, while outside its range will increase.

IMG_7698What’s a Pebblebee

Where did the idea for Pebblebee come from?  The company’s website says, “The Pebblebee idea first emerged in late 2012 as a necessary solution to a curious toddler’s endless ability to hide things. With generous support from over 3080 Kickstarter backers, we raised over $218K to make the Pebblebee the reality it is today.”

Help with setup

The app and device were a bit confusing to set up.  Initially I couldn’t get my Honey to pair with my phone.  However I was able to get quick and responsive customer service by emailing tech support.  IN the event anyone else is experiencing trouble with the pairing process, here’s the instructions that worked for me, as provided by Pebblebee support:

1. Hold down the button on the Honey for 5 seconds until you hear 2 beeps (3 means it is off)

2. Login to the app

3. Wait up to 10-15 seconds. A bar should appear letting you know you have an unclaimed device nearby.

4. Briefly press (not a long hold) the button on the Honey. This is not the same as holding down the button for seconds.

5. The app will ask you to verify the claim.

6. The Honey will appear in your Hive.

Getting the Map view

My next issue, once the device paired, was that I couldn’t see my device on the map view. More help from Pebblebee explained that was probably because I didn’t have location services enabled on my smartphone. On an iPhone, you can do this by going to your iPhone Settings, then down to the Pebblebee  app, then under location services make sure you have chosen either “Always” or “When the app is open.”

Pebblebee Lost and Found, with the help of other users

IMG_7802So how does the tracker find and pinpoint location on the map? While Honey does not have GPS built in, it  uses your phone’s GPS to track location. Anytime the Honey is within range of your running app, the location gets updated to the map, so the map will always show the last known location. Pebblebee tells me, “if you lose your Honey, you can mark it as Lost. When you do, any time the Honey goes within range of Anyone using the Pebblebee app, you will receive an alert letting you know when and where your Honey has been found.”

The company is working on a cool new style of tracker too, the Stone, which as the name suggests is a pebble-shaped tracker and remote control in one that’s already overfunded on Kickstarter.

The Pebblebee is available from the company’s website for $25 USD

Click here to check out more cool tech news and ideas to make your life easier!

Review: Jabra Sport Coach – Wireless Bluetooth In-ear Headphones that give you fitness feedback

jabra man earphonesCords suck at the gym.  They get tangled in your equipment, wrapped around your arms, and generally get in the way. So I was happy to test out a new set of (mostly) wireless headphones this week from Jabra.  The Jabra Sport Coach headphones fit snugly in your ear, and lock in place with customizable rubber eargels that tuck into the grooves of your ear, to keep them from slipping and keep sweat and noise out. While the Sport Coach is billed as “wireless” and “Bluetooth” headphones, it’s worth noting that there is still a wire that connects the two earbuds together.  You wrap the wire behind your head, and it stays out of your sight while you’re wearing them.  The “wireless” part refers to the fact you don’t need to plug them in to your device. They’re also rechargeable, using a hidden port underneath one of the rubber eargels, and the battery level is monitored on your phone or tablet.

Headphones that are more like a fitness band

The Jabra Sport Coach pairs with an app for your phone, which is where these earphones diverge from the everyday.Jabra_Sport_Coach_red

The earphones have what Jabra calls its “integrated TrackFit™ motion sensor”, which makes these headphones work a lot more like a fitness band, than a set of headphones.  You can track distance, pace, steps, cadence and calories burned, all with the earphones as the sensor, displaying the stats on your smartphone.

The “Jabra Sport Life” app lets you track and analyze your cross training workouts and gives you what Jabra’s dubbed “in-ear coaching” while you work out.

What kind of Coaching?

I’m so glad you asked!  Two kinds! For starters, the Jabras will give you progress updates and occasional information alerts from a nicely accented female voice in your ear, telling you, “50% of distance goal completed!” or similar. It can basically give you pace, time and distance split times if you’re a runner, and you can adjust what info comes into your ear, and how often.

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Jabra Sport Coach headphones app

But, and here’s where things get interesting, the Sport Coach can also talk you through a cross training workout circuit. This genius feature allows you to select from a handful of circuits (CardiCore, BellyBurn, TakeOff, etc.), adjust the time or reps you want, and then once you hit ‘start’ the soothing voice talks you through a series of adjustable and customizable exercises (jumping jacks, push ups, burpees, sit ups etc.) and counts you down through each one.  While the exercises are simple, and sure, you could do them yourself, I actually found having someone in my ear telling me what to do, and what was coming up next kept me going. Another neat feature of the cross training coaching is that you don’t even need the app  on your phone.  The voice coach tells you what you need, and you can move to the next exercise when you finish one, by hitting the button on the left earbud, meaning you’re hands free.   But if you really want more help, the exercises are explained with pictures on the app.

Pairing & Bluetooth

The Jabra Sport Coach headphones were really easy to set up and pair.  I had them ready to go in minutes. It’s a simple matter of putting the headphones into pairing mode, and linking your phone, or tablet (or both!  The Jabras will pair to more than one device at a time!) then using them to play music, TV, Netflix… whatever you want! A small button integrated into the cord give you control over the music tracks and volume.

Likes and Dislikes

Wireless/Like– I really loved going wireless at the gym.  I run, and you don’t realize how much you fuss with cords until you don’t have one hanging down your front.

Fit/Like– The fit is great with the Sport Coach.  They seal out more than enough noise for me.  I was unable to hear the distracting gym techno while I was wearing these and playing my own tunes.

App/Like– The app was very easy to use and navigate.  Its simple design and soft colour scheme were easy on the eyes, and non-distracting even while hoofing it at a brisk pace. I also found the voice coach rather soothing.  (Note to Jabra: I also happen to think a Marine Boot camp coach voice would be fun too!)

Sound/Like-  The sound quality in these headphones is great.  Music and TV sounded crisp and clean, and wasn’t crackly at all, despite being wireless.

Coaching/Like– I found myself doing an extra round of exercises, thanks to the voice coaching.  It helped motivate me and keep me on track.

I guess I don’t really have any dislikes or complaints.  The Jabra Sport Coach worked great, sounded awesome, and were a perfect configuration for wearing to the gym.
Jabra Sport Coach headphones come with a zip-around softshell case, and replacement eargels, and are available at Best Buy in Canada for about $179. For more info you can also hit up Jabra’s website.