Articles by Richard Devine

Best over-ear headphones: As chosen by Mobile Nations editors

In-ear headphones are good, but sometimes you just need something more substantial

On and over-ear headphones aren't the most convenient things in the world, and as such many will turn to in-ear options for things like the daily commute or hitting the gym. But if you want that all-encompassing experience and the best sound quality possible, you're likely going to want a good set of cans.

To help get you started if you're in the market for a new pair we've rounded up some of Mobile Nations' finest headphone wearers to tell you what their favorites are and why.

You can find a great set of headphones across the price spectrum, and we've got options from the relatively inexpensive to the downright luxurious.

The best in-ear headphones

The best in-ear headphones

Our editors share their picks for the best in-ear headphones available today!

Choosing a pair of in-ear headphones is tough. We all have different tastes, budgets, and needs. So we rounded up a group of people used to making tough choices — our Mobile Nations editors. They've shared the in-ear headphones they're using and, more importantly, why!

Fitbit

Fitbit is one of the most popular wearables on the planet. Here's what the Mobile Nations editor's wear, and why.

There are lots of reasons to get a Fitbit. More than just a fitness-focused wearable, it comes a whole social platform that its some 21 million users can all be a part of. For some, it means bragging rights over their friends, for others it's a way to keep motivated to stay in shape.

It's also a favorite among the Mobile Nations editors at iMore, Android Central, CrackBerry, and Windows Central. So, if you're looking to buy a Fitbit but aren't sure which one to get, we can help!

We've rounded up our Fitbit wearing colleagues and they're here to tell you what they wear and why they like it so much. Let's get to it!

Kevin Michaluk

Why do I like Fitbit in general? Because of the Friends and Challenges. It's not about the tracking, as lots of products can do that. What makes the difference is that I can compete with my co-workers, friends, family, nieces and nephews. Whenever I have a challenge on a week or weekend I do way more steps and I'm more conscious of my physical activities. And now Fitbit has sold enough of them that you're almost guaranteed to know people who have them.

My favorite model is the Fitbit Charge HR. I can wear it all day easily, even at the computer. It's easy to take on and off when I have to and the band is durable. I also really like having the heart rate all the time. It's comfortable enough to sleep with for tracking, though I don't always do this. Also, fashion-wise, because I like to wear mechanical watches, I wear this on the opposite wrist along with another leather bracelet and it blends in well. It's not trying to define my style, it just blends in. The battery life is good enough, I only need to charge it maybe twice a week. And a pro tip: Leave your charger in the bathroom and charge it when you shower (that's when you know you'll be taking it off consistently.)

While the Charge HR is my favorite, I've used enough of the various Fitbit products to have some opinions on all of them:

Fitbit Flex

  • Likes: Lots of colors of bands which is great. Can coordinate colors for different wardrobes and occasions.
  • Dislikes: I have trouble putting it on sometimes with the way the clasp is designed and have broken the clasp on numerous occasions. Taking the bit out of the bracelet for charging is kind of annoying. It is actually is less comfortable to wear at a computer than the Charge/Charge HR.

Fitbit Surge

  • Likes: If I'm hardcore training (such as getting ready for a half marathon), I like the built-in GPS.
  • Dislikes: It's big and watch-like — it looks and feels more like a sports/heart rate monitor watch. The Surge doesn't have that all day wearability that I desire, but some of my more athletic friends are all about the Surge.

Fitbit One

  • Likes: Price is good, especially if you just care most about tracking your daily steps.
  • Dislikes: Because it's not strapped to my wrist, I've lost them before :(

Fitbit Blaze:

This one takes the most common smartwatch tasks and puts them in a Fitbit without trying to do too much. It provides a lot of customization options, but it's not for me, though — it starts to define your style. I prefer my fitness tracker to just blend in with my own style. At least for now, maybe some day that will change.

James Falconer

Having been a Fitbit user for many years now, I can safely say their fitness products (and apps) keep getting better and better. I'm invested in their ecosystem, and have cycled through the Fitbit One, Flex, and Charge. Heck, I even have the Aria wireless scale (to tell me how fat — or not fat — I am). These days I'm sporting the Charge HR on my left wrist. I rarely (if ever) go a day without wearing it.

The Charge HR is actually quite comfortable. It's not too bulky, is easy to take on and off, and stays put on my wrist. I can actually work with it on without feeling uncomfortable.

The heart rate tracking is actually really good. I use it when I'm out for a run or workout to keep me on track. I have never had an issue with this feature, it works as advertised.

The Charge makes key data glanceable. You can set the display to show you whatever information you like (time, current heart rate, steps, etc.) when you raise your wrist as you would a watch. I usually set this to the time, but if I'm out for a run I might set it to distance, steps, or heart rate. No matter the situation this is easily tweaked from within the Fitbit app.

On that note, the apps are just plain solid. I've used both the Android and iPhone apps, and the detailed data is great. It easily lets me go back to monitor progress, pick up on trends, and more. But most important is the social aspect. I enjoy entering competitions with friends and colleagues, and the extra motivation can really push you to put in that extra workout, or push that little bit harder to win the day!

Alicia Erlich

I spend most of my time working in my cubicle, so I wear the Fitbit Flex to help with my day-to-day fitness goals.

Motivation is a key aspect of the Flex. Not only do I have myself to rely on, but there is also the added benefit of social interaction. I can connect with my friends who cheer on my accomplishments. That's not to say that the Flex doesn't do typical fitness tracker things like tracking my step count and distance towards my daily goal. If I do reach that goal, there's a sense of accomplishment. If I don't, I try to make up for it the following day. As such, I find myself opting out of public transportation and walking more even for minor errands.

I chose the Flex for two reasons. The first being I already use a smartwatch, so having a tracker with a built-in clock was unnecessary. The second is for the sleep monitoring capability. I tend to ignore the recommended number of hours one needs for a good night's sleep due. On average I think I was getting five or six hours depending on what I was working on during the week. Using the tracker, I can see not only the duration but the quality as well. I am aware of how much sleep I get on a daily basis and have learned to plan my schedule accordingly.

While I cannot always find the time to exercise at the gym, my Flex helps me to stay fit and reach my fitness goals in other ways.

Michelle Haag

I've been a Fitbit user off an on for years now. I started with a Fitbit One, moved briefly to a Fitbit Charge HR and then upgraded to the Fitbit Surge shortly after. Working from home, you'd think it's easy to get 10k steps in daily, but it tends to have the opposite effect. Some days I find myself wondering if I even moved at all. Wearing a Fitbit helps me stay accountable and motivates me to hit step goals to ensure I'm getting in at least the bare minimum of activity.

I often participate in the weekly challenges with my Fitbit wearing friends. A little friendly competition always helps me get in gear. I also appreciate how Fitbit integrates with other apps like Pact and MyFitnessPal.

I just upgraded from the Surge to the Blaze, and so far I'm loving it! I liked the touchscreen features of the Surge, but it was kind of bulky for me. The Blaze is solving that problem for me, plus the on-screen workouts are going to be super useful during the day when I just need a quick break and a little activity. And I'm looking forward to buying bands so I can switch up the look!

Rich Edmonds

Fitbit is the most popular form of wearable available today and it's clear to see why when you strap one to your wrist, or attach another option to a piece of clothing. Coupling the company's trackers with the connected scales and social platform enables you to conveniently check out how you're progressing through selected fitness programs, or to boast about how many steps you managed to rack up during that evening stroll.

I enjoy using Fitbit due to the battery life of the Flex, as well as having the official app available cross-platform. I was relatively unfit compared to my younger years, but sticking to a strict regime, watching what I eat and noting it down on the Fitbit website (which counts your calories and whatnot), as well as ensuring I'm smashing all my set goals really turned things around.

I'm now in the frame of mind to head out each and every day for a run or walk, which is especially important for someone who sits at their desk for a number of hours in the morning and afternoon. Should you be looking for an easy-to-use tracker with a platform to really expand upon, look no further than Fitbit.

DJ Reyes

While I use a smartwatch, I prefer to use a dedicated fitness tracker for tracking my overall fitness. Right now my current choice of fitness device is the Fitbit Flex. It's simple, not too big and it lets me track my steps as well as my sleep. My initial reason for picking one up is because a lot of the Mobile Nations team owned one and Fitbit offers a great way of competing with your friends, family and colleagues through challenges. It's certainly a great motivator and seeing a colleague's name further up on the list always makes me aim to get my step count up. Fitbit also has a sleep tracker, and while I was not really into tracking my sleep before owning a Fitbit Flex, I've found it to be very helpful and does lead me to try and sleep better.

I do have plans to upgrade my Flex to a newer model. I have been eyeing the Charge HR, mainly due to the heart rate monitor but with the new models announced, I am holding out a little while to see what the reviews say about them. While I've thought about other brands of fitness tracker, I'm very partial to the Fitbit brand and the motivation I get from competing with the Mobile Nations team.

Marc Lagace

Being relatively new to wearing a Fitbit, I can't help wishing I had jumped on the bandwagon sooner. I spent my university and college years piling on the pounds through pizza, beer, and a sedentary lifestyle marked by Netflix and an aversion to going to the gym.

Now in my late-20s, I've decided to finally focus on improving my health by setting better lifestyle habits for myself. I've been wearing the Fitbit Surge for the past month or so as part of my overall fitness plan along with eating healthier and hitting the gym.

And the Fitbit Surge has definitely played a role in getting me off the couch, thanks in larger part to the Fitbit Friends and Challenges. It motivates me to use my standing desk at work and to go for walks as I try and keep pace in challenges. I've also appreciated reviewing the activity data from my workouts and tracking the calories I burn at my weekly dodgeball league. I've yet to use the built-in GPS much as it's been too icy outside to go for runs, but once the sidewalks have cleared I'm eager to have the Surge literally track my path to better fitness.

Aesthetically, I've never really seen the point in wearing a watch — smartphones are essentially modern pocket watches — but I've actually come to enjoy wearing the Surge. On top of looking stylish on my wrist, I can get quick info about my recent activity (or inactivity) from just briefly glancing at the watch face. And I've found it's comfortable enough to wear to bed for the sleep tracking features—a data set I value and have previously attempted to track via clunkier smartphone apps in the past.

That's ultimately my favorite part about the Fitbit experience. It's designed to track your steps, sleep, and active minutes automatically so I don't have to fuddle around in the Fitbit app too much. You just wear it and go.


If you're interested in any of these for yourselves, hit up the link below to check out Amazon's dedicated Fitbit store.

Fitbit Store at Amazon

BlackBerry Priv

There are things that BlackBerry 10 has built in that those moving to the Priv are rightly nervous about losing. What seems a little to one person is a lot to another. Bedside Mode is one of those things.

Android doesn't have such a feature built in, or not in such a way that you'll find on a BlackBerry 10 smartphone. There are third-party apps in the Play Store that can help, but you might not need to go that far. As CrackBerry Forums member Phinhead54 has described.

With a little settings tinkering you can get as close as you can to Bedside Mode on the Priv.

BlackBerry Hub

If you're moving to the BlackBerry Priv from a BlackBerry 10 smartphone, there are a whole host of things that will be new, unusual, annoying, pretty much cover every emotion you can throw at a phone. One such irritation will present itself the moment you sign in to BlackBerry Hub with a Gmail or Google Apps account if you also have that account authenticated on the phone. Because you'll get duplicate email notifications.

BlackBerry Priv

Here's a quick BlackBerry Priv tip for those who are also new to Android as a platform. There have been a few mentions in the CrackBerry forums of folks not getting or not knowing about updates to the stock BlackBerry apps on the Priv. While there is always a chance of Play Store bugs preventing updates hitting all of the people, all of the time, there is also something you can do to make it as easy on yourself as possible to stay up to date.

Make sure that auto-update is enabled. It should be by default, but in any case, here's what you can do and how.

BlackBerry Priv

One of the things BlackBerry is loved for is its productivity credentials. One of the nifty features brought to Android with the BlackBerry Priv is the Productivity Tab, an at a glance view of some of the most important information in your day. You may well have the Hub doing a bunch of the heavy lifting but the Productivity Tab can get you quick access to favorite contacts, your calendars, email and tasks list.

Accessing it is easy once you're set up. A simple swipe in either the left or right hand edges of the phone bring up what you see in the image up top. And you can tweak how it looks and where it's positioned on the screen.

BlackBerry Priv

While BlackBerry 10 has a very gesture based navigation style, Android does not. But, on the BlackBerry Priv there is one area gestures very much still come into play. On Lollipop, a press and swipe up from the on-screen home button takes you to Google Now by default. BlackBerry went a step further and added extra functionality to this area, and better yet, left it open to you to customize.

Here's what you need to know.

BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry 10 has its active frames, but if you're moving to the BlackBerry Priv and with it, Android, you'll have to get used to working with widgets. The trouble with widgets, though, is that they can get messy, clutter up your home screens and leave you doing a whole lot of scrolling around. But BlackBerry came up with a neat solution that's baked into the Priv.

It's called popup widgets and it allows you to view any app widgets with just a swipe over the app icon. Keep information handy and visual clutter to a minimum.

Here's what you need to know.

BlackBerry Priv

One of the few visual changes BlackBerry made to the user interface on the Priv over how Google does things was to the recent apps view. Some will like it, some will not. Fortunately, while BlackBerry changed things a little, it also left it very easy to undo and go back to something more as Google intended or even another different view entirely. Here's how.

BlackBerry Priv

Universal searching through your device is something a ton of BlackBerry owners love, and thankfully it's available on the new Priv in Device Search. One nifty trick is that you can start a search using just the physical keyboard. We're using that as an example here, but the same steps can also be applied to start a search with Google, should you prefer.

Here's what you need to do.

CrackBerry on Priv

We love the CrackBerry community and that includes providing what we hope is a great mobile experience to get all your BlackBerry news. If you're picking up a new BlackBerry Priv you should totally go and download the official CrackBerry app for Android. Right now!

Where to buy the BlackBerry Priv in the UK

BlackBerry Priv

Now that the BlackBerry Priv is here there's going to be more than a few people who are wondering where they can get their hands on one. And we wouldn't blame you one bit.

Here in the UK we're fortunate enough to be one of the lucky launch markets for the Priv and that means that it's going to be finding its way into peoples hands very soon. Here's where you can get your hands on one.

BlackBerry

A quick heads up to anyone who fancies going on a BlackBerry shopping spree that ShopBlackBerry has a 30% discount on all its BlackBerry 10 phones and related accessories. The last such deal was only for white phones but now you're free to grab the black – or pink or red in the case of the Q5 – versions as well. Excluded is the Bold 9900 and the P9982 Porsche Design BlackBerry.

Sprint names Marcelo Claure as new CEO

Sprint names Marcelo Claure as new CEO

Following an earlier rumor, Sprint has today announced a change at the top with a new CEO. Replacing the outgoing Dan Hesse will be Marcelo Claure, a member of the board and current CEO of Brightstar, a Softbank subsidiary company. Claure will resign his current position and take over at Sprint effect August 11.

QNX Mercedes

Following the announcement of a new in-car operating system, QNX has also introduced the newest version of its Acoustics for Voice system that handles hands-free communications. Version 3.0 has been made official at the Detroit Telematics conference and adds improvements to echo cancellation, noise reduction, adaptive equalization, automatic gain control and more.

Our cars are fast becoming more than just transportation. They're mobile offices, extensions of our mobile lives, and technology like that which QNX is announcing here just makes the whole experience that much more pleasurable.

As with QNX's other Detroit announcements, Acoustics for Voice System version 3.0 will be available in Q3 2014. Keep on reading for much more with the full press release.

DETROIT, Telematics Detroit Conference, June 4, 2014 — QNX Software Systems Limited, a subsidiary of BlackBerry Limited and a global leader in software platforms for in-car electronics, today announced QNX® Acoustics for Voice 3.0, the newest addition to the company's portfolio of acoustics middleware products.

Designed to help hands-free and speech recognition systems deliver the highest quality user experience, QNX® Acoustics for Voice 3.0 offers advancements in echo cancellation, noise reduction, adaptive equalization, automatic gain control, and other features for narrowband and wideband speech processing. It also supports Wideband Plus speech processing to satisfy the demanding voice-quality requirements of the latest smartphone connectivity protocols for telephony, VoIP services, and speech recognition. QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 is based on QNX acoustics technology that has been road-proven in more than 20 million vehicles.

"Cars are inherently noisy, and noise is the mortal enemy of any hands-free or speech recognition system, whether that system is built into the car or brought in through a smartphone," said Grant Courville, director of product management, QNX Software Systems. "QNX Acoustics for Voice is specifically designed to filter out noise from tires, roads, fans, and vents, enabling clear, crisp speech voice communications that can lighten the cognitive load on the driver and reduce distraction."

Highly modular, QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 supports many advanced features, including: High efficiency speech processing — Advanced algorithms use fewer hardware CPU cycles when processing wideband and Wideband Plus speech, freeing up CPU headroom for other acoustic or infotainment applications.

Diagnostic tools — To help speed time-to-market, the solution includes an extensive diagnostic toolset to facilitate parameter tuning. QNX Software Systems can also provide onsite experts to further help customers tune their in-car solutions.

Automotive-grade echo cancellation and noise reduction (AEC/NR) — For building full-duplex hands-free and speech recognition systems.

Design flexibility for targeting multiple vehicle lines — The solution can work with a variety of speech recognizers, whether they are running in the cloud and accessed through a smartphone, or embedded in the car. It can also run on a variety of operating systems, processors, and DSPs, enabling customers to migrate features across vehicle lines.

Choice of development libraries — The standard library supports both narrow and wideband speech, at 8 kHz and 16 kHz sample rates, respectively. The premium library supports these bandwidths and it also supports Wideband Plus, with its wider range of audio frequencies, at a 24 kHz sample rate, enabling customers to address the voice processing requirements of the latest smartphone connectivity protocols for the car.

Compliance with industry standards — Complies with Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) ITU-T P.1100 and ITU-T P.1110 specifications for hands-free systems.

Availability QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 is scheduled for release in Q3 2014.

QNX

BlackBerry owned QNX has today announced a brand new operating system for the car with with a distinct focus on safety behind the wheel. The QNX® OS for Automotive Safety 1.0 will provide the groundwork for such in-car technology as digital instrument clusters, head-up displays and advanced driver assistance systems.

The QNX OS for Automotive Safety – rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it – also has affordability in mind, with a direct goal of reducing the development and certification costs of the sort of advanced features it's capable of powering.

The new operating system has been unveiled today at the Detroit Telematics Conference and is expected to be released sometime in Q3 2014. Full press release follows.

DETROIT, Telematics Detroit Conference, June 4, 2014 — QNX Software Systems Limited, a subsidiary of BlackBerry Limited and a global leader in software platforms for in-car electronics, today announced the QNX® OS for Automotive Safety 1.0. Built on QNX technology proven in many of the world's most safety-critical systems, the new OS addresses the growing demand for digital instrument clusters, heads-up displays, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and other in-car applications with functional safety requirements.

The QNX OS for Automotive Safety 1.0 is set to be certified for use in systems that comply with ISO 26262, up to Automotive Safety Integrity Level D — the highest level achievable. Certification to this functional safety standard provides independent validation that a product offers a very high level of reliability and risk reduction when used in electrical, electronic, and software-based systems in passenger vehicles.

"Safety-critical systems have been our bread and butter for almost 30 years," said Grant Courville, director, product management, QNX Software Systems. "That experience, combined with our proven competency in safety certifications and software deployed in tens of millions of vehicles, makes QNX the ideal OS supplier for automotive companies building systems with ISO 26262 ASIL requirements."

Freedom from interference Digital instrument clusters and ADAS systems will become pervasive only if automotive companies can produce them economically. The QNX OS for Automotive Safety is geared to significantly reduce the development and certification costs of such systems by allowing safety-critical functions (e.g. engine malfunction warnings) to run on the same hardware module as non-safety critical functions (e.g. RPM).

To enable this consolidation, the OS provides fine-grained process isolation and memory protection, enabling safety-critical components to enjoy freedom of interference from other components. It also supports QNX adaptive time partitioning, a unique technology that further enables freedom of interference by preventing safety-critical components from being starved of CPU cycles by other components.

Beyond the OS Because ISO 26262 is relatively new, the process of certification is still unchartered territory for most automakers and automotive Tier 1 suppliers. It's a long and rigorous undertaking that, if approached incorrectly, can result in significant product delays. QNX Software Systems can help these companies navigate the complexities of their system-level certifications — not only with the QNX® OS for Automotive Safety, but through the invaluable expertise gained from its successful certification programs. These include OS certification to the IEC 61508 functional safety standard, which forms the basis of ISO 26262.

Growing demand Demand for ISO 26262 certification is ramping up, as more cars come equipped with digital instrument clusters and with ADAS systems that provide lane departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, and other safety-related functions. This demand will only grow as such systems develop the sophistication necessary to enable autonomous driving. Moreover, boundaries are blurring: infotainment systems are also starting to integrate ADAS functions, creating demand for platforms that can support both safety-critical and non safety-critical functions.

"The democratization of advanced driver assistance features and applications continues to expand into all vehicle segments and will lead to the arrival of self-aware and self-driving vehicles during this decade," said Thilo Koslowski, vice president and automotive practice leader at Gartner, Inc. "The foundation for this evolution are cost-effective software and hardware solutions that can be deployed quickly and reliably."

Newest addition ISO 26262 certification represents the latest development in QNX Software Systems' standards and certifications programs. To date, the company's products and processes have achieved certification to IEC 61508 SIL 3 (functional safety), Common Criteria EAL 4+ (security), POSIX PSE52 Realtime Controller profile (portability and determinism), and ISO 9001:2008 (management system), as well as compliance with IEC 62304 (medical device software).

Certification of the QNX OS for Automotive Safety 1.0 will encompass validation of QNX toolchain components, enabling them to be used in 26262 projects.

Availability The QNX OS for Automotive Safety 1.0 is scheduled for release in Q3 2014.

WWDC 2014

While we all love BlackBerry, there's no denying that today's a pretty big day in the tech sphere — and whatever your preference when it comes to mobile — it's always worth paying attention to what Apple is doing at its annual WWDC event which just so happens to start today. Most of the week is dedicated to developer sessions but the show is opened by a keynote address starring CEO Tim Cook and other assorted Apple executives. And our pals at iMore are on the ground in San Francisco covering the whole thing live.

Porsche Design BlackBerry P9982

The inventory at ShopBlackBerry continues to grow with the addition of the Porsche Design BlackBerry P'9982 to its ranks. Available to purchase now, the P'9982 will set you back a cool $1,990 and it's only compatible with GSM carriers. But you do get a mighty handsome BlackBerry and that unique '2AA' starting PIN.

And for more P'9982 fun and games, be sure to re-live our very own Kevin Michaluk dropping 2-grand on one in Las Vegas!

Mercedes

If you hadn't noticed, we're fans of the BlackBerry sponsored Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team in these parts. Looks like we're not the only ones, too, as the team has delivered a special 'thank you' message to 100,000 subscribers to its BBM Channel.

The Channel's remarkable growth has seen a 150% increase in just 2014 alone – it sure doesn't hurt starting the new season with back-to-back wins! That and BBM Channels finally went cross-platform, so even Android and iOS toting fans can join in the fun.

It's great news to hear, and while we're sure most of you are already subscribed, you can do so using the QR code or PIN below if you're not!

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