Sylvania Smart+ A19 Full Color: HomeKit at Its finest

I have been a user of smart bulbs for about two years now. While I have a few devices from iDevices and iHome, the vast majority of my smart lighting products are from Phillips’ Hue system. However, this may have been more convenience than anything as it has been the most available HomeKit available lighting system. This is beginning to change with companies like LEDVANCE’s Sylvania unit putting out new lighting products. We’ll be taking a look at their Smart+ A19 Full Color Bulb with HomeKit

Full Disclosure: this product was provided by LEDVANCE for testing. However, this does not color our opinion in anyway.

The Next Generation of HomeKit Bulbs

With the first generation of HomeKit+ compatible lighting products, like the Hue, the lights themselves used a proprietary or standard wireless standard and then brought it all together using a central hub. This has its advantages and disadvantages that we won’t go over here, but one of them is cost. You have to add another device.

The Sylvania bulb uses standard Bluetooth for operation and because of this, there’s no hub. There’s also no app. The product is designed specifically for Apple’s HomeKit. In that sense it works beautifully. There is no complexity. You press the plus button in the Home App, add it via the HomeKit code and then control it using any HomeKit compatible app.

Designed to fit in

The most remarkable thing about this is how utterly unremarkable it is. I say that in the best sense of the term. Its very much an appliance No gimmicks or extras, it’s the powerful simplicity of Apple’s HomeKit system at its very finest. With the Home app and expanded control center on iOS 10 & the upcoming iOS 11, this fully reaches promise. This is fully Apple’s experience, Sylvania is just supplying the hardware for that. The downside is that you’re limited to what HomeKit can do, and while that’s a lot better than it was, there are still places like home theater integration that you would prefer a third party app.

The Smart+ A19 looks just like any other A19 bulb and is about the same size as your standard 60watt replacement. It won’t fit in the space for compact fan bulbs, but it will fit everywhere else. This is the smart bulb you get if you don’t want anyone to know that you have smart bulbs.

It Just Works

The bulb is very responsive, about the same as my Hue bulbs. If there was any lag, it was generally less than two seconds. On the fly dimming and color changing were just as responsive as turning it off. Its also been extremely reliable with no missed command calls in a month of testing.

HomeKit only

The downside to being app-less, the Smart+ only works with HomeKit. There is no integration with Alexa or Google Home or Samsung Smart things. The hardware is more than capable of it, there’s just no way to integrate with it at the moment. While LEDVANCE does offer smart bulbs that integrate with those, the requirement that you have to pick and choose can be a bit annoying. Many users out there will miss and match platforms to maximize the abilities of a device.

Pricing

The Smart+ A19 is $44.99 on Amazon. This makes it about $5 cheaper than the Hue White and Color Ambiance and less than $10 more expensive than the non-HomeKit version. It is a very competitive price for what you get. If $45 is too much for a bulb, a white only version is coming.

Pros

  • Competitively Priced
  • Full HomeKit Experience
    Reliable
    Looks Just Like A Standard A19 Bulb

Cons

No Manufacturer App
Works only with HomeKit

Final Word

If you are fully immersed in Apple’s HomeKit technology, this is the bulb for you. Its Hub-less, reliable, and full integrates with the platform. If you’re not, you literally cannot have it. If I was building a smart home today, this is the bulb I would buy.

Apple Announces iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

Most people were expecting an iPhone 7S, but instead we got a phone worthy of the name iPhone 8 and Its stablemate the iPhone 8 Plus. Depending on whether there is an iPhone 9 next year, this could be the end of the road for the traditional iPhone with a LCD screen and a circular home button; The future has already arrived in the form of the iPhone X. Either way, this is a major update that should be overshadowed by no other device.

Proven Design with New Tricks

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus continue the design lineage that started with the iPhone 6-series. They feature the same 4.7″ and 5.5″ screen sizes and have roughly the same dimensions. That doesn’t mean its been 4 years of the same. In fact, the leap from the iPhone 7 to the 8 might be the biggest of them all, especially in the design. The 8 introduces a whole new element to the equation: glass. Not only does Apple claim it to be the most durable glass to see a smartphone, it features a 7-step coloring process to match the aluminum sides. If not for the glossy reflective nature of the glass, you can barely tell where the metal ends and the glass begins.

Enter The Wireless Charging Age

That glass back wasn’t just a design element, it has a reason. The iPhone 7 began the step towards a totally wireless iPhone by cutting the headphone jack. The iPhone 8 takes the next step by adding wireless charging standard Qi. If that name sounds familiar, its the one used by Samsung and most other device makers. Its also the technology used, albeit in a modified form, in the Apple Watch. Since it is a mature ecosystem, that means there are plenty of wireless chargers out there you and buy right now.

There is one question question though about Apple’s implementation: how much power can it deliver. In the latest spec of Qi, fast charging can deliver up to 15w. However the two products from Belkin and Mophie Apple mentions support an earlier 7.5 revision. With Apple not providing the version used, we’ll have to find out how fast the iPhone 8 can actually charge. Either way, its more than the 5w provided by the Apple Wall Charger.

Apple Goes Bionic and Delivers Its First In-House GPU

As customary, the iPhone 8 has a brand new SoC, in this case its the A11 Bionic. Following on from the A10 Fusion which featured 2 High Performance and 2 efficiency cores, the A11 doubles the amount of efficiency cores for a 6-core design. Apple claims a 25% boost for the high performance cores and 70% for the efficiencies. What’s more, all 6-cores can be used in tandem for maximum performance. For the first time, the graphics chip is also an Apple product rather than a PowerVR design. Apple claims The new triple-core chip is 30% more powerful than the graphics on the A10.

Camera System and AR

At first glance there isn’t much difference between the camera specs of the iPhone 8 series compared to the iPhone 7. Specs can be a bit deceiving. The sensors are larger and feature a new image processor. The cameras also offer enhanced video performance for 4K Video at 60FPS and 1080 slow-motion at 240FPS. With the 8 Plus there’s a new Portrait Lighting Effect that uses both the telephoto and wide-angle cameras in combination with the signal processor and AR technology to be able to manipulate lighting and background effects in a portrait.

Pricing and Availability.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus come in three colors and two storage options. The iPhone 8 will come with 64GB for $699 and 256GB for $849. The 8 Plus is $100 more in the same two capacity for $799 and $949 respectively. Both will come in your choice of Space Gray with Black Front, Silver With White Front, and Gold with White Front. If you’re a fan of Rose Gold, Red, Gloss Black or any of the other myriad of color options the iPhone 7s came in, you’re out of luck.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus Will launch September 22nd on nearly all carriers and for the first time, it looks like the SIM-free unlocked version will be available at launch.

Apple Re-envisions The iPhone with the iPhone X

In any other year, the iPhone 8-series would have been an exceptional upgrade. However, unless there is an iPhone 9 next year, its the end of the road for the traditional iPhone. We know this because Because the iPhone’s replacement has already been announced: The iPhone X Like with Mac OS X, the iPhone X is familiar but at the same time a very different cat then what came before it.

Design

At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an Android phone. Gone is the circular home button that has defined iPhones for over a decade and the clearly defined bezel. In fact, there is so little bezel, that the top camera system actually cuts into the camera system. Some are calling them dog ears and for the lack of a better term, I’ll use that. The screen seems to be fairly flat with all the tapering going on in the sides. Honestly, I reminds me a lot of the original iPhone with the stainless steel band surrounding it.

Super Retina HD: OLED the Apple Way

The screen is 5.8″ 2436 x 1125, the biggest screen ever put on an iPhone. Yet its dimensions are 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm with a weight of 174g. That’s ever so slightly larger than than the 4.7″ LCD iPhones. Yes I did say LCD iPhone for a reason. The iPhone X is build around an OLED screen. What’s more, Apple has claimed to have solved a lot of OLED’s issues to create a display that that combines the contrast benefits of OLED with the brightness and color accuracy associated with an LCD. With a million to one contrast ratio, true tone technology, and color gamut Apple is claiming, this could be one hell of a display. Especially since it supports HDR in both HDR 10 and Dolby Vision. One thing to mention though, landscape content is edge to edge, so there is actually a piece missing for the camera cutout.

True Depth

The base technology is largely the same as the iPhone 8. It has the A11 Bionic and the internal GPU, the rear cameras are 12mp though the telephoto gains OIS as well. It also has the Qi wireless charging technology and the fast charging Lightning Port. We’ll focus on what’s different. First off, it gains a dedicated machine learning chip called the neural engine. The neural engine is there for the True Depth camera array and True Depth is nothing sort of astounding. This is clearly what Apple was after when it bought PrimeSense, the company behind the Xbox 360’s Kinect in 2013. It combines a 7mp front camera capable of 1080 video with a IR camera, flood illuminator, and a dot projector. The most basic application of this system is Apple’s new biometric identification system called FaceID. The True Depth array maps your face and the neural engine determines its you. It doesn’t until your looking at it and then its seamless. There is no accidental unlocking like on previous biometric system TouchID. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this technology adapted to all iOS devices and Macs in the not too distant future. It seems like a much more robust system than Windows Hello. The other use for the camera system and neural engine is of course ARKit which Apple is using for a portrait mode which enables depth of field for selfies. It also enables AR Emoji Apple is calling Animoji.

The UI is quite different without the Home Button. Having used the virtual buttons on several Android devices, they never really worked right. Thankfully Apple did not choose to go that direction. Instead they rethought how the iPhone could work. A swipe from the button is the new Home Button with a swipe up and pause for multi-tasking. Control center has been moved to the top right while notifications are activated from the top left. Siri has been moved to holding the side button and like the Apple Watch, Apple Pay is now a double tap from the side. Its also motions you already know, so the learning curve should be less.

Pricing and Availability

The iPhone X comes in a 64GB variant for $999 and a 256GB version for $1149. Preorders start October 27th with Deliveries starting November 3rd. You have two color options: Silver and Space Gray.

Apple Introduces Apple TV 4K and iTunes UHD Content

If you were looking for Apple to announce a competitor to the Fire TV or higher end Rokus, they not what was announced. In both feature set and price, the Apple TV 4K is such closer to the Nvidia Shield. Its powered by the A10X Fusion chip from the latest version of the iPad Pro. This gives it the power not only to power your TV with a 4K signal, but to offer truly console quality performance as well. With a HDMI 2.0a port, that signal is not only the full 60 frames per second, but offers both HDR10 and dolby vision as well. As far how it looks and works, if you’re familiar with the Apple TV 4, you’re familiar with the 4K. Its just better.

iTunes 4K HDR

As reported by multiple sources the past few months, Apple did indeed work out a deal to offer 4K content through iTunes at the same price as current HD content. Atypically for deals with the movie industry, this deal actually gets better. Any content you previously purchased in HD that’s available in 4K will be upgraded free of charge. All in all, this part of the media transition to 4K went about as well as good be imagined for the consumer.

The TV App Upgraded

One of the best upgrades to tvOS (and iOS) has been the TV app. This puts all your content, save a few holdouts, in an easily accessible place. In the past it has all been on-demand content like your iTunes library and content from available apps. This expands in two key features with tvOS 4: Live Sports and News. You can truly see where Apple is going with this as a single place for all live and on-demand content no matter where you get it.

Pricing

As I alluded to, the price is high. Its slotted above the the Apple TV 4 which receives no price cut whatsoever. Under the new pricing, you get an Apple TV 4 32GB for $149, a 32GB Apple TV 4K for $179, and a 64GB 4K for $199. If you were hoping for a true replacement for the Apple TV 3, it appears that device will never come. Users looking to replace those devices will either have to pay a substantially higher price for a 4/4K or move to a competing device.

Apple Introduces Apple Watch Series 3

With the third generation of Apple Watch, the Series 3, the Apple Watch has finally fully come of age. Its faster, its finally got an barometric altimeter to measure altitude, and Siri can finally talk back, giving you the same experience as on other devices. But there was one more thing it needed to be a fully independent device: cellular connectivity. Yeah, its got versions with that too.

In terms of style, its undeniably an Apple Watch and almost the exact size as the Series 2 it replaces. If you wanted a radical overhaul, this isn’t your Apple Watch. If you’re upgrading from a previous Apple Watch, your collection of bands will still work. Given the huge third party accessory market out there, this isn’t a bad thing. Plus, the technology isn’t there yet for radical changes.

Powering the new Apple Watch is the S3 system on chip. Like the S2, this is a dual-core design. Its beefy up to 70% more powerful than the original. This not only makes it more responsive, it allows the extra functionality like the Siri-voice. The S3 isn’t the only new Apple chip inside, its also got a W2 wireless chip. The new chip is both faster and more efficient than the combo wi-fi and bluetooth chip in previous Apple Watches.

But that isn’t the radio you’re interested in, is it? You want the model with the Red button on the digital crown, the cellular model. Its here and its actually pretty ingenious. First off, the the cellular antennas are built into the screen. It makes sense from a practical sense as its a big glass part, but tis difficult to pull off from a technology standpoint. Second, the Apple watch manages its own wireless usage and picks what is most energy efficient. If its connected to your iPhone, its using bluetooth, if its by itself in the house its using Wi-Fi, if you’re out on the run it then switches to cellular. It makes the most of the limited battery capacity of the device t give a constant experience whether connected or not. The S3 offers up LTE and UMTS radios; No EV-DO for CDMA providers. There doesn’t appear to be a GSM voice radio, so I would assume all the calls are IP based.

watchOS Improvements

watchOS is receiving a couple enhancements as well. First, the heart rate sensor app is getting a lot more data and a new notification for times when your heart rate shoots up when inactive. There’s also some new workout modes and GymKit syncing with exercise equipment. The Apple Watch also gets full access to Apple Music.

Pricing:

The Series 3 GPS models start at $329 for the 38mm aluminum models. This actually represents a $40 price cut compared to the Series 2. It’ll come in Silver, Grey, and Gold. As with the phones, the Rose Gold has been put to pasture. You get your options for the sport band and a new sport loop which has replaced the woven nylon as the alternative band. The Cellular models will start at $399 for the 38mm models and $429 for cellular. There’s also Stainless Steel and Ceramic versions, but these are only offered in Cellular. The Nike and Hermès editions return. Last year’s budget Series one is back and has been given a price cut to $249.