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Need to Search for the perfect fitness app

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When searching for a fitness app, some come with a set of pre-made goals, like the Couch to 5K running app.

I remember plotting out my routes manually on Map My Run so I could figure out how far and how fast I was running. Nowadays, those stats are sent to me in real time from my favourite running app. It does the same for my paddling workouts. I use a different app for cycling, one for yoga and another for high intensity interval workouts.

I’m not the only one with a phone full of fitness apps. I see people at the gym following app-generated workouts and I’ve participated in virtual races with people from all over the world by way of an app. And unlike the first generation of apps that had a single function, logging your run, counting your steps or leading you through a workout, today’s apps are overflowing with features designed to keep exercisers engaged. My running app allows me to set a goal pace as well as an annual goal for the number of kilometres I’ll put in over the course of the year. And my cycling app, which I also use for running, allows me to join several running communities with whom I engage in challenges. In fact, I’ve been known to run with three apps running simultaneously just so I can get the right mix of tools.

With smartphones in the pockets of people of all ages and socio-economic realities, fitness researchers have been examining the ability for apps to get more people exercising more often. But with thousands of low- and no-cost apps to choose from, what makes a good fitness app? Here are some features to look for the next time you try out a new app.

Goal Setting

Most apps allow you to set your own goals, but usually within a limited set of parameters. So if you have a specific goal in mind; distance, pace, consistency, strength etc., make sure you choose an app that allows you to set and monitor your progress.

Or, you can choose an app that comes with a set of pre-made goals, like 10,000 steps or the Couch to 5K running app, which does away with the need for the user to set their own high-water mark.

A note on goals however, research suggests that the best goals are those that are challenging without being out of reach. Too ambitious a goal will probably demotivate and result in less, not more, regular exercise.

Feedback

The ability to give feedback in real time is the mark of a good app. Audio cues that provide pace and distance or guide you through a workout are examples of feedback that most app users have come to expect. But that’s not the only kind of feedback apps provide. My app reminds me to get moving when my daily exercise goals lag behind their normal timetable, congratulates me on a job well done, let’s me know when I’m off my normal pace and can even guide me through a series of intervals.

Data received from app users suggests that feedback is one of the strongest motivators among app users. A text or alert on your phone prompting you to get moving can be the difference between pulling on your running shoes or picking up the remote.

Social Sharing

We’ve all seen those posts of friends celebrating the end of a workout by sharing their stats on social media. Too much information? Not according to a theory suggesting that observing someone else’s healthy habits can motivate others to follow suit. The idea is to create a community of role models that make exercise look easy, fun and doable.

But not all social sharing has positive results. Research submits that exercisers are more likely to increase physical activity when sharing with friends, family and colleagues versus a community of strangers. Social sharing also results in increased physical activity when performed within like-mined communities of practice — run, cycling, walking and swim groups. It seems that the age-old desire to “keep up with the Joneses” also works within an exercise context.

Rewards

The majority of fitness apps offer rewards for reaching or exceeding your goals, racking up kilometres/steps/active minutes, improving your speed, distance or exercise consistency etc. Meant to motivate, surveys of app users suggest the badges, trophies, stars and medals aren’t a big enough carrot to make them go the extra mile. So while the goal of rewards is to have something to strive toward, it’s a feature that most app users could do without

Competition

While rewards failed to fire up app users, competition generally got exercisers up and moving. The ability for apps to set up challenges between friends, colleagues, gym members, running, cycling and swimming groups or with exercisers from all corners of the globe, adds an important dimension to an exercise app. Admittedly, participating in competitions isn’t an everyday thing, but friendly challenges can add spark to a tired workout routine and/or push exercisers outside of their comfort zone.

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Apple redesigns MacBook Pro keyboard

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Apple is finally introducing a replacement to its butterfly keyboard after years of customer complaints.

The company announced on Wednesday a large, expensive MacBook Pro with a keyboard that has been redesigned for the first time in four years.

The computer, which is intended for power users, professionals or anyone who needs a lot of screen space, features a 16-inch retina display, replacing its 15-inch MacBook Pro. It starts at $2,399, but can go all the way up to $6,099 when you tack on additional storage and processing power. The 13-inch entry-level MacBook Pro, which came out earlier this year, starts at $1,299.

The new MacBook Pro promises better battery life, a new Intel Core processor, an updated cooling system and advanced speakers. But the most significant change is the keyboard.

Apple has long faced complaints over broken and sticky keys in its butterfly keyboards — a design with a mechanism under the keys that expands like wings, opening itself up to dust and other debris. The concept allowed Apple to create a slimmer keyboard design, but some tech reviewers have called it Apple’s worst invention of all time.

Now, it’s reverted back to a traditional scissor-style mechanism that most laptops use. The company says the keyboard will have a stable feel and be responsive.

The MacBook Pro comes with many familiar features, including its signature Touch Bar, a fingerprint sensor and Mac apps, but it now offers double the default storage and pricey upgrade options, up to eight terabytes of storage. (This may appeal to people who have large files and wallets.)

The MacBook Pro is available for purchase online Wednesday in space gray or silver colors. It hits stores later this week.

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Apple thinks glasses will replace smartphones

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Apple is planning to launch its first augmented reality (AR) product sometime in 2022. According to a report from The Information, citing sources attending an internal Apple presentation, Cupertino wants to release an augmented reality headset in 2022 and a pair of AR glasses by 2023. These “Apple Glasses” have popped up in previous rumors with an earlier launch date in 2020, but this new report reveals a far more concrete plan than previous accounts.

Product details are thin on the ground, but a few design points pop up in the report. The products will be designed with gaming, video, and virtual meetings in mind, according to Bloomberg. The Apple Glasses AR capabilities hinge on a new 3D sensor system, developed in-house at Apple over several years. Apparently, this is a more advanced form of FaceID technology used in modern iPhones. Apple is allegedly working on lenses that darken when the wearer is using AR. This is to let others know the user is not necessarily paying attention to them.

Apple has about 1,000 engineers working on the AR and VR initiative. CEO Tim Cook has been hot on the idea of AR for a number of years now. The report also mentions plans to begin attracting developers to the platform in 2021. Clearly, this is a major business commitment, not a small side project.

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Apple Glasses to replace the iPhone

Perhaps the most interesting part of the report states that Apple believes augmented reality glasses will eventually replace smartphones. This will occur “in roughly a decade,” according to executives at the presentation. By 2030, Apple expects that the iPhone, and by extension Android phones too, will be obsolete — at least in high-end Western markets.

That’s no easy task. Current AR glasses pair up to a smartphone, which provides the data connectivity, storage, and bulk of the processing capabilities required by AR apps. Moving this entirely into a set of sleek, lightweight glasses will require a number of engineering breakthroughs. Apple’s first-generation AR products certainly won’t offer fully standalone capabilities. You’ll still need a phone in your pocket. Instead, the company is reportedly working on a new operating system, dubbed rOS, to enable existing devices to work with future headsets and glasses.

Barring the technological hurdles, there’s little reason to believe AR glasses can’t replace most of our smartphone needs. Messaging and calls are certainly possible, as is watching video and navigating with real-world map directions. The other hurdle is solving user interaction, something that advances in voice recognition and 3D object detection technology will likely be key to solving.

Augmented reality is already here, but new form factors will enhance the experience.

It’s easy to imagine the possibilities with AR, as some examples have already proven immensely popular. 2016’s Pokémon Go phenomenon was likely many people’s first foray into the world of AR. Today, consumers are using AR for Snapchat filters, real-time text translation, viewing the stars, and kitting our apartments. AR is already useful on smartphones, but AR glasses open up new possibilities for even more useful and engrossing experiences — ranging from in-world games to real-time contextual information on everything from directions to people.

Haven’t we been here before?

Apple certainly isn’t the first company to believe in AR as a future consumer product. Microsoft has been developing HoloLens for years and has just launched HoloLens 2 for businesses with an eye-watering $3,500 price tag. There’s also Google Glass, which was hounded out of the market by privacy advocates in its prototype launch period, although it remains in development for enterprise users. A number of other companies are working on the idea, including Epson, Toshiba, and Vuzix, among others. However, the majority fall under enterprise and specialist products.

Apple is banking on consumer appeal, but that’s a big ask. It is possible Apple Glasses will receive a warmer reception than Google Glass, given the US media’s often more sympathetic coverage of Cupertino over Mountain View. Its launch may also be more prime time ready, providing a robust developer platform and app ecosystem are ready to go at launch. However, consumer privacy concerns regarding camera and video recording, consent, and data collection will be a sticking point.

Privacy concerns and recording consent issues don’t disappear just because it’s Apple.

There’s no getting around the fact that AR glasses will fundamentally change the way we interact with the world and each other, but also the way in which technology interacts with us. Dedicated AR devices, like glasses, will consume even more data about our surroundings, taking in audio and visual cues from our lives to provide and contextualize content. Furthermore, we will likely wear glass throughout even more intimate aspects of our lives than a phone witnesses in our pocket. Having said that, consumers don’t seem too alarmed at the privacy implications of smart home products.

AR and the future of personal computing

Using Google Lens to identify a bunch of bananas as seen on the camera of the OnePlus 7 Pro.

Augmented reality is the inevitable next step in personal and enterprise computing. Its uses are bound to range from the essentials through to entertainment and the mundane. AR is clearly central to Apple’s future product plans, but it’s far from the only company working on the technology. Expect augmented reality to become increasingly popular in smartphones at all price points over the coming years. The next few years in mobile will lay down the building blocks for future AR-first products like Apple Glasses.

We’ll have to see whether wearable products like the Apple Glasses are the form factor that AR inevitably settles in. Perhaps phones will remain the preferred option for their flexibility if nothing else. Predicting the death of the smartphone within a decade is a bold move by Apple, but inevitably the tech world will move on. AR is as likely as any other to be that next big leap.

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Samsung Galaxy S11 hole-punch camera will be tiny – Pocket-lint

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The latest rumour regarding the Samsung Galaxy S11 suggests that the front facing camera will be placed within an even smaller hole-punch cutout than the Note 10.

It’s a relatively minor point on a smartphone that’s likely to be one of 2020’s most impressive devices, but it will mean an improved experience of the screen.

It goes without saying that having a smaller cutout for the camera means that it becomes less intrusive, and won’t block as much of what you have being displayed.

This information comes via @UniverseIce on Twitter, a leaker with a reliable track record in the mobile world.

We’ve already heard that the S11 will come in three different sizes, similar to the Galaxy S10, and that it will have a bigger battery than the S10.

Of course, hole-punch camera cutouts are a temporary measure until mainstream phone manufacturers figure out a way to implement an in-display selfie camera hidden beneath the display panel.

The aim from most of the smartphone makers is to create an edge-to-edge screen with no intrusion at all. It’s why some – like OnePlus and Oppo – have gone for a pop-up camera mechanism rather than have a notch or hole-punch camera at all.

Samsung’s next flagship is expected to launch around its usual timeframe in Spring 2020, kicking off next year’s new wave of high end smartphones.

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