The Level Bolt and Level Touch smart locks are a cut above the competition in design and usability – TechCrunch

Level is one of the newer players in the smart lock space, but with a design pedigree that includes a lot of former Apple employees. The company is already attracting a lot of praise for its industrial design. I tested out both of its current offerings, the Level Bolt and the Level Touch, and found that they’re well-designed, user-friendly smart locks that are a cut above the competition when it comes to aesthetics and feature set.

The basics

Level’s debut product, the $229 Level Bolt, works with existing deadbolts and just replaces the insides with a connected locking mechanism that you can control from your smartphone via the Level app. The newer $329 Level Touch is a full deadbolt replacement, including the faceplates, but unlike most other smart locks on the market it looks like a standard deadbolt from the outside — albeit a very nicely designed one. The Level Touch is available in four different finishes, including satin nickel, satin chrome, polished brass and matte black (the latter two are listed as “coming soon”).

Image Credits: Level

The Bolt is similar in concept to other smart lock products like the August lock in that you use it with your existing deadbolt, which means no need to replace keys. It also leaves the thumb turn intact, meaning from all outward appearances it isn’t obvious that you have a smart lock at all. Installing it is relatively simple and basically amounts to a lock mechanism transplant. Level includes different cam bar adapters that fit the vast majority of available deadlocks, so it should be something most homeowners can do in just a few minutes. The Bolt offers access sharing via the app, auto lock when you depart, auto unlock when you arrive, an activity log, temporary passes and a built-in audio chime. It also works with Apple’s HomeKit for remote control, voice control via Siri, automation and push notifications.

Image Credits: Level

The Level Touch takes everything that’s great about the Bolt, and adds in some super smart additional features like a capacitive external deadbolt housing, which allows an amazing touch-to-lock/touch-to-unlock feature, and NFC that allows you to use programmable NFC cards and stickers to issue revokable passes to unlock your door. On top of all that, it’s probably the most attractive deadbolt I’ve ever owned or used, which is saying a lot in a field of smart locks where most offerings have unsightly large keypads or large battery compartments.

Design and features

The Level Bolt’s design is clever in its ability to be completely invisible when in use. The deadbolt itself is the battery housing, holding one lithium CR123A battery (included in the box, offers over a year’s worth of use). Installing the Bolt was as easy as unscrewing my existing deadbolt, removing the internal deadbolt mechanism, picking out the right adapter for the cam bar, and then inserting it into my door’s deadbolt lock and screwing back together the external face plates. It took under 10 minutes, start to finish.

Setting up the lock was also simple. You just download the app and follow the instructions, and you’ll be able to control your app in just minutes, too. Using the app, you set up a home profile for your lock or locks, and you can also invite others in your household to share access (they’ll have to install the app and get a profile to do so). You can also set up HomeKit if you have an Apple device and a HomeKit hub (this could be an Apple TV or an iPad) and instantly unlock a lot of features including remote unlocking and locking control when you’re away from home.

Image Credits: Level

Even without HomeKit, you can set up Level to automatically lock once you leave a certain geofenced area around your home and to automatically unlock once you return within that perimeter. It’s a fantastic convenience feature that works great and offers tons of benefits when it comes to things like coming home with armfuls of groceries or large packages.

With the Level Touch, you get all of the above, plus a feature I’ve come to find indispensable: touch control. The metal exterior of the Level Touch’s outside cylinder has capacitive touch sensors, which means that like your iPhone’s screen, it can detect when it’s touched by a finger or skin. You can activate a touch-to-lock feature that will allow it to lock whenever people leave and hold their finger to the deadbolt cover, and you can even set it to unlock when it detects a touch combined with immediate proximity of your phone for identity verification purposes.

To me, this is even more useful than auto-lock/auto-unlock, and yet still much more convenient than fumbling with keys or even using the app to manually lock/unlock. It’s one of Level Touch’s unique advantages, and it’s a big one.

As for installation of the Level Touch, it’s also very easy — no more difficult than installing any deadbolt you might buy at the hardware store. Like the Bolt, it uses a single CR123A battery loaded right into the deadbolt itself that should give you enough power for over a year of use.

Bottom line

Smart locks have become a lot more prevalent over the past few years, but they also haven’t really progressed much in terms of functionality or design. Level has upended all that, bringing the best of convenience features and miniaturized hardware technology to smart, modern design that leapfrogs the competition.

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The Flume 2 Smart Home Water Monitor is a smart, easy-to-use and essential smart home device – TechCrunch

Many smart home gadgets focus on convenience or automation of typically manual tasks, but Flume’s smart water sensor provides a potentially much more vital service: The ability to track how much water you’re consuming, and alert you to potential leaks in you home’s plumbing. The company just released its second-generation Flume Smart Home Water Monitor ($199), and the device is easier to set up and use, and smarter, than ever.

The basics

Flume’s Smart Home Water Monitor consists of a device you affix to your water meter, and a gateway that connects it to your home Wi-Fi network. Installation is super simple and requires no plumbing or any kind of home DIY expertise. The Flume app guides you through installation, and in most cases you should be up and running in less than 10 minutes — plus Flume has live assistance available via chat through the app in case you get stuck.

The Flume monitor provides up-to-date information about your whole home’s water usage, including any consumption from interior or exterior faucets, plumbing and fixtures. It can alert you when it detects suspected leaks based on water behavior, and help you budget your water use if you’re looking to save on your utility bill, or just conserve more water through more efficient usage.

Design and features

The Flume meter is a very impressive example of technology designed for use by just about anyone, anywhere. It doesn’t have its own display or interface, and instead works entirely through the app, but that simplicity is part of its genius. The water monitor itself is encased in a simple gray plastic box, which you attach to your water meter externally using the included rubber straps. All it needs is to be placed on the side of where your meter’s readout is located, and then it’s activated by you simply running water through your system by turning on a faucet. It’s reading the magnetic field generated by your water meter, which the company says can detect any water usage all the way down to one one-hundredth of a gallon — i.e. a slowly dripping faucet.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The meter is powered by four AA batteries that come pre-installed, and you can see the battery status in the app, but those should last a very long time. The meter talks to a Flume bridge, which does need to be connected to power but can be set up pretty much anywhere within Wi-Fi range in your home. The final component is the app, which is available for iOS and Android, and which provides a dashboard visualizing your usage, as well as push notifications you can set up for when the Flume system detects a leak.

In practice, set up is a breeze, and it’s truly amazing how much detail and information Flume can provide, given how easy it is to install and use. The data itself is also incredibly fascinating, and truly resulted in my being more aware about my general water consumption, how it affects my monthly utility bills and how I might be able to conserve water going forward. My home didn’t have a dishwasher when I originally installed the Flume 2, for instance, and I realized how much more water I was using hand-washing dishes versus putting in a small, water-efficient 18-inch dishwasher instead — which was proven out by the Flume data.

Bottom line

You might not realize you need a smart home water sensor, but Flume 2 makes a strong case for everyone investing in one. The simple, practical design and user-friendly app instantly make you a much more informed consumer of water, and can save you a bundle in the long run by detecting leaks early and preventing any more serious and damaging flooding incidents. It also just feels good to be aware of what you’re using, and being able to translate that into direct action to save a little water here and there, for the good of the environment and your monthly spending.

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Jackery’s solar generator system helps you collect and store more than enough juice for off-grid essentials – TechCrunch

Portable power is a very convenient thing to have on hand, as proven by the popularity of pocket power banks for providing backup energy for smartphones and tablets. Jackery’s lineup of battery backups offer an entirely different, much greater level of portable energy storage, and when combined with the company’s durable and portable solar panels, they add up to an impressive mobile solar power generation solution that can offer a little piece of mind at home for when the power goes out, or a lot of flexibility on the road for day trips, camping excursions and more.

The basics

Jackery sells the Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station and SolarSaga 100W Solar Panels I reviewed separately, but it also bundles them together in a pack ($1,599.97) with the power station and two of the panels in a Solar Generator combo, which is what I tested. The Portable Power Station retails for $999.99, though it’s the top of the line offering and there are more affordable models with less capacity. The station itself offers a 1002Wh internal lithium battery, and 1000W rated power with 2000W surge power rating. IT has two USB-C outputs, one standard USB, one DC port like you’d find in your car dash, and three standard AC outlets. It has an integrated handle, a tough plastic exterior and a built-in LCD display for information including battery charge status and output info.

The Explorer 1000, on a full charge, can provide up to 100 charges for your standard iPhone, or up to eight charges of a MacBook Pro. It can power an electric grill for 50 minutes, or a mini fridge for up to 66 hours. It can be recharged via a wall outlet (fully charges in seven hours) or a car outlet (14 hours), but it can also be paired up with the 2x SolarSaga panels for a full recharge in around eight hours of direct sun exposure — almost as fast as you’d charge it plugging it into an outlet at home (it takes double the time, or around 17 hours, when using just one).

As for the solar panels, they each retail for $299.99, and fold in half for greater portability, and feature integrated pockets and stands for cable storage and easy setup anywhere. Each ways less than 10 lbs, and they offer both USB-C and USB-A direct output for charging up devices without any battery or power station required. It’s worth noting that they’re not waterproof, however, so you should exercise some caution when using them in inclement weather.

Image Credits: Jackery

Design and features

The Jackery Portable Power Station is a perfect blend of portability, practicality and durability. Its internal powerhouse will keep you going for days in terms of mobile device power, and it weighs only a relatively portable 22 lbs, despite packing in a massive battery. The range of output options built-in mean you can connect to just about any electronically-powered device you can think of, and three AC outlets mean you can power multiple appliances at once if you want to spend your juice on running a lightweight outdoor kitchen — albeit not for a super long time at that kind of power draw.

Jackery’s Explorer series features durable and attractive (insofar as any utility device is ever that attractive) exterior impact-resistant plastic housings, and they definitely feel like they don’t need to be treated with kid gloves. The display is legible and clear, and provides all the info you need at a glance in terms of reserve power, and power expenditure for connected devices, as well as charging info when plugged in.

The many charging options are also super convenient, and that’s where the SolarSaga 100W panes come in. These fold up to roughly the size of a folding camp side table, and have integrated handles for even easier carrying. They’re also protected outside by a tough polycarbonate shell, and the panels are resistant to high temperatures for max durability. They come with included output converter cables for connecting to USB A and USB C devices, and can be used with the adapter included with the Power Station to charge that either in tandem with one another, or on their own.

Around back you’ll find adjustable kickstands, which allow you to angle the panels towards the sun across a range of positions for maximum energy absorption. Between these and the Explorer Power Station you have everything you need to set up your own fully mobile solar energy power generation station in just a few minutes and with minimal effort.

Image Credits: Jackery

Bottom line

In actual use, the Jackery Explorer 1000 Portable Power Station provides so much backup power that it was hard to expend it all through general testing. You really do have to plug appliances like my Blendtec blender in to make a dent, and even then I got roughly 12 hours of usage or more out of it. This is a great solution for taking some selective on-grid equipment off-grid while on camping trips, like a TV, small fridge or a projector, and it’s an amazing thing to have at home just in case of power outages, where having your own backup options can make the difference between getting through a productive workday or staying in touch with family.

The SolarSaga panels are an amazing complement to the Explorer, and truly turn this into your own mini green energy power generation station. Even if you’re not convinced on the expense and necessity of converting your home to solar power, using something like Tesla’s Powerwall, for instance, this is a nice way to power a cooler in the backyard effectively for “free” when it comes to energy costs, or to extend the useful life of the Explorer on trips when you’re away from the grid over the course of multiple days.

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Wyze launches version 3 of its $20 security camera – TechCrunch

Wyze first made a name for itself when it launched its $20 indoor security camera a few years ago. Since then, the company branched out into other smart home products, ranging from doorbells to scales. Today, it’s going back to its origins with the launch of the Wyze Cam V3, the third generation of its flagship camera.

The new version is still $20 (though that’s without shipping unless there’s a free shipping promotion in the Wyze store), but the company redesigned both the outside and a lot of the hardware inside the camera, which is now also IP65 rated, so you can now use it outdoors, too.

Image Credits: Wyze

The Cam V3 now features new sensors that enable color night vision, thanks to an F1.6 aperture lens that captures 40% more light than the previous version. That lens now also covers a 130-degree field of view (up from 110 degrees in V2) and the company pushed up the frames per second from 15 during the day and 10 at night to 20 and 15, respectively.

The company also enhanced the classic black and white night vision mode — which you’ll still need when it’s really dark outside or in the room you are monitoring — by adding a second set of infrared lights to the camera.

Other new features are an 80dB siren to deter unwanted visitors. This feature is triggered by Wyze’s AI-powered person-detection capability, but that’s a feature the company recently moved behind its $2/month CamPlus paywall, after originally offering it for free. That’s not going to break the bank (and you get a generous free trial period), but it’d be nice if the company could’ve kept this relatively standard feature free and instead only charged for extra cloud storage or more advanced features (though you do get free 14-day rolling cloud storage for 12-second clips).

Wyze Cam V2 (left) and V3 (right).

Wyze provided me with a review unit ahead of today’s launch (and a Cam V2 to compare them). The image quality of the new camera is clearly better and the larger field of view makes a difference, even though the distortion at the edges is a bit more noticeable now (but given the use case, that’s not an issue). The new night color vision mode works as promised, and I like that you can set the camera to automatically switch between them based on the lighting conditions.

The person detection has been close to 100% accurate — and unlike some competing cameras that don’t feature this capability, I didn’t get any false alarms during rain or when the wind started blowing leaves across the ground.

If you already have a Wyze Cam V2, you don’t need to upgrade to this new one — the core features haven’t changed all that much, after all. But if you’re in the market for this kind of camera and aren’t locked into a particular security system, it’s hard to beat the new Wyze Cam.

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Mophie introduces a modular wireless charging module – TechCrunch

Here’s a clever addition for Mophie, one of the longstanding battery case makers, which is now a part of the same smartphone accessory conglomerate as Zagg, Braven, iFrogz and InvisibleShield. The Juice Pack Connect is a modular take on the category, with a battery pack that slides on and off.

For $80 you get a 5,400mAh battery (that should get you plenty of additional charge time) and a ring stand that props the phone up. Mophie may offer additional models at some point, but right now, the biggest selling point is less about add-ons and more the fact that you can slip the battery off the device when not needed and still use the case.

Image Credits: Mophie

It’s not entirely dissimilar from the modular uniVERSE case OtterBox introduced a bunch of years ago, but the big advantage here is that the charging works via Qi, so you don’t have to plug it into the phone’s port.

It’s not cheap (Mophie isn’t, generally). And, no, it’s not a MagSafe accessory. Instead, the add-on attaches to your case (needs to be one thin enough to support the charging, mind) using adhesive. The upside is that it works with a much larger number of phones, including multiple generations of iPhones and wireless-capable handsets like Samsung Galaxies and Google Pixels.

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Flair’s Smart Vent system is a big improvement for anyone looking to improve their home HVAC – TechCrunch

Smart thermostats are fairly ubiquitous these days, but depending on which one you’re using, you could be getting a lot more from your home heating and cooling — with relatively simple DIY upgrades. The Flair Smart Vent system is one such upgrade, and though it costs a bit upfront to get going (each register is $79 to start, depending on size), you won’t have to call an HVAC contractor or break down any walls to take advantage of what it offers.

The basics

Flair’s system is designed around a simple idea: Controlling the airflow across individual rooms can help you be more efficient about where you direct your heating and cooling, and when. The basic ingredients Flair uses to make this happen are its Smart Vents, which fit into existing floor and wall register slots in standard sizes. The Flair designs are low profile, with all the electronics contained in casing that rests under floor level. They can be hardwired for power, but they also ship with two C batteries the provide “years” of power before they require replacement.

Flair advises three different approaches to determining how many Smart Vents you need to complement your existing system: If you have one room that’s too cold when cooling and too hot when heating, just get a Smart Vent and Flair Puck for that room. If you have just one room that gets too little cooling, and too little heating, equip all your other rooms with Smart Vents and Pucks (or Ecobee sensors if you have an Ecobee thermostat, but we’ll get to that later). If your HVAC is already pretty even, but you just want more control and efficiency gains, then equip the whole house as a third option.

Each room will require a Puck, which is a small round device that includes temperature control and monitoring. The first of these needs to be hardwired to power via the included USB cable, as it acts as a bridge connecting the Flair system to your home network. All the others can be powered by included AAA batteries, and they’re very power efficient thanks in part to the e-Ink display.

Flair works in a number of modes, including one that’s compatible with any thermostat where you simply set the temperature for any room, and the associated vent(s) will open or close depending on whether the temperature in that room matches up. It can also work directly with Ecobee and Honeywell smart thermostats for a much more intelligent mode where they receive or send the temperature to the smart unit, and coordinate their open/shut status depending on that. Google has changed the Nest API, so Flair is working on supporting similar features on Nest systems through that in the future, but for now it works with Nest installations the same way it would with “dumb” thermostats.

Design and features

Image Credits: Flair

Flair’s Smart Vents themselves are attractive, well-made hardware. The vent covers themselves are made of metal, with an attractive grill design that will go with most decors. They’re exclusively white, which could be an issue for dark flooring, but they’re definitely a step up from your average registers. On one side, they have an LED light strip that is used during setup for identifying which is which, and underneath, they have the battery housing, louvres and the motors that control their open and shut status.

As mentioned, the Smart Vents can be associated with a Puck, which will provide them the ambient temp information, as well as target temp, in order to set them open or shut. They can also use an Ecobee sensor to get their marching orders when set up for software integration with an Ecobee system. I installed my review units and first tried them with the Flair app providing target temp info to the Ecobee, but then switched it around so that the Ecobee determined the desired temperature, and the Flair units all inherited that info and set their open/close status accordingly.

At first, I found the Flair app a bit intimidating just because with a multi-vent system it presents a lot of information, and some degree of logic to initially set up. But once I got the Ecobee integration working, the whole Flair system just worked — and worked like magic.

In this configuration, you never even have to think about the fact that the vents are smart; they just do whatever they need to in order to equalize the temperature and keep heating and cooling routing intelligently. It made an impressive difference in the amount of airflow circulating around my nearly 100-year-old house — and my setup isn’t necessarily ideal because there are a few non-standard, larger registers around that can’t yet be Flair-equipped.

The Pucks themselves are well designed, with magnetic, stick-up and screw-in installation options, and readible, power-efficient e-Ink displays. Their bezel turns for temperature control, and they can also be placed out of sight if you really just want to use them as remote sensors.

Bottom line

You might think that whether a register is open or closed wouldn’t make much difference to the efficacy of a house-wide HVAC system, but in my experience, the before-and-after of Flair was dramatically different. I started out with one problem spot primarily (the master bedroom) and afterwards it got to target temp much more quickly, both in heating and cooling modes.

Even if you find your central air and heating are already pretty effective, Flair seems like a wise upgrade that will provide lasting benefits in terms of consistency and power efficiency. Plus, if you use Flair as the controller, you can set different target temps for different rooms depending on individual occupant preferences.

True zoned HVAC systems can cost thousands — especially if you’re replacing existing ducting in walls. Flair’s solution is a lot more affordable by comparison, and provides effective results with DIY installation that takes just minutes to set up.

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For the theremin’s 100th anniversary, Moog unveils the gorgeous Claravox Centennial – TechCrunch

It’s been a full century since Leon Theremin created the electronic instrument bearing his name, and to celebrate Moog is releasing what must surely be the best-looking (and may be the best-sounding) theremin of all time: the Claravox Centennial.

With a walnut cabinet, brass antennas and a plethora of wonderful knobs and dials, the Claravox looks like it emerged from a prewar recording studio, as indeed is the intention.

It’s named after Clara Rockmore, the Soviet musician who played the theremin in the 1930s to wide acclaim (and probably puzzlement) and contributed significantly to the fame of the instrument and to its design.

The one she played, however, was a mere toy compared to the ones devised by electronic music trailblazer Bob Moog, who built his own from plans published in a 1949 magazine. Later he would iterate on and improve the instrument to make it the versatile yet distinctive theremin that would become a staple in many genres alongside Moog’s own synthesizers.

The Claravox isn’t meant to be a display piece, though. It’s the ultimate theremin, packed with modern and old-school tech. You can customize and switch between analog and digital oscillators; the wave shaping circuit is from the Etherwave Pro; there’s a built-in delay and preset storage; the inputs and outputs allow for use with lots of sources and controllers; there’s even a matching stand (sold separately).

It works the same as theremins always have: The antennas detect the position of one’s hands (or other objects) in the range of their electric fields, and one controls pitch while the other controls volume. Playing the instrument is as much a performance as the music itself, as this excellent rendition of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” shows:

Interested (and deep-pocketed) theremin aficionados can pre-order their Claravox Centennial today for $1,499. It should ship in December — just in time for the holidays, if you want to surprise that special, synth-loving someone.

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Apple HomePod update brings Intercom and other new features – TechCrunch

Apple HomePod owners, starting today, will be able to use the newly announced “Intercom” feature to send messages between their HomePod smart speakers. The feature, which arrives via a software update, brings this and several other new features to Apple’s smart speakers, including those introduced at Apple’s event last week where the company debuted its $99 HomePod mini.

Of these, Intercom is the most notable update, as it helps the HomePod catch up to rival smart speakers, like those from Apple and Google, which have offered similar broadcast messaging systems for years.

But in Apple’s case, Intercom doesn’t just send a user’s voice message — like “dinner’s ready!” or “time to go!” — across the family’s HomePod speakers. It’s also meant to work across Apple’s device ecosystem, by adding support for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and even AirPods and CarPlay.

This could be a competitive advantage for HomePod, particularly because Amazon — which leads the U.S. market with its affordable Echo devices — no longer has its own smartphone business.

However, Apple says Intercom’s expanded support for other devices isn’t being rolled out today. Instead, it will arrive through further software updates later this year.

To use Intercom, HomePod owners with multiple devices can say things like:

“Hey Siri, Intercom, Has anyone seen my glasses?”

“Hey Siri, tell everyone, Dinner is ready.”

“Hey Siri, Intercom to the kitchen, Has the game started?”

And to reply, users can say something like “Hey Siri, reply, Yes.”

In addition to the new support for Intercom, the software update also introduces deeper integration with Apple Maps and iPhone, the ability to set and stop timers and alarms from any HomePod, the ability to continue listening to a podcast with multiuser support, and more.

The deeper integration means HomePod owners can now ask Siri for information about traffic conditions, as well as nearby restaurants and businesses. A Siri suggestion will then automatically appears in Maps on your iPhone so the route is available as soon as you get in the car.

HomePod owners can also now ask Siri to search the web, which then sends results to the iPhone.

Two other new features will arrive later this year, including the ability to connect one HomePod (or more) to Apple TV 4K for stereo, 5.1 and 7.1 surround, and Dolby Atmos for movies, TV, games and more.

The other upcoming feature, called Personal Update, will soon let you ask Siri “what’s my update” or “play my update,” to get all the info you need to start your day, including news, weather, calendar events, and any reminders.

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Mobile by Peak Design is a new, complete mobile mounting solution for everyday convenience – TechCrunch

After a steady stream of successful product launches and Kickstarter campaigns, Peak Design is back with a new one — Mobile by Peak Design. The startup that created a rich ecosystem of photography and packing gear is tackling mobile devices, and has devised a clever interconnect system that seems to have anticipated Apple’s new MagSafe magnetic phone accessory scheme — but that’s designed for all smartphones and mobile devices.

Similar to Peak Design’s Capture, Anchor and mounting plate system, Mobile by Peak Design offers a way to connect smartphones to all kinds of accessories, including tripods, car mounts, charging stands, bike handlebars and much more. The system is centered around what Peak calls its “SlimLink” connector, which is a clever combo magnetic and physical mounting receiver that you can attach to your phone either with dedicated cases, or a universal sticky-backed accessory. SlimLink then works with both soft-lock and hard-lock accessories, which use either magnets alone (soft) or magnets combined with physical catchments (hard) for varying degrees of stable connection with a line of mounts.

Peak Design is launching on Kickstarter with a crowdfunding campaign, but the product is already designed and produced to a high level of quality. It sent out media samples of a range of products in the Mobile lineup, including a SlimLink universal phone mount, a handlebar mount, the folding tripod, two magnetic/sticky-backed universal mounting pads and an in-car dashboard mount.

Image Credits: Peak Design

I’ve been using these for the past couple of weeks and have found them to be incredibly versatile and convenient. Peak also supplied an iPhone 11 Pro case, but since I’m using an iPhone 11 Pro Max, I just affixed the 3M-backed universal plate directly to my phone using the included sizing and alignment guide. The attachment is incredibly secure, and doesn’t add very much thickness to your phone at all (it basically provides just enough clearance that the iPhone 11 Pro’s camera bump barely clears table surfaces).

The magnetic connection between it and the “soft-lock” mounts is strong enough that I’m never worried about them coming loose — I’ve used the general-purpose magnetic mounts on my fridge often, and the phone hasn’t moved. The bike mount, with its additional physical prongs, is rock solid while actually biking around, and the arm on the mount puts the phone in a great position (in both portrait and landscape orientations) for acting as a navigation device while biking.

Image Credits: Peak Design

Peak has really outdone itself with the design of this system, but that is maybe most true when it comes to the tripod. The clever, three-legged folding design is tiny — a smaller overall footprint than a credit card, though a bit thicker — and it’s amazing to be able to carry this everywhere in a pocket and have a stable platform for taking time-lapse photos. You can adjust its stability using the included Allen key, too.

The car mount has an adhesive backing for sticking to your dashboard, and fits in the recessed SlimLink slot on the phone mount/case without physically catching. It’s stable and secure in testing, and. best of all, Peak has made the adjustable ball that lets you orient your phone just the right amount of stiff that you can move it but it doesn’t require any additional tightening. My one complaint thus far with the universal mount has been that it isn’t compatible with my Nomad Base Station Pro charger, though Peak says it’s testing the accessory with wireless chargers and will advise as to compatibility in the future. The Peak Everyday phone case, meanwhile, is compatible with many Qi chargers.

Peak says these designs are subject to change, and, of course, MagSafe was a surprise to the company just as it was to the rest of the world. Peak still plans to create iPhone 12 cases for the range, and says that all of its soft-locking accessories will also work with both Apple MagSafe phones as well as MagSafe cases. Apple MagSafe accessories, like the wallet, will also likewise attach to MagSafe phones.

This could’ve been one of those moments where Apple announced something that renders a competing product obsolete before it even gets to market, but Peak’s Mobile system design actually makes them complementary — and provides very similar benefits to phones and devices that otherwise would’ve been able to take advantage of what MagSafe offers.

The Kickstarter campaign launches today, and Peak believes it will be able to ship the Mobile system cases and accessories starting in Spring 2021.

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Raspberry Pi Foundation launches Compute Module 4 for industrial users – TechCrunch

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is launching a new product today — the Compute Module 4. If you’ve been keeping an eye on the Raspberry Pi releases, you know that the flagship Raspberry Pi 4 was released in June 2019. The Compute Module 4 features the same processor, but packed in a compute module for industrial use cases.

A traditional Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer with a ton of ports sticking out. Compute Modules are somewhat different. Those system-on-module variants are more compact single-board computers without any traditional port.

It lets you create a prototype using a traditional Raspberry Pi, and then order a bunch of Compute Modules to embed in your commercial products. “Over half of the seven million Raspberry Pi units we sell each year go into industrial and commercial applications, from digital signage to thin clients to process automation,” Eben Upton wrote on the Raspberry Pi blog.

Some things are strictly similar between the Raspberry Pi 4 and the Compute Module 4, such as the 64-bit ARM-based processor with VideoCore VI graphics. This is going to represent a huge upgrade for previous Compute Module customers.

In particular, you get much better video performance with 4Kp60 hardware decode for H.265 videos, 1080p60 hardware decode for H.264 videos and 1080p30 hardware encode of H.264 videos. You can also take advantage of the dual HDMI interfaces to connect up to two 4K displays at 60 frames per second.

Another big change with the Compute Module 4 is that there are a ton of options. You can choose compute modules with or without wireless technologies (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), with 1GB, 2GB, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, with 8GB, 16GB or 32GB of eMMC flash storage. There’s also a model without any eMMC flash storage in case you want to use external eMMC or the SD card interface.

You can mix-and-match those specs to keep your costs down at scale. The result is that there are 32 different versions of the Compute Module 4 ranging from $25 (no wireless, 1GB of RAM, “Lite” eMMC) to $90 (wireless, 8GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC).

The form factor has changed compared to the previous Compute Module, which means that you’ll need a new Compute Module IO Board to take advantage of all the interfaces and start developing. It costs $35.

Image Credits: Raspberry Pi Foundation

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