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Ekster wasn’t on my radar until just about a month ago when I got to test out the company’s smart wallets and I’ve found myself very impressed with the design, build quality, and functionality of the offerings. Read on for our full review of Ekster’s smart wallets and what sets them apart from the rest of the market. And, yep, the company is also doing a Black Friday promotion with a 40% off deal.Materials and build quality
Ekster uses full-grain premium bull leather for all of its wallets. The company also uses a two-toned finish on its leathers “giving them a distinctive look and color that will endure as the wallet softens, bends and forms to the way it is used, whether in pocket, purse or hand.”
I tested out the Vachetta Parliament in Brescia Bronze and the Secretary Cardholder in Nappa Black. From the first time picking up the wallets, the attention to detail and premium construction and craftsmanship is immediately apparent.
As for the quick access mechanism in the Parliament wallets and Senate cardholders, it uses a clever mechanical trigger to pop the cards up (no batteries). As for how it keeps up to 6 cards secure without falling out, there is a rubber strip on the inside edge that with little nubs that creates a snug fit for your cards.
Ekster offers a one-year warranty on its products along with a 14-day return policy for a full refund or 60-days refund period for store credit.Chipolo solar-powered tracker card
A really thoughtful touch to make its wallets smart is integration with Chipolo tracker cards. But taking things a step further, the Ekster/Chipolo tracking cards recharge via solar. It’s roughly the thickness of two cards and can slide into any card slot.
Three hours of solar charging offers up to 2 months of use.
Ekster/Chipolo tracker card in the back slot of the Vachetta Parliament wallet
The Chipolo tracker card is the secret sauce that brings Siri/Siri Shortcuts functionality for keeping track of your wallet. The Chipolo iOS app is well done and you can even use the button on the tracker card to ping your iPhone or snap pictures as a remote shutter button.In use
The Parliament wallets pack so much storage and functionality into a wallet that’s just about 0.5-inch thick. So that paired with the soft, high-quality leather makes them a joy to use day in and day out.
So you’ve got the cardholder portion with room for 6 cards and the fantastic quick access mechanism, then on the inside, there are two more slots on the left-hand side. Also on the inside on top of the cardholder on the right, there’s a handy elastic strap to keep cash and other small items like coupons, etc. Finally, the back of the Parliament has another card slot/pocket.
Other aspects I really appreciate include the slim design but there always being room for a random receipt, cash, or other small items. And all of that can be stored without a bulky wallet.
For times when you’d like to keep things even slimmer, the Secretary Cardholder is a perfect choice, it offers four card slots and a center pocket/card slot for cash or other items. You can also keep the Chipolo tracker card in any of the slots.
Vachetta Parliament in Brescia Bronze on the left, Secretary Cardholder in Nappa Black on the right
Ekster also offers iPhone wallet cases and a few other related accessories like money clips.Conclusion
I honestly can’t think of any constructive criticism or ideas for how Ekster could make these products better. They’re really fantastic wallets and I highly recommend them.
I think for what you’re getting, they’re competitively priced but at the time of writing, Ekster is doing 40% off its wallets with the code “BF-40” at checkout making them an even more compelling value.
The Secretary Cardholder normally goes for $39, with the Parliament wallet starts from $79. The Chipolo solar-powered tracker card typically sells for $49.
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Most use RFID shielding to block the signals from contactless cards, reducing the risk of card clash stopping you from making payments. They double as theft & fraud protection, blocking any attempts at contactless theft that try to lift money or information from your cards without you even realising.
Other smart wallets build in Bluetooth trackers from Tile or Chipolo, so if you lose your wallet – whether that’s round the house or out in the world – you can quickly track it down again.
And some come with additional handy features, like hidden cash pockets or quick-access card slots.
But which is the right one for you? We’ve tested a few, and these are the best smart wallets we’ve found so far.Best smart wallets
1. Ekster Parliament – Anti-therft lining and optional tracker
Holds up to eight cards
Optional solar-powered tracker
No space for coins
Ekster is a young company that makes smart products. Its Parliament wallet is a slim and compact wallet with an RFID anti-theft lining and a clever plastic tab that deals you up to six cards evenly from its main compartment. There’s room in the flap for two more, and an elastic belt to hold notes or receipts.
The smart part is in the optional solar-powered Chipolo tracker that slots into the back sleeve of the wallet. It connects to your phone via the Chipolo app and means you can see on a map where you’ve left your wallet – handy for the absent-minded or in the event your bag or wallet is stolen.
You can also ring the card from your phone in case you really can’t find your wallet and can instead follow the beeping till you’re reunited. The wallet and card are an expensive option, but it’s a neat, slim package overall.
2. Bellroy Hide & Seek – Capacious protected card storage
Space for 12 cards
No tracker option
Best Prices Today:
Bellroy makes awesome phone cases and its wallets are great too. Not only are they well designed with tasteful, minimal looks, but some have a smart addition that make them cleverer than your average.
The Bellroy Hide & Seek has an RFID-protected lining. This stops potential theft as criminals can use an RFID reader to subtly skim your wallet and duplicate the electronic info on it to clone or use your debit or credit card. With this special lining you can rest assured that your cards are safe.
3. Mujjo Full Leather Magnetic Wallet for iPhone
Expensive compared to all-in-one product
This wallet is a little bit different to others in this round-up. It doesn’t offer card protection. Instead, it will attach to a MagSafe/ magnetic case (for iPhone 12 and above) and store your most important cards.
It’s a three-card wallet and it’s very snug when you first add your cards. You can pop them out via the base, the back or access them from the top.
It’s made of vegetable tanned Ecco leather, created especially for tech use, and it looks and feels high-quality. It comes in black, tan and Monaco blue. On the reverse are slip-resistant silicone strips that will help to keep it firmly attached.
Yes, it’s pricey for something that only feels like a partial product (there’s much less point having it without a compatible case) but it’s ideal for cutting down on stuff to carry. It would make a nice gift as well.
However, if you don’t already have a compatible phone case, and you don’t mind not being able to remove the card holder, it’s much cheaper to buy a case with an inbuilt wallet. We’ve got more MagSafe accessories in our dedicated round-up.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Say goodbye to the “black brick” laptop. The era of the plain, dowdy PC is officially over.
As computer makers roll out their new notebooks and netbooks ahead of the end-year holiday shopping season, razor-thin, sleek and colorful are most definitely in, as are arresting designs in an ever-expanding array of choices.
Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc are now more likely to point to subtle etchings in the exterior shell, or a famous artist behind a new design, than to the “speeds and feeds” that PC makers used to tout when they wrestled for technological superiority.
It was only a few years ago that most laptops were some variation of a dull box that came in gray or black, with the exception of Apple Inc, which was making distinctive laptops back in the 1990s.
Now, design is permeating the PC market like never before as the increasing commoditization of machines leaves few major differentiators on performance, so a stylish case is one of the last remaining areas of competition.
Ed Boyd, vice president of design for consumer products at Dell, the world’s No. 2 PC maker, arrived at the company nearly two years ago from Nike Inc. He said the PC market is transforming in the way that athletic shoes did.
Nike “took a commoditized product — sneakers — and made it hip and cool and relevant,” he said. “What you’re witnessing is the same transformation in the PC business … this phenomenon is crossing both the enterprise and the consumer space”
As PCs have become ever more light and portable, consumers and businesses are placing a premium on the look of machines that are now more likely to travel out of the home or office.
And PC makers are using design to target different demographics, such as HP’s collaboration with fashion designer Vivienne Tam on netbooks aimed at fashion-forward women.
Stacy Wolff, director of notebook product design at HP, said the world’s largest maker of PCs took a “big gamble” when it began to focus on design in 2005 — one that he said has paid off. Prior to that, HP notebooks were essentially “technology in kind of a nondescript container,” he said.
Wolff said HP’s new focus was immediately evident in its income statement: “Once we made it a strategic element of any development, our financials have just skyrocketed.”
At the dawn of personal computing in the early 1980s, the first mobile PCs began to emerge from companies like Tandy, Osborne, NEC, Epson and others. Many of the early models resembled slabs of beige plastic, bulkier than desktops today.
The early 1990s saw the launch of Apple’s PowerBook line, which helped set the standard for design, along with IBM’s ThinkPad. Sony’s sleek Vaio notebooks followed later in the decade, along with Apple’s colorful iBook line.
But PCs 10 years ago were still largely seen as vessels for technology, rather than design or fashion statements.
Jeff Barney, general manager of Toshiba America’s digital products division, said the company introduced color in PCs earlier this decade, but they failed to catch on. “The consumer wasn’t ready for it,” he said. “We were just ahead of the trend.”
As components became cheaper and lighter, PC vendors found more room to explore their creative side, bringing in new materials and finishes, and paying closer attention to design details to catch the eye of buyers.
“We think that design is one of the key buying criteria in retail for laptops,” said Barney.
A PC buyer today can choose from a dizzying array of colors, textures and designs. “Personalization” is the order of the day. For example, Dell offers more than 200 exterior designs.
IDC analyst Richard Shim said the market began to shift around 2005 with lower PC prices. “Consumers started to become the overriding voice in the PC industry and what they were saying is: ‘Look there’s enough performance here for me to do what I need to do … but what I want is a PC that doesn’t look like everyone else’s,’” he said.
PC makers are first and foremost technology companies, he said, but they have realized that many buyers are more interested in what a notebook looks like than what’s inside. (Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
Oracle on Friday gave arch-rival SAP another reason for concern, making a $6.7 billion bid for embattled middleware software provider BEA Systems.
There’s a very real possibility the bid may turn into a protracted hostile takeover, however. BEA’s board of directors flatly rejected Oracle’s $17-a-share offer, claiming the “unsolicited proposal significantly undervalues BEA Systems.”
“BEA is worth substantially more to Oracle, to others and, importantly to our shareholders than the price indicated,” William Klein, BEA’s vice president of business planning and development, wrote in a rejection letter to Oracle President Charles Phillips made public later on Friday.
While Oracle has a proven track record of not taking “no” for an answer, BEA’s rejection, might be seen as opening the door for other suitors to join the fray, including SAP, IBM, HP or even a consortium of Chinese venture capitalists.
For Oracle, a completed deal would mean it would join IBM as a premier provider of middleware software used for service-oriented architectures (SOA) (define) in the enterprise.
But analysts on Friday said Oracle’s $17-a-share, all-cash offer is less about interest in BEA Systems’ product line than it is a reflection of Oracle’s unwavering commitment to overtake competitor SAP in the enterprise application market.
“Oracle is not buying technology with this deal,” Yefim Natis, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said in an interview with chúng tôi “They have a large degree of overlap with BEA. What Oracle is buying is penetration into the middleware market and a significant amount of market share. They made this aggressive offer now to prevent someone else from jumping in. Now Oracle will become one of the two dominant players in the middleware space.”
During the past three years, Oracle has spent more than $25 billion to acquire 30-plus software companies.
Though it had its eyes on BEA for years, the company finally pounced only after billionaire investor Carl Icahn last month increased his stake in the company to more than 13 percent of its outstanding shares. Icahn’s move aimed to prompt BEA executives into selling the company to prospective buyers.
The news comes as SAP has begun to show interest in changing its strategy to better compete with Oracle.
The $6.7 billion offer represents a 25 percent premium above BEA’s Thursday closing price of $13.62 a share.
“We have made a serious proposal including a substantial premium for BEA,” Oracle President Charles Phillips said in a statement announcing the offer, which it said it presented to BEA executives on Tuesday. “The proposal is a culmination of repeated conversations with BEA’s management over the last several years. We look forward to completing a friendly transaction as soon as possible.”
Not surprisingly, BEA Systems’ stock price skyrocketed following the announcement — at press time, up $4.53 a share, or 33 percent, to $18.15 a share. Since it’s trading above Oracle’s offer of $17 per share, some investors may believe SAP, IBM, HP or another dark horse suitor will make a counteroffer in the near future.
“We would not be surprised to see BEA become the object of a bidding war with potentially SAP and IBM being interested in the company, albeit for different reasons,” Cowen & Co. analyst Peter Goldmacher wrote in research note following the announcement. “We believe the recent and public bid by Oracle was inspired by SAP’s recent transition from an organic- to an acquisition-based growth company…It appears SAP is catching on to the benefits of Oracle’s…strategy and Oracle’s decision to buy BEA could be viewed as a defensive move to ensure that SAP doesn’t get a foot in the door in the M&A game.”
“It’s in the best interest of everyone involved for this to be a friendly and quick transaction,” Gartner’s Natis said. “Right now, this offer freezes the market for BEA. Who is going to buy anything from them right now? BEA needs to report their quarterly revenue and restore its ability to sell.”
Oracle shares inched up 2 cents to $22.48 a share in early-afternoon trading.
Another independent middleware software vendor, Tibco Software, saw its shares climb to $8.62, up 87 cents a share or 11 percent, on speculation that it too could become an acquisition target for top-tier software vendor.
This article was first published on chúng tôi
Just when you thought optimizing your website for search on desktop browsers was becoming tough, then comes optimizing your website for mobile search. Once you were almost at peace with the fact that you might have mobile search engine optimization down, then along comes optimizing your website for voice search. Siri, Google Now, and Cortana are just the start.
In this post, I am going to look at how you can optimize your website for voice search. Because, as of 2014, over half of teens, and over 40% of adults were using it on a daily basis. Or more importantly, we’re going to look at the differences between preparing to optimize for search engines that let users search via the spoken word versus the typed word.Know Which Search Engine You are Optimizing For
While Google may dominate the desktop and mobile search world, could Bing take over voice search? When iOS 7 arrived, Siri began using Bing as its default search engine, meaning that all iPhone and iPad users have to specifically ask to search Google. Otherwise, their queries will go to Bing. And Cortana, obviously, will use Bing by default since it’s Windows.
You might think this means Bing is the winner of voice search. But even though it feels like everyone is an iPhone user in certain circles, the data speaks for itself.
According to the IDC’s latest findings, the 2023 Android market share (world-wide shipments) equals 83.7%, while the iOS share is only 15.3%.
Thus, Android devices – powered by Google – are still winning. The percentage is significantly higher than iOS users, likely due to the high cost of an iPhone or iPad. Hence, Google still likely wins in the voice search world as it does in the desktop and mobile search world.Read the Official User Guides on How to Use Voice Search
It may sound a bit silly, but start at the ground floor (user-level) of voice search. Pretend like you have just bought your first iPhone, Android, or Windows mobile device. Read guides that an average smart phone user would on how to get the most out of voice search for the first time.
Yes I know, you’re not your average smart phone user or your average searcher. But for just a moment, pretend to be. Because that’s who you are optimizing your website for – the average voice search users.
For example, Apple has a great guide on ways users can use Siri to guide them to personal information on their phone to general information on the internet. It’s quite visual and fun to go through. Even as an experienced iPhone user, you still might learn a thing or two from it.
Overall, the goal is to give you an idea of how each brand behind voice search teaches their users to use voice search. You can use these voice search-specific questions and phrases when you start optimizing your website for voice search, or specific pages for voice search.Understand the Funny Ways People Play with Voice Search
Some people might think you’re goofing off in your office if they catch you reading articles like 60 Funny Things to Ask Siri, 140 Questions Siri Has Hilarious Answers For, 70+ Awesome Ok Google Voice Commands, and 131 Questions to Ask Cortana. But these are the exact articles you should be reading next, after the general user guides to voice search engines. Here’s why.
You should read them because they are funny, and funny lists like these are ones that people will share with their friends. One of those was shared over 34 thousand times, to give you an example. And because they are funny and shared so often, there are likely a lot of voice search users who learned their voice search tactics from one of these lists, or ones like them.
Hence, you will likely learn more about the ways that people talk to Siri, Google, and Cortana. While some things you read will be irrelevant to your business, other things might be useful regarding questions and phrases that could be applied to optimizing your web pages for voice search. You may even find a way to inject some humor into your business content that could attract your customers and engage them in all new ways!Listen to the Way People Reference You When Speaking
When optimizing your website for Google search, people typically go to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to find out what keyword is typed into search engines most. But when you think about it, most people don’t say things the same way they would write them. The same is likely to occur when they search for things verbally via voice search.
This is why you need to listen to the way people reference you, your business, your products, and your services when you are talking to prospects, customers, vendors, friends, family, or anyone else who might inquire about your business. Listen to the words they use.
These might very likely be the words that people use when searching for you via voice search. Think about your keyword phrases in a more conversational context than a written one. Where someone might type Chinese takeout near me into Google, they would say where is the closest Chinese takeout to me in voice search.
If you don’t normally talk to your customers on the phone or in person, try attending a local business networking event. This will give you a chance to explain your business in person with others who will ask questions and paraphrase what you say in terms they understand. Or terms that people outside your industry would potential use in a voice search query.Get Mobile-Friendly
Since most voice search is happening on a mobile device, it should be pretty obvious that if you want your website to be found by voice search, it should be mobile friendly for the voice search user. As always, remember that Google, in particular, is a fan of responsive web design, so that should be your first choice.
Also, remember mobile-friendly is not just about design. It’s also about speed. You need your page to load as quickly as possible. Thanks to technologies like Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, and others, mobile users are becoming accustomed to websites loading faster and faster. Therefore, if you want to win in voice and mobile search, your website needs to fast and mobile friendly.Get Local-Friendly
Similar to being mobile friendly, it’s important to be local friendly, considering that a lot of people will be using voice search while driving, particular to find local businesses, get directions, or find phone numbers. Hence, you’ll want to make sure your mobile-friendly website also follows the basic local optimization rules of having all of your basic information in text format as opposed to having it in image format.
This includes the following:
Your business name
Your physical address
Your local phone number
Directions from popular interstates / roadways
Help voice search guide people to you. If regular Google search can’t crawl an image, you can rest assured that voice search isn’t going to be able to display an image of your address and phone number to someone driving in their car either.Test, Test, and Test
As you start to optimize your website or specific web pages for voice search, be sure to test the queries you are optimizing for on each voice search platform. Yes, you might have to invest in an extra, no contract device to get Siri and Cortana, depending on what you own now. But usually they are cheap, and they’re always worth it.
Then start testing your queries just like you were an average person and see what happens. You may find that your website starts to rank in voice search, or you may find the following happens instead.Be on the Top Networks Voice Search Directs Users To
While we’d love to believe that we can get visitors directly to our website from search engines, that’s not always the case. If you test out voice search for your top queries and find that they lead to networks like Yelp, Facebook, or others, then it’s your job to ensure your business is on those networks.
In some cases, thanks to personalization, you may not have very much control over the situation, like a search for what restaurant do my Facebook friends like the most (if that’s even a search). But if your queries lead you to specific categories on local review directories, then try to get to the first page of those categories and, if possible, the top of the first page.In Conclusion
As the world of technology evolves, marketers must learn new strategies to keep up with the changes. The same goes for search marketers and the world of voice search. If you follow the tips in this post, you should be a step ahead of your competitors who might not even be paying attention to the growth in voice search and the potential it has to be a game changer.
Featured image: Image by Aleh Barysevich
In-post images: screenshots by Aleh Barysevich. Taken June 2023.
With Apple’s HomePod set to to be released in stores in just a few days time, I thought it would be a great opportunity to take a look at a competing option, the Invoke by Harman Kardon. This Wi-Fi-connected speaker is powered by Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana.
Be sure to check out the hands-on video, especially to get a sense of what Cortana’s voice is like. Then, read on for our full review and opinion.
Subscribe to iDownloadBlog on YouTubeAudio quality
If creating a smart speaker wasn’t enough, the Invoke is seemingly aimed squarely at the HomePod. Apple made the conscious decision to go with a more “premium” audio product compared to the questionably sounding Echo devices. Invoke’s audio was crafted by Harman Kardon, which is known for some impressive audio products.
That puts the HomePod and the Invoke in direct comparison as premium audio smart speakers, and differentiated from the swaths of cheap Google Home Minis and Echo Dots.
I was actually quite impressed with the audio from the Invoke, offering a surprisingly deep bass to compliment the solid mids. I did feel the highs could be lacking at times, but never messy.
It also managed to stay in control, even at higher volumes. I’m not sure that rap is the target audio this speaker was tuned for, but rock, classical, etc all sounded well balanced.Cortana
One of the biggest questions here is Cortana. I can say that after spending a couple weeks with her, I’m both impressed, and disappointed.
First, let’s talk about why I was impressed. The main reason is simply the quality of Cortana’s voice. She sounded quite pleasant, and more natural than Siri. She had quite a bit of inflection to her voice that was more fluent than competing virtual assistants. This was particularly noticeable in canned responses, like her telling a joke.
She also did a good job answering questions, when they were within her skill set. Sometimes I still had to rephrase queries however, like when pondering how many episodes there have been of The Simpsons.
On the other hand, Cortana’s skill set seemed limited. Especially if you don’t live in Microsoft’s ecosystem.
It can pull calendar appointments from your Office365 account, but that is it. Same with reminders and to-dos.
That is perfectly fine if that is where the bulk of your information is, but I know the vast majority of people are living in iCloud, or Google’s G-suite.In use
It is capable of making calls, but only using Skype. When I did test out calls, people often said I sounded like I was in a tunnel, or distant. Oddly, you can’t use it for making calls over Bluetooth, like nearly every other Bluetooth speaker.
If you want to listen to music, you can stream your personal library over Bluetooth, or it has controls for Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio baked in.
I found the controls on the speaker itself quite pleasant, with a tactile ring around the top to adjust volume, and a touch sensitive surface on the top.
If you are worried about privacy, there is a physical button located on the bottom that allows you to mute the microphone so it isn’t always listening.Wrapping it up
I both like and don’t like the Invoke.
The speaker itself sounds quite good and I would be happy to use it in my home. But on the other hand, while I like Cortana, the fact that reminders, to-dos, calendar appointments, etc all go to my seldom used Office365 account is kind of a dealbreaker.
Of course, we are on a more Apple-focused website so my concerns may be overblown, but honestly that is why I’d still prefer to pickup a HomePod over the Invoke.
The Invoke is in a nice position, squarely between the cheap and poor sounding Echo Dot and Google Home Mini, and the much more expensive Sonos products and the HomePod.
I could easily see Microsoft and Harman Kardon positioning this as more of a business device and leaning into the reliance on Microsoft’s services in the future.
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