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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The 'next big thing' might not be next anymore

The July 28, 2013, cover of tbt*

tbt* / Tampa Bay Times

The July 28, 2013, cover of tbt*

The cover story on today's tbt* was Troy Wolverton's piece from the San Jose Mercury News (The next big thing?, July 25, 2013) about smart watches.

The article didn't cover a whole lot of new ground — you'll trip over another smart watch rumor anywhere you go on the Internet — but I thought it covered the basics fairly well.

I know the Pebble smart watch pretty well — I've worn mine almost every day since I (and about a gazillion other early adopters) backed the project on Kickstarter — and I'd already have a hard time doing without it.I know the Pebble smart watch pretty well — I've worn mine almost every day since I (and about a gazillion other early adopters) backed the project on Kickstarter — and I'd already have a hard time doing without it. Beyond the basics — getting Caller ID, SMS and email alerts without having to dig my phone out of my pocket — I've set mine up to show current weather conditions for wherever I happen to be.

With a little patience (remember that "early adopter" part?) I can also have it working for long stretches where it shows me score alerts for my favorite sports teams, breaking news bulletins from my favorite news apps, weather warnings, my friends' Facebook updates and warn me whenever my daughter posts something new to Instagram. …

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Microsoft's making a watch out of *what*?

So, Microsoft is the latest company mentioned in rumors skating around the Internet this week about who's going to jump in the smartwatch game. Big deal. Apple is often mentioned in rumors like these, Sony already has a smartwatch on the market and Kickstarter sweetheart Pebble is marketing limited numbers of theirs through Best Buy these days. There's also something called the MetaWatch — I could go on and on. Point is, smartwatches, and rumors about them, are nothing new these days.

Smartwatches sit on your wrist but — like smartphones — feed you live data about your emails, text messages, phone calls, calendar alerts, etc. I've got a Pebble can give me live distance data during workouts, or distance-to-the-pin GPS data on a golf course (both of which would be far more useful to me, personally, if I didn't exercise indoors and played golf). The nifty trick I taught mine recently was to show me the time, date and weather conditions. Anyway, you get the idea. …

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New AT&T program offers smartphone, tablet upgrades every year

AT&T announced today it will offer customers annual upgrades with no down payment and no upgrade or activation fees.

Starting July 26, the company says, you'll be able to go to AT&T locations across the country, buy a smartphone or tablet without a down payment, agree to pay 20 monthly fees (varying from $15 to $50, depending on the gizmo you're buying) and be eligible to trade it in for an upgrade after a year.

"With AT&T Next, customers can get the newest smartphone or tablet every year with no down payment," AT&T Mobility president and CEO Ralph de la Vega said in a corporate news release. "That's hard to beat, and it's an incredible value for customers who want the latest and greatest every year."

According to folks who say they've done the math, it might work out to be a pretty good deal for some customers, and has certain advantages over AT&T's old upgrade program.

The move comes on the heels of T-Mobile's Jump upgrade program and rumors of a similar upgrade program from Verizon.

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