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Aereo’s downfall doesn’t halt demand for streaming services

Sun., July 6, 2014, midnight

The Supreme Court shot down Aereo’s streaming-service business model, but that doesn’t mean customers’ desire for a better TV experience is gone.

Americans still are fed up with huge channel bundles, high prices, poor service and the lack of ability to watch all their shows on all their devices. That’s part of why Aereo was attractive: It offered a few dozen local broadcast channels and the Bloomberg TV financial channel on multiple devices for just $8 a month.

Industry watchers say the pay TV business must continue to evolve to win over unhappy customers, even if the nation’s top court said grabbing signals from the airwaves and distributing them online without permission isn’t the way.

Last year, the number of pay TV subscribers in the U.S. fell for the first time, dipping 0.1 percent to 94.6 million, according to Leichtman Research Group.

Research firm SNL Kagan estimates that 5 percent of homes will substitute pay TV with one or more Internet video services by the end of the year, rising to 10 percent in 2017.

Smartwatch wars

New Android wristwatches from Samsung and LG make a few evolutionary advances.

Samsung’s Gear Live and LG’s G Watch are good products and will appeal to those who like to be among the first to own new gadgets.

The watches serve as pedometers and let you catch up on email, texts and Facebook notifications while your phone is in your pocket or charging in the bedroom. Even with the phone in your hand, you can check messages on the watch and keep playing video on the phone.

Both smartwatches try to keep things simple through voice commands rather than touch and use Google’s Android Wear system. Android Wear has a lot of potential but still lacks the functionality of even last year’s smartwatches. Your ability to reply is limited, and there’s not much you can do yet without a companion phone nearby.

Samsung’s Gear 2 ($299, released in April):

The Gear 2 is most useful for its fitness features. The watch counts the steps you take each day. It estimates distance and calories burned and measures heart rate on your runs, hikes and bike rides. The features are rather basic, so active users might prefer a gadget dedicated to a specific task, such as measuring distance and pace using GPS. But the Gear 2 does offer a good introduction to newcomers.

Shots from the watch’s 2-megapixel camera are mediocre, but that beats missing the shot entirely because your better camera is in your pocket or handbag. If you don’t need the camera, you can save $100 with the Gear 2 Neo, which has similar features otherwise. Both have speakerphones.

The Gear 2 line doesn’t use Android Wear, but a fledging system called Tizen.

Samsung’s Gear Live ($199, starts shipping next week):

Out of the box, the Gear Live looks much like the Gear 2. But once you turn it on, it stays on. The watch face doesn’t go dark after inactivity as does the one on the Gear 2.

Unfortunately, the promised battery life is back down to a single day, though actual performance varied depending on use.

The Gear Live doesn’t have as many fitness features. You can count steps and measure heart rate, but you can’t measure distance or calories with built-in apps.

In addition, there’s no camera or speakerphone. To make calls, you need a Bluetooth headset.

LG’s G Watch ($229, starts shipping Thursday):

LG is hoping to make its watch easier to use by making it without a physical button. It’s not really needed when voice control is so prominent.

The LG watch has about a third more battery capacity than Samsung’s, but both watches lasted about the same amount of time in testing.

The resolution and colors on LG’s always-on screen aren’t as good as they are on Samsung’s, though LG’s notifications use larger type and are easier to read.

The G Watch can count steps but doesn’t have a heart rate sensor – the biggest way it differs from the Gear Live. The G Watch doesn’t have a camera or speakerphone either.

Motorola plans to come out with the round-faced Moto 360 this summer, while the ones out so far have had square displays. And Apple is widely expected to have its own smartwatch this fall.


 

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