LG Heart Rate Monitor Earphone review: good fitness gadget, poor earphones

Heart rate monitors are no longer the exclusive domain of fitness gadgets. The last 12 months have seen sensors make their way into smartphones and wearables, replacing for many of us the need for a standalone pulse monitor. The problem is a lot of these options have been unable to deliver accurate heart rate mesurements, partly because those sensors have to maintain contact with your skin; if they slip, then the readout skips. Maybe LG has the answer, then: Put heart rate monitoring technology into a pair of Bluetooth headphones. If you're like me and are constantly wired for sound during workouts, what could possibly be better?

LG's Heart Rate Monitor earphones link to an iOS/Android app, with absolutely nothing burdening your wrists. LG's fitness app can even add your exercise sessions to a step counter, so long as you buy LG's optional Lifeband Touch fitness band. What's more, the app also integrates with other fitness apps like RunKeeper. It all sounds great on paper, but there's a problem: the headphones don't actually sound good. Let me explain.

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Some of the main items that Beats Music claims set it apart from the competition are its personalization and curated content. Looking to boost both of those areas, Apple's pending purchase has tossed in a few tweaks. First, if you're familiar with the service, you know that upon launching the app for the first time, you're prompted to select a few of your favorite artists and genres to give Beats a clue to your audio sensibilities. Those selections are now editable, making adding and deleting easy for evolving tastes. You're also able to access a list of recently played tracks from the handy Sentence feature -- just in case you forgot to mark 'em for later. More playlists have also been added to the Just for You section, increasing the amount and range of recommendations. All of the recent additions are available now through the service's mobile and web apps.

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Spotify's latest iOS app update rolls out today and adds a new equalizer to playback functionality. "A lot of our users have been asking for a built-in equalizer for a while now and it's currently one of our most requested features on iOS," says Sten Garmark, VP for Product at Spotify. The update also folds the Discover function into the Browse tab on iPhones and adds a redesigned Artist page to the iPad iteration, featuring musicians' latest releases and... merchandise. Android users have been able to add third-party equalizers to music playback on dedicated music apps for years, although there's no word from Spotify as to when these new feature will hit Google's mobile OS. We're hoping that equalizer will help even out music playback -- even if you're only packing underwhelming in-box buds.

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It turns out that Microsoft had bigger plans for Foursquare than just search and maps for Bing. The check-in service is now accessible by Redmond's digital assistant, Cortana, as spotted on Reddit by Neowin. The addition apparently makes for customizable, local recommendations based on your whereabouts, and presumably, your account history too. As Winbeta notes, because the Cortana updates take place on Microsoft's servers, you won't need to download a software patch to take advantage of them either. Whether the blue helper will get to love bees, though, is up to her creators.

Update: Microsoft's Bing Blog has confirmed the change and revealed how to turn it on: "pull up Cortana's notebook go to Interests, look for "best nearby" and then toggle to ON."

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The high-tech pelvic floor trainer space just became more competitive. Remember kGoal? Well, a Kickstarter campaign's looking to fund the production of a similar device called Skea (short for Smart Kegel Exercise Aid), which boasts something kGoal doesn't offer. See, Skea's creators want to make kegel exercises more enjoyable, so they added a gaming aspect to it, turning the device into a kegel-exerciser-and-game-controller-in-one. If the start-up does raise the $38,000 it needs to go into production, a Skea package will come with an iOS or Android game called Alice in Continent (these exercises are supposed to solve incontinence in women, if you're unaware). It's an endless runner with all the usual obstacles, and to jump over them, the user needs to squeeze Skea with their pelvic floor muscles. As one tester said: "It's like playing Temple Run with Fitbit. Just that I don't use fingers but use my pelvic muscles!" Also, when the user squeezes the device, it... vibrates to confirm that she's doing things right.

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Rhapsody International, the parent company of music-streaming services Rhapsody and Napster, has just announced it is now home to two million paid subscribers. That sum may not seem like a lot at first glance, especially when compared to the 10 million figure Spotify revealed back in May, but Rhapsody still sees this as a great accomplishment. Even though it continues to play catch-up to crowd-favorite Spotify, Rhapsody claims this makes it the clear "number two" streaming service in terms of adoption, ahead of others like Rdio, Deezer and Beats Music. The two million premium subscribers to date, which combines accounts from Rhapsody, Rhapsody unRadio and Napster, have been made possible largely by the company's international expansions and partnerships with carriers -- in the US under the Rhapsody brand, Napster everywhere else.

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HTC One for Windows mockup (not real, folks)

More than a few eyebrows were raised when talk surfaced of an HTC One for Windows Phone. How close would it be to the Android original? Would it bring anything new to the table? And what's the name, for that matter? Thankfully, sources for Engadget are happy to answer a few questions. For a start, they tell us that the device (not shown here) is tentatively called the "One (M8) for Windows." Yeah, that's not exactly going to roll off the tongue -- the device's codename, W8, is considerably more elegant.

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It's been coming coming, but Facebook told TechCrunch today that the time is just about here -- starting "over the next few days" everyone will need Messenger to chat directly with their Facebook friends on mobile devices (iOS, Android and Windows Phone). Some users in Europe have seen the change for several months, but Facebook claims their positive response has led to the change rolling out worldwide. Of course, not everyone is going to be happy about downloading a second app to do what one was already capable of -- just ask Foursquare users about Swarm. Facebook says the change will let it focus its development efforts better on the two apps separately, and "avoid confusion" by users, who send about 12 billion messages a day on the platform. So, are you already in love with Chat Heads and ready to make the swap full-time, or -- assuming you still use Facebook -- is this the final straw in sending you elsewhere for your communication needs?

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Fitbit for Windows Phone

If you've wanted to use activity-tracking wearables that pair with your phone, you've typically had to use Android or iOS. Windows Phone has some third-party apps that can fill in, but they're imperfect at best. As of today, though, an official solution is at hand -- Fitbit has released its own Windows Phone 8.1 app. You can now sync trackers like the Flex, One and Zip to your Microsoft-powered device to get real-time step and sleep monitoring, complete with a step counter on your home screen if you set up the Live Tile. Other Fitbit fundamentals are also here, including food logging, leaderboards and messaging.

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NPR already has a few options for sorting its range of programming, but now the public radio outfit is looking to get more specific. The latest effort is the NPR One, which offers a local stream along with curated content that's accessible with one tap -- all broken down into short segments. For example, upon launching the app and signing in with a Facebook, Google or NPR account, pressing play begins streaming the latest update from the closest station (WUNC in my case). Swiping to the left of the Now Playing section offers a history of recently broadcast content for a quick recap, while a swipe to the right allows you to scroll through upcoming bits. There's also controls for skipping back in 15-second increments and jumping from the current story to another. Of course, if you're after the latest All Songs Considered or Fresh Air episodes, those are easily searchable as well. Both Android and iOS apps are available via their respective repositories.

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Hilton hotel room selection

Starwood isn't the only hotel chain that wants you to use your smartphone as a hotel room key; Hilton is launching an initiative that lets you use your Android or iOS device to control virtually every aspect of your stay. Later this summer, a Hilton app will let you choose your preferred room, make special requests, check in and check out. You'll only have to speak to staff when it's time to pick up or return your keys. And in 2015, you won't even need to do that much -- your phone will also unlock your room, letting you make a beeline for your bed after a long flight.

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We know what you're thinking, but a new app called Selfies is actually kind of fun, considering that it's a barely-promoted one-off from Automattic (the company responsible for WordPress). It told TechCrunch that Selfies was in development for eight weeks or so as part of the Gravatar universal avatar app before it became a separate thing. Trying the app showed that its basic-ness is part of the kick, since it let us post our own pic right after logging on. (We also found it to be a little rough around the edges with a few crashes.) Right now, there's just a single public feed showing ever photo, but the company has plans to filter the best content soon. You can try it now for yourself, but only on Android -- the company narrowly picked that platform to launch it first thanks to a user poll.

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As London becomes the bright shining center of the European tech scene, it's only natural that the city would like to maintain its place at the top of the pile. That's why mayor Boris Johnson is pledging that London will roll out a 5G network across the city by 2020. It's part of a long-term infrastructure investment plan that'll see connectivity given equal prominence to more conventional resources like transport, energy and water. At the same time, broadband speeds for each home in the capital will be made public alongside data from the networks in order to find communication blackspots that require additional work. Of course, given that 5G as a standard has yet to be defined, it'll be interesting to see if the mayor can make good on his promise -- unlike the one about turning London into a giant WiFi hotspot by 2012.

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BlackBerry was slow to see the danger of touchscreen phones, which meant that BlackBerry 10 was a year or so too late to arrive. When it did, however, the company launched the all-touch Z10 first, alienating the keyboard-loving faithful that clung to BlackBerry in its darkest days. But when the Q10 finally came, our Tim Stevens found it to be painfully average -- and the subsequent year hasn't been kind to either the device or the company. But lets talk about the hardware itself, talk to us about your experiences and what, if anything would you change? While you're thinking that way, why not try writing a review of the device, too? Just hit the "Review Device" button and you can add your voice to that of our critics.

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HTC One Dot View case

Windows Phone 8.1 may have only just reached the general public, but it's already in line for a surprisingly large update. Microsoft has posted developer documents (sign-in required) for Windows Phone 8.1 GDR1, a tweak that fills in a few key hardware and software gaps. Aside from previously revealed folder support, the upgrade will allow for smart cases akin to HTC's Dot View or LG's QuickCircle. Phone makers will get to run special apps when the cover is closed, and specify what happens when it's open. This seemingly simple addition could be important, since The Verge claims that HTC is preparing a Windows Phone version of the new One -- such a device would need smart cover features to perform the same tricks as its Android counterpart.

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