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Gadget Ogling: Falling Apples and Magical Pancakes

Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that separates the diamonds from the rough when it comes to new gadget announcements.

Nothing happened this week in the gadget world, so we’re definitely not going to be taking a look at the Apple Watch. Other items we certainly won’t probe are an overhauled MacBook and a pancake-making robot.

Millennials often ask “What’s even the point of anything?” That’s at least true of my ratings for each item — which only serve to highlight my interest in using each toy — and these are not reviews, because I can’t even.

Apple’s Ar-wrist-ocrats

While this is a first-impression gadget column, I’m going to reconsider the Apple Watch based on the new facts we learned this week at Apple’s latest presentation.

The hardware is interesting in that Apple is limiting what people can do with their 8 GB of storage. No more than a quarter of that can be filed with music, and photos can take up just 75 MB, which seems somewhat rudimentary. I’m glad to see the battery apparently lasts enough to see out a full day. Still, it’s what you actually can do with the smartwatch that matters.

The app ecosystem is all-important, and it’s welcoming to see players like Uber, Twitter, Facebook and Evernote on the Watch early doors.

Shazam, in particular, seems like a perfect fit for the Watch — there have been countless times when I’ve heard a song on the radio or in a store and can’t fire up the app on my phone in time to tag the song.

Breaking news alerts from The New York Times and other major media outlets could prove useful too.

I can’t exactly fathom why, however, someone would want to scroll through tiny Instagram photos, or why someone would want to check their business analytics on Salesforce.

The range of watches available borders on the absurd, from the US$349 entry model to the $17,000 ultimate luxury version that adds no extra function, other than as a beacon to alert everyone within eyesight that you have far too much money to spend on a toy of questionable usefulness.

I’m not sold on the Watch yet — or on smartwatches in general. I’m possibly less interested or excited about it now than I was at the initial announcement. I’m a bit of a hypocrite, given my Instagram comment, but wake me up when I can watch Netflix on my wrist.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Days in Line at the Apple Store

One Port in a Storm

Apple sprung a bit of a surprise at this week’s event, drawing back the curtain on a new MacBook designed to coexist with the Air and the Pro.

It’s even lighter than the Air, and Apple swears it has a lengthy battery life, which I would hope for, given the fascinating terraced battery design.


The most interesting aspect is the choice to run with a single USB-C port for charging and connecting devices. Of course, Apple’s aware that owners might want to connect their iPhone and charge the MacBook simultaneously, or to connect to another display through HDMI, so it’s kind enough to offer a dongle to solve those concerns for an extra $79.

That single connectivity port is going to cause some issues for many. It’s there a) to cut down on the weight and b) to let Apple sell those dongles and make even more money. I’m not a fan and feel it’s shortsighted and cynical of Apple. At least the port isn’t a proprietary one, and you’ll surely be able to pick up third-party devices to expand the connectivity.

That said, it’s a mighty beautiful machine, and one that’ll certainly make fellow coffee shop patrons sit up and take notice if you’re an early purchaser.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Where’s the USB Slots

Printing Breakfast

Like any regular soul with fine taste, I am a connoisseur of breakfast food. It is my very favorite thing, and I’ll cop to swerving a well-balanced dinner for waffles and fruit on several occasions.

So you’ll pardon my enthusiasm for possibly my top gadget of the year so far, the latest version of Miguel Valenzuela’s PancakeBot.

Once owners have filled this magical pancake printer with batter, they draw their designs using PC or Mac software and transfer it to the printer using an SD card.

Certainly, that’s a touch cumbersome, but what’s clever is the PancakeBot prints the design in the same order you draw it, so you can have areas of your creation that cook a little longer and add definition so you have more than an amorphous blob to eat.

It’s clever, but I’d really love to see an Internet-connected version, perhaps with IFTTT integration, so I could tweet at my machine to start making a pancake when I wake up. Then again, maybe that’s a little too crazy.

You can keep your Apple Watch. There’s nothing I want more on this Earth right now than to print crazy designs for pancakes.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Flipping Outs

Kris Holt is a writer and editor based in Montreal. He has written for the Daily Dot, The Daily Beast, and PolicyMic, among others. He's Scottish, so would prefer if no one used the word "soccer" in his company. You can connect with Kris on Google+.

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