Top Gear Series 25 Episode 1 review: The future finally looks bright

Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris in Top Gear

Top Gear is revving its engines as it looks to accelerate full-speed ahead into a new era after its stalled start in 2016. But if the first series without Clarkson, May and Hammond was a *cough* car crash – Chris Evans’ iteration was a disappointment with critics and audiences alike – and last year’s series was an attempt at rebuilding, then the new run looks ready to put the pedal to the metal and maybe even guide it back to its glory days.

It’s down to Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid to find their own identity while winning back long-time fans of Top Gear – and on the evidence of the first episode of series 25, they look very close to striking a winning formula that stays true to the show without becoming a cheap imitation of its past.

LeBlanc appeared comfortable at the helm in the first episode of the new season, although if truth be told, with his presenting team of Chris Harris and Rory Reid, it feels like the three petrolheads are on an equal footing, enjoying their time together.

The banter between the trio is fantastic – and it was an inspired choice to kick the series off with an episode almost entirely dedicated to a road trip across Nevada in tribute to the V8 engine.

Their cheeky humour shines through, especially with a number of impromptu tasks, including a Wild West “duel in the dirt”. After which, the loser is faced with a nail-biting challenge – the watch-between-your-fingers ‘Chain Car Figure of 8’ which really has to be seen to be believed.

It’s not all long open roads and inventive tasks, though – at one point, the trio face a race against Officer Block as they run a crate of moonshine to the state line. And we’ve also got the return of the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car segment, which is a very welcome move.

BBC's Top Gear season 25 - The Stig

This week, it’s comedian Rob Brydon in the hot seat – and it’s worth watching for his commentary on his run alone. Charming, hilarious and knowledgeable, he’s a great guest to kick off the series, even if Matt and Rory can’t resist tearing into some of his choices in cars.

He set himself a goal of beating Tinie Tempah’s time of 1:50.04 – you’ll have to check the episode this weekend to see if he was able to – but the excuses came in early as the track was absolutely drenched.

Battling the elements, Rob struggled with the gears but got enough control to put in a very good effort. Commentating on his run, he teased from the studio: “The classic Roman profile gripping the wheel with assuredness and a strange sensuality.”

Naturally, it’s not perfect – some lines and segments come across as a little awkward and too scripted, with the three stars still finding their feet and getting used to each other. Reid admitted last year that chemistry doesn’t come overnight, and while that’s definitely true, they’ve still taken great strides and now come across as much more likeable.

There was a slight disappointment that the trio couldn’t complete a challenge at Bonneville – the US’ fastest race track – because freak rain left it waterlogged, but they seem just as gutted as us. Harris admitted: “I suppose I’ve now got one of the worst Bonneville stories out of anyone I know.”

All in all, the biggest take away from the first episode is just how easy it is to watch without comparing it to what has come before, and enjoy it for what it is. Sure, The Grand Tour has Top Gear’s successful and beloved trio at the helm, but LeBlanc, Harris and Reid are in the driving seat of a new era and the road ahead looks clear. Hit the gas, boys.

[“Source-digitalspy”]

Apple Watch Series 3 Review

Apple Watch Series 3 Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The headline feature of Apple Watch Series 3 is LTE connectivity
  • But the LTE model is not available in India
  • The new Apple Watch delivers improvements in overall performance

Apple announced its entry into the wearables market when it unveiled the Apple Watch a little over three years ago. At the launch event, Apple positioned the Watch as a bit of an all-in-one accessory that could be your comprehensive health and fitness device, but it was also designed to let you “connect and communicate directly from your wrist” using new “intimate ways” like the rather awkward Digital Touch. In many ways, the original Apple Watch tried to be too many things for too many people; a departure from most first-generation Apple products that typically have fewer features than the competition, but rely on execution and attention to detail to win customers over.

The product was largely well-reviewed, though many, including us, questioned whether most people actually need a smartwatch. While Apple has been silent on the number of units it has sold to date, the Apple Watch seems to be the best selling smartwatch by all accounts, with some even saying Apple is now the biggest watchmaker in the world.

Physically, the Apple Watch might not have changed much, but there’s no doubt that both Apple and the consumers now see the smartwatch as a fitness-focussed device, with everything else intended to complement those functions. Apple has admitted this has been in response to user feedback based on how people were actually using the Watch out in the wild.

Last year, Apple enhanced the fitness credentials of the Apple Watch by adding GPS and water resistance, making the Series 2 a better standalone companion for runners, while opening it up to use by swimmers. This year’s big update – called Apple Watch Series 3 – brings optional cellular connectivity, an altimeter, and a faster Apple S3 chip as well as more RAM, all of which pave the way for some cool new features. Note that the GPS + Cellular variant of the new Apple Watch isn’t available in India (yet) as it uses a built-in eSIM that doesn’t seem to be very popular with the Indian telcos. For this review, we received the non-cellular variant (or GPS, as Apple calls it) of the Apple Watch Series 3.

apple watch series 3 back Apple Watch

We noted in our review of the original Apple Watch that the 42mm model is rather chunky and something that will definitely be noticed on your wrist. We also predicted that this would improve as the Watch goes down the path of ‘thinner and lighter’ that’s almost inevitable for most Apple products. A little more two years later, we are still waiting for that evolution, since Apple has stuck to the same design language, and, in fact, the 42mm Stainless Steel Apple Watch Series 3 is marginally bigger and heavier than its counterpart from a couple of years ago.

As we mentioned earlier, since the original launch, Apple has managed to cram a GPS sensor, an LTE modem, and an altimeter into the Apple Watch, while also updating it with faster processors and more RAM, and making it water resistant. Given these additions, we are not surprised that the Apple Watch retains its ‘bulk’, though we believe that a new design might well arrive with the next iteration.

The new Watch is powered by Apple’s brand new S3 dual-core processor, which promises up to 70 percent more performance, and in our experience, the Watch delivered on this promise. Apps launch a lot faster than before, and switching between apps via the Dock no longer feels like a painful process. The speed benefits are especially evident when using Siri. While on our first-generation Apple Watch it wasn’t uncommon to have to wait a couple of seconds after saying ‘Hey Siri’, the newest Watch is ready to listen to your command almost instantly.

Processing the commands themselves isn’t that much faster, as we found in side-by-side comparisons with the original Watch, but the entire process definitely feels a lot more responsive, which can be the difference between people giving Siri a try one time and then forgetting about it, and them coming back to it every day. We found ourselves using Siri a lot more with the Series 3 Watch, be it for setting a quick reminder, or to check when Liverpool FC is playing next.

apple watch series 3 siri Apple Watch

Another big change with Siri is that it can now talk back to you, just like on the iPhone and iPad, which is great, as you no longer need to keep staring at the Watch to see its response. If you are not a fan of this feature, or if you don’t want others eavesdropping on your conversations with Siri, you can set it to speak only when you have your headphones on, or to take its cue from the silent mode on your Watch, via the Settings in the Watch app on your iPhone.

The Apple Watch Series 3 also includes an Apple-designed W2 wireless chip that claims to boost Wi-Fi speeds up to 85 percent, while making both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi communication up to 50 percent more power efficient. While it’s hard to test some of these claims, we did find that the Series 3 Watch did a better job at things like handling calls over Wi-Fi when we were away from our iPhone.

In our review of the Apple Watch Series 2, we pointed out that the lack of an altimeter was a problem for serious runners, as elevation changes during workouts couldn’t be recorded unless you carried your iPhone along. The Series 3 fixes that, with the addition of a barometric altimeter. Not only can your Watch now track elevation changes during a run, but your daily activity summary now also includes “Flights Climbed” data that is being sourced from the Watch itself. If it sounds like this feature isn’t exactly new, it’s because your Watch was earlier capable of reading this data from your paired iPhone, which has included a barometer since the iPhone 6.

We found the flights climbed data tracking to be fairly accurate, and our experience with GPS accuracy and the rest of the activity tracking and fitness-focussed features was pretty similar to what we’ve seen with previous Apple Watch variants. We encourage you to read our reviews of the original Apple Watchand the Series 2 if you are curious about the subject.

The Apple Watch Series 3 ships with watchOS 4, which we’ve covered elsewhere, but it does have a couple of features worth touching upon here. Instead of the ‘boring’ pop-ups that simply updated you on your activity for the day, the Watch now mixes things up by telling you whether you are making good progress compared to an average day, or if you are “usually further along” on most days. Towards the end of the day, it gives even more specific messages such as telling you that a brisk 11 minute walk will close all your rings, which can be pretty motivating. The animations that you see as a ‘reward’ for closing your ring(s) are now a lot more elaborate, something we came to appreciate.

watchOS 4 introduces new watch faces including the Siri watch face, Toy Story, and Kaleidoscope. You also get a redesigned Workout app and a new High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout type. Your Apple Watch (including Series 2) is now also able to automatically detect the kind of swimming stroke you used during a session. This lets you see a neat breakdown with the time and distance you spent alternating between different kinds of strokes; a touch that swimmers will really appreciate.

apple watch swimming Apple Watch

The watchOS 4.1 update also added the ability to stream music from the cloud via Apple Music directly on the Apple Watch. The feature works on both Wi-Fi and LTE variants of the Watch, but in our opinion, it would be a lot more useful on the latter.

We’d like to see watchOS open a little bit more and add support for third-party watch faces, similar to Android Wear. So far, Apple has done a good job of finding the right balance between adding features and optimising battery life, and one wonders if a future Apple Watch will have features like an (optional) always-on display.

Apple claims all-day battery life with the Series 3, and the Watch constantly topped that expectation during our review period. We easily got two days of life out of each full charge, with tons of notifications popping up on our Watch throughout the day, but with admittedly limited workout sessions, so we weren’t really using GPS for the most part. Our long-term experience with the Series 2 and the original Apple Watch shows that even after one and two years respectively, you should get at least one-day battery life without any problems even if you lead a more active lifestyle.

The process of untethering the Apple Watch from the iPhone started when the Series 2 added GPS functionality, and it continues with the Series 3 bringing in an altimeter and LTE, though the latter isn’t available in India yet. Starting at Rs. 29,900 for the 38mm model with Aluminium Case and Sport Band (the one pictured above is the Anthracite/ Black Nike Sport Band) and Rs. 31,900 for the 42mm equivalent, the Series 3 Apple Watch isn’t exactly cheap, but the launch prices are lower than that of the previous generation. As with earlier models, you will need to have an iPhone to set up and use the Apple Watch.

If you lead an active lifestyle and fitness-focussed features are the main attraction, the latest Apple Watch is a great pick. Apple also still officially sells the slightly less expensive (but slower) Series 1, but you would miss out on features like GPS, altimeter, water resistance, and Siri that talks, so you are better off buying the latest model if you can afford it.

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Improved performance
  • Altimeter
  • watchOS 4 adds useful features

Cons

  • LTE version not available in India

Ratings

  • Design: 4
  • Performance: 4.5
  • Value for money: 4
  • Overall: 4.5

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Samsung Exynos 9 Series 9810 SoC Launched, Based on 10nm FinFET Process

Samsung Exynos 9 Series 9810 SoC Launched, Based on 10nm FinFET Process

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Samsung unveils the Exynos 9 Series 9810 SoC
  • It is likely to debut on the company’s Galaxy S9
  • The chipset can be expected to feature on phones next year

Samsung has announced a new flagship mobile processor in the Exynos 9 series, built on the 10nm process. As is traditional with such unveils, it can be expected that the new new Exynos 9 Series 9810 SoC will be the processor powering the company’s next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S9.

The Samsung Exynos 9810 packs the company’s third-generation custom CPU cores and also comes with an upgraded GPU. Samsung is also touting support for Gigabit LTE modem which can offer what Samsung calls industry’s first 6CA (carrier aggregation) support. Samsung says that the new Exynos 9 Series 9810 SoC has been built on second-generation 10nm process technology.

The Exynos 9 Series is said to be the company’s first processor chipset built on the 10-nanometre FinFET process technology.

The South Korean company earlier this year unveiled its premium application processor, the Exynos 9 Series 8895. Some of the highlights of the Exynos 9 Series 8895 processor were embedding of a Gigabit LTE modem that can support five carrier aggregation, or 5CA. It supports LTE Cat. 16 with download speeds of up to 1Gbps and upload speeds of up to 150Mbps (Cat. 13). The chipset was used in the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ as well as the company’s Galaxy Note 8 phablet.

Rumours have pointed to early next year launch of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC which could be seen as the competitor to the Exynos 9 Series 9810 SoC. The Snapdragon 845 SoC is said to be built on a new faster, more efficient 7nm fabrication process. Furthermore, the new Qualcomm SoC is also said to debut on the Galaxy S9 next year.

For Samsung’s upcoming flagships, the company is widely expected to retain Infinity Displays which allow the 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch screens to come with a relatively compact factor. The upcoming Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ smartphones are rumoured to use the same screen sizes as well as the same curved design first seen on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Martech enablement series: Part 7 — Insights, intelligence and integration

Welcome to Part 7 of: “A Nine Part Practical Guide to Martech Enablement.” This is a progressive guide, with each part building on the previous sections and focused on outlining a process to build a data-driven, technology-driven marketing organization within your company. Below is a list of the previous articles for your reference:

  • Part 1: What is Martech Enablement?
  • Part 2: The Race Team Analogy
  • Part 3: The Team Members
  • Part 4: Building the Team
  • Part 5: The Team Strategy
  • Part 6: Building the Car

In these previous parts, we looked at how your martech team is parallel to an automobile race team. We spent time investigating how a race team constructs their team and then builds a strategy for winning their individual races and the overall race series. We then looked at how this is also a successful approach to constructing and strategizing for a martech team, identifying this process as “martech enablement.”

As we discussed in Part 1 of this guide, martech enablement is ultimately about obtaining insights and providing tools and processes to take action to affect your marketing efforts in your marketing organization. In Part 6, we discussed “building the car” with a focus on breaking down the systems in your martech stack that allow you to take action.

In this article, we will explore the systems that provide insights and enable team collaboration. We’ll also look at tying them all together with integration approaches, tools and strategies. Once again, a shout-out to Scott Brinker for producing the “Marketing Technology Landscape” to help make sense of all the martech products available.

Insights and intelligence

When you’re driving your car, a number of tools inform you how to take action. Looking out your windshield, windows and mirrors gives you immediate data that you respond to. Additionally, you have tools like your instrument dashboard, GPS, traffic data, your radio, and even your passengers.

Race drivers and the team as a whole have sophisticated systems in and around the car that are collecting information, as well as experts to analyze the information in real time, providing actionable insights that the team can use before, during and after the race. This is a huge part of the team’s competitive advantage that they use to win races.

Part of the martech enablement process is to leverage the data within your martech stack so that experts within your team can analyze that information to provide actionable insights, so your marketing organization can win your race.

To reiterate a point made in Part 6 of this guide, a solid data strategy is one of the most important components of martech enablement. This provides the foundation for extracting and “mashing” this data in a way that you can measure. A sound approach is to understand your organization’s KPIs (key performance indicators) and craft a data strategy that supports collecting data to enable measurement of those KPIs.

Many systems and categories of tools assist in the area of gaining insights. Below is a list of some of the systems used to provide visibility and understanding:

  • Web analytics platforms
  • AI/predictive analytics
  • MPM — Marketing performance management
  • Marketing attribution systems
  • Business intelligence (BI) systems
  • Dashboards
  • Data visualization tools
  • Social media monitoring
  • Sales intelligence
  • Audience and market research data

As you progress through the martech enablement process, your “insights” toolset will grow in both size and maturity. I want to remind you to stay focused on letting this part of your stack evolve from the incremental team objectives and series and race goals. Don’t lead with a goal of creating a cool BI environment or dashboard. Let these grow out of the goals driving the martech enablement process.

Strategic vs. tactical insights

I want to spend a minute discussing the difference between strategic and tactical insights and their alignment with your team, series and race objectives. For a refresher on these, see Part 5 of this guide.

When measuring and analyzing performance against your team and series goals, you’re looking at strategic insights where understanding the current level and performance trend is desirable. Think in terms of tools that show you the results of your marketing efforts across time. A tactical insight will generally be more closely aligned with your race goals and will be a singular value or KPI.

Relating this to our race team analogy, a strategic goal could be wanting to improve the team’s average finish position from the current state to some future targeted goal. Over time, you could measure and graph the improvement and trend toward that goal.

A tactical goal might be the desire to come in third place or better in a particular race. Your insight tool could represent that number as a single KPI. That isn’t to say that you may never analyze performance trends during a race, such as average lap speed. But there are values that benefit from analyzing as a trend and others that are just fine to analyze as a current and ending value.

Team management and collaboration

When it comes to management and collaboration in the race team, both pre-race and race-day systems are needed to support the team’s operations. These tools are necessary to get things done right in your marketing organization. Good management and collaboration tools help great people be a great team. Here are some of those systems:

  • Project management
  • Workflow
  • Collaboration tools
  • Business Process Management (BPM)/Agile & Lean
  • Talent management
  • Vendor management
  • Budget and finance

The nuts, bolts, welds, hoses and wires

It’s important to have a strategy and tools to hold all of this together. There are a few strategies to contemplate with systems integration and martech. Your marketing organization will likely take several different approaches to integration. These are generally broken down into three categories: native integration, IPaaS (integration platform as a service) and custom integration.

As technology matures, and the interoperability of products grows, companies are building “connectors” that allow for the exchange of data between their products and other widely used ones. These native integrations generally require some technical implementation or configuration, but the product manufacturers have done much of the heavy lifting to allow for the exchange of data between systems they have connectors for.

IPaaS is a “suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on-premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations,” according to Gartner. These platforms enable a more systematic way of creating and controlling data exchanges between products in your martech stack.

Custom development is as it sounds: a process in which software engineers develop custom applications to create and manage data exchanges between products and systems in your martech stack. Regardless of whether you take advantage of the aforementioned native integrations or IPaaS, you will likely at some level need to leverage good technologists to do some custom integration work along your path to martech enablement.

Stack it up!

To review, all the categories of the stack between Part 6, “Building the car,” and this part, “Supporting technologies,” your cohesive martech stack is composed of the following types of systems:

Intro to Part 8: Running the series and the races

Now that we’ve gone through the people, the strategy and the stack, we can move on to the execution part of martech enablement. In Part 8 of the guide, we’ll get into how your team iteratively and incrementally moves your marketing organization toward digital transformation and maturity.

I look forward to continuing to share with you about martech enablement in Part 8 of this guide.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily MarTech Today. Staff authors are listed here.


[“Source-martechtoday”]