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Jaybird RUN XT hands-on: Improved water resistance, customizable buttons, and video playback failure

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Music motivates me to run faster and further so I rarely run without something playing from a connected smartphone or music-enabled watch. Jaybird was one of the first fitness-focused audio brands I tested nine years ago. Since then, I have tested several Jaybird products and been pleased with the performance of the brand, until now.

Jaybird released its first fully wireless earbuds with the Jaybird RUN in late 2017. The Jaybird Tarah Pro was released in late 2018 and as the last step in ensuring all of its products meet the IPX7 level of water resistance Jaybird recently released the Jaybird RUN XT. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks with a pair of these new earbuds and they are not going to replace my favorites, the Jabra Elite Active 65t.

Compared to the Jaybird RUN, the RUN XT improves with a higher level of water resistance, new color options, and refined design. The two available colors are black/flash and storm/gray. Storm is light blue and the storm/gray color is the model sent to me for evaluation.

Also: Jabra Elite Active 65t review: Better than the AirPods and designed for active users

Specifications

  • Microphone: Omni-directional MEMS on the right earbud
  • Water resistance: IPX7 rating
  • Battery life: 80 mAh for each earbud for up to four hours of battery life. The charging case provides another eight hours of run time.
  • Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
  • Earbud dimensions: 14.3 x 19.5 x 19mm and about 7 grams (depends on your selected fin and tip)

For $180, wireless headsets today should have the latest technology and that means Bluetooth 5.0, or at the least 4.2 Low Energy, with a charging case incorporating a USB-C port and not the old microUSB standard. aptX support would also be nice to see at this price.

Hardware

One reason I discovered Jaybird many years ago was its ability to create headsets with sweat resistance and a warranty to match my usage. I only run outside so am often running in rain and other inclement weather conditions. The new Jaybird RUN XT has an IPX7 water-resistant rating, which means it can handle submersion down to one meter for up to 30 minutes. There is also double hydrophobic nano coating to protect the headset. In other words, you can wear these in just about any weather condition

Fit has always been something you could customize with a Jaybird headset through the use of different tips and fins. The new Jaybird RUN XT model includes four pairs of fins and silicone tips. The fins are integrated with a silicone oblong piece that fits around the earbud. An opening in the fin piece with labeling for the size ensures accurate installation on the earbud. There are also four sizes of silicone tips to help you find just the right fit. We typically see three sizes of tips with most headsets.

Jaybird advertises four hours of playback time and so far that is about what I am seeing. It states that you can get up to an hour of playback with just five minutes of charging. Callers confirmed that I sound good on my end through the Jaybird RUN XT, with the omni-directional mic located on the right earbud. All calls are handled through just the right earbud and you can use this earbud in mono configuration too if you want one ear open for safety.

There is a one button on each earbud, located towards the bottom of the Jaybird logo and towards your face when inserted. There are also indicator lights at the top of each earbud so you know if an earbud is turned on or not. By default, the button on the left is used to activate your selected assistant while the right side is used to play/pause music and answer a call with a single press. A double press of either earbud skips forward or declines a call while a long press on either (more than 3 seconds) turns on or off each earbud.

Also: Jaybird Tarah Pro wireless sport headphones, hands-on: 14-hour battery life powers endurance workouts

I prefer to use wireless headsets where I can control volume so at first I didn’t think the Jaybird RUN XT would fit my usage habits. I then launched the Jaybird smartphone app and discovered that you can switch the single button press to an alternate set of controls. I now have the right bud increasing volume while the left bud lowers volume. A double press of either still jumps ahead one song.

A charging case, colored to match the earbuds, is provided with two formed compartments to store and charge the RUN XT. Indicator lights are present on the front, one for each earbud so you can view the charging state after inserting the earbuds. Unfortunately, the old microUSB standard is used for charging up the battery case. It’s time to move to the USB-C standard folks.

Smartphone software

While you do not need the Jaybird iOS/Android app to use the earbuds, I highly recommend you install it for an optimal experience. With the app installed, you can switch the functionality of the buttons, as I detailed above.

The app lets you customize your equalizer settings, manage the headphones, and even choose and share playlists. Spotify integration is present, which is perfect since I am a Spotify subscriber and have been looking for more playlists for running. Jaybird also recently added some recommended podcasts so it is another way to discover podcasts related to exercise.

How-to guides, fit guides, and support is also provided through the app. You also need the app to use the find my buds function, which will show the last known location of your connected Jaybird RUN XTs.

Price and competition

High end wireless earbuds currently range in price from $150 to $180 so the Jaybird RUN XT is priced about right, if some of the specs were a bit higher. It is the same price as the first version of the Jaybird RUN as well.

The 2018 Samsung Gear IconX has a MSRP of $179.99. However, the Samsung website currently has a $30 reduction in price so you can pick up a pair for $149.99.

RHA recently released the TrueConnect earbuds with a price of $169.95. The Jabra Elite Active 65t headset, one of my faves, is priced at $179. Bose also has the SoundSport wireless headphones for $149.95.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

The Jaybird headphones I’ve used over the years have always sounded great since sound quality is one of the four pillars of the company’s design philosophy. Music plays loud and clear with the RUN XT and I actually cannot pump them up to the highest volume level or my ears get blown out.

I also have not experienced any connectivity issues with the RUN XTs. I’ve tested them with multiple phones and watches with seamless playback. Despite using an older version of Bluetooth with no aptX support, the earbuds have performed well for music and podcasts.

Calls are handled just through the right earbud with audio limited to just the right side. The left earbud actually allows in ambient sound when a call comes in to help you hear your own voice so you don’t have to take it out to have a decent call. Callers sounded good in the right earbud and they told me I sounded fine as well.

However, there is one fatal flaw that may prevent you from wanting to spend $180 on this headset. On my daily Sounder train commute, I see about half the people watching video content on their smartphones with headsets and I can often been seen streaming the latest Netflix or HBO show. You will not want to use the Jaybird RUN XT for streaming the audio from a video. If you do, you will notice there is a consistent lag between the mouth movement of characters and the audio playback on the RUN XT. I tested several video streaming, and offline, services with the Jaybird RUN XT and the Jabra Elite Active 65t and there was lag on the RUN XT with none present in the Jabra headset. We should not see such poor performance from a $180 headset. It would be great if Jaybird could fix this with an update, but I read through the forums and this was also a problem with the previous Jaybird RUN headset so I’m not optimistic for a fix here either.

The Jaybird RUN XT never slipped out of my ears and were comfortable for hours of wear. The audio sounded excellent and the ability to customize the equalizer is something we don’t see in many of these wireless earbuds. I know that video is not really the focus of wireless sport headphones, but given the fact that mobile devices today require wireless earbuds, other earbuds don’t have this issue, and the RUN XT is priced at $180 this functionality should work perfectly.

The high level of water resistance is great and these earbuds should last you for years with your workouts in various conditions. If an update can fix the video problem then maybe I’ll try them again, but until then it’s back to the Jabra Elite Active 65t headset.

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YouTube introduces new features to address toxic comments – TechCrunch

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YouTube today announced it’s launching a new feature that will push commenters to reconsider their hateful and offensive remarks before posting. It will also begin testing a filter that allows creators to avoid having to read some of the hurtful comments on their channel that had been automatically held for review. The new features are meant to address longstanding issues with the quality of comments on YouTube’s platform — a problem creators have complained about for years.

The company said it will also soon run a survey aimed at giving equal opportunity to creators, and whose data can help the company to better understand how some creators are more disproportionately impacted by online hate and harassment.

The new commenting feature, rolling out today, is a significant change for YouTube.

The feature appears when users are about to post something offensive in a video’s comments section and warns to “Keep comments respectful.” The message also tells users to check the site’s Community Guidelines if they’re not sure if a comment is appropriate.

The pop-up then nudges users to click the “Edit” button and revise their comment by making “Edit” the more prominent choice on the screen that appears.

The feature will not actually prevent a user from posting their comment, however. If they want to proceed, they can click the “Post Anyway” option instead.

Image Credits: YouTube

The idea to put up roadblocks to give users time to pause and reconsider their words and actions is something several social media platforms are now doing.

For instance, Instagram last year launched a feature that would flag offensive comments before they were posted. It later expanded that to include offensive captions. Without providing data, the company claimed that these “nudges” were helping to reduce online bullying. Meanwhile, Twitter this year began to push users to read the article linked in tweets they were about to share before tweeting their reaction, and it stopped users from being able to retweet with just one click.

These intentional pauses built into the social platforms are designed to stop people from reacting to content with heightened emotion and anger, and instead push users to be more thoughtful in what they say and do. User interface changes like this leverage basic human psychology to work, and may even prove effective in some percentage of cases. But platforms have been hesitant to roll out such tweaks as they can stifle user engagement.

In YouTube’s case, the company tells TechCrunch its systems will learn what’s considered offensive based on what content gets repeatedly flagged by users. Over time, this AI-powered system should be able to improve as the technology gets better at detection and the system itself is further developed.

Users on Android in the English language will see the new prompts first, starting today, Google says. The rollout will complete over the next couple of days. The company did not offer a time frame for the feature’s support for other platforms and languages or even a firm commitment that such support would arrive in the future.

In addition, YouTube said it will also now begin testing a feature for creators who use YouTube Studio to manage their channel.

Creators will be able to try out a new filter that will hide the offensive and hurtful comments that have automatically been held for review.

Today, YouTube Studio users can choose to auto-moderate potentially inappropriate comments, which they can then manually review and choose to approve, hide or report. While it’s helpful to have these held, it’s still often difficult for creators to have to deal with these comments at all, as online trolls can be unbelievably cruel. With the filter, creators can avoid these potentially offensive comments entirely.

YouTube says it will also streamline its moderation tools to make the review process easier going forward.

The changes follow a year during which YouTube has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to combat hate speech and misinformation on its platform. The video platform’s “strikes” system for rule violations means that videos may be individually removed but a channel itself can stay online unless it collects enough strikes to be taken down. In practice, that means a YouTube creator could be as violent as calling for government officials to be beheaded and still continue to use YouTube. (By comparison, that same threat led to an account ban on Twitter.)

YouTube claims it has increased the number of daily hate speech comment removals by 46x since early 2019. And in the last quarter, of the more than 1.8 million channels it terminated for violating policies, more than 54,000 terminations were for hate speech. That indicates a growing problem with online discourse that likely influenced these new measures. Some would argue the platforms have a responsibility to do even more, but it’s a difficult balance.

In a separate move, YouTube said it’s soon introducing a new survey that will ask creators to voluntarily share with YouTube information about their gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. Using the data collected, YouTube claims it will be able to better examine how content from different communities is treated in search, discovery and monetization systems.

It will also look for possible patterns of hate, harassment and discrimination that could affect some communities more than others, the company explains. And the survey will give creators the option to participate in other initiatives that YouTube hosts, like #YouTubeBlack creator gatherings or FanFest, for instance.

This survey will begin in 2021 and was designed in consultation with input from creators and civil and human rights experts. YouTube says the collected data will not be used for advertising purposes, and creators will have the ability to opt-out and delete their information entirely at any time.

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Twitter finally shuts down its abandoned prototype app twttr – TechCrunch

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Twitter is shutting down its experimental app twttr, which the company had used publicly prototype new features back in 2019. The app was first introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2019, then launched to testers that March. Its primary focus had been on trying out new designs for threaded conversations, including things like how to branch replies, apply labels and color-code responses, among other things. Some of those tests eventually turned into Twitter features and the twttr app was no longer being used.

The idea to design in public was an interesting experiment by Twitter.

Most companies roll out internal beta tests, followed by smaller-scale A/B tests to a percentage of their public user base to get feedback about new ideas. But with twttr, the company actually invited its users to be a part of the much earlier stage development process.

The concept for twttr had been spearheaded by Twitter’s then Director of Product Management, Sara Beykpour (then Sara Haider — she and Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour have since married). But Sara announced last year she would be stepping into a new role at the company and Twitter’s new product director in charge of conversations would be Suzanne Xie, who had joined by way of Twitter’s acquisition of Lightwell.

Work on twttr appeared to stop around the time Xie stepped in, as no other significant updates were released to twttr’s TestFlight user base. And Xie left Twitter this fall for Stripe.

Now, it seems that maintaining the largely unused app no longer makes sense for the company.

Twitter announced its plans to formally shut down twttr today, saying it was turning off the app in order to work on new tests related to the conversation taking place on Twitter itself. The shutdown appears to be immediate. Though the app may still function for those who have it installed, when the TestFlight build expires in 26 days, that may no longer be the case.

It’s not likely that twttr had many dedicated users at this point, especially as the app lacked Twitter’s newer features like Topics and Fleets, for example, and was no longer offering new experiments to test.

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Salesforce buys Slack in a $27.7B megadeal – TechCrunch

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Salesforce, the CRM powerhouse that recently surpassed $20 billion in annual revenue, announced today it is wading deeper into enterprise social by acquiring Slack in a $27.7 billion megadeal. Rumors of a pending deal surfaced last week, causing Slack’s stock price to spike.

Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff didn’t mince words on his latest purchase. “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world,” Benioff said in a statement.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield was no less effusive than his future boss. “As software plays a more and more critical role in the performance of every organization, we share a vision of reduced complexity, increased power and flexibility, and ultimately a greater degree of alignment and organizational agility. Personally, I believe this is the most strategic combination in the history of software, and I can’t wait to get going,” Butterfield said in a statement.

Every worker at every company needs to communicate, something that Slack can ably empower. What’s more, it also facilitates external communication with customers and partners, something that should be quite useful for a company like Salesforce and its family of offerings.

Ultimately, Slack was ripe for the taking. Entering 2020 it had lost around 40% of its value since it went public. Consider that after its most recent earnings report, the company lost 16% of its value, and before the Salesforce deal leaked, the company was worth only a few dollars per share more than its direct listing reference price. Toss in net losses of $147.6 million during the two quarters ending July 31, 2020, Slack’s uninspiring public valuation and its winding path to profitability and it was a sitting target for a takeover like this one. The only surprise here is the price.

The new deal also puts Salesforce more on par — and in competition — with its arch rival and sometime friend Microsoft, whose Teams product has been directly challenging Slack in the market. Microsoft, which passed on buying Slack in the past for a fraction of what Salesforce is paying today, has made Teams a key priority in recent quarters, loathe to cede any portion of the enterprise software market to another company.

What really has set Slack apart from the pack, at least initially, was its ability to integrate with other enterprise software. When you combined that with bots, those intelligent digital helpers, the company could potentially provide Salesforce customers with a central place to work without changing focus because everything they need to do can be done in Slack.

The company’s historic growth helped Slack raise over $1 billion while private, earning an impressive $7 billion valuation before going public last year. But while the Glitch-to-unicorn story appears simple, Slack has always faced entrenched competition from the likes of not only Microsoft, but also Cisco, Facebook, Google and even Asana and Monday.com.

Today’s deal comes after Salesforce’s purchase of Quip in 2016 for $750 million. Quip brought a way of socially sharing documents to the SaaS giant, and when paired with the Slack acquisition gives Salesforce a much more robust social story to tell than its internal option Chatter, an early attempt at enterprise social that never really caught on.

It’s worth noting that Salesforce was interested in Twitter in 2016, the same year that Microsoft was reportedly interested in Slack, but eventually walked away from that deal when shareholders objected, not wanting to deal with the controversial side of the social platform.

Slack was founded in 2013, but its origins go back to an online multiplayer game company called Glitch that was founded in 2009. While the game was ultimately a failure, the startup developed an internal messaging system in the process of building that company that later evolved into Slack.

For Slack, the path to the public markets was fraught with hype and outsized expectation. The company was famous, or as famous as an enterprise software company can be. At the time it felt like the its debut was the start of a long tenure as an indie company. Instead, that public life has been cut short by a huge check. Such is the dog-eat-dog world of tech.

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