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Despite the novel name, VAVA’s Voom speaker has gotten quite a bit of buzz on both YouTube and Amazon.Since its release last November, reviewers on Amazon have praised the Voom’s sound quality, specifically the bass response. That bass comes courtesy of the speaker’s large-for-its-size subwoofer.All of the Voom’s controls are on top of the unit, including its power, Bluetooth pairing, and play/pause button. There’s also an EQ button that lets you cycle through “normal”, “party”, and “surround” modes. Party mode adds even more bass into the mix, while surround mode simulates a surround-sound experience with the Voom’s three speaker and two passive radiator system.One reviewer mentioned that you can pair multiple devices with the Voom simultaneously, so switching between streaming music from your phone and a movie’s soundtrack from your laptop won’t require you to sync every time. Those with NFC-enabled devices can also pair with the speaker that way.

VAVA pegs the battery life of the Voom at 10 hours, and reviewers have mentioned getting around that much juice out of it, less if they choose to charge a device through the USB port on the back of the speaker. For charging, you can plug the speaker into the wall, or charge over micro USB. Charging through an outlet will be substantially faster, but having the ability to recharge the Voom over micro USB is a nice touch.Ultimately you’ll have to trust your ears, but for under $100, the VAVA Voom seems like a solid choice for a Bluetooth speaker, delivering good sound with a couple of neat extras. Best of all, if you like your Voom and something happens to it, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty.Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Business Insider’s Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners, including Amazon. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback.


While the Surface Pro 4 is an iterative update to the Surface Pro 3, the Book is an entirely new machine. It’s a laptop but with tablet qualities, such as a large touch screen. Apple hasn’t been wresting on its hardware laurels, however. The company introduced a brand new iPad Pro back in September and has recently updated both the MacBook Air and Pro with new internals, placing them at the front of the market. Both companies are vying for similar customers: those who want the flexibility of a light-weight device (such as a tablet or ultra-thin PC) with the power of a larger machine. All models have exceptional battery life — 10 hours or more — but in other areas they vary wildly. It seems pretty clear that 2017 is going to be the year that Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant really begins to hit its stride, going from a fast-growing niche product to a mainstream must-have.While Microsoft and especially Google have made their competitive strategies clear — even Samsung and Baidu have started to make rumbles in the market — there’s one elephant that, notably, isn’t in the room yet: Apple, the most valuable company in the world and a notorious latecomer to any new product category.

While Apple recently built Siri into the Apple TV, the company is said to be working on a direct competitor to the Amazon Echo — one that would apparently be more advanced than anything we’ve seen, down to a possible facial-recognition camera so it knows who’s talking. That device, if and when it comes out, would bring Apple’s 5-year-old Siri assistant head-to-head with Alexa.And the clock is ticking. Every Alexa-compatible Echo speaker, lightbulb, thermostat, refrigerator, and car that people buy today they probably won’t replace for many years, meaning the critical market for early adopters is already self-selecting outside of whatever Apple has up its sleeve.Meanwhile, Wall Street is worried as ever that Apple is falling way behind as computing moves past the touch screen and into augmented reality, virtual reality, and yeah, artificially intelligent voice-powered assistants like the Echo. It doesn’t help that sales of Apple’s all-important iPhone are showing signs of sagging.But when Apple introduced its AirPods wireless earphones in September, it also took the lid off of the W1 chip, a little technology for improving Bluetooth audio that lays the groundwork for Apple’s next big thing. It’s already here, and it’s going to make a big splash in the months and years to come.


The W1 chip is Apple’s new technology for making Bluetooth a lot more user-friendly. It debuted on the AirPods ($159) and the Beats Solo3 Wireless ($299) headphones, both available now.In many ways, the AirPods, Beats Solo3, and other W1 devices are standard Bluetooth headsets. They’ll work with any Android phone, Windows PC, or Blackberry you might happen to have lying around, the same way Bluetooth gadgetry always has.But the magic happens when you’re using a W1 headset with an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac.First, you turn it on next to your unlocked iPhone or iPad. Second, you click “connect.” Now they’re automatically paired with any other Apple gadget that’s signed in to your iCloud account. Switching from iPhone to Mac and back takes a click.Apple’s W1 confers other benefits, too. When you’re using it with an Apple gadget, the chip grants tremendous range — with the Beats Solo3, I was able to vacuum my entire small house with my phone charging in the bedroom without losing audio. Better yet, W1 uses some kind of magic optimization technique to greatly extend battery life.The next W1 device we know about is the long-delayed BeatsX fitness earbuds. Going into 2017, expect a lot more W1-powered headphones to hit the market, most — if not all — manufactured by Apple and its Beats subsidiary.

The W1 does something crucial for Apple right off the bat: It provides something cool, different, and convenient in a way that requires you to own all kinds of Apple gadgetry. Not only has the W1's it-just-works experience swayed me from considering an Android phone, it also caused me to spend considerably more time on my Mac after a year and a half on Microsoft’s Windows 10.It means Apple has something that no Android phone — or Windows laptop, for that matter — can match. It also opens the door for a world where people are always wearing their headphones, with Apple’s Siri only a tap away.This, in turn, means that Apple’s competitor to the omnipresent Alexa is hiding in plain sight — in the iPhones and iPads that more than a billion people own and in the wireless headphones that Apple is so keen to push. In other words, the W1 brings together all the pieces of the Apple puzzle, from Siri to Beats to the iPhone, in a way that hasn’t been done before.There are hurdles ahead, though. Siri can handle basic tasks just fine, but because Apple has been so cautious with its nascent smart-home strategy, it’s not as great a hub for home appliances and the like as Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem. Still, Siri boasts compatibility with high-profile apps like Uber, Venmo, Skype, and your phone’s messages app so it can read you your texts.


And as a nice bonus for Apple, Siri currently can control only the Apple Music streaming service and your downloaded music. In a weird way, the push toward voice controls seems likely to have a nice spillover effect for Apple’s subscription services as people look for the best and easiest integrations with their new setups. I’m going to call my shot right here based on these factors: Apple’s Echo competitor, whenever it arrives, won’t have Siri built in, but rather will use Bluetooth and the W1 chip to connect directly to your iPhone and call Siri from there. It would look like the Amazon Echo or Google Home but use the W1's insane range to link to your phone from anywhere in your house. This would accomplish Apple’s goal of requiring you to have an iPhone to use its best stuff.Looking further ahead, if Apple is indeed working on augmented reality, as everyone thinks it is, Siri could be your holographic assistant, with your W1-enabled headphones acting as the way you talk to it. After all, if you’re going to hold a conversation with imaginary computer people, you wouldn’t want to type your answers.


And, hey, if you want to get really weird with it, Apple’s long-rumored, not-soon-to-be-released car would be a great vehicle (pun intended) to get W1 going in the car.The iPhone, iPad, new Macs, and Apple TV look great, but it’s a different case when you look at the new line of accessories the company launched in 2015.First, there was the new Magic Mouse 2, which was announced in October. The charging port was placed on the bottom of the mouse. That makes it essentially useless when you’re charging it.For a company that rarely sacrifices function for form, this was a bizarre choice. And the pundits on Twitter didn’t let up: Then there’s the new Apple Pencil, the optional $99 Stylus that works with the big-screen iPad Pro. It looks fine on its own, but things get really weird when you charge it by plugging it directly into the iPad’s Lightning port. PCMag’s Sascha Segan said that plugging in the Pencil directly into the iPad Pro feels “a little precarious; the Pencil sticks out of your iPad Pro in a way that feels like it might break off.”

And if you don’t want your iPad Pro look like some sort of medieval weapon while you’re charging your Apple Pencil, you’re forced to use another questionable design choice. The iPad Pro also comes with a tiny, easy-to-lose dongle that’ll let you plug the Pencil into the wall just like the iPhone. Bizarre.The Pencil wasn’t the only problem with the iPad Pro though. There was also the Smart Keyboard, which costs $179 and got pretty poor reviews. It’s unattractive and doesn’t let you prop your iPad up at different angles. It’s also a pain to type on. Apple may be pitching the iPad Pro as a replacement for your laptop, but that’s impossible to do with such a poorly designed keyboard.Finally, Apple unveiled a whole new wave of criticism with the launch of the iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case. The case has a built-in battery and gives your iPhone a few extra hours of juice.

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