The Skagen Falster is a high fashion Android wearable

Skagen is a well-know maker of thin and uniquely Danish watches. Founded in 1989, the company is now part of the Fossil group and, as such, has begin dabbling in both the analog with the Hagen and now Android Wear with the Falster. The Falster is unique in that it stuffs all of the power of a standard Android Wear device into a watch that mimics the chromed aesthetic of Skagen’s austere design while offering just enough features to make you a fashionable smartwatch wearer.

The Falster, which costs $275 and is available now, has a fully round digital OLED face which means you can read the time at all times. When the watch wakes up you can see an ultra bright white on black time-telling color scheme and then tap the crown to jump into the various features including Android Fit and the always clever Translate feature that lets you record a sentence and then show it the person in front of you.

You can buy it with a leather or metal band and the mesh steel model costs $20 extra.

Sadly, in order stuff the electronics into such a small case, Skagen did away with GPS, LTE connectivity, and even a heart-rate monitor. In other words if you were expecting a workout companion then the Falster isn’t the Android you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for a bare-bones fashion smartwatch, Skagen ticks all the boxes.

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What you get from the Flasterou do get, however, is a low-cost, high-style Android Wear watch with most of the trimmings. I’ve worn this watch off and on few a few weeks now and, although I do definitely miss the heart rate monitor for workouts, the fact that this thing looks and acts like a normal watch 99% of the time makes it quite interesting. If obvious brand recognition nee ostentation are your goal, the Apple Watch or any of the Samsung Gear line are more your style. This watch, made by a company famous for its Danish understatement, offers the opposite of that.

Skagen offers a few very basic watch faces with the Skagen branding at various points on the dial. I particularly like the list face which includes world time or temperature in various spots around the world, offering you an at-a-glance view of timezones. Like most Android Wear systems you can change the display by pressing and holding on the face.

It lasts about a day on one charge although busy days may run down the battery sooner as notifications flood the screen. The notification system – essentially a little icon that appears over the watch face – sometimes fails and instead shows a baffling grey square. This is the single annoyance I noticed, UI-wise, when it came to the Falster. It works with both Android smartphones and iOS.

What this watch boils down to is an improved fitness tracker and notification system. If you’re wearing, say, a Fitbit, something like the Skagen Falster offers a superior experience in a very chic package. Because the watch is fairly compact (at 42mm I won’t say it’s small but it would work on a thinner wrist) it takes away a lot of the bulk of other smartwatches and, more important, doesn’t look like a smartwatch. Those of use who don’t want to look like we’re wearing robotic egg sacs on our wrists will enjoy that aspect of Skagen’s effort, even without all the trimmings we expect from a modern smartwatch.

Skagen, like so many other watch manufacturers, decided if it couldn’t been the digital revolution it would join it. The result is the Falster and, to a lesser degree, their analog collections. Whether or not traditional watchmakers will survive the 21st century is still up in the air but, as evidenced by this handsome and well-made watch, they’re at least giving it the old Danish try.

Android Auto now works without wires if you have the right hardware

Android Auto — Google’s system for powering your car’s dash display from your phone, and the company’s answer to Apple’s CarPlay — is going wireless. You can leave your phone in your bag, and it’ll still be able to push your apps and content to your in-dash screen.

Alas, there’s a catch: To get it all working wirelessly at this point, you’ll need to have some pretty specific gear.

You’ll need the right phone (Pixel or Pixel XL, Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P) and the right head unit — and for now, that means one of just a handful of units announced by JVC/Kenwood earlier this year.

The list of compatible devices will grow in time (Google says to expect more “this year”) — but if you want wireless right this second, the options are quite limited.

Is Android Popsicle next?

Barring any sort of major shakeup at Google’s mobile division, there are two things we know for sure about the next Android’s name: it will start with the letter “P” and it will be a dessert food. That already narrows things down quite a bit — you’ve got pudding, pecan pie, peanut brittle…

Then, of course, there’s Popsicle — a fact the company might well be alluding to in its new Spring Wallpaper Collection. 9to5Google noted a colorful array of frozen confections in amongst the selections. Granted, it’s not thematically too far from the rest of the outdoor, sunshine-themed offerings.

Google’s never shied away from such cheeky suggestions — and it’s certainly teased us before, including in the lead up to Oreo. Though that could just as easily mean it’s a bit of a red herring — remember Android Pocky?

It’s worth noting that Popsicle is, in fact, still a trademarked name — like Kleenex and Xerox and Frisbee. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Google in the past. See such recent examples as Kit-Kat and Oreo. And while Popsicle-owner Unilever has flexed its muscles maintaining its ownership of the name, it’s hard to imagine a better/cheaper promotion than stamping your name across the latest build of the world’s most popular mobile operating system.

There is, of course, the issue of the fact that the Popsicle name isn’t as globally synonymous with the ice pop as it is here in the States. You may know it, perhaps, as an ice lolly, ice block or ice drop, depending on where you happen to be reading this.

Whatever the case, Google’s probably just happy that we’re talking about it at all.

LG promises to speed up bringing Android updates to its smartphones

LG is making efforts to improve the user experience on its devices after it opened a “Software Upgrade Center” in its native Korea.

The new lab will be focused on “providing customers worldwide with faster, timelier, smartphone operating system and software updates,” the company explained in a brief statement.

The idea is to help get the latest versions of Android out to more users at a faster pace than it does right now.

That’s a genuine problem for Android OEM who are tasked with bringing the latest flavor of Android to devices that already in the market. Issues they have to deal with include different chipsets, Android customization and carriers.

The issue has been pretty problematic for LG. Android Oreo, for example, announced by Google last September only began rolling out to the first handful of LG devices last month.

The Korean firm said that one of the first priorities for this new center is to get Oreo out to Korea-based owners of the LG G6 — last year’s flagship phone — before the end of this month. After that, it will look to expand the rollout to G6 owners in other parts of the world.

Beyond Android updates, the center will also focus on stability update to make sure that the newest features work on devices without compromising performance.

This move is one of the first major strategies from new LG Mobile CEO Hwang Jeong-hwan, who took the top job last year. He came directly from the company’s R&D division, which suggests that he identified the update issue as a fairly urgent one to address.

His bigger challenge is to stop LG’s mobile division bleeding capital. LG Electronics itself is forecasting record Q1 financial results later this month, but its smartphone unit is likely to post yet another loss that drags the parent down.

We’ll find out more when LG’s next flagship is unveiled next month.

LG promises to speed up bringing Android updates to its smartphones

LG is making efforts to improve the user experience on its devices after it opened a “Software Upgrade Center” in its native Korea.

The new lab will be focused on “providing customers worldwide with faster, timelier, smartphone operating system and software updates,” the company explained in a brief statement.

The idea is to help get the latest versions of Android out to more users at a faster pace than it does right now.

That’s a genuine problem for Android OEM who are tasked with bringing the latest flavor of Android to devices that already in the market. Issues they have to deal with include different chipsets, Android customization and carriers.

The issue has been pretty problematic for LG. Android Oreo, for example, announced by Google last September only began rolling out to the first handful of LG devices last month.

The Korean firm said that one of the first priorities for this new center is to get Oreo out to Korea-based owners of the LG G6 — last year’s flagship phone — before the end of this month. After that, it will look to expand the rollout to G6 owners in other parts of the world.

Beyond Android updates, the center will also focus on stability update to make sure that the newest features work on devices without compromising performance.

This move is one of the first major strategies from new LG Mobile CEO Hwang Jeong-hwan, who took the top job last year. He came directly from the company’s R&D division, which suggests that he identified the update issue as a fairly urgent one to address.

His bigger challenge is to stop LG’s mobile division bleeding capital. LG Electronics itself is forecasting record Q1 financial results later this month, but its smartphone unit is likely to post yet another loss that drags the parent down.

We’ll find out more when LG’s next flagship is unveiled next month.

Our digital future will be shaped by increasingly mobile technologies coming from China

Since the dawn of the internet, the titans of this industry have fought to win the “starting point” – the place that users start their online experiences.  In other words, the place where they begin “browsing”. The advent of the dial up era had America Online mailing a CD to every home in America, which passed the baton to Yahoo’s categorical listings, which was swallowed by Google’s indexing of the world’s information – winning the “starting point” was everything.

As the mobile revolution continues to explode across the world – the battle for the starting point has intensified.  For a period of time, people believed it would be the hardware, then it became clear that the software mattered most.  Then conversation shifted to a debate between operating systems (Android or iOS) and moved on to social properties and messaging apps where people were spending most of their time. Today – my belief is we’re hovering somewhere in between apps and operating systems.  That being said, the interface layer will always be evolving.

The starting point, just like a rocket’s launchpad, is only important because of what comes after.  The battle to win that coveted position, although often disguised as many other things, is really a battle to become the starting point of commerce.  

Google’s philosophy includes a commitment to get users “off their page” as quickly as possible…to get that user to form a habit and come back to their starting point.  The real (yet somewhat veiled) goal, in my opinion, is to get users to search and find the things they want to buy.

Of course, Google “does no evil” while aggregating the world’s information, but they pay their bills by sending purchases to Priceline, Expedia, Amazon, and the rest of the digital economy.  

Facebook, on the other hand, has become a starting point through it’s monopolization of users’ time, attention, and data.  Through this effort – it’s developed an advertising business that shatters records quarter after quarter.

Google and Facebook, this famed duopoly, represent 89% of new advertising spending in 2017.  Their dominance is unrivaled…for now.

Change is urgently being demanded by market forces – shifts in consumer habits, intolerable rising costs to advertisers, and through a nearly universal dissatisfaction with the advertising models that have dominated (plagued) the US digital economy.  All of which is being accelerated by mobile. Terrible experiences for users still persist in our online experiences, deliver low efficacy for advertisers, and fraud is rampant.  The march away from the glut of advertising excess may be most symbolically seen in the explosion of ad blockers.  Further evidence of the “need for a correction of this broken industry” is Oracle’s willingness to pay $850M for a company that polices ads (probably the best entrepreneurs I know ran this company, so no surprise).

As an entrepreneur, my job is to predict the future.  When reflecting on what I’ve learned thus far in my journey – it’s become clear that two truths can guide us in making smarter decisions about our digital future:

Every day, retailers, advertisers, brands, and marketers get smarter.  This means that every day – they will push the platforms, their partners, and the places they rely on for users to be more “performance driven”.  More transactional.

Paying for views, bots (Russian or otherwise), or anything other than “dollars” will become less and less popular over time. It’s no secret that Amazon, the world’s most powerful company (imho), relies so heavily on its Associates Program (it’s home built partnership and affiliate platform).  This channel is the highest performing form of paid acquisition that retailers have, and in fact, it’s rumored that the success of Amazon’s affiliate program led to the development of AWS due to large spikes in partner traffic.

Chinese flag overlooking The Bund, Shanghai, China (Photo: Rolf Bruderer/Getty Images)

When thinking about our digital future, look down and look east.  Look down and admire your phone – this will serve as your portal to the digital world for the next decade and our dependence will only continue to grow.  The explosive adoption of this form factor is continuing to outpace any technological trend in history.

Now, look east and recognize that what happens in China will happen here, in the West, eventually.  The Chinese market skipped the PC driven digital revolution – and adopted the digital era via the smartphone. Some really smart investors have built strategies around this thesis and have quietly been reaping rewards due to their clairvoyance.  

China has historically been categorized as a market full of knock-offs and copycats – but times have changed.  Some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies have come out of China over the past decade.  The entrepreneurial work ethic in China (as praised recently by arguably the world’s greatest investor Michael Moritz), the speed of innovation, and the ability to quickly scale and reach meaningful populations have caused Chinese companies to leapfrog the market cap of many of their US counterparts.  

The most interesting component of the Chinese digital economy’s growth is that it is fundamentally more “pure” than the US market’s.  I say this because the Chinese market is inherently “transactional”. As Andreessen Horowitz writes – WeChat, China’s  most valuable company, has become the “starting point” and hub for all user actions.  Their revenue diversity – is much more “Amazon” than “Google” or “Facebook” – it’s much more pure.  They make money off the transactions driven from their platform – and advertising is far less important in their strategy.

The obsession with replicating WeChat took the tech industry by storm two years ago — and for some misplaced reason — everyone thought we needed to build messaging bots to compete.  

What shouldn’t be lost is our obsession with the purity and power of the business models being created in China.  The fabric that binds the Chinese digital economy together and has fostered its seemingly boundless growth is the magic combination of commerce and mobile.  Singles Day, the Chinese version of Black Friday, drove $25B in sales on Alibaba – 90% of which were on mobile.

The lesson we’ve learned thus far in both the US and in China are that “consumers spending money” creates the most durable consumer businesses.  Google, putting aside all its moonshots and heroic mission statements, is a “starting point” powered by a shopping engine.  If you disagree, look at where their revenue comes from…

Google’s announcement last week of Shopping Actions and their movement to a “pay per transaction model” signals a turning point that could forever change the landscape of the digital economy.  

Google’s multi-front battle against Apple, Facebook, and Amazon is weighted.  Amazon is the most threatening. It’s the most durable business of the 4 – and it’s model is unbounded on two fronts that almost everyone I know would bet their future on – 1) people buying more online, where Amazon makes a disproportionate amount of every dollar spent and 2) companies needing more cloud computing power (more servers), where Amazon makes a disproportionate amount of every dollar spent.  

To add insult to injury, Amazon is threatening Google by becoming a starting point itself – 55% of product searches now originate at Amazon up from 30% just a year ago.

Google, recognizing consumer behavior was changing in mobile (less searching) and the inferiority of their model when compared to the durability and growth prospects of Amazon, needed to respond.  Google needed a model that supported boundless growth and one that created a “win-win” for its advertising partners – one that resembled Amazon’s relationship with its merchants – not one that continued to increase costs to retailers while capitalizing on their monopolization of search traffic.

Google knows that with its position as the starting point – with Google.com, Google Apps, and Android – it has to become a part of the transaction to prevail in the long term.  With users in mobile demanding less ads, and more utility (demanding experiences that look and feel a lot more like what has prevailed in China) – Google has every reason in the world to look down and to look east – to become a part of the transaction – to take its piece.  

A collision course for Google and the retailers it relies upon for revenue was on the horizon.  Search activity per user was declining in mobile and user acquisition costs were growing quarter over quarter.  Businesses are repeatedly failing to compete with Amazon and unless Google could create an economically viable growth model for retailers – no one would stand a chance against the commerce juggernaut – not the retailers nor Google itself. 

As I’ve believed for a long time, becoming a part of the transaction is the most favorable business model for all parties – sources of traffic make money when retailers sell things – and most importantly – this only happens when users find the things they want.  

Shopping Actions is Google’s first ambitious step to satisfy all three parties – businesses and business models all over the world will feel this impact.  

Good work, Sundar.

Motiv’s neat little fitness ring gets Android and Alexa support

I was pleasantly surprised by Motiv . Sure, my expectations were low for a fitness tracking ring, but pleasantly surprised is pleasantly surprised is still pleasantly surprised. The $200 Fitbit alternative gets a couple of key software upgrades this week, including, most notably, the addition of Android compatibility, along with some Alexa integration.

Initially launched as iOS-only, the Ring is taking baby steps toward working with the world’s most popular mobile operating system. It’s launching first as part of an open beta with, “a more comprehensive feature set” coming by middle of the year. But adventurous users can download the app from the Google Play Store right now.

The fitness tracking ring now works with Alexa, as well. Users can ask Amazon’s smart assistant to sync data and check their heart rate. More metrics are on the way by year’s end, in an attempt to save having to look at a phone screen every time, I suppose. After all, Motiv doesn’t seem likely to cram a tiny screen into the ring any time soon.

Speaking of Amazon, the Ring is now on sale through the online retail giant. Motiv will also be selling the ring at b8ta stores, for those who went to see it in person before dropping $200.

Motiv’s neat little fitness ring gets Android and Alexa support

I was pleasantly surprised by Motiv . Sure, my expectations were low for a fitness tracking ring, but pleasantly surprised is pleasantly surprised is still pleasantly surprised. The $200 Fitbit alternative gets a couple of key software upgrades this week, including, most notably, the addition of Android compatibility, along with some Alexa integration.

Initially launched as iOS-only, the Ring is taking baby steps toward working with the world’s most popular mobile operating system. It’s launching first as part of an open beta with, “a more comprehensive feature set” coming by middle of the year. But adventurous users can download the app from the Google Play Store right now.

The fitness tracking ring now works with Alexa, as well. Users can ask Amazon’s smart assistant to sync data and check their heart rate. More metrics are on the way by year’s end, in an attempt to save having to look at a phone screen every time, I suppose. After all, Motiv doesn’t seem likely to cram a tiny screen into the ring any time soon.

Speaking of Amazon, the Ring is now on sale through the online retail giant. Motiv will also be selling the ring at b8ta stores, for those who went to see it in person before dropping $200.

Here are the five things I learned installing a Smart Mirror

I recently received a review unit of the Embrace Smart Mirror . It’s essentially a 24-inch Android tablet mounted behind a roughly 40-inch mirror. It works well when 3rd party software is installed. Here’s what I learned.

It’s impossible to get a good photo of the smart mirror

I tried a tripod, selfie stick, and every possible angle and I couldn’t get a picture that does this mirror justice. It looks better in person than these photos show. When the light in the bathroom is on, the text on the mirror appears to float on the surface. It looks great. The time is nice and large, and the data below it is accessible when standing a few feet away.

When the room is dark, the Android device’s screen’s revealed since it can’t reach real black. The screen behind the mirror glows gray. This isn’t a big deal. The Android device turns off after a period of inactivity and is often triggered by the light to the bathroom is turned on. More times than not, people walking into the room will be greeted with a standard mirror until the light is turned on.

There’s a handful of smart mirror apps, but few are worthwhile.

This smart mirror didn’t ship with any software outside of Android. That’s a bummer but not a deal breaker. There are several smart mirror Android apps in the Play Store though I only found one I like.

I settled on Mirror Mirror (get it) because the interface is clean, uses pleasant fonts and there’s just enough customization though it would be nice to select different locations for the data modules. The app was last updated in July of 2017 so use at your own risk.

Another similar option is this software developed by Max Braun, a robotistic at Google’s X. His smart mirror was a hit in 2016, and he included instructions on how to build it here and uploaded the software to GitHub here.

Kids love it.

I have great kids that grew up around technology. Nothing impresses these jerks, though, and that’s my fault. But they like this smart mirror. They won’t stop touching it, leaving fingerprints all over it. They quickly figured out how to exit the mirror software and download a bunch of games to the device. I’ve walked in on both of kids huddled in the dark bathroom playing games and watching YouTube, instead, of you know, playing games or watching YouTube on the countless other devices in the house.

That’s the point of the device, though. The company that makes this model advertises it as a way to get YouTube in the bathrooms so a person can apply their makeup while watching beauty YouTubers. It works for that, too. There is just a tiny bit of latency when pressing on the screen through the mirror. This device isn’t as quick to use as a new Android tablet, but since it’s sealed in a way to keep out moisture, it’s safe to go in a steamy bathroom.

Adults will find it frivolous.

I have a lot of gadgets in my house, and my friends are used to it. Their reaction to this smart mirror has been much different from any other device, though.

“What the hell is this, Matt,” they’ll say from behind the closed bathroom door. I’ll yell back, “It’s a smart mirror.” They flush the toilet, walk out and give me the biggest eyeroll.

I’ve yet to have an adult say anything nice about this mirror.

It’s frivolous.

A smart mirror is a silly gadget. To some degree, it’s a , but in the end, it’s just another gadget to tell you the weather. It collects fingerprints like mad, and the Android screen isn’t bright enough to use it as a regular video viewer or incognito TV.

As for this particular smart mirror, the Embrace Smart Mirror, the hardware is solid but doesn’t include any smart mirror software. The Mirror is rather thin and easily hangs on a wall thanks to a VESA port. There are physical controls hidden along the bottom of the unit including a switch to manually turn off the camera. It’s certified IP65 so it can handle a bathroom. A motion detector does a good job turning the device on so. If you don’t have kids, it should stay smudge-free.

The Embrace Smart Mirror does not ship with any smart mirror software. The instructions and videos tell users to add widgets to the Android home screen. This doesn’t work for me, and I expect a product such as this to include at least necessary software. Right now, after this product is taken out of the box, it’s just an Android tablet behind a mirror, and that’s lame. Thankfully there are a couple of free apps on the Play Store to remedy this problem.

At $1,299, the Embrace Smart Mirror is a hard sell but is among the cheapest available smart mirrors on the market. Of course, you can always build one yourself, and as The Verge points out, it’s rather easy.

Review: 2018 Lincoln Navigator

Michigan saw a historic amount of snowfall in 2018. And it’s not done. It’s snowing as I write this and it snowed nearly every day since I took delivery of this burgundy 2018 Lincoln Navigator. Excuse the dirty car shown in the photos. That’s life in the Midwest: half the year it’s impossible to keep cars clean of salt and grime and, to me, that’s the best time to review a vehicle. I’m happy to report the new Navigator is a comfortable refuge from the snowy winter.

I spent a week in the 2018 Navigator running from Flint, Michigan to Ann Arbor to Detroit. I filled up the 23 gallon tank enough to know take it easy on the lively 3.5L EcoBoost V6. The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is luxurious, confident but thirsty.

This is a luxury SUV. It’s not a sport truck and it’s not high-tech paradise though can play the part of both. The new Navigator was clearly built to be as comfortable as possible and along the way Lincoln constructed one of the best luxury SUVs on the market.

Review

Winter hit Michigan hard this year and I found the ditch in my 2012 Dodge Durango R/T several times. It started snowing in December and didn’t stop until half way through March. I grew up in Michigan and still live in the state. Driving in snow doesn’t bother me though jumping into an unfamiliar vehicle and navigating snow-covered roads can be challenging. But not in this Navigator. I found it handles snow and slush and ice without an issue.

The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is a full-size SUV. It sits as high as a Ford F-150 and tends to lumber about as such. The ride is confident and stable. There’s little sway on tight expressway ramps and the automatic four-wheel drive quickly activates when a tire starts to spin.

This Navigator isn’t a sport truck but it gets up and goes thanks to Ford’s fantastic 3.5L EcoBoost V6. This six cylinder twin-turbo kit has found its way into nearly every full-size platform Ford offers. The Navigator is gifted with an updated version of the engine and it offers ample power across its range. The 3.5L surprises in this massive luxury SUV. It’s lively and powerful and more than enough to make the ride comfortable. During my time with the truck, I never felt at a loss of power though I tried.

The engine is key to the Navigator’s appeal on several levels. First, 3.5L V6 offers decent fuel economy if driven conservatively while offering a decent bit of excitement if driven with that intent. Second, it allows Lincoln to say the Navigator is able to tow 600 lbs more than the Cadillac Escalade, which features a massive 6.2L V8. While both vehicles can ably pull a pontoon, the Lincoln does so with 510 lb.-ft of torque over Cadillac’s 460 — though without a boat of my own, I’m unable to confirm if the difference is felt in the real world.

The steering is light and responsive though it’s impossible to forget this is a massive vehicle. It drives like a truck — though not your grandfather’s work truck. The driver sits in a commanding position that makes for good visibility. The vehicle’s suspension lets it cruise over rough roads and most bumps are absorbed. It’s a big SUV and there’s a fair amount of body roll on on-ramps. Parking isn’t an issue. There are plenty of cameras positioned around the vehicle to help maneuver this land yacht.

The interior of the new Navigator stuns. Wood, leather and chrome adorn the surfaces and walks close to the line of bling. It begs the confirmation that it ultimately comes from an American automaker. Take the badging off the interior and it could easily be mistake as a luxury European SUV — though this Navigator is bigger than anything offered across the pond.

It’s roomy inside. Storage is abundant but cleverly hidden so not to look like a minivan. There’s plenty of legroom for second row passengers while the third row is surprisingly roomy.

The seats are something special. Sure, they’re comfortable and supportive like any found in high-end SUVs. It’s their design that sets them apart. The cushions jet out from a large back support making them look more like an Eames lounger than an overstuffed leather recliner. The design is a stark departure from most automotive seats and I’m a fan.

The back seats are not nearly as comfortable. They’re supportive and offer several seating positions. In this tester, the rear seat is equipped with a center console that sports a small LCD screen that displays the media currently playing. The kids love it and I’m sure Uber passengers would too. As a parent to two kids, I found it annoying to cede control of the radio to the backseat. Thankfully there’s a button above the climate controls that disables the backseat controls because I can only listen to Radio Disney for so long.

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Tech

There’s an LCD screen mounted in the center of the dash. It’s large enough to be usable though not distracting. The best part? The screen doesn’t show fingerprints. There’s clearly a coating over the screen that somehow, magically, makes fingerprints invisible. Glare doesn’t seem to be an issue, though, as previously mentioned, it’s been snowing for a week and I haven’t seen the sun at all during my testing.

The 2018 Lincoln Navigator is equipped with a Lincoln-badged version the Ford Sync 3 infotainment system. The automaker rolled this system out with 2016 models and it’s a massive improvement over previous Sync versions. It’s not the best infotainment system available but it’s good enough. Vehicle functions and controls are in logical places and Ford’s AppLink system offers support for some third party apps now including Waze .

Android Auto and CarPlay are also available when used with compatible devices. I’ve grown to avoid these systems and prefer to stick with most systems developed by automakers. I was initially a fan of CarPlay, but Apple has yet to advance the platform, and now several years after its launch, it feels dated and unusable.

The Navigator’s smartphone app is clever. Need to put in navigation info? With the Lincoln Way app, drivers can input a destination on their smartphone app before they get into the vehicle and send those directions to the Navigator. It’s much easier than entering the destination through the in-vehicle system. The app also lets drivers start the car, order roadside assistance or service and locate the car.

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Competition

This new Navigator is in a class of its own. The Cadillac Escalade’s interior is vastly inferior, the Mercedes-Benz GLS is dated and much less roomy. The Lexus LX and Toyota Land Cruiser have better off-road chops but the platform is over 10 years old and it shows. Land Rover’s SUVs are more expensive and its three row models are much smaller and less powerful than the Navigator though new models are coming out soon.

There simply isn’t a more luxurious, roomy six or seven passenger vehicle available than the new Navigator.

I’m in the market for a new vehicle and recently test driven several used 2017 Lincoln Navigators. It’s a nice truck but lacks the wow factor of the 2018 Navigator. Where past models were clearly a rebadged Ford, complete with similar plastic trim and equipment, the new Navigator is a fresh departure from its Ford counterpart, the Expedition. Similarities between the two models still exist, though they’re less pronounced with the Lincoln clearly getting the nod towards luxury.

The Navigator of today is much better than the Navigator of yesterday. Lincoln improved the Navigator in nearly every way. The ride, the comfort, the technology. Everything is better and that’s impressive and must be noted.

The Navigator is 25 years old this year. It was one of the first American-made luxury SUVs but it has nearly always been overshadowed by the Escalade — and for good reason. The Escalade has always offered more everything than the Navigator. But not anymore.

The new Navigator sets the bar. It’s luxurious. It’s powerful. The Navigator is wonderful.