2013 was another great year for technology with useful new apps, excellent phones and gadgets galore. Here are my favorites!
You just have to download and try this one out to believe it. The app uses the motor inside your iPhone to physically spin it around for excellent 360-degree panoramic pictures. Works best on iPhone 5 and up, on a smooth surface and without a case.
Free, iOS & Android.
Zoomer Robotic Dog
Remember Sony’s robot dog from way back? It was too expensive and never really took off. Zoomer is cheap, fun and will entertain your kids for hours. Just like a real dog, he will eventually respond to your voice and learn certain commands, but he will also do his own thing too.
I carry this stuff everywhere. It’s an all natural way to clean your gadgets. Just spritz some on the included microfiber cloth and you can get rid of grime, grease and germs. It leaves your screen super shiny, plus protects it with a thin film that resists fingerprints and lets your finger move over the screen more easily.
Starting at $5
Apple really outdid themselves with the latest version of the iPad. It’s light, compact and actually comfortable to hold while watching a movie or reading. I recommend paying the extra $130 for a cellular connection, then pairing it with my next choice.
Starting at $499
T-Mobile Free Tablet Data
T-Mobile is really doing their best to shake up the cellular industry. They introduced a plan for tablets that will give you 200 MB of free data each month just for the asking. Since the iPad comes unlocked it’s an easy way to get connected in spots where you can’t find a WiFi connection.
Free, one time fee of $10 for SIM Card
This is absolutely the easiest way to send money to friends, family, whoever. All you need is their email address. Unlike other services which require your and/or the end user to give up detailed checking account numbers, Square Cash works with debit cards only. Your card is charged for the amount you’re sending, your friend gets an email asking them to enter in their debit card number and expiration date, and in a few days, their card is credited with the amount you sent them.
Free (for now), up to $2500 weekly
This handy little app tells you what’s on sale at nearby grocery stores. The most useful feature is that you can make a list of the brands and products you buy over and over, then use Favado to see which store has them on sale that week. It’s a no brainer way to save some cash – or you can go more in depth with it and feed your extreme couponing needs.
Free, iOS & Android
This is the fastest, simplest way to mount a smartphone in your car. Kenu Airframe is a beautifully designed expandable clip you attach to your phone. Then you simply clip it to your car’s vent. It holds your phone securely and is especially handy for travel when you need to mount your phone in a rental car to use GPS navigation.
Got to ride on this fun little device in Japan. Although many were super excited when Segway first came out, we all quickly realized it would be too expensive for the mere mortal to afford. Toyota’s Winglet promises to be cheaper (like a few grand) and more nimble. Still no word on when it might actually come to market though.
Amazon Mayday Button
Sometimes the biggest tech issues are some of the simplest to solve – it’s just a matter of talking to the right person. Amazon’s latest Kindle HDX has a built in “mayday” button that connects you via video chat to a live tech support person right on-screen. They can even take control of your device to help you out. It’s brilliant and super useful for non-techies who just need a solution to their problem fast.
It might not be the flashiest, most spec-ed out phone there is but this is the phone of the year. It fits perfectly in your hand, has a decent camera and up-to-date software with super intuitive features. It auto silences your phone at night while letting important calls through, reads your texts out loud while you’re driving and comes to life at any time by speaking the catch-phrase “OK Google Now.” Toss in the fact that you can customize the look of it and this phone is a real winner.
Starting at $100
Google’s $35 HDTV dongle launched to much fanfare, and although the excitement has died down a bit this is still a solid and cheap way to get web content to your TV screen. There’s support for an ever-growing number of apps (still waiting for the photo functionality Google showed off at the event) but it’s doesn’t get much easier than this to watch YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and more on your TV screen.
Flickr 1 Terabyte Free Storage
Flickr knows our photo collections continue to grow at an exponential rate – mine is pushing 125 gigs! Flickr (owned by Yahoo!) decided to take away all worry and give all users enough space to last many years, if not a lifetime. 1 Terabyte is a lot of storage – you can throw your full-resolution photos in here for a while before worrying about more storage. It’s a nice move, especially when competitors charge big bucks for photo storage.
Sonos PLAY:1 Speaker
Sonos is my absolute favorite gadget ever – it’s always the first thing I turn on when I get home and usually the last thing I turn off. I remember the very first time I saw their whole-home wireless technology demoed at a hotel in NYC. Back then the system was over $1,000 – now you can get their Play 1 speaker for just $200 and experience the magic of being able to stream just about any internet audio service in multiple rooms of your house.
Pebble / Galaxy Gear Smartwatches
Although I’m not ready to plunk down my own cash to own these devices, they have given me super high hopes for the smart watch. I’ve worn both models for some time this year and have come to appreciate their potential and usefulness as a worthwhile smartphone companion. Both models will continue to evolve, and who knows, we might even see a third competitor arrive sometime in 2014.
$300, Galaxy Gear
Carry this spare battery around and you will never look for another power outlet on-the-go. It holds a whopping 12,000 milliamp charge, which is enough juice to re-charge your phone and other gadgets several times. In fact, this saved me on an overseas trip because I didn’t have the right wall converter – so I just plugged my phone into this device for the night. Three USB ports let you can charge multiple devices at once.
I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked if I have a USB cable someone can borrow to charge their iPhone. The ChargeCard is a USB cord in the shape of a credit card. It slips into your wallet or purse and is always ready to go when you need it most for a sync, charge or whatever.
Nexus 7 Tablet
The king of inexpensive Android tablets. Don’t be tempted to go with one of those budget no-name models you see at every store. This is the real deal – good specs, built-in wireless charging (just add the charger) and stock Android software that’s always up to date.
Mosaic Photo Books
Mosaic is the easiest way to make a beautiful photo book right from your Android or iPhone. Just choose 20 pictures from your gallery and it will do the rest. There’s no fooling around with captions or complicated arranging of photos. True to it’s name, Mosaic even creates a cover with cut-outs that show off a mosaic of your pics. Plus, it will arrive to your door faster than you expect.
$20 plus shipping
T-Mobile is attempting to shake up the mobile industry but at the end of the day coverage is most important to me. You’re not sacrificing excellent speed and coverage with prepaid service from AIO, since it runs on the AT&T network (in fact, it’s owned by AT&T). There are only a handful of simple plans to choose from – like $70 for 7 GB of LTE, plus unlimited calls and text. Even after your data allotment runs out, you still get data, just at lower speeds until your next billing cycle.
Plans at $40, $55 or $70 monthly
The first thing I set up in any hotel room is my bluetooth speaker, and Jawbone makes the best bluetooth speakers around. The Mini is just an easier way of carrying one with you. The Mini is slightly more than you might pay for other small bluetooth speakers, but its clear audio, excellent battery life and loud volume are just a few features that set it apart.