Trackers like these can be used for many purposes, and users are finding more ways to use them every day. If a tracker is hidden on an item like a laptop or bike bike, it could operate like a LoJack to help you locate it if it’s stolen, though of course one should not attempt to make contact with a thief to retrieve property without proper caution. Some users have placed the trackers in their luggage to find it on the carousel at bag claim, to avoid the shoulder to shoulder bustle at bag claim, and others have used it for peace of mind to make sure their luggage made it a board their flight when changing planes. Even in airplane mode, the trackers can work to indicate that luggage is on board below the plane floor.
If you’ve ever circled a parking structure searching for your lost car, ZUS Smart Car Finder & USB Car Charger will be a lifesaver. This tracker has an embedded chip that helps track your car with an app. When you’re at a loss to find your car, open the app and a compass-like interface appears with a red arrow pointing to your car and indicating how many feet away it is. The car charger doubles as a car charger with two USB ports that can speed charge two iPads or other devices at half the time of standard car chargers. It has a stylish case with three illuminated dots so you can find the charger in a dark car. The made-in-Germany styling is sleek and modern, so that it looks like it belongs in any luxury vehicle. $29.99 for a single unit or $54.99 for a two pack on Amazon.
For anyone who sometimes is absent minded and leaves a purse, keys, phone or other item in a place where they can’t find it, TrackR bravo will help you locate it and hopefully get it back. The coin-sized device can be attached to your item, tucked into a wallet, or stuck onto belongings, such as a bike, and if the item goes missing, you use the tracker app to pinpoint where the item was last seen. In reverse, if you lose your phone, you press a button on the Trackr fob which will make your phone sound out, even if it’s on silent, so that you can locate it. If your item is lost far away, the Trackr sends out a signal that is received among the community of fellow Trackr users, so if your lost an item and it is nearby another user, you are notified of the location. $29.99 on Amazon.
Tile has just introduced a slim version of this popular tracker, making it about the thickness of two credit cards. It can be slipped into a pocket, wallet or purse, or attached to keys or stuck onto a laptop or other item, and if you cannot find the item you can use the Tile app to see a radar-type scope that shows where your item was last. If you lose your phone registered to Tile, you can press a button on the device and it will ring your phone, even if the phone is set to silent; or if the item is in range, you can use the app to sound a 90 dB ring that can be heard under couch cushions, inside your car or wherever else you might have left the phone, so that you can follow the sound to find your item. $29.99 on Amazon.
The new FUEL iON Charging Case by mobile accessories manufacturer Patriot offers users an easy way to charge an iPhone 6, iPhone 5/5s, Samsung Galaxy S4/5 and Samsung Note 3 by simply laying the smartphone on a bad, stand or car holder. With an audible “snap” the phone sticks to the surface of the device which is powered by a USB cord.
Because the user does not have to plug and unplug the phone from its charging cable, theoretically the phone will last longer, as will the cord, because of reduced wear and tear. Certainly simply laying the phone on a base is much more convenient than having to plug in, though the argument of cutting the cord is a bit specious because the base still requires a cord, but that cord can stay put, which is handy, especially if the USB adapter block is plugged in somewhere that makes access difficult, such as behind a nightstand.
The magnetic charging pad that I reviewed took about the same time as a regular, corded charge. Besides the convenience of simply placing the phone onto the pad, I liked that it could be oriented in any direction.
The MFi Certified case adds a bit of weight to the phone, and it mostly fits around the back and sides of the phone, so the protection it offers is limited. The case itself is attractive and slim, in a neutral gray. Cut outs offer easy access to buttons and ports, though there are no protective flaps over the ports. The micro USB port at the bottom of the case can be used to connect to a computer or other device for downloading or charging on the fly when away from the base. Of course, you would have to take the charging pad along with you for travel or work, or buy multiple bases to keep at various locations.
The magnetic charge pad will not harm a phone or most electronics, but like all magnets if should not be placed near magnetic striped key cards or credit cards.
Bad news if you have any questions out of the box. The instructions inside the package were generic for the FUEL iON Charging Stand, the FUEL iON Car Charger, and the FUEL iON Charging Pad, and the print was so tiny it was almost unreadable. There is a short video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PF6U3uacGh0 with an overview of how the case can be used, but mostly it is self-explanatory.
The bottom line, a good case for those who want freedom from the hassle of plugging and unplugging to charge. It is most practical for those who charge in a single location.
Wireless is the word this holiday season. Here are some of the hottest new products for streaming, remote controlling, connecting and getting your Bluetooth on for the tech geek on your gift list.
Speakers of the House
Give the music lover on your list something to sing about with Sonos. This versatile wireless streaming speaker system, controlled by a simple app for MAC/PC, smartphone or tablet, allows you to play music in every room you have a speaker. Play the same song, or a different song, from your music library or any podcast, Internet radio station or service like Pandora or I Heart Radio. Give a Sonos PLAY: 1 Gift Pack ($199, including Sonos Bridge, http://www.sonos.com) compact speaker as a starter, which delivers powerful HiFi sound all by itself; or a pair it with a second speaker for truly rich stereo sound; or build it out year by year into an immersive multi-room set up that will rock the house.
For the frequent traveler on your list, keep them connected with Kanex mySpot ($49, http://www.kanexlive.com) a travel-sized access point that can turn a hotel live Ethernet connection into a wireless-g signal. Plug mySpot’s USB cable into your laptop or charger for power, and with a click you can safely and securely connect all your wireless devices to your own personal wireless network.
Lots of Hub Hub
Keep the plugged-in addict on your list powered up and connected on the go with the IOGEAR Wireless MediaShair Hub ($99.95, http://www.iogear.com). The paperback book-sized device charges up – using USB or included cigarette lighter charger — and then serves as a hub for media storage devices to stream music, movies, photos and files to up to seven Wi-Fi enabled devices. The hub doubles as an access point when connected to an Ethernet cable. Equipped to stream from a SD card, flash drive or external hard drive using a USB connection, the hub’s built in power station battery can charge other devices and lasts for up to five hours.
Three’s a Charm
The thrice-as-nice-as-the-original-Roku, Roku3 ($99, http://www.roku.com), raises binge TV watching to new heights. For the show monger on your list who can’t get enough streaming video, this amazing and diverse palm-sized powerhouse delivers Netflix, HBO GO, VUDU Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and over 1000 other free and subscription services to any HDTV. The simple hook up includes an HDMI connection to your TV and a wireless connection to your home network. The sleek remote control handset comes with Roku’s signature purple earbuds for personal listening – ideal for late night viewing that won’t wake the rest of the house. The improved and easy- and fun-to-use interface includes a one-stop search across multiple channels, so you can comparison shop those episodes of Breaking Bad or Downton Abbey.
For the Helicopter Parent (and Kids)
It’s been said the difference between men and boys is the size of their toys, but the MOTO TC and the HELO TC by Griffin Technology proves size doesn’t matter. Designed for users age 14 and up, and coveted by men (and of course women and girls) of all ages, the toy remote touch control monster truck and helicopter utilize free apps for IOS devices for control. Powered by a 4.8 V @ 600mAh NI-MH fuel cell, the Tonka-sized truck can slide, tilt and track with a virtual steering wheel and throttle or perform figure eights and laps. The twin-rotored HELO TC indoor helicopter app can record up to three flight plans and use a touch control throttle and joystick or tilt-and-steer control to move the helicopter forward, back and side to side. HELO TC’s built-in battery recharges from any USB power source. The Flight Deck module requires 4 AAA batteries. (HELO TC $49.99, MOTO TC $59.99, www.griffintechnology.com and retailers nationwide).
Volume-limiting headphones keep sound pressure down to safe levels for young ears
You’re sitting in a restaurant with fidgety little ones, and the appetizers haven’t even been served. You give them your iPhone or tablet, but along with all those kids games you loaded just for this situation are complete with plenty of bells, whistles and other random sound effects.
Before your neighbors at the next table give you the evil eye, plug in Griffin Crayola myPhones so that you and everyone around you can get some peace and quiet, and you get peace of mind knowing that your kids won’t blow their ears out. These super cute earbuds and headphones are sized for little ears – and they have built in technology to keep the volume to a safe listening level. Compared to normal conversation at 60 dB, myPhones play at 85 dB, lower than an MP3 player at maximum volume, or by comparison, an ambulance at 120 dB.
The earbuds are shaped like the tip and end of a Crayola crayon, so kids love the illusion of wearing a crayon through their head, though the pointed tip might be a bit confusion when they are first trying to figure out which end goes into their ear! The earbuds come with three sizes of silicone ear cushions in a carrying case shaped like a Crayola. For more than one child, you can get different colors so they can tell their own earphones apart from their siblings and friends. The sets comes in Purple Pizazz, Cotton Candy, Caribbean Green and Blue Berry.
The over-the-head style headphones are also sized for children, featuring soft padding for comfort. Kids can decorate the headphones using a variety or cool patterned stickers designed to fit on the headband or ear cups, or they can customize them using the included plain stickers and three Crayola color markers.
The sets are available in pink/purple and blue/green color combinations. Earbuds are priced at $14.95, and headphones are $24.95 at www.GriffinTechnology.com.
For those who don’t have time to recharge their iPhone 4/4S on the go, iWALK’s Chameleon high capacity power case is a convenient solution to extending battery time. The Chameleon utilizes a 2,000mAh lithium polymer high capacity battery that lasts up to 500 full charges. The case features an LED battery level indicator that displays the battery life, an on/off switch to preserve power, and a special design that does not interfere with the iPhone’s photo functions, including a coating around the camera lens designed to eliminate “flashback” while taking pictures.
The Chameleon comes in five different interchangeable face plates in white, black, pink, lime and yellow – hence the name, and it charges with an included micro USB cable. Available at select Sprint stores and select retailers nationwide or at www.iWALKUSA.com for $59.99. For the Galaxy S3, the Chameleon Easy, available for $64.99, provides the same portable power functions and stylings. Both come with a one-year warranty.
Give the electronics lover and gadget guru on your holiday gift list a plug-and-play present that will keep them turned on all season and into the New Year.
Hi-Fi Wi-Fi at its Finest
For audiophiles, Sonos is the ultimate gift of music. The Sonos wireless music system allows you to stream music from your iTunes library, Pandora , SiriusXM talk or whatever is your listening pleasure on an expandable receiver speaker system that you can place in your home, office, or anywhere there is a an electrical outlet. You control what you stream from your computer, iPhone, iPad, or Android device. The Sonos PLAY3 ($299) is a great starter kit, which includes a compact player that can operate alone, or pair it with an optional Sonos Bridge ($49) to boost your wireless signal to reach faraway places in your home, office, or wherever you like to listen. For a limited time, PLAY3 and Bridge are packaged together for the price of $299. Available at Target, Best Buy, Amazon and Sonos.com.
Game On … the Wall
Gamers will love the portable Optoma GT750E ($799) projector, compact enough to carry in in its own backpack yet packing a big picture that can turn any video game into a full-emersion experience. Even just five feet away from a wall or screen, the short-throw projector creates a huge 99’ diagonal image, and as the projector moves farther the image grows bigger. Perfect for gamers who to be close up to the image without blocking a projector, and with Optoma’s 3D RF glasses ($99) gamers will truly feel like they are in the middle of the action. The GT750E boasts a native widescreen display and bright 3000 ANSI lumens picture, DPL Link 120Hz#D-capable display technology options and 1080p signal inputs. Find dealers at OptomaUSA.com.
A Century of Memories
You can’t guarantee any gift will last forever, but 100 years isn’t bad. That’s how long you can preserve priceless photos on the SanDisk Memory Vault which can safely store data for at least a century. The cell-phone sized vault uses Chronolock technology that protects against degradation, and its durable hard-shell design is built to endure. The vault comes with a USB 2.0 transfer cable, writable labels and a storage pouch. 16GB, $89.99. Available at SanDisk.com.
Square Plug in a Round Strip
So many electronics, so little space on power strips. The cleverly designed Pivot Power flexible power strip bends to accommodate any plug, and it can wrap around furniture legs or form a right angle for a corner. Available in black, white and green. ($29.99) at quircky.com.
Hark, Can You Hear Me Now?
Give a boost to the phonephile on your list with the Wilson Electronics’ Sleek all-in-one cell phone signal booster. The magnetic antenna mounts on a car roof, and the handset cradle mounts inside the car and plugs into a car cigarette lighter for handsfree use with a headset or Bluetooth connection. The booster amplifies weak signals for fewer disconnects, dropped calls and faster data transfer rates on 3G networks $129.99 Available at WilsonElectronics.com.
Conveniences, Contraptions and Cool Stuff for Busy Moms
It’s a Laptop Bag, It’s a Purse, It’s an Overnight Bag
When a girl on the go needs a bag that can go anywhere with her, The Grow Expandable Messenger Bag from Brigg’s-Riley’s Verb line is a sleek and stylish solution. It multi-tasks as a work bag that holds your laptop – up to 17 inches – in a padded inner sleeve with plenty of pockets for peripherals, and it converts to a travel bag with a roomy expandable main compartment and can be worn cross-body or over the shoulder. Best of all, it’s tough enough for daily use and comes with the Briggs-Riley legendary lifetime warranty. Available at www.briggs-riley.com, $229.
Suck it Up
The lightweight Dyson City Vac is small enough to fit on a letter-size sheet of paper, but this little powerhouse can pick up dust and dirt to leave every type of floor spic and span. Its patented Root Cyclone technology doesn’t lose suction, and it’s engineered to trap particles so exhaust air is clean. Like all Dyson products, the DC26 is a wonder to behold and fun to unpack and assemble because it’s just so darn well designed. Available at Best Buy and www.Dyson.com, $399.99.
Save Your Smartphone and Maybe a Life
If your purse is like a black hole in space that crews up and swallows cell phones, The Otterbox Commuter Series is a light at the end of the tunnel. The durable customized casing fits sleekly around just about any smartphone to protect it from bumps and scratches, and the bright-colored Strength is Pink case makes it easy to see and find. Plus, 10 percent of the purchase goes to Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. Available at www.otterbox.com, $34.95.
For busy moms who don’t have time for The Talk or to chew the fat with the ladies of the View, SiriusXM Radio offers 24/7 news, views and musings with more than 140 channels of exclusive commercial-free programming. Tune in at work on the Internet or in the car or at home to catch up on all the latest, from life advice on Oprah Radio to tips from Martha Stewart Living or sex talk with Dr. Laura Berman. Plans start at $12.95 per month. www.siriusxm.com.
Home baking is easy as pie with the Sunbeam Mini Pie Maker. This one-of-a-kind, multi-tasking pie maker creates four miniature pies simultaneously, each with a different filling if desired, from desserts to pot pies. The nonstick cooking plates make pie removal and clean up easy. Available at retailers nationwide, Available at Target, $29.99.
Shred it Good
The Fellowes P-12C shredder is an identity fraud perp’s worst nightmare. This document devouring machine cross-cuts paper into 399 particles in seconds, and it can even shred staples, paper clips and credit cards. It’s SafeSense sensor that shuts it down when hands come too close makes it great for households with kids around, and its slim profile makes it perfect for home offices, kitchens and other rooms where spaces is minimum. $84.99 at Target stores nationwide.