If you have an entertainment center, then likely you have a TV, Blu-ray player, stereo receiver, CD, DVR, and so forth. You probably also have a big old pile of remote controls to go with all that gear! If you want to tame that unruly mob of of gadgets, get a Blumoo ($89.99), and make that boatload of remotes disappear for good! This was one of several CES gadgets that I have been eagerly awaiting to come to market.
If you want to take really good pictures with your iPhone or iPad you need to enhance your devices, or perhaps just not use them at all. I'll come back to that last bit later.
I don't have cable TV, so I'm always excited when Apple adds more channels to Apple TV. And those added today are the sorts of channels I might like to watch: History, A&E, and Lifetime. In all three cases, some of the content is free, and other content requires you to log in with the username and password that you use with your cable provider. My impression after checking them out is that there's a ton of free content available—more than I'd ever have time to watch. In some cases, there are only one- to four-minute clips from the various episodes, with the clips always being free. Sometimes for a particular show, some episodes are free and others require a log-in.
The popular Kickstarter project from PhoneJoy is now shipping and I had the opportunity to try it out. This is a Bluetooth controller that expands to fit just about any phone, in landscape or portrait. By any phone, that includes Android and iPhone, and thanks to the expanding nature of the device, the next generation of larger iPhones should fit as well!
I'm a sucker for a nice, quality, leather case. But I also like to wear my iPhone on my hip, like a modern day gunslinger. The Tradition case from Noreve suits the bill and offers additional modern conveniences. It's "no dream" either, considering "rêve" is French for dream! When the case is closed, there are still cutout openings to display the time and to answer an incoming call or swipe to open. This can be a handy feature.
Bluetooth headsets have come a long way since the old days of those small, thumb-sized, in-ear stick devices that weren't good for much more than talking on the phone hands-free. These days we can enjoy an ever-increasing selection of high-fidelity, acoustically precise Bluetooth headphones. Still, there aren't that many to choose from, relative to the number of wired headphones on the market. In this newly emerging market of quality Bluetooth headphones, the SuperTooth Freedom ($149) have become one of my favorite Bluetooth headphones currently available. That said, there's still room for improvements. Read on to find out where these headphones shine the brightest, and where they could use some polishing up.
Steve Jobs encouraged us to Think Different, and at least one company has named themselves after this motto. They even spelled it differently, as in "diffr3nt." Their name isn't the only thing different. Their products are made in the USA, which is certainly different. They use unconventional materials, like canvas for their iPhone cases. And the inside of the case is lined with a grippy rubber material that looks like it came from an inner tube. All of this goes together to make a compact, comfortable, and colorful case that nobody else is likely to have.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said we'd be seeing new categories of products this year, and it looks like CarPlay is one of them. Initially it seemed as if it would only be available in new cars. But then a rumor emerged that Apine Electronics would come out with an after-market CarPlay console this fall. And now Pioneer, a leader in sound systems, has announced they'll be offering CarPlay in their dashboard receivers beginning early this summer. CarPlay will be available as a firmware update to Pioneer's five 2014 NEX in-dash multimedia receivers. The price of these receivers, which have have large, in-dash LCD displays, ranges from $700 to $1,400. They can be installed in most existing vehicles.
The hot new thing on Kickstarter is a line of fashion-conscious, innovative, handcrafted, European-style messenger bags and sleeves made of high quality French leather and wool felt by Craftwerk. You might remember this company from their first successfully funded Kickstarter campaign to get the Aluminum Case for iPhone 5 into production. This new project is inspired by the long-standing European tradition of combining fine leather with soft textured fabrics to create a product that is as stylish as it is functional.
When I wrote about Apple's new CarPlay earlier, the post generated a number of comments from car owners wishing their late-model vehicle could be retrofitted with CarPlay. Today's good news, via Nikkei Asian Review, is that Alpine Electronics will release a CarPlay console this fall in the US and Europe in a price range of $500–700. You won't have to buy a new Ferrari, Mercedes, or Volvo to take advantage of Apple's new offering. CarPlay lets you use various iPhone functions in your car while minimizing distraction—you control CarPlay just by speaking. You can make calls, receive calls, listen to voicemail, use the Maps app, listen to music, and send and receive text messages. Siri even reads your incoming messages to you and lets you dictate responses.
Creative, a company well known for their Sound Blaster PC audio cards, is making a bigger splash these days in the wireless speaker market. I favorably reviewed their Sound Blaster Axx 200 a few months ago, and Creative has also released a speaker with an emphasis on the discerning mobile audiophile. Read on to learn how the Sound Blaster ROAR SR20 compares in the very crowded market of Bluetooth stereo wireless speakers.
This is the season of the Watch, and I've had the opportunity to review at least five SmartWatches lately, from Pebble, Martian, Phosphor, i'mWatch and now Cogito ($129.95). Each brings something different to the table, in terms of apps, screen, battery life, style, and functionality. Cogito's Pop may have just enough "smart" to go with plenty of style and battery life to be your primary watch.
The wireless speaker market is completely saturated, so its hard to know where to start when looking for a quality, yet affordable option that is rises above the sea of cheap Bluetooth speakers. I have listened to a metric ton of them, and the gold standard for streaming and quality to me is Sonos, but their products are not cheap, and do not include a simpler Bluetooth option. Nyne has a uniquely shaped line of Bluetooth 4.0 speakerphone devices that give the solid sound quality that approaches the Sonos level, but without the price (and WiFi fuss.)
There is always need for more battery life, and power banks are a must-have in my gadget bag. I often carry several in fact. So it was cool to see the Add series of Power Banks from Lepow. There are several features that set this product apart.
My car doesn't have integrated Bluetooth, so I'm always on the lookout for a convenient add-on. The Syren ($39.99) from longtime Apple accessory vendor
iLuv has a lot to offer. In fact, it might have too much to offer! In addition to traditional Bluetooth pairing, the
Syren offers NFC (Near Field Communication) so you can pair it with an NFC-enabled smartphone just by touching the speaker with your phone! But Apple doesn't have NFC yet, and may not as they promote their
Apple has said to expect new product categories this year, and many people think the most likely candidate will be an iWatch. Rumors out of China on Tuesday, reported on AppleInsider, say that the iWatch will be coming the third quarter of 2014, with Taiwan's Quanta Computer expected to make 65 million units in the first year. That's a huge number.
If you like the specs of the iPhone 5s, including the TouchID fingerprint reader, but wish you could add some vibrant colors like the iPhone 5c, the folks at Colorant can help out. The Colorant Link Pro is a water resistant, dustproof, sandproof, and shockproof case that still leaves the TouchID sensor accessible.
I use my MacBook Pro to develop apps, so I'm constantly taking it with me when I visit clients and colleagues, and even to Starbucks, which means frequently unplugging it and plugging it in. So I decided to get a docking and charging station in order to simplify my life. I was looking at the Thunderbolt docks from Belkin and Matrox, but at upwards of $300, it's hard to accept that price just for the convenience of using a single cable to connect all of my devices. A great compromise is the simpleDock ($119.95) from Kanex.
Apple TV has long been a "hobby" for Apple, with perennial rumors of something bigger. However, Google, Roku, and now Amazon have been putting out attractive competitors without waiting for Apple to get serious. The $35 Chromecast from Google brought smart TV features to the masses. Now the $99 Amazon Fire TV offers higher-end features, comparable and even superior to the Apple product.
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