After a long week at the Consumer Electronics Show, it's time to reflect on what we just experienced. CES isn't really just a show anymore; it's a show of shows, each with its own theme. When I get back each year, my friends and family ask me what was "The Big Thing?" Because the show is so big, I've decided to break down the "theme" into multiple themes. This year, the different "big things" were as follows:
Too many iPhone cases, especially the rugged kind, obstruct the Lightning port and make it impossible to simply dock your phone. STM has gotten around this with their Harbour case in a clever way. First, the case has a wider opening around the Lightning dock than most cases do. I was able to dock my iPhone 6 in the STM Harbour case in several different docks that usually give me trouble with other cases.
Jabra has been at the forefront of noise cancelling Bluetooth headsets since the early days of the iPhone. Their most recent headset, the Jabra Stealth, is the culmination of years of experience in a remarkably tiny, comfortable earpiece. I don't normally like Bluetooth headsets because they interfere with my glasses or are uncomfortable inside my ear.
The holidays are over, but if you didn't get what you want, don't fret. GeekFuel offers monthly surprise gifts in 3-, 6-, or 12-month increments. Each gift box is about the size of a shoebox, and promises $40 or more of value. You can expect a wide variety of items, but they are all geek-oriented items such as comics, science fiction, and technology. A t-shirt is in each box (you specify the size) but you can also expect things like Pez dispensers, comic books, stickers, posters, mini figures, action figures, downloadable content, and more.
A year ago, I bought our daughter an acoustic guitar, complete with instructional DVDs. That guitar has collected dust ever since. But now, I have the Zivix Jamstik which should change that. The Jamstik helps kids (and adults) learn how to play the guitar using tools they are already comfortable with, like an iPhone or iPad and apps. It connects wirelessly via Wi-Fi, or via USB to a Mac. The Jamstik works with over a dozen apps like GarageBand or other MIDI apps, as well as the included Jamstik Connect, JamMix, and JamTutor apps from Zivix.
If you already have made an investment in speakers and want to turn them into wireless ones, there are a few options. You could get a Bluetooth adapter, but you would have to deal with the latency and distance limitations of that technology. On the high-end, there are SONOS speakers which use Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth, but they are expensive and don't take advantage of your existing speakers.
It never ceases to amaze me what you can do with an iPhone, especially when paired with add-on accessories. Case in point, Vaavud makes a Smartphone Wind Meter ($40) that attaches to an iPhone, iPad, or Android phone. Unlike most accessories that connect via Bluetooth or Lightning, this gadget connects via the audio-in jack, just like the Square credit card reader. Because newer iPhones have the audio jack on the bottom, you flip the phone upside down and run their companion app while holding the iPhone in the air.
With a slim and elegant phone like the new iPhone 6, you might not want to keep it in a case. But that leaves it exposed to scratches or worse. In that case you might want a slim case like the Tigris Shell Stand Case from Draco Designs. This soft polymer case covers the back and most of the edges of the iPhone 6 but what I like best about it is the leather back. It adds a touch of luxury, which is especially true of the white model.
There are earbuds, on-ear headphones, and over-ear headphones, but I was surprised to see the Open Ear wireless Bluetooth headphones from AfterShokz, dubbed BLUEZ 2 ($99.95). These attractive headphones use the bone conduction technology whose origins go back to Beethoven and you might find today in a Navy SEAL's communication system. The result is, you hear the music through the inside of your head, and more importantly, your ears are uncovered. If you're riding a bicycle, for example, you can safely hear traffic with the AfterShokz. They could even help some hearing impaired users the same way Cochlear Implants can help them "hear" the world around them.
There are a lot of portable battery packs out there, so to distinguish themselves, battery makers have to offer a combination of features that are unique. The TP-LINK 10400mAh Power Bank does so in a few areas. First, obviously, it offers 10,400mAh of power. That's a lot and rarely found in such a compact unit. The result is, you can recharge your iPhone up to five times. This is possible not just because of the battery size, but the energy efficiency of the charger.