Don’t Get Stopped at the Gate: Keep Some Power in Your Pocket

Lepow Moonstone External Battery

Lepow Moonstone External Batteries

There are many ways to miss a flight, but a dead cell phone shouldn’t be one of them.

Unfortunately, new TSA security regulations for some foreign airports require that cell phones and other electronic devices be turned on while going through security. Devices that cannot power on won’t be allowed on flights. This rule doesn’t currently affect domestic U.S. flights; just some incoming international flights from certain destinations.

Innovative Technology Justin Slim Power Bank

Innovative Technology Justin Slim Power Bank

One way to avoid such hassles is to travel with an external battery–one that connects with your phone or tablet via a standard USB cable. As long as you keep these portable power banks charged, you’ll always be able to give your device enough juice to power up and get through security. The good news is that many power banks are slim, stylish and inexpensive.

When shopping, keep an eye on a battery’s milliampere-hour (mAh) rating, which gives you an idea of which devices it can charge and how long it can keep them going. For example, Innvovative Technology estimates that its Justin-brand 2,000 mAh power banks provide enough power to add nine hours of talk and web surfing time to a smartphone and its 6,000 mAh units will increase smartphone time an extra 27 hours or add five hours of web, audio and video time to a tablet. For the sake of comparison, note that the internal battery of an Apple iPhone 5s is rated at 1,560 mAh.

Powerocks Magicstick

Powerocks Magicstick

Innovative Technology’s Justin Slim Power Bank barely makes an impression in a jacket pocket but has enough room inside for a 2,000 mAh battery. Four LEDs let you know how much of a charge it has left.

Moonstone power banks from Lepow (photo at top) are encased in smooth, polished plastic and come in an assortment of colors and power capacities. Moonstones comes in 3,000 mAh, 6,000 mAh and 9,000 mAh versions and provide two USB ports: one standard and one higher-powered, fast charge port. Thus you could charge a smartphone on one port and a tablet on the other. Moonstones are roughly three inches square but vary in thickness.

Also colorful and stylish are the Magicstick power banks from Powerocks USA. The purse-size small cylinders house a 2,800 mAh battery and come in a choice of eight colors.

Champ Bodyguard Battery Rechargeable Power Bank

The Champ Bodyguard Power Bank includes a personal alarm and a flashlight.

The Champ Bodyguard Battery Rechargeable Power Bank adds a flashlight and a personal alarm siren to its capabilities as a 2,200 mAh lithium ion portable battery.

Some coffee shops and restaurants, like the ones in New York’s Madison Square Garden and a few Starbucks locations in Boston, now offer wireless charging hotspots built into some of their tables. Place a compatible smartphone or battery on the right spot and the device will charge up without wires.

Duracell Powermat GoPower Overnighter

Duracell Powermat GoPower Overnighter

The Duracell Powermat GoPower Overnighter charges smartphones and tablets with a standard USB cable, but the unit itself can be charged via an AC adapter or computer USB port or wirelessly by placing it on a Duracell or compatible wireless hotspot or charging station. The 4,400 mAh battery has a single USB port and comes precharged for immediate use.

PS72

Rayovac 2-Hour Power Pack

Rayovac’s inexpensive 2-Hour Power Pack doesn’t even need a USB cable. The small unit has a built-in micro USB port and plugs directly into your smartphone. Instead of a built in rechargeable battery, it uses a removable Rayovac CR123a battery, which you may be able to find at an airport electronics stores should your unit run down at the wrong time. A similar version with a connector for the iPhone 4S and earlier iPhones is also available.

Like the Lepow Moonstone, the Anker 2nd Gen Astro series chargers can charge two devices at the same time via two USB ports. Anker’s PowerIQ technology in the 2nd Gen Astro (6,000 mAh), Astro2 (9,000 mAh) and Astro3 (12,000 mAh) identifies the device connected to each intelligent USB port and adjusts the charging current accordingly.

Anker Astro

Anker 2nd Gen Astro

The Anker 2nd Gen Astro series units lack buttons: To wake them up you simply shake them. A circular power readout lets you know how much of a charge is left inside.

Of course none of the above power banks will do you much good at the airport security gate or anywhere else unless you remember to charge them regularly. So power up and happy travels.

 Text © Copyright 2014, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Exclusive: Motorola Moto X Software Update Cures Its Wired Headset Headaches

Moto X lead small

The affordable, yet sophisticated Motorola Moto X succeeds in making life with a smartphone as simple, colorful and touch-free as possible, but until recently it stumbled with one of the most basic of all cell phone accessories: wired headsets with microphones.

Fortunately, a new Moto X system software update cleans up the glitch, allowing these headsets to work as they should. The free update is now being pushed out to AT&T and T-Mobile handsets. Moto X owners can wait for the notification screen to pop up or scroll through the phone’s settings to the “About Phone” section, where they can manually initiate the update.

When a Moto X with the original system software was tested with apps such as Skype and voice recorders, it often failed to recognize wired headsets with built-in mics. The earpieces would go silent and the mics wouldn’t transmit audio.

To see if your Moto X still has the original system software, download Skype and try this: Plug a wired headset with a mic to your Moto X and make a voice call to the “Echo/Sound Test Service” entry that’s preinstalled as a contact in Skype. Once connected, try to listen to the automated recording and try to record your voice when prompted.

If you have the original system software, you won’t hear and thing and won’t be able to make the recording. Try the call again without the headset–Skype should work fine. Skype and Motorola public relations representatives were contacted for comment about the wired headset problems; neither responded.

Screenshot_2013-10-04-17-49-17

A Moto X which once failed the Skype test now works perfectly after the five-minute software, which also cures other Moto X issues, was installed.

The wired headsets used for testing included Audiofly AF45 and Lenovo 57Y4488 earbuds and a Native Union Pop Phone handset. The above problems were limited to wired headsets with mics–they did not occur with wired headsets without mics or with wireless Bluetooth headsets.

The wired headset problems were ironic since the Moto X, which has three built-in microphones, actually works very well with voice-activated apps such as Google Now since one of the mics is used for noise cancellation. With the new software update, the Moto X becomes an even better value.

Moto X headset 1

Overall, the Moto X is a remarkable smartphone with good looks–which can be customized–and quality high-end features like a sharp, 4.7-inch display and a 10-megapixel camera. (Click here for full review).

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Motorola Moto X: Fun, Friendly & Fast Enough

Motorola Moto X

Motorola Moto X

Motorola’s Moto X smartphone is an admirable balance of style and usability. It doesn’t try to outdo Samsung, Apple and others in the race to squeeze in as many high-tech features as possible but instead aims to please with its hand-shaped curves, cool voice-activated features and touch-friendly camera.

The Moto X succeeds as a sophisticated mainstream smartphone but is no speed demon. Its user-friendliness and simplicity are apparent from the start: Instead of a cluttered home screen, the Moto X offers pretty much a plain vanilla Android home screen that allows the new owner do the customizing. And that’s not surprising since Motorola Mobility is now a division of Google, the maker of Android software.

To start the camera, you pick up the phone and twist your wrist twice–that’s it; the Moto X immediately switches to camera mode. To take a photo you can touch any part of the screen–there’s no need to hunt for a shutter button. The Moto X’s 10-megapixel camera uses Motorola’s ClearPixel technology, which allows each sensor to gather 75 percent more light, thus making it possible to get clear photos even in low-light situations. according to Motorola.

The Moto X can be customized with numerous color combinations for its keys and shell (including an all wood case available later this year) by ordering the unit via the Moto X website, which only offers AT&T units at the moment. Since the Moto X is manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas instead of somewhere overseas, online buyers can expect to see their new phones–already initialized with their Google accounts–in four days or less, according to Motorola.

Motorola's Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

Motorola’s Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

“We think this represents a very interesting future,” said Rick Osterloh, senior vice president for product development at Motorola during a press event in New York. He said the Moto X is aimed at “the mainstream user,” not the feature-frenzied geek.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

The Moto X uses what computing power it has fairly efficiently. It runs Android version 4.2.2 and has a dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon processor. Other top-shelf smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 have quad-core processors, but they also have more sensors and higher-resolution screens, making the additional processor muscle necessary.

Moto X Active Display

The low-power Active Display mode on Motorola’s Moto X.

The Moto X is built with what’s called the Motorola X8 computing system. It’s a set of eight processor cores assigned to different tasks. Why is this important? By using different cores for different tasks, the entire processor doesn’t have to be awake all the time–each core wakes up as it’s needed. This design extends the life of the Moto X’s 2200 mAH battery to a full day of average use, according to Motorola.

Two of the processor cores are used for basic application processing (this is what makes the Moto X a “dual-core” smartphone) and four are used for graphics processing, thus speeding up video and photo functions. The other two cores take care of voice commands and sensors like the accelerometer and the ambient light sensor and help the Moto X detect how fast you’re moving and what you’re doing with the phone.

When tested with voice commands, the Moto X worked very well and was able to verbally answer questions about the time, the weather, directions, baseball scores and many other queries. The quality of the speech detection is aided by the phone’s three microphones, which work together to cancel stray noises and enhance voices.

A useful Active Display shows notifications in a simple, low-power mode, thus letting you know if you have incoming e-mail, text messages or other items even when the phone is in standby mode.

The Moto X lists for $199 (16GB of user memory) or $249 (32GB) with a two-year plan and is sold by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular and major retailers.

Do you have a Moto X? How do you like it so far? Comment or vote:

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Ten Pinterest tips from a user with 1.2 million followers: Me!

The number of followers on my Paper PC Picks hot products board on Pinterest now rivals that of Mashable and The Verge.

The number of followers on my Paper PC Picks hot products board on Pinterest now rivals that of major tech websites such as  Mashable and The Verge.

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I’m quite proud of the CNET story on how I amassed 1.2 million followers on Pinterest.  My Paper PC Picks board on Pinterest has proven to be an excellent vehicle for quickly posting short stories on new gadgets that I see at press conferences and trade shows.

Journalist Robert Anthony, who has 1.2 million followers after less than a year on Pinterest, offers up some of the latest thinking on the platform.

According to Repinly, I’m now one of the most popular Pinterest pinners in the world. I only have you, the readers, to thank for that.

Me on Repinly

Click here to read the CNET piece. And thanks for your support.

Copyright 2013 Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Starbucks Verismo Coffee System: Hot, Steamy Technology with a Little Milk

Starbucks Director of Research and Development Paul Camera makes a cup of espresso with the $200 Verismo 580.

It’s rare when you hear the words “milk” and “technology” uttered in the same sentence, but that’s what Paul Camera, director of research and development for Starbucks, did as the company rolled out the Verismo System, its new line of premium one-cup-at-a-time home coffee and espresso brewers. At a launch event in New York, Camera and other Starbucks representatives showed off the $200 Verismo 580 and the larger $400 Verismo 585, which adds an LED readout, temperature control and other features. Both units can brew a cup of coffee in about 15 seconds.

The Verismo brewers use small coffee, espresso and milk pods that insert neatly into a slot at the top. Making coffee is as simple as adding water to the tank at the back of the Verismo units, inserting the pod into the Verismo, lowering a large lever and pushing a button. In practice the brewing process was quick and fairly quiet.

The $400 Starbucks Verismo 585.

Verismo System espresso pods.

Aside from developing systems that could deliver the right amount of water at the right temperature and pressure, a lot of the high-tech work in developing the Verismo System went into the milk, said Camera. He said the perfecting a dry milk pod with pure milk that could survive a year on the shelf took a bit of research and experimentation. He said the Verismo units are designed to rehydrate and heat milk without scalding it, thus ensuring a good-tasting latte.

Verismo 580 with coffee, espresso and milk pods.

The Verismo-compatible pods will sell for $12 per 12-pack, a Caffe Latte box including eight espresso pods and eight milk pods will sell for $13 while a 12-pack of milk pods will be priced at $10. The coffee selection includes Veranda, House Blend, Pike Place Roast and Caffe Verona while the espresso choices include Espresso Guatemala, Espresso Roast and Decaf Espresso Roast.

The Verismo units will be sold at stores such as Macy’s and Williams-Sonoma and will be sold at Starbucks stores starting Oct. 16.

Text, images and video Copyright 2012 Robert S. Anthony,

Stadium Circle Features, info@paperpc.com

A Night at the Museum: Timeless Cool Tech at MoMA

Never underestimate the geek value of a night at the museum, specifically New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

On a recent Friday afternoon (admission is free 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays) I found myself on the third floor where MoMA houses a surprisingly eclectic and entertaining collection of old and new technology in its Architecture and Design areas.

While the Bell-47D1 helicopter in the lobby and the collection of vintage vacuum tubes were expected, the displays also include products you may have used or may be in your home right now.

The FPR2 Human Powered Radio and Freeplay Human Powered Torch from Freeplay Energy Ltd. would have come in handy during any of New York’s three major blackouts. Both units can be charged with elbow grease or via built-in solar panels. The London-based company still makes hand-crank-powered devices but they’re smaller and sleeker than these translucent 1998-vintage consumer products.

The IBM ThinkPad 701 notebook, which debuted in 1995, is a classic example of cool technology which went white hot and ice cold almost overnight. How do you fit a full-size keyboard into a compact laptop? Create a split keyboard which expands when you open the unit’s lid and collapses when you close it.

The butterfly keyboard, officially called the TrackWrite, allowed the unit’s 9.7-inch-wide case to accommodate a keyboard that could fold out to 11.5 inches wide. As laptops grew larger and more affordable, the need for such keyboard magic disappeared and the ThinkPad 701 ended up as the only ThinkPad made with the nifty folding keyboard.

Long before frills such as wireless mice, studio-quality audio or (gasp!) electronic displays came to personal computing, Olivetti’s Logos 80 Programmable Calculator provided a reasonable calculating option for those graduating from slide rules or four-function pocket calculators.

It’s not surprising when art makes its way from a museum for temporary display in the New York’s subway system, but it’s rare when things go the other way. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the folks who run New York’s subways, is experimenting with the Help Point Intercom, a highly visible customer assistance and emergency communicator.

Many stations have customer communication boxes, but they’re yellow and much smaller and sometimes hard to find. The Help Points are much larger, always illuminated and are uniquely coded so subway personnel can tell which unit was used to call in an emergency and where to send assistance.

In a pilot program, some units have been installed at the 23rd St. and Brooklyn Bridge stations on the Lexington Ave. line. Apparently the sleek, but functional design earned the Help Point a spot in MoMA even before it merited widespread adoption in the subway system.

The moral of this story: Cool design is timeless. Only time will tell if the electric toothbrush you used this morning will make it to MoMA’s third floor next year.

Text and video Copyright 2012 Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features