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

Motorola Sharpens Droid RAZR Lineup with RAZR HD, RAZR MAXX HD and RAZR M

Motorola Droid RAZR HD

Motorola tried to snatch the smartphone headlines from Apple and Samsung Wednesday by introducing three robust additions to its Android lineup: The muscle-bound Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD and the affordable, but still power-packed Droid RAZR M.

The Droid RAZR M, which has a 4.3-inch display, is available now for $100 when purchased with a two-year service plan. No specific dates or prices were announced for the Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD, which have 4.7-inch screens. All come with 1.5 GHz dual-core processors, 1 GB of RAM and front- and rear-facing HD-video-capable cameras. [Update: The Droid RAZR HD is now available for $200 and the Droid RAZR MAXX HD is $300, in both cases when purchased with a two-year service plan.]

“I’m here to tell you that the new Motorola starts today,” said Dennis Woodside, CEO of Motorola Mobility, now a part of Google. “In many ways, Google and Motorola have only just begun.”

Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside talks to the press as the image of Martin Cooper, who led the Motorola team which invented the mobile phone in 1973, looms behind him. Cooper was in attendance at the New York press event.

Motorola’s three new RAZR models offer 4G data speeds via the LTE network from Verizon Wireless, long-lasting batteries and are the first to ship with Google’s Chrome for Android Web browser, which has a handful of finger-friendly features.

For example, to switch between tabs on Chrome you simply swipe your finger from one side of the screen to the other. A swipe to the side also gets rid of a tab while you’re looking at a group of them. Users also have the option of synchronizing bookmarks with Chrome browsers on other devices. Unlike the standard Android Web browser, Chrome has no limits on the number of tabs you can have open at once.

According to Motorola, the Super AMOLED displays on the Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD have 78 per cent more pixels than the original DROID RAZR, resulting in a sharper, smoother-looking display. The key difference is that the Droid RAZR HD, available in black or white, comes with a lithium-ion battery which provides 24 hours of battery life while the thicker RAZR MAXX HD (black only) has a larger battery which promises 32 hours of phone use per charge.

Droid RAZR M

The Droid RAZR M, which is available in black or white, has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen and a narrow bezel, which allows it to offer the same size screen as phones with larger bodies, including the original Droid RAZR. Its 2,000 mAH battery provides 20 hours of battery life, according to Motorola. The new RAZR phones also offer power-management controls that can further enhance battery life.

Like its larger siblings, the Droid RAZR M has an 8-megapixel camera on the back but has a lower-resolution, 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera while the other two new RAZR models have 1.3-megapixel front cameras.

During a demonstration at Wednesday’s press event a Droid RAZR HD unit provided remarkably sharp and smooth HD video playback even with bright ambient light. As expected, the new RAZR models are thin. The RAZR M comes in just under a third of an inch, the RAZR HD is just over a third of an inch thick and the RAZR MAXX HD is slightly fatter at 0.37 inches thick.

Woodside noted that not only will all of  the new RAZR phones be upgraded from Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) later this year, but added that all Motorola smartphones capable of handling the new software will get it as well. Owners of Motorola smartphones that can’t be upgraded to Jelly Bean can get a $100 credit toward a new phone, he said.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Motorola RAZR product launch in New York.

“They really shouldn’t be called smartphones, they should be called mobile computers,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who led off the press event.

How will the new RAZR entries compete with the Samung Galaxy S3, the current and future Apple iPhone and recent entries from Nokia, LG, HTC and others? The holiday shopping season will provide the answer soon enough.

Text, video and images © Copyright 2012

Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

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No Foul! Wireless Charging Hotspots Coming to Madison Square Garden

iPhone with Duracell Powermat wireless charging sleeve next to wireless charging hotspot.

Duracell Powermat to install wireless charging hotspots in restaurants, bars and luxury boxes in the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”

If you remember the Patrick Ewing-era New York Knicks, you know they were tough enough to take a hard charge now and then for the team. In a few weeks you’ll be able to get a charge yourself–wirelessly and without the pain—courtesy of Duracell Powermat.

Duracell Powermat booth at the 2012 CES.

The company announced at last week’s 2012 CES in Las Vegas that it has been tapped by Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association and the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, to install wireless charging hotspots around the Manhattan arena.

If you have a iPhone or other smartphone or mobile device and you outfit it with a wireless charging sleeve, which will be sold at the Garden as well as at major electronics stores, you’ll be able to give your device a charge while it sits in front of you as you dine or drink or gently air your opinion about the officiating of the game below.

Mockup of Garden suite with wireless charging hotspot at 2102 CES in Las Vegas.

The Duracell Powermat wireless charging sleeves as well as those already available from companies such as Energizer adhere to a wireless charging standard named “Qi,” developed by the Wireless Power Consortium, which showed off a wealth of Qi-compatible devices at the 2012 CES. This means that any Qi-compatible sleeve will work with the hotspots at the Garden–not just those made by Duracell Powermat.

Wireless Power Consortium shows off Qi-compatible devices at 2012 CES.

An upcoming Duracell Powermat smartphone app will not only tell you how much power is left in your device, but it will also direct you to the nearest wireless charging hotspot.

If you use the app while you’re sitting in the Garden, you can use your phone’s camera to scan the arena and, through the magic of “augmented reality,” the app will generate pointers in the image to show you where the hotspots are.

Duracell Powermat smartphone app previewed at the 2012 CES in Las Vegas.

The new inductive charging stations will appear first in the Event Level Suites, which were added as part of the first phase of a three-phase renovation of the Garden last year. Eventually they will pop up in the Garden’s Madison Suites, the Delta Sky360 Club and in the 1879 Club presented by J.P. Morgan.

Entertainer Jay-Z is the new spokesman for the new Duracell Powermat wireless charging initiative at the Garden, which is a little bit ironic since he is a part owner of the nearby rival New Jersey Nets—soon to be the even closer Brooklyn Nets. Duracell Powermat LLC is a joint venture of Procter & Gamble, parent company of Duracell, and Powermat.

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

Aetrex Opens Trendy High-Tech Shoe Store

Former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms likes it and so might you: A new shoe store with a computerized gizmo that scans and sizes up your feet.

The new Aetrex Worldwide Inc. store that opened on East Palisade Ave. in Englewood, New Jersey today features no one resembling the poor Al Bundy character made famous in the old “Married with Children” TV show but instead offers a computer that can measure and assess you shoe needs better than luckless Al could have even on his best day.

The Aetrex store features the Aetrex iStep 5000, a piece of hardware which looks like a foot bath, but has thousands of barometric sensors below your feet to assess how your weight is distributed and hundreds of infrared LEDs around your feet to accurately measure them.

The result is data that can create a 2D or 3D image of the pressure points on your feet. This allows the salesperson to fit you with any necessary orthotics while fitting you with the proper shoe. You can have the computer data sent to you via e-mail or straight to your cell phone via text message. The scanning process takes about 30 seconds.

Simms, who was present at a preview and ribbon-cutting event for the press on Thursday, said his Aetrex shoes had eliminated much of the heel pain he used to get from his other size 14 shoes.

Aetrex is marketing its proprietary software and hardware solution to other shoe stores, so you may see one of these setups in your neighborhood sooner than you think.

For a quick demonstration of how the Aetrex iStep 5000 works, see my piece for PC World.

Text and video Copyright 2011 Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

World’s Largest QR Code? Maybe Not, But…

Video screen above Times Square American Eagle Outfitters store.

It may not be the world’s largest QR code, but it may be one of the most effective. While there are plenty of bright and flashy video screens in New York’s Times Square, there aren’t many that will prompt people to put aside their high-quality still and video cameras in favor of their little cameraphones.

Why? So they can snap an image of the huge QR (quick response) code which appears at regular intervals on the massive video screen of the American Eagle Outfitters store at 1551 Broadway.

These QR codes, which usually appear in somewhat smaller form in magazines, newspapers and sometimes the sides of bus stops, provide instant access to discount coupons or other assets like digital music clips, movie trailers or printed articles. As long as your smartphone has a bar code/QR code reading application–and there are many available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry phone users–you can scan the code, send it over the Internet for processing and download whatever goodie is attached to the code.

When snapped on Nov. 16, the Times Square American Eagle Outfitters QR code lead to a coupon good for 15% off its merchandise.

The L-shaped video screen section which includes the code in the photo measures roughly 79 feet wide by 44 feet tall, making it hard to miss even in the visual cacophony of Times Square. And there are 11 other sign sections in the massive structure above the store.

It was indeed amusing to watch tourists and hardened New Yorkers alike snatch their smartphones from their pockets as if they were Old West gunslingers in an effort to start their phones’ code-reading apps and scan the code before it disappeared.

So what’s your favorite bar code/QR code  reading app? This inquiring mind would like to know.

Photo and text Copyright 2010 Stadium Circle Features