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

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Amazon’s New Kindle Fire HD Family: Take That Apple iPad!

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Not many companies can make Apple sweat, but Amazon has just turned up the heat with the new Kindle Fire HD tablet/ereader family: The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD ($199 with 16GB of storage; $249 with 32GB), the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD 8.9 ($299 with 16GB; $369 with 32GB) and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 4G LTE Wireless ($499 with 16GB; $599 with 32GB).

The classic 7-inch Kindle Fire, which recently sold out on Amazon.com, is back in the Kindle lineup with a faster processor, more memory and a really cool new feature: A lower $159 price tag.

New 7-inch Kindle Fire HD in portrait and landscape orientation.

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, which has a better display, more storage space and Dolby stereo audio but the same $199 starting price as the old Kindle Fire, is available for preorder now and will be in stores Sept. 14. The other models will be available Nov. 20.

As a family, the new color Kindle HD units are poised to make a huge impact in three key tech sales areas: the affordable entry-level tablet market, the muscle Wi-Fi tablet segment and in the do-it-all-always-connected-big-tablet competition. Apple may have something interesting in the works as it rolls out a new iPad or two this fall, but for now Amazon has delivered a stunning first punch to the 2012 holiday-season tablet market.

Aside from HD displays, the new Kindle HD units have two Wi-Fi MIMO (Multiple In/Multiple Out) antennas, which means that both antennas can receive data simultaneously on 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks, thus resulting in better wireless Internet reception, according to Amazon.

Also included in the new units are front-facing cameras, a custom version of Skype videoconferencing software, free unlimited cloud storage for Kindle media, Bluetooth wireless adapters for wireless headsets, speakers and other accessories and an HDMI out port.

With a starting price of $299, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is far more affordable than the least expensive Apple iPad, but offers an admirable array of features, including its 1,920-by-1,200-pixel, 254-pixel-per-inch IPS display and a 1.5 GHz, dual-core processor. It has the same look as the smaller Kindle HD, which has a 1.2GHz processor, in terms of its dark case and thick border around the display area.

The Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE Wireless offers the same features of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 plus high speed always-on LTE data service at a very competitive price: $50 a year for 250MB a month data, 20GB of additional cloud storage and a $10 Amazon app store credit.

Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the company’s Kindle press conference that Amazon was willing to lose money on hardware since it could make up the loss selling content in the Kindle Store.

The new Kindle units can take advantage of new Amazon content services, including Kindle FreeTime, which lets parents set time limits on content for their children. FreeTime will be available in October.

Also introduced Thursday were other Kindle devices, including two monochrome devices using new Kindle display technology:  the $119 Kindle Paperwhite and the $179 Kindle Paperwhite 3G.

Of course the best feature about all Kindle devices is easy access to Amazon’s huge arsenal of ebooks, audiobooks, MP3 music downloads, Android apps and other downloadable media. Amazon tries to make things easy on technophobes by providing a simple interface.

At Thursday’s unveiling in Santa Monica, California, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos readily admitted that Amazon was willing to lose money on hardware since it could make up the loss with content sales from its Kindle store.

In boxing, the best punch is often the one you get off just ahead of your opponent: Even if it doesn’t floor him, you have his attention. Apple, are you listening?

Images and video courtesy of Amazon.

Text © Copyright 2012

Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

info@paperpc.net

LooxcieLive: Walk, Talk and Stream Live Video from Smartphone to Facebook

Mock-up of new Looxcie for Facebook App

If you’ve ever dreamed of owning your own TV network, Looxcie has an app for you. As of this morning, you can download the revised version of LooxcieLive, a free smartphone/tablet app which lets you stream live video from your device’s front or back camera straight to your friends who are using the same app.

No app? No problem. In a few days a new Looxcie App for Facebook will allow anyone who can access Facebook to view your live videos or those broadcast on Looxcie’s public user channels.

LooxcieLive smartphone and tablet app

LooxcieLive, available for Android 2.1-plus and Apple iOS 5.0-plus devices, is compatible with front or rear cameras on smartphones or tablets. Not only does the app let you speak to your viewers, but viewers with LooxcieLive on their own smartphones can talk back. They can use a push-to-talk button or can send text messages to the videographer.

The introduction of LooxcieLive means that you no longer need one of Looxcie’s lightweight, wearable video cameras to broadcast live videos via a smartphone app.

“If you don’t have a Looxcie [camera], you can still have a Looxcie experience,” said Jay Moore, vice president of marketing at Looxcie during a phone conference.

However, the Looxcie LX1 and Looxcie LX2 cameras have superior optics and offer better resolutions than most tablets and smartphones. The Looxcie cameras, which link with smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth, can be hung from an ear like a Bluetooth headset, clipped to a baseball cap, put on a tripod or otherwise used completely hands free.

“There’s still an advantage to using a Looxcie camera,” said Moore. “At a minimum we’re engaging new users.”

LooxcieLive

Videos streamed with the LooxcieLive app can be made private, where only invited friends can view them, or left public where anyone with the app or using the Looxcie for Facebook App can see them. The app allows users to send live broadcast notifications to Looxcie and Facebook friends.

The live streaming works over 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi connections, according to Looxcie, and videos are archived to the cloud, where they can be viewed later. The app supports a top streaming video resolution of 480p at up to 15 frames per second, so the result is not exactly HD-quality.

Moore noted that the app can be useful for citizen journalists or anyone who wants to make a simple broadcast that he can share.

“We definitely pride ourselves with trying to provide an easy experience for our customers,” said Moore.

Images courtesy of Looxcie.

Text © Copyright 2012
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
info@paperpc.net

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1: Potent Pen-Powered Tablet Challenges iPad

Travis Merrill, director of marketing for Samsung Electronics America’s Galaxy tablet division helps introduce the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android 4.0 tablet at an Aug. 15 launch event in New York.

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet isn’t an iPad, and that’s the point.

Samsung has designed the Galaxy Note 10.1 to be not just a device for Web surfing, email reading and other forms of what it calls “consumption,” but as a creative device which, according to Samsung, will change the way users learn, draw, share and otherwise interact with their mobile electronic companions.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 with S Pen

At $499 for a unit with 16GB of storage and $549 for a 32GB version, Samsung has the difficult task of convincing the public why they should spend 500-or-so dollars on a Galaxy Note 10.1 instead of an Apple iPad. The answer, according to Samsung representatives at a splashy Aug. 15 launch event in New York, is the S Pen.

The S Pen, which stores neatly in a slot in the back of the Galaxy Note 10.1, can detect more than a thousand levels of pen pressure when combined with the specially designed screen on the tablet. This means that you can draw on the screen as if you had a real pen or brush: A light pressure for a thin pen line or feathery brush stroke or more pressure for a thick line or a heavy coat of virtual paint.

Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics America, unveils the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet at New York press conference.

“Make no mistake…this is not a [run-of-the-mill] stylus,” said Travis Merrill, director of marketing for Samsung Electronics America’s Galaxy tablet division. He noted that unlike other tablets which can only detect whether a stylus has made contact with its screen or not, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 can, via electromagnetic resonance, detect the S Pen as it approaches the screen. All necessary power is generated by the tablet–no battery power is needed for the S Pen, he noted.

The combination of the pressure-sensitive screen and high-resolution digitizer built into the Galaxy Note 10.1 means that tasks like painting, document annotation and handwriting recognition are enhanced, he said.

“For the first time, freehand writing on a tablet makes sense,” said Merrill.

Award-winning film director Baz Luhrmann explains what he likes about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 at Aug. 15 product launch event in New York.

During the press conference, award-winning film director Baz Luhrmann said that after a few days with the Galaxy Note 10.1, he found it easy to share and edit storyboards and other information vital to his upcoming  movies.

“This is a creative tool… That’s the game changer for me,” said Luhrmann.

The Galaxy Note’s 10.1-inch, 1,280-by-800-pixel display is driven by a quad-core, 1.4GHz processor, the most powerful to date in Samsung’s Android tablet lineup. The unit comes with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), the latest version of Google’s operating system software for mobile devices. An upgrade to the next Android version (Jelly Bean) will be available later this year, according to Samsung.

The tablet is preloaded with Adobe Photoshop Touch, the Barnes & Noble Nook ebook app, the Kno textbook and learning app and a handful of other productivity and entertainment titles. The tablet had a Multiscreen feature which allows users to run two from a select list of apps at the same time on the same screen. For example, you can have an email app and a Web browser window open at the same time.

Unlike the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has a microSD card slot for additional storage on removable memory cards and an infrared port, a feature once prevalent on cell phones and PDAs. The infrared port allows the Galaxy Note 10.1 to be used as an intelligent remote control for your current TV and audio equipment.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet comes in Pearl Gray and Pearl White.

Preinstalled on the tablet is the Peel Smart Remote & TV Listing app, which aids in the process of configuring the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet to work with your electronic gear and provide access to various TV programming guides.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet can run two apps at the same time on the same screen.

So, will the Galaxy Note 10.1 make a dent in the iPad’s slice of the tablet market? Let the battle begin…and let me know what you think.

Image of Galaxy Note 10.1 with S Pen courtesy of Samsung.
All other images and videos © Copyright 2012 Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features, info@paperpc.net

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Apple Store’s Gift to Grand Central Terminal: Free Wi-Fi

You may not have noticed, but the new Apple Store which opened in
Grand Central Terminal Friday brought with it an early holiday
gift for harried New York commuters: Free Wi-Fi.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority has offered free Wi-Fi in the historic venue since 2008, but only in the small ticketed-passengers-only Station Master’s Office waiting area on the station’s west side.

The vast Main Concourse, with its soaring, 125-foot-high ceiling, iconic four-faced clock and landmark circular information booth, is well beyond the reach of the MTA’s Wi-Fi access point.

Fortunately the new Apple Store at Grand Central Terminal offers free Wi-Fi which freely spills out of the store’s base on the East Balcony, across the vast Main Concourse and into many of the other areas of the station’s main level.

When tested with a new LG Nitro HD Android 2.3 smartphone for AT&T, the Apple Store’s Wi-Fi signal was strong throughout the Main Concourse and was even reachable under archways below the West Balcony. The signal didn’t disappear until just before the west side escalators to the lower level.

The free Wi-Fi is good news for delayed commuters with iPods, Wi-Fi-only Kindles, iPads and other tablets and handheld devices and for those with limited data plans for their cell phones. It’s also good news for users of smartphone videoconferencing apps that run only over Wi-Fi, not over their carriers’ data networks.

So how do you connect? Just turn on your device’s Wi-Fi adapter, search for the access point named “Apple Store,” and connect. The open network doesn’t even require a sign-in; just connect and go. But a word to the wise: Since this Wi-Fi connection offers no security, save your online banking for a more secure Internet link at home or work.

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

Apple Store at Grand Central Terminal Arriving Soon – But When?

The largest Apple Store in the world is almost fully baked, but right now you can’t tell what’s behind the black curtain at New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

An electronic sign which mimics the destination signs at Grand Central offers some teasers, but holds back the most essential information: When will the darn thing open? When will commuters passing through the historic train station get a chance to peruse iPads and Macs on their ways to and from work? No official word from Apple yet.

The good news is that you won’t have any problem finding the store: It takes up the entire east balcony and then some.

Those of you old enough to lie about your age might remember when this area was completely blocked by the Kodak Colorama, a gigantic photo which took over the entire balcony. The 18-by-60-foot transparency, billed as the world’s largest photograph, ruled over the space for 40 years until the late 1990s, when Grand Central underwent a major renovation which removed billboards, kiosks and other clutter out of the main waiting area and added the east staircase.

It’s a sure bet that the store will open early enough to inhale income from the current holiday shopping season, but we don’t know when the black curtain will lift. However, even though you can’t shop at the Grand Central Terminal Apple Store yet, you can apply for a job there now, according to Apple’s website.

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

Will Amazon Silk Stoke Kindle Fire?

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire Android color tablet succeeds at shaking up the tablet and eBook reader market with its powerful processor, sharp display and affordable $199 price tag, but don’t be fooled: It’s what’s going on in the background that’s more interesting than the tablet itself.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off Kindle Fire tablet

What may make or break the Kindle Fire is Amazon Silk, a new generation of mobile Web browser that’s indeed different from what you’re using now, but more on that in a second.

The Kindle Fire has a sharp, 7-inch, 1024-by-600 dot-per inch color display with a pixel density of 169 pixels per inch, which is significantly denser than the 132ppi screen on the market-leading Apple iPad 2. It also has a dual-core, but unnamed 1GHz processor, which is good news for video-heavy and otherwise sophisticated Android apps.

But don’t mistake this for an iPad 2 killer. It has only 8GB of storage, uses Android 2.3 instead of the tablet-friendlier Android 3.x and has no camera. It’s not a pure Android tablet either, which means that getting new apps won’t be as simple as pulling them off of the Android Market.

However, looming ominously behind the Kindle Fire is Amazon’s massive collection of text and video content, its vast Web services and almost unlimited online storage capacity.

Like the other Kindles, everything you put on your Kindle Fire is backed up on Amazon’s cloud. Unlike any Kindle or any other tablet before it, however, the Kindle Fire has Amazon Silk, a new, forward-thinking Web browser that splits the Web surfing work between the tablet and the many servers that make up the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, otherwise known as Amazon EC2.

So what does that mean? It means that the Kindle Fire’s Web browser can potentially speed through the Web much faster than other tablets with similar hardware simply because it has less work to do.

When you access a web page with a conventional Web browser, it often has to make multiple requests to multiple points in the Internet for things like images, video streams, Twitter feeds and other content that appears on a single page. Waiting for all of these requests to be fulfilled can make a Web browser seem sluggish.

What Amazon Silk does is analyze the “aggregate behavior” of Kindle Fire Web users to determine what Web content is in heavy demand. That content is then cached on Amazon’s servers and, if needed, rendered into a form more suitable for the Kindle Fire’s screen. The result is that when a Kindle Fire user hits a popular website, much of the data needed can be retrieved at once from Amazon’s cache, thus speeding up the loading of the page.

If the website has a multi-megabyte image that would look just as well on the Kindle Fire’s screen if it were compressed, Amazon’s servers could intelligently scale the photo down.

For example, if Amazon Silk had detected that a lot of Web traffic was being aimed at web pages covering the heated Major League Baseball battle between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays for the last American League playoff spot, that content could have been cached by Silk for fast access by Kindle Fire users.

Journalists at the unveiling of the Kindle Fire weren’t allowed to touch them.

Journalists at the unveiling of the Kindle Fire weren’t allowed to touch them.

So does Amazon Silk work as smooth as silk? It’s much too early to say since the journalists at Wednesday’s unveiling of the Kindle Fire in New York weren’t allowed to touch the units.

To be sure, Amazon Silk is a ground-breaking concept which could potentially allow a tablet—or other device—with modest hardware to perform like it had higher-end components inside. The proof is in the pudding, but we haven’t seen it yet.

So what do you think? Chime in if you like.

Text and images Copyright 2011
Robert S. Anthony
Stadium Circle Features
info@paperpc.net