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

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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’s Mysterious Bluetooth S Pen: Talk to the Hand… Really

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen was silently introduced to the press after the Aug. 15 New York launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet.

James Bond would be proud. While the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen HM5100 doesn’t contain poison or shoot bullets, the handheld unit, like many of 007’s toys, isn’t as simple as it looks. While this new tablet accessory looks like a mild-mannered stylus, it’s actually a wireless Bluetooth handset you can make calls with.

As Samsung’s glitzy launch event for its new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet wound down on Aug. 15, members of the press were sent packing with a press kit which included the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen. Most recipients seemed unimpressed at the seemingly mundane going-away gift and quietly packed them away. It was only upon closer inspection later that many realized what the BT S Pen actually was.

The front of the box does little to describe its capabilities other than to mention that it’s “compatible with Galaxy Note series” and one side of the box simply reminds you that it can “Enhance your mobile smart life.”

However, the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen is basically a pen-shaped Bluetooth handset with a stylus that’s compatible with the magnetic resonance circuitry built into the display of the  Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. When the BT S Pen is used with the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, the tablet can detect more than a thousand levels of pen pressure. This means you can draw a thick line by pushing down harder on the screen with the S Pen and a thinner line by easing up on the pressure.

The BT S Pen has the same side button that comes on the S Pen styli packed with Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphone and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet plus a rocker switch to control volume and a power button that’s also used to pick up and disconnect calls. The BT S Pen pairs with any compatible Bluetooth device by holding down the power button for three seconds. The unit’s built-in battery can be recharged via a standard microUSB slot hidden below a cap at the top of the device.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen: It looks like a stylus, but it’s actually a Bluetooth handset you can speak into.

 So how does it sound? Surprisingly good. Since it’s easy to hold the tiny speaker grill close to your ear canal, volume is not a real problem. A small microphone is embedded in the middle of the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen, which can be set to vibrate when a call comes in.

The unit has an indicator light, but no display and doesn’t call out the number of the incoming call. The biggest disadvantage of the S Pen, however, might be the perplexed glances you might get from people who spot you chatting with a pen.

So when can you purchase the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen? Good question. (UPDATE: The BT S Pen is now available for purchase.) The product doesn’t exist on Samsung’s US website and the box itself doesn’t even have a UPC code printed on it. Since the current Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet is a WiFi-only device, the BT S Pen may–or may not–debut with a future version of the tablet with built-in cellular data capabilities.

So if you spot someone with a pen nestled in his ear who seems to be talking to himself, don’t take pity on him. Ask him where he got that pen.

UPDATE: The BT S Pen is now available for purchase.

Text and images © 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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BlackBerry PlayBook: A Few Kind Words for a Forgotten Tablet

A year ago the BlackBerry PlayBook could have been a contender. The seven-inch tablet from Research in Motion could have carved out a nice market niche for itself if RIM could have delivered useful apps to go with the PlayBook’s sleek hardware and user-friendly operating system (OS) software in a timely fashion.

Unfortunately it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that RIM finally delivered the PlayBook 2.0 OS, which included top-notch e-mail, calendar and contacts apps. Unfortunately it all comes very late in the game, maybe too late. Now we have a brand new, hot-selling iPad from Apple and a raft of new, powerful Android tablets. The PlayBook is now deeply discounted, and is not exactly on the top of most tablet buyers’ wish lists.

Still there are some good things to say about the BlackBerry PlayBook and in a recent interview with radio host Mark Laiosa on WBAI-FM in New York, I go over some of the aspects of the new apps and the new PlayBook 2.0 operating system.

Link to audio clip: http://www.box.com/embed/tl9v4ztitlpt8a6.swf

Text Copyright 2012 Stadium Circle Features
Audio clip courtesy of WBAI-FM

BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0: RIM’s Last Shot?

PlayBook OS 2.0 download in progress

BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 is finally here. At long last PlayBook owners have a reason to crow about their units–instead of quietly sliding them away each time someone nearby pulls out an iPad.
But OS 2.0 is late–possibly too late to save the PlayBook.

From the moment it debuted last April, the BlackBerry PlayBook has been a heartbreaking disappointment. While its hardware and sleek design have garnered kudos for the seven-inch tablet, it unfortunately debuted without essentials like e-mail or contact-management software or a calendar. It also had an app store with a selection which made the worst of the Android Market seem like the Works of William Shakespeare.

At that time Research In Motion promised that a new PlayBook OS with e-mail, contact and calendar clients and an Android emulator that would allow the PlayBook to run popular Android apps would be ready by last June. Then it was October. We’ve been waiting ever since. Now it’s here.

Today BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0, with all of the above trimmings, finally becomes available as a free over-the-air download. And it’s about darn time.

If you were lucky enough to preview PlayBook OS 2.0 at the 2012 International CES in Las Vegas in January, you already know that this upgrade is a must download. The new OS is a head-and-shoulders improvement to the original quirky, limited-use operating system.

BlackBerry booth at 2012 CES

The new PlayBook e-mail, contact and calendar clients shown at CES are things of beauty. They have easy-to-use interfaces and smooth integration with social media services. The versions shown at CES looked like finished products even then–not just prototypes.

In terms of productivity, the new software offers a high level of cross-app integration, thus eliminating steps in doing basic tasks like setting up a meeting and inviting attendees. PlayBook OS 2.0 will also be more manageable than the previous version and will allow users to create their own folders.

One area where the PlayBook has always outdone other tablets like the iPad is in its still camera and video capabilities. For example, the video below was shot at the 2011 New York International Auto Show with the PlayBook’s five-megapixel rear-facing camera.

This video was shot at 720p resolution, which is not even the best the PlayBook can do: It also supports recording at 1080p and 480p.

The BlackBerry PlayBook also has a three-megapixel front-facing camera, which, combined with its microphone and stereo speakers, would make it a terrific videoconferencing solution–if it could only run Skype in addition to the little-known tablet videoconferencing apps in BlackBerry App World. But that may change soon.

As far as PlayBook-compatible Android apps are concerned, don’t expect to get access to the Android Market. Android apps need a little tweaking as well as approval from RIM before they will work on the PlayBook.

These PlayBook-approved Android apps will show up in BlackBerry App World along with those designed specifically for the QNX-based PlayBook OS. Thus, installing an Android app on the PlayBook will be no different from the process currently used. Right now only a handful of the most popular mobile apps are available as native apps for the PlayBook. This short list includes Facebook, Groupon, Evernote, Kobo and YouTube.

As of today, suggested pricing for the BlackBerry PlayBook is significantly reduced from the original levels, which ranged from $499 to $699. A PlayBook with 16GB of internal storage now retails for $199, the 32GB version is $249 and a 64GB unit is $299.

BlackBerry PlayBook tablet running PlayBook OS 1.0

If you’ll be upgrading a PlayBook as soon as OS 2.0 is available, keep in mind that an OS update is a serious upgrade. Before you start, back up important data elsewhere, make sure your unit is charged, keep it plugged in to an AC adapter during the upgrade process and make sure you have a reliable data connection. Once you start, follow the instructions to the letter. An aborted OS upgrade could chew up your data and turn your PlayBook into an expensive paperweight.

So how did your unit survive the OS 2.0 upgrade? Let’s hear about it.

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