Old-school meets new-school with smart paper notebooks. Run out of pages? Toss it in the microwave for 2 minutes.
Tech Gift Ideas
Great gadgets don’t have to be expensive. These 3 favorites protect your phone, your privacy and your photos.
Do you know someone who shoots video or streams live using their smartphone? Audio is ALWAYS a problem. This wireless mic, the Samson Go Mic Mobile solves it.
(note: reviews of products here are not influenced by any demo units provided by the manufacturer. Samson provided a demo unit for my honest review. I demo many products this way but I do not put the products on TV or on the website unless I am satisfied with their performance. If you purchase the item from the link below What the Tech? will receive a small commission.)
I’ve seen dozens of virtual reality glasses and goggles, from the upscale Vive and Occulus to the Google Cardboard. Yes, those are impressive (the Cardboard is just okay) but perhaps the best of the bunches of under $99 VR headsets is one that’s both VR and AR (augmented reality).
Lights, gadgets, camera, action:
Do you have someone on your wish list this year who has an interest in filmmaking or YouTube videos? Today’s smartphone cameras are so good at taking photos and video some Hollywood directors are shooting feature films with iPhones. Famed director Steven Soderbergh, who’s biggest hits are “Logan Lucky”, “Oceans Eleven” and “Erin Brockovich” is reportedly releasing a new thriller to the big screen in the spring of 2018 that was shot entirely on an iPhone 7. If that isn’t proof that smartphone cameras are ready for the big screen I don’t know what is.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you can just run out and start recording video that looks like a big production; you need gadgets and several camera gadgets are a big step forward toward making smartphone videos look like something out of a big picture studio.
A stabilizer removes any shakiness the camera would capture when you’re shooting by hand. There are dozens of stabilizers on the market such as the DJI Phone Camera Gimbal OSMO MOBILE, Black which gives the filmmaker steadiness and control of the smartphone camera.
A different perspective gives video shot with an iPhone or smartphone camera a much more Hollywood look. Wide angle lens adapters are a must-have to create the big-picture look.
The OlloClip lens kits are built for specific smartphones and devices and you’ll need to make sure you get the correct one for your phone. The OlloClip is the go-to for professional smartphone videographers as they provide both wide-angle lenses along with fish-eye, macro and telephoto.
olloclip – ACTIVE LENS SET for iPhone 8/8 Plus & iPhone 7/7 Plus – TELEPHOTO & ULTRA-WIDE Premium Glass Lenses
The Sandmarc wide-angle lens comes with snap-on case. I’m using the SANDMARC Wide Lens Edition for iPhone X – Wide angle lens, case and clip-on kit for iPhone – 2X Wider Capture with my new iPhone X and found it captures a higher quality image.
See it on their website https://www.genze.com/
As you’re looking over your Christmas gift list, you may be stumped over what to give one specific person. Mom.
I don’t know about your mom but I don’t think mine has ever asked for anything in her life. That’s my sweet mother but gosh-darn-it we all want to make mom happy with a thoughtful gift. (sorry for the language mom).
Truth be told though, moms and technology don’t always mix well. Gadgets are a dad-thing but I can almost guarantee there’s something on this list that’ll make mom happy and things she would never even think to ask for.
If mom lives out of town the Nixplay digital photo frame will help her watch the grandkids grow. This frame is different than others on the market because it allows someone to upload the photos from their smartphone no matter where in the world they might be. On a family vacation, you can choose photos to share just be adding them to the frame within the Nixplay app. Or, you can choose to upload the photos automatically when one is taken. The photo frame supports videos too.
The Amazon Surprise Sweets is a gift that keeps on giving. Get the Surprise Sweets Dash button. Whenever she presses the button, a box of sweets is shipped to her. The box of chocolates and other gourmet sweets arrive in a few days. She won’t know what she’s getting until it shows up on her doorstep. Each Sweet Treats box is charged to your account, They’re about 18 dollars for each order.
If mom doesn’t have a connected car where she can use her phone over Bluetooth through the car radio, she might like one of the Jabra hands-free devices. The Jabra Freeway Bluetooth in-car speakerphone has its own speaker and microphone so mom can answer and place calls just by using her voice. It has a mounting clip that slides over the driver’s side sun visor. To place a call she can Siri or Google and carry on a conversation without needing to pick up her phone. This one will also play music playing on a smartphone.
Mom may not even know she needs a personal assistant but after using one of Amazon’s Alexa devices she’ll be surprised just how often it’s used. Amazon’s 2nd generation of Alexa looks more appealing than the older versions. It is covered in cloth and comes in different colors. Mom can ask Alexa to play music, ask for the forecast or news briefs or answer a question she might have to prove her husband wrong. Alexa personal assistants can also help mom if she’s cooking dinner by suggesting meals based on what’s already in the pantry. And if mom has one of those Instant Pots everyone raves about, Alexa will provide recipes and how-tos. The Alexa has a built-in speaker but if you’d rather get her something less expensive but without a great speaker, the Echo Dot makes a fine gift.
If mom carries her smartphone everyone a portable battery charger makes a good gift, but a purse that has a portable battery charger built inside? An even better gift. The Mighty Purse from HButler has dozens of styles that each come with a built-in charger. The purse will keep an iPhone or Android device charged throughout the day. It only needs to be charged itself for a few hours.
Who says mom wouldn’t enjoy a gadget for Christmas?
I call these the gadgets of 2017 that makes people say “Coooool”. You know, like what your kids say when they open a gift they really like but have never seen before?
That type of gift is getting easier to find.
The Merge VR is one of the best and most affordable virtual reality headset I’ve seen. It’s made of a spongy type material that makes it comfortable to wear no matter the size of your head. It also makes them unbreakable when one gets dropped or tossed across the room. The quality is as good as I’ve seen in other mid-priced VR headsets and it works with most any phone large or small. What sets the Merge VR apart is that it shines most when trying out ‘mixed-reality’. Mixed is a combination of the virtual and real worlds. Rather than playing a video game where it’s all in animation, mixed reality allows users to see the action play out in the real world. Imagine playing a game of golf on the floor in front of you rather than in just the video game.
The Merge VR has an additional VR block that looks as though it’s covered in QR or barcode. This allows the apps you’re viewing inside the headset to see images displayed through the squiggly lines. When I tested out the Merge VR at CES I held the block in front of me and watched a cool kaleidoscope on the block and played a Pac-Man type game by turning the block from one side to another. For me, the Merge VR was as enjoyable as some of the headsets and systems that cost hundreds of dollars.
There are dozens of home security cameras on the market and most do a fine job. My favorite is the Canary security camera. I like this camera because my wife doesn’t mind putting on the mantel. It’s a classy looking device that doesn’t seem to be out of place next to picture frames. The HD camera of course has great video quality that you can watch on a smartphone through the Canary app. It will also record video when it detects movement that you can share with police if necessary.
Two gadgets I use absolutely every day are Philips Hue Lights. These smart lightbulbs go into the light socket of a lamp or overhead fixture and can be controlled by an app or by your voice and an Amazon Alexa or Google Home Device. A Hue Light Starter pack is around $70 and is perhaps the best start at turning a home into a smart home. Philips also has a lightstrip starter kit for $156. It’s also controlled through the app and will change colors just by asking Alexa or Google Home.
The Amazon Dash Wand sits on the door of a refrigerator and can be used to add items to a shopping list. Notice you need more milk? Just tell Alexa built into the wand. The neatest feature though is the wand’s ability to read barcodes. Point the scanner at an empty milk carton and it will be added to a grocery list that shows up on an app. Or, you can set it up to order the items immediately through Amazon.
The coolest tech gadget I’ve seen this year is hard to narrow down but the GeniCan is at or near the top of the list. It’s a device that attaches to an existing garbage can and as you throw things away it reads the barcode and adds a replacement to your shopping list. It’s amazing to see it in action. If there is no barcode you can just tell the GeniCan what to add to your list. The startup launched GeniCan earlier this year and has already partnered with Amazon to offer one-step ordering. Just set it up to place an order for any item through Amazon.
Any of these gadgets are guaranteed to make someone on your list say “Cooool!”
When I was a kid I always found the same thing in my Christmas stocking; an apple, orange, peppermint stick and a book of Lifesavers. As such, it was always the last place I looked for cool gifts. Sometimes I didn’t even think to look in there until much later Christmas Day.
But a stocking is a great place to hide big gifts in small packages. Here are some of my favorite tech gadgets from 2017 that’ll drop in a Christmas stocking.
An Amazon Fire Stick. This streaming video player is built into a small USB or HDMI stick you plug into a television. It’s controlled by a remote or smartphone app or an Alexa device. Just say “Alexa, show movies about Christmas” and those titles will appear on-screen. There are other streaming video products such as the Google Chromecast and Roku devices but the FireStick is my favorite, especially for people who are Amazon Prime members. Be aware though that after the first of the year Google will block YouTube from being played on a Fire device.
Other streaming players include the Google Chromecast and the Roku
Personal assistant. If you haven’t tried an Amazon or Google device such as the Echo Dot or Google Home Mini, take my word for it; these things are surprisingly helpful. Place in the kitchen, bedroom, office or TV room and you can ask for help with just about anything. Both devices will control smart home gadgets (turn on/off lights, unlock or lock doors and control thermostats) they’ll also play music and answer your questions.
When you need to do more than text or update a Facebook post on your phone a Bluetooth keyboard is a big help. The iClever portable keyboard is about the size of a smartphone but folds out into a nice-sized keyboard for more lengthy writing on an iPhone or other smartphone or tablet.
You want the kids to do a better job of brushing their teeth; the key is making it fun enough to keep them brushing. The Kolibree Ara connected toothbrush turns the chore into a fun game. The Ara monitors how long they brush and whether they’re getting to those hard-to-reach teeth.
Everyone has run low on storage space on their phone because of hundreds of old photos they’re afraid of losing. The iXpand USB drives from Sandisk solves the problem. It connects to the phone through the firewire charging port and through an app, you can download every photo to the USB drive, then save the photo to a computer or even another device.
Most anyone will put these gadgets to good use. And you won’t have to wrap them!
Anytime I’ve ever asked my dad what he wants for Christmas or his birthday he says the same thing: “nothing”.
I admire him for that but for crying out loud! You want to get your dad something he’ll enjoy and for the man who seems to have everything that isn’t easy to do.
I’ve seen a lot of cool tech gadgets this past year and have made a note of all the things perfect for most every dad. Here are some of my favorite tech things of 2017:
Click on the photos to see the listing on Amazon
I suppose every dad has a set of jumper cables in the garage. Every now and then you have to jump off a dead battery by attaching the cables to two car batteries and starting up the dead one. They work great but what a hassle. The car with the dead battery always seems to be parked in a way that you can’t get another car on the side of the battery or the cables are never quite long enough.
The FlyHi portable jump starter is about the size of a smartphone and will easily fit under a car seat or in the glove compartment. It has enough power to jump start any 4.2 L gas or 3.0 L diesel engine. It also has USB ports to charge smartphones or laptops and an LED flashlight. Just charge it up at home through an electrical outlet and it’ll hold enough of a charge to last for months.
The FlyHi portable jump starter is about the size of a smartphone and will easily fit under a car seat or in the glove compartment. It has enough power to jump-start any 4.2 L gas or 3.0 L diesel engine. It also has USB ports to charge smartphones or laptops and an LED flashlight. Just charge it up at home through an electrical outlet and it’ll hold enough of a charge to last for months.
Goal Zero has an entire line of portable power chargers that will keep laptops, small electronics and even TVs and refrigerators running for hours. The Yeti 150 (pictured) is the lightest of the bunch and is good to keep small devices charged at tailgate parties or camping trips. Charge them through an electrical outlet before leaving the house, or add solar panels to keep them charged for days in the sun.
One of my absolute favorite things I tested in 2017 are video recording sunglasses from GoVision. These glasses record video and sound in HD. Some have Bluetooth to allow for live-streaming of the action. The video quality is exceptional.
There was a time when Bluetooth headsets looked stupid but that was before they got so small they’re difficult for anyone to see. The Plantronics Voyager series of Bluetooth headsets are practically a necessity for dads who stay on the phone at work for much of the day. They’re comfortable to wear and you can also listen to music or podcasts in between calls. When the phone rings, the headset will announce who’s calling and ask if you want to accept or reject the call. You don’t even need to pick up the phone or touch it.
If dad does some grilling the Weber iGrill 2 or 3 will free up some time and he’ll be the coolest guy at the grill all summer. The iGrill devices come with probes you insert into the beef or chicken. Set the desired internal temperature and dad will get a notification on his phone when it’s done. The companion app recommends the correct temperature for medium, medium rare or well done. The app also has recipes.s
I saved the best for last. The POWERUP remote controlled paper airplane will brighten up dad’s Christmas morning (along with everyone else). The popular Kickstarter project is now available online. It’s controlled by an app on a smartphone or by tilting your head if you pick up the first-person-view headset. Some have a camera onboard that will stream video live. It’ll fly for around 10 minutes on one charge and is virtually crash-proof. Since it’s made of paper, if it does crash you can fold another by using a template and paper. These start out at $50.