Whether you’re planning on road tripping it, hopping a cross-country flight, or simply enjoying a relaxing staycation this season, technology continues to play a growing role in many individuals’ summer plans. Thank meteoric growth in apps, tablet PCs and travel-ready mobile devices, which increasingly allow leisure seekers to stay connected wherever they go, and cram an entire household’s worth of ways to unwind into sleek, easily transportable carry-ons. We’ve teamed up with some awesome companies to take a look at the latest technology trends that can help heat up the coming weeks. Several worth keeping in mind off the bat include:
- The rise of home automation systems, multi-purpose mobile computing devices, and interconnected gadgets, quickly becoming more fully-featured and accessible through a growing range of apps. It’s getting to the point where you can control your home, DVR and entertainment collection remotely, and even your scale and refrigerator are starting to conspire together to help keep you looking trim by the pool.
- Rising advancements in mobile devices, leading to larger screen sizes, higher resolution graphics, and a growing range of choices in every shape, style and size. Thanks to promising handsets from the Samsung Galaxy S4 to Sony Xperia Z and HTC One, be on the lookout for improved battery life and better computing performance, as well as enhanced multimedia capabilities and download speeds.
- Massive strides in cell phone digital camera capabilities are also being made, meaning it’s easier than ever to capture or share vacation moments and memories. But dedicated waterproof and shockproof cameras from the likes of Olympus, Pentax and Panasonic are also growingly worth considering as an alternative, given shrinking prices and superior performance at capturing underwater or fast-action shots.
Of course, summer is also always a prime time for workout apps which promote fitness and exercise, several of which even use the GPS or other features of your mobile device to track distances and workout performance so you can compare progress with friends. Music apps that offer streaming audio from your favorite artists or quickly help identify songs playing in the background at BBQs and beaches should also prove popular as well. Expect deal apps to come in especially handy as well, potentially saving you tons of money and keeping you connected to the best activities and vacations available this summer.
As an example, if you’re looking to get away, definitely check out Expedia’s free mobile travel app. Not only can you book killer last minute deals at rates up to 60% off, but also track and manage travel itineraries with ease as well. Besides getting real-time updates on things like flight status, you can also add activities and car rentals if your plans change, plus access useful information like airport maps, addresses and confirmation codes on the fly. Plus, if you’re already on the road, it’s super easy to find and book last minute hotels with mobile-exclusive deals.
Like we mentioned earlier, tablet PCs are also increasingly becoming a preferred choice for many shoppers. Systems powered by the Windows 8 operating system like the Acer Iconia W3 make a great choice, letting you enjoy a full range of entertainment options – music, movies, TV shows, books, games, etc. – wherever you travel, without having to pack multiple devices. A great way to keep kids occupied watching movies or playing games, it can lie flat on any surface and two people can touch the screen at the same time. As with any Windows 8 system, you get power, performance, and the ability to customize your interface using live tiles with downloadable apps from the Windows Store, making for great times and great value.
While we touched on new features that are hot in phone technology previously, many of the most crucial new advancements are being made in processors, the heart of these devices, which directly impact performance, as well. As an example, the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor has steadily been raising the bar for mobile devices. Already in more than 800 phones like the super-popular Samsung Galaxy S4 and many other Android and Windows Phone devices, the Snapdragon processor provides the best mobile user experience possible. This means enhanced GPS, web browsing, music playback and gaming capabilities, as well as better battery life. When shopping for a mobile device, you’ll want to know if one’s inside, and can check out this handy tool to find a good fit.
Be sure to tune back in regularly for more of the best new high-tech gadgets, apps, online services and accessories. With so many promising ways to relax and recline, we’ll keep you posted as more news breaks.
Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.
While technology may not have been an integral part of your childhood, it’s part of the very fabric of growing up these days. In fact, some gadgets are so ingrained in our lives that they’re now the de facto gifts for certain birthdays, holidays and bar mitzvahs. Here’s a look at the essential technology and gadgets every child should own.
Home Computer – Every house should have at least one computer, and most now have at least two. Teachers have come to expect computers and internet access at home for all children, assigning homework and class project for kids. Note though that kids don’t necessarily need their own computers. In fact, experts still recommend that kids’ computer usage be kept on systems that are housed in common areas of the house, even if they’re on laptops. There’s nothing kids should be doing on computers that needs to be kept private from the rest of the family.
Tablet PC or Touch Device – With computers now a given, the focus now turns to tablets and other touch devices as to whether they are “must-owns” or “nice-to-haves.” Most educational school computer programs work on tablets, and they’re extremely portable and convenient to take on family trips or outings, whether it’s vacation or a local restaurant.
At the very least, we think kids need access to their family’s tablet device, and it’s up to parents to decide whether they need one for themselves. Kids will want to use them to play games, so make sure that you’ve locked down the ability to purchase apps and regulate connections.
eBooks Readers – While there’s still something satisfying about physical books, kids can access literal libraries of information from their fingertips with eBook readers, and it’s the same content you remember from growing up. There are even library subscriptions which allow kids to check out books on their eReaders. Most parents would greatly prefer their kids read book instead of goof off playing games or chatting, so why not get them a device that lets them enjoy books the way they want.
Portable Hard Drive – With so much schoolwork being done on computers, it’s important to save it and back it up, so a portable hard drive will help kids keep all their files, even if they’re working on many different computers. It’s also a good way to make sure that data stays safe and secure even if a computer gets lost or stolen.
USB Drive – While portable hard drives are big and bulky, USB drives are simple and compact way for kids to share and transport information. Consider a keychain USB device so it’s always with them, and they can use it for important documents, personalized information or even sharing pictures. USB Flash drives make it simple to switch data from computer to computer.
Smart Phone – We saved the best and most controversial for last. Although kids around the age of 13 don’t necessarily need full function smart phones, as they get older and progress through high school, the functionality of the device will become extremely useful for them. Realistically, kids don’t need all the bells and whistles smartphones offer, parents who trust their kids to use these devices properly will rest easier knowing they have map functionality and Internet access at their fingertips. To be clear, we don’t recommend this for young teens, but as kids get ready for college, smart phones certainly make a lot of sense.
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Are you looking to upgrade your tablet over the coming year? Or maybe 2013 will be the year that marks the purchase of your first tablet. Either way, the bustling tablet market has you covered: There are more models to select from than ever before, and they’re all available in a multitude of colors, sizes, and price brackets. And between iOS, Windows, and Android, you even have your choice of operating systems.
Stumped on what you ought to buy? Here are the top ten tablets for 2013.
iPad (Fourth Generation) – The iPad is still the go-to brand for tablet computers. The highly popular device is now into its fourth iteration and boasts powerful hardware, a familiar interface, and tons of game and app support courtesy of the App Store.
iPad Mini – Apple’s trimmed-down answer to the 7” tablet craze is approximately as powerful as the iPad 2, and for the most part it supports the same apps and games as its larger cousins.
Nexus 7 – Looking for an Android-based tablet that’s affordable and versatile? This little fellow from Google and Asus might be your answer. It’s perfect for reading eBooks and watching television programs, and it’ll only set you back $299 USD.
Microsoft Surface – This laptop/tablet hybrid is the perfect buy for anyone who wants the portability of a tablet, but the accuracy of a keyboard. Its detachable keyboard doubles as a protective cover, and there are two versions to choose from: A model that comes with Windows RT, and a model that includes Windows 8 Pro.
Motorola Droid Xyboard / Xoom 2 – The Xyboard is smaller, sleeker, and faster than its predecessor, Xoom. The “media edition” of the tablet can stream content from your PC, and the whole package has been made water-resistant. Perfect for bad weather, though we don’t recommend taking it for a dunk in the pool.
Sony Xperia Tablet S – The Xperia Tablet S is the successor to the Sony Tablet S. It has a thinner, lighter design than its ancestor, and an improved camera. It’s even equipped with an infrared blaster, which lets you use the device as a universal remote.
Asus eee Pad Transformer Prime – Arguably the coolest-named tablet in the world, the Asus eee Transformer Prime actually does transform from a tablet to a more complete laptop. All you need to do is pick up the Prime’s optional docking keyboard for a little QWERTY power.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 – Samsung’s popular tablet runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Delicious, but what does it mean for you? It means tons of processing power that blasts through work during the day, and deliver gentle stories at night. Between books, pictures, movies, and video, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is a perfect family media hub.
Kindle Fire HD – The Kindle Fire HD is the color-screen follow-up to Amazon’s enormously popular Kindle line of book readers. It runs on a modified version of Ice Cream Sandwich, and is capable of playing video, movies, and games. Needless to say, you can also read ebooks off it. All yours for a still-affordable $199 USD.
Blackberry Playbook – The Blackberry Playbook may not have set the world on fire upon its initial release, but price cuts have made it more attractive. You can use the Playbook to make and record videos, play games, and much more. Interestingly, the Playbook is pre-loaded with an app that grants access to over 1,500 films from the National Film Board of Canada, which makes the device worth the price of admission for nostalgic Canadians.