From the January 2012 Issue.
In our annual December Gift Guide, I wrote about a couple of dozen cool-to-quirky gadgets for business and personal use. There are always many more that I don’t get the chance to cover, whether because of space or time or other factors, so I’ve decided to share a few more of them here in the January issue.
Since this issue actually comes out in mid-December, about a week before the holidays, these tech toys could make a great last-minute addition to somebody’s stocking, maybe even your own. Or they just might be good any time of the year. You don’t need an excuse to buy a new gadget.
Enjoy the holidays with family and friends, and toast to a prosperous New Year!
One for the Road
I know a lot of professionals who are frequently mobile, whether it’s accountants who prefer to sit in a coffee shop all day, those who are audit experts and are more likely to be at a client’s office than their own, or those who work from everywhere with a laptop. Every one of them keeps wishing for a better mobile monitor, and this might be the answer. The Toshiba USB Mobile LCD Monitor looks similar to an iPad or other tablet device, and is about the same size. However, it’s designed to be used as an additional monitor, with a simple USB connection that supplies the power and the data connection. It sports a 14-inch screen with 1366x768 HD resolution, and comes with the case that’s shown in the picture, which can double as a stand. ($199; http://us.toshiba.com/computers/accessories/mobile-monitor)
Get Chatty on a Global Scale
For those who have clients, friends and loved ones in faraway places, there’s no need to worry about high calling rates or other charges. With the free ChatTime app, iPhone users can call anywhere on earth, including land and any mobile phone, at rates way less than regular phone charges, and even a lot less than Skype. Unlike web-based apps, ChatTime doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection, because calls aren’t sent over the internet. Whether calling China, India or from New York to California, pay-as-you-go rates are a fraction of other options, and unlimited plans are available for calls to the United States and Canada ($4.99/mo.), to anywhere in Asia/Pacific ($9.99), to Europe ($9.99/mo.), or the Unlimited World package ($14.99/mo.). (Free app, no subscription required; www.ChatTimeApp.com)
For those who like multi-purpose tools, this new gadget might just be the modern office’s version of the Swiss Army Knife. The Stylus+Pen+Laser Pointer from Griffin Technology packs in all of the things its name implies. A soft rubber-tipped stylus is perfect for use with touch screens. Then, unscrew the cap and you’ve got a laser pointer for your white screen presentation. Even in the amazing event that you need to actually write something on paper, the gadget has you covered with a ballpoint pen. Act now and get a free pocket clip! Just kidding, the built-in clip is always free. ($49; www.griffintechnology.com)
More Mobile Mojo
Whether or not you’ve started claiming “senior moments,” everybody can use a little more memory, or at least more mobile data storage. The new Mobile Ultra MicroSDHC Card and Ultra USB Flash Drive from SanDisk have you covered. The 8GB Micro is designed for your smartphone or tablet to give more storage for apps, photos, videos and music. The 8GB Ultra is designed for use with computers, providing built-in password protection and encryption of files, plus automated online backup and superfast transfer speeds. (Mobile Ultra MicroSDHC Card $45; Ultra USB Flash Drive $48; www.SanDisk.com)
Cold Outside? No Problem
The winter months can get in the way of using your smartphone and tablets, since gloves and touch screens don’t get along. One alternative is taking off your gloves, but there’s no need to with Thumb Dogs. Not just a fashion accessory, the Dogs slip over the fingers on any glove and have a surface made for optimal contact with device screens. Perfect for cold-weather professionals, winter sports enthusiasts or other outdoorsy types who want to keep their fingers and thumbs flying for texts and apps. ($12.99; www.ThumbDogs.com)
Go Hands-Free with Style
People have been making their gadgets more visually appealing for years, with artsy skins and wraps that show a bit of personality but can peel, fade and come undone. With Earloomz, now you can have a technologically advanced and fashionable earpiece without relying on wimpy wraps. Earlooms are top-of-the-line Bluetooth earpieces available in hundreds of styles, including fashionable and artistic, as well as with NCAA and NBA logos, film and TV themes, recording artists, and other trends, such as Lady Gaga, Hello Kitty, Star Trek and Betty Boop. ($59; www.earloomz.com)
Out of this World Audio
If you’re frequently mobile, your audio options are usually limited to headphones or tinny-sounding little speakers that rob you of the quality of digital media. The Orbit USB Stereo speakers can launch your mobile multimedia experience to a new level, offering the full power of Altec Lansing’s acoustic quality, in an easily portable size. The speakers connect via a simple USB cable and require no batteries or power outlets. The cord retracts into the casing when not in use, making it easy to take it with you. ($49.95; www.AltecLansing.com)
The Perfect Touch
Microsoft didn’t try to reinvent the mousetrap, but they might have reinvented the mouse. Even though it looks like a regular optical device, the new Microsoft Touch Mouse has a pressure-sensitive top surface that reacts to finger movements, making it a snap to manage various panels in Windows 7, with one, two or three finger actions, you can instantly move, snap, minimize and maximize windows, swing between tasks and navigate web pages. It still has the standard point-and-click mouse functions, but touch features add a new dimension to computer interaction. ($39.95; http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/en-us/p/touch-mouse/3KJ-00001)
Turn Your Phone into a Wallet
For many people, their mobile phone has become the central gadget in their lives, letting them constantly stay in contact via text, social media, take pictures, use apps and even talk. Now, it can take on a financial role, as well. The Callet is a phone case that also includes wallet slots, making it easy to keep your ID, credit cards, event tickets, cash and other items all together, without having to carry an additional wallet. Designed for iPhone and BlackBerry devices and available in a variety of colors, The Callet is a great accessory for anybody looking to lighten their load by carrying fewer items with them. ($19.95; www.TheCallet.com)
Awesome All-in-One Lets You Print On the Go
Some professionals are as likely to be on the road, in the air, meeting with a client or at a coffee shop as they are to be in their office, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to print things. There’s no longer any reason to search for a printer to borrow, though. The new HP Officejet Pro 8600 e-All-in-One has all of the traditional features you’d expect from a combination device, such as high-speed black and white or color printing and copying, faxing and scanning with PDF generation, along with web connectivity. This ePrint capability allows users of smartphones, tablets, laptops or other internet-capable mobile devices to use the Officejet from wherever they may be. It also offers dual-sided printing and is Energy Star rated to cost less. ($169.99; www.hp.com)
Protect & Defend Your Data
In the movies, secret agents always had a final solution in case they got caught. The cyanide pill: A decision of last resort to prevent themselves from giving up their secrets. Now you can have the same fail-safe for your computer, to prevent specific files or all of its data from being discovered should it fall into the hands of the bad guys. PlumChoice SAFElink lets users select which critical information to protect, and then if the laptop is missing, the information can either be locked-down with no access or, if necessary, it can be remotely destroyed the next time the device connects to the internet. SAFElink also comes with full support for all other aspects of your technology, including data backup and a security suite. ($24.95/mo.; www.PlumChoice.com)
A Cup of Joe at the Ready
A little caffeine goes a long way, especially during tax season. Now you can keep a cup of fresh gourmet-style coffee constantly within reach with the NESCAFE Dolce Gusto Genio. The single-serve coffee brewing system is compact for use at your workstation, or in cubes, dorms and kitchenettes, and uses precisely designed flavor capsules to give the Genio a professional 15-bar pressure system like those used in coffeehouses. Now you can have a fresh cup within seconds. ($129; www.dolce-gusto.us)