If you’re looking for a worthwhile alternative to Spotify, check out YouTube Music Key. Available on an invite-only basis for the first six months, Music Key is like Spotify in a couple ways – it’ll eventually cost $10 per month and includes full access to Google Music, which is really similar to Spotify. Unlike Spotify, though, Music Key is more than just music streaming. Music Key raises your YouTube experience to the next level to help turn it into your personal jukebox. It removes all pre-roll ads before music videos, creating a seamless playback experience, and it lets you play YouTube videos behind other apps or with your smartphone’s screen off. You can also save songs for offline playback by tapping the ‘Add video to offline’ option. Music Key includes access to millions of songs, and aside from Taylor Swift, it’s hard to find major artists not on the service. Cross your fingers for an invite, or wait until the middle of next year when Music Key is available to the general public.
Want to make sure you don’t overeat? Check out BitBite. BitBite is a new earpiece on Indiegogo that tracks how much food you eat, as well as what you’re eating. Using a built-in microphone and sensor, BitBite gauges how quickly you’re eating, then transfers that data to a companion app on your phone. The app, which works on iOS and Android, offers up a ton of information, including your total number of bites and how many calories you’ve eaten. By telling BitBite what you’re eating, you’re able to get even more accurate results, and get better coaching to help improve your diet even more. If you’re eating unhealthy food – or just eating too fast – BitBite can suggest healthier options, or may tell you to slow down and chew your food a little more. BitBite, which is scheduled to start shipping in the middle of next year, still has a few more weeks to go on Indiegogo, where you can secure your device for $119.
Black Friday is just two days away, and people began lining up two weeks ago to make sure they get all the best deals. To save you some time and money – and make sure you get the best deals – here are a few tips. Read the specifications of anything you buy, BEFORE you buy it! I’ve seen a lot of cheap TVs the past few years, but a lot of these sets have very bad specifications. They’re cheap for a reason: they’re not great. It’ll cost a thousand bucks to buy that great 60” flatscreen, not $500. Look for TVs that are 1080p and the highest refresh rate you can afford. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. That’s true both in stores and online. And if you’re shopping online, don’t trust sites you’ve never heard of. No one’s selling an iPad Air for $199 this year. Don’t even click on it. Whether you shop a lot, a little, or not at all, play it safe and be smart.
As Black Friday continues to become a bigger part of our culture, it’s easy to get swept up into the hype. Luckily, there are plenty of great online tools you can use to get the most out of Black Friday, and help make sure you don’t make a dumb purchase. Best of all, you won’t have to fight any crowds to find great deals. First things first, know what’s on sale, and where. Many sales circulars are already online, so find the deals you want, along with what stores are offering them and when they go live. Some sites, like Walmart and Amazon, started their Black Friday sales last week. Some, like Best Buy, start on Thanksgiving. Others won’t start until Friday. If there are specific products you want, but you can’t stay glued to your computer, use a price tracker, like CamelCamelCamel.com. If something you want hits your desired price, Camel will send you an email. Remember, no matter what you’re shopping for this year, shop smart – and shop safe.
Imagine you're at a grocery store to pick up a couple bottles of wine for a family dinner. You're tired of buying the same old stuff, time after time. But with so many choices, how do you make sure you don't wind up with one nobody likes? Next Glass is here to help. Recently launched on Android and iOS, Next Glass predicts what beer and wine you'll enjoy based on the others you’ve tasted and rated. Next Glass says there’s no guesswork involved, and all of its recommendations are powered through science and your preferences. Download the Next Glass app, rate a few wines and beers, then point your phone at a bottle of wine or case of beer. Next Glass will compare your selection to the beers and wines you’ve rated, and give you a personalized rating to let you know whether it’s worth picking up. Next Glass is now available for free on Android and iOS, and with the holidays coming up, it couldn’t have launched at a better time.
The Nvidia Shield is far from the most popular video game system on the market, but its newest service may be one of the most innovative around. Grid, a new cloud-based gaming service, is available now for anyone who owns an Nvidia Shield – the company’s gaming tablet and portable console. Essentially “Netflix for games,” Grid has 20 titles available to play right now through Nvidia’s cloud platform. While the current list of games doesn’t feature any brand new titles, it does include some massive games from the past few years, like Batman: Arkham City and Borderlands 2. And the best part of all? Grid is completely free for Shield tablet and console owners through June. Eventually, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to access Grid’s library of games, just like you pay Netflix for its movies and TV shows. While Nvidia hasn’t announced how much Grid will cost come June, it HAS said it will add new games every week to further fill out its catalog.
Thanksgiving and the holiday season are almost here, and Verizon wants to make sure you stay connected. Verizon has dubbed the day before Thanksgiving, November 26, as "Connection Day." Verizon says Connection Day is an opportunity for you to connect with everything you love – like your friends, music and apps – on one of the busiest travel days of the year. It also means tons of free stuff for you. Verizon MORE Everything customers that register for Connection Day get an extra gig of data for free, plus another gig during their next billing cycle. Verizon Wireless isn’t the only one offering free perks on Connection Day. To make traveling easier and less stressful, Amazon is offering free Audible audiobooks, Conde Nast is offering free digital magazine downloads, and JetBlue, Boingo and Gogo are serving up free Wi-Fi on flights and at airports. To make the most of everything Connection Day has to offer and ensure you get as many free goodies as possible, sign up atVerizon.com/ConnectionDay.
A new kitchen scale called Drop looks to make your food preparation smarter. Drop, which pairs with a companion iOS app, completely changes the process of cooking. Instead of a traditional list of ingredients and steps, Drop divides a recipe’s ingredients into blocks. Every recipe is built around the scale, which adapts to how much of each ingredient you have. Baking cookies and a little bit light on flour? Drop can scale back the recipe to make sure that each batch still turns out right. Each step in a Drop recipe has an accompanying video to make sure you know exactly what you need to do. This helps new cooks feel like the pros, and ensures veteran chefs are nailing each step along the way. The scale also has a built-in timer and a “next step” button, to help make sure your batter-covered fingers stay clear of your iPhone. If Drop sounds like a gadget you’ve got to have in your kitchen, it’s available now for $99.
Reading books is a social experience. Think of all the times you handed a new book to a friend or family member and shouted, “You’ve just GOT to read this!” As e-books become more and more popular, though, there’s less and less of a chance to share the book you just read with a friend. Amazon’s latest update for Kindle is bringing that magic back by letting you share purchased books with your family. Your “Household and Family” library lets you share books back and forth between two adult accounts, as well as four child accounts. The best part is that the program not only works on Kindle devices, but on any third-party device with the Kindle app, like your iPhone or Android tablet. The update also added a new feature called “Word Wise,” which helps kids expand their vocabularies as they read by automatically displaying the definition next to tough words. To start sharing and learning, the update is available to download at Amazon.com today.
One problem with a lot of today’s fitness trackers and other wearable technology is that the devices just aren’t very stylish. A new pair of smart earrings called “Ear-o-Smart” intends to make quantifying your life sleeker and more stylish than ever. Ear-o-Smart, which just hit Kickstarter, is a pair of earrings able to replace your health bands and fitness headphones. The earrings are able to track your heart rate, your calories burned and even your activity level by shining an LED on your skin and measuring the light reflected by your blood. That data’s then sent to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The team that created Ear-o-Smart says their earrings can be more accurate than fitness bands because they stay in contact with your skin and don’t slide around when you exercise. The Kickstarter project looks to raise money to improve battery life and make the device even better. The earrings will cost a little more than $100, and are on pace to start shipping in June.
Scribd, an e-book subscription service that lets you read as much as you want for $8.99 per month, recently added 30,000 audiobooks to its service at no extra charge. Available now on Android, iOS and the web, the audiobooks are streamed directly from Scribd, which means you can start listening to books immediately. The audiobooks live in a dedicated section within the app, where staff picks and the most popular titles are highlighted. The Scribd app will let you quickly skip chapters, skip backward or forward 30 seconds, and download audiobooks to your device for offline playback. Feel like you’re about to fall asleep? The app lets you bookmark locations and set a sleep timer. Some books even support playback at faster speeds to help you speed read… er, speed listen. The 30,000 audiobooks join Scribd’s 500,000 e-book titles in an attempt to draw users away from other, similar services like Oyster, Audible and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. If you’re looking for great literary value, try out Scribd today.
If you’re looking to get your kids some smart gifts this holiday season, here are some of my favorites. I love the Maker Movement, and RadioShack’s $69 Make: it Robotic Starter Kit is a great place to get started. The Make: it kit lets you build and program your very own robot. If your child wants to one day build space shuttles, this is where they start to learn how to do it. Another great toy I love is Roominate. Aimed at young ladies, Roominate lets your child build a dollhouse with STEM tools. It’s a confidence and creativity builder. For $30, Roominate lets you build dynamic environments with electronic components in them. It’s a great STEM skill builder that also lets you have a ton of fun. One other awesome gadget is RadioShack’s RC Surveyor Drone. Available now for $70, the drone has a built-in camera and SD card slot, to help you and your child explore new heights and capture a bird’s eye view of the world around you.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, your embarrassment of riches just got even greater. Amazon recently unveiled a new program called Prime Photos, which gives Prime customers free, unlimited cloud photo storage. Non-Prime members also have cloud photo storage, but it’s limited to 5 GB. The newest Prime perk lets you store as many photos as you want from just about any device, including iOS, Android, Fire, Mac and Windows. To start uploading photos, head to amazon.com/PrimePhotos, and download the Cloud Drive Photos app or upload images straight from that page. If you download the app, you’ll be able to enable auto-upload of photos you’ve taken, and you can easily share your photos through Facebook or email. Unlimited free photo storage was one of the main selling points of Amazon’s Fire Phone, which hasn’t sold well. But the feature is now part of the core Prime experience, and won’t raise Prime’s $99 annual fee. If you’re looking for unlimited photo storage, you can sign up for a free trial of Prime at Amazon.com today
Amazon recently unveiled the Echo, a cloud-connected speaker with an “always on” microphone. The Echo listens for your voice from across the room, and you can tell it do things like play music, or ask it questions like what the weather is outside. It’s basically speaker with a Siri-like personal assistant built in. But the Echo is an Amazon Trojan horse of sorts. Right now, you can ask about the weather or have it start playing Taylor Swift music. But you can also have the Echo add items to your shopping list to buy later. You can’t buy things through the device yet, but you’ll be able to buy things from an Amazon device like this, some day in the future. You can say, “Order me the new Halo game” or “Get me a new set of really comfortable slippers,” and they’ll be on their way to your front door. Amazon turned shopping online into a one-click purchase, and the Echo is the first step toward making it a no-click purchase.
Like it or not, it’s already holiday shopping season. What’s the big deal this year? STEM: Science, technology, engineering and math. For parents who want to get their kids off on the right foot, there are tons of great STEM gifts available to purchase. Here are some of my favorites. The LittleBits Cloudbit Starter Kit, available at RadioShack for $99, lets you make your own cloud tools, like thermostats or lights. You can then control them with an app on your tablet or smartphone, so you’re actually learning to make circuits you can use. Another product I love is the Circuit Scribe, which started on Kickstarter. Circuit Scribe teaches your children how to draw electronic circuits – then bring them to life. After drawing a circuit on the paper included in the $45 starter kit, you can then put magnetic components on the circuit you just drew and watch the lights turn on. It’s a really cool way to learn how to draw circuits – and one of my favorite toys this year
The most recent update to Sony’s PlayStation 4 added several new features, but one stands out above the rest: Share Play. Share Play is sort of like a virtual couch. Plenty of games have online multiplayer, but Share Play lets you play any game with friends – even if they don’t have the game themselves. Tap the ‘Share’ button on your PlayStation 4 controller, and navigate to the Share Play menu. From here, you can pass a virtual controller to any of your PlayStation friends so they can join your game. Even better, if you’re stuck on a particularly hard part of a game, you can pass them YOUR controller. That way, they can show you how to beat the section – and also prove how much better at video games they are than you. Share Play isn’t without its limitations, though. It can only be used in 60 minute bursts, and games can get laggy even if you have a good internet connection. Still, it’s a remarkable feature, and a true highlight of “next-gen gaming."
Microsoft has entered the fitness tracking game with the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health fitness platform. Available now for $199, the Microsoft Band tracks your sleep and exercise, and is meant to be worn all day. The band lasts 48 hours on a single charge, and tracks things you’d expect, like your heart rate. It’s also got a built-in UV sensor that measures sun exposure, and also identifies stress by measuring your skin. The band and the Microsoft Health platform can then analyze your data to see, for example, how a particularly stressful meeting with your boss affects your next night’s sleep. In a time when just about every company is getting into the fitness sector, what makes the Microsoft Band stand out? Its big selling point is that it not only works with Windows Phone, but with iOS and Android, too, and it’s also able to receive smartphone notifications from any of those devices. The Microsoft Band finds itself in a very crowded market, but it’s at least worth a look.
More than 10 million pets are lost each year, and only about 10 percent find their way home. Pawscout wants to bring more missing pets home. Instead of using traditional pet-finding methods like micro-chipping, Pawscout’s new $30 tag lets you track your pet’s location through a companion app and a mesh network of smartphones. Start by creating a profile for your dog or cat in the app, with info like its breed, tendencies and medicinal needs. Once that’s set up, you can use the app’s Bluetooth functionality to see how far you are from your pet. If your pup wanders too far off, the app sends an alert. It’s that same Bluetooth functionality that helps bring your lost pets home. If you mark your pet as lost, anyone with the app that comes within 250 feet will get a notification of your lost pet along with your contact information. Pawscout is partnering with the ASPCA to help get the $30 tag into new pet owners’ hands when it ships this February.
If you love music, you probably have a great speaker system or stereo set-up in your home. But what happens if you want to listen to music in a different room, or want to play your music when you're away on a business trip or vacation? A new Kickstarter project called ARCHT One is here to help. The ARCHT One is a wireless speaker that evenly disperses sound and delivers a dynamic audio experience. Simply put, you can place the ARCHT One anywhere and enjoy sound everywhere. At the push of a button, you can control playback of music directly on the ARCHT or through a companion iOS app. The speaker system also features AirPlay and Wi-Fi functionality, so you can stream and enjoy your music no matter where your music lives. The ARCHT One has already passed its $70,000 Kickstarter goal, and early bird backers can pick up a unit for far less than the $599 list price. To learn more or secure a unit for yourself, check out the project's Kickstarter page today.
If you’re tired of your phone’s terrible battery life, check out Verizon’s new Droid Turbo. The Turbo, made by Motorola, has a battery that’s about twice as big as the one in the iPhone 6 – and lasts way longer, too. Verizon says the Turbo’s battery lasts 48 hours, but that’s an ideal situation with only light use. Regardless, the battery lasts far longer than just about every other phone battery out there. And when it does deplete, you can use the phone’s “Turbo” charger to pick up eight hours of battery life in 15 minutes of charging. The Turbo has a 5.2 inch screen, which is just about the same size as the Galaxy S5 and halfway between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. But the Turbo’s screen is “Quad HD,” which means it’s about four times the resolution of a normal HDTV and sharper than Samsung and Apple’s top-tier phones. If the Droid Turbo sounds like a phone you’ve got to have, it’s now available through Verizon, starting at $199.