Considering how expensive movie tickets are today, people obnoxiously using their cell phones in movie theaters is more frustrating than ever. A new Microsoft patent could make phones less annoying in theaters by automatically adjusting certain settings. “Inconspicuous mode” would automatically adjust screen brightness, mute all sounds, and limit information on the lock screen. The patent describes ways your phone could go into this mode automatically. Physical sensors at a movie theater, purchasing movie tickets on your phone, or entering your screening into your phone’s calendar could all automatically switch your phone over to inconspicuous mode. You could also manually enable the mode whenever you wanted, like when you’re about to go to sleep. When you want to get back to full functionality, you can manually restore your device or wait for it to automatically reset after you leave the theater. For now, inconspicuous mode is nothing more than an idea. But with Microsoft rolling out Windows 10 to all of its devices this year, it could make its way onto your phone sooner rather than later.
Apple’s rumored to launch a 12” iPad Pro sometime this year, but if you can’t wait any longer to get your hands on a massive tablet, HP is here to help. HP recently unveiled two new Pro Slate tablets: an 8-inch model and a gigantic 12.3-inch unit. Both devices come bundled with a “Duet Pen,” which is a stylus that can write on just about anything. You can use the pen on your tablet, or you can use it to write on good old-fashioned paper. Whatever you write on that paper automatically appears on the tablet. The smaller Slate Pro has a screen on par with the iPad mini with Retina display, but its big brother trails far behind. For some reason, the 12.3” Slate Pro has a resolution of only 1600x1200 pixels, which is far less than the pixel density you’ll find on any other major tablet on the market today. Both tablets are available to buy right now; the 8-inch Slate Pro will run you $449, while the 12-inch will set you back $569.
Previews of Windows 10 have been available for a while, but Microsoft recently took the wraps off a lot of the operating system’s exciting new features. There’s no firm release date other than later this year, but Microsoft did announce that Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade on any machine running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, as well as all Windows Phone 8.1 devices. Microsoft wants to let you seamlessly move back and forth between all your Windows 10 devices, whether they’re computers, tablets, smartphones, or something else altogether. That also means the operating system’s best new features, like personal assistant Cortana, will be available on every platform. Another big new addition to Windows 10 is Project Spartan, a “new browser for the modern Web.” Spartan includes a real-time annotation feature, a reading list and a reading mode that syncs your content across all devices. These updates are available now to people enrolled in the preview program. Everyone else will have to wait until later this year.
Your boss may not like it when you use Facebook at work, because they think you’re doing nothing. As it turns out, many businesses have figured out that using social tools in the workplace is incredibly awesome. Companies like Slack have combined features like file sharing with social tools to really increase productivity. Facebook doesn’t want to be outdone, which is why it created a new product called Facebook at Work. Facebook at Work is designed for companies with 100 or more employees, and it just about re-creates your Facebook experience, with everything you know and love about Facebook, but only for the people inside your company. Instead of sharing pictures of your vacation, it’s a place to share photos of your business trip so everyone can experience the convention you went to. Facebook at Work is only in tests right now, so don’t run out and start asking everyone about it. But it’s coming soon, and it’s either going to tear up the world and completely change the way we do business… or it won’t.
Cyber security is a mess right now. No passwords seem safe, and it only seems like a matter of time before a secure website gets hacked. Sticky Password is here to help. Available as a stand-alone app on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, Sticky Password saves and encrypts all of your website logins in a secure database. You can use Sticky Password forever for free, but then you'll be missing out on one of the best features of its premium version: cloud syncing. Cloud syncing encrypts your data locally, then shares your credentials to all of your devices through Sticky Password's cloud. If you're worried about cloud security, you can sync your credentials over your local Wi-Fi network and skip the cloud altogether. Another one of Sticky Password's best features is "Identities," which automatically fills out forms to save you time. Identities keeps your mailing address on file, for instance, and auto-populate those fields with a single tap. To secure your passwords and try the app’s premium version for free, head to StickyPassword.com today.
If you stop by the Orlando Public Library, make sure you keep your cell phone… on? It may seem out of the ordinary for a library to encourage you to use your cell phone, but Orlando’s library system has a good reason: it wants its patrons to download an iBeacon app to receive location-triggered information. That means you can be browsing cookbooks, then get a notification about an upcoming “Cuisine Corner” program hosted by a local chef, or walk through the fiction section and get information about new releases. While Orlando’s library system has kept up with the changing tech landscape, it’s far from the only library with iBeacons. Other libraries across the U.S. have started using the technology, too, to ping visitors with reminders about overdue books, let them know a book they reserved is ready for pickup, and more. We don’t go to the library for the same reasons we did 20 years ago, and libraries know they need to embrace technology like iBeacons to stay relevant in the digital age.
If you’ve got a garden, you’ll want to check out Edyn’s Garden Sensor, which won the Best of Innovation award in the "Tech for a Better World" category at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Edyn wants to help you "garden smarter," and help take the guesswork out of gardening. The Garden Sensor monitors real-time conditions, like soil moisture, fertility, temperature and more, then sends all that data back to the companion app on your smartphone. Edyn is Wi-Fi enabled, which means it can then access a database of more than 5,000 plants to tune its recommendations to precisely what you're growing. Being able to connect to the internet also means it knows the weather forecast, so it can tell you how much extra water your plants will need. You can also pair the Garden Sensor with Edyn's Water Valve, which connects to any standard garden hose, to automatically water your plants. Edyn’s Garden Sensor is available for pre-order now at Edyn.com, and will land in Home Depot stores across the U.S. this spring.
One of the most exciting announcements at this year’s CES was Dish Network’s Sling TV. Launching sometime in the next few weeks, Sling TV is an online streaming service that gives you access to live feeds from major TV networks – like ESPN, TNT and Food Network – for $20 per month. Sling TV is customizable to your tastes, too, and you can add on more channels for a few bucks more a month. You can access a kids’ package with channels including Disney Junior and Disney XD for $5 more a month, or a sports package with sports channels beyond ESPN and ESPN2 included for a little extra money. When it launches, Sling TV will be available in 720p and 1080p, and will also let you limit your bandwidth if you’re worried about a data cap. You’ll be able to watch Sling’s live feeds on a bunch of platforms, including Android TV, Fire TV, Roku, Xbox One, iOS, Android and desktops. Sling TV isn’t available yet, but you can secure yourself an invite at Sling.com today.
Packing for a vacation means double-checking you have all your gadgets – and all their chargers. The Zolt power adapter, which was a Best of Innovation Awards Honoree at this year’s CES, makes traveling with your tech a lot easier. Zolt is the world's smallest and lightest laptop charger, but it's more than just that. Its three USB ports mean you can power your laptop, phone and tablet at the same time… or whatever else you need charged. Zolt works with just about every laptop under the sun – yes, even MacBooks. The chargers ships with a six foot cable to power your laptop, along with 9 laptop tips. Lose a tip? Zolt will send you a replacement for free. Zolt produces 70W of power, but only delivers the power your device needs. Only charging your iPhone? Zolt intelligently scales back the power. Charging your iPhone, iPad and MacBook? Zolt delivers a full dose of power to get you back up and running. If you want to make traveling easy, Zolt is available for pre-order at GoZolt.com for $79.
If you’re looking for a seven inch tablet, two devices stand out from the rest of the pack: Apple’s iPad mini 3 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX 7. Which is worth your money? If you want to spend the money on an iPad, nothing else will do. If you're invested in the Apple ecosystem, no other device is going to make you happy. The mini 3 is the best small form-factor tablet Apple has ever made, but it’s expensive – it starts at $399. If you’re looking to save some money, the Kindle Fire HDX 7 starts at $179 and has a ton of great features. If you’re an Amazon Prime customer, or a fanatic for Kindle books, Amazon Instant Video and Amazon mp3, the Fire will be a multimedia wonderland for you. So what’s the bottom line? If you love Apple, or want to play the best mobile games available, go with the iPad mini. If you're a media hound, the Kindle Fire is a great way to go – and you’ll save lots of money, too.
Battery life is one of the most precious smartphone commodities, so it’s surprising that so few gadgets have been created to give your phone a little extra juice when you need it most. A new device called the Power Pen is here to help, and its built-in battery is able to charge your smartphone about a third of the way. While it won’t double your phone’s battery life or eliminate your need to carry around a wall charger, the Power Pen will help make sure your phone makes it all the way through your afternoon meeting or your long commute home without dying. The Power Pen – which also has a built-in ballpoint pen and stylus – has microUSB and Lightning Ports, meaning it works with just about any mobile device on the market today, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers and more. If you want to carry around a little extra battery life in your shirt pocket, the Power Pen is available today at Firebox.com for $40. The pen is truly mightier than the sword.
If you find yourself falling asleep in front of the TV and missing big chunks of your favorite TV shows, the KipstR wristband may one day be your new best friend. Virgin Media teamed up with a couple inventors to create the 3D-printed KipstR, which pings a Virgin Media TiVo box to start recording whatever’s on TV if it notices you’ve fallen asleep. The wristband uses a pulse sensor to determine if you’ve dozed off, then sends a signal to the TiVo box to pause or record the broadcast. Then, when you wake up, KipstR can tell the TiVo to start playing the show again from its paused state. The device was the brainchild of a couple of teenagers from England, whose dads kept falling sleep while watching TV. The device only works with Virgin Media TiVo boxes for now, and only on a trial basis. While KipstR may never make its way to the United States, it’s a glimpse into a future where our moods and brainwaves can be used to make entertainment better than ever.
If you own a Chromebook, searching for something on Google just got a lot more convenient. Chromebook users have always been able to search by saying “OK Google,” as long as they were on a new tab in the Chrome browser. Google recently expanded that feature by bringing “OK Google” search to the rest of Chrome OS. As long as your Chromebook is powered on and connected to the internet, you’ll be able to find that recipe you’ve been looking for or figure out who our 22nd president was quicker than ever. The feature isn’t enabled by default, though, so here’s what you’ll need to do to activate it. Open your browser, and type “chrome://flags” in the search box, then check the “Enable hotword hardware option” box. You’ll then get a pop-up notification that helps train your Chromebook to recognize your voice. Google will ask you to repeat the words, “OK Google” a few times to know what to listen for, but once you do that, you’re done! Search has never been so easy.
Next week, over 3,600 companies will head to Las Vegas to unveil more than 20,000 new products at the 2015 International CES. I'll be there, along with about 160,000 of my closest friends. The big buzz items include: 4K or Ultra HDTV, streaming capabilities and services, wearables, smart homes, smart cars, and 3D printing, but there will be much, much more to see. The true star of this year’s CES will be smartphones. Just about everything on display at the show has been built to interact with you, or connect you to a network, through your smartphone. We'll see connected appliances; connected door locks, connected drones and even connected silverware. We'll also see innovations in connected cars, including the latest in assistive driving technology and even autonomous cars. If you're interested in the show, please visit ces.shellypalmer.com for a list of featured exhibits and our 2015 trend report.
Happy New Year! Now that the calendar reads 2015, it’s a good time to look back at the world of tech from 2014. The biggest story from last year was cyber security – or, more correctly, a serious lack thereof. From Sony’s recent hack to the Poodle bug, from bank breaches to dozens of other security flaws, it seemed like there was a new threat to worry about every week. Millions upon millions of credit cards, email addresses and website logins were compromised last year, and the bad news is that cyber security is only going to get worse before it gets better. The Internet was not built to be secure, and motivated hackers will always find a way in. The good news is that as we transition into a fully connected world, we’ll learn to deal with the constant threat. After all, most of us lock our doors when we leave the house. Door locks have a digital equivalent; we just have to teach everyone to use them.
The holiday season has come and gone, and many of us have awesome new tech toys to play with. If you just got a new Android device and want to get the most out of it, here are some tips and tricks. Whether you’re running an Android phone with Lollipop, KitKat or Jellybean, head into settings and make sure your phone’s operating system is fully updated. Once you’ve done that, head into the Google Play Store to make sure your preinstalled apps are current, too, by tapping “Update All” in the “My Apps” section. Speaking of apps, the best part about rocking an Android is that you get the very best versions of all of Google’s awesome apps. From Google Maps to Gmail to Google Now, your Android phone or tablet has some of the best apps you’ll find on any mobile device – and they’re all free. Download any Google apps not pre-installed on your phone, then browse Google Play’s apps charts to fill out the rest of your device, and enjoy!
Want to catch up on the week’s NFL highlights? Head over to Facebook. Facebook recently partnered up with the NFL and will begin posting game highlights NFL news and fantasy football advice to help its users stay on top of the latest news from around the league. The partnership is a big win for Facebook because the NFL is notoriously stingy when it comes to video rights. With no official YouTube channel and a team of employees working to pull down unauthorized game clips from around the web, game highlights can really only be found on NFL.com. This is Facebook’s most recent attempt to become a more powerful player in the world of video. Facebook has been actively courting some of YouTube’s most popular content creators to try to persuade them to upload content directly to Facebook, rather than embedding YouTube videos. Will Facebook become a big-time player in the web video world? It’s too soon to tell, but its team-up with the NFL is a slam dunk… err, make that a touchdown.
If you got a shiny new iPhone or iPad this holiday season and want to make sure it’s set up properly, here’s what you’re going to want to do. Before you do anything else, make sure your device is updated to the latest version of iOS. The latest and greatest devices from Apple will already be running iOS 8, but Apple’s released a handful of updates to make your experience even better since their launch. iOS 8 is extremely intuitive to use, so if you’ve used an Apple product before – or any other smartphone or tablet – you should have no issues navigating around. If this is your first mobile device ever, or you just want to know more about your new gadget, check out Apple’s “Tips” app. Tips comes pre-installed on every iDevice and will turn you into an iPhone or iPad pro in no time at all. Once you feel comfortable with your new device, just have fun! Download some awesome apps, set up your home screen the way you want, and enjoy!
If you live in Manhattan and need a candy bar but can’t leave your office, Amazon can now deliver one within the hour. Amazon recently launched a same-day delivery service in Manhattan called Prime Now, which delivers “essential daily items” to you in a hurry. Existing Prime members can place orders for stuff like shampoo, books, food and more through the Amazon Prime Now app on Android and iOS, then use that same app to track its delivery. Need your stuff in a hurry? It’ll arrive within an hour for $7.99. If you can wait two hours for your order, Amazon will waive the delivery fee altogether. Prime Now is only available for Amazon Prime customers in select areas within Manhattan, but Amazon plans to bring the service to more cities in 2015. Want to know when Prime Now will make it to your city? Download the Prime Now app and Amazon will send you a notification when the service is available near you.
When was the last time you bought an album? Whether we’re talking CDs or digital downloads, streaming music services have effectively eliminated our need to buy music. But not every streaming music service is created equally. Which is worth your money? In many ways, Spotify is the leader of the pack. With 40 million users and a library of 20 million songs, Spotify is available for free for anyone willing to put up with ads. Don’t want ads? 10 bucks a month gets rid of them forever. Spotify’s biggest competition is Google Play Music All Access, which has an even bigger library than Spotify for the same 10 bucks a month. Can’t find that particular track you want to hear? Google Play Music lets you upload any music to your account to stream from anywhere. Last but not least, Beats Music also streams 20 million songs for $10 a month. But with Apple having just paid $3 billion for Beats, it’s the service with the most potential upside in 2015.