Wearable Technology Looks Cool, But Will Travelers Actually Wear It?

Wearable technology - Dick Tracy watch
Flickr, LamdaChiAlpha

Imagine being able to navigate a foreign city without a map or paying for a museum ticket with your watch, thanks to your cool electronic gadgets. Now imagine getting mugged around the corner, or leaving your expensive toy on a bus. Wearable technology such as Google Glass and the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch have fueled a lot of buzz among technology fans and travel marketers, but will travelers actually want to wear them?

A survey of 1,000 adults showed that while 75% were aware of at least one form of wearable technology, less than 10% was actually interested in using it. While the Samsung smartwatch announcement increased interest, and 52% would wear something on their wrist, only 5% would wear something on their face like Google Glass.

High price tags — $299 For the Galaxy Gear, and over $1,000 for the developer glasses — are one cause for consumers to hesitate, though travelers are more likely to invest in the latest technology, especially if it helps document their trip or explore a new place. Privacy is another concern, as the devices collect information based on your movements to improve the experience. How about the fact that having such a device marks you as wealthy? Smartphones have become fairly commonplace in the world, but there are still places where you’d be wise to keep your iPhone in your pocket, or even the hotel safe. The newer and snazzier the device, the more it shows that you have money to burn, and might make you a target of thieves. Will they make you look like a tourist? Not necessarily more than any device, but they certainly won’t help you to blend in.

Would you use wearable technology, while traveling or at home? What innovations would you like to see for travel?

JetBlue Shows Us The Google Glass Enhanced Future Of Travel

jetBlue's vision of Google Glass for travelersSince its recent public unveiling, Google Glass has continued to generate a lot of buzz amongst the gadget obsessed, many of whom are looking forward to the release of the high-tech headset. The device, which pairs with a smartphone to collect data, provides a host of information on a tiny LCD screen that is suspended in the peripheral vision of the wearer. In the demo video that Google released we saw that screen provide directions, translate simple phrases and take photos and video. It was inspiring enough for us to speculate about the benefits of Google Glass for travelers as we envisioned a world of automated language translation, mobile social networking and augmented reality.

It seems we weren’t the only ones to get caught up in the concept of how Glass could potentially benefit travelers. Someone at JetBlue decided to put together their mock-ups of what they would like to see Google’s new gadget deliver and posted those images on the JetBlue Google+ page. Their ideas are simple, but definitely something that most of us can appreciate, including giving us visual cues on the current capacities of airport parking garages, updates on when to expect our luggage at baggage claim, real-time flight information and more.

The concepts shown in the JetBlue designs are definitely intriguing and give us a glimpse of what we can expect from Glass when it finally arrives. The consumer version is still a number of months off but the real-world potential is starting to become much clearer.

[Photo Credit: JetBlue]

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Gadling Gear Review: Ventev Mobile Chargers And Cables

Ventev Wallport r2200 USB chargerSmartphones, tablet, iPods and other devices have certainly made our travel experiences much more enjoyable. Gone are the days of sitting around an airport for hours on end with few ways to pass the time. Keeping those gadgets fully charged for extended use can be a real challenge, however, as a dead battery means our tech toys are really just dead weight. Fortunately there are more charging options available than ever before including a host of fantastic chargers and cables from Ventev, a company focused on making high-quality accessories for our favorite gadgets.

Wallport r2200 ($30-$35)
Ventev offers a line of wall chargers with built-in USB ports that are perfect for travelers. Since most modern mobile devices are powered via USB, these wall chargers are, in a sense, universal, allowing us to leave our various gadget-specific chargers at home in favor of a single option.

My favorite of these wall chargers was the r2200, which features two rapid-charging USB ports that are capable of powering two iPads at the same time. Considering how notoriously power-hungry the iPad is, this is a nice option for keeping your tablet ready for use, whether you’re at home or on the road. Each port is capable of delivering up to 10 watts of juice, which means your iPad will charge at its normal rate but your smartphones, mp3 players and other devices will charge at a much quicker pace. My iPhone for instance was able to go from completely dead to a full-charge in less than two hours.

Durable and attractive, the r2200 is well built for the challenges of travel. It is also lightweight and compact, which means it will save space in your bag, particularly when you consider all of the other chargers that it replaces. Ventev offers it with two options, the charger itself for $30 or with an included Micro USB cable for $35. Apple device owners will need to bring their own 30-pin or Lightning cables.Ventev Dashport r2200 USB chargerDashport r1200 ($20) and r2200 ($30-$35)
Ventev’s Dashport line of chargers take the concept of their Wallport models but extend the formula to the car. These units give us USB adapters that plug into the DC accessory port (aka cigarette lighter) in our vehicles. Both the r1200 and r2200 are rapid charging 10W adapters with the former providing a single USB port while the latter offers two. Both are capable of charging an iPad at the same rate as its included adapter or a smartphone, iPod or other device at about double the normal rate.

Having one of these adapters in your car can be a real revelation for anyone who has a smartphone. While those devices are certainly wonders of modern technology, they don’t always have the longest battery life. This is especially true with the numerous models of Android phones on the market. But having either Dashport model in your vehicle means you can use your phone all day long without fear of it running out of juice.

I’ve known about the value of having an adapter like this in my car for sometime and I’ve routinely carried a similar product from one of Ventev’s competitors. But both the Dashport r1200 and r2200 are light years better in terms of quality and build construction. My previous model feels like a cheap toy compared to these two adapters, which also happened to perform better too. If you’re in need of a charger for your car, these are definitely the ones you want. I recommend getting the r2200 as its two-port option will keep your passenger happy too!

Ventev Powercell 3000 battery packPowercell 3000 Backup Battery ($60)
As good as the Wallport and Dashport adapters are, they both still require that you’re close to some kind of power source. But often when we travel we’re not in a location where we can plug in at any given time. That’s where Ventev’s Powercell 3000 comes in handy. It is a small, lightweight battery backup that can add extra juice to your smartphone or other small electronics when you’re away from a regular power outlet. It is capable of charging two devices at once and extending the talk time of an iPhone by about ten hours.

I was impressed with how lightweight and thin, yet still durable, the Powercell actually is. The battery pack weighs in at a shade over 3 ounces, which means it won’t take up much room in your bag or add any undue weight. It includes both a standard and Micro USB port, which adds a nice level of versatility to the device. Ventev also ships it with an integrated Micro USB cable and an Apple 30-pin cable, which works with all Apple devices prior to the iPhone 5, iPad 4 and iPad Mini. Owners of those gadgets will need to use their own Lightning cable – at least for now.

The Powercell is capable of providing 3000mAh of on-the-go power, which is generally plenty to get most of us through a typical day and then some. It can also be quickly and easily recharged via a Wallport or Dashport, which makes for a nice synergy between Ventev’s products. The Powercell faces a lot of competition in the portable battery space, some of which offer larger capacities. But in terms of compact design and efficient charging, it is tough to beat this product. It is efficient, versatile and simple to use. Everything we need in a travel gadget.

It should be noted that the Powercell 3000 is capable of charging an iPad, although it is extremely slow and the amount of extra energy gained is hardly worth it. Bottom line, it’ll do in a pinch, but only just barely. If you need a mobile battery pack for your tablet, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Ventev ChargeSync cable in RedChargeSync Cables ($15-$25)
In addition to offering a variety of excellent chargers for travel, Ventev also has some of the best USB cables that I’ve ever seen. These high-quality cables are over 3 feet in length, have a flat design that keeps them from tangling and are available in eight different colors. Those colors come in quite handy when trying to quickly find which cable belongs to you in a sea of standard white cables that most people carry. The ChargeSync cables are available in Micro USB ($15), Apple 30-Pin ($20) and Apple Lightning ($25) flavors.

As someone who has more cables for more devices than he knows what to do with, I always have a set for use at home and a set to take with me on the road. Ventev’s cables have quickly replaced my travel set simply for the non-tangling feature alone. The fact that they are much more durable than the cables that generally come with a device is also an added benefit. Considering the overall quality of these products, the retail price is actually quite a deal. Charging cables aren’t especially sexy in any way, but Ventev has managed to create a very impressive product here.

Ventev’s entire line of chargers and cables are fantastic options for travelers. They are lightweight, affordable, versatile and provide power for all of our devices while on the go. These products are some of the best that I’ve ever seen and I think frequent travelers will love them. I also think they are just as useful at home, where we never seem to have enough outlets to keep all of our gadgets charged.

[Photo Credit: Ventev]

Gadling Gear Review: Jawbone Jambox Portable Speaker

The Jawbone Jambox portable speaker systemA few years back the Bluetooth portable speaker market was a small one that mainly consisted of tiny, underpowered speakers with mediocre sound. Then along came the original Jambox by Jawbone and consumers realized it was possible to get high quality sound in a small, yet stylish, package. Since then, the company has continued to refine the product, offering new features and updates. Their latest innovation even allows customers to personalize the look of their Jambox by selecting from literally hundreds of different color patterns.

Starting tomorrow, Jambox customers are invited to Remix their speakers by selecting from a variety of grill colors and styles, and matching them with their choice of body color. This allows you to choose exactly how your Jambox will look and gives you the option to create one using the colors of your favorite sports team, alma mater or what ever else appeals. The process is fun, easy and doesn’t add any additional costs to the Jambox’s $199 price. Once you’ve selected your personal look, Jawbone will custom build your Jambox and ship out in about a week.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the new Remix process and after spending a little time on the Jawbone website, I was able to order my own custom Jambox. It took just a few days to get it in my hands and like previous models, the speaker features great build quality and sounds fantastic. The diminutive device is just 6 inches in length and weighs about 12 ounces, which makes it an excellent travel companion. An included soft case helps to keep the speaker well protected when not in use.Jawbone Jambox RemixFor those who haven’t used a wireless speaker like the Jambox before, it pairs via Bluetooth with your smartphone, tablet or laptop and allows you to stream audio from any source. That means you can listen to music, podcasts, movies or just about anything else. Considering its size, the Jambox is capable of putting out an impressively big sound and it can easily fill a room with your favorite tunes. While putting the device through its paces, I enjoyed listening to Pandora, Last.fm and Spotify, both at home and on the go, and was constantly impressed with how loud and clear the audio was. In fact, be careful when using it for the first time. When I started jamming tunes on mine it actually scared the heck out of my cat.

The Jambox has built in voice cues that are actually quite helpful. For instance, it’ll let you know when it has powered on, when it’s in discovery mode for Bluetooth pairing and even how much battery life remains. The pre-programmed voice works well, but Jambox users can download a number of other unique voices from the Jawbone MyTalk website. MyTalk also has some installable apps to extend the functionality of your Jambox, and when connecting to the site, it’ll even check to be sure you’re running the most recent firmware.

As if being a great portable sound system wasn’t enough, the Jambox also works as a hands free speakerphone too. While testing it in this mode, calls were clear both on my end and those that I was chatting with, which isn’t always the case with similar speakers from competitors. Speakerphone mode not only works with your favorite cellphone, but also Skype, Facetime and just about anything else that uses a microphone. A round button on top of the device not only activates the mic but also grants access to Siri.

All in all, the Jambox is a great portable speaker that travelers will love to have with them. Its ability to wirelessly play back audio of just about any type makes it a great option for entertainment on the go and its ability to act as a quality speakerphone is a welcome addition. With a battery life of about ten hours, you won’t need to worry about charging it often and its rugged construction makes it more than road ready. The fact that you can now order one custom built in your favorite colors is simply icing on the cake. It makes an already excellent product even better.

Tech And Travel Gear For Dads And Grads

June is here and that can mean only one thing. It’s time to go shopping for the latest technology and travel gear for the dads and grads in your life. Here are a few suggestions for some items that are sure to make them happy.

Geneva Model XS travel clock for Dads and GradsGeneva: Model XS Travel Alarm Clock
The Model XS travel clock from Geneva also happens to be a powerful, compact sound system. With a built in FM tuner and integrated Bluetooth technology, it can stream music, podcasts or other audio sources directly from a smartphone or tablet. The device features two tweeters and a woofer for a surprisingly big sound and its included waterproof leather case makes it an excellent travel companion. Better yet, its compact size and solid audio performance means it is also the perfect addition to any dorm room. After all, you wouldn’t want that new grad to miss any early morning classes, right? (Price: $249.95)

Sony NEX-F3 Camera
Compact interchangeable lens digital camera systems are all the rage right now, and Sony’s new NEX-F3 just might be the hottest of them all. The camera takes photos like a DSLR, isn’t much larger than a point and shoot and has the option of adding a host of different lenses to the mix. It features a 16.1 megapixel sensor, a bright, crystal clear LCD screen that rotates 180 degrees and a built-in flash. It will even shoot full HD 1080p video or capture photos at a rate of up to 5.5 fps in burst mode. Its compact size and outstanding feature set are sure to make this a popular camera on campus or on the road. (Price: $599.99 w/ 18-55mm lens)

Western Digital TV Live
Western Digital has made it extremely easy to get your favorite streaming video services onto just about any television thanks to their TV Live media player. This little black box allows you to watch Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and so much more in the comfort of your living room. It is incredibly easy to set-up, has an intuitive interface and built-in wireless along with a good remote and it supports full 1080p HD streaming. The TV Live connects to more than 25 different Internet content providers for movies, music and games and will even stream your personal collection from a networked source. (Price: $129.99)
V-Moda Vibrato headphonesV-MODA In-Ear Headphones
V-MODA is a company that is well known for making tough, durable headphones that provide excellent audio performance across the full spectrum of sound. Their in-ear models in particular are comfortable to wear and will redefine your expectations of sound from earbuds, without putting too large of a dent in your wallet. The Remix Remote ($79) models are affordable and provide great performance, while the more expensive Vibratos ($129) amp up the bass considerably and feature a more rugged build quality. Both models include an in-line remote and mic that is compatible with the iPhone and iPad, as well as numerous silicone earplugs to ensure you get just the right fit. V-MODA even backs them with a two-year warranty.

GorillaTorch Flashlight
Whether you’re traveling or at home, a good flashlight or lamp is always a handy tool. But when that flashlight is able to stand on its own and provide light exactly where it is needed, it becomes useful on a completely different level. Created by the same company that brought us the GorillaPod, the GorillaTorch sits on a tripod of articulated legs that can be bent and shaped as needed. This allows the light to easily sit on uneven surfaces or wrap itself around pipes, branches or just about anything else that might be close at hand. As a result, the GorillaTorch can shine its light exactly where it is most needed while allowing us to keep our hands free for other purposes. (Price: $29.95)

Nokia Lumia 900 smartphoneNokia Lumia 900 Phone
The latest smartphone from Nokia is not only powerful and sophisticated, but it also happens to be beautiful. The Lumia 900 sports a stunning 4.3-inch AMOLED screen, an 8-megapixel camera and 4G LTE high-speed networking. It is also powered by Windows Phone 7, runs thousands of apps, shoots HD video and comes in three different colors – black, white and cyan. If your dad or grad is looking to stick out in field full of iOS and Android devices, the Lumia 900 can help them do it. (Price: $99.95 with contract from AT&T)

Braven 600 Portable Speaker
Weighing in at just 12 ounces, the Braven 600 portable speaker system is a great option for travelers. Not only does it wirelessly stream audio from a smartphone, tablet or computers, it also doubles as a speakerphone for hands-free calling. The device’s integrated rechargeable battery provides up to 12 hours of use while away from a power outlet and the built-in USB port allows you to charge other devices while on the go. On top of all that, the device looks great and gives off surprisingly clear and loud sound. (Price: $149.99)

Zoom Q3HD Video Camera
Compact video cameras are fun to use and great for travel, but they often lack features and can suffer from less than stellar performance. That isn’t the case with the Zoom Q3HD, however, as the diminutive device records in crystal clear 720p and 1080p HD widescreen formats. The camera is fast, easy to use and even maintains solid image quality in low light conditions. But where the Q3HD really shines is in its ability to record high quality audio. With two finely tuned mics built in and several onscreen tools to help fine tune input, there has never been a compact video camera that has offered this kind of control over audio. The result is great video and superior sound that makes sharing your travel movies better than ever. (Price: $299.99)

Lenovo Ultrabooks and Touchscreen Multimedia PCLenovo IdeaCentre A720
Every dad and grad needs a good computer and Lenovo has plenty of models to choose from. For those heading off to college the new IdeaPad U410 and U310 Ultrabooks are fantastic choices. These incredibly slim and lightweight laptops have beautiful high-def screens, plenty of memory and a battery life of up to nine hours. That makes them perfect for those long study sessions at the campus library. They’ll be available later this month starting at $749.

For something completely different, check out the new IdeaCentre A720, which features a unique 27-inch, 1080p touchscreen display. Built from the ground up to be a multimedia powerhouse, this PC comes equipped with a built-in TV tuner, integrated Dolby home theater system and a Blue-ray disc player. It also comes standard with dual hard drives (1TB hard disk and 64GB solid state), HDMI in and out and a high definition webcam for video chatting. The IdeaCentre runs $1849 and makes for a great addition to any home entertainment system.

Gerber Steady ToolGerber Steady Multi-tool
A handy multi-tool is another one of those items that is useful both while travleing and at home. The latest creation from Gerber demonstrates this very well as it not only includes the usual array of blades, screwdrivers and can openers, it also has a built-in mount for smartphones and cameras. Gerber says the tripod is rated to hold up to 340 grams, which means the device you attach has to be relatively small. Still, this is a handy option to have when it comes time to take those impromptu self-portraits while on the go. (Price: $64)