Gadling gear review: V-Moda Crossfade M-80 headphones

V-Moda Crossfade M-80 headphonesIn the age of MP3 players, smartphones and iPads we now travel with more technology than ever before. Those gadgets can come in very handy when we’re trying to pass the time on a long flight or when spending hours waiting at the airport. But one piece of gear that is often an afterthought is the headphones we use. Many of us are content to simply use the stock earbuds that come with our devices, but for better sound quality and enjoyment of our music, videos and other media, it is often worth investing in a better set of headphones such as the Crossfade M-80 from V-Moda.

When purchasing a pair of headphones there are two things that are of the utmost importance to me – sound quality and comfort. In the case of the Crossfade M-80, you get both of those wrapped up in a very nice, durable package that is perfect for travel. In terms of comfort, these on-ear headphones are great for extended use, although I did have to adjust to the feel, which is very different from over-the-ear or in-ear models. The memory-foam cushioning is soft and molds itself well to our ears over multiple uses. Better yet, it is great at isolating outside noises, which comes in very handy when you want to listen to your music over the engine noise of a plane.

Similarly, the M-80 headphones offer excellent sound across a broad audio range. The two speakers are surprisingly small but still manage to pump out high quality sound that includes solid basses and great high and low end tones as well. In fact, these headphones were so good I was actually picking up new elements in music that I had listened to many times in the past. That same excellent sound also carried over to videos and games on my iPad, which confirmed the M-80’s usefulness across a range of different media types.Unlike most other headphones, V-Moda has built the Crossfade out of metal instead of plastic. The company claims that this gives them “military-level” durability and it is hard to argue with that assertion. Designers have put the M-80 through a series of tests to help ensure that they are rugged enough to take the rigors of travel and continue operating at the high level that we expect. As a result we get a product that is head and shoulders above the competition in terms of durability. Whether we’re using these headphones on our daily commute or a round-the-world adventure, that is something we can all appreciate.

V-Moda has included a few extras that help make an already high quality package even better. A specially molded hard case helps protect the headphones even further and two different, interchangeable, audio cables provide compatibility with a variety of devices. One of those cables is specifically designed for use with Apple’s iOS devices while the other is more universal and works with Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry devices. Both cables provide an inline remote and microphone as well. These additions, which some competitors would charge extra for, are impressive and maintain the same level of quality that you find in the headphones themselves.

These headphones are on the higher end of the consumer spectrum and so is their price tag. With an MSRP of $230 they certainly aren’t for everyone. But if you appreciate great sound quality and want a set of headphones that can withstand the rigors of travel then V-Moda has you covered. The Crossfade M-80’s provide all of that and more in one compact package that is sure to impress. The company even offers a full two-year warranty as well as a 50% lifetime replacement option that helps protect your investment for years to come.

If you’re in the market for a new pair of headphones, or you’re finally ready to upgrade from the cheap pack-in earbuds that came with your device, the V-Moda Crossfade M-80 may be just what you’re looking for. The sound quality is fantastic and the build quality is even better. For travelers looking to extend the enjoyment of their other gadgets, I can’t think of a better complimentary addition than a pair of these headphones.

Gadling gear review: the new iPad

The new iPad from AppleIn what has become an annual rite of spring, Apple has released an updated iPad to much critical and financial success. The third-generation iPad, which hit stores last Friday, brings some excellent updates to the device, which has managed to become a true favorite with travelers over the past two years.

The list of improvements in the new iPad includes an amazing new screen, an updated processor and the option for 4G cellular data services for the first time. Each of those is a game changer on its own, but together they represent a dramatic improvement to a device that was already well ahead of the competition. Apple also saw fit to add more memory and a much-improved camera as well, which only helps to round out an already great refresh to the product line.

The most highly touted of these updates is easily the new display. Apple says that it has the highest resolution of any screen ever put into a mobile device and when you see it in action it is difficult to argue against that point. Images and colors pop off the screen like never before and the text on websites and e-books is sharp and clear. Reading on the new iPad is a joy and apps that have been updated to take advantage of the display are beautiful to behold. The “Retina Display,” as Apple has branded it, is so good that it is nearly worth the price of the upgrade alone.

In order to drive that new display, which has four times the number of pixels as the first and second-generation iPad, Apple had to develop a new processor with improved graphics capabilities. That processor allows the new iPad to continue operating as smoothly and quickly as we’re accustomed while still generating much more advanced 3D graphics and images. This is evident in all operations on the device although games are where we’ll most likely see the new processor flex its muscle the most — particularly once developers have had a chance to code their apps to specifically take advantage of the new graphics system.The one new addition that will likely be of most benefit to travelers is the option to add 4G data services to the device. Previous iPad models had a 3G data option and while it was great to have the ability to connect to the Internet while away from a Wi-Fi network, the speeds weren’t always great for doing anything more than checking email. 4G LTE service is a serious upgrade in speed, on par with many home Internet services, and it makes the iPad even more useful while traveling. Better yet, the tablet can now be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot, which allows the data connection to be shared with laptops and other devices as well. While testing out the new iPad with 4G, I was impressed with how fast it brought up YouTube videos, webpages and even movies on Netflix. The only downside is that 4G service isn’t available everywhere yet, which forces the device to fallback to 3G in those areas.

The iPad’s new camera is also a nice upgrade. With a 5-megapixel sensor the camera is now capable of taking high quality images and shooting video at 1080p quality. While the iPad wouldn’t be my first choice for use as a camera, it is at least a decent option now if it is the only device you have close at hand. More intriguing to me, however, is the ability to shoot HD video then edit it directly on the device using Apple’s revamped iMovie app. When finished, you can even upload it directly to YouTube without the use of a computer of any type. I haven’t had the chance to try this functionality out just yet but it really does open up the door for content creation on the tablet.

The new iPad isn’t without a few small issues of course. For instance, in order to power the new processor and screen, Apple had to use much larger power cells in order to maintain the same ten-hour battery life. They’ve managed to achieve that goal but the larger batteries have made the device slightly thicker and heavier than last year’s model, and recharge times have grown substantially as well. Additionally, the high-resolution screen is forcing many apps to improve their graphics and that is causing them to grow in size as well. As those programs continue to improve and upgrade, storage on the device could become an issue too. These are minor nit-picks for the most part, but definitely worth pointing out to would be buyers.

Speaking of which, all of these great updates to the iPad have many consumers wondering if they should upgrade or take the plunge on purchasing the device for the first time. Personally, I think that this is the best iPad yet, and by a considerable margin. If you’ve been toying with the idea of buying Apple’s tablet, now is the time to pull the trigger. Likewise, if you’re a first-gen iPad owner looking to improve performance, this is a more than worthy upgrade as well. On the other hand, iPad 2 owners will need to decide if they think it is worth the investment after purchasing their devices within the past year. My guess is that once they get a look at the screen, they’ll be convinced that this isn’t just a minor adjustment to the product line.

As someone who purchased the original iPad on the first day it was available, and was traveling with it just a few days later, I have found the device to be an invaluable travel companion. The ability to carry books, magazines, games, music and video on a single lightweight device with great battery life is a fantastic option. Add an Internet connection to the mix and you have a fantastic communications tool as well. The new iPad does absolutely nothing to diminish its value to travelers and the inclusion of 4G Internet and the improved display could actually make it more valuable. Either way, Apple has set the bar even higher with their latest device and the competition is continuing to play catch-up. Quite honestly, in terms of the tablet market, there is the iPad and then there is everything else, and the gulf between them just got bigger.

Travel Smarter 2012: New technologies that make travel more social

While there was once a time when people would simply head down to their local travel agent for a trip recommendation, the world of social media and technology has greatly impacted the way we travel. And that’s not only in terms of tips and advice, but also, in regards to trip sharing, accommodation booking, finding travel companions, and even choosing who we sit next to on a flight. Here are some technologies that are helping to make travel more social in 2012.

Finding a travel companion

I wish I had known about sites like these three years ago when I backpacked through Europe. I had searched dozens of travel companion forums, only to find pervy, old men who were offering to pay for young backpackers’ trips in exchange for sexual favors along the way. Luckily, we now have reputable, legitimate technologies that can help you find other travelers with similar interests who will be in the same place as you at the same time. First, there’s Ajungo, which allows you to find travel buddies through specifying itinerary dates and destinations and by funneling through your various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Foursquare, and Flickr. There’s also Globetrooper, which allows you to create trip itineraries and invite others, or, conversely, search trips to join by region or activity, such as canoeing and rafting, food and wine touring, mountaineering, or backpacking.Booking accommodation

Social accommodation booking sites have allowed finding a hostel or apartment to become so much more than simply searching a property and making a reservation. For backpackers who want to see who else will be in their hostel before they book, Gomio brings social media into the process and allows travelers to connect before their trips as well as plan activities and excursions. Moreover, CouchSurfing not only gives travelers access to free accommodation at local homes, but also has features that allow for users to plan trips, events, and activities together through forums and groups. And if you want to stay in a private, or quirky, accommodation, Airbnb allows people to list homes and rooms, which can range from anything from a treehouse overlooking San Francisco Bay to an entire apartment in central Rome, or even an igloo in Sulzberg. You can choose to search the entire site’s listings with reviews or connect through Facebook to see if anyone you know is renting out a space or has previously stayed at an Airbnb property.

Finding travel deals

You no longer have to wait and hope to stumble upon great travel deals, as social networking has not only made the world of travel more communal, it’s also made it cheaper. Personally, I find Twitter to be a really helpful tool in finding great travel deals by simply following certain handles that promote just that. Following @traveldeals, @triptwitnews, @travelbargains, @airfarewatchdog, and even airlines, hotels, and tour operators themselves will allow you to find out about promotions as soon as they are publicized. Moreover, “liking” business pages on Facebook, such as Best Travel Deals or Liberty Travel, allows you to see deals, sales, and contests as they become available. If you’re a Foursquare user, there are appreciation programs that exist to give you points whenever you check-in with a certain hotel, airline, restaurant, spa, bar, tour company, or business. For example, Topguest awards loyalty points for checking-in with companies like Clubhotel, Kimpton InTouch, Hilton, Virgin America, and more.

Connecting with local hosts

Instead of booking with an expensive tour company and getting a one-size-fits-all experience, there are many social tools that exist to help connect people with local hosts. CouchSurfing, which I mentioned above, offers an enormous database of users all over the world. There is also TripTrotting, which matches you to locals based on similar interests as well as Tripping, which allows you to connect with locals and also connect through Facebook to see if you have any mutual associations. If you’re not actually traveling but would still love to visit a city, the new Wander app links you up with a local guide who will “show you around” via texts and photos in exchange for a similar virtual tour of your city.

Finding a seat on your flight

Last year, KLM airlines announced a social seating service called Meet & Seat. Passengers share their Linkedin and Facebook profiles on the KLM Booking Engine and from there can browse other passengers’ profiles and seating arrangements. Though availability is currently limited to flights between New York and Amsterdam as well as San Francisco and Sao Paulo, the company will be expanding the service to more flights in the near future.

Travel planning

While travelers perviously were only able to rely on their guidebooks, there are now a myriad of resources available for sharing travel tips with like-minded travelers as well as getting reviews from locals, and creating and sharing organized documents. Spotted by Locals is a resource that includes city guides, blogs, and iPhone apps written by European locals about their home cities, while Gogobot is a travel review site that allows you to create your own travel network, share tips and advice, and connect through Facebook to read friends’ reviews. The site also ranks users based on their activity and review count, so you can see how much of a “travel expert” someone is when reading their reviews. Travelmuse is also a great social planning resource, as it allows you to add a bookmarker to your toolbar and save photos, websites, and text to a trip research folder. You can add destinations to your trip and look at what other users have done in the past to get ideas. The tool helps you stay organized with an itinerary calendar as well as get collaborative feedback from friends through Facebook. Once your trip planning is complete, save it to your computer or print it out to carry with you.

Journal sharing

With all of the social networking available, there’s really no longer a need to document your trips with a pen and paper diary. Tripline is an excellent social resource that allows you to create interactive maps of your journey by pinning locations as well as connecting to your social media sites to add Foursquare check-ins, Twitter updates, Facebook activity, and other social sharing to your interactive maps. A similar tool is the free TrackMyTour app, where travelers can create waypoint destinations, tweet updates, follow friends’ journeys, browse already completed tours for inspiration, and share their trip with friends via the TrackMyTour website. Moreover, Trip Journal uses Google Earth integration, allowing for every detail of the trip to be documented and shared in real-time, including routes, distance traveled, stops made, time, and speed. Blog entries, photos, videos, and comments can also be easily stored and shared through Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, and YouTube.

[flickr image via SteveGarfield]

Kayak drops Blackberry support in favor of iPhone and Android

kayakIf we didn’t already think the death knell for Blackberry had begun, here’s yet another sign that the once leading phone platform, at least where it comes to consumer travel apps, is well on its way to becoming outdated.

Kayak has revealed that it dropped support for its BlackBerry app, NextWeb reported.


“When we started KAYAK in 2004, we issued BlackBerries to the entire engineering team so we could communicate instantly 24/7,” stated a memo from the Kayak team. “Today we’ve all switched, and it seems our users are doing the same. Our audience of BlackBerry users has been declining precipitously, and we can’t justify the cost any longer.”

Users won’t find any updates for the app, but it will still exist in its present form. Users can also access the mobile version of the Kayak site from their browser.


Paul English, Kayak co-founder and CEO, told Tnooz last month that the brand, which has more than 10 million app downloads, has discovered an even further differentiation between platform users, namely that while both iPhone and Android users download the app, iPhone users are the ones most likely to buy online.

This may be a demographic shift. A user survey last summer also suggested that iPhone users are bigger travelers, and thus a more likely fit for the Kayak demographic.

The survey found that Android users are “36% more likely to not remember their last vacation,” and that iPhone/iOS users are 15% more likely to have taken a vacation in the last six months, and were 55% more likely to have used their frequent flyer miles to have taken several free rewards flights during 2011.

What phone do you use?

The Coconut Phone: A quirky luxury in Grand Cayman

grand cayman Have you ever been on vacation, laying under a palm tree on a white sandy beach with turquoise waters glistening beneath the sun, and thought about how a tropical cocktail would complement the moment perfectly? For those staying at the Ritz Carlton: Grand Cayman, there’s no need to remove yourself from your comfortable paradise as the hotel offers an amenity that will allow you to order drinks, lunch, and whole lot more right from your lounge chair on Seven Mile Beach: The Coconut Phone.

The Coconut Phone is a complimentary service for guests that allows them to type in and click exactly what they want to eat or drink and have it delivered right to their lounge chair. This sweet piece of technology also relieves the burden of having to bring a smartphone, laptop, or tablet to the beach, as the Coconut Phone is internet-capable and can be used to browse hotel services to make reservations for things like golf outings, the spa, and restaurants. And, since it is iPod Touch equipped, you can also enjoy listening to over 1,000 songs that are already stored on the device, which comes with a waterproof armband. Now, there’s no need to worry about ruining your gadgets at the beach.

For more information, visit the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman website.