Will This App Make Sleeping on Airplanes Easier?

Have trouble sleeping on an airplane? There may be an app for that. AIRSLEEP is an iOS app that combines nature sounds, ambient music and “slow wave” audio to hypnotize you into sleep. The combination is supposed to cancel out cabin noise and match your brain’s low-level “delta waves” as you fall asleep. The app itself is free and comes with some basic sounds including rain, beach waves and desert wind, but you pay to expand your “sleep library” with additional sounds such as “monk chant,” holiday sleep sounds (think snow falling and the crackling of a fireplace) and a “control freak” customizable program.

Does it work? There are only a few reviews on iTunes so far, and they are a mixed bag.

The “slow waves” seem to create a good bit of reverse feedback in addition to the ambient sounds to cover up background noise, and the sounds are definitely soothing. When you open the program, you agree to a standard disclaimer that you will not use while operating heavy machinery and such, but also not under the influence of alcohol, which many of us use to help sleep. If you are someone who has used a sleep sound machine with success at home, this might be the app for you. If the wind chimes make you feel like you’re locked in a candle shop, you might be better off with noise-canceling headphones.

Try it yourself at www.air-sleep.com. Sweet dreams!

Gadling Gear Review: hipKey Proximity And Motion Sensor

One of the best things about the rise of the smartphone over the past few years is the incredible number of creative ways that companies have come up with to utilize them. We’ve seen thousands of innovative and interesting apps, and more recently some cool secondary gadgets that extend their functionality by interfacing directly with the phone. Take for example the hipKey from a company called Hippih. The device is a motion and proximity sensor that can alert us when our valuable items have been moved, something that can come in very handy when traveling.

The hipKey is a small, half-moon-shaped device that is designed to be attached to a set of keys, your luggage or even a person. When powered on and paired with an iPhone via Bluetooth, it can provide a host of useful functions. At its core, hipKey is meant to alert us to changes to the location of the item it is attached to or help us find that item when it becomes lost. If you attach the device to a set of car keys for example, hipKey will let you know when you’ve left them behind via an alert on your iPhone. Or, if you’re one of those people who can never remember where you left your keys, the hipKey companion app (available for free in the App Store) can activate the device, forcing it to make a loud noise.

The sensor features four distinct modes, each of which is designed to address some specific need. For instance, Alarm Mode is meant to alert the user when the hipKey has moved beyond a certain distance from their smartphone. The distance at which the alarm sounds can be set to short (2-5 meters), medium (15-20 meters) and long (30-50 meters) ranges. In Safe Zone mode, the user can designate a specific place on a map as the “safe” spot, then create a geofence around it at the same preset distances as Alarm mode. If the hipKey moves outside of the zone, it will again automatically trigger alerts. As the name implies, Child Mode attaches the hipKey to a child and sets off alerts if the kid wanders out of range as well, while Motion Mode immediately sets off an alarm if the item that the device is connected to begins to move.The hipKey dongle is roughly 2 inches in diameter, which is at times too large and at others just the right size. I say that because when you attach the device to a carry-on bag, for instance, you barely even notice that it is there. But add it to your keychain and suddenly it feels enormous. But the device packs quite a bit of technology into a relatively small space and for the most part you’ll barely even notice that you have it with you.

When designing the hipKey, Hippih integrated BlueTooth 4.0 technology, which provides better range than previous versions of the protocol while sipping less battery life. The device has a built-in rechargeable battery that I’m told will power the proximity sensor for anywhere from two to four weeks. I tested the device for a period of just over three weeks and I wasn’t able to ever run it out of juice, which bodes well for travelers who want to attach this to their baggage while on the go. I also didn’t notice much of an impact to the battery life of my iPhone while connected to the hipKey either.

As mentioned above, Hippih has developed a companion app for the hipKey that allows the user to program it to their specifications. It is through that app that you can set which mode the device is operating in, adjust the volume of alerts, select the alarm distance and so on. It’ll also tell you the current battery level of the device and allow you to designate your “safe zone.” The app is functional and easy to use – and works nicely on an iPad – but for the most part there isn’t much that is impressive about it.

It should be noted that communication between the iPhone (or iPad) and the hipKey is not just one-way. If you can’t find your iPhone, you can tell the device to send an alert to the phone, causing it to make a chiming noise while also vibrating. The alerts can be heard even if the iPhone is set to silent mode, which can come in very handy when you just can’t seem to remember where you left your iPhone.

For the most part, the hipKey works exactly as advertised. It is a snap to set up and it provides alerts when it moves too far away from the iPhone with which it is paired. I tested the device extensively and it performed flawlessly each time. It is nice to know that it has a solid record of dependability when you’re counting on it to ensure that your bags, keys or child stay safe.

Unfortunately, at the moment the hipKey doesn’t work with any other devices except the iPhone. Android and Windows Phone users will just have to wait to see if Hippih brings the device to those platforms. It seems likely that support will be there eventually – particularly in the case of Android – but for now the proximity sensor only works with Apple devices.

The hipKey carries a price tag of $89.95, which seems a little steep at first glance. But if you consider the level of mobile security, not to mention convenience, that it brings to the table, it comes across as a small price to pay. The perpetually forgetful will appreciate the gentle reminders the device will send them when they walk away without their keys, while worried parents will wonder how they kept track of their little ones without it. Make no mistake, this device is indeed a luxury item, but it is also one that could possibly save you a lot of grief when you need it. Particularly when keeping tabs on your important gear while traveling.

The hipKey is an excellent compliment to any iPhone and surely a gadget travelers will love to have on their side in times of trouble.

Orbitz Releases iPad-Optimized App For Flights, Hotels And Rental Cars

Travel-booking service Orbitz had released an update to their popular iOS app, bringing full iPad optimization to Apple’s tablet for the first time. The new version of the app now runs at the iPad’s native screen resolution and taps into the device’s more powerful processor to provide faster search results to consumers. The app also presents users with special mobile-only discounts that aren’t available through the company’s traditional web portal.

Much like the former iPhone-only version, the new app lets users find and book discounted flights, hotel rooms and rental cars. The search results are then displayed on the larger iPad screen allowing travelers to compare the details of different flight options or view hotels in both a list and map view. These features help make the search process much easier and simply aren’t possible on the smaller screen of a smartphone.

Streamlined searching of travel options isn’t the only thing the app brings to the table. It also allows travelers to save their itineraries for offline viewing and even adds important dates and times to the iPad’s built-in calendar. Additionally, it will provide updated information on flight delays or gate changes and grants access to exclusive deals for hotel rooms, often at as much as 50 percent off the normal price.

In celebration of the release of the new iPad app, Orbitz is giving away a trip for two to Chicago. The contest winner will receive first-class, round-trip airfare and two nights stay at the swanky Peninsula Chicago hotel. To enter to win, just visit the Orbitz Facebook page.

And to download the new iPad version of the app hit the App Store.

[Photo Credit: Orbitz]

Gadling Gear Review: iPad Mini

Over the past couple of years the demand for tablet computers has gone from nonexistent to one of the hottest segments of the entire consumer electronics market. At the forefront of that demand is the iPad, which not only launched the tablet revolution but has continued to push it forward since its introduction in 2010. The iPad’s dominance has been so complete that competitors have been forced to attempt to carve out a niche with smaller and cheaper tablets, sometimes with solid success. Not one to let a market slip away, Apple released a smaller tablet of their own a few months back, bringing an excellent entry to the growing 7-inch tablet segment.

The iPad Mini was released this past fall and garners its name from the fact that it features a 7.9-inch display as opposed to the 9.7-inch screen found on the full size version. But the size of the screen isn’t the only part of Apple’s tablet that has gotten smaller. The Mini is also considerably thinner and lighter than its larger counterpart, which is probably the thing that is most striking when you first hold one in your hands. The fact that it slims down so nicely and still manages to maintain Apple’s legendary build quality is just icing on the cake. Put simply, the iPad Mini feels great in your hands and makes you think that this is what the iPad should have been the whole time.

Despite its smaller screen, the iPad Mini still runs all of the iPad Apps without a problem. That means that buyers get access to the best tablet apps on the market, while Android owners continue to wait for many of their apps to be optimized for larger screens. Apps look fantastic on the Mini’s bright and vibrant screen as well, although it doesn’t feature the amazing Retina display that is found on the larger, more expensive iPad. It seems logical that the first update to the Mini will be adding some form of the Retina display in a future update, but hopefully not at the expense of added weight or thickness.The Mini provides fast and smooth performance, running Apple’s iOS mobile operating system very well. In fact, I didn’t notice any appreciable difference in how the tablet responded or ran apps when compared to my third generation iPad, which features a much more powerful processor. The device also features two built-in cameras, one on the front and one on the back, which take passable photos and are great for video conferencing.

Travelers will absolutely fall in love with the Mini. Its smaller size and weight makes it a great travel companion, easily slipping inside a carry-on bag or purse without adding any kind of noticeable bulk. Its ten-hour battery life keeps it running for a long time and its vast library of apps provides games, movies, television shows, magazines, music and plenty more diversions for long flights or layovers in the airport. The fact that it is also considerably cheaper (the Mini starts at $329 for a 16GB model) than the regular iPad will make it attractive to new buyers as well.

In a lot of ways the Mini is the best iPad yet and as an owner of the full-size model, I am looking forward to Apple bringing some of the design elements over to the larger tablet. But as someone who actually does work on his iPad, the smaller screen is a compromise that I’m not ready to make just yet. I once wrote a 1000-word story on my iPad while on a flight home from Jordan with no real issues, but I can’t imagine doing the same thing on the smaller screen of the Mini. The smaller tablet is a fantastic option for those who consume media on their mobile devices, but it isn’t the best option for those that want to create content as well.

But the Mini’s competition isn’t just the full-size iPad, as both Google and Amazon have competing products that stack-up well with Apple’s device. Those tablets are smaller and lighter, yet feature higher definition screens and come in at a lower price tag. They also feel less solid in your hands and have a build quality that can best be described as “cheap” when compared to the Mini. Couple that outstanding construction with a larger display and an app store that is unmatched in the number of options designed for tablets and I believe the Mini provides an outstanding bang for the buck.

Just like the larger iPad, Apple offers the Mini with 16, 32 and 64 GB of storage and with options to connect to 4G data networks for Internet access on the go. No other small tablet offers such a wide variety of options in storage and connectivity, albeit at an increased cost as well. And that versatility is appreciated by consumers, particularly in an increasingly connected world. My third generation iPad is a 64GB model with LTE access and I find that to be incredibly useful for staying connected while on the road.

As far as I’m concerned, the iPad Mini is the best tablet on the market for travelers. Its small size and compact shape make it easy to carry with you whether you’re heading across town or across the globe. It is impressively built, powerful and versatile, and it comes with the best app store available for any tablet on the market. If you’ve been reluctant to invest in one of these devices in the past, then you really should take a look at the Mini. It is a fantastic product that will convince many first-time buyers to finally bite the bullet and add a tablet to their travel gear. And if you’re an owner of an older iPad who has been considering an upgrade, you’ll want to take a look too. You may find the Mini’s more svelte design too enticing to pass up, even though you’ll be reducing the size of your screen.

Make no mistake; Apple has more competitors in the tablet market than they have ever had in the past. But they also continue to stay two or three steps ahead of that competition, delivering the best devices in the category at competitive prices. The Mini not only continues that legacy but extends it.

[Photo Credit: Apple]

Roamz iPhone App Will Help You Discover Things To Do At Home Or On The Road

If you’ve traveled with any kind of regularity, I’m sure at some point or another you’ve found yourself in a new city with some spare time on your hands but unsure of what you should do. A guidebook can sometimes be of assistance, but they’re often out of date even before they are published, and asking a local can usually yield results, although they routinely view their city much differently than a visitor. What we need in these instances is something that is not only current but also easy to access, providing us with suggestions for activities, good places to eat, interesting local shops and other hotspots. That is exactly what the Roamz app for iPhone and Android aims to do, adding in a nice social twist to the mix.

Roamz is a simple to use, location-sensitive app that has been designed from the ground up to help people discover what is happening around them. The interface is clean and simple, providing a basic search bar that allows us to enter terms like “pizza” or “live music,” with results returned in quick fashion. Your most recent searches are saved so that they can be quickly accessed again, while suggestions for common search terms are displayed as graphical tiles along the bottom of the screen. Tapping one of them displays nearby results for the specific category with some basic information about the restaurant, shop or activity itself. Those results also show the location of the event (which can be opened in the maps app for navigation) and give options to visit the venue’s website or dial its phone number.

If you’ve owned a smartphone over the past couple of years, you’ve probably seen similar apps. But where Roamz sets itself apart is that rather than simply searching a database of local addresses sorted by category it actually scans social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to determine what places or events are getting the most buzz around you. This means you’re not only receiving info about a great place to eat, but you could also learn about special activities that are taking place near by. This social aspect of the search gives Roamz a more timely quality that isn’t found elsewhere.The app will also allow you to save a list of your favorite locations and it will automatically alert you to special activities at those places whenever you’re in the neighborhood. Those suggestions can come in handy when you’re looking for things to do both at home or on the road. Not surprisingly, Roamz also connects with popular social media outlets, allowing you to share your own activities with friends and family.

That’s the basic premise of this app and in practice it works quite well. I’ve used it to find new places to eat in my hometown, as well as to discover things to do when visiting another city. The social aspects of Romaz offer a nice twist over similar apps, as you get to see what others near you are saying about the hotspots. The app even displays images that have been shared through social media, giving users an opportunity to see the place long before they ever visit it.

The app is completely free and is available on both Apple’s app store and the Google Play store. It is definitely one that will come in handy while in your home city, but it truly struts its stuff while traveling elsewhere.

[Photo credit: Roamz]

Discover great places nearby on Roamz from Roamz App on Vimeo.