Industry Technosavvy the December 2012 issue

Blockbusters on the Small Screen

The holidays are all about spending time with family, and although our gadgets can distract us, they can also bring us together.
Posted on December 12, 2012

The holidays are all about spending time with family, and although our gadgets can distract us, they can also bring us together. So when the kids are nestled all snug in their beds, an e-reader might be just the ticket for a bedtime story before the visions of sugarplums kick in.

While e-books don’t have little pop-ups for little fingers to play with, they still give you the story, whether you’re six, 16 or 60. Among e-readers, Amazon has updated its Kindle line with the Kindle Paperwhite ($119, with ads) that boasts a high-resolution touch screen and a built-in light. It also supports children’s books and offers parental controls. Barnes and Nobles’ Nook Simple Touch ($119, no ads) offers a touch screen and a glow light to make reading easier—so the kids won’t need a flashlight to keep reading after lights out.

If you’re in the mood to watch a story rather than read, there’s no shortage of tablets that deliver great video. Apple’s latest iPad offers a 9.5-inch high-resolution Retina display with still and video camera functions as well as a sleighful of apps. (Wi-Fi $499, 4G LTE $629).

The iPad has more competition these days, including Amazon’s 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD (Wi-Fi $299, 4G $499) that includes access to the wealth of print, audio and video content from the Internet retailer. And let’s not forget Microsoft’s new Surface tablet that combines play with work with Office software and a touch-enabled cover that becomes a virtual keyboard. ($599, $499 without touch cover).

For smaller tablets, there’s the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD ($199, with ads) and Google’s Nexus 7 ($199). Taking aim at the smaller rivals, Apple’s new—and hot-selling—iPad mini offers a 7.9-inch display but is priced significantly higher, from $329 to $659.

It goes without saying that if they can’t see you over the holidays the folks still want to hear from you. Why not make it easier with a new smartphone? Mom may even text, if only to say, “Call me.” Top choices include Samsung’s Galaxy S3 Android phone, with a 4.8-inch HD display ($200) that almost looks tablet size, and the new, slimmer iPhone 5 ($199) with a larger, 4-inch display.

Perhaps you need to work on your gaming skills so your kids don’t keep beating you? Sony’s new, smaller, lighter version of its PlayStation 3 is available in a 250 GB model ($270 with “Uncharted 3” game bundle) and a 500 GB model at $300 with the “Assassin’s Creed” game bundle. 

Of course, you’ll want to record some of your holiday memories. Consider Sony’s Cyber-shot line, including the RX-100 ($650), which lets you take pictures in low light, or the highly rated HX30 ($400).

Point-and-shoot photographers should consider Panasonic’s Lumix ZS20 with wide to zoom lens (from about $195). For a retro touch, Polaroid’s Z2300 instant digital camera comes with a built-in printer that delivers a smudge-proof 2-by-3-inch photo in under a minute. ($160, photo paper $15).

Hyperactive people might like the 4-inch, cylindrical ContourRoam 2 action video camera that you can attach to your helmet or gear to record your sporting exploits from skiing to snorkeling—it’s waterproof ($200).

If you’re worried about all those holiday calories, maybe a little music will help you work out. The 4-ounce SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip MP3 ($38–$58) player easily attaches to your workout gear so you can listen to your favorite tunes as you burn away Christmas dinner.

SnApp Shots

One thing about shopping for presents, you can do some serious damage to your budget. While these apps won’t keep you from overspending, they can help you get a better deal, keep an eye on your budget, and simplify your business expenses. (For iPhones and Android, other phones where noted.)

RedLaser If you want to make sure you’re getting the best available deal, try RedLaser. Use your smartphone to scan the item’s barcode, and the app delivers a list of nearby and online retailers carrying the same item and their prices. Free (Windows phones)

Mint.com Want to keep track of where your money is going? Mint.com does it for you. The app aggregates your bank, credit card and investment accounts and displays it in one place. You can set a budget and track your goals, and Mint will offer suggestions to help you. Free

Pageonce Money & Bills Pageonce Money & Bills helps you track your bills, reminds you, and lets you pay them. You can also see your deposits and purchases so you don’t have to keep a running tally of your, credit card bills in your head. Free (Windows)

Expensify helps save you from having to find, un-crumple and sort receipts for business travel. you can scan a receipt or have it matched to an imported credit card transaction. Free (BlackBerry)


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