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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pogue\'s 12 Days of Gadgets

Ho-ho-ho, people! Time to rack your brains to come up with cool gifts for the tech nuts in your life. Most “holiday tech gift idea” lists are full of suggestions like “iPod Touch, $300” or “Surface tablet, $500.” Really? Hundreds of dollars? Beyond your parent/child/love interest, how many people on your list really get that kind of outlay? What the world really needs are cheap gifts that real-world people can give to real-world friends, bosses, employees and family members. One offbeat tech gift idea a day - and nothing over $100. - David Pogue

Day 1: Monopoly, the Zapped Edition

We all know and love Monopoly; it's been breeding real-estate lust since 1904. But for generations, we also all know what's been slowing down the game: that gol-durned phony cash. Counting. Adding. Making change. Collecting it into little piles. Arguing over whether the transaction is complete.

Not anymore. For $25, Hasbro is happy to sell you the Zapped edition of Monopoly. There is no paper money in this game. You put your iPhone or iPad in the middle of the board - and each player gets, I kid thee not, a fake credit card. (Read More...)

Day 2: The Zooka Bluetooth Speaker

There are all kinds of Bluetooth wireless speakers these days. They're a huge help - when you want music for a gathering, when you're watching a movie, when you're giving a presentation for people who are farther than 18 inches from the screen.

Carbon Audio's Zooka speaker is much the same idea, with a twist: it's designed like a foot-long tube, made of hard silicone rubber in your choice of eight bright colors. There's a speaker at each end. The best part: there's a slot running down the Zooka's length, which lets it wedge onto the edge of a tablet or laptop. That way, it's not a separate piece.(Read More...)

Day 3: CardNinja Cellphone Case

You know those guys who, in lieu of a wallet, carry around a big wad of credit cards and cash wrapped in a rubber band? They're the kind of person who might like the CardNinja.

It's a clever, stretchy-silky backpack for your cellphone. It holds cash and credit cards. Choice of colors, $18.

The point is to reduce the amount of stuff you have to carry around by eliminating the wallet. You get away with carrying only one bulky pocket item instead of two. (Read More...)

Day 4: Pop Bluetooth Handset

We love how slim and tiny our modern cellphones are; why, you could practically use ‘em as windshield scrapers! But the truth is, they do much better as hand-held computers than as phones. Ever try cradling one of those things between your chin and your neck as you do the dishes? It'll twist your spine into a Figure 8.

The ingenious Pop Bluetooth phone ($50) is the solution. It's a full-sized handset, looking like it's been freshly snipped from the cord of some rotary phone of old (except that it's available in a choice of bright colors).

Here's the twist: It connects to your cellphone over Bluetooth. (Read More...)

Day 5: PowerTrip Charger

Everyone in your gift-receiving circle probably knows the heartbreak of Dead Battery Syndrome. It's barely dinnertime, and your iPhone, Android phone or tablet is giving you the “10 percent remaining” sign.

This white plastic brick, about the size of a deck of cards, nips that problem in the bud. There are plenty of backup battery gizmos available, of course, but this one is interesting because you can charge it from three different sources: a wall outlet, a computer's USB jack or - get this - the sun. Yes, there's a solar panel on the back for topping off the charge. (Read More...)

Day 6: Sound Oasis Sound Therapy Pillow

The Sound Oasis Sound Therapy Pillow ($50 list, $38 at target.com) is just what it sounds like: A regular, 20-by-26-inch, washable pillow (“soft brushed cover and hypoallergenic polyester fiberfill”), with two compact speakers inside. And a very long cord.

When the speakers are in the pillow, you don't feel them. The idea, of course, is that you can drift to sleep with music playing. (You plug the cord into your phone or music player.) The other idea is that you can listen to music or podcasts in bed, without disturbing whoever is trying to sleep next to you. (Read More...)

Day 7: Tagg Pet Tracker

GPS is already in our cars and phones - why not on pet collars? The Tagg Pet Tracker ($100, plus $8 a month after three months) snaps onto your dog or cat's existing collar. (The company notes: “The tracker should not be used on spiked, jeweled or metal collars.” That means you, Brutus next door.)

Now you can track Fluffy's wanderings. If the animal leaves the yard (or any other “geofence” that you create), the 1.1-ounce tag sends you a text message. And you can use the pettracker.com Web site to find your pet again on a map, using your phone or computer. (Read More...)

Day 8: Prank Packs

In this holiday season in particular, we could use a little joy. Prank Packs (three for $20) will bring it. They're the boxes for screamingly funny, hilariously awful, but scarily plausible products that don't really exist. New this year, for example:

- The Crib Dribbler. It looks like a giant water bottle, like the kind that clings to the side of hamster cages - but it's for baby cribs. “With the Crib Dribbler feeding system, baby will have the alone time it needs, and its parents can enjoy some quiet time without having to tend to a hungry baby.” “For use with milk, formula, stew and cocoa.” (The testimonials are priceless. “I really like that it's made from recycled plastic syringes!”) (Read More...)

Day 9: The Leash Camera Strap

Kickstarter.com, as almost everyone knows by now, is a Web site where inventors present their brainstorms to the public, in hopes of raising enough money to move forward with production. Sometimes truly great new products are born. Sometimes they flop.

The Leash is in the first category. It's exactly the sort of thing Kickstarter projects are so good at: updating or revisiting some mundane object in our lives that hasn't been redesigned since 1723.

In this case, it's the camera strap. (Read More...)

Day 10: Cirago iAlert Tag and Cobra Tag

Why can't somebody invent a little beeper for your key ring? If you walk away from your smartphone (iPhone, Android phone or BlackBerry), your key chain beeps to alert you.

And it could work the other way, too. If you leave your keys somewhere, the phone beeps to alert you as you walk away!

That's exactly the point of the Cirago iAlert Tag ($50) and the similar but more polished Cobra Tag ($70). (Read More...)

Day 11: The Touchfire iPad Keyboard

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Thumpity thump-thump - that's the sound your fingers make on an iPad screen when they try to type. It's not an efficient process. You sort of have to keep looking down at the glass to see where your fingers are. In short, typing is not, ahem, the iPad's shining moment.

One solution is to buy yourself a real keyboard - a Bluetooth one, for example. But that's an expensive and bulky proposition. It's another whole gadget to carry around.

May I suggest the Touchfire iPad keyboard? (Read More...)

Day 12: Necomimi Brain-Powered Cat Ears

Today, the weirdest and most memorable of all: the Necomimi Brain-Powered Cat Ears ($100).

It's a headband with fluffy white cat ears attached. They perk up, flop down and otherwise turn, cutely and catlike, in sync with your brainwaves.

> That's the promise, anyway. A slightly uncomfortable forehead arm picks up the echoes of your neural activity from the front, and a clip on your earlobe completes the circuit. As your mental activity rises and falls, as your mood changes, the ears take on a life of their own. (Read More...)