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#MomsWithApps And TechMamas Holiday App Gift Tips

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Moms With Apps and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

 

MomWithApps TechMamas  Gift Guide Tips

 

 

Parents and those looking for gifts for kids have so many options. But one option that will always please and is very budget friendly are the gift of apps. At the same time, there are many apps that are either not age appropriate, low quality or can rack up extra charges from in-app purchases. Moms With Apps is one of my top websites for finding high-quality apps for kids. I am excited to team up with them to share tips for giving apps as holiday gifts.

 

Mom With App Top 5 Holiday App Gift Tips  :

 

1. Choose an App that will Top their Gift List:  It’s important to know what you and your child want from an app before downloading. When it comes to educational content, what exactly do you want your kids to learn? Letters? Math? Problem-solving skills? Secondly, what interests your child? Is it all about trucks these days? Or maybe they can’t get enough of farm animals. With Moms With Apps, parents can search for trustworthy apps in a variety of different subject areas, including science, math, reading and critical thinking.

 

2. Give the Gift of a Social Experience: Apps can teach kids how to be social. In fact, in a recent survey of more than 450 parents, 96% of parents believe that apps are beneficial to their child’s development. Look for an app that’s age-appropriate and engaging for the recipient. With a carefully selected app, children can interact with people online in a safe and fun way.

 

3. Pick with Privacy in Mind: App privacy is a huge concern for parents. A Federal Trade Commission report released earlier this year says close to 60 percent of apps designed for children collect and share personal information — and only 11 percent tell you they are actually doing it!  The great news is that there are many apps that are created with your children’s privacy in mind; you just need to know where to look. Moms With Apps only features developers who are committed to high standards for protecting kids’ privacy and disclose their policies in a clear and concise way.

 

4. Avoid the Gift that Keeps on Giving: How many of us have discovered that our children have made purchases within an app without our knowledge? Some free apps hook children with extra purchases to get extra features or to get to other levels in the game. Make sure you avoid this unpleasant surprise by reading all about the app and understanding whether “upgrades” are necessary to access certain aspects of the game.

 

5. Choose an App that Works in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: So what does this app need to work? Internet access? Battery power? Nimble thumbs? Think about whether “airplane mode” is important to you–do you need this app to function when you’re on the road or in the air and without Wi-Fi? Moms With Apps allows parents to search for apps that function in without an Internet connection, among other requirements.

 

TechMamas Top 5 Holiday App Gift Tips:

 

1. Buy Gift Cards To Set Budget: You can give gift cards such as iTunes, Google Play or Windows App Store to the kids on your gift list. For your own kids you can sit down together to decide on what apps they want to buy with the gift card ($10  for example). That discussion can help them understand the concept of setting budgets for buying apps. No matter how your kids buy apps, it is important (as mentioned above) to either not share the passwords if your kids are using devices with your accounts or if they have their own to not attach a credit card to the account.

 

2. Set Account Restrictions: All app stores offer the ability to have password verification before app purchases, but sometimes kids can guess passwords. That is why it is important to review and set account restrictions or parental controls for all mobile devices used for kids. In iTunes you can set a pin for account restrictions and turn in-app purchases to “off”. In Google Play you can filter content to settings such as “E” for everyone and set notifications to notify you by email of all purchases. Windows devices have parental controls.

 

3. Play Apps Together:  No matter how much I know about choosing apps, at times I find an app that looked good but then ends up either low quality, pushes in-app purchases as mentioned above or does not deliver on what the app described in the app store. One way to make sure you are finding good quality apps is to check out the apps vetted on Mom With Apps. Another way is to play the app with your child the first time they use it or even play it on your own.

 

 

4. Show Your Kids Creative Apps as Well as Games: Many kids know all about game and educational apps, but there are also creative apps. For a child who loves playing music, recommend a music making app. For kids that love WATCHING videos, suggest movie editing apps so they can make and edit their own videos (such as stop motion animation videos). Show your kids how to produce entertainment content instead of just consuming it.

 

5. App Accessories: When looking for giving apps as gifts consider adding accessories such as stylus brushes for painting on touchscreen devices or music digital interfaces that connect electric instruments to iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Mac/PC.

 

 

If you want to find out more tips, please join in the #MomsWithApps Twitter Party 12/3 12pm EST/9am PST.

 

Details

What: With more than one million apps to choose from, it can be hard to find the trustworthy apps that you know upfront your kids will learn from and enjoy. That’s where Moms With Apps comes in! Moms with Apps gives parents the power to choose the best apps for their kids. Their site features more than 285 developers and 885 apps that maintain high standards for protecting kids’ privacy, and allows you to filter by criteria like whether the app has advertising or works without an internet connection. It’s now easy to know what’s inside every app before you hit download!

 

Moms With Apps conducted a survey of more than 450 parents to get their thoughts on selecting apps with kids. We’ll be sharing their findings with you during this party! 

 

When: Wednesday, December 3 at 12 p.m. ET 

 

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #MomsWithApps hashtag to track the conversation. You can see the details and RSVP via this Vite: http://vite.io/themotherhood 

 

Hashtag: #MomsWithApps

 

Prizes: We will be giving away five prizes during this Twitter party to randomly selected participants who answer the trivia questions correctly. Each prize includes a $50 Visa Gift card. Prizes limited to U.S. participants only.  

 

Hosts: @TheMotherhood, @TheMotherhood25, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

Co-hosts: @techsavvymama, @jessicamcfadd, @WellConnectdMom, @techmama, @melissanorthway, @littletechgirl, @daddymojo, @MamaDweeb

 

 

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Moms With Apps and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Pepcom Holiday Tech Showcase 2014

Pepcom Holiday SpectacularAt CES and holidays I am always excited to head to Pepcom events to check out the new technology related products out. On the night of the World Series I braved the traffic to head to San Francisco for the Pepcom Holiday Spectacular. Because the holiday season is so busy I have not had a chance to review any of the products but here are some of the interesting ones in the family technology area.

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Pepcom Holiday Spectacular! Exhibitors:

24/7
24/7 is a medical grade sleep and activity tracking application, their new new features include giving users more insight into their sleep than ever before.

 

 

ArcSoft
ArcSoft will be showing Simplicam powered by Closeli, a home monitoring solution with facial detection. They also had information on Perfect365 – which uses Face Detection technology to scan a photo and automatically map a person’s eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth and hairline. Then photos are treated with touch-ups, using nearly 20 tweaking tools that whiten teeth, brighten eyes, remove blemishes and other editing. They can also choose from dozens of pre-set makeup templates.

 

 

Belkin
Belkin International showcased a great selection of holiday tech products from its three brands, Belkin, Linksys and WeMo.  I was especially interested in their WeMo family of products that offers home automation, such as in a remote controlled Crock Pot!

Crock-Pot® Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo  Belkin

 

I also learned about their Linksys Dual Band WiFi router and how I could possibly swap that out for the default router my home WiFi provider gave us to help power up our wireless reception (and maybe also using a WiFi extender to help rooms far away from the router).

 

Belkin Linksys

 

Belkin also had some gift guide suggestions:

 

GIFTS UNDER $50
Metallic Lightning Cables
$24.99 – $29.99
Vent Mount $24.99
Phone Accessories
$24.99 – $34.99

 

GIFTS UNDER $300
Thunderbolt™ 2 Express Dock HD
with Cable $299.99
Linksys WRT1900AC $249.99
Linksys EA9200 AC3200 Tri-Band Smart Wi-Fi Router $299.99

 

GIFTS UNDER $150
Crock-Pot® Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo® $129.99
QODE™ Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case for iPad Air $149.99
WeMo® LED Lighting Starter Set $99.99
Mr. Coffee® 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew™ Coffeemaker with WeMo® $149.99
Linksys Dual Band Wireless AC Range Extender RE6500 $99.99

 

 

Chamberlain Group – MyQ Garage
Chamberlain Group showed MyQ Garage, the connected home device for controlling home entry. “A smart home with MyQ ensures people never forget to close the garage door and can open, close and monitor it from anywhere in the world from a smartphone. MyQ is integrated with Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat, multiple home devices through the WinkApp, and other popular connected home apps.”

 

 

Channel Master
Channel Master debuted new features and services for the DVR+ platform, as well as a new ultra-low-cost outdoor television antenna. They were also the most popular table because they had the World Series on! Channel Masters new features for its subscription-free DVR+ include YouTube access and an enhanced DVR feature to record only new episodes of a series. The company also added the new low-cost STEALTHtenna to its metro/suburban-centric Everyday Series antenna line along with a consumer-friendly Antenna Selection Guide.  Coming in November, the YouTube streaming feature will appear in the DVR+ program guide.

 

 

 

Cobra
Cobra Electronics showcased “the addition to the company’s Drive HD Dash Cams series, Cobra CDR 825, utilizing a 2.7 inch screen, the largest in the dash cam family, along with the ultra-compact Cobra JumPack, a pocket-sized, portable charger for mobile devices and vehicle jump-starter.” Cobra also displayed some Walkie Talkies that I know my boys would have loved to try.

 

 

Creative Labs
Creative Labs has home, mobile, and gaming audio products. I was especially interested to hear about their E5 product that can be used an microphone to capture audio for me when I do video. Here is more information from their press release:

Their Professional-Grade Sound Blaster® E5  is a “24-bit/192kHz 120dB High Resolution USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier for Smartphones, Tablets, PCs & Macs:

 

  • Digital High-Speed USB 2.0 connectivity to PC/Mac as a powerful external Sound Blaster
  • Digital USB Host connectivity to select iOS/Android models for direct high quality, lossless audio streaming*
  • Built-in rechargeable 3200mAh lithium polymer battery provides users up to 8 hours^ of playtime while on the go
  • Features wireless Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy connectivity and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for one-touch Bluetooth pairing and control
  • Supports HD audio codecs such as aptX® Low Latency and AAC for a wireless connection as good as a wired connection
  • Connects to entertainment devices such as televisions and game consoles via the optical input jack
  • Features a line-in option for analog connectivity to other various audio sources
  • Dual headphone jacks allow for simultaneous audio listening

Compatible with:      

- iOS devices using Lightning connector (iPhone 5, 5S, 5C, iPad Air, iPad Mini)

- Android devices (Samsung Galaxy S4, S5, Note 2, Note 3; Google Nexus 5, Nexus 7; Sony Xperia Z Ultra; Xiaomi Redmi, Redmi Note, Mi 3; LG G2)

**Actual battery life will vary with usage scenarios, settings and environmental conditions

 

The new flagship product is an extension of Sound Blaster’s E-Series line of compact portable USB audio solutions.  Launched in May 2014, the Sound Blaster E-Series includes the Sound Blaster E1 and Sound Blaster E3.”

 

 

ecoATM
ecoATM showed their “automated e-waste recycling kiosk that accepts cell phones, tablets and MP3 players from consumers in exchange for instant cash.” Listed below is an image they shared on what you could buy for holiday gifts from what you get back from trading in specific devices. I have not tried the service but I think trading in old devices are a great way to earn money to buy new devices instead of them sitting in a cabinet collecting dust! ecoATM, the nationwide network of 1,510 automated recycling kiosks, give’s users instant cash for their phones, tablets and MP3 players.

 

ecoATM

 

 

 

Fitbug
Fitbug Orb is a fitness, sleep and activity tracker.  They unveiled Kiqplan, a library of interactive coaching programs that use activity data from almost ANY activity tracker, smartphone or watch to build actionable 12 week plans around specific wellness goals.

 

 

Fujitsu
Fujitsu showcased their ScanSnap product lineup, including the new mobile and completely wireless scanner, the ScanSnap iX100. Included in the ScanSnap family line is the ScanSnap iX500 desktop scanner.

 

 

Kensington
Kensington has USB Hubs, Adapters, USB Chargers and Universal Soft Sleeves as well as new iPad Air™ 2 Keyboard Cases. Their PresentAir Pro Bluetooth® 4.0 LE Presenter “offers three different function modes to support different types of activity presenting, controlling media, or editing and offers one of the slimmest presenter designs on the market. The free downloadable companion app, PresenterWorks, allows users to set buttons to the functions of their choice for greater flexibility and efficiency.”

 

 

Kingston
Kingston Technology showcased holiday gifts ideas including the MobileLite G2 wireless media reader, SD and Micro SD cards and a HyperX Cloud gaming headset that offers extended hours of game play.

 

 

KODAK PIXPRO
KODAK PIXPRO featured cameras and wireless devices including the new SP360 Action Cam, an HD action cam designed to capture 360-degrees of video without the need for multiple cameras.

 

 

Lenovo
Lenovo had a few tables filled with their newest devices.

 

Lenovo at Pepcom

 

 

Some of the devices I spent time looking at where the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 and Tablet 2 Pro, B40 All in One, Y50 Touch mobile gaming and multimedia notebook. But the one I drooled over was the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro because it has powerful features but is thin, light and so fancy!

 

Lenovo Yoga 3

 

 

LifeTrak
LifeTrak showcased their line of wearables, including the new LifeTrak BRITE R450, that features light exposure monitoring, smartphone notifications, advanced sleep monitoring and fitness tracking, is waterproof and requires no recharging. The battery used for the device is a watch battery!

 

LifeTrak

 

Logitech
Logitech will be showcasing its latest in gaming, music, tablet, Harmony and PC accessories.

 

 

muvee
The new iOS app TWINE “makes short split-screen videos. Capture opposite or parallel moments in time and TWINE automatically stitches them together“.

 

 

Otterbox
OtterBox will be showcasing protective cases for the recently released iPhone 6, GALAXY Note 4 and more.

 

 

Parallels
Parallels Access app (for iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and phones plus Kindle Fire) “lets you access everything on your PC or Mac just like it was made for your touch-based device (a way to run Windows on your Mac without rebooting).

 

 

Plantronics
Plantronics will be showcasing its new line of consumer, stereo and Bluetooth products including the new BackBeat PRO – wireless, active noise canceling stereo headphones with mic.

 

 

Plantronics Backbeat Pro

 

 

RadioShack
RadioShack has the latest in sound, toys, power and smart tech for gifting or for upgrading your own tech this holiday season.  I went to the press event to celebrate the interactive remodel of San Francisco Bay Area (and other locations) Radio Shack stores.  I was really impressed with the selection of tech in the new design. Especially their DIY section that had so many DIY tech projects that my boys could keep busy for a long time!

 

Here is information about the Radio Shack store redesign:

  • Innovative products from startups and inventors, such as mobile device-controlled robot ball Sphero, educational magnetic circuit boards from littleBits and Lively’s activity sensors that create a smart home for older adults to log daily routines
  • An interactive speaker wall where customers can shop and compare different speakers using music installed on in-store tablets
  • Experiential displays that enable shoppers to find and compare products, including headphone demo stations where they can listen to leading brands like SOL REPUBLIC, Skullcandy and Beats by Dr. Dre; in-demand devices from Apple, Samsung and HTC; a remote control (RC) toy exploration center; and a GoPro camera display demonstrating the capabilities of several models of GoPro cameras
  • Technology that makes shopping interesting and playful, like touchscreens and apps that help shoppers understand the benefits of products
  • Full mobility offerings from top mobile carriers such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon with flexible financing plans available all under one roof
  • Helpful, informative RadioShack staff who can answer shoppers’ questions about hundreds of products and services and direct customers to the items that meet their specific needs.

 

 

ResMed
S+ by ResMed: a non-contact sleep system that monitors, analyzes and provides personalized feedback to help improve your sleep from the first night.

 

 

Ring
Ring Video Doorbell “lets you answer the door from anywhere using your smartphone. It features an HD camera with night vision, providing a clear view from your front door, day and night.”

 

 

simplehuman
simplehuman builds smart home-tech that is “simple, functional, and built to last“. I tested the sensor trashcan they had on display and it really was able to tell the different between me waving my hand to open the trashcan versus just walking by. The other brand sensor trashcan I tried kept opening up when I would just walk by it.. Next time I will try simplehuman!

 

Simple Human

 

 

Speck
As a leader in slim protective cases for mobile devices, Speck will be showing its latest bulk-free cases in smashing good looks. Their candy shell smartphone cases have been great protection in the past when I dropped my phones (just a few times…).

 

Speck

 

 

TiVo
TiVo showcased the TiVo Roamio OTA, the over-the-air DVR and TiVo Mega.

 

 

Totspot
Totspot is a mobile shopping app for moms to buy and sell gently used kids’ clothes.  I think this is a great tool for families to control clothing budgets for their kids – who grow out of clothes so quickly. And also to find great clothes for their kids!  “Totspot solves the age-old challenge every parent faces when outfitting their growing soccer stars and fashionistas – kids grow, clothes don’t. The free app has an intuitive interface designed to be simple and fast, and supports easy mom-to-mom mobile retailing, giving families a simple way to cash in their kids’ closets and keep little ones toddler-trendy and fashion-forward. Totspot (http://www.totspot.me) is currently available as a free app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and Android.

 

Totspot

 

Totspot

 

 

TripIt
TripIt booth is a trip planner keeps travel plans in one spot with features such as custom itineraries, sharing features, travel alerts, alternative flight info,  flight refunds and a travel dashboard.

 

 

Velvetwire
Velvetwire showcased the Powerslayer Blu – an Bluetooth-connected charger with built-in software that “reduces energy waste and promotes battery health”.

 

Velvetwire

 

 

ZAGG
ZAGG Inc highlighted their newest accessories for protecting and enhancing handheld electronics.

InvisibleSHIELD GLASS and HDX: Features HD clarity and 3X greater shatter protection for even industry-leading smartphone glass.

  • GoLite power series: A family of portable batteries will charge any device that utilizes a USB, including smartphones and tablets.
  • iFrogz InTone earbuds: Feature a smooth surface which rests comfortably on the ear while their 14mm driver delivers vibrant sound.”

 

 

Disclosure: This is coverage of a tech press event.

 

 

 

 

Moms With Apps Survery Results: Thoughts On Kid’s Apps

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Moms With Apps and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

 

 

As parents we want our kids to engage with technology in a positive way that inspires learning as well as entertainment. The challenge is helping our kids choose appropriate apps and setting screen time limits. Moms With Apps is a website that offers information about kids apps, including How To Choose Apps For Kids. I have twin 11 year old boys that like using their tablets or my smartphone for their screen time. I use resources like Mom With Apps to help me – help them – choose appropriate apps for their age and also apps that will inspire creativity, learning or just wholesome fun. Just this morning at a doctor’s appointment I searched for Math apps my son could play with while we were waiting.  My concerns related to apps are to make sure they are age inappropriate but also not just simple time wasters. I would rather help my kids use the powerful technology tools they have to enhance their lives, a lesson that they can take to adulthood.

 

 

Mom With Apps just finished a survey of more then 450 parents around the country with their app questions and concerns. The results are interesting so I wanted to share them!

 

 

 

Moms With Apps Survey

 

Here are some of the specific findings from their press release:

 

  • 96% of parents believe that apps are beneficial to their child’s education and development.

    Moms With Apps provides parents with the ability search for trustworthy apps in a variety of different subject areas, including science, math, reading and critical thinking.  

  • 87% of parents report that ​they are concerned about ​their​ children ​making in-app purchases, and 81% say they worry about app​s​ ​​collect​ing​​ their children’s​personal information.

    Founded by parents who love using technology with their own kids, Moms With Apps only features developers who have committed to high standards for protecting kids’ privacy and building great family-friendly apps – and Moms With Apps always makes it quick and easy to Know What’s Inside every app they feature so that parents can decide if it’s right for their kids.

  • When selecting apps for their children, the three key issues for parents ​are: 1) the age-appropriateness of the app​;​ ​2) ​if it’s engaging for their child​;​ and ​3) ​if the app protects their child’s privacy.

    Moms With Apps gives parents simple tools to find the right apps for their kids. Just like nutrition labels help parents decide which snack is right for their kids, Moms With Apps provides parents with information up-front and in plain English to help them decide which app is right for their kids.

  • Parents feel they waste time looking for the right apps for their kids. 49% report the process as “moderately” to “very hard.”

    With more than one million apps to choose from, it can be hard to find the right apps for kids – and even harder to know if the app their kid loves is one they can trust. Moms With Apps is the only resource for parents who want to find great, trustworthy apps for their children.

     

 

What are your thoughts and concerns about children’s apps?

 

 

 

 

Lenovo CES 2014 : Horizon 2, 4K Monitors and Beacon

*Sponsored series

 

For my first CES 2014 covering Lenovo products I discussed the Lenovo Yoga 2 and other new laptops. But Lenovo also showcased new technology at CES 2014 that enables new types of mobility and flexibility with home devices - and ups the ante for professional desktop monitors (that can also be used at home). The Horizon 2 showcases one of the most exciting new developments in home technology, the PC that extends into A TABLE form factor (also called a table PC)! The Horizon 2 is slimmer (19.5mm) then original Horizon, with new features such as NFC that allows devices to share digital content directly.

 

Lenovo Horizon 2 Standing Position

Horizon 2 – Photo credit: Lenovo

 

The Lenovo Horizon 2 Table PC has a 10 finger touchscreen, motion control features for navigation, Windows 8.1, four hours of battery, up to 4th generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor and Dolby Home Theater.  When used in Stand mode, it can be used as an All in One Desktop. “Table” mode enables collaborative computing such as playing games for up to four people. Accessories include a joystick, striker and e-dice to enhance the digital gaming.

 

Lenovo Horizon 2 Joy stick

Horizon 2 – Photo credit: Lenovo

 

Enhancing “table” mode is the Lenovo “Aura” custom interface for media aggregation and entertainment. The press release explained enables users to “upload photos from their camera or smartphone and the Aura interface will try to recognize the faces in the photos, access media from their PC or smartphone on their home network directly on Horizon 2’s display when it lays flat in Table Mode with the Aura interface activated. They can either use the new Horizon mobile app to shake their mobile Android device, allowing the content to “fall” onto Horizon 2’s screen. Or they can place the mobile device on the screen, which signals to the Aura dial to open around it and “pull” out content onto Horizon 2’s display. Also, users can edit photos and share directly from Aura to Facebook.“ In addition, the Horizon 2 also has multi-user games including Ubisoft’s Chubby Kings, Legacy Games’ Crayola’s Songbook and education apps such as I Spy from Scholastic.

 

 

 

Lenovo Horizon 2 Aura Interface

Horizon 2 – Photo credit: Lenovo

 

Lenovo announced the Beacon personal cloud storage device which allow to store and play media from anywhere using a tablet, smartphone, PC or TV.  The Beacon stores files within the device.   Because families these days have so much media to store, it is helpful to have a specific media storage for the home. Features include storage expandable to 6 TB and an Intel Atom dual core processor. The service has no monthly fees, can load files wirelessly or via USB connection, is able to auto upload photos from a smartphone camera via WiFi or 3G, uses Lenovo custom app on an Android smartphone to remotely control or play media stored on Beacon to an internet connected TV or by HDMI, and includes security features and ability to share with multiple users.

 

Lenovo Beacon

Lenovo Beacon Photo credit: Lenovo

 

 

 

 

Here are some of the other Lenovo product announcements from CES 2014:

  • Lenovo N308 is the company’s first Android all in one desktop that is geared for those who want access to apps, entertainment and browsing.  The N308 runs the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system, comes with an NVIDIA Tegra quad core processor, up to 500 GB hard drive storage, a 720p webcam and WiFi.
  • Lenovo A740: The Lenovo A740 is an aluminum styled 27 inch All in One that is only 4mm thin. It has up to 1 TB of hard drive storage, voice and motion control, a 10 finger touchscreen display, NFC for exchanging digital content, HD Display with wide 178° viewing angle (WQHD 2560×1440), NVIDIA GeForce graphics, JBL speakers and Dolby Home Theater.
  • Traditional notebooks Zline 14 and 15 inch for general computing are great for users on a budget. Starting at $399, they have quality features such as Intel Core processors, Dolby speakers, optical drives, different memory options 4GB, USB 3 port to work with USB 3 dock to hook into a keyboard. The 15 inch has a numeric keypad on the keyboard.
  • The Y40  (14 inch) and Y50 (15 inch) are laptops geared for media creation and gaming with Nvidia GTX graphics,  up to Core i7 and 16 GB RAM, backlit keyboard (modern design, red backlight), SSD option, touchscreen and has a 4K option. Both have JBL speakers with subwolfer. Price points starting from $699.
  • Two other new devices are the Thinkvision Pro2840m, a 4K (28 inch) monitor that is geared toward the engineering (CAD) or professional market with full speakers for only $799!!  Another is the Thinkvision 28 that is focused on consumer home market with a 4K monitor, adjustable stand that lays flat for gaming and has 32 GB storage. Touch and Android are additional features for $1199. The computer supports 4K is streaming on YouTube and Netflix.
  • The Lenovo Flex 20 (already out on the market) is a more portable alternative to the Horizon. It is an dual mode all-in-one PC that adjusts from standing in a “desktop” mode to laying flat in “entertainment” mode but hinge is adjustable at any angle. The 19.5’HD screen (1600 x 900) has 10 point multi-touch, built in camera and microphone for video conferencing, wide viewing angle, TV tuner and the stereo speakers have Dolby Home Theater.  Accessories such as joystick, striker and e-dice can be used with fun and educational games from a custom Lenovo Aura interface. The Aura was created to make the PC a “social device bringing users together to enjoy fun apps and multimedia.  Games can be loaded from the Windows Store and the Lenovo app shop. The up to 2 hour battery allows the PC to be moved to different parts of the house.  The USB 3.0 enables faster file transfer and copying of large media files (also backwards compatible with USB 2.0 devices).
  • In the multi-mode category there is also the Lenovo Flex in 14D (14 inch) or 15D (15 inch) notebooks.  These value convertible laptops have AMD A6 quad core processors, all day battery life, two modes (Laptop and Stand) and  Dolby Advanced Audio v2 .

 

Lenovo Flex 15D

Lenovo Flex 15 D Photo Credit: Lenovo

 

Pricing from the press release:

The Lenovo Beacon personal cloud storage device will be available beginning in April with models starting at $199. The Lenovo N308 AIO Desktop will be available beginning in February with models starting at $450. The Horizon 2 Table PC will be available beginning in June with models starting at $1,499. The Lenovo A740 AIO Desktop will be available beginning June with models starting at $1,499 via major retailers and www.lenovo.com.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series for Techlicious Lenovo blogger program  I received products for review as part of the program. My words are my own.

 

 

 

Tips To #NavigateTheHolidays With Gift Offerings at GameStop

*Disclosure: Sponsored post.

 

I am a regular Gamestop customer, whether it’s pre-ordering a new kid’s video game or buying used video games and accessories.  So, I was excited to recently host with Techlicious – a Gamestop event and tour at my local GameStop store. We had a fun group of bloggers, many who were already GameStop customers and excited to learn even more with a tour by the local GameStop team. Beyond being the “world’s largest, multi-channel video game retailer“, GameStop offers:

 

***Video games for  all types of consoles (Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii) along with Video game consoles,  portable gaming devices, tablets and more.

 

 

***Tech accessories including headsets, tech toys such as Skylanders and Disney Infinity and even my kid’s favorite Lego video games (that compliment nicely all the Lego building they do).

 

 

***Gift Cards and Stocking Stuffers.

 

 

Best of all GameStop has affordable “Buy-Sell-Trade programs for video game hardware, software, digital content accessories, consumer electronics (including Apple Devices) and more“. To keep within our budget, we have our kids identify games they no longer play with to help save up for new ones. I was happy to find out that “GameStop also offers more then 2,500 video games under $20″. That also helps with the budget!

 

When looking for video games at GameStop we can always first check if there are used copies available. Long ago my teen figured out that we should sign up for the GameStop Power UP Rewards (customer loyalty program) – so we did. Along with the rewards, exclusives, point earning opportunities and extras, the GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards benefits include earning points towards future purchases.

 

 

 

We also had a lunch where we discussed holiday tech shopping tips, trends, tips on choosing video games and more from Suzanne Kantra of Techlicious and the GameStop team.

 

 

 

GameStop, with research partner Brierley+Partners, asked 500 U.S. gift givers what was at the top of their purchase lists this holiday season (fielded from November, 2013). Listed below are some highlights shared from the event and a press release:

  • 42 percent of shoppers surveyed plan to purchase video game related items for their children this holiday – including video games, consoles, and accessories.” While we’re always thrilled for the holiday season, this one is especially exciting as we welcome the first new gaming consoles in nearly a decade, along with a flurry of new titles to show off the systems’ next-gen technology,” said Ashley Sheetz, chief marketing officer of GameStop. “It seems more people than ever, at almost any age, are getting into gaming, and if this survey is any indication, the number of gamers will keep on growing thanks to the holidays this year!”
  • 84 percent of ‘gifters’ are aware of store and website trade-in programs, and nearly 20 percent are planning to use them to help defer gift costs. We learned that “GameStop offers instant store credit or cash on a vast range of products, from old video games, consoles, to smartphones, tablets, and other electronics sitting in drawers and on shelves. And with special holiday trade-in bonuses, the savings can grow large very quickly!”
  • 82 percent of ‘gifters’ expect to turn to store employees when making purchasing decisions this holiday season. “We know holiday shopping is stressful and even more so when presented with the plethora of gaming choices out there,” said Jason Cochran, vice president store operations and strategic initiatives of GameStop. “Our goal is to relieve some of that stress with our trained employees armed with the latest gaming knowledge, as well as through our loyalty and trade-in programs that can make the financial strain of the holidays less stressful.”

 

When it comes to video games for my kids, I spend the time to gather information about the game by using not only sites like Common Sense Media and ERSB, but also knowledgeable GameStop salespeople. Over lunch, we had a chance to talk about screen time and tips to understand if a game is appropriate for kids/family use:

 

  • Current state of kids & technology:  83% of parents set rules or have a conversation with kids about the safe use of technology, with the majority of parents setting limits starting at ages 5-8*, Overall daily screen time for kids under 8, 1 hour 55 minutes, decreased by 21 minutes per day vs 2 years ago.** More time on: mobile devices, Less time on: TV, DVD, Computers, Video Games.*From Microsoft/Comscore study 2013 .
    **From Common Sense media 2013 survey: Kids 0-8.
  •  Games are social: 40% of gamers play with friends with 17% playing with their spouse or significant other and 34% playing with other family members. Video games are a family activity: 40% of parents play video games with their children at least weekly. Most video games being sold are appropriate for kids with 73% of the 245.6 million video games sold in 2011 rated Everyone (E), Teen (T) or Everyone 10+ (E10+). Ninety-one percent of games evaluated by ERSB in 2012 were rated E, T or E10+, From Entertainment Software Association.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations : Establish screen-free zones, turn off electronic devices during dinner.  For children and teens: limit entertainment media to no more than 2 hours per day (does not include homework). For children under 2: no TV and entertainment media.
  • Recommendations to help find the appropriate video: Common Sense Media offers the ability to search game titles for younger kids and drill down by age, content, educational benefit and more. PluggedIn.com offers the ability to sort by rating, platform and genre. ESRB rating search app (and website) flags “Interactive Elements” so you’ll know if the game shares location, personal information or user habits. ESRB recently expanded search filters for exclude/include content type (violence, language, nudity etc) or a specific rating, plus access to rating summaries for packaged games.

 

How do you choose which games are appropriate for your family? What types of family technology are on your holiday shopping list?

 

Here are some posts from other bloggers at the event:

Mom With Apps: Three Tips for Family-Friendly Gaming
ParentGrapevine: GameStop – The Place to Shop, Sell, Trade-in and Buy for the Holidays
 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

 

Giveaway: Pledge Not To Text And Drive. It Can Wait!

Distracted driving is a serious problem. In my last post about the topic I discussed the AT&T “It Can Wait” website that has important information for families. The AT&T It Can wait website shows “Texting and Driving Crash – It Can Wait” and other videos that anyone with a phone and a car should watch (parents and teens included!):

 

 

Join me and pledge to never text and drive.  The It Can Wait website has a section where you can share your pledge. Here is another It Can Wait pledge I just did on the website and tweeted:Those who send txt messages while drivng are 23x more likely to be in a crash. Pledge @ itcanwait.com. #ITCANWAIT “.

 

 

I was thrilled to see my pledge retweeted by others – so by making a pledge you can inspire others to make their pledge not to text while driving.

 

 

AT&T also has a DriveMode™ (Android  and BlackBerry) app that has auto on/off to help increase safety on the road.

The DriveMode app “curbs the urge to text and drive by allowing you to temporarily limit the features of your mobile device so you stay focused on the road. You can set-up auto-replies to texts, emails and wireless phone calls to let people know you’re on the road and will get back to them. AT&T DriveMode is free to AT&T customers.

 

UPDATE:  Jeannine S  is our Winner (and she has been contacted). Thanks to all that entered!!

To help move this important issue forward, I am excited to host a “It Can Wait” (ICW) giveaway where ONE winner will get the following prize (fulfilled by AT&T):
One Samsung Galaxy S III
One ICW t-shirt
One ICW branded phone case (to fit the GSIII)
Two ICW decals (for your car)
Two ICW thumbbands
How do you enter? It is 2 easy steps:
1. Fill out the Rafflecopter entry below
2. Take the pledge at ItCanWait.com and comment that you took it .
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

HP Envy 23 Touchsmart AiO – Fun With Apps

In my last HP Envy 23 TouchSmart All in One post I did the unboxing showing how easy it was to set up. As we started using it over the next few weeks, our family fell in love with having such an amazing touch screen computer in the family room. Of course I could not wait to take a look at the Windows 8 store to personalize my start up screen with Windows 8 apps.  Luckily the HP Envy 23 TouchSmart AiO comes with some basic Windows 8 apps loaded but there are many you can add depending on what your interests are. Some of the apps I installed are music apps including I heart Radio and Slacker Radio (rocking out thanks to the HP Beats Audio), games including Angry Birds Space, puzzles and even archery , watching movies on apps such as Netflix, search such as Bing, Educational apps such as Kahn Academy, news apps such as News Bento,  Reading books with apps such as Kindle. recipe apps such as Foodily and many apps to create content and communication.

 

 

In the video below I discussed some of the Windows 8 apps I was able to use because of the HP Envy 23 TouchSmart’s high resolution screen, 10 point touch, Beats Audio speakers and processing power that makes those Angry Birds fly. Or at least I would like to think that it is my Angry Birds skill that makes them fly!

 

 

My next fun projects to test out will be the camera app to make videos, photo apps to edit photos and using the Skype app with the HP TrueVision HD Webcam to video chat with the grandparents.  I was having so much fun I forgot about loading my social networking apps to take advantage of the people hub and calender apps.

 

Have you tried Windows 8 apps on a touchscreen yet? If so – which ones do you like? I am looking for new apps to play with on my HP Envy 23 Touchsmart All in One!

 

 

***Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a program on behalf of HP and received an ENVY 23 TouchSmart AiO as a thank you for participation. All my words are my own.

 

 

 

Nukotoys Monsterology And Animal Planet Wildlands – Trading Games Now at Stores

When I accepted a consulting project with Nukotoys on the Parents@Play board, I did not realize that it would make me feel like a kid again. My favorite games as a child were strategy games. Now as an parent looking for apps for my 9 year old twin boys (and their tween brother), I jump at the chance to find apps that entertain and have the strategy that engaged me as a kid.

 

 

Enter the Nukotoys Monsterology Game (for 7 years old +)  based off the of the Ology World book series that includes Dragonology, Egyptology, Wizardology, Pirateology. My 9 year old twins happen to have many of those books and are fascinated by the myth meets multi-sensory experience that is a chess meets mythical characters game.  The Nukotoys Monsterology game is an app that brings the book to life with fantastic graphics, an original musical score, pop-up elements, 3-D mythical monster characters and storylines wrapped up in a strategy game that big and little kids alike will be engaged with. The newest twist are Nukotoys Monsterology trading cards that when swiped using the app (currently for iPad/iPod but more versions to come) – the Monsters jump into the game.

 

We enjoyed playing the beta Monsterology game during my time on the Parents@Play Board – so I can’t wait to load the newest version of Monsterology (for 7+,  iOS5 or later) and try Animal Planet (for 3 years old + , iOS5 or later) now that  Nukotoys “ launched Animal Planet Wildlands and Monsterology NUKO™ in Apple Stores, Walmart, Target, and Toys R Us!“  .  We also received a brief demo of the Animal Planet game and was impressed with the graphics and interaction.

 

Here are some fun specs:

 

Nukotoys Monsterolgy  Features **From press release:

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ESRB and SF Giants: Dream Team To Help Parents Understand Gaming Ratings

When it comes to who has influence over my kids,  sports idols rate very high. We are a SF Giants fan family – and my twins were lucky enough to play in 2 years of Little League where there team was called the “Giants”.  So of course the SF Giants have a huge impact on my sons. Their dedication, hard work and teamwork are something I remind my sons to model in their own life. The ESRB is an organization that not only assigns content ratings for computer and video games, but also helps parents understand the content each game.  When I was invited to press event with the Giants and ESRB about a new PSA  (public service announcement) campaign educating parents about the video game rating system – that was a “home run” event for me not only as press but as a parent. Of course, I had to bring my boys with me (it was my own unofficial bring your kids to work day!)..

The PSAs,” which feature the players explaining the ESRB rating system and encouraging parents to use it when buying games for their families, will begin running on television and radio stations throughout Northern California as well as on the video display boards in AT&T Park during Giants home games.”  The representatives at the event were Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants catcher,  Ryan Vogelsong – San Francisco Giants pitcher joined Patricia Vance – President ESRB, Michael Gallagher – President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, Jack Tretton, president and CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment, Laurent deToc – Executive Director for North America, UbiSoft,  other ESRB and Giants representatives and Families from Junior Giants.

 

Patricia Vance welcomed everyone to press event with Buster Posey,  Ryan Vogelsong and reps from Sony Computer Entertainment, UbiSoft,  Entertainment Software Association and ESRB representatives:

 

 

Buster Posey shared information about the Giants/ESRB public service announcement:

 

Ryan Vogelsong also shared information about the Giants/ESRB public service announcement::

 

 

The PSA was shown, one of the scenes shows the ESRB mobile app – which I use all the time to help me with finding out ratings information on the go:

 

 

The PSA also had Buster Posey and Ryan interacting with the kids with an age appropriate, which is positive reinforcement for kids to play games appropriate for their age:

 

 

After seeing them play the baseball video game on the public service announcement, my twin sons of course had to check out the new MLB® 12: The Show™ for PlayStation®3 (PS3™)  game that was set up at the event. That is – after checking out the ESRB rating:

 

 

My teen knows that he can play games with the ESRB rating “T” for Teen or below. My 9 year old can play the games rated “E” for everyone. They were both holding pictures of the games as examples, showing off the ESRB ratings on the bottom left:

 

 

Then we had the opportunity to head out to AT&T stadium area, one of our favorite places to be because it is where the SF Giants play!:

 

 

They gave the press more opportunities to see the games and rating examples:

 

 

Then the local mom bloggers got together for a picture: Left to right – Adel Vardell (HappaMama), Beth Blecherman (thats me – TechMama!), Kimberly Kauer Postlewaite (Silicon Valley Mamas), Lia Frietas (Mama’s Starting Over), Patricia Vance (ESRB), Ana Picazo (Finding BonggaMom), Perrin Kaplan (Zebra Partners). On bottom row: Kari Dahlen (The Karianna Spectrum). Taking the picture: Michele Spring Fajeau (Zebra Partners).

 

 

My sons were beyond excited when Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants catcher) not only shook their hand but posed for a picture!

 

 

Just to “knock it out of the park”, Ryan Vogelsong  (San Francisco Giants pitcher) also gave my super SF Giants fans a handshake and a picture:

 

 

The official press release is below. My boys never knew that computer and video game ratings could be so much fun!

Disclosure: This was a press event. All of my words are my own.

Camera used: Pictures taken with Sony Cybershot WX9

PRESS RELEASE:

 

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Disneyland Explorer – a Disney Parks App for iPad

Part of the excitement of our family adventures to Disneyland is going online to plan our trip. Our kids love helping to collaborate so we can fit in all of their favorite Disney experiences in the trip. The Disneyland mobile apps are also helpful for us to get information on the go.

 

When I received this press release about a new Disney Parks app for the iPad, I was excited for a new mobile opportunity to experience and get information about Disneyland. Disney Explorer is a free app for the iPad that offers a mobile experience of the sights and sounds of Disneyland. The app offers the ability to “tap beautiful images, animation and interactive touch points that represent experiences inside Disneyland park, Disney California Adventure park, Downtown Disney District and all three hotels of the Disneyland Resort. ” I can’t wait to try it – but showing it to my boys will make it harder for us to wait until our next trip to Disneyland.

 

 PRESS RELEASE:

 

Discover the Sights and Sounds of Disneyland Resort with ‘Disneyland Explorer’ – a Disney Parks App for iPad

Take a Spin Around The Happiest App on Earth!

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