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Holiday #Gift Ideas At @MicrosoftStore #Sponsored

Microsoft Store Holiday Gift GuideAfter countless experiences of giving my kids gifts they were asking for (even begging for), that they then abandoned after a short time – I pledged to try to buy gifts that last. During the holidays some of my favorite gift ideas (that last throughout the year) are technology devices and accessories. I was excited when SocialMoms and Microsoft asked me to participate in a sponsored blogging program to discuss holiday gift ideas at the Microsoft Store because they have such a wide range of technology devices and accessories gift ideas under one roof!

 
 
 

Here is a video that shows my fun adventure at the Microsoft Store checking out gifts that satisfies everyone from tech beginners to tech savvy, gamers, fashionistas, busy professionals, students and technology for the whole family.
 
 

 
 
Some of the great gifts I checked out at the store you can also check out online first, then head to the Microsoft Store to have your gift in hand for the holidays. If you don’t know exactly what they want, you can get gift cards for the Microsoft Store, XBox  or Skype. But there are also a range of phones, unique family touch enabled All-in-One desktops like the Sprout by HP, laptops like the Lenovo Yoga 2 in 1, tablets like the Surface Pro 3 Bundle or HP Stream 7 tablet (currently only $99!).

 
 

Microsoft Surface 3 Pro Bundle

 

 

All types of cases like  Brenthaven Collins Vertical Messenger Bag , Greene & Gray Device Purse  or the Knomo Foley Device Cross Body Sleeve.

 

Knomo Foley  Cross Body Device Sleeve

 

 

Wearables are another hot gift idea such as FitBit and stylish Misfit Shine that monitor activity, calories and sleep. But there are also many other app-enabled accessories to choose from!

 

Misfit Shine and Sport Band

 

Entertainment gifts such as the Jawbone Mini wireless speaker, XBox One Plus Kinect  and maybe a stocking stuffer of a new XBox Wireless controller.  “Makers” may want the gift of MakerBot-Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer that can inspire all types of creative projects or the Go Pro HERO3 to unleash video creativity on the go.  I know that my kids are asking for some new video games but I also have some on my list including the Nike + Kinect Training and Just Dance 2014!

 

Xbox 360 Chrome Series Wireless Controller

 

Don’t forget tech toys such as the remote controlled aircraft like the Parrot AR Drone2.0 that performs smartphone-controlled acrobatic tricks.

 

Parrot MiniDrones Rolling Spide

 

 

 

What are you shopping for this holiday?

 

 

Disclosure: This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Microsoft blogging program #MSFTHoliday . The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.

 

 

 

 

Tips To Find A Gift That Lasts

 

I look at holiday gifting not only as a time for fun gifts but also to invest in practical gifts that can be enjoyed past the holidays. On my top holiday shopping tips is to look at the full list of what you, your family and loved ones need and make sure to include those in gift lists as well.

 

For example, woodworking equipment to work on family DIY projects? How about new cooking appliances for family cooking projects? What self improvement do you and your family want to accomplish over the year?  Or does someone on your gift list want to find ways to read more, so maybe a Kindle would be a gift of reading?  One thing I hear from many people is that they need an upgrade mobile device, a great holiday fit is a new tablet or laptop (especially with all of the holiday deals!). Most of all, don’t forget to include charity in gift giving. We ask our kids to help identify charities that they want to “gift” such as Toys For Tots and many others.

 

Health and wellness are tops on the priority list not just for our family but also many of our loved ones. So we also look into that category for gifts. One gift idea is buying your family a membership to a local health club as a way to gift fitness throughout the year. Or how about gifting sports related items for loved ones who wants to take up a new sport (for example, new running sneakers)? We are also looking giving our kids a membership to the local climbing gym as a fun family activity that also involves fitness. A mom friend of mine wants to do yoga but does not have the time to attend classes, so an at-home yoga program would be a great holiday gift for her.

 

Dental health is a gift that lasts because smiles are so priceless. I am looking into a new electronic toothbrush for my husband who wants a quick and effective way to brush in the morning. We are also looking into smart toothbrushes for our kids so they can grade their own brushing (leaving mom and dad out of it!). They like anything that connects to apps so smart toothbrushes could make brushing more fun for them.  My younger son has seen my older son wearing Teen Invisalign and wants them when he is ready for them. He said it would be a gift not to wear painful metal braces!

 

What other holiday gifts do you know of that can last throughout the year?

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board. My teen has received complimentary treatment from Align, but all opinions expressed are my own. Here is information on the Invisalign smile assessment, treatment process and how to find a Doctor.

 

 

 

#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.

 

 

 

 

Give the Gift of Giving Back #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday

 

Every Christmas Eve we have a family tradition that means the more to us then any gifts: cooking for a local homeless shelter. We work as a family to peel, cut and cook our famous sweet potato casserole (with pineapples and cinnamon) in big containers that we take over while still hot. We have a group that works together serving and the others cooking.  It is a family activity that we do together and our sons get the gift of learning to give back to their community. We also make decisions on what charities we give to as another family activity.

 

With all the focus on holiday gift shopping it is important to take a break to think about ways you can give back this holiday season.  Today is Giving Tuesday and many organizations and individuals are sharing how they are giving back. Here are some posts with links highlighting their favorite charities.

 

MommyPoppins is having a virtual food drive.

 

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations discussed the Shot@Life Campaign. The One Campaign also shares information about the Shot@Life and other important initiatives.

 

Estelle Sobel Erasmus shared a list of 54 writer’s charities on the Huffington Post.

 

Cool Mom Picks discussed Family Volunteer Opportunities.

 

MomTrends shared thoughts on putting joy in the season by giving.

 

#TeamBlogalicious shared their favorite picks from Giving Tuesday.

 

Jessica Shyba (@mommasgonecity #theoandbeau) has an adorable book “Naptime With Theo and Beau” and is donating proceeds to the Santa Cruz SPCA.

 

Glennia Campbell shared information about Advocates For Youth.

 

TechSavvyMama discussed Gifts that Give back for the holidays.

 

Jim Higley discussed #‎HelpCampKesem‬ to help youths with Cancer.

 

 

Please share charities that you support during the holidays!

 

 

 

Holiday 2014 Tech and Shopping Deals

Holiday Shopping Deals

This weekend starts what shoppers have been waiting for: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and December sales (also called “Cyber Month”). As I explained in my last post, “best time for holiday shopping deals“, deals are not only happening across the weekend and into Cyber Monday – but throughout the season. For those who enjoy shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, then go for it and enjoy! For those who feel stressed, my advice is to pick a list of items you are looking for and then shop online over the next few weeks to find the best price. For some bigger priced items you can even wait for the “New Years clear inventory” sales that happen around the New Year. I purchased a TV for our garage/boy cave during a New Years sale and got a price better then I would have during the holiday sales.

 

For those braving the sales this weekend and want to shop online, a good place to start is your email inbox newsletters. If you signed up for any newsletters for the stores or brands, they have already probably sent out their Black Friday, Cyber Monday or holiday sales email newsletters.  For example, I shop at Athleta for fitness wear and when I checked my inbox I saw an email from them sharing their 20% Black Friday shopping code FIT20. Some of the other email newsletters, such as the one I received from Sur Le Table, talked about their in store discounts.  Many of the big retailers have in store sales that are not listed online so if you don’t mind shopping in crowds and have a big shopping list, it is a good time to stop by your favorite retailers.

 

I would also suggest supporting small businesses in your area by stopping by their stores or shopping online. Saturday (November 29) is a great day to celebrate small business owners by shopping on “Small Business Saturday #shopsmall“.  Etsy and Great.ly are sites with stores for small businesses. Huffington Post even has a post sharing “36 Black-Owned Etsy Stores For Black Friday“.  I also like to support women founded businesses such as Epiphanie and many others.  For example, a great local Silicon Valley designer of comfortable & versatile work clothes for women is Camilla Olsen. She has some of her designs on sale including the Maverick Dress.

 

Camilla Olsen Work Clothes For Women

 

 

There are websites such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday that aggregate deals.  When it comes to shopping blogs, my go-to website is Cool Mom Picks. The Cool Mom Picks Black Friday post listed a discount code for Epiphanie bags.  Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech also lists Cyber Monday deals. The teal Epiphanie tech/camera bag I had been coveting for some time was on clearance + 15% using the code in the Cool Mom Picks post!  What I like about the Epiphanie bags is that they are stylish and can hold tech gadgets securely. While my tech is getting lighter and lighter, I still need a secure bag to carry devices in so I am excited to try it out. Cool Mom Picks also has gift guides along with a site called Maker Mom which covers STEM gifts. Radio Shack has a great DIY section of the store for STEM holiday gifts and they have great holiday sales.

 

Epiphanie Tech Bag

 

For tech deals, I still suggest making your list first then looking at the deals. For example, I am interested in purchasing the Canon EOS 70D DSLR to capture high quality pictures and video on travel blogging trips. For now, the price is out of my budget even with the Black Friday sale prices of $200 off.  I did find budget friendly tech devices and accessories on sale as holiday bundles. For example, Costco, Amazon and other retailers has a great list of camera’s on sale for the holidays that come bundled with lenses and accessories that really make it a deal. But there are many categories of tech on sale so if you are looking check tech blogs such as CNET, The Verge, Tom’s Guide, Ubergmizo for Apple – Samsung & Lenovo, Chip Chick, Cool Mom Tech and more for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday tech deals. The Rather Be Shopping blog has great tips for Cyber Monday including using the Black Friday sales as a benchmark. Gizmodo has a post with The Best Cyber Monday (tech) Deals“. Fashion and shopping bloggers also have curated Cyber Monday and holiday summaries like this one from my friends at Lunchpails & Lipstick.

 

Calvin Klein Women's Long Packable Metallic Down  Coat While on the Amazon website looking for tech deals I also saw a jacket I was coveting in their fashion section on sale (Calvin Klein Women’s Long Packable Metallic Blue Down Coat – great for my business trips because it fits in a bag). During NYFW 2014 I remember Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a metallic blue Calvin Klein trench coat. While designer collection jackets are not in my budget, this jacket was with a sale price $100 off the regular price. I purchased that as well as finding a great selection of sales clothes for my kids online. This is a good time to find clothes and shoe sales for the whole family. On my post from a recent tech show called Pepcom, I also listed some of the new cool technology that would be good to look out for holiday sales. That post also listed a new app called Totspot that offer the ability to sell gently used kid’s clothes (that your kids grew out of) if you want to fund new purchases or find a fun assortment of kid’s used clothes for the holidays.

 

Another category to keep an eye on during holiday sales is home improvement. Do you need a new appliances, rugs or home electronics? Do you want to automate home processes with some smart home tech? The Nest Thermostat that is $50 off and now works with Life 360 to allow you to turn on the heat when the kids come home! Belkin has sales throughout the holiday season and their WEMO Home automation works with appliances like a crockpot and a coffee maker!

 

Another type of gift either for yourself or a loved one is the gift of learning. Curious.com has online video lessons include a range of subjects from tech to how-to DIY projects and an active community.  Their current holiday sale ends Cyber Monday.

 

Here are some of the other tech deals:

 

 

Along with your regular shopping, Amazon devices are also on sale via their press release. Giving the gift of reading devices is a gift that keeps on giving!:

  • Kindle (deal running 11/27-11/29): All-new Kindle – featuring a touchscreen display, a 20% faster processor, and twice the storage. Kindle e-readers are lightweight and easy to hold, measure battery life in weeks, not hours, and allow for reading with no glare even in bright sunlight. 
  • Kindle Paperwhite (deal running 11/27-11/29) : Kindle Paperwhite is one of Amazon’s most popular Kindles, with a touchscreen that has no screen glare in bright sunlight, a battery that lasts for weeks, not hours, and a built-in light that allows you to read without eyestrain.
  • Kindle Unlimited/Kindle Bundle (deal running 11/27-11/29): Better together: Get the $79 Kindle and 6-months of Kindle Unlimited for just $79 or Kindle Paperwhite and 6-months of Kindle Unlimited for just $129. Kindle Unlimited offers unlimited reading from over 700,000 books, including best sellers like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Landing page:
  • Fire HD (Fire HD 6 deal running 11/27-11/29; Fire HD 7 deal running 11/27-12/1): The new Fire HD tablets are available in both 6” and 7” and five color choices – black, white, cobalt, magenta, and citron. The new Fire HD, features a quad-core processor, front and rear-facing cameras, an HD display and a world-class ecosystem of exclusive features, services, and content.
  • Fire phone (deal running 11/25-12/1): The Fire phone is now available unlocked.  The unlocked Fire phone works with GSM carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Metro PCS and Cricket and for a limited time only is only $199. Fire phone includes a full year of Amazon Prime membership for access to Amazon’s vast digital ecosystem and unlimited photo cloud storage as well as exclusive features like Mayday, Second Screen and X-Ray.

These deals are available while supplies last. For additional information and a full list of Amazon Black Friday deals, visit www.amazon.com/blackfriday.”

 

Dyson:

 

Dyson Black Friday

 

 

 

Target:

Target black friday

 

 

Microsoft:

  • $100 off Surface Pro 3 i5: Available through Microsoft retail stores, Microsoftstore.com, Best Buy and other select retailers.
  • $150 off Surface Pro 3 i7 or Surface 2: Available through Microsoft retail stores, Microsoftstore.com, Best Buy and other select retailers.
  •  $99 Lumia 830 Fitbit bundle: The new Nokia Lumia 830 is available in the U.S. at www.att.com and in AT&T retail stores, and at MicrosoftStore.com and Microsoft Store retail locations. For a limited time, while supplies last, customers who purchase a Lumia 830 also receive a free Fitbit Flex ($99.99 value).
  • Xbox One available starting at $349: This offer is available nationwide at participating retailers. For more details on this promotion, visit Xbox Wire or contact your local retailer.
  •  $99 ASUS EeeBook X205TA: Available at Staples.

 

The press updated shared that the Fire Hose Blog has information holiday season’s deals and to check back for more details on Cyber Monday offerings.

 

The  YouGov holiday survey commissioned by Microsoft had some interesting information about electronic etiquette:

 

Electronic Etiquette

  • 41% of Americans confess to secretly checking their phone under the table during a holiday gathering
  • 33% of American parents try to limit their kids’ technology use during the holidays. However, 75% of American parents are likely to post to social media during a holiday gathering.
  • 42% of Americans say thank you for a gift they received via text or social media instead of mail or email.

 

My last tip involves not only setting up time for the important shopping but also setting up time to relax, enjoy friends/family and unplug during the holidays.  Turn off notifications for all smart devices and leave smartphones in your wallet, bag or pockets when socializing. Unplugging from shopping and tech is important to make sure we are spending uninterrupted time with family and friends or just spending time being mindful to do events in real life that cause you joy. As a parent I realize that I am a role model for my kids so I need to help them adjust to their connected world by teaching them the art of unplugging as well.

 

 

Happy shopping and but also happy “unplugging” this holiday weekend. We are off to do family exercise and then working on building some new wood chairs for our back yard. Yesterday we had all three boys helping cook Thanksgiving dinner from scratch (cooking is a great family activity to unplug).

 

*I will add more information about holiday sales below as I find them! Please share your favorite deals!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Best Time For Holiday Shopping Deals

Holiday ShoppingWhile many are getting ready to shop Black Friday, the numbers show that the best time for holiday shopping deals are spread out from early November to New Years sales in January.

 

 

Forbes discussed the best shopping days by sharing the information from the Adobe annual online shopping forecast.  While the post stated that Thanksgiving Day has some of the best pricing, Forbes shared that  “Adobe also predicts that the largest single-day drop in prices, 5% on average, will happen on the Monday before Thanksgiving, thanks to retailers trying to get an even earlier jump on sales.”  If retailers are trying to get an earlier jump on sales, maybe shopping early is a great way to get a jump on holiday shopping!

 

Another big trend is mobile shopping so retailers are offering more deals online. I shopped during Black Fridays for the last few years and realized that while there were some key deals, many items were either sold out or out of stock by the time I tried to get them.  Looking back at the even the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales items that were sold out, some discounts were similar what I found later in December and even January.  At the store there were also limited stock for the best pricing and other items were regular price. My lesson learned was instead of only waiting for specific “sale” days I would start looking for deals early in the season.  For the in store shopping, I like to talk to the staff to see when the sales start and also see if they have shopper programs that offer early access to sales. For example, some stores offer sale information over their email newsletters.

 

Marketwatch looked at holiday shopping information from Savings.com and found that the best shopping days for specific categories of items range from Thanksgiving weekend to throughout December. Last year I needed to buy a TV for our family and found that New Years Day sales in January not only had the best pricing but were also less crowded. I assumed New Years Day sales were good because it was after the holidays and the stores wanted to move inventory out to clear space for new items. This year we need to upgrade our gaming console so while I will be monitoring sales throughout the holiday season, I may just give our kids a “rain check” and shop the New Years sales. The biggest tip is that unplugging with family and friends is the best gift of all, so why stress yourself out shopping when sales are spread out across the season?  What good is saving money if it means increasing stress?

 

Maybe the best strategy is keep an eye out for sales starting in November and start shopping early. Then put down phones, shut off computers and enjoy Thanksgiving and holiday events. What is your holiday shopping strategy?

 

UPDATE: On Facebook I shared the post and had some great discussion points. I wanted to add that if you *enjoy* shopping and it does not cause you stress or cause you to leave social occasions early (or not go all) – then go for it! Even shopping online is a great way to have a lower stress shopping experience.  For those that enjoy shopping at stores, holidays are a fun time to shop because of the sales. I say just stick to budget and make sure you are also find time to relax and enjoy time with family & friends!

 

 

 

AT&T Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Holiday Deals

The AT&T gift guide includes handsets, emerging devices, U-verse, Smart Controls and Accessories. The holidays are a great time to make gifts not only fun but practical (like upgrading to a smartphone for you or a loved one). Some of the handsets listed on their holiday guide are Nokia Lumia Smartphones, Sony Xperia TL, HTC smartphones and the LG Optimus G.  Some of the accessories listed on their gift guide are iFrogz Boost Plus Near Field Audio Speaker, iGrill Thermometer, Zip Wireless Activity Tracker, and the Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth Speaker (red is a nice holiday color!). I will update this post with more of their accessory and stocking stuffer recommendations.

 

 

CURRENT DEALS (from the press update):

  • $100 Off any Tablet (including iPad!):  Customers will receive $100 off any tablet purchased at an AT&T company owned store or online at www.att.com or at selected agents or retailers with a two-year data plan agreement. Details.
  • Windows 8 smartphone + Tablet: For a limited time, AT&T customers will receive a $100 off the ASUS VivoTab, after purchasing any Windows smartphone and an additional $100 off any tablet, purchased at an AT&T company owned store or online at www.att.com with a two-year data plan agreement. Details.
  • Samsung BOGO: For a limited time, customers who purchase a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, including the Galaxy Express, will receive up to $100 off a second connected Samsung device. Details.
  • Exclusively at att.com, AT&T will be ringing in the value with a series of revolving online promotions kicking off on Black Friday, Nov. 23 and continuing until the last chime on Cyber Monday, Nov. 26. Here are a few:


Black Friday Weekend: Nov. 24&25
HTC Vivid is just $.01
Rugby Smart is only $.99

 

Cyber Monday: Nov. 26 (begins 12:01 a.m. ET)

Some of AT&T’s most popular smartphones for just $.99 — the Pantech Renue, Motorola Atrix HD, HTC One X (gray only) Samsung Galaxy S II and the Nokia Lumia 900.

 

As with all deals, quantities are limited.

 

 Disclosure: This is a press update.

 

 

 

Sprint Cyber Monday and Holiday Deals

Sprint just updated me on their Cyber Monday promotion – but they also have a Sprint holiday cell phone deal page on their website that lists deals on phones, tablets, hot spot devices and accessories.

 

Listed below is the Cyber Monday press info Sprint sent my way:

 

“The ‘Unlimited Edition’ savings continue from Sprint. On Cyber Monday, Nov. 26, and continuing through Monday, Dec. 3, Sprint customers activating a new line of service can buy Samsung Galaxy S® II and Galaxy Nexus for FREE1 exclusively online or by calling call 1-800-Sprint1 with a two-year service agreement2.

 

1Device pricing excludes taxes and surcharges and customers must purchase with a new line and two-year service agreement.

2Qualifying smartphone plans include: Simply Everything, Simply Everything Share, Everything Business, Everything Data, Everything Data Share, Business Advantage Messaging & Data, Business Share Plus with Pro Pack Plus.”

 

Sony Holiday Tech Deals and Gift Recommendations

There are some great Sony products on sale during Black Friday. The Sony blog published Editor’s picks that help point out some great holiday gifts or the opportunity to give a gift to yourself.  Some items may be limited quantities. I bought my Sony Vaio laptop over 2 years ago and it is still going strong! The Sony Handycam I bought a few years ago is also going strong – and is the camera my son used to launch his YouTube channel with skating videos.

 

 

 

 

EDITOR’S PICK (from the Sony Blog):

  • Save $50 on the VAIO E Series 11 Laptop (SVE11125CXW) now $399.99 (excl tax): http://bit.ly/SJijGd
  • Save $100 on the VAIO T Series 13 Ultrabook (SVT13122CXS)now $599.99 (excl tax): http://bit.ly/WlrxY4
  • Save $400 on a 50″ (diag.) LED EX645 Internet TV(KDL50EX645) now $899.99: http://bit.ly/SoJLX6
  • Save $200 on award-winning NEX5NK/B now $499.99 (excl tax): http://bit.ly/OILpmn
  • Save over $340 on NEXF3K bundle, includes 2 lenses, 8GB mem card, and case, only $649.99 (over $300 in savings, excl tax): http://bit.ly/Wh1i4W
  • Save  $100 + get a free case and free 8GB memory card with the purchase of the Sony Alpha NEX-5R with 18-55mm Lens $649.99 (excl tax): http://bit.ly/Sd7NGa
  • Save up to $200 on select HD Handycam camcorders plus get free case, starting at $179.99: http://bit.ly/R1h0Ew 

 

 

I also received a press update on Playstation Hardware recommendations. Here is the information I was sent:


o   The 3G Vita offers an unparalleled combination of rich gaming and social connectivity delivering something for gamers of all ages and interests. It is the highest definition handheld gaming experience possible, featuring a stunning 5-inch OLED touchscreen, front touchscreen, a rear touch pad, dual analog sticks, motion sensors, and front and rear cameras, result in game experiences not possible on any other handheld gaming device.

o   PS3 offers a complete entertainment home entertainment hub comprising a Blu-ray player, HDMI output and 1080p resolution, 3D gaming capabilities, and an integrated Wi-Fi connection. The 320GB built-in hard drive offers plenty of storage for games, videos, and other content downloaded from PlayStation Network, as well as personal digital content such as music and photos.

o   PS3 owners also have free and unlimited access to PSN, the online entertainment hub for all PlayStation platforms, which delivers on-demand content like games, movies and TV shows, sports and music straight into your living room—unmatched entertainment value for the entire family.

 

NEW Playstation Software

  • Wonderbook: Book of Spells($39.99; $79.99 for bundle pack)
    • Brings exclusive content in immersive new ways by putting you at the heart of the action, using augmented reality technology to transform the world around you by tilting, rotating, or simply turning the pages to bring stories to life like never before
    • Reveals original content from J.K. Rowling – you’ll will be able to read and practice 20 spells, just like the students at Hogwarts
  • LittleBigPlanet Karting ($59.99)
    • Get behind the steering wheel and get ready to race through fun-filled tracks, discover unlockables in 3D environments, and battle in karting arenas filled with pick-up items and weaponry
  • Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale($59.99; also available on Vita for $39.99)
    • Play as your favorite PlayStation characters with all their signature moves, including Kratos, Fat Princess, PaRappa, Colonel Radec, Sweet Tooth, Sly Cooper, Nathan Drake, Sackboy, Big Daddy, Heihachi Mishima, and Toro Inoue.
    • With Cross-Save and Cross-Play between PS3 and PS Vita you never have to stop playing
  • Sports Champions 2($59.99)
    • Features six events including five new games and an update to the popular Archery event from the first title. New games include Skiing, Tennis, Boxing, Golf, and Bowling
  • Ratchet and Clank: Full Frontal Assault($59.99)
    • Ratchet and Clank Return to the classic camera, weapons and third-person Ratchet gameplay, while adding a new base defense element.
    • Intense, strategic and “Ratchet-y” experience that combines classic Ratchet & Clank mechanics with MOBA-style head-to-head action

 

 

Vita Software

o   Local multiplayer via 2-4 players same screen, online gaming for up to 4 players, and more than 45 new story levels and games to play across 6 themes.

 

Disclosure: I am in a Sony Blogger program where I receive products to review. This is not a sponsored post, all of my words are my own.