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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.

 

 

 

 

#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.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Five Ways To Use #Tech For #Halloween

I was not going to post on Halloween but I was so inspired by the fun press outreach (and seeing what my fellow bloggers wrote) that I wanted to share some of my Halloween inspired tech favorites. Please share yours and have a safe and happy Halloween!

 

1. LED and Laser Pointers to Light Up Your Jack-O-Lantern!

 

deathstar  pumpkin

PHOTO CREDIT: Fantasypumpkins.com

 

Our family favorite Make Magazine had a great link list of creative pumpkin carving ideas, including a Death Star and using LED’s and laser pointers to light up your pumpkins. The Death Star Pumpkin masterpiece is from the website Fantasy Pumpkins. May the Jack-O-Lantern Be With You!

 

2. Check out websites for last minute Halloween ideas

Cool Mom Picks has a post with the UItimate Last Minute Halloween Guide. Of course, Pinterest has a vast amount of Halloween inspirations to keep you busy for hours. Growing Up Goofy has (our family favorite Disney) Mikey Mouse Halloween crafts and Tinker Lab has Halloween craft ideas for kids. There are many other food and design blogs online to get ideas. Z Living and Rookie Moms have tips for a healthier Halloween. For Halloween fashion tips, I found a great R2-D2 skirt at I am a Funny Girl’s Fashion Friday post. For super last minute tips, Mashable posted with costumes you can make in 15 minutes…

 

 

3. Halloween Spirits For Adults

 

Halloween Cocktail Photo by Steve Murello  via HGTV

Halloween Cocktail. Photo Credit by Steve Murello via HGTV

 

 

After all the work creating costumes, decorations, food and more I think it is important for parents to give themselves some Halloween Holiday spirits. When searching online for Halloween ideas for kids, why not also search for some Halloween adult drink ideas to die for like the recipes over on the website HGTV.

 

4. Apps to help with Halloween Decorations

 

Home Outside App Holiday Halloween

Home Outside App – Holiday Halloween

 

 

Today I received a press release about an app called Home Outside that can help you create a landscape design for Halloween or for any occasion.  I may even try this app to make another attempt to landscape now that my boys are older. The last time we tried (many years ago) we had toddlers who went and pulled the tubing from our drip irrigation. I am sure there are many other Halloween apps to decorate inside and outside your house.

 

5. Think Geek – One Stop Halloween Shopping

 

 

thinkgeek halloween

Think Geek Halloween – Minecraft

 

The website Think Geek has the best selection of techie Halloween fun including costumes (regular and cosplay), decorations and accessories including lights and lasers to light up your night. Of course, many of the accessories, such as the Think Geek: Mega Stomp Panic, would be great for geeky fun throughout the year!

 

 

 

 

 

What are your favorite Halloween ideas? I know that we will celebrating throughout the weekend…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dolby Atmos Audio Tech

10am Oct 6 update: Giveaway is closed.

 

Dolby Atmos There are so many different technologies that need to come together for a movie to be immersive. While many of us first think of the visual aspects (3D for example) the sound plays a very big role in a movie experience. I first realized this when I went to a Dolby press event in San Francisco last year. Dolby creates audio, visual, and voice technologies for cinemas, home theaters, PCs, mobile devices, and games. The press were given the opportunity to sit in the Dolby Theatre and watch one of the 2013 Dolby Atmos Movie Releases: Monster’s University.  When the movie started I wondered if I would really experience the sounds in the movie as if they were above, next and behind me. Well I can tell you that it was an audio delight to experience Monster’s University with Dolby Atmos because the sound was completely immersive adding another dimension to the movie experience.

 

 

 

When Dolby contacted me about one of the new movies out with Dolby Atmos, I could not resist taking some extra time to also learn more about how Dolby Atmos works. But first I got the opportunity to give away 3 copies of Transformers: Age of Extinction (one of the 2013 Dolby Atmos Movie Releases).

 

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction with Dolby Atmos

 

TO ENTER:

Leave a comment on this post talking about how you like to experience movies at home to an “immersive” experience. For example, we have a sound bar but I never thought about installing speakers at home to make our movie night more immersive!

PRIZE:

3 commenters will each win one Transformers: Age of Extinction DVD.

TIMING:

Contest starts Oct 2 and ends Oct 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by Oct 7 2014

RULES:

1. One Blog Post comment per person. One Blog Post comment is equal to one entry (so only one entry per person)  2. Winners are limited to US residents only 21 years of age or older. 3. If a valid email address is not provided in the entry, another winner will be chosen. 4. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. 5. Approximate value of prizes may vary. 6. All decisions are final 7. By entering any giveaway on this website you release Techmamas.com from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action. 7. Contest starts Oct 2 and ends Oct 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by Oct 7 2014.

 

Dolby also provided me some fun facts in their press release about Transformers: Age of Extinction:

●     “Besides the fact that it’s a Transformers movie, what makes this release so great? It’s the first Blu-ray released with Dolby Atmos technology.

●     Transformers: Age of Extinction, released Sept. 30, is the first movie mixed in Dolby Atmos for home theaters. This fall will see more Dolby Atmos titles for home theater on both Blu-ray Disc and from streaming video providers like Vudu.

●     Dolby Atmos makes it easy for filmmakers to place or move specific sounds anywhere in the movie theatre, including overhead. As a result of this multi-dimensional sound, audiences feel as if they are inside the film, not merely watching it. Major Hollywood studios are partnering with Dolby to create Dolby Atmos home video versions of current box office releases and previously released favorites. Dolby Atmos debuted in 2012 in the hit film Brave. Since then, it’s been used for more than 180 theatrical releases, including hits like Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Gravity, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. In addition to global studio partnerships, Dolby is partnering with game, music, and broadcast content creators to take advantage of Dolby Atmos technology for future home theater use.

●     Even if you don’t have a Dolby Atmos home theater, content mixed in Dolby Atmos sounds better. This format gives filmmakers the tools and freedom to bring more sound off the screen and into your living room creating a more enveloping experience – it’s as if you’re actually in the movie.”

 

I also received a press document that covered more details about the Dolby Atmos technology.  I was happy to know that even in my house I could create an immersive experience with Dolby Atmos enabled speakers in our own living room.

“Dolby Atmos enabled speakers can produce an incredibly accurate Dolby Atmos experience in many types of rooms. You’ll get the best sound if your ceiling is flat (not vaulted or angled) and made of an acoustically reflective material, such as drywall, plaster, concrete, or wood. Dolby designed the technology for rooms with ceiling heights of 8 to 9 feet (2.4 to 2.7 meters ), but testing indicates that you can still hear incredible Dolby Atmos sound in rooms with ceilings as high as 14 feet (4.3 meters), though the effect may become more diffuse in rooms with higher ceilings. There are some rooms in which we don’t recommend using ceiling speakers…”

 

 

 

Dolby Atmos Speaker Placement

 

 

The press document also had information about how the Dolby Atmos technology works:

“Dolby Atmos is based on the concept of sound objects. In the cinema, Dolby Atmos relies on a combination of 9.1 “bed” channels and up to 118 simultaneous sound objects to deliver an enveloping sound scene. Every sound in a scene—a child yelling, a helicopter taking off, a car horn blaring—can be a separate sound object. Each of those sounds comes from a specific location in the scene, and in some cases, they move. The car careens from left to right, while the yelling child runs up a set of stairs. Using sophisticated content creation tools that represent the sound objects in a three- dimensional space, filmmakers can isolate each of the sound objects in a scene and decide exactly where they want them to be and how they want them to move. In the final sound mix, the sound objects are combined with metadata—additional data that describes a number of parameters about the sound object, including its location and movement, if any.”…

 

 

Dolby Atmos Speaker Placement

 

 

The Dolby website also has speaker recommendations and information on how to set them up. The press release explained some of that information and I learned that one of the main things you need to start is an AVR – which is an “AV receiver – which magnifies sound from multiple sources” and if I already have have conventional speakers you like, you can simply buy Dolby Atmos enabled add-on speaker modules:

“Although Dolby Atmos is a revolutionary new home theater format, it doesn’t require that you start from scratch. Although you will need a new AVR, in most cases, you’ll be able to keep most, if not all, of your existing speakers. But if you already have conventional speakers you like, you can simply buy Dolby Atmos enabled add-on speaker modules. These include only the upward-firing speakers. You can place these add-on modules on top of your current speakers or on another nearby surface.

 

Dolby recommends that you use four Dolby Atmos enabled speakers when possible. Use of four speakers will make the placement of overhead sounds more accurate, and you’ll get more precise, realistic sounds as an object—such as a helicopter—passes overhead in a video..  Two of the speakers (whether they are integrated speakers or add-on modules) should be in the front left and front right speaker locations of your system. The other two should be positioned in the surround sound speaker locations, ideally the rear surround speakers, if you have them…. Some home theater enthusiasts will also be able to install speakers in or on their ceilings, but you don’t have to. If you use ceiling speakers, Dolby recommends that you use four or more speakers when possible, though two speakers will still provide a great experience. If you use four ceiling speakers, you should place the front pair of ceiling speakers in front of the position where you’ll be listening and the second pair of ceiling speakers behind you when you’re seated. If you use two ceiling speakers, mount them slightly in front of where you’ll be listening.

 

 

There is one important consideration in expanding your system: new speakers must be added to your Dolby Atmos system in pairs. A new speaker on the right side of the room must be matched by a similar speaker on the left side of the room. This is true for speakers located on the floor as well as in the ceiling. This pairing ensures a balanced soundstage. The exceptions to this rule are when you add speakers in the center or center surround locations.”

 

 

Home theater manufacturers started announcing Dolby Atmos enabled equipment in June. The first Dolby Atmos receivers and speakers are starting to appear in stores now. More information about Dolby Atmos can be found on the You can get more information about Dolby Atmos on the Dolby website and Dolby blog or follow updates on Facebook and Twitter. on our website and on our blog.

 

 

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One copy of Transformers: Age of Extinction was given to me for review purposes. The giveaway is being offered as value to my readers – this is NOT a paid post.  All of my opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Pantech Vybe Review: First Phone For Kids

Pantech vybe first phone kidsBack to school is a busy time for parents, preparing their kids for the classroom, fall sports and other activities. Choosing a new phone and managing cell phone use is also at the top of many parents’ list. Kids nowadays use phones as one of their main forms of communication with other kids as well as pesky parents who pick them up and drop them off places. I covered the topic of deciding on the right age to buy a phone and tips on setting up your kid’s first phone in a recent back to school post.  I drove to the AT&T store myself to try to figure out which phone I was going to buy for my twin boys who are starting middle school. After receiving an email about the Pantech Vybe, I decided to do a review of the phone with my twins.

 

As I mentioned in my “tips for buying your kids a phone” post, I believe phones should be given to kids on an as-needed basis. My kids are taking the bus, riding their bike or walking to school and activities on their own now we decided it was time for them to have their own phones. Because they are just starting middle school, I just wanted to have the ability to call, text and use phone tools while not using any social network or the mobile web. The Pantech Vybe is a great first phone because in addition to making calls it has a slide out keyboard that’s perfect for texting and has its own operating system so kids can’t use app stores to load up on apps and games. We also found it helpful to have the option to disable data on the phones if necessary.

 

Of course at first we the kids pushed back. They wanted an iPhone or another fancy smartphone like some of their other 11-year old friends. Beyond being RIDICULOUS that 11 year olds have full featured smartphones in the first place, tweens especially may not understand the consequences of all of their actions – so why give them mobile tools to do so?  We do believe as a family that all kids should be educated and make informed decisions about Internet safety but temptations and peer pressure can be hard for tweens/teens to resist. Already one of their peers is posting things on Instagram that are pretty alarming for their age group.  While many kids have full access to browsers and apps on tablets, desktops and laptops at home – at least those devices are being used at home and not being taken with them every day and used without supervision.

 

PANTECH VYBE SPECIFICATIONS AND FEATURES
FEATURES:
Here are the features of the Pantech Vybe:

  • Slide-out QWERTY Keyboard
  • 3.2” Touchscreen Display and 3 Customizable Homescreens
  • Hands free one-touch “Say-A-Command button”

 

The user manual has information on setting up and also found the Pantech support section of the AT&T website useful because of the setup videos.
pantech vybe home screen

 

Touchscreen Display, Navigation and Customizable Home screens:

The touchscreen display is 3.2 inches and can be customized with favorite apps such as notepad, calculator, contacts and more.  There is even a hands free one-touch “Say-A-Command” button. Pantech included a proprietary dual-user mode: “Easy Mode has one home screen and a simplified menu for a truly intuitive user experience. Advanced Mode is customizable and offers more options and flexibility. You can safely switch back and forth between modes without losing your contacts or favorites. ”

 

What I found useful to understand is that there are two types of “menus” in advanced mode. The main menu is called the home screen (starting point for using applications on your phone) . The home screen can be customized with a picture or standard backgrounds (customizable from “display” section of tools). One of the home screens can be customized to display shortcuts for favorite apps (Max 9 icons can be added) and another for web addresses. Once the main screen is set up it is simple to use the phone (unlock, tap and go).
The second menu is listed on the home screen in the navigation at the bottom as “Menu”. This has access to load lots of different tools (more than the 9 max on the home screen). In the tools area we loaded shortcuts for pre-loaded apps such as sketch pad, notepad, calculator, alarm clock voice memo, pictures, address book, video player, and camera.

 

Entertainment:
The “My stuff” folder has applications, games, audio (alert tones and ring tones), music, pictures, video, other files and info on memory. Available games include brain challenge and UNO (we bought the full version of Uno). You can insert a memory card if you wanted. For kids who do have data plans there is a video player and for those who want to load music there is a music player. The help section of the website has instructions on how to transfer music to the Pantech Vybe.

 

What I like about the Pantech Vybe is that it does not have access to an app store so kids are limited to what is loaded on the phone. As I said in my “getting your kid their first phone tip post”, having access to app stores can be expensive and give access to inappropriate apps for kids.  While the Pantech Vybe does have Facebook, Twitter and mobile web apps – I explained to my kids that we blocked the data plan so they can’t use those apps anyway.

 

AT&T Services:
Along with the other apps, the Pantech Vybe has AT&T services apps preloaded such as like AT&T Navigator, AT&T Address Book, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Drive Mode and myAT&T so I can help them see their account information.

 

Specifications:

The specifications have the phone at just 4.94 ounces so it is light for the kids to either carry in their pocket, bags or backpack pockets. It is also slim at just 2.32 inches width and 4.49 inches height (depth is only .51). The 3.2″ TFT Touchscreen Display has nice resolution (240 x 400) for a first phone and the touchscreen makes it more intuitive to use. Calls made to my sons on the phone sound great. I am able to hear them clearly and they have been able to hear me (even if they don’t want to!).

 

The proprietary operating system (Pantech Proprietary J2ME)  gives me comfort that they can only use the apps pre-loaded on the phone.  The Pantech Vybe has cellular technology to meet my kids need (2G – Quad Band (GSM/GPRS/EDGE) – (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) 3G – Tri Band (UMTS/HSDPA) – (850/1900/ 2100 MHz) and Bluetooth if they want to use it with wireless accessories.

 

Overall my kids are very happy with the phone and were able to start using it without any instruction from me. But we did of course spend the time to go over the family phone use rules, multiple times to make sure they understand (even though I had to hear “I KNOW Mom!!” multiple times).   With the Pantech Vybe I have the comfort of knowing they can call and text with a phone that has all the features they need right now (as a middle schooler) without having too much access to the wide range of apps available on other smartphones and in other app stores. When my twin boys turn 13, maybe we will allow them to use the Pantech Facebook app

 

Pantech Vybe Overview from press release:

Purchasing your child’s first mobile phone has become a rite of passage for tweens and young teens, and parents too. The big question looms: Is your tween ready for a cell phone?  The Pantech Vybe is a great compromise, offering your child plenty of must-have features like messaging, easy camera access and social media without unrestricted access to apps and a high data plan. The Pantech Vybe is your solution.

The Pantech Vybe is an affordable, easy to use quick messaging phone, with access to the features and apps kids want at a price parents love. With a low-cost monthly plan for talk and text, the Pantech Vybe is an attractive option to add to a family plan at an affordable price.

In addition to being budget-friendly, the Pantech Vybe is tween and teen-approved with a slide-out keyboard for quick and easy texting, social media shortcuts, quick camera button, multiple customizable home screens and music and video players.

 

The Pantech Vybe is $29.99 with a two-year contract and can be purchased exclusively at AT&T. For more information on the Pantech Vybe, visit MyFirstPhone.com”.

 

 

Here is a video I received with the press release:

 

 

 

Disclosure: I have received products for review purposes.

 

 

 

Sponsored: CES 2014 Whirlpool Innovations

While at CES 2014, I had the opportunity to learn more about the new Whirlpool innovations. The concepts are exciting because they will not only add more functionality and control over my kitchen but also enable me to be more productive. Listed below is a summary.

 

Whirlpool Induction CooktopInteractive Cooktop:  One of the most exciting demos was of the Whirlpool interactive cooktop concept which turns a simple surface such as a cooktop into a multi-functional information, cooking and entertainment space.  For example, while I can cook anywhere on the surface I can also browse the internet to pull up a recipe to view on the same surface! While entertaining, I can cook while checking the guest list online.  Combing the functionality of a cooktop with digital connectivity will enable a busy mom like myself to be much more productive in the kitchen.  With three “always hungry” boys I spend lots of time in the kitchen so I need all the help I can get! The Interactive Cooktop concept would also allow me to have less devices in the kitchen but still have access to digital connectivity on capacitive touch surface or hands free when needed.

 

Here is a Whirlpool video about the Interactive Cooktop:

 

 

Whirlpool Wash AppConnected Appliances: Whirlpool also introduced a digitally integrated suite of appliances and smartphone app that would not only give me more control in the kitchen, but also on the go. Because my appliances would be connected via a WiFi network, they can be controlled via a smartphone. This would allow me to do things such as saving energy by using my smartphone to run my washer during the right time of day, even if I am not at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a video that explains more about Whirlpool Connected Appliances:

 

 

 

Whirlpool Duet Series PaisleyDesigner Duet Series:  The Whirlpool Designer Duet series goes behind the simple solid colors to allow for personalization such as paisley or chrome bubbles. This type of customization is exciting because it would enable me to bring some stylish touches into my laundry area.  The Duet series also has technology to help whoever is doing the laundry (hint, hint to my older sons who need to start doing their own laundry!).  The Adaptive Wash Technology in the Duet® washer automatically selects the cycle settings for every load and Advanced Moisture Sensing technology in the dryer prevents over-drying clothes by sensing how long the dryer should run (and also saves energy!). I could even use the Whirlpool WashSquad app to assign laundry tasks to my sons!

 

 

 

Here is a Whirlpool video on the Designer Duet series:

 

 

 

 

Whirlpool CoolVoxThe CoolVox™ sound system refrigerator concept (available Q2 2014) extends the functionality with wireless Harman Kardon Speakers built in that are not distrupted when the doors are closed! This would allow me to listen to music or podcasts from my mp3 player, tablet, smartphone or computer (Note: “Only one device can be paired to CoolVox™ at a time“). I can also use apps such as Pandora, Spotify or my playlists.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the Whirlpool video on CoolVox:

 

 

  • Since Whirlpool 20/20 is all about a future focused on you, we, want to hear your ideas for it. Leave a comment below telling us your idea for the future for your home and be entered to win a $1,000 grand prize.

 

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

BlogHer will pool entries from participating blogs and select a sweepstakes winner at random and will contact the winner with details about fulfilling the prize.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 1/2/14 – 1/18/14.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of 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.