The Gadgets Page

January 26, 2012

CES 2012: Fujitsu Waterproof Phones and Tablets

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

The day before the official start of CES this year, I dropped my phone in a cup of coffee. The width of the phone just barely cleared the size of the cup and it was a one in a million shot. It only dropped in for a second, but it was long enough to short out my poor phone.

You can understand why I was obsessed with waterproofed phones and other gadgets because my entire life had just been short circuited by a simple cup of coffee. That’s why Fujitsu’s booth at CES this year was so appealing to me.

The first thing we saw as we walked past the booth was a huge aquarium with a working phones and tablets within it.

My eyes were immediately drawn to the brightly colored phone at the bottom of the aquarium. Was it really running or was that just a fake screen?

The girl at the booth saw my fascination and reached her long arm into the aquarium to retrieve it.

She removed it and handed to me. Yes, it was a fully functional phone that had been sitting in that aquarium for at least a couple of hours.

I was shocked and amazed. My poor phone had been in my coffee cup for no more than a couple of seconds and it was completely destroyed. This phone could take hours in an aquarium with no problem. And, it wasn’t just the phone, there was a tablet with the same capability!

I was drawn in to the bank of phones available for hands-on play.

They were called Arrows and I loved that they came in a wide variety of colors. They felt really good in my hand.

Unlike the iPhone, they are made of plastic, so I was shocked at how light they were in my hands. After years of holding wafers of glass and aluminum, I had forgotten how light a phone could be.

The Arrows wasn’t the only waterproof phone they were showcasing. There was also a phone that claimed to be the thinnest smartphone on the market.

Actually, they only claimed to be the thinnest phone to be accepted by the FCC, so there must be a thinner phone out there that is still waiting for approval.

It was an impressive design as well.

The specs of the phone were the disappointing aspect, however. They only run Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), so they are a few versions behind the curve and no guarantee that I’d be able to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich when it comes out.

I was really attracted to the waterproof feature of these Fujitsu phones, but I have been less than impressed with Android Gingerbread. The fact that these phones use an operating system that is so far behind makes them unsuitable for me, so I kept on looking.

January 18, 2012

This Website Blocked by the Authority of the Protect IP Act

Filed under: PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 8:20 am

Don’t worry, The Gadgets Page hasn’t been blocked, but it could be under the proposed legislation, SOPA and PIPA. This isn’t the first time the government has tried to squash innovation. As an example, let’s look at the Wireless Telephone.

I recently came across a short, silent film from 1922 called Eve’s Wireless. Distributed by the British Pathe company, the film supposedly shows two women using a wireless phone. Apparently this video has been making the rounds for the past few years. Could it be an early demonstration of some futuristic technology? I hate to be the Internet’s wet blanket, but no. It’s not a mobile phone.

He’s talking about this silent film called Eve’s Wireless:

The truth of the matter is that when the radio spectrum was less crowded, people of the past were able to use it to communicate. Sure, it was a one-way communication, but it WAS a wireless communication device (although there are an awful lot of “wires” grounding the device to the fire hydrant and on the umbrella for an antennae). Once the FTC got involved, only the chosen few were able to broadcast on the radio spectrum and devices like Eve’s Wireless were considered pirate radio.

It’s a lot like what the government is trying to do the Internet right now. At present, anyone who wants to and pays for the server can put information on the Internet. The U.S. Government right now is considering two bills: SOPA and PIPA to put dampeners on that freedom. Just like when the FTC appropriated the radio spectrum, the government is trying to stronghold the Internet, only allowing approved content to be accessible, supposedly under the banner of protecting us from “piracy.”

Would we have had our cell phones YEARS before they came on the market if the FTC hadn’t appropriated the radio spectrum and deemed all other users “pirates?” We’ll never know where innovation would have taken us had the government not intervened.

Let’s not make the same mistake twice…

For more info:

December 6, 2011

Review: Splash Masque Clear Screen Protectors for iPhone 4

Filed under: PDAs and Phones — Michael Moncur @ 12:58 am

As a new owner of the iPhone 4S, the first accessory I looked for was a cover for the screen. While the iPhone 4 and 4S screen isn’t exactly fragile, and has a nice fingerprint-resistant coating, I always keep my gadget screens covered. My phone spends a lot of time in pockets and tends to get scratched without it. The iPhone 4’s screen, with its retina display, looks beautiful—and the first few screen protectors I bought ruined its appearance, making everything blurry and indistinct. I peeled off and threw away several in frustration. Fortunately, I found one that works, the Splash Masque Clear Screen Protector. I’ve used it since I activated my new phone last month and it’s working perfectly.

Applying The Screen Protector

As with most screen covers, applying the Masque is a tricky process. First, clean the screen thoroughly—I use an alcohol-based cleaner. Next, rub it with a microfiber cloth (included) to remove any dust. Once the screen is spotless, peel the protective cover from one end and stick that end to one end of the phone. Carefully spread it out from there, smoothing out any bubbles. You might have to try several times, and watch for dust particles.

Here are some tips that will help when applying any screen cover:

  • Apply the cover in a humid, dust-free area. Some people use the bathroom with the shower running.
  • Use a bright light such as a desk lamp. Tiny dust particles are hard to see.
  • One last bit of dust left? Avoid the temptation to blow on it. Your breath contains moisture particles and you’ll end up starting the cleaning process over. Worse, any dust you blow into the air will stay in the air for a minute and then settle on your phone just as you make your next attempt. Use the microfiber cloth instead.

Screen Clarity and Durability

Although it’s thinner than most of the other covers I tried, making it easier to apply, the Masque isn’t fragile. Once the Masque is applied, it stays on—unlike some others, it hasn’t started to peel after a month of use.

For the iPhone 4’s beautiful display, the one feature I really needed was clarity. The Masque is the only cover I tested that didn’t compromise the detail and readability of the screen. There’s a visible moire pattern when the phone is turned off, and it’s barely visible when the screen is mostly black. Other than that, everything looks great, from movies to Kindle books.


The Splash Masque covers come in a 3-pack, which costs under $10. Considering that many iPhone screen covers cost $20 for a single cover, this is a great deal, and it actually works better than the expensive alternatives. As anyone with screen-covering experience knows, it might take you three tries to apply a cover smoothly, and if you luck out the first time you’ll have spares.

As a bonus, the Masque 3-pack comes with two back screen covers. (This might sound strange, but the iPhone 4’s back is made of glass and equally susceptible to scratches.) These aren’t glossy like the front cover but instead have a matte appearance and a soft brushed texture. The back cover adds a bit of much-needed friction to the slippery phone and doesn’t interfere with the phone’s use at all.

As the cheapest, best option and the only one that doesn’t compromise the iPhone 4’s screen quality, I highly recommend these covers.

November 23, 2011

Can I See It With My Hands? The Samsung Galaxy S II

Filed under: PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 9:36 am

I love this commercial! I’m that person who faithfully waited for the iPhone 4S. I am one of those people who waited in a line (a virtual online, line the very moment they were available for pre-order). This commercial makes fun of me, yet I LOVE it!

I love the snotty guy waiting in line:

Hipster: “I could never get a Samsung. I’m creative.”

Other Hipster: “Dude, you’re a barista.”

Personally, I decided against the Samsung phone because I wanted my stuff to WORK. With my iPhone, I have a little grocery list that Mike can add to and edit. With my iPhone, I have my music and playlists that easily sync to my phone. I’m sure I could get all those cool things with a Samsung phone, but I’d have to learn how to do it and go to the trouble of making it work. I’ve already done that work with my iPhone, so the thought of going to that effort again with a different ecosystem is unpleasant to me.

I could never get a Samsung. I’m too freakin’ lazy.

Apple products have the momentum to keep me for a while. Things will have to get pretty dang bad before I’m willing to move to a Samsung phone.

Via: Samsung Mocks iPhone Fans in New Galaxy S II Ad – Mac Rumors

November 21, 2011

Keep Track of Your Favorite Interests with Pinterest

Filed under: eBook Readers and Peripherals,PDAs and Phones,Social Media,Software — Christy Strebe @ 10:26 am

When I used to browse the web and find something I wanted to remember, I’d bookmark it with a description of what it was. I’m crafty, so I would do this with crafts. I also have three kids so I’d bookmark an educational site or ideas for decorating.

This worked great for me, until the hubby decided I needed an iPad upgrade (okay, I wanted it too). I’m not super technical and he is, so I let him do it for me. Everything went great until tried to go to a bookmark on the new iPad – everything was gone, and the bookmarks on my old computer had been wiped clean. I no longer knew where that cute headband idea was, or the great site for math games, it was all gone. I was able to remember some of the sites that had catchy names but for the most part I was back to ground zero.

I knew there had to be a better way, and stumbled upon it a few days later, when my sister-in-law was telling me about her new favorite site – This site lets you pin pictures from the web and categorize them by whatever you choose. Not only that, but you can find other people with similar tastes or friends and follow them to see what they have pinned. You can also browse Pinterest to see what has been pinned lately.

I have to warn you though – it can become addicting. To pin your own stuff, you add a “pin it” button to your toolbar. Then, if you’re on a site you want to save, click the “pin it” button and it will display all the pictures on that page. Select the picture you want to save, select a board (like a folder) and give it a description or note. Viola! It is saved into your account on Pinterest land. You can have your pins posted on Facebook if you want also.

There are different kinds of pinners, those who pin everything and do nothing and those who pin and do. I fall somewhere in the middle. So far I have made a ton of projects:

  • Bracelets and rings
  • Halloween treats
  • Beaded spiders
  • Cookie dough dip out of hummus (not recommend – and I went back and commented on my pin to that effect so my “followers” wouldn’t be led astray)
  • Jewelry holder out of an art canvas
  • Energy balls (these were good)
  • Spelling game for my kids
  • Felt flowers
  • Repurposed a t-shirt into a shrug
  • Dish washer detergent from scratch
  • 72 hour emergency kits
  • Foot scrub
  • Crafts for the kids

As you can see there is a wide variety of crafts to choose from.

You can also pin travel ideas, books, gadgets, humor, etc. Pinterest has a list of 32 categories for you to browse, and assign your pins to, for others to browse, but you can create as many boards as you want and name them whatever you want.

Additionally, Pinterest has created an iPhone app to work with their website. You can download it here:

A few tips and tricks I’ve found:

  • The Pinterest app is a little crashy. When it starts acting strangely, restart the app, or if that doesn’t work, restart the device.
  • On if you click on the pinterest logo at the top it will take you back to the home screen.
  • You can search for friends to follow by name in the search box, and everyone who has signed in with their Facebook account will have their profile pic so you can see who it is.
  • If the Pinterest web site is too much information for you, try the app. It gives you the top pins for that category and you can pin from there. Here is a picture (above right) of what the DIY & Craft board has on my phone.

So happy pinning, and I’ll see you on Pinterest.

Update 06-21-12 from Laura Moncur: I had avoided Pinterest when Christy reviewed it because it was so difficult to find the original link to the photos on their site. I’m happy to announce that they have fixed that, so I can easily see WHERE the pins came from, no matter how many times it has been repined. I’m happily pinning along with Christy now and I love it!

November 17, 2011

Technical Innovation + 12 Years = Progress

Filed under: Articles,Audio and Video,PDAs and Phones — Michael Moncur @ 6:16 pm

Today, Apple’s iTunes Match service went live. For a small yearly fee, iTunes Match allows you to keep all of your music online. Apple stores it in their iCloud servers, and you can play or download it from your computer, iPhone, or iPad. To save you the trouble of uploading your 100GB of music, Apple’s service conveniently scans your MP3s. If iCloud already has a copy of the song—quite likely given Apple’s user base—it will simply “match” the song rather than uploading it. Thus, you can have access to your entire music library from all of your devices in a very short time.

Thanks to iTunes Match, you have a backup of all of your music, instant access from anywhere, and the chance to upgrade your MP3s to a higher quality.

Sounds like progress? To me it sounds like a blast from the past.

Remembering My.MP3.Com

January 2000. Google was only a couple of years old. Facebook didn’t exist. Apple was a company that sold funny-looking computers. They wouldn’t introduce the iPod for another year. The most sophisticated smartphone looked like this.

This was when, originally a site for musicians to share their own music, launched a feature called This was a cloud-based music service that let you stream your entire music collection from any computer. It used a matching algorithm so that you wouldn’t have to upload a track if they already had a copy. Does that sound familiar?

Unfortunately, didn’t ask for permission from record labels. They were sued by Universal Music Group for copyright infringement, lost to the tune of $53 million, and went out of business.

What if there were no legal objections? I’m still not sure would have succeeded. It was limited to music you bought in CD form at a store—there was no way to buy music from their site. It’s hard to scale servers to support this kind of load, and their service was limited by the technology of the time—you had to use a computer to access your music, and few people had broadband Internet access.

Progress Takes More Than Technology

This is an important lesson in how technical innovation is only a small part of progress. had the cloud servers 12 years ago, and they had the same matching concept as iTunes Match. They even had a great domain name. But they didn’t have the industry connections to make it legal or the infrastructure to make it practically useful.

Apple introduced the iPod in 2001, along with the first version of the iTunes music store. While the iPod and later Apple products are mainly praised for their design and technical features, Apple also made amazing progress in doing all of the legal wheeling and dealing necessary to make the whole thing legitimate. It took years for iTunes to reach the point where it had licensed music from all of the major publishers, with some popular bands like the Beatles taking 10 years. Finally, after a ton of work from Steve Jobs and Apple, iTunes Match brought the same features as to the real world. The service is much more useful, too, since you can play music from your phone over a 3G network.

My point here is not to complain that copyright law needs to change (which it does) or that we live in an overly litigious society (which we do). But if you’re wondering why a new feature hasn’t been released yet on your favorite gadget, or if you’re considering selling something yourself, remember that a great idea and a technical innovation always have the potential to bring progress. But if the company doesn’t deal with the legal issues and the infrastructure, It just might take 12 years to arrive… and it might be a different company that succeeds with the idea.

October 30, 2011

Are iOS 5 Location Reminders Helpful?

Filed under: PDAs and Phones,Software — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

I was first in line the night of pre-orders for the new iPhone 4S because my poor 3GS had seen better days. After skipping a generation, there are so many new features to enjoy on my new phone that I’ve felt a little overwhelmed with all of it.

That’s why I’m so surprised at how UNDERWHELMED I’ve been with the location reminders.

Having a phone with a working GPS antenna is a blessing, of course (my 3GS lost its GPS capabilities in its tragic fall that cracked the screen), but the GPS on the iPhone still isn’t sensitive enough to make location reminders work. The biggest problem is that the location reminder has to get pretty far away before it is triggered. We were about a mile away from the house when my test reminder went off and that was too late.

The typical example: “Remind me to call my wife when I leave work,” is a good test. Depending on how far away your home is, you might actually SEE your wife before Siri reminds you to call her.

Additionally, I had particular problems telling Siri where my work and home are. It’s perfectly easy to tell her to remind me when I leave “here,” but if I want to have her remind me to call Mike when I arrive at work, she would tell me that she didn’t know where my office is. I added my work address into my contact information and the iPhone was able to find it on a map when I tapped on it, but Siri still insisted that she didn’t know where my office was.

In the end, she had a problem with the city abbreviation. She couldn’t recognize SLC as Salt Lake City (even though the map app had no trouble with it), so she was powerless to set up that reminder until I changed it. It was frustrating to me and I’m a power user. I can’t imagine how frustrated a beginner might feel about this.

Yes, Siri is amazing and she makes me feel like I’m in the future, but her location reminders are hobbled by GPS inaccuracy and address parsing problems. They are a great thing to show off your phone, but they aren’t quite useful enough to be trusted.

October 28, 2011

How I Solved My Siri Envy with Vlingo

Filed under: PDAs and Phones,Software — Ian @ 10:37 am

Having heard about the iPhone 4S and Siri, I wanted to experiment with it and see how well it worked. Laura’s old iPhone 3GS had a cracked screen, so she bought the new iPhone 4S. She showed it to me and I thought Siri was very interesting and we became curious if there was something similar to it for the iPhone 3G. We began searching and we found Vlingo.

Vlingo is free to install and available for not only iPhones, but Android, Windows and Blackberry users as well. There is also a Vlingo Plus that charges a one-time fee, but that appears to be available for Samsung Jack and HTC users only.

We compared Vlingo on my iPhone 3G and Siri on Laura’s iPhone 4S together and took this video. They do both need to be connected to the internet in order to work.

I was very surprised at how well Vlingo did. My poor old 3G has slower internet than Laura’s iPhone, but it was only seconds behind when we searched for turtles. When we both called a phone number I forgot to push the button a second time otherwise it would have called at the same time. I like that with Vlingo you can choose when it starts listening, while in Siri you start as soon as you start the program. As you can see, Vlingo works slightly better than in Siri when emailing.

I was slightly disappointed with Vlingo when trying to set an appointment. Hilariously, it searched for “set an appointment at 5:00 tomorrow” in Google. Vlingo Does have some other disadvantages as well:

  • When starting the app, it asked for access to my contacts, so it doesn’t already have access to my contacts.
  • In Vlingo, you must hit the button again to stop it rather than it noticing when you stop talking like Siri does.
  • We found that Vlingo doesn’t have access to the Apple apps like the calendar, reminders or alarms.

For those of you who already have an iPhone 4S then you wouldn’t be interested in Vlingo, but for all of us who have older generation iPhones (or Android, Blackberry or Windows phones) I would suggest Vlingo. It cannot access the calendar or the alarms, but it can do everything else Siri can and will solve your Siri Envy nicely.

October 21, 2011

iHandy: Better Than An Ordinary Flashlight App

Filed under: PDAs and Phones,Software — Ian @ 10:00 am

I was looking for a free flashlight app because we were leaving for Yellowstone and we were staying in a cabin there. I looked for a while before I came across the iHandy flashlight [iTunes link]. There are literally hundreds of flashlight apps, but fortunately I found the best one for you. I liked how it worked for my iPhone 3 and it worked even better on my father’s iPhone 4. Rather than lighting up the screen it turned on his camera flash which worked twice as well as it had on mine.

When you first run this app, you will come to this selection screen. Along with the regular flashlight there are many other settings you can use for different purposes.

  • Lights: This is an ordinary flashlight. It lights up your screen (or camera flash depending on generation) in any color you want to get the brightest light from your phone.
  • Strobe: Lights will flash on and off and you can change colors if you slide your finger across the screen.
  • S.O.S.: S.O.S. in morse code will flash on the screen.
  • Emergency: This will make blue and red lights flash split screen, or red, blue, and white will flash one after another.
  • Motion Control: It will turn different colors if you shake it.
  • Spiral: Two different options of spinning colors.
  • Glow Sticks: A few different colors of glow sticks you can choose from.
  • Neon: Displays on the screen I (heart) NY. More options probably with the full version.
  • Trippy: This one was difficult to find, because you must swipe right to left from the main screen. One color of light will fade into another and so on.

If you slide you finger along the selection screen from left to right it will bring to this screen. In this mode, you can set if and how fast the lights will turn on and off along with setting it to say S.O.S. in Morse code. The numbers at the bottom of the screen control the speed of the light flashing. I prefer this mode when using the flashlight, but unless you swipe correctly, it is difficult to find.

We often used this app on our trip whether it was to see in front of us or if the fire was out. I think that this flashlight is one of the most useful things for the iPhone. Next time you catch yourself in the dark (or find yourself at a crazy rave), think of iHandy flashlight.

August 15, 2011

The Magic of Truth and Lies (and iPhones) by Marco Tempest

Filed under: PDAs and Phones — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

This TED video is a great magic show from Marco Tempest. He used three iPhones and a fair bit of close-up magic to discuss honesty, deception, lies and truth.

I love it when people use technology in ways that are entirely new and innovative, especially when they entertain us. I remember as a kid that people said that computers might help in calculations, but they would never be a tool for artists. It’s so refreshing to know that humans can use ANYTHING for a tool for creativity, even a simple iPhone.

Via Marco Tempest: The magic of truth and lies (and iPods) | Video on

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