Cool gadgets abound at CES this year. Here are 10 of our picks of the most interesting we've seen thus far.
Samsung 1 TB Portable Drive
Content abounds in homes these days - from music to movies, video clips, photos, and documents. We can store it in the cloud, but it's also nice to have a tangible place to store everything. Samsung has one of the neatest solutions for this in its sleek new portable SSD that comes with a massive 1 TBs of storage space in a package that's about the size of a business card. OK, so it'll cost you - to tune of US$600. But that's one fee for being able to store every bit of content you could possibly imagine to then access at home, at work, or anywhere you wish to bring it.
Most of the eyes on Parrot at the show were, not surprisingly, on the company's awesome flying drone display. But there was a fun gem of a product amidst the unmanned aerial vehicles - the Parrot Pot, which takes the Flower Power plant sensor to a new level. It's a full-sized pot that can house your plant, and contains a reservoir that can hold up to 2 litres of water, then automatically feed your plants, sprinkle fountain style, when needed. Like the Flower Power, it also intelligently analyzes the conditions, and advise you when your plant is in need of nourishment, or other adjustments.
GUESS Connect Watch
Like many traditional watchmakers, GUESS is making its move in the smartwatch world. A partnership with Martian has led to the Connect, which essentially looks like a standard GUESS watch, but with high-tech smart capabilities inside, via Martian technology. You can receive notifications from a connected smartphone, which appear as scrolling text in a tiny LCD below the watch face, and works with voice commands via Apple Siri and Google Now. You'll have to wait for this one, though, as it won't be available until the third quarter, when it will sell for about $350.
While cloud storage is all the rage, anyone who owns an iPhone understands the frustration when you're out on vacation or at an event and get that dreaded notice that you're out of storage space and can't snap another photo. Or end up loading only half of an awesome music album because there's just not enough room on the phone. This clever gadget plugs into the Lightning connector of the phone and acts as an additional storage piece for the phone. You can transfer files from the iPhone to the Bridge, which is essentially a USB drive shaped to fit around the bottom of the phone, play files directly from it, and take photos directly to it when it's connected. The best part? You can also do the opposite - load content onto the drive from your computer, for example, then plug it into the iPhone and transfer them to your device. It's also a great option for backing up your content should you not wish to fork over the dough for an iCloud account. It comes in 16, 32, 64,128, and 256 GB versions, ranging in price from US$60 up to $400.
Mipow PowerTube 3000
One of my biggest pet peeves about portable chargers is that I have to bring along a cable to use most of them. Which is why I love Mipow's PowerTubes that come with a microUSB or Lightning connector, plus a USB plug, built right in. This allows you to plug it directly into your phone when it needs a boost, and directly into a USB port when it needs a recharge. What makes the new PowerTube 3000 especially cool is that it works with the JuiceSync app that shows you how much charge is left in the device, and advises when it reaches 20% capacity so you know to recharge it before leaving the house. It can even alert you if you're about to leave and forgot to bring it with you. This model will sell for $50. (The PowerTube 4500, a 2.4 Amp battery pack with microUSB connector scheduled for availability next month, will sell for the same price; and the PowerTube 9000, which adds a Lightning connector too, is priced at $80.)
Powerocks Jump Starter
Whether you're talking disaster preparedness, or just good ‘ol emergency safety gear, the Powerocks Jump Starter is a perfect device for the car. It can charge multiple mobile devices using the 10,800 mAh battery (that's good for up to five charges of a smartphone), but can also serve as a handy emergency tool. Features range from a built-in emergency light, to a button that will initiate an alarm and audio calls for help, flashlight, and even a reinforced corner for smashing through a windshield in case of an accident. Also included, as the name suggests, are jumper cables to jump start your car. The battery will hold a charge for some time without use, or you can keep it up front in the vehicle and use it as your main charging console, connected via the cigarette lighter adapter.
It's hard to break into the crowded smartphone market, particularly in the Android space where Samsung holds a good portion of the market share, and other major players are fighting it out for second spot. But the Yota phone offers something really cool that no other piece of hardware does - an e-ink display on its back that can be used to access everything from e-mails, calls, messages, weather apps and Twitter without draining the battery by constantly lighting up the colour screen. The company touts it as the "phone with two fronts." One might wonder why, after buying an awesome phone with a clear, sharp display, you'd want to use it half the time with an e-reader like screen. Consider the Yota phone an interesting way to conserve loads of battery by only using your colour screen when you really need to. For instance, I'm not going to watch a video on the Yota's back screen. But do I really need the sharp display to reply to an e-mail, check the weather forecast, or send a Tweet? The phone claims to offer up to 6 days of battery life per charge (more realistically about two) when using the back e-ink screen for such typical daily tasks. That's the kind of battery life savings no one can argue with. And the double screen design is just plain neat. The phone operates on stock Android Kit Kat, has Gorilla Glass screens on both sides, and an open SDK so app developers can make their apps compatible with the back screen. Price is $600, but that will likely vary once partner carriers figure out pricing. Yota says it is in talks with all of the major Canadian carriers - the phone is already available through America Mobile in Latin America. It gives a whole new meaning to the second screen experience.
myCharge Style PowerPlus
When it comes to portable chargers, this one is probably one of the most stylish I've seen. It comes in a number of different pattern options, and is about the size of a business card, which makes it easy to slot in a pocket (the high-tech pocket square, perhaps?) or purse. Like the Mipow chargers, it has an integrated microUSB or Lightning connector. It comes with a 3,000 mAmp battery that provides 1 Amp output for charging a smartphone. The best part? It's only US$40. If you need more power, there's the Hub Mini, which has 2.1 Amp output, and both microUSB and Lightning connectors, for $70. The line is distributed via Erikson Consumer.
Dog & Bone LockSmart
This keyless entry Bluetooth padlock is a clever way to ensure the security of your bicycle, shed, or other items without having to use a key, and allowing access to other from wherever you are. It works with the partner iOS or Android app, which unlocks it via the push of a button. You can give someone else access on a schedule (e.g. every Monday), by limiting the number of opens they have, or for one-time access. Within the app, you can also see a history of who unlocked it and when. The lock itself is a hardened steel shackle, and the battery can run for up to two years when dormant, then recharge it when it needs a boost. It's scheduled to be available in the first half of this year, with pricing TBA. Canadian distributor is Hitfar Concepts.
As a mama (roo) myself, I love any gadget that aims to help simplify life with a baby. And while my son is now long past the newborn stage, I loved using the Mamaroo swing to help soothe him when he was a wee one. The idea behind it is that rather than swing back and forth like a traditional baby swing, the Mamaroo glides seamlessly up and down and side to side to mimic the true motions of being in a mama's arms. What made it particularly high tech was the capability to plug in your phone or other mobile device and play back music through its built-in speakers, or play a number of soothing tunes and sounds from a pre-loaded library - from birds to sounds of the womb. The Mamaroo 2 adds another cool element to the equation - an LCD panel and a mobile app that will allow mom (or dad) to control the swing from afar, without coming up close and potentially distracting baby or waking him from slumber. Using the app, everything from the motion type to speed and audio volume can be controlled from the app.