Author Archives: Andrea Smith

Top Tech Trends from the 2015 IFA Tech Show


This post originally appeared on HuffingtonPost.com here:

The IFA Tech Show in Berlin has grown over the years into a must-attend event for tech companies around the world to show off everything from the latest smartphones and tablets to smartwatches and home appliances. In fact, roaming the home appliance halls of this huge conference is one of my favorite things to do there. Well, aside from eating currywurst and drinking beer. In all, there are 25 halls packed with the very latest in HDTV’s, robotic vacuums and smart home appliances. The show ran from Sept. 4-9 and if you weren’t able to get there in person, here are the top five trends coming out of IFA 2015.

SMARTWATCHES
No fewer than five big-name companies showed off their latest iteration of smartwatch and indeed, each and every one of them is an improvement over the last. While many will judge each of these against the Apple Watch, I was on the lookout for ease of use, which I’m still not sold on, and an attractive design I would actually like to wear on my wrist every day.

Motorola’s 2nd generation Moto 360 is slimmer and much more attractive than the previous version and now also comes in a woman’s size; slightly smaller and with more fashion-friendly accessories. The Asus ZenWatch 2 gets points for customization and price point. It will come in two sizes, three body color options and 18 wristbands. With a starting price of about $170, it’s the most affordable smartwatch yet.

Though these Android Wear watches will now run on the latest iOS devices, my eye is on the now-circular Samsung Gear S2, which runs on Samsung’s Tizen OS. Samsung did a great job redesigning this flagship watch into an attractive-looking device that’s also easy to use. It also promises two days of battery life.

There are two versions, the S2 and the S2 classic, which will be priced slightly higher. Both have a round bezel you use to navigate through the menu and apps. Two buttons; back and home, make it a simple tap to find what you’re looking for. Samsung says there are partnerships with various companies to provide interchangeable bands in a variety of colors and materials. The S2 isn’t just limited to the flagship Samsung devices either; it will work with any Android phone running KitKat 4.4 and higher.

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EVEN SMARTER HOME APPLIANCES 
IFA is the place to be if you’re looking for innovation in home appliances. They’re smart and solve simple problems in addition to saving you time. The Haier Duo washing machine is a dual-drum front-loading washing machine that lets you wash two separate loads at the same time. Now you don’t have to choose between lights and darks. Since the drums are stacked one on top of the other, it won’t even take up extra space in the laundry room. For those tight on space Haier debuted a washer/dryer all-in-one with smart notifications. When the wash cycle is done, the outer ring on the front door turns blue. Once the dryer cycle is underway, it turns a glowing orange. Now you’ll know just at a glance whether it’s time to grab the next load. The Haier Intelius line detects how hard your water is and automatically adjusts how much detergent is added for each load. Haier also has a unit with a built-in shelf for washing sneakers and shoes. That way you won’t hear the thunka-thunka sound of the sneakers hitting the inside of the drum as they go round and round.

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PORTABLE PC’S
Asus introduced the VivoStick PC TS10, a fully-functioning PC on an attractive, portable stick, not much taller than a smartphone. It has two USB ports and an HDMI out so it transforms any HDMI-enabled TV or monitor into a Windows 10 PC. Of course you need to add a keyboard and mouse but those can easily be connected via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. That means rather than lugging a heavy laptop between work and home, you can simply drop this hand-sized device into your bag and have all your files and data, as it ships with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. My shoulders thank you, Asus.

Acer’s Revo Build is a little less portable when put together but that’s the whole idea. It’s a modular mini PC that you put together by adding components, kind of like building your own Lego PC. Start with a motherboard and graphics board and then add a hard drive block, power or charging block and a speaker block. They’re held together by magnets in one corner that also serve to transmit current and data. When you want to take your hard drive to work or class, simply slip it out of the stack. Of course this makes upgrading components super easy too. Swap out one block without having to buy a whole new computer.

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UHD TV
Panasonic showed off the flagship CZ950, the company’s first OLED 4K TV and it was beautiful. 4K offers four times the resolution of high-def TV and though there’s not a lot of content yet available for 4K displays, I sure hope this is the future of TV. The blacks are deep and rich, the colors pop, and though not everyone likes a curved screen, I found watching the demo video to be a truly immersive experience.

Philips showed off a TV with a unique sound system; the Philips 8601 razor slim UHD TV. Rather than have the sound bar at the bottom of the screen, Philips brings the ultra-slim speakers to the sides. You can leave them there, or they can be detached and set onto an optional mounting stand anywhere in your room, creating a wireless sound system. You can see the slim speakers on the stands beside the TV in the photo above.

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CONNECTED HEALTH

With rising health care costs, Philips is looking to technology and data to help prevent health issues. Pieter Nota, Executive Vice President and CEO of Personal Health for Philips, told me their focus is on innovation in health tech, which is why they announced the personal health program; a range of connected devices that provide data about vital signs. The data will go to the Philips HealthSuite, a cloud-based digital health platform which analyzes it and provides coaching and lifestyle tips to the user. The first device is a health watch focused on tracking heart rate, activity and sleep. Other products being launched; a blood pressure monitor, thermometer and smart scale. Of all the connected health devices on display, I was most intrigued by the Philips BlueTouch, a drug-free device comprised of tiny LED lights designed to relieve back pain, powered by a smartphone.

Best Back to School Tech 2015 on WABC TV


I brought some of my favorite Back to School tech ideas to show Michelle Charlesworth on WABC TV. I love all the gadgets I chose but my hands-down favorite is the Lenovo LaVie Z laptop which is the lightest 13-inch laptop you can buy. Honestly, it feels like a prototype when I carry it but it really does have a hard drive and a kick-ass Intel Core i7 processor. Check them all out, plus the full video here.

Best Father’s Day Tech Gifts on WABC TV


 

Tech gifts to buy for Father's Day

 

Last week I showed off some of my favorite Father’s Day Techie gift ideas on WABC. I adore Michelle Charlesworth, have worked with her for years and her energy and personality always make these segments so fun. You can watch the full video here: yes, I flew the drone!

 

For more info on the products, see below.

Microsoft Surface 3

The Surface 3 is a tablet that does double duty as a portable laptop when combined with the (extra) Surface 3 Type Cover. It’s thin and light and gets about 10 hours of battery life. It runs all Windows programs, has USB ports, a headphone jack and micro USB ports. Detach the keyboard and you’ve got a 10.8-inch high res tablet for kicking back and watching videos or reading the news.
Price starts at $499
https://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-us/products/surface-3

LG G4 Smartphone

This new flagship phone from LG has even iPhone lovers taking a second look. LG’s G4 phone, is a sleek 5.5-inch phone with a quad HD display running on Android 5.1. The phone has a removable battery and an impressive camera.
Its defining feature is a smart-looking hand-stitched leather back cover, available in a variety of colors. Whichever carrier Dad uses, there’s a deal through Father’s Day for an extra battery and storage.
T-Mobile is offering five times more memory and if Dad is a world traveler, make sure to check out T-Mo’s Simple Global Feature which includes unlimited data and texting to the US.
http://www.lg.com/us/mobile-phones/g4/battery?cmpid=lgg4promo.comURL
https://lgg4t-mobilepromo.smsrebates.com/LGG4Promo/Default.aspx


Sengled Pulse Bulbs
The Sengled Pulse Bluetooth bulb is a simple way to get great-sounding music in any room of the house. It’s an LED light bulb with integrated JBL Bluetooth speakers. They’re super easy to install, just replace the bulb in any standard E26 socket and connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Use the Pulse app to control the music and dim the light. The Pulse Solo is $59.99 or pick up a master and satellite set of two dimmable bulbs for $169.
http://www.sengled.com/product/pulse-solo

MyCharge HubPlus

Never run out of battery again. The myCharge HubPlus portable charger has built-in Lightning and Micro USB cables for charging devices on the go. Dad can charge up his tablet and phone at the same time – there’s plenty of power. And when it comes time to charge up the charger, a built-in wall prong makes it quick and easy to power up the 6,000 mAh battery for the next trip. It’s small, fits easily into a bag or backpack and is a life-saver for staying connected on the go.
$99
http://shop.mycharge.com/products/hubplus-1

Knomo Bude Backpack

Dads don’t always carry briefcases anymore because their stuff is smaller and more mobile. Laptop-toting dads will appreciate the look and comfort of Knomo Bag’s Bude Backpack, made of a lightweight canvas that’s both dirt and water resistant – perfect for the city. There’s a padded compartment inside that protects up to a 15-inch laptop and a tablet, and lots of compartments for keeping cables and gear organized.
$169
http://www.knomobags.com/usa/bude-backpack-black.html

Parrot Bebop Drone

What’s more fun that flying a drone around the neighborhood or on the beach? Flying a drone that that has a built-in camera that captures 1080p video and can shoot 14mp stills. The Parrot Bebop Drone is made of impact-resistant foam, and is lightweight enough for you to take anywhere. No worries about the learning curve; the propellers stop automatically on impact and if the drone gets too far away from you, a GPS function lets you call the drone back home.
$499
http://www.parrot.com/products/bebop-drone/

Andrea Smith Women in CE Award

Women in CE 2015 Legacy Awards


Those of you who know me know I began my career as a newswriter and producer at ABC News in the early 80’s and started covering the world of technology sometime in 1994. At that time there very few women in tech, not journalists and certainly not the decision-makers at the tech companies I was interviewing.

Back then, mentoring and “leaning in” was not a trend. There were no women to turn to to ask advice, to help with connections or to propel you forward. This was a journey I made myself, digging in each and every day and trying to prove to people I could do the job.

There were times I was the only woman on a panel of tech journalists, and certainly the only one in the ladies room at tech conferences. That’s why the Women in CE organization is so important to me.

Founded by the amazing Carol Campbell; it lets me give back. There’s not always time for talking with people and sharing my experiences in journalism and what led me on my career path but the Women in CE conference every June spearheaded by Carol is the one event I always make time for.

Women in CE is focused on empowering women, building networks and supporting career opportunities across the breadth of the consumer electronics industry. There are tools and resources for members to interact, exchange ideas, educate, and empower each other.

I have been on panels about mentoring, conducted social media makeovers for women looking to get ahead, and chatted with women who had simple questions or needed a sounding board. My favorite piece of advice that I’ve shared over the years came from my husband, not another women who was helping in my career. He taught me to “proceed until apprehended.” In other words, stop asking for permission to do something and just do it. It’s the best piece of advice I ever got and he reminds me of that mantra to this day.

This year I was both honored and privileged to receive a Women in CE Legacy Award at an event at CES 2015. To be recognized by my peers – a group of women – is an accomplishment I am deeply proud of.

As I said at the event, I’m happy to wait in line for the ladies room at CES. It’s simply another way of sharing the space with a group of smart, talented, professional women.
Eternal thanks to Carol Campbell for all she does for so many people.

Below is a video overview of the event in Las Vegas.

Best Holiday Tech Gifts for Children: WABC TV VIDEO


Still trying to figure out what your child would like as a gift for the holidays? I took my best ideas to WABC TV to show David Novarro the latest in STEM toys for girls and the best tech gifts for children on your list during the holidays. Watch the video here and read about all the items below.

Leap TV $149
Leap TV is a made-for-kids video gaming system that provides hours of fun, while ensuring the kids get up and off the couch to play.
It has motion sense technology and a Kinect-like camera to put the kids in the game so they’ll be jumping, hopping and laughing their way through the levels. Three ways to use the controller; body motion, pointer play and classic control.
There are over 100 education games that automatically adjust to your child’s age and ability. Also games like LeapFrog sports and Kart Racing.
http://www.leapfrog.com/en-us/products/leaptv

Kindle Fire HD6 Kids edition $149
The Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition is a real tablet with a quad core processor, front and rear cameras and an HD display. It comes in 6-inch and 7-inch sizes and includes a colorful, kid-proof case to protect against accidental drops and impact.
Parents will love that it comes with a one-year subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited; a library of 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games-at no additional cost.
Parental controls let you set limits on content and screen time for each child. It can be taken out of kids’ mode and used as a regular tablet with a password. And because we all know accidents happen, Amazon offers a two-year warranty; “If they break it, we’ll replace it. No questions asked.”
http://www.amazon.com/Fire-Edition-Display-Wi-Fi-Kid-Proof/dp/B00LOR524M

Sphero Ollie $99
Ollie is a super-fun racing robot you control you control with an iOS app. It pairs instantly to any Bluetooth LE-enabled device. It will run one hour on a single battery charge, and it’s tough; built to withstand drops and falls. Its polycarbonate shell protects it from high speed collisions.
http://www.gosphero.com/ollie/

Roominate $29.99
Roominate is a toy that helps young girls build just about anything they can imagine. It’s a hands-on toy developed by female engineers designed to get girls interested in engineering and technology. They can build walls and floors – this set is for a studio, perfect for a NYC apt.
Using the modular building pieces they can create beds, tables, lamps and they can even wire up a motor to make items like elevators and fans.
There are a wide range of kits that can be used together.
http://www.roominatetoy.com/

Selfie case with built-in remote shutter $40
We all know kids love to take selfies but who has arms long enough to get everyone in the picture? The Selfie iPhone case has a built-in shutter for your phone’s camera so you never lose it. Just slide it out when you need it, connect via Bluetooth and snap away.
Works with iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S5.
http://www.iluv.com/product_list.asp?page=2&icd=AI5SELF&pcd=I2475

7 Top Tech Gifts for the Holidays


There’s still time to shop for the holidays. If you’re looking for some great last-minute tech gifts, look no further than these seven gadgets I showed on WABC TV this week:
You can see the full video here.

iPhone 6 $199 w/contract
The best phone of the year – touch ID for security.
4.7-inch brilliant Retina HD display, a great camera and easy-to-use features like time lapse videos.
iOS 8 which brings Apple Pay, the company’s convenient platform for mobile payments.
https://www.apple.com/iphone-6/

Amazon Kindle Voyage $199
This is the best e-reader I’ve used. Light and thin, comfortable to hold, crystal-clear image quality.
There are no distractions like on a tablet; no email, no facebook, no interruptions.
Sharp, clear text – easy to read on the 6-inch e-ink display.
New features:
Take notes on passages or quotes to share with book group
At-a-glance lets you see how long until end of chapter
Share books and content across household
Built-in adaptive front light
http://www.amazon.com/High-Resolution-Display-Adaptive-PagePress-Sensors/dp/B00IOY8XWQ

Microsoft Xbox One $349
If you’ve been waiting to get Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming console, now’s the time. There’s great deals on bundles and special edition consoles. I’m showing the Assasin’s Creed bundle which is selling for $349. You get 2 games, wireless controller, chat headset and a 500 GB hard driv. There’s also access to your TV and music all in one place so you use your voice to control the action. Switch between apps, answer a Skype call, record gameplay, watch Netflix.
500 GB hard drive
http://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one?xr=shellnav#adrenalinejunkie

Plantronics BackBeat Pro $249
Wireless noise canceling Bluetooth headset that’s so comfortable to wear
Smart sensors know when it’s on your head. When you take it off to answer a call or talk to someone, it automatically pauses the music. Put the cans back on and the music starts
Can connect to 3 devices at once so switch between music and calls, one-button for ANC.
Controls are built into ear cup; tap to pause, play, accept call.
Bluetooth 4.0 so range extends to over 300 feet.
http://www.plantronics.com/us/product/backbeat-pro

Tory Burch Fitbit $195
This is one wearable that definitely does not look like an activity tracker. Fitbit teamed up with designer Tory Burch to create a wearable women actually will want to wear.
Stainless steel bracelet and pendant come in rose gold and silver in addition to gold.
Use it to track steps, distance and calories burned.
http://www.fitbit.com/toryburch#1
http://www.toryburch.com/tory-burch-fitbit/

Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard $80
With the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard, it doesn’t matter if you’re on your tablet or your smartphone, the Universal Mobile Keyboard was designed to work with iPad, iPhone, Android devices and Windows tablets. Pair the keyboard with up to three devices with different operating systems and easily switch between them with a simple flick of the OS (operating system) switch.
The rechargeable battery provides up to 6 months of usage on a single charge.
http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/en-us/p/universal-mobile-keyboard/P2Z-00001

Cobra JumPack Charger $129
Don’t leave home without this small device that’s powerful enough to jump start a car’s dead battery – a few times over. The JumPack has safety features like a strobe light in case of emergency, and a 7,500 mAh battery with 2.1 Amp USB output so you can power up a dead cell phone with a USB cable.
https://www.cobra.com/products/portable-power/cobra-jumpack

This Mom Melted the Hearts of Fellow Travelers


There are two things sure to bring a frown to the face of an airline traveler; notice of a flight delay and a passenger with a baby heading towards your row. So, when a woman carrying a small baby in a pouch on her chest made her way into the row ahead of mine on a flight last week, the other passengers near me and I all looked at each other with that look; “Oh no,” we said with our eyes, “a baby!”

The lesson she taught me made me realize that I don’t have to wait to be asked to help, I should offer help and assistance if I can. In fact, we could all be a little more considerate and thoughtful of people traveling with young kids, especially during the busy holiday travel season. Read my whole story on the Huffington Post.