Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Know anyone who's having trouble with their iPhone battery?

Apple

Do them a favor, and refer them to this excellent article from a former Apple Store Genius Bar employee. There's a good chance it'll make a big difference.

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Our newsroom is loving these 15 things you might not know your iPhone can do

Times

They title Buzzfeed uses is "15 Things You Didn't Know Your iPhone Could Do" — but odds are you already know one or two of them. And if you're still carrying a well-worn iPhone 4 or 4S like my wife and I, or if you're holding off on upgrading to the latest iOS version, your iPhone won't do some of them. (The "take a 'burst' of photos at once" trick only works in iOS 7, and only on an iPhone 5s, for example.)

I got laughed at, tho', when one of the other editors in our office mentioned that seeing time stamps on messages in her iPhone would help settle arguments between her and her husband. I asked if they had "read receipts" turned on in their Messages settings, and someone joked that I was causing more problems than I was solving.

All I can say is this: When married person A meets spouse B coming in the door and says to B, "I thought you were bringing dinner home," and B has absolutely no idea what you're talking about? And then A points out a message about it 45 minutes earlier, and B had no idea that message was even there? Nobody wins.

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March Madness and your iPhone or iPad

I can promise my status as a Michigan alum and fan played no role whatsoever in my decision to republish this image, mostly.

Turner Sports

I can promise my status as a Michigan alum and fan played no role whatsoever in my decision to republish this image, mostly.

It's that time of year again. You know, the time when inconveniences like work, family and the need to eat and sleep all get in the way of what you really want to do — watch college basketball. Fortunately, technology is here to help.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog has a rundown of a few apps that will help you watch games and monitor your bracket from your iPad or iPhone. It overlaps with this similar list from TechHive, linked to from Macuser.

They're all fine. I had much better luck using CBS's March Madness Live app to watch last night's First Four games than I remember having last year, which was a nice experience. Hopefully it will hold up when the games get better and more people are watching. And don't forget — you don't always need an app to follow the tournament. The NCAA website offers streams for all devices, including your desktop rig.

Sadly, Simple Bracket (last year's Kickstarter project to build a simple tool for filling in your bracket on an iPhone and measuring it against others') is skipping this year's tournament — a decision that angered some backers. So for better or worse, this year will be my first experience using pooltracker.com.

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Apple has released iOS 7.1; update your iThing now

The latest version of Apple's mobile operating system software is out and available for download. To get it, tap "Settings" on the home screen of your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, then "General," then "Software Update." If your device can run the new software, and doesn't already have it, you'll find instructions there.

Apple has posted a brief rundown of the new features and fixes. Of particular interest to those of us who hold onto our older phones as long as we can is that the new update seems to make them work better. Also of particular interest is that this might be the last iOS update ever for the iPhone 4.

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I ordered this thing called a Chil PowerShare Reactor today; I'll let you know how it goes

The PowerShare Reactor 5.1 Amp Multi-Device Charger, available for $50 at chil.com and occasionally cheaper online elsewhere.

CHIL.com

The PowerShare Reactor 5.1 Amp Multi-Device Charger, available for $50 at chil.com and occasionally cheaper online elsewhere.

Why have I had such a hard time finding one gizmo that has a cord I can plug into the wall and a bunch of USB ports on the other end that I can use to charge all of my family's phones, iPods and whatever at the same time?

(You'd think you could just use a powered USB hub, but you can't — at least, you can't just use all of them. Most that I've found require drivers installed on your computer before they'll send power to whatever you have plugged in. And my goal is to charge a whole bunch of iThings without a computer.)

On our last family trip, I brought a power strip and festooned it with all the USB charging plugs I could find in our house. It worked okay, but you still have to pack a little plug-box for everything you want to charge. So yesterday iLounge posted one of their First Looks at the Chil PowerShare Reactor. It's pretty much what I was looking for — a cord that plugs into the wall and powers four USB ports, three at 1 amp, which is what you'd need to charge an iPhone or iPod, and one at 2.1 amps, which will charge an iPad (or iPhone, or iPod). …

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Did you get (loud) weather alerts on your iPhone today?

Apple's latest iPhone software lets you control what government-issued alerts you receive.

KEN WALKER | Times

Apple's latest iPhone software lets you control what government-issued alerts you receive.

When a line of thunderstorms sweeping across Tampa Bay late this morning and early afternoon prompted the National Weather Service to issue a tornado warning for Pinellas County, everyone in our newsroom was instantly alerted — by a cacophany of beeps and buzzes as just about every smartphone in the building relayed the announcement.

While certainly useful and probably even pretty cool, it's a strange feeling to be taken by surprise by something your phone does. Alerts like these might override other settings on your phone — like beeping a warning even when you've switched to vibrate-only mode, for example. Alerts like these are on by default, but you can control settings for them on your iPhone.

In the lastest version of iOS, tap on Settings from your home screen, then tap on Notification Center and scroll to the very bottom of the screen. (If you have many apps on your phone, it might take you some time.) Look for a "GOVERNMENT ALERTS" heading, and you'll see you can toggle AMBER Alerts (issued for missing children) and other emergency alerts (weather, civil defense and other important information) on and off — though I would imagine you'd want to leave them on.

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What would you pay for a bacon scent-enabled iPhone alarm?

Oscar Meyer

Well, however much that is, it's not enough. Oscar Mayer has developed a gizmo that plugs into your iPhone and wakes you to the sound of sizzling and the smell of bacon in the air — but it's not for sale. Instead, you'll have to win one by entering a contest at wakeupandsmellthebacon.com.

The only possible improvement? Bedside technology that wakes you with actual bacon.

(Tip o' the hat to TUAW.)

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Is iTunes Match a good deal for you?

I wound up as an iTunes Match subscriber when I rolled what I was paying for my old MobileMe subscription into it. Yes, I was a MobileMe subscriber — and before that .Mac, and before that iTools. Remember iTools? Of course you don't.

For my part, I think it's fantastic. But Macworld published a great guide yesterday to determining whether it's worth your time and money ("Is iTunes Match right for you?" Feb. 25, 2014). In essence, if your music library isn't very big, or you're fed up with syncing with your computer to get the songs you want on your iPod/iPhone/iPad/whatever, it might make sense. If your library is more than 25,000 songs, tho', or you want to use it with more than five computers or 10 iThings and Apple TVs, it probably doesn't.

One added benefit to using iTunes Match, however: You'll never hear an ad in iTunes Radio.

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Mt. Gox problems could kill Bitcoin

It's not easy to start a new currency that's not backed by any government, and it gets harder when one of the major websites used to trade it suddenly vanishes from the Internet. The Associated Press reports that the same day the exchange's website was taken down, a blogger published a document purportedly leaked from Mt. Gox showing the exchange to be insolvent after a loss estimated to be worth around $888 million at bitcoins' peak value in December — reportedly around 6 percent of all the bitcoin in circulation. The New York Times reported the missing currency was stolen in a heist that went undetected for years.

So anyway, what's that mean to you? Unless you keep much of your money in bitcoin, probably not much. It might mean it's a while longer before a digital currency replaces the green stuff in your wallet, though. And it means that if you didn't already know what bitcoin was all about, you might be able to safely avoid knowing that all together if you wait a while longer. But if you're interested, the AP published a pretty good explainer today.

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A video game that helps cure cancer

Cancer Research UK

Ever had someone annoyed with you because your head was down, fingers twitching on your phone's screen instead of listening to whatever it is they're saying? Next time that happens, you can apologize, explain that you're just helping cure cancer — but you're happy to put that on hold while they're talking about whatever it is that's so important.

Play to Cure: Genes in Space (Free) was developed by Cancer Research UK as a way to utilize mobile devices' processing power — and gamers' time and attention — to find patterns in genetic data, highlighting faults that can cause cancer and providing data that may help speed up launches of new medications.

In the game, players guide their spaceship along a hazard-strewn course, collecting something called "Element Alpha." Each time they redirect their toward a tasty batch of Element Alpha, the information is fed back to Cancer Research UK scientists. The patterns gamers follow through the game will provide the analysis researchers need.

 …

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Follow the Olympics on all your screens

2014 Team USA Road to Sochi will follow the athletes' results and experiences in Sochi during the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

United States Olympic Committee

2014 Team USA Road to Sochi will follow the athletes' results and experiences in Sochi during the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog posted a handy list yesterday offering five apps to help you follow the 2014 Winter Olympics starting this Friday. They're pretty much the official apps from NBC and the Olympic Games, but one is a third-party app that looks like it offers a pretty handy schedule, if nothing more. With so many events going on at the same time, the Olympics (summer or winter) are a great time to try streaming multiple shows to more than one screen at a time.

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Macworld offers a 'best of' list that might actually be useful

Studio Neat's new Glif is adjustable to fit whatever device you need it to, and functions as a stand or tripod mount.

Macworld / Studio Neat

Studio Neat's new Glif is adjustable to fit whatever device you need it to, and functions as a stand or tripod mount.

Too often, gadget blogs feature posts listing gadgets they claim are the "best of," or "top 10," or whatever, and it feels like they're just clearing a stack of news releases off their desks. But Macworld offered a "Great gear you might have missed" article last week that seems like it might genuinely solve some problems. What caught my eye in particular were the Kanex DoubleUp (I could use one on my nightstand), Griffin's 3-meter Lightning cable (both my kids would love to have one in the car) and Studio Neat's updated Glif (pictured).

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Google's new tech: A contact lens for diabetics

Google's prototype contact lens for monitoring diabetics' blood glucose levels.

Google

Google's prototype contact lens for monitoring diabetics' blood glucose levels.

It tests your glucose levels by monitoring your tears. I'm not diabetic, but the tech here sounds like something out of Star Trek — "chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair." For power, it generates static electricity from ambient radio waves. I won't be in the market for one, as will be the case with most of us, but you've got to stop for a moment and think: How cool is that?

Tip o' the hat to NPR.

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Love your iPhone, but miss your BlackBerry's pushbutton keyboard?

The Typo Keyboard Case. (Eventually, we should discuss whether you'd want "Typo" associated with a keyboard you're selling. But we'll save that for another day.)

Typo Products

The Typo Keyboard Case. (Eventually, we should discuss whether you'd want "Typo" associated with a keyboard you're selling. But we'll save that for another day.)

Ryan Seacrest — yes, that Ryan Seacrest — might have exactly what you're looking for.

(Tip o' the hat to MacDailyNews.)

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AP's Gadget Watch: The Nabu smart wristband

The AP has a story today on the Nabu, a fitness-style wristband from gaming company Razer that also receives notifications like a smartwatch. To wit:

As a fitness tracker, the Nabu wristband tells you about your sleep patterns and the number of steps taken and the stairs climbed. As a smartwatch, it offers notifications about incoming texts and emails.

If you join the developer program, you can order one now for $49. It's unclear what you'll pay as, y'know, an ordinary, run-of-the-mill consumer — but that's an intriguing price point. With a Pebble going for $150 (and their new glass and metal Pebble Steel priced at $250), a Nabu that costs even close to $49 off the shelf could be an interesting option. Read more here.

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