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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Add some fireworks to your New Year's celebration

fireworks.jpgMake your New Year's celebration colorful with a vibrant iOS app for your iPad. The Real Fireworks HD app by Innovatty, which usually costs $4.99, is currently free, so get on iTunes and download it to look cool when the clock strikes midnight. 

If you have an Android device, check out the Fireworks app by Ndroidz Software. This free app let you choose your favorite background, then launch the fireworks in the sky by tapping on the screen. You can even get a New Year's countdown. 

For Windows Phones, try the Touch Fireworks app, where each time you touch the screen, a burst of color "explodes." 

Have a happy and safe New Year!

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A new gadget for Christmas! Now what?

Did you get a new iPhone for Christmas? Well, a phone is just a phone until you start finding apps to go with it. So here are a few suggestions, first of which is sure to point you in the right direction: Google Maps app for iOS6 for your primary mapping app, not the Apple Maps disaster. 

Got an Android phone? Check out these apps. And if you want to take everything from the old Android phone to the new, here are the steps you need to take

Got an iPad? Here are the things you should do first. 

Is your old phone still in good shape? Then consider selling it to electronic recyclers who will buy your old device. Among them are,  and

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A new smartphone for Christmas! Now what?

Did you get a new iPhone for Christmas? Well, a phone is just a phone until you start finding apps to go with it. So here are a few suggestions, first of which is sure to point you in the right direction: Google Maps app for iOS6 for your primary mapping app, not the Apple Maps disaster. 

If you upgraded to a new Android phone and want to take everything with you, here are the steps you need to take

Is your old phone still in good shape? Then consider selling it to electronic recyclers who will buy your old device. Among them are,  and

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Roundup: Android virus texts, Google's X phone, T-Mobile expands 4G to Tampa area, more

Android texting scam: Spammed text messages are going around that can infect your Android smartphone, causing it to send virulent text messages to thousands of phone numbers each day. And if you don't have unlimited texting plan, this could be really bad news.  USA Today

Google X Phone: Motorola and Google are teaming up to work on a new smartphone that's designed to go up against the iPhone.

New Poke Facebook app: Facebook released a new messaging app called Poke, which can send text, photo or video in the greeting. Washington Post

Windows Phone gaining momentum: The Windows Phone edges out RIM for the third spot in the rankings with the Apple platform first and Android second. Forbes …

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Toyota's Avalon takes leap into the future

Seems Toyota is trying to change the image of the Avalon, its flagship full-size sedan. The car manufacturer is targeting the younger drivers (younger than Boomers, that is) by adding more gadgets and high-tech features, including this: a wireless charger for mobile devices.  The 2013 Avalon Limited trim will have a non-slip pad in the lower center console which charges properly equipped devices wirelessly with the Qi system.

The most common devices to use the Qi charging system are smartphones (including the Nokia Lumia 920, Google Nexus 4 and HTC Windows Phoen 8X), but there are other devices on the market, and more should be on the way.



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Stocking stuffer ideas for gadgeteers

Now that you have the Christmas gifts taken care of, it's time to fill those stockings with cool stuff. Here are some ideas:

deathstarcube.jpgFor the Star Wars fan: Make the holiday parties even more festive with this conversation piece; Death Star Ice Sphere Mold. You fill it with water, and freeze to create a mini Death Star 2.4 inches in diameter. Put one in a class and pour the beverage of choice. $9.99.


pizza_cutter.jpgFor the Star Trek fan: The new Star Trek movie, Into Darkness will open in May. Why not get in the spirit with an Enterprise (NCC-1701) Pizza Cutter? The chrome-plated cutter has a blade diameter of 4 inches, and the total length is 8.5 inches. So you can boldly cut… Well, you get the idea. $14.99


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Google Play offers special holiday promotion

Google sweetens up the holidays with a special Google Play promo that started today and will continue until Jan. 1. Each calendar day will have a special free or discount offer. 

Today's offer (12/17/2012) is a free $35 credit if you download the free Hotel Tonight app. 

Check back daily for a new promotion.

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Roundup: Tracking Santa, gifting an iOS app, ironed man, more

Track Santa: Children can keep track of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve with a new Windows 8 mobile app from NORAD, called NORAD Tracks Santa. Android and iOS versions are also available. Kids can also go to, call the hotline at 1-877-HI-NORAD, or email [email protected] on Christmas Eve to get information Santa's whereabouts.  Reuters

Gift an iOS app: Apple has brought back the feature where you can gift an app, but it's not easy to find. Here's how.  Forbes

WP 7.8 for Nokia: The upgrade to Windows Phone 7.8 for Nokia phones are up for all eligible Lumias.   Engadget

Luxury gift ideas: Not everyone is looking for a bargain gadget for a gift. If you're in the 1 percent who can splurge on an elaborate gifts, how about an $8 million iPad, or a $25,000 4K TV?   CNBC

Google+ improved: Google has added dozens of new features as it revamps its iphone version of the Google+ social networking app.  Wired

Tutor in the kitchen: From the basics to complex recipes, these culinary apps can help you upgrade your cooking skills.  Los Angeles Times 

Dashboard apps: These apps can make your phone as safe to use while you're driving as your car stereo. CNet …

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Google Maps for iOS6 is finally here!

map2.jpg map1.jpg

If you've been holding off on upgrading to iOS6 on your iphone because of the half-baked Apple Maps that came with it, wait no more. Google has released its Maps app, but only for the iPhone for now.

The new app includes the Street View, built-in local search, public transit directions and voice guided turn-by-turn navigation.

Find the download here. 

Of course, if you like Apple's Maps app, you're free to continue using it. But for the rest of us, here are nine things we'll miss about it. 


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Facebook privacy settings change again

 The everchanging Facebook has new privacy settings starting today. They're simpler -- but has some catches. Here's the rundown by Gizmodo.

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What are the hottest gifts on the list? Reviewers chime in

It's the season for holiday shopping, and many are eager to share their favorite picks. Here's a compilation of recommendations 

Bloomberg News' top 15 tech gifts: On top of its list is the Slingbox 500, where you can watch what's on your cable or satelitte service wherever you go. 

Guide to a tablet: 

Guide to a smartphone


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Gift guide 2012 for gadget lovers: mobile TV, tablet stands, waterproof smartphone case, more

Christmas is just a few days away. Are you still in search for the perfect gift for your loved ones? Here are some suggestions for the gadget lovers on your list: 

For the TV junkie

bl_slingbox121412_1.jpgbl_slingplayer121312.jpgTake your TV with you wherever you go with the Slingbox. You can watch programs you get on your cable or satellite box or DVR on your mobile devices or laptop wherever you go. Best of all, there are no monthly charges to use this device. Download the SlingPlayer app ($14.99 for iOS, Android and Windows Phone) to connect to your Slingbox, which is hooked up to your home set-top box. You can watch what you want wherever you are, assuming you have Wi-Fi or cellular service (beware of going over on data usage). There were a few small download lags — this will depend on the available signal from your carrier or strength of Wi-Fi — but not  enough to be annoying. There are two versions of the Slingbox: 350 ($180) which connects to your Internet  by ethernet, and the Wi-Fi-enabled 500 ($300).

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Gadgets and more for the outdoors lover

Do you have someone on your shopping list who loves to spend time outdoors? From rugged iPad and iPhone cases to waterproof chargers for mobile devices, Terry Tomalin, the Times' outdoors editor, has some suggestions.

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Gadget gifts to for the little ones

Youngsters, even toddlers, are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to tech. From gaming devices to fun apps, here are some suggestions for the little gadgeteers.

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Roundup: Blackberry coming before June, Samsung's unbreakable screen, iPhones coming to T-Mobile

Mobile devices on planes: FCC chariman tells the Federation Aviation Administration that it's time to allow expanded use of mobile devices on planes.   Time 

Phone for kids: What's the appropriate age to buy a phone for your kids? Phones aren't just for talking any more, and kids have a different concept of how they're used: Games, camera, entertainment, and more.


Time gadget of the year: Time magazine has named the iPhone 5 has it's best product of 2012 in its annual ranking, calling it "one of the most artfully polished gadgets anyone's ever built."   Time


Safe driving: Here are five apps that help to prevent your teenagers from texting while driving.


Coach with a sense of humor: Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino answers a reporter's phone when it rings in the middle of a press conference.   USA Today


BlackBerry 10 before June:  Research In Motion has announced that it will unveil its first BlackBerry 10-based devices in January, with touch-screen phones coming out in the U.S. in March.   Forbes


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