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7 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With Google Maps For iPhone

Jason Gilbert   |   December 25, 2012    9:16 AM ET

Google's newly released Maps app for the iPhone has already enjoyed a phenomenal initial reception. After over 10 million iPhone owners gobbled it up in its first 48 hours, it is likely one of the most quickly downloaded apps in the history of Apple's App Store.

Many iPhone owners have replaced Apple's half-baked Maps app with Google Maps; and as those iPhone owners are testing out Google's version in the real world, they are already finding several cool new features on the app that might not be too obvious at first.

google maps easter egg

Seriously, though: In addition to not constantly getting lost or disoriented, you can find a bunch of great features in Google Maps that will make navigating via smartphone a more convenient experience than you realized it could be. We've collected 7 handy tips, tricks and hidden gems from the Google Maps app that can ensure you're getting all you should be out of your new mapping program. While none of these crafty techniques are essential to Google Maps -- "getting you to places you want to go" remains the main function -- they do represent slick little tips that you might find helpful in daily use.

From talking to your maps to finding food fast, here's our next-level advice for the new Google Maps app that's taken over your iPhone:

How Old Should Your Kid Be Before You Buy Him A Tablet?

Jason Gilbert   |   December 14, 2012    4:04 PM ET

The Arnova ChildPad. The Oregon Scientific Meep. The Toys R' Us Nabeo 7. The LeapFrog LeapPad 2.

Ever more of these specially made, kid-friendly, atrociously-named tablets are popping up in the electronics aisle, promising protected Internet browsing and a collection apps that parents don't have to screen for safety. Chances are, however, that when your own pride-and-joy reaches a certain age, he or she isn't going to want a tablet that's advertised during "Zoboomafoo," but rather a fully-featured adult tablet like an iPad or Kindle Fire.

For moms and dads of rising middle- and high-school students, then, here's the $199-$499 question: At what age is it appropriate to go ahead and let your kid go wild on a grown-up tablet? How young is too young?

"As a parent, you have to look at your child's maturity level and level of development," said Dr. Ari Brown, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the author of the Baby 411 series of parental advice books, in a phone interview with HuffPost. "This is not a small purchase; it's an expensive purchase. You have to decide: Is your child really going to get value out of this type of thing?"

Brown said that, based on her experience, once a child leaves elementary school, he or she is probably old enough to handle a tablet; she also echoed the prescription of the AAP that kids two years and younger should not be using glowing screens, and that she would personally "discourage parents from thinking their child has to have an iPad at five."

For Dr. Brown, the decision hinges not on the potential harms that can come with leaving a kid alone with a tablet -- if he or she has a smartphone, or access to the Internet on a home computer, those dangers lurking on a tablet are also present via those technologies -- but rather on whether a personal tablet can provide actual, tangible benefits for your child above his or her iPhone, a laptop or a tablet shared with the rest of the family.

That's a fine way of thinking about it, in fact -- asking not "Will this tablet be too much of a waste of time?" but rather "What is my child going to gain from owning his or her own tablet?"

Hilary DeCesare, a cyberbullying expert and CEO of kids' social networking site Everloop, argued that in an increasingly digital world, it's important to expose your children to different technologies early so that they are prepared to adapt and thrive in more advanced professional settings. She holds that kids as young as 2 can benefit from tablet use, as long as the parent "is monitoring what [the] child is watching."

Dr. Brown, meanwhile, said that the main benefit that her children, ages 14 and 17, have gleaned from owning their school-subsidized iPads has been an end to lugging heavy textbooks back and forth between home and school: All of their textbooks were available for download from iBooks.

Digital literacy and streamlined access to textbooks and study materials are two concrete benefits of a child's personal tablet ownership; but thinking that your child will only use a tablet for homework is like handing a bunch of foam pool noodles to a group of kids and thinking they'll only use them to float on.

"You could have your Facebook page open, you could have a computer game open, you could have a webpage open and oh, yeah, you could also have your textbook open," Dr. Brown joked.

British researchers have found that kids today are spending more and more time in front of screens, which they warn can cause inactivity and obesity if not curbed. (Do you know how long it takes to completely defeat Angry Birds?) Couple that with a recent Pew study that concluded young people enjoy reading in print more than on a tablet, and you might be discouraged by the negative habits a tablet could generate in your child.

As with any other activity, both Brown and DeCesare said, it is incumbent upon the parents to stay vigilant and scrutinize their children's tablet use for any unwanted behavior, from surfing the web to total, detrimental lethargy.

The extent to which parents can control their children's activity on a tablet varies by the device. This year, however, we've seen several of the larger tablet-makers step up and introduce new tablets with greater parental controls than ever, with Barnes & Noble and Amazon leading the charge to make full-fledged tablets more parent-friendly.

The new NOOK HD and HD+ from Barnes & Noble, for example, both offer multiple user profiles, which allow parents to select the apps, websites and media options they want their kids to be able to access. Amazon's Kindle FreeTime, for the Kindle Fire, does much of the same and lets parents set daily time limits for their children's use.

Other popular tablets also feature less-tailored parental control solutions. Google's Nexus tablets come with the ability to set up a user profile for your child, though without controlling his or her access to certain content. Apple's iPad and iPad mini both include a suite of restrictions in the settings: A parent can select which apps the child can open, and what kind of content he or she can download or experience. Parent-friendly web browsers are available in both the Android and Apple app stores.

"As a parent, you're responsible for making sure your kids dont run in the street, and also that they dont have the ability to access porn sites," Dr. Brown said. "These are your responsibilities, virtually or realistically."

And what should parents do if they gift their child an iPad this Christmas, only to find he or she is using it inappropriately or becoming totally entranced and won't leave the couch?

"If they misuse it," DeCesare advised. "Take it away."

7 Stunning Images That Redefined Picture-Taking In 2012

Jason Gilbert   |   December 13, 2012   10:52 AM ET

I would sum the the year in personal photography like this: 2012 was a good year to photograph your dog; and given the advances and emerging technologies in casual picture-taking that were introduced this year, 2013 will be even better.

Yes, 2012 gave us plenty of reasons to be excited about the future of mobile photography: We got to play with a cheap camera whose breathtaking photos could be focused after they were taken; we were introduced, in ecstatic fashion, to an unobtrusive pair of connected eyeglasses that could take pictures at any time, without even having to lift a finger; and companies like Apple and Nokia pushed the boundaries of what level of clarity and brilliance from a smartphone camera was possible.

We've collected 7 photos taken from devices other than traditional point-and-shoot cameras that we think crystallize the reasons for our excitement. These pics represent some of the great innovations in personal photography accomplished or released in 2012. Look below to see why you (and your dog) should be excited for the pictures you could be taking in 2013.

Alleged iPhone Thief Photographs Herself Using Stolen Phone

Jason Gilbert   |   December 11, 2012   11:30 AM ET

Do you know this woman?


Police in Sussex, England -- and one miffed former iPhone owner -- are hunting for her, after she apparently stole an iPhone from the Coalition nightclub, accidentally took a photo of herself and then inadvertently uploaded it to the Internet, sharing it with the original owner, who turned it over to the cops.

The reason the suspected crook snapped the picture and tipped off the original owner? An app called iGotYa, which automatically takes a photo with the phone's front-facing camera and then emails the photo to a pre-selected email address after one unsuccessful attempt to unlock the phone.

The app works like the popular Prey software for the PC and Mac: After a baddie attempts to crack your iPhone's password once (or twice, or thrice, or however many times you set the app for), three things happen that can help lead to the criminal's capture. First, the crook's photo is taken and sent to the owner's email address. Second, the crook's location is pinpointed using the phone's GPS and is also sent to your email. And third, a text message is sent to the phone, asking the criminal to kindly return the iPhone to its rightful owner.

If the burglar doesn't, you get a manhunt much like the one occurring in Sussex, where police have asked anyone with information to contact them.

This all-too-familiar tale of an iPhone gone missing again emphasizes the importance of acquiring an app like iGotYa for your phone, whether it's an iPhone, Android, Windows Phone or other. (Interestingly, you will not find iGotYa in Apple's official App Store; it is only available for jailbroken phones).

At the very least, though, you should be securing your phone with a lock screen password, and iPhone owners should install the free Find My iPhone app from Apple, which allows you to remotely lock or wipe your phone and acquire your phone's location from your computer if it goes missing. Both Android and iPhone owners should also consider Lookout, a more robust version of Find My iPhone that provides much of the same security for free. Prey also provides a mobile version for Android and iOS that could track down your thief, too.

If you have any information on the purloined iPhone, or the woman in the photo above, you are encouraged to contact Sussex police.

The Hottest Holiday Tech Gifts...From Twenty Years Ago

Jason Gilbert   |   December 7, 2012    1:39 PM ET

Dig out that New Kids on the Block poster and polish off your "Ghost" laserdisc: HuffPost Tech is taking you all the way back to the first Bush presidency.

2012's hottest tech gifts seem to be coming in to focus: The iPad Mini and iPhone 5 are sure to be in high demand, as are Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet and the latest console from Nintendo, the Wii U.

So, as we are putting our own gift lists together, we thought we'd take a peek back to the past, and ask the question: What if you were shopping for a techie in, say, 1992? What gizmos, gadgets and electronic doohickeys would you be desperately searching for twenty years ago?

As an answer to those two questions, we've got your definitive gift guide for the early 1990s and late 1980s. All of what follows are direct quotes from newspaper and magazine high-tech holiday guides of at least twenty years ago, giving you a glimpse of the tech landscape in a time just before the Internet was just about to explode.

Enjoy this blast from the past, and remember: Everything you're drooling over this holiday season will look just as ridiculous, clunky and expensive in twenty years, too.

WATCH: Just How Good Is Google Voice Search For iPhone?

Jason Gilbert   |   November 28, 2012   10:50 AM ET

Back in August, when Google announced improvements to its voice search capabilities on Android and iOS, it released a slick little commercial showing all of the answers iPhone users could now expect its Google search app to return to them with a simple touch of a button and a few vibrations of the old vocal chords:

"Watch out, Siri," the commercial seemed to subtextually say. "Here comes a voice assistant for the iPhone that will actually understand you and deliver the answers you expect it to!" (Those two functions, of course, being the two main criticisms of Siri, which many users felt overpromised and underdelivered when it was introduced with the iPhone 4S in 2011).

In the past, we at HuffPostTech have tested several Siri commercials for ourselves, recreating each scene of the advertisements here at our offices in order to test their claims in real life and cutting together a quick video to show you the results. Can Siri really call you a rock god? (No). Inform Zooey Deschanel whether or not it is raining outside? (Yes). Tell John Malkovich a joke that will make him laugh from the very bottom of his soul? (Sort of).

Having thoroughly put Siri through her paces (with mostly positive results), then, we decided to give Google's refreshed and improved voice search application, which landed in the App Store this past October, a little trial. Below, you can check out the outcome.

A few notes on filming:
- We're using an iPhone 4S, about 10 months old.
- The phone is connected to our trusty AOL office Wi-Fi.
- We only ask each question once and use the video of the first take -- when it comes to voice search, you don't want to have to repeat yourself, so we don't.
- I tried to speak with the same neutral accent as the family in the video, preparing for a vacation to Cape Cod (way to relate to the blue-collar family, Google!).
- I drank a cup of hot tea before filming, so that my voice -- which someone who works for the New York Times once called "Pavarotti-esque" -- would come in clear on the iPhone's microphone.
- Wardrobe by Kmart.

And now, without further ado: Google's Voice Search for iOS Commercial gets put to the test. Press play to find out how Google performed...

As you can see on the video, we were able to replicate all but one of the voice searches shown in Google's original ad; after filming, we tried the mechanic query several more times but were unable to bring up local listings on any of our attempts. Overall, however, Google's voice search impressed me with its speed, both in finding an answer and transcribing the words I was speaking. It's almost startling how quickly your words appear on the screen after they leave your mouth, in fact.

Now if only there were some way to access that voice search straight from the home screen, without having to open up an app. I wonder if some other phone, with some other operating system, offers that function?

You can try out Google's voice search for iPhone yourself by downloading the Google app in the App Store right here.

Smartphones With The Best Battery Life

Jason Gilbert   |   November 2, 2012    6:12 PM ET

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, one smartphone feature seems to reign supreme for the millions of East Coasters without power: Battery life.

The vast, newly-christened New York City neighborhood of "SoPo" -- "South of Power," or anywhere in lower Manhattan below 42nd Street where electricity does not flow (until the power began to be restored on Friday evening, that is) -- has seen impromptu phone charging stations pop up in unpredictable locations to serve those who couldn't otherwise power up their phones at home. Hotels, banks and coffee shops have offered free power strips to passersby in need. A CNN news truck whose crew was filming in the West Village allowed anyone to charge devices. One man in Union Square hooked up a power board to his car battery and placed a homemade sign in front of his Frankenstein creation: "Charge Your Phone FREE."

A scrum of about a dozen New Yorkers gathered around his Jeep and waited in the cold, hands thrust in their coat pockets, as their phones juiced up.

So, sorry, Siri: In a neighborhood without electricity, where working power strips and outlets can be miles apart and difficult to locate, the amount of juice your gadgets can get out of a single charge has suddenly become paramount. In "normal" times, battery life is not the sexiest tech spec, nor the single facet of a smartphone you should make your purchase based upon. But in the past few days its relevance for those without electricity has been crystallized.

We've already examined the ways in which the smartphone has been obsoleted for some, who have replaced their flashlight app with a real flashlight, and their phone app with a pay phone, and their maps app with a paper map. For others, though, the smartphone remains a lifeline, a singular means of communication with the outside world and a Swiss army knife of functionality.

It's a Swiss army knife that only works with a juiced battery, however, which is why we thought we'd survey the smartphones, tablets and laptops currently on the market that deliver the most power on a single charge. These gadgets represent the upper limits of battery life in their respective fields, and though they are not, necessarily, the "best in class" overall, they do deserve plaudits for their superior power-packing capabilities.

Your Longest-Lasting Smartphones

There are a few different ways to measure battery life on smartphones. Three of the most common are talk time, video playback time and web browsing time. Each smartphone can vary in how well it performs in those three different fields, though typically phones with strong batteries will rank at or near the top in each category, while phones with weaker batteries will rank near the bottom.

By those metrics, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx and Droid Razr Maxx HD score highly. Motorola's chief selling point for its Razr Maxx phones is battery life, and independent testing on several analytically minded gadget-evaluating websites have proven its boasts accurate.

When you view the expected battery life of the Droid Razr Maxx in graph format against any other phone, the results often appear hilariously skewed toward Motorola's flagship smartphone. GSMArena, a technology blog that runs extensive battery-life tests on various smartphones as part of its typical review process, found that the original Maxx got more than 21 hours of talk time over a 4G connection. The next-closest competitor got 20 hours and 30 minutes in talk time -- impressive, until you realize that the next-closest competitor was this year's successor to the original Razr Maxx, the Razr Maxx HD.

After those two, Samsung's Galaxy Note II achieved 16 hours of telephone time -- a full five hours behind Motorola's battery behemoth -- and the numbers only declined from there.

razr maxx

An advertisement on the Motorola website for its Droid Razr Maxx HD. (Motorola)

Again, that's only one metric, on one site, but if you're scanning through different tests, the Droid Razr Maxx typically appears either at the top or just below the top of most battery torture tests.

Other smartphones do approach it, however. The large Galaxy Note II, for example, offers much improved battery life from the first version: Laptop Magazine actually found its battery to be more impressive than that of the Maxx, and other sites have its test scores sitting just below it. Apple's iPhone 5, despite a battery that is physically smaller than those in the Razr Maxx and Galaxy Note II, also performed well in the battery tests of GSMArena and the highly-respected technology site AnandTech.

AnandTech's writers also found the HTC One X, recently refreshed and available on AT&T, to be one of the top battery life performers. Those three smartphones, however -- the One X, the iPhone 5, and the Galaxy Note II -- all generally withered during testing in comparison to the Droid Razr Maxx, their screens going dark far before that on the Motorola flagship phone.

Again, strong battery life should not count as the only factor you use to choose a new smartphone. Too many other factors -- speed, reliability, features, cost and more -- also matter to leave your decision to a simple Talk Time hour count.

And, too, if you're trying to conserve battery life now, there are many excellent Internet guides that can help you accomplish just that on the phone you do own: Wired has published a thorough explainer in the wake of Sandy, as has CNET. For iPhone owners, HuffPost Tech has prepared a battery-saving guide as well, which you can read here.

The New Boxee Could Straight-Up Kill Cable

Jason Gilbert   |   October 16, 2012   10:00 AM ET

Boxee, the streaming media company with the funnest name this side of Roku, has unveiled its latest Internet-connected player: It's called the Boxee TV, and it's a $99 box that contains an antenna to watch broadcast high-definition television and a DVR system that gives you unlimited online storage of your recordings. It is, according to Boxee CEO Avner Ronen, the first DVR system that has no storage limits whatsoever.

Unlike other DVRs which store shows on a hard drive within the device, Boxee's "No Limits" DVR instantly uploads your recorded content via Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable into a storage locker on the Internet. You can access your recordings either on your television through the Boxee box, or on any Internet browser on your computer, tablet or smartphone on the Boxee website. With a monthly subscription fee, Boxee provides an infinite amount of online storage space for your recordings; if you choose not to subscribe to the service, you get a reduced amount of space.

What content will you be able to record? Well, the Boxee TV comes with an antenna that can pick up HD feeds from channels like ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBS (for those within the broadcast area); there's also a cable input on the back of the device for subscribers to basic cable service. Ronen swears that your DVR storage for those feeds is truly unlimited and that, if you really wanted to, you could record all day, every day, and you would not hit any kind of storage limit. The Boxee TV can record up to two channels at once, which I think we can agree is a lot of potential recorded TV.

(UPDATE: A Boxee spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost that an input on the back of the box will also accommodate cable input for existing basic cable subscribers; the Boxee TV, then, could also be seen as an accessory for cable users or those who don't get good reception from their HD antenna, as well as a device for cord cutters).

The Boxee TV itself will cost $99 (down from $180 for the old model) and the No Limits DVR service will cost $14.99 per month for access. You can, of course, just buy the Boxee TV and not pay the $15/month subscription; the company has not yet decided how much space or playback time non-subscribers will receive, but they will get some storage as well as playback on the Internet.

The Boxee TV is also pre-loaded with several apps, including Netflix, YouTube, iTunes competitor Vudu and streaming radio from Pandora. More apps will be announced at a later date, according to a Boxee spokesperson, though Boxee will keep the number of apps low in order to avoid clutter. The Boxee remote control has been redesigned and now features dedicated buttons for Vudu and Netflix; the QWERTY keyboard on the back of the old Boxee remote is gone. (Speaking of gone: The web browser on the old Boxee operating system got the heave-ho as well; explaining the decision, Ronen labeled using a browser on a television as "painful.")

Along with the available apps and remote control, the interface for the Boxee homescreen has also been overhauled. The new look emphasizes the live TV and DVR recording aspects of the service:

boxee live tv
An image of the Boxee operating system, with its emphasis on live television.

The old Boxee Box -- which started Boxee's push into live television with an optional antenna dongle -- will be discontinued, and the operating system will no longer be updated. Boxee is now focused on Boxee TV.

The goal of the new product, per Ronen, is for the Boxee TV to become "Input 1," or the first device you turn on when you power up your television. He thinks that the combination of live television, recorded programs and access to films and TV shows on Netflix and Vudu is enough to convince many Americans to use Boxee as the primary device for their main televisions.

Boxee is taking pre-orders for the device on its website and the Boxee TV will be available on Nov. 1. The DVR service will premiere on that date in the top eight television markets -- New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. -- to begin with, and then roll out to more cities in the following months.

Below, you can check out a few photos of the new Boxee with No Limits DVR. What do you think? Would you pay $14.99 a month for the service? Is this a game-changer, or just another streaming media player?

Will Microsoft's New Music Service Make You Cancel Your Spotify?

Jason Gilbert   |   October 15, 2012    7:35 PM ET

Microsoft on Monday morning officially unveiled a promising new music service for PCs, tablets, laptops and the Xbox gaming console called Xbox Music. And in the grand tradition of late-night games of Risk, it appears to be taking on competitors from every direction possible.

With Xbox Music, Microsoft has rolled the dice and attacked -- all at once, cannons blazing, horses whinnying! -- all-you-can-eat streaming services like Spotify and Rdio, music recommendation services like Pandora, paid music download services like iTunes, and cloud locker services like Google Music and Amazon Cloud Drive.

It's an effort, Microsoft spokespeople have declared, to create the first truly all-in-one music service on the planet. Check out this chart, which Microsoft cooked up to show just exactly what they're attempting to accomplish:

xbox music

That's a seductive bit of PR -- everything I could ever want from a music service, in one place! -- but is there substance behind the claim? Has Microsoft rolled enough sixes that you should consider switching from your current provider of jams, tunes, anthems and canticles in favor of Xbox Music?


Xbox Music is, at its heart, an application that will be available on PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone smartphones and tablets, and the Xbox, which tries to provide four music-related services:

First, it's like Spotify or Rdio: Xbox Music is an application that provides access to more than 30 million songs, which anyone with a free account can listen to on-demand. If you don't want to pay, you can stream your music on the PC for free and hear ads as you listen. For a standard $9.99 per month, or $99 per year, you can get rid of those ads and also listen to those songs on your mobile devices and Xbox.

Second, Xbox Music is like iTunes: If you like a song or album that you've been streaming for free, Microsoft provides an MP3 store where you can purchase those tracks and download them to your computer, so that you own them and can play them on any number of different music players. That's a function you won't find on Spotify or Rdio, just as you wouldn't find all-you-can-stream music on iTunes.

Third, Xbox Music is like Pandora: Pressing a "Smart DJ" button while listening to any song will launch a Pandora-like feature that plays tracks similar to the artist you're enjoying.

Fourth, Xbox Music is like Google Music: You can sync all the music you already own on your PC into the music player, and -- if you pay the $9.99 per month for the service -- you can play that music on any other device, whether or not it's in the Xbox Music catalogue. This is also similar to the recently-launched iTunes Match from Apple, which can stream your entire music library to any device you own for $25 per year.

It doesn't take five eyes to see that there's a lot going on inside Xbox Music. It's an ambitious service pulling in a lot of different features from a lot of different extant applications in the hopes of killing all of them at once.

Microsoft has shot four bullets from one gun. Will it hit any of its targets and catch on with the general public?


The most titillating aspect of Xbox Music -- if one can truly be titillated by a long-gestating music service from an enormous corporation -- is the combination of Spotify-style streaming and Google Music-style cloud storage. It's something that Apple has been rumored to be pursuing for years, but which Microsoft has finally made real: The music you own, regardless of where you downloaded it, and the music you discover through an unlimited streaming service, are coming together in a meaningful way for the first time.

You are essentially getting -- with some hyperbole -- all the music you could ever want to listen to without having to switch apps or websites.

For Windows 8 users, Windows Phone 8 buyers and Xbox 360 owners, the Xbox Music service will be effortlessly integrated closely into the device. Xbox Music also presents a much cleaner and more attractive design than we've seen from Spotify, Rdio, iTunes, or Amazon, eliminating the mundane grid style of music discovery familiar to users of iTunes or Spotify.


While Xbox Music sounds great for the Microsoft crowd, there are still many uncertainties for those that haven't unified all of their devices under the Windows flag; in fact, Xbox Music might as well be called "Xbox Music?" for all the questions about it we still need answered.

Android and iOS apps for Xbox Music are coming next year, according to a Microsoft press release; ditto for a version for Mac. The cloud locker feature -- which allows you to listen to your library on any device -- won't be ready until 2013. Social integration, which, on Spotify, allows you to post tracks to Twitter and send songs and playlists to Facebook friends, are also scheduled for -- you guessed it! -- next year.

We are months away, then, from truly being able to evaluate Xbox Music. The number of people who will own a Windows 8 PC and Windows Phone 8 smartphone is likely far, far smaller than the market Microsoft is aiming for.

There's an even larger problem facing Xbox Music than the current absence of support for Mac, Android, or iOS. Most Spotify and Rdio users are likely too entrenched in the service to switch everything up, and Xbox Music doesn't seem to offer the killer feature or function to cause a sea change. Spotify, for instance, already has a "Smart DJ" function in Spotify Radio, which works with not only artists, but also songs, playlists, and albums; if you like a song on Spotify and want to buy it, opening up iTunes or Amazon isn't so difficult that millions were clamoring for an alternative that could provide a buying option with one click.(Streaming services like Spotify also make purchasing digital music somewhat redundant, too).

Microsoft might be more successful with those that have not yet tried Spotify, Rdio, or any of the addictive alternatives. Because it will come preinstalled on Windows 8 devices -- which will sell in the tens of millions over the coming year -- Microsoft might be able to expose an entire horde of new users to all-you-can-eat streaming and get them hooked on its service first. In that scenario, Microsoft will enjoy a special advantage over its foes, whose applications users will have to seek out and download in order to start listening. Xbox Music will be right there on the Start screen upon first bootup, ready to crank out some Animal Collective or Alan Jackson.


Xbox Music is an impressive, audacious offering from Microsoft, finally combining into a single package the four primary ways people listen to music on their devices. And though that's an attractive, alluring package for Microsoft devotees and Windows 8-purchasing newcomers to streaming services, it seems unlikely to deliver enough oomph to cause current listeners to renounce their favored services.

11 Ways To Get More Battery Life Out Of Your iPhone 5

Jason Gilbert   |   October 9, 2012   11:11 AM ET

Are you or a loved one suffering from lackluster iPhone 5 battery life?

Well, great news: You're not alone, and plenty of help for you and your phone is available.

Yes, there are several tweaks and changes you can make to get better battery life out of your iPhone 5. Though by most accounts the iPhone 5 gets superb battery life -- in one test, it was bested among smartphones only by the still-undefeated champion of battery life, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx -- owners of Apple's latest are still susceptible to quick battery drainage. In particular, iLounge found that using the iPhone in an area with a weak signal can really gobble up that battery.

For all of the power-conscious iPhone 5 owners out there (or owners of any other iPhone!): Commit these battery life tips to memory. The next time that little battery icon on your iPhone changes from white to red, you'll be able to spring into action.

Here's our guide for saving battery life on the iPhone, updated from this article posted during the iPhone 4S launch. Your overworked power cord will thank you later:

Jason Gilbert   |   October 5, 2012    1:36 PM ET

Dear diary,

Today I talked to my mom for 1 minute and 53 seconds and played Angry Birds for four hours. Here's a filtered picture of an omelette I ate.


In an apparent move to bring the imaginary, all-seeing world of The Truman Show one step closer to reality, Samsung has filed a patent for what Engadget is aptly calling a "life diary": The patent essentially describes an app that would allow your smartphone to automatically record a journal of your day, every day, based on your location and whatever you do with your phone. You would then be able to look back at a calendar and see what you did with your life, according to your smartphone activity.

Here's part of the description from the patent application (keep in mind that this is written in patent-ese):

With the development of wired/wireless technologies, it made possible to continuously collect information related to a user's daily life. For example, due to the development of mobile communication technologies, a user always carries a mobile device. According to this, the mobile device can collect a variety of information of user's call record, photograph, music file play, position information and the like.


However, a current mobile device does not provide a service considering a user's convenience on the basis of the user's daily life information. According to this, there is a need for a technology for summarizing user's life information into a story on the basis of user's daily life information and providing the story to a user in a mobile device.

Later in the patent, Samsung proposes using -- in addition to your photographs, the music you listen to, your call records, and your locations throughout the day -- social media activity, the weather, your text messages, and information from your address book to fill out the diary entry, to give a true portrait of your day. Each entry, naturally, would be a multimedia affair, with any photos and videos you took included, and perhaps a song or two you've been enjoying lately.

There are already apps, of course, that approach this level of user oversight. Google Now, the Siri competitor on Android smartphones, constantly runs in the background and learns about you as you go about your day, eventually delivering a daily traffic report, and scores from your favorite sports teams, and restaurant recommendations without any input. A new app for the iPhone called Saga (invitation only) also tracks your location and attempts to learn the restaurants and stores you like and the establishments you haunt in order to recommend nearby spots you might also like.

Neither "ambient companion" app, however, details your life to the extent that Samsung's proposed life diary does. Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether Samsung turns this patent into reality, and if so, whether it comes pre-installed on its phones and tablets. Here's hoping it at least comes with an opt-out, if it does.

Why Now Is A Bad Time To Buy A 7-Inch Tablet

Jason Gilbert   |   October 4, 2012    5:16 PM ET

If you've been shopping for a handheld 7-inch tablet -- you know the kind: smaller than an iPad, bigger than an iPhone, about the size of a paperback book (remember those?) -- now must be tempting time to shine up the old credit card, close your eyes and just buy one already. But hold on, partner: you might be kicking yourself a month from now if you rush and buy one today.

There are plenty of alluring options out there now. The new Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and the even newer Barnes & Noble's NOOK HD, for example, both boast terrific, iPad-quality screens and low $199 price tags. Google's warmly-received Nexus 7, running the latest version of the Android operating system, has been out for a few months at the $199 price level; last year's Kindle Fire, meanwhile, has been knocked down to a flea market price of $159.

Now would seem, then, to be prime purchasing season for these cheap, portable, travel-ready tablets. And, yes, the four tablets above -- the Kindle Fire HD, NOOK HD (all caps!), Nexus 7, and Kindle Fire Classic -- are all solid, low-cost options that will, in the parlance of 21st century philosopher Larry the Cable Guy, "git 'er done."

But if I were shopping for a 7-inch tablet, I would wait until October was over before I committed to one; because the best 7-inch tablets -- and the best prices -- might not have arrived just yet.


By now, you've probably heard that by the end of October Apple is planning to release a smaller iPad, popularly referred to by us journalist-types as the "iPad Mini." Based on the chatter and leaks and rumormongering, this iPad Mini would have a 7.85-inch screen (slightly larger than that on the Kindle Fire or NOOK HD) and would cost significantly less than the full-fledged iPad. Analysts think it will be price-tagged at somewhere between $250 and $350.

Apple has proven that it can make a high-quality tablet: The new iPad is, by most metrics, currently the best tablet you can buy at any size, with its great screen, fast performance, and substantial app store. It seems worth it, then, to wait and see if Apple can summon some more of its magic -- and a low enough price -- before you make what is likely a two-to-three-year commitment to a 7-inch slate.

I won't guarantee that the forthcoming iPad Mini will outshine the new Kindle Fire or NOOK, nor is it likely to cost just $199 like those two do. But if Apple does release a smaller iPad this month, I can guarantee this: Customers are going to buy millions and millions of them, which will put pressure on other companies and sellers to lure shoppers to their own tablet some other way.

You know what that means, don't you? Oh, yeah: You get a price drop! And you get a price drop! And you get a price drop!


In the buying hysteria immediately following the release of an iPad Mini -- as all of the tablet-buying cash in the world is refocused to Apple's offshore bank accounts -- you can expect to find some humble bargains on non-iPad tablets on gadget-selling websites.

This is especially true for older-model tablets, as a quick perusal of Amazon price history charts (a fun weekend activity for the whole family!) shows that whenever Apple releases a new gadget, existing devices in the same category experience rapid price drops on the used market in the weeks following. When the iPad 3 was announced on March 7, for example, a used Kindle Fire on the Amazon marketplace went from $180 on the day of the announcement to a low of $150 two weeks later; Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, too, saw a drop from $289 on the announcement day to a low of $241 two weeks later.

Those represent modest drops, but an extra $30 to $50 in the pocket sure sounds swell to me (especially since I live in New York City, where naturally I will be spending all of my extra money on 64 ounce sodas over the next several months).

You shouldn't expect bargains on the NOOK HD or Kindle Fire HD, of course, as those two were either just released or soon-to-be. You might, however, be able to find a reasonable deal on the older Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire, which is nearing a year old and which is, incredibly, nearing the $100 line on Amazon.


The final reason I'd wait a month to buy a 7-inch tablet (or any tablet, really): Windows 8.

Windows 8 on the tablet is as smooth and simple on a tablet as you'd hope; in fact, the tablet might be the optimal device for Windows 8, with its big, touchable tiles and beautiful full-screen apps.

The new Windows officially releases on October 26th, and with it will come a cornucopia of new tablets from Samsung, Asus, Dell, and more. And while no manufacturers will be outing 7-inch Windows 8 tablets initially -- and while no Windows 8 slate will even sniff the $200 price point of the best 7-inchers -- I'm still intrigued enough by the Windows 8 tablet experience, and especially the slick-looking, kickstand-rocking Microsoft Surface, to hold off on a tablet purchase for another month.


If you are 100 percent committed, no matter what, to a 7-inch tablet like the Kindle Fire HD or NOOK HD, buying today versus buying 30 days from today won't make any difference: You're not going to see any difference in price between now and then, and if your soul is resolute, then go ahead and buy.

But if you are an undecided shopper -- still weighing the pros and cons of different candidates -- then it's best to wait until early November to pledge yourself one way or another. If you hold off for just a month, you'll have more options, with more operating systems; you'll see cheaper tablets on the secondary marketplace; and you'll be able to try one of the best 7-inch tablets in stores, too (Barnes & Noble's NOOK HD, though available now for pre-order, does not come out until early November).

There should be much more news about 7-inch tablets -- especially from that company in Cupertino -- in the coming month. Until then: Sit tight, Tablet Shopper. November will be here before you know it.

How To Throw A Party Staffed Entirely By Robots

Jason Gilbert   |   October 3, 2012   11:59 AM ET

If you're planning a big party in the near future -- a wedding reception, perhaps, or a Bar Mitzvah, or an inauguration gala -- you're probably spending a lot of money on staff to make sure everything runs smoothly. Between catering, waiters, and decoration, you've got a lot of dough riding on a lot of different people.

Well we here at HuffPost Tech had to ask: Why waste all that cash on a staff of humans -- who are prone to error, unsightliness, automobile breakdowns on the way to the venue, and other various fallibilities -- when you could instead get all the labor you need from a staff composed entirely of efficient, unerring robots?

Below, check out all the new, exciting 'bots that you could hire for your upcoming birthday bash, baby shower, or toga-foam party (we won't judge!), and how a robot or two could get your next set of festivities running smoothly:

Jason Gilbert   |   September 25, 2012    3:16 PM ET

If you have purchased a new iPhone, and you've set it up just the way we told you to, then you're probably ready to load that baby up with apps. And while there are over 500,000 apps available in the store, we don't recommend downloading all of them.

Instead, try out these 19 free apps for size: They are what we consider the essentials, the staples of the iPhone app universe, the ones we don't like to imagine our iPhones without. (Sorry, no games here, but, uh, while your boss isn't looking you should take a peek at Angry Birds, Bag It! and The Creeps).

And now: Back to work. Check our our 19 favorite free apps for the iPhone below, then tell us what we missed and what apps you can't live without. Leave your thoughts in the comments, tweet them at us (@HuffPostTech) or email us (