The freeKEY wireless keyboard from Scosche sells for $60, is made of flexible silicone, is water-resistant and can fit in a tech-savvy traveler's pocket.
Someday, say the evangelists at Apple and elsewhere, your smartphone will be so intelligent, it will be the only technology you need to carry when you travel.
That day is not here. But that’s OK because for those seeking better sound, hoping to shoot photos (not snapshots) or frustrated by virtual keyboards (Damn you, autocorrect!), this season offers up a slew of cool products that pack form and function into compact, travel-friendly packages:
Use your phone to make calls, watch videos and stream music and, sure enough, it’ll die when you need it most. Introduced in September, Smart Geek Products’ MyBlueBoost ($40–$50) is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack that provides up to 16 hours of on-the-go backup power for a variety of phones, mp3 players and other handheld devices. Fully charged, the unit itself will hold power for up to six months.
Dock and rock
There are plenty of portable speakers out there but most require batteries or an AC outlet. The new Soma Travel ($50) from XtremeMac needs neither as it’s powered by your docked iPhone, iPod or iPad. Introduced in November, it will work with devices when they’re in their cases, features a push-in/pull-out dock connector for protection during transport and was recently named a Design and Engineering Showcase honoree for CES 2012.
Virtual keyboard on your phone or tablet making a mockery of your typing skills? The freeKEY wireless keyboard ($60) from Scosche is a near-full-sized Bluetooth keyboard that provides a practical, tactile alternative. Made of flexible silicone, it’s water-resistant, works with a wide variety of devices and, best of all, rolls up to fit in a pocket or purse.
No more tangles
Multiple devices + multiple cables + multiple adapters = one big rat’s nest in your bag. AViiQ’s Portable Charging Station ($80) resolves the problem by creating a central hub that can charge three USB devices at once, plus sync a fourth, off a single AC plug. Weighing less than a pound, it provides up to 15W of power — more than enough to charge an iPad — and comes in a flat zippered bag for easy organization.
No strings attached
Tangled earbud wires tying you in knots? That’s not a problem with the Freedom Bluetooth Headphones ($99) from Jaybird. With their tangle-free, ear-to-ear cord and push-button controls, the work- and workout-friendly buds let you wirelessly control volume, answer or reject calls and manage your music without touching your phone or mp3 player. A carrying case and three sets of secure-fit ear cushions are included.
Not quite ready to drop $500–$700 on an iPad 2 for the little techie on your gift list? The hottest tech gift for kids this season is the LeapPad Explorer, a five-inch, touch-screen device that works as a camera, e-reader and app library. Originally priced at $99, the device is proving so popular that retailers are charging whatever they can get away with; check NowInStock.net to see who currently has it in stock.
Good Joe to go
Friends don’t let friends drink bad coffee, which is why caffeinated travelers will appreciate the Handpresso Wild portable espresso maker ($129) from Magellan’s. To use it, you simply pump the handle to create the right pressure, add an Easy Serve Espresso (ESE) pod or your own personal grind and fill the reservoir with 1.5 ounces of hot water. Push the start button and, voilà, you’ve got a tasty alternative to that dreck in the Mr. Coffee machine in your hotel room.
The big picture
With its 16-megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom and Carl Zeiss lens, Sony's Cyber-shot WX9 packs a lot of power in a small space. Add Intelligent Sweep Panorama, which lets you stitch multiple images into extra-wide vistas, and full HD 1080p video and it would be a great gift at $200. Order now, though, and they’ll throw in a carrying case and 4 GB memory card, all for $150.
And ... action!
Even amateur videographers can elevate their vacation videos with Olympus’ LS-20M HD video recorder ($299). Weighing less than six ounces, the smartphone-sized unit shoots 1080p HD video, features a 4x digital zoom and records with better-than-CD sound. Four Magic Movie modes let you add special effects — think groovy ‘80s rock videos from a-ha and Golden Earring — while HD video compression makes it easy to upload the result to Facebook or YouTube.
Time for style
Oh sure, your phone automatically adjusts when you move between time zones but for stylish travelers, a good wristwatch is still required gear. Citizen’s Perpetual Chrono A-T ($575) is radio-controlled in five time zones — Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, New York and London — and is solar-powered so it never needs a battery. Available in titanium and stainless steel, it’s also water-resistant to 200 meters. Go ahead, try that with your iPhone.
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- Airplane geek? Buy a piece of the plane
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.