What's Hot in Tech - November 23
Unlock your laptop with a knock-knock of your phone
The Knock to Unlock app for Mac and iPhone allows users to knock twice on their iPhone to login to their locked Mac computer. The apps use Bluetooth low energy for a constant connection to your iPhone. The Mac app is free while the iPhone app is $3.99 in the App Store, a small price to pay to support cool tech and for a little enjoyment each time you unlock your computer.
Google Search app updated with notifications, "hotword" feature
The Google Search app for iOS received an update to its Google Now feature which presents information when you need it including directions for your commute, weather conditions, sports scores, nearby attractions, and more. Previously, iOS users had to open the app for such information but version 3.1 includes notifications to alert users when it's time to leave for work based on traffic conditions or if your flight is delayed. The app update also includes Google's "hotword" feature, hands-free search activated by opening the app and simply saying, "Ok, Google". The app then listens for voice input to execute a search and can even read back answers to your query.
Coin, one card to pay them all, launches fundraising for initial launch
Coin aims to solve the [niche] problem of carrying multiple credit and debit cards by packing them into a single smart card. Using the accompanying smartphone app, users swipe existing credit and debit cards to store them on the Coin card which is packed with a small computer. When ready to pay, you select the card you want to use by pressing a button on the Coin card. Not just another credit card, Coin includes Bluetooth to connect with the smartphone app and alert you if you leave your card behind. Coin is currently funding its first batch of manufacturing by offering $50 preorders* with an expected delivery in summer 2014. Once funding is complete, Coin will go on sale for $100 making the preorder opportunity ever more enticing. Watch the video above for an entertaining rundown.
Tweet a cup of coffee to a friend
Starbucks launched an experimental program on Twitter allowing people to send a drink to another Twitter user by simply sending a tweet. Gift givers connect their Starbucks and Twitter accounts and can then tweet at @tweetacoffee with the recipient's @handle. Recipients follow a provided link to a $5 eGift which can be redeemed in-store.
Saving articles for reading later gets smarter with Pocket 5.0
Pocket, my favorite app for saving and reading articles later, updated their app to focus on surfacing the most interesting articles out of the lot you've saved. In an age of digital hoarding, it helps to have curated suggestions on what to read even from a collection of articles you've built yourself. If you're like me, your list of saved articles outpaces your consumption rate. Pocket has apps for iPhone/iPad, Android, Mac, Windows phone, and more. They even have extensions for Google Chrome and other browsers to make saving articles easy.
A photo app just for selfies, endorsed by Justin Bieber
Shots of Me is a new, niche app focused on selfies—photos one takes of themselves. The app's launch has been of particular interest given that Justin Bieber led their initial round of investment. Of course, I'm experimenting on the platform so come join me.
Twitter places emphasis on photos and videos
In an effort to increase engagement with content and provide a richer experience, Twitter has started displaying all photos and videos within users' timelines. Previously users had to expand a tweet to view the photo or video within. Brands on Twitter are already seeing higher rates of replies, retweets, and favorites for tweets containing visual material, a sign Twitter has made a positive move despite initial backlash from users.
Nike launches activity app for free fitness tracking
Nike released its activity tracking app, Nike+ Move, a day early for iPhone 5s users. The app requires an iPhone 5s to take advantage of its M7 motion co-processor, a piece of technology inside the latest Apple smartphone for tracking movement without draining battery. The app converts movement statistics into Fuel points to provide a sense of how active you are each day, integrating with the Nike+ ecosystem. The Move app is a free alternative to Nike's FuelBand which saw an upgrade earlier this month.
Twitter updates apps with search filters and insight on trending topics
Twitter updated its mobile apps to further focus on searching and discovering content on its platform. The search feature now includes filter options to see only photos, videos, news, or people as well as the choice to look at "top tweets" or "all tweets" matching a search. The app's trending topics section now includes events nearby and popular television shows as Twitter continues to push into the TV space.
Airbnb app reinvented for iOS 7, and it's beautiful
- Airlines—including United, Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest—finally allow passengers to use electronics during takeoff and landing.
- Amazon now delivers packages to its Prime members on Sundays in LA and NYC thanks to a contract with the USPS. Dallas, New Orleans, Houston, and Phoenix will be included in early 2014.
- Apple finally launched an iPad version of it's Apple Store app with beautiful images and use of gestures.
- Medium, the blogging platform from one of Twitter's co-founders, opened access to all (previously invites were required).
- Twitter launched a new feature called custom timelines which I decided to elaborate on a bit last week.
- UnderArmour has acquired workout app MapMyFitness as the athletic company inches closer toward full-on competition with Nike and its Nike+ products.
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As a tech enthusiast, early adopter, and avid reader, I come across a lot of gadgets, apps, websites, and more. Few things excite me more than sharing and discussing these finds with others. Follow me on Twitter where I share even more tech news and trends.
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