In Pictures: 15 coolest gadgets at Macworld/iWorld Expo
The Macworld | iWorld Expo in San Francisco is an Apple lover's Disneyland. Ashton Kutcher kicked things off by plugging his movie "iJobs," but the main attraction is the showroom floor where vendors display their wares, everything from iPad and iPhone add-ons to iOS apps to Apple enterprise gear.
By now, you've probably heard that water is Public Enemy No. 1 for the iPhone. Many iPhones have been ruined by washing machines, swimming pools and other watery graves. Seidio, though, offers one of the few waterproof iPhone cases (don't be fooled by "water resistant" cases). This level of protection doesn't come cheap. Cost: $79.95.
It's called the Padcaster, a mobile production studio with the iPad at the center of it. The Padcaster is basically an aluminum frame for the iPad that lets you attach a tripod or shoulder mount, camera lens, lights, microphone, and other cool stuff. Basic model cost: $199.
Last summer, Lantronix came out with a pretty cool rectangular box roughly the size of an iPhone – one that solved a major headache for iPhone and iPad customers. The xPrintServer is a kind of translator that sits wirelessly between your iPhone-iPad and an old printer. Now you can print from the iPhone-iPad without having to buy a separate AirPrint printer. Cost: $199 for office edition, $99 for home edition.
Lots of companies want to outfit field personnel with iPads, but worry about breakage. The iKey StreetCase just might be the answer they're looking for. It's a ruggedized case with a Bluetooth keyboard perfect for dirty construction sites, police patrol cars, and other rough environments. The case allows for swapping iPads in and out. Cost: $495.
A lot has been made about smartphone and tablet battery life, and rightly so. Used moderately, the iPhone and iPad have a tough time making it through the day. While battery packs have been available for a while, the HyperJuice Plug is a simple way to keep your devices charged while on the go. They come in neat colors, too. Starting cost: $129.95.
Anthro's iPad Charging Cabinet
If you haven't heard yet, the iPad has been making its way into companies and classrooms. Students check in iPads at the beginning of the day, use them at various classes, and then return them before heading out the door. The school's IT manager needs to sync and recharge them in an efficient manner. Enter Anthro's 40-tablet charging cabinet. Cost: $1,499.
The musician is ripping tunes on a Godin guitar that's connected to a nearby MacBook. In turn, software records the music live, without any noticeable lag. He says it's the only guitar with built-in components to connect wirelessly and integrate with the software. Then he strolls off a ways, still playing music, still showing up on the MacBook. Software and guitar cost: $995.
HP showed off a new color printer for iPads and iPhones coming to market soon, the HP Officejet Pro. It'll be targeted at education and small businesses. HP also came out with Live Photo, an augmented reality app. Here's how it works: An HP iPad or iPhone app looks at a specially printed picture via the camera, and that picture turns into a video on the iPad or iPhone screen. Hidden videos on printed documents sound like something out of a James Bond movie. HP Officejet Pro cost: sub-$1,000.
Riding on the BART train to San Francisco, I saw a dozen people with iPhones -- a third of them had shattered screens. It's a big problem, especially with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, which have glass on both the front and back. But a solution is on the Macworld | iWorld show floor, called Nitro Glass. It's a tempered glass screen protector that's hammer tested; salespeople were banging iPhones on the table with no ill effects. Cost: $40.
The iPhone has emerged as a go-to camera even for professionals, including photo journalists at the New York Times. That's because it's always within hand's reach. But it would be nice to have the option to attach a wide angle, fisheye or telephoto lens. The iPro Lens does just that, enabling iPhone users to take professional-grade photos. Lens range from $79 to $105.
On the Macworld | iWorld show floor, a bunch of booths offered stylus pens for the iPhone and iPad, whereas only one did so last year, as I recall. While I don't use a stylus, the Hand Stylus did catch my eye. Not only am I attracted to bright colors, the retracting and replaceable tip seems like it would come in, um, handy. Cost: $30.
One of the geekiest gadgets on the show floor is the Mauz, a small piece of hardware that plugs into the iPhone connector. Now here's where it gets tricky: The Mauz uses the iPhone's front camera, proximity sensor, motion accelerator and Wi-Fi connection to turn the iPhone into a hand-held computer mouse much like a Nintendo Wii controller. You can also wave your hand over the iPhone and Mauz to scroll through PowerPoint slides and perform other functions. Mauz is expected to come to market in June. Cost: $70.
Macworld | iWorld Apparel
My favorite cheap item is a shirt that reads: "I live in an iWorld." There is double meaning in the message that's fitting for a generation fixated on itself. The amount of self-absorption taking place on Facebook, Twitter and mobile technology these days would make even a Narcissus blush. Cost: $18.
Sitting on a chair with the iPad propped up on your lap or lying in bed with the iPad held in your hand can get a little tiresome. Try reading a novel this way for any length of time, and you'll know what I mean. So when I ran across the iRest iPad stand at Macworld | iWorld I tested it out. Brilliant. Cost: $49.90.
Beer lovers with iPhones unite! What you need is the Intoxicase to enhance your favorite pastime. Intoxicase is a system that includes: a sleek iPhone case with a built-in beer bottle opener and an app that does all kinds of cool things. For instance, it detects when the bottle opener is used and makes sound effects, creates a beer log, counts the number of beers and records the time, estimates your blood alcohol level, makes it easy to call a cab, and more. Cost: $25.