Booking.com Launches Booking Now App

Booking.com logoI was somewhat surprised to learn that 50% of travel bookings made within 48 hours of departure are booked on a mobile device. On reflection, it’s perhaps not that surprising, given that the spontaneous decision to travel is likely to be followed up immediately, rather than waiting to get home to get the laptop out.

It’s with this opportunity in mind that accommodation site Booking.com has launched Booking Now, an instant booking app that can get a place to stay in as little as two taps. After a successful launch in the US and Canada, the app is now available in the UK for iOS devices with an Android version to follow. The app’s built-in intelligence, along with GPS, helps it choose the best properties based on your preferences from over 600,000 properties in 70,000 destinations.

Booking Now - Booking.com UK imageWith the launch of Booking Now, we’re increasing our investment in mobile by leveraging our global scale, assets and partnerships to accommodate the growing number of customers who are booking reservations within two days or less of their stay,” said Darren Huston, Chief Executive Officer of Booking.com. “The new app puts users at the centre of the booking experience, drawing from our vast database of properties to meet their specific preferences at the very moment they need to book. Booking Now is designed to deliver a seamless mobile experience for spontaneous consumers, fitting perfectly into their multi-device, on-demand lifestyle.

Booking Now personalises real-time search results based on the traveller profile created by each user when they first start to use the app. The profile indicates specific accommodation preferences, such as budget and options like parking, included breakfast and wifi. Users are then presented with the most relevant accommodation available based on profile and location. The traveller can then modify their choice of accommodation to suit their itinerary and the places that they want to see. With Booking Now’s predictive analytics, the more frequently customers use the app, the more personalised their recommended matches become. Additionally, as user’s swipe through the app, they can pin their top hotel choice to the map so they can see where the hotel is relative to their location or other attractions.

The Booking Now app can be downloaded from the relevant app stores – iOS only for now with Android coming soon.

If only I had more time and more money to be spontaneous!

Element Case Turns Your iPhone Into A Pro Camera At CES

Element case poster

There’s no doubt that smartphone cameras have improved immensely in the past few years, but they still haven’t reached the quality of a DSLR. Element Case is partnering with optics company Schneider to transform your iPhone 6 into a photography star.

Jamie spoke to Jeff Sasaki, CEO of Element Case, about Element’s new iPro 6 lens case. The sturdy case protects your phone, and the attachable lenses securely fasten to the case to drastically improve the quality of your iPhone’s camera. The range of interchangeable lenses includes wide-angle, super-wide-angle, macro, fisheye, and telephoto so you can create the perfect image every time. And with the ability to attach a handle and/or tripod, iPhone photography has never been better.

The iPro 6 case and lenses will be released Q2 of 2015 with prices between $100-$300 depending on your chosen lens configuration. For more details, check out the Element Case website.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly.

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iStabilizer Selfie Stick at CES

iStabilizer LogoThe OED named “selfie” as the word of the year for 2013 and since then it’s been embedded in the zeitgeist. In turn, the selfie stick became one of Time’s inventions of 2014 providing greater depth and spatial awareness for the inclusive snapper. In short, they’re great fun and you get more in the picture. Marlo talks with Noah Rasheta from iStabilizer about their new monopod aka selfie stick.

iStabilizer have a range of gadgets to mount, hold or otherwise position smartphones, tablets and action cams. The new version of their selfie stick makes life especially easy for selfie takers with a universal smartphone mount at one end and a Bluetooth button at the other end of the stick to press the shutter in the camera app. The stick works with both Apple and Android smartphones – there’s another button on the handle to switch between the different types. Overall, it couldn’t get any easier: put smartphone in mount, hold stick to get the best picture, smile and snap.

Interview by Marlo Anderson of The Tech Ranch for the TechPodcast Network.

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On3 PowerCliq Smart Battery Case

PowerCliq LogoCombo battery cases for the Apple iPhone are commonplace from no-name clones to well-known manufacturers whose brand is almost synonymous with the product. On the other hand, combined case, battery and Bluetooth headset packs with smart battery management are really quite rare. In fact, On3‘s PowerCliq is the only one I know of, so watch Don get a hands-on demo from Brad Yasar of On3.

The PowerCliq is a 2700 mAh battery case for the iPhone which has two additional features. The first is a Bluetooth 4.0 headset that slides into the back of the case for both storage and charging. The second is that the charging features of the external battery can be controlled by app on the iPhone. When plugged in, most battery packs simply charge until the smartphone is fully charged and then keep it topped up; there are some schools of thought that suggest this can be detrimental to the long-term performance of the battery.

On the PowerCliq, the app can be used to set a minimum battery level such that the recharging doesn’t kick in until the iPhone’s battery falls to that level and once fully charged, turns off. This larger discharge / charge cycle is supposed to improve the life of the battery.

The PowerCliq is fundraising on Kickstarter with early birds getting in at $88.  Update: since CES, the Kickstarter campaign has been cancelled. There’s a note on Instagram saying that this is to allow for new developments and the campaign will restart soon.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor for the TechPodcast Network.

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Schneider Optics Interchangeable Lenses

Schneider LogoDigital pictures and cameras on smartphones have changed the photography beyond recognition in the last twenty years and the quality of the imagery is such that innovative filmmakers are using iPhones to record footage. One restriction remains and that is the lens itself; there’s only one and it’s fixed in place. There’s no swapping in a macro lens, though Schneider Optics might have a solution. Todd finds out more from Don.

Schneider Optics iPro Lens systems provides a selection of high quality optical lenses for Apple iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy S4, including macro, wide-angle, super wide, tele and fisheye. The system works by fitting the smartphone itself into a case and then mounting the lens onto the case with a bayonet connector to ensure the best possible optical alignment. The smallest offset can lead to aberrations and a loss of picture quality, which the iPro Lens case and lens combination avoids.

The iPro Lens is available now for the Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5/5S. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus variant will be on sale shortly. Lenses cost from $39 to $99, the case is $31 and there are kits available too.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Floome Smartphone Breathalyser at CES

2045 TechIt’s best not to drink alcohol at all before driving as even small amounts of alcohol can impair your judgement. However, if you need to check your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), then the Floome smartphone breathalyser from 2045 Tech can help you determine if it’s legal to drive. Fabio Penzo CEO shows Todd that he’s sober.

Floome is a small palm-sized device that plugs into the earphone jack of a smartphone. The owner breathes into Floome which analyses the alcohol concentration and passes the data to the Floome app on the smartphone. The phone then shows the BAC on the screen along with a green or red indicator. The app has other features such as showing the location of the nearest taxi firm or it can send “come and get me” messages with the alcohol level superimposed on a selfie.

The Floome will be launching in Italy for 49 euros and will come to USA in a few months.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Peri Duo Speaker Case for iPhone

Peri Logo

When it comes to smartphones and tablets, there are few mobile devices that produce anything like a decent volume and as for stereo separation, forget it. Fortunately Peri can come to the aid of iPhone owners with the Peri Duo, a high-power wireless speaker and phone charger case. Todd and Jamie find out more from Cedric Sumimoto, co-founder of Peri.

The Peri Duo is a standalone wi-fi and bluetooth-enabled speaker and iPhone charger case all in one. As expected, music can be streamed via AirPlay but the iPhone doesn’t have to be in the case when playing the music, so the Duo speaker can be on the opposite side of the room while the iPhone is safely in a pocket. Even better, more than one Duo can be connected to a phone so one Duo can be assigned as the left speaker and one as the right. Alternatively, one phone can multicast to dozens of Peri Duos, which really gets the party going.

The battery is 2500 mAh which will fully recharge an iPhone once with a bit over, or else the Duo will play music for around 4 hours.

The Peri Duo will be available for the iPhone 5, 5s, 6 and iPod Touch. The MSRP will be $139 though it’s currently on pre-order at $99 via Indigogo. Deliveries are expected from April onwards.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Ventev Battery Packs and Accessories at CES

Ventev LogoAlthough there have been great improvements in battery technology, the bigger screens, thinner devices and faster processors mean that I still have to watch my smartphone’s battery level. USB power packs go someway in alleviating battery anxiety and Marlo chats to Scott Franklin of Ventev to see what they can offer the charge concerned.

Ventev offer a selection of mobile accessories including battery packs and cables with some specifically aimed at Apple owners with Lightning connector. On show in the video are battery packs with combinations of built-in wall chargers, capacity and intergrated cables. With prices from $39.99 up to $99.99, there’s a pack for every situation and price.

Interview by Marlo Anderson of The Tech Ranch. Note that the early part of the interview is missing.

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Ion Audio Gets The Party Going at CES 2015

Ion Sound Experience

The great thing about Ion Audio is that they concentrate on fun audio products: seriously, who else puts a speaker in plant pot? At CES, Ion has continued in the tradition of fun with two products for two very different environments. Todd listens in with Wendy Fortin, Ion Product Manager.

First up is the Block Party Live, a 50W PA speaker on luggage wheels complete with light show. No really, there’s a light dome on top that projects coloured lights. Music can be streamed via Bluetooth and there’s an Apple and Android app to control the lights. Available now for $199.

Coming inside, the Sound Shine are wireless stereo speakers with built-in LED lighting. Screwed into a standard lamp holder the two speakers can either work as independent mono speakers or can be paired up for stereo sound. As with the Block Party, music is streamed via Bluetooth and both the music and light output can be controlled via an app for both Android and Apple devices. Available in Q1, $69 buys a single lamp and $129 gets a pair.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Patriot Launches MFi Certified FUEL iON Charging Case

Patriot FUEL iON Charging Case. jpgPatriot released the FUEL iON Charging Case for the iPhone 6. It is a MFi certified case to make charging the iPhone 6 “unconsciously addicting and easy”.

The FUEL iON Charging Case for the iPhone 6 offers consumers a simple charging solution that uses patent-pending magnetic connectors to charge the phone without the use of a plug-in cord, eliminating wear and tear on the Lighting connector and increasing the longevity of the device. The case has been designed with an elevated bezel to prevent scratches.

Patriot FUEL iON Charging StandsConsumers can choose from three different charging bases. The FUEL iON Charging Stand is ideal for the office with an ergonomic angle for viewing your phone while charging. The snap to position rotational access allows the user to manipulate the phone from vertical to horizontal positions.

The FUEL iON Car Charger installs on any windshield and can mount and rotate your phone. It is optimal for GPS use. The FUEL iON Charging Pad allows you to simply lay your phone at any angle on it to charge. It is perfect for nightstand charging.

In addition to the iPhone 6 Charging Case, Patriot offers FUEL iON cases for the iPhone 5/5, Samsung Galaxy S4/5, and the Samsung Note 3. For those that are on-the-go, Patriot also has a 2100mAh magnetic portable battery that connects to the back of the phone and provides a full charge without the restrictions of connecting to a cord.