Girlfriend’s Guide

There were an estimated 20,000 new gadgets on display at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. Some are the very devices we’ll fork over fistfuls when they hit store shelves later this year. Others provide an exciting glimpse of wildly futuristic new concepts to come.

And then, there’s the rest of it.

Here are some of the oddest and awesom-est gadgets I went hands-on with this year.


Toyota Yui Concept

Remember Nightrider’s Kitt car? That’s what it was like taking Toyota’s crazy new Concept-i Yui car for a virtual spin. Hands-down the coolest experience of the show for me, this ultra-futuristic auto read my emotions through camera sensors, monitored everything around us, and slammed on the breaks long before I even realized that a woman stepped off the curb in front of us. It even said “Hello!” to passersby or “Watch out!” to people tailing a little too close. When we hit an open stretch of highway, the seat reclined and small rollers built-in to the backrest gave me a massage. Toyota says Yui is what driving will be like in 2030, but I’m hoping it’s even sooner than that. A car that pampers you? Yes please!

Kino-Mo Hypervsn

Kino-mo had me hooked at first glance with its floating 3D “holographic” Pikachu. This London-based company drew some of the biggest crowds in the Eureka Park startup area, and for good reason: The incredibly colorful and realistic looking displays of everything from fast food to famous entrepreneur Mark Cuban made us all believe that holograms are finally here! While not technically an actual hologram, these 3D visuals float and move in mid-air just like the real thing, using a patented combo of high speed fans, magnets, LED’s and projectors. They’re used in advertising for now, so we can only hope to have them in our homes soon too.

Parihug Plushies

I miss my family like crazy whenever I’m away from home like I was all week for CES, and that’s where a little stuffed animal called Pari comes in. No matter where you happen to be in the world, give your Pari a squeeze and it sends a “hug” to a connected companion plushie for your loved one to receive. The hugs range from mild short vibrations to longer, stronger, more intense haptic feedback “embraces.” No two human hugs are the same, and neither are hugs from Parihug — they vary in intensity and duration just like the real deal. I’ll stick with a Facetime call for now, but Parihug is undeniably adorable.

Aluma Connect

On a more serious note, smartphones are safety gadgets for millions of us every day, but in a personal emergency they’re not always as helpful as they could be. Aluma Connect showcased a credit card-sized security device that attaches to the back of your phone and sync with a special app, creating a super-powered safety net. There’s a silent alarm button built in that sends notifications to your friends and family as well as an audible siren to deter attackers. The battery provides a full year of protection on a single charge. You can sign up on the company’s website for an alert when the price and launch date are revealed. I’m ordering one for myself, my daughter, and my mom right away!

In&motion Wearable Airbags

When In&motion strapped its wearable airbag vest on me I didn’t know what to expect. Then, with a tap of a smartphone, it instantly inflated with giant whoosh and great big bang. It scared the bejeezus out of me — and everyone on the showroom floor. But if I was taking a tumble down a snowy ski hill or getting bucked off an angry horse, it’s the exact right thing to protect my torso and keep my upper body intact! In&motion makes these for motorcyclists, horseback riders, and extreme sports enthusiasts, and it’s sending its first 500 vests to eager testers soon — for free.

Wair pollution scarf

Fashion statement or funky air filter, aw hell, why not make a gadget that’s both? That’s exactly what French company Wair did with a high-tech scarf that aims to protect you from air pollution. On a clear day, just wrap the silky accessory around your neck and shoulders and look all spiffy as you go about your business. The scarf constantly measures the quality of ambient air and sends an alert to your smartphone when it’s time to cover up. If that happens, you just pull the scarf over your nose and mouth, and let the built-in fan and air-filtration system do its thing. As weird as this sounds, I could actually see using it in big cities around the world — especially if I commite by bike.

Spartan undies

Yes, “booth babes” are still a thing. But the scantily-clad models in their skivvies at Spartan Underwear’s corner of CES looked a whole lot different than the rest of the show…because they were dudes. The guys were showing off undies that protect “down undy” from the radiation created by smartphones and wifi antennas. Spartan says its boxer-briefs have silver fibers weaved into the cotton that block nearly 100% of wireless radiation from being absorbed. Since science still hasn’t decided if those waves are harmful or not, keeping them away from the baby-making body parts could very well be a “better safe than sorry” move. Guys can pick up Spartan boxers right now, starting at $45.


Spinali Smart Shorts

The “booth babes” at fashion company Spinali’s CES showcase weren’t just there as eye candy either, they were wearing smart Daisy-Duke’that actually vibrate to give you directions. The weird wearable syncs with your phone and nudges one side of your waist or the other to tell you where and when to turn. It’s a bizarre way to find your way around a city, especially if you have your phone with you anyway. Spinali doesn’t have a launch date yet, but it’s already got full-length smart jeans for sale, so it probably won’t be long before the short-shorts also hit the shelves too.

Smartcane by Dring

Seniors have been forgotten by the “smart” tech revolution for way too long, and now they’re getting some attention with the Smartcane. But before you roll your eyes, don’t worry: this cane doesn’t play Spotify or flash like a disco ball, it’s actually a really helpful tool for caregivers to monitor the activity of their elderly clients, and it can even send alerts to family or friends if it falls over, which could signal potential problems. There’s no release date or price yet, but you can sign up for updates on the company’s website.

Roli Blocks

Every year I look at my bucket list and see “learn to play an instrument,” and every year I forget to find the time. Roli’s Blocks are the first gadget I’ve seen that lets you play music even if you have no idea how. It’s a mini modular music studio that gives beginners a huge jump start so that you can playing right away. Just connect the Roli Blocks to your iPhone via Bluetooth and customize the LED lighted touchpads with whatever combinations of sounds you want. When I tapped a few times, actual music came out — and it didn’t sound like a dying chicken. I was in awe. You can buy Roli Blocks now online or in Apple Stores, starting at $179.95.



Posted in Connected Kids, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, In The Press, TechNow, TechStyled, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, What The Tech

The old days where gadgets were only on a couple of your holiday wish lists is long gone. This year, everyone and their grandma — no, seriously, even grandma — has something techy and gadget-ish in mind. Here are 12 ideas to get you started (or maybe even finished) with something perfect for every member of your family.


LeapFrog LeapStart: The LeapFrog LeapStart checks off all the boxes when it comes to giving young ones a gift that’s as engaging and fun — as it is educational. The new LeapStart is a high-tech, skill-based, super fun learning system where kids solve fun puzzles and play interactive games. You slide the activity books into the battery-powered LeapStart folder and your kids command the easy-to-grasp stylus while they fall in love with the cute characters and rewarding problem solving. Each activity book is packed with more than 30 different challenges and games, so it’s downright impossible for them to get bored. LeapStart comes in two versions, one for kids 2-4 ($29.99) and one for ages 5-7 ($29.99). Extra activity books are $9.99.

Skylanders Imaginators

I’ve recommended Skylanders games in the past for their lighthearted action and hilarious stories, but this year the developers at Activision really went all-out: Now your kids can actually create Skylanders characters of their very own, and play with them in the game! In the new game, Skylanders Imaginators ($59.99), kids create a custom Skylander that gets stored on a special “Creation Crystal,” so they can even take their character to friends houses and play in their games, too. It’s a super cool idea that draws on your child’s creativity and really makes them feel like they’re in the game. Ages 10 and up.

Anki Cozmo

I just can’t get enough of this adorable little robot, and if it can enamor me, you and your kids are going to absolutely fall in love. Cozmo ($179.99) is smaller than a baseball but has more personality than any toy you’ve ever seen before. He’s just a little robot, but he’s packed with smarts and can recognize faces, scurry around your tabletop, and play games with everyone in your home. Your kids will use his cute little “Power Cubes” to construct puzzles and challenges for him, and when he looks up at you and says your name, you’ll just plain melt. Ages 8 and up.


 Lenovo Yoga Book

It’s a laptop, it’s a tablet, it’s — okay, it’s not a superhero, but the Lenovo Yoga Book ($499) will definitely make your teen feel like one. This thing does it all: It’s a canvas for digital art, an internet-browsing rockstar, and an all-in-one media center. Your kid will go from jotting down notes with the stylus and typing school papers to playing games and using apps on the gorgeous 10-inch HD display. They’ll do all of that on the same machine, without ending up with a dead battery. It’s so cool, you might find yourself “borrowing” it while they’re at class.

 Galaxy Gear VR

Let me guess: Your teenager wants a new phone for Christmas, and also a VR headset. Of course they do! But before you torch your credit card just to see them smile, believe it or not, you can actually get them both without breaking the bank. The Galaxy Gear VR ($99) is an impressive virtual reality device that uses any newer Galaxy phone (starting with the S6 and newer) as its display. You just snap the phone into place and boot up some jaw-dropping VR apps, then when you’re done, the phone goes back to being a Snapchat and messaging machine. You can pick one up for a fraction of the cost of a full-on VR headset like the Oculus Rift, and your gotta-have-it teen will be so into the games and apps they won’t even know the difference.


 Honeywell Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat

If you didn’t think a thermostat could be cool, I don’t blame you. I kind of felt the same way before I saw Honeywell’s Lyric T5 Wi-Fi thermostat ($149.99). This super easy-to-use smart home accessory makes setting temperatures and schedules a breeze, and you can add geo-fences to customize how it heats or cools your home. It can even adapt itself based on your schedule, and save you big bucks when it knows you’re out of the house. It’s like have a little energy-saving assistant who tends to your temps, and it looks so, so cool.

Amazon Echo Dot

Add the power of AI to any room in your house with the Echo Dot ($49.99). The smaller, more affordable version of Amazon’s original Alexa assistant packs the same power, so you can search the web with your voice, play songs, audiobooks, and podcasts just by asking, and even order Domino’s pizza using Amazon’s quirky virtual gal.


Another gadget pulled from my favorite reviews from 2016, Navdy ($799.00) is a futuristic heads-up-display that pops into a mount on your dashboard, plugs into your car’s OBD port, syncs with your smartphone and projects messages, maps and apps right into your line of sight. All your important alerts appear to float above the road as you’re driving, so you never have to look down to catch a text or check your GPS. Super smart, and super safe!

Nikon D3400

The Nikon D3400 ($499.95) is an easy-to-use entry level DSLR camera, ideal for someone ready to step up their photography from their smartphone. Compact, lightweight and packed with powerful imaging technology, the D3400 offers a Guide Mode, which provides step-by-step assistance in capturing the perfect shot. Another consumer-friendly feature is Nikon SnapBridge — an app makes it easy to share amazing images instantly.

HP Sprocket

 How many times have you heard “Be sure to send me that photo!” at your holiday parties? Nobody ever remembers! HP’s Sprocket photo printer ($129.99) is like a photo sharing dream come true. No more jotting down email addresses and sending messy files, just print your photos right from your smartphone, with no ink and no headache. It connects via Bluetooth and it’s so small it can just hang out in your pocket or bag. It’s a must-have for every family photo buff.



 Your best furry friend will absolutely eat this one up. Furbo ($249.00) is a treat-shooting dog camera that lets you give your pooch a tasty snack even when you’re not at home. With the Furbo app you can see live video of pup and then just swipe the touchscreen to shoot a treat. You can keep an eye on your pet from anywhere, and you know they’ll love it too.



And finally, give yourself the gift of some peace of mind — and have an expert set up your family’s gadgets so you don’t have to. Enjoy is a service that sends professional tech experts to your home to help you set up new gadgets and answer any questions that might pop up. Products run the gamut, and include top name brand sound systems, cameras, computers, electric skateboards, smart phones and more, and it’ll save you some serious headache.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY’s digital video show TECH NOW. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.

Posted in Connected Kids, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, TechStyled, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, What The Tech

Some people live for the sites, sounds, and WWE-esque smackdowns of holiday shopping. I am not one of them. I would rather wait in line all day at the DMV on my birthday (and in my birthday suit even) than so much as touch a toe in a mall on Black Friday.

This year, my goal is buy every single present from my smartphone or laptop. No traffic. No crowds. No bad holiday music. Oh, and I also want to know I’m getting the best deals on everything. Of course.

For that — I  scoured the world over for the tips, tricks and genius insider secrets of the world’s smartest online shoppers. Here’s what I’ve learned in a handy top 10 list — sure to have us all #winning online shopping this Christmas and beyond!

#10. Just save money: Honey

Buzzfeed called this one the “Lazy Online Shopping Trick Actually Saves You A Ton Of Money.” I call it: Heaven. Honey is like a magic coupon robot that automatically fills in the best money-saving discount code for tons of online stores — including Amazon. Just download the web plug-in, shop like normal, and when you get to the checkout, Honey shows you if there’s a cheaper price somewhere else and/or stacks up coupon-codes galore. It’s brilliant — almost an embarrassment of riches!

My savings so far: $127 (across three gifts)

#9. Stalk your own inbox: Shopami

Do you have any idea how many Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals emails are already in your inbox? Neither did I, until I downloaded this absolutely genius little app that connected to my email accounts, and scanned for discounts or deals, gathered them together, and led me down the path to save, save, save.  So far, I’ve seen big bucks off for Puma, North Face, and M.A.C. cosmetics.

My savings so far: $28

#8. Just Google (shopping) it.

If you’re like me, and often start and end with Amazon for all your online shopping, it pays to check get into the Google Shopping groove too. According to price intelligence firm 360pi, Google Shopping featured lower prices last month for nearly 60% of Amazon’s 750 top-selling products.

My savings so far: none yet, because I just found out about this!

#7. Let the bots: Watch A Deal

Speaking of Amazon, it does have some amazing upcoming Lightning Deals. Those are the digital version of a Doorbuster, and can slice up to 90% of the price of holiday gifts. But the limited-time sales can be tough to catch. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can get a sneak-peek of the daily Lightning Deals a half-hour before they’re going to happen through the Amazon app. Also, Amazon Deals on Twitter brings every new price drop to your Twitter timeline the moment they happen! Set your Twitter notifications to make sure you see ‘em first!

My savings so far: about one hours of FOMO!

#6.  Get savings after the fact:  Paribus

This is another awesome email add-on, but this one scans your inbox in search of shopping receipts and order confirmations. When it finds one, it snatches it for the future, and compares the price you paid with any current promotions. If you paid too much, or if those snuggly toe socks you just bought go on sale next week, Paribus automatically contacts the store and gets you a refund. It’s free to sign up, but Paribus takes 25% of whatever refunds it manages to win for you, and you need to give it full access to your email account, which might be a deal-breaker if you’re ultra privacy conscious.

My savings so far: $21.48

#5. Good Ole’ PAYPAL:

PAYPAL brings the simple and safe to whatever you’re shopping for: purchase protection, more security, and one-tap payments are a dream come true. It’s like having a little accountant in your pocket — instantly check the status of your payments, plan your budget, and even track your purchases after they’ve shipped, all from within the app.

My savings so far: hours of time and loads of sanity!

#4. Beat ‘em at their own sneaky tricks: abandoned carts and online haggling

Last week I did this three times: Log in to an online store, add what you want to a shopping cart, then go do something else. More often than not, retailers will email you an extra coupon code to entice you back and close the deal. Same with online haggling. You know when the little pop-up window comes up and asks if you have any questions? Say yes, and ask for a discount. Same rules apply as if you were doing this in person: Be nice and be willing to walk away. At the very least, ask if they have any special promotions or if they can tell you when they’re going to happen.

My savings so far: $360 on two area rugs from West Elm!

#3. Personal robot shoppers: eBay (iOS, Android)

Why on earth would you need eBay for Black Friday? I’ll let you in on a little secret: Not all Black Friday “deals” are really deals at all. If a Black Friday price beats what eBay sellers are listing for, you know you’ve found an utterly fantastic discount. And if you’re stumped on what to get someone, eBay’s brand new ShopBot on Facebook Messenger can help. It’s an digital assistant that speaks in plain language, not computer-speak, and it’ll ask you some questions and then give you seriously great gift ideas. You don’t live in the Matrix, but you might feel like after asking a robot for advice.

My savings so far: hours of time and loads of sanity!

#2. Cyber-security team: FakeSpot

It can be seriously hard to spot scams these days, even for someone who spends every waking moment on a digital screen like yours truly, but FakeSpot is great at separating great products from the frauds. FakeSpot can scan any Amazon listing and instantly know if any of the reviews are fake. Don’t fall for that $19.99 Gucci bag with five star reviews, because FakeSpot will tell you it’s all a bunch of hogwash. It’s a must-have for dedicated Amazon shoppers, and a great security blanket when you’re trying to nab those low holiday prices.

My savings so far: loads of sanity and a potential security breach!

#1. Special deal-finding agents: Deal Squad

Is there anything better than having someone else find a deal for you? Deal Squad by RetailMeNot is literally — and I really mean literally — a site where real people will scour the web to find the best price on whatever gifts you have your eye on. Just slap the webpage into the Deal Squad tool and let their team of sales sleuths sniff out the best price. Most people save 24% or more, which is a huge chunk of change, and it’s even more impressive that it’s a totally free service. What?!

My savings so far: $223.30 (on this Samsung TV)

Go forth online shoppers and be safe out there!

With these weapons in your shopping arsenal, you’ll be able to conquer your gift lists faster than you can say “I hate checkout lines,” but remember to be smart out there. If you see a deal land in your email or flying by your timeline on Facebook that seems sketchy — especially if it’s from a site you don’t recognize or haven’t heard of before — remember that some deals really are too good to be true. Throwing your credit card number into strange places is a recipe for a holiday disaster, and you might be helping some thief put a down payment on their new yacht instead of scoring that cheap iPhone you thought you bought.

Happy deal hunting — and be sure to share your genius online shopping hacks in the comments section below!


Posted in Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, What The Tech

It’s that time of year again. And I have a million ideas for you, starting with some just all-out awesome stuff:

Lenovo Yoga Book: $499.99


Perfect for tweens, teens, on-the-go moms, and digital dads: this is the thinnest and lightest 2-in-1 hybrid notebook computer on the planet — and it comes packed with mad-skills.

  • It’s like the Ginsu knife of PC’s: it bends, it folds, it flips, it types, it draws, it plays, it glows.
  • This super-portable two-in-one laptop/tablet hybrid ditches a physical keyboard for a touch-sensitive surface that does double duty as a keyboard and digital sketchpad.
  • Available in both Windows 10 and Android versions.
  • Weighs just over 3-pounds. 10+ hour battery life.

This is the future of laptops!  Speaking of the future…

Samsung Gear VR $99


For the first time ever, this year’s holiday shopping lists are filled with requests for VR headset from kids and adults alike who want to give virtual reality a spin.

  • Samsung’s Gear VR is my top choice as the best way to dive-into other worlds right now because it’s inexpensive, high-quality, portable, and a really comfortable fit overall.
  • The Gear VR headset that works with newer model Samsung Galaxy smartphones like this S7 Edge. (Note 5 or newer.)
  • You just pop in the smartphone, put it on and see a completely new world that wasn’t there before, filled with things that can delight, scare, awe, thrill, educate, entertain, and just plain blow you away. It’s basically magic.
  • Kind of like going from black and white TV to color.

Navdy: From $67/mo. with 0% financing. (Or $799)


San Francisco based Navdy just released this futuristic heads-up-display that pops into a mount on your dashboard, plugs into your car’s OBD port, syncs with your smartphone and projects messages, maps and apps right into your line of sight – almost like it’s appearing on the road ahead of you.

  • Navdy also read your texts out loud and let you respond using Siri or Google Now.
  • Navdy Hand Gestures let you to accept a call or message with the simple wave of your hand. Swipe left to accept, swipe right to ignore.
  • The Navdy Dial also lets you scroll, zoom and navigate menus – all without ever taking your eyes off the road or hands off the wheel. It’s kind of like what fighter jet pilots use –  minus the missiles.

From a smart car to a smart home…

Honeywell Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat: $149


Crazy smart. Super simple. This new Honeywell Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat is an awesome addition – or great first step – toward a true smart home.

  • It works with Siri, Alexa, and adds geo-fences – so it knows when you leave and when you’re about to arrive back home and will adjust itself accordingly to save $$
  • You control it with an app on your smartphone – and can tailor it to your normal routine, or let it adapt to your life as plans change all on its own.
  • (And it looks really retro cool…)

Tile Slim & Mate Trackers $25-$100


This gadget is the saving grace for anyone who’s ever lost anything – like their wallet, keys, purse, laptop, smartphone, glasses, you name it!

  • These are brand new, super slim and more powerful than ever.
  • The Mate goes right onto a keychain, or your purse (I have it on my purse), a zipper, or backpack. You press the center button here and it syncs right to an app on your smartphone.
  • Tile Slim works the same way – this is the one I have in my wallet and on the back of my laptop. It’s the world’s thinnest Bluetooth tracker – as thin as two stacked credit cards.

Tile Mate: One Tile Mate costs $25 and a four-pack costs $70.

Tile Slim: One Tile Slim costs $30 and a four-pack costs $100.

Hasbro Joy For All Companion Pup: Robot Companion Pet Pup $120


Rounding out the best gadget list ever – a robot puppy. Sure, it looks like a toy, but this realistic “Joy for All Pup” has a big job: to bring companionship to anyone and everyone who needs it — minus the mess. Hi-tech built-in sensors and speakers make this little rascal respond to motion, touch, the sounds of your voice. The pup can run around, turn his head, and bark in response to your voice. Pet his back, and you’ll feel a heartbeat, too!

Read more about these and all of Jennifer’s top gadget gift guides in the Tech Now section of

Posted in Connected Kids, Cyber Safety, Gift Guide, Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, TechNow, Top tech news

It’s almost Halloween, and you have yet to pull together: A costume, plans, or even a shred of decent decor. In short, you’re losing at Halloween. Again. But if you can find five minutes to spare, you can get the magic of modern technology to do all the hard work for you.

Here are the top ten ways tech can help you not suck at Halloween this year.

10. Pinterest Halloween Hacker: Toss out that old sheet with two holes for eyes and play your hand at awesome instead. Open the app, pick a card and let the site randomly combine two words to upgrade “all the Halloween.” I scored “killer” + “cupcakes,” for a recipe both Martha Stewart and Morticia Addams would love.

Story from Nest

Step inside a burning building in virtual reality.

9. Trumpkins: All the rage in passionate pumpkin carving this year, thanks to social media, where you can download directions for how to turn a big orange squash into a big orange presidential candidate. “Howl-Ary” Clinton pumpkin carving is a thing too, though not trending quite as high in overall Halloween hilarity.

8. KegWorks Pumpkin Tap Kit: If you can’t carve it, you might as drink it. This tap kit turns a plain old pumpkin into a super cool temporary keg, and it actually works! Just gut the pumpkin, securely install the tap hardware, and fill it with your favorite brew.

7. Zombie Booth 2: Because who doesn’t love a good sequel?!  This awesome app transforms that sweet selfie of yours into the animated undead. You can even choose from more than 200,000 ghastly variations and add a whole host of effects like growling and even snapping at your finger. Don’t like the gore? I used a combination of the Perfect 365 app’s Skeletal setting with the PicsArt app Flare filter to create a much more pleasant Day of the Dead face.

6. Frightgeist Costume Generator: No costume? No problem. Google’s got you with its online costume customizer. You can pick from one of the most popular costumes, nationally or locally, like Harley Quinn, Joker, or Super Hero. You can also use the sites’ costume wizard to find you something totally new.

5. AtmosFX Digital Decorations: These downloadable animations that you can play on your TV, computer, or projector are a real treat for last minute mood-makers. Just download them and then play the looping scenes to scare the pants off everyone who dares to doubt your mad Halloween skills.

4. VFX Attack Puppet: Made by a real special effects studio, Sally and many others, are life-sized zombie puppets that literally hang on to your body, like something out of The Walking Dead. Your arm controls Sally’s head movements, so you can make her “attack” you whenever you want. It’s insanely creepy, and also insanely expensive, but it’s a truly genius way to win Halloween too.

3. Spooky Spotify: Don’t even try to do the DJ-dash this late in the game. Libratone, a company that makes high-end portable audio products, put together the ultimate Halloween playlist and it’s now available for everyone on Spotify. It’s an epic mix, with 31 songs including favorites like Thriller, This Is Halloween, and Monster Mash.

2. #FakeHalloweenFacts: When you need a break from trying to save your own Halloween, perusing this trending Twitter # makes it all better. My favorites so far? “Candy corn is made from recycled baby teeth,” and “dressing up as a clown is a good idea this year.”

1. Dressing the Pet: When all else fails, putting a cute costume on your pet is sure-fire way to score major Halloween points. There’s no shortage of inspiration or adoration for the perfectly costumed cat, dog, horse, or even parrot.

What are your plans this Halloween? Be sure to share in the comments section below. Happy Halloween!

This post was originally published in USA Today.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY’s digital video show TECH NOW. E-mail her at Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.

Posted in Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, In The Press, TechNow, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news, Uncategorized, What The Tech

Whenever Tim Cook and the Apple gang announce a new iPhone, a whole slew of people start doing the math: Is it worth it to hang on to the model you already have or does it pay to upgrade? (The iPhone 7 starts at $649, and the 7 Plus starts at $769.)

Strictly personal preferences aside (like you must have those new dual cameras, waterproofing, and/or longer battery life) or unless you’re filthy rich, the answer to that question can be really confusing. I’ll do my best to break it all down for you.

When it pays to buy the new phone:

**If you’ve been enrolled in the Apple Upgrade Program (which starts at $32.41 per month) for at least six months, you can trade in your old phone for the new iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus. You’ll have to pay the equivalent of 12 months though, so if you’ve been enrolled for less than a year, you have to pay the difference. Also, if your phone’s damaged, you’ll pony-up for the AppleCare deductible too. Check here to see if you’re eligible for an upgrade. If you are, you can reserve your new phone when pre-orders begin on Friday, but you have to go into an Apple Store in person, with two forms of ID, plus a credit card and your Social Security number to get it. Apple will run a new credit check, and a new 24-month clock starts over again.

**If your current iPhone is a 4S model or older, now’s a good time to upgrade for several reasons too. For starters, Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 10, doesn’t work on that — or previous models — any longer. Sure, the phone still “works,” but there’s a pretty big difference between it working and working well. There’s also an issue of screen size, battery life, and the new camera capabilities, which for several people alone, are worth the price of the upgrade.

**If you have an iPhone 6S in excellent condition, and another phone to use between now and getting the iPhone 7, you can sell your 6S on eBay right now for as much $660 — and lock in that price. (This is what I’m going to do myself.) According to Vincent Payen, Head of Consumer Selling at eBay, my current 128GB iPhone 6S is going for $660. Log in to the Sell it Yourself program, list the phone, and you automatically earn the trending price — even if it ends up selling for less! If it does sell for less, you’ll get the balance in the form of an eBay coupon. It’s not cold hard cash, but it certainly softens the blow of a new device. To make the most though, jump on it now. Prices go down fast once the new phones actually go on sale.

**If you’re eligible for an upgrade through your carrier — with a serious “buyer beware” caveat. Mobile carriers used to offer upgrades every two years or so. They don’t do that anymore. Some people were grandfathered in though. Here’s how to check your eligibility for the major players:
Verizon (800.922.0204 or dial *611 from your phone)
AT&T (800.331.0500 or dial 611 from your phone)
T-Mobile (800.866.2453 or dial 611 from your phone)
Sprint (866.866.7509 or dial *3 from your phone)

Whether re-upping with the carrier’s new device “lease” program is the best bang for your buck really depends, because you’re still paying it off, plus interest (like leasing a new car). If you’re going to stick with a specific carrier for sure, paying the device off in installments might work best for you, since you’d otherwise have to pay the full price in one big chunk. Just be sure to crunch the numbers yourself and read the fine print, because either way, you’re still paying more to finance your handset than paying full price up front.

**If your current smartphone is on it’s last legs — or if you don’t have a smartphone yet at all — it might pay to buy the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus. Nearly half of all Americans only upgrade their phone when their current one craps-out for good, according to Gallup. If the screen’s cracked and you’re getting splinters in your lips, or the battery dies *while* you’re still charging it up, or taking more than ten seconds of video fills up the memory … it’s time to get a new iPhone. (Read that last line in your best Jeff Foxworthy voice.)

When it pays to hold off:

**If you have an iPhone 6 or newer model and it’s working great, it might make more sense to wait to see what Apple unveils next year. 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. There’s a lot of speculation already that truly revolutionary changes might be in store then.

**If you can’t afford to shell out several hundred dollars for a smartphone, there are all kinds of really good Android devices in the $200 range that might make more sense for you. Shop around!

**You’re buying the phone for a child or teen. Unless money’s no object, I think it’s crazy to shell out major bank for a device for a youngster. Give them your old hand-me-down instead, or make them save up from chores or odd-jobs to buy one of their own.

When it doesn’t matter:

**You’re considering spending $500 – $1,000 on a consumer camera anyway. The new iPhone 7 Plus could be point-and-shoot killers. While it’s still too early to test Apple’s “camtastic” superlatives yet, the promise of dual camera’s, optical image stabilization, better shooting in low-light, four-LED flash, and Lytro-like selective focus could put it on par with many popular DSLR’s on the market today.

**You just won the lottery.

**You need the bragging rights.

Be sure to share your thoughts on the pro’s and costs of upgrading now versus waiting in the comments section below.

Posted in Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, In The Press, TechNow, Top tech news

The new High School year started today for my teenage daughter, while our neighbor’s college-bound co-ed doesn’t have to hit the books until just after Labor Day. And the Elementary school year is already well underway for my friends’ kids in Chicago.

You know what all this means, right? Parents are trying to figure out what new tech gadgets our kids really need—or in other words, what’s required versus desired—as kids everywhere gear up to go back to school.

WHAT THEY’LL NEED: Laptop/Tablet Hybrids

The main question most parents ask me is whether their kids need a tablet or a laptop. Why worry about one or the other when you can both — without breaking the bank. Lenovo’s Ideapad Miix 310 ($299) is an impressive cross between a laptop and a tablet, for a fraction of the cost of a full-fledged notebook.
With a 10-inch touchscreen display, dual cameras, and the full Windows 10 Home experience built in, it’s got solid tech chops. It’s a hybrid in the truest sense of the word. Students can use the main unit independently of the included detachable keyboard, making it a great on-the-go companion in a pinch and a serious laptop too. Couple all that with battery life that can rock 10 hours of video playback without needing to be refueled and you’ve got a computer with brains and brawn, at a budget price.

The Miix 310 is a fantastic little machine, but for high school seniors and college kids, a little more power never hurts. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 ($749) fits the bill as both a full-fledged portable computer and a handy tablet for on-the-go note-taking. With a big 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM in its standard configuration, it’ll fly through any task your student can throw at it now, and for many years to come.
The 12.3-inch touchscreen is crisp and responsive, and with the built-in stand, included Surface Pen, and optional Type Cover keyboard, it pulls double duty better than any computer before it. It’s great for messaging, web surfing with Microsoft’s new Edge browser, and word processing during the school day. Then, once all the papers and presentations have been conquered, it seamlessly transitions to a high-powered media center, running Netflix and streaming music with ease. It really is the most capable all-in-one laptop replacement around, and it’s more affordable than it’s ever been.

WHAT THEY’LL NEED: Sensible Smartphones
My daughter had an inexpensive, basic cell phone until halfway through her Freshman year of high school. I guess that makes me the mean Mom because on average, children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central. With the insane number of high-priced smartphones floating, it might feel impossible to find something “cool” that doesn’t also happen to cost $500 or more.
One option I recently discovered is Sony’s Xperia XA ($279). I’m a big fan of its wallet-friendly price tag, not to mention its sleek, no-nonsense aesthetic, with a borderless 5-inch HD touchscreen that oozes awesomeness.

Inside, Sony packed a 64-bit, eight-core processor, high-powered 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, 8-megapixel selfie camera on the front, and microSD storage support for up to 200GB worth of apps, videos, songs, and selfies. It comes in four colors, and it runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with support for all the latest and greatest games (like Pokemon Go!). Two-day battery life will keep your student in-touch even if they forget to do their nightly charging routine.

WHAT THEY’LL NEED: Portable Printer
I keep reading news stories that say students don’t need printers anymore because cloud sharing and USB thumb drives have made them obsolete. That’s malarky. My daughter still has to turn in printed papers and projects nearly every single day. For an inexpensive answer to all kinds of printer-needs, take a look at the HP DeskJet 3700 ($69.99). HP calls it the “world’s smallest all-in-one printer,” and at the size of a shoebox, it is a nice size for a dorm room or desk. It’s also wireless, comes in different colors and lets you print, scan, and copy. HP’s instant ink feature delivers refills to your door step or dorm room too.

WHAT THEY’LL WANT: Backup Storage and Power
There’s nothing worse than having a high-tech gadget fail you simply because you ran out of juice or fell victim to any number of common data bugs. Wattzup has a huge lineup of adorable battery packs ($39.99) that look amazing and perform even better. They come in cute shapes, like emoji’s, ice cream cones and pizza slices, and pack a big 2,600mAh charge to refuel whatever gadget has run low. When it comes to peace of mind for data, you can’t go wrong with Seagate’s Expansion drives (starting at $49.99). They’re compact and durable but can store huge amounts of data — enough to completely backup a computer in the event of total hardware failure. It’s super portable and with the latest USB 3.0 technology, it’s also blazingly fast.

With professors and teachers barking at them all day, you can bet that a nice pair of headphones will be right at the top of your kids’ back to school wish list. Monster’s Ghostbuster-themed on-ear headphones ($119.95) are eye-catching and built to last, and who doesn’t love that classic Ghostbusters logo? And if earbuds are more what they’re after, Skullcandy’s Smokin’ Buds (starting at $47.99) are built to last, and come in a bunch of different colors and styles — even wireless. The best part is that Skullcandy is right in the middle of its back to school sale, which means up to 20% off your order.

WHAT THEY’LL WANT: Smart Waterbottles
Moving from high-quality headphones to high-tech hydration, Gululu ($99) is part water bottle, part virtual pet. The bottle actually reminds your kids to get their recommended daily water intake by turning it into a fun, simple game. Every time your child takes a sip, the colorful virtual character displayed on the built-in display grows, kind of like those Tamagochi pets that everyone was addicted to years ago. For older kids, the Hydra Smartbottle ($59) is like the Swiss Army knife of water bottles. It’s a 20-ounce water bottle that charges gadgets – can fully recharge an iPhone about 2-and-a-half times, Bluetooth speaker and there’s also multicolor LEDs that turn it into a safety lantern or to add color-changing strobe lights for those impromptu dorm room dance-off’s.
There’s more students will want and need, and this is just the beginning out of our back to school gadget news. Next up, how to tech-out dorms on a dime.

Posted in Connected Kids, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, In The Press, TechNow, Top tech news

If there’s one universal truth when it comes to gift-giving, it’s this: Dads are the hardest people on the planet to shop for. They usually just buy whatever they want, when they want it, leaving precious little to surprise them with. But as good as they are lavishing themselves with tech toys, there are undoubtedly a few that they haven’t even considered, and that’s where I come in.

Here are the drop-dead awesome 2016 Father’s Day gifts that your pops never even knew he wanted.


LG’s 55-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV (55UH7700)

LG’s 55-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV

Big screens and dads go together like peanut butter and jelly, but if your pa is still stuck in the 1080p era, it’s time to give him an upgrade he’ll truly appreciate. LG’s 55-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart TV (55UH7700) ($849) is an absurdly gorgeous piece of living room eye candy. It plays all the latest, sharpest 4K content with ease and has a built-in 4K upscaling feature to make standard HD content as detailed as possible. Deep blacks, eye-popping clarity, and a super-thin bezel will make it the jewel of his man cave, and at a price that won’t break your bank account. But if you do want to go even bigger, LG also has a premium line of OLED TVs offering what’s been hailed as “the best TV picture quality ever,” starting at $2,000.


Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

For the gadget hound, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 ($899) is a huge score. It’s a do-everything device that pulls double duty as both a desktop-class notebook and a fully capable tablet, with gaming, social media, and streaming sports capabilities that will likely put his current PC to shame. The Surface Pen is a serious convenience bonus, and if dad likes jotting down notes with one hand rather than hunting-and-pecking on his keyboard, it’s a perfect match.


Parrot Bebop Drone 2 w/Skycontroller

Parrot Bebop Drone 2 w/Skycontroller

I’ve yet to meet a dad — or anyone, for that matter — who isn’t mesmerized by the sight of a drone taking to the skies. Luckily, one of the first and best drone brands, Parrot, is rolling out some pretty big discounts that last through Father’s Day. If the sky’s the limit, go for the top-of-the-line Bebop 2 ($699.99), which features a front-mounted 1080p camera and the Skycontroller tablet, for up to 25 minutes of flight time and a top speed of nearly 40 miles per hour. For aerial fun on a budget, the Airborne Cargo drone ($69.99) weighs less than two ounces but is impressively stable and speedy, with a built-in camera for grabbing some in-air snapshots.


Sony’s Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones

Sony’s Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones

Whether your dad likes to rock out to the latest Top 40 tracks or wants to revisit his youth and crank up some Def Leppard or Metallica, Sony’s Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones ($128) are going to put him in music heaven. These high-end earphones connect to a smartphone or laptop in seconds with zero wires, and can keep the tunes flowing for up to 30 hours without needing a recharge. Big, beefy 30mm drivers in each earpiece provide deep, booming bass, and still keep the highs clear, for the perfect listening experience.


Mevo Live Streaming Video Camera

Mevo Live Streaming Video Camera

Remember the school play, where dad sat with his massive camcorder and recorded your totally-awesome-for-a-6th-grader performance? Today, giant video recording rigs are a thing of the past; all dad needs to capture a fantastic family moment is a Mevo ($299). This tiny — and I mean seriously small — gadget packs a powerful 4K camera with a 12.4-megapixel sensor and built-in microphone. That means ultra-sharp video with crisp audio to match, and with expandable memory and a smartphone companion app to tweak the myriad of settings, it puts even the best iPhone camera to shame. Pre-order it now to save $100 and the company says Dad will have it in hand later this summer.


iBobber Bluetooth Fishfinder

iBobber Bluetooth Fishfinder

One way to really blow dad’s mind on Father’s Day is to combine two things he loves: gadgets and fishing. The iBobber ($89.99) — I know, cliche name, but stick with me — is a high-tech marriage that combines sonar fish-finding technology with an easy-to-use smartphone app. The result is a super accurate underwater mapper that floats on the surface and paints a picture of what lies below. It can draw the contour of the terrain below and identify any fish that happen to be waiting for a well-placed lure. The app, which is available on both iOS and Android, can communicate with the device up to 100 feet away via Bluetooth, which means no fish will be safe from Dad’s watchful eye.




Want to gift your father something that could quite literally save his life? If he spends lots of time on the beach, the Sharkbanz band ($65.00) will give both of you some peace of mind when he’s out conquering the waves. This sleek little wearable straps to dad’s ankle or wrist when he’s out swimming, surfing, or snorkeling, and emits magnetic waves to deter underwater predators. The patented technology requires no battery or charging, and has a whole lot of proven research to back it up. It’s like a big “this isn’t food” sign for sharks, and dad will appreciate your thoughtfulness.


Bluesmart Black Edition

Bluesmart Black Edition

I’ve been a huge fan of the Bluesmart luggage line for a long time, and with the launch of the new Bluesmart Black Edition ($549), it’s a great time to invite dad to join the smart luggage revolution. The Bluesmart suitcase is much more feature-packed than your average carry-on; the case has built-in location tracking via a global SIM card, a backup battery pack to charge your gadgets on the go, and even a remote locking feature that auto-secures itself if you leave it anywhere. On top of that, it acts as its own digital scale, so you always know exactly how much it weighs, which will help your dad avoid weight fees and other airport hassles.


IfOnly - Bucketlist Experience Gifts

IfOnly – Bucketlist Experience Gifts

Speaking of travel, if you’d rather give dad an experience, rather than a thing, If/Only should be the first place you look. If/Only is kind of like Etsy, but for local attractions and lessons. In San Francisco someone will teach your father how to feed actual sharks at the aquarium; in New York, an award-winning bartender will help make dad’s home bar a thing of beauty; and in Boston, dad’s beard will get royal treatment as he crafts his own custom shave oil with shaving experts. No matter where you live, there’s bound to be an awesome experience for dad hiding nearby.



If you absolutely are out of ideas, you can always just let someone else pick dad’s gift for him, and then take all the credit yourself with a Man Crate (starting at $19.99). Man Crates are pre-selected collections of awesome gifts organized by your dad’s specific interests. Whether he loves golf, fishing, camping, grilling, drinking, or any of the dozens of other Man Crate options, the box he’ll receive will be absolutely packed with the best products. You can even send him an entire box full of bacon jerky, if that’s his thing. The Dive Bar Shirt Club ($22 per month) is a similar option and a great Father’s Day go-to, sending out monthly t-shirt packages from bars in the United States.

Happy Father’s Day!

Posted in Connected Kids, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, In The Press, TechNow, Top tech news, Uncategorized

Jennifer Jolly reviews the best of the best Mother's Day gadget gifts of 2016

(As seen in USA Today) Columnist Jennifer Jolly reviews the best of the best Mother’s Day gadget gifts of 2016

Mother’s Day is coming up fast and that special gift that makes her feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Well it isn’t just going to make, or buy, itself. Here are 10 of this year’s most-wanted mom gadgets sure to show her how much you appreciate her, all year long.

Make Mom’s Life Easier

No idea what she really wants? Hmm… As a busy mom myself — most days what I really need —  is a clone. Sure, that’s still just sci-fantasy for now, but Amazon’s Echo($180) can feel pretty darn close at times. Echo is a hands-free speaker and personal assistant designed around your voice. Just say the word “Alexa,” the device wake-up word, and then ask a question, play music, have Alexa read the news, set timers and alarms, recite your calendar, and even to control lights around your home. And you can do all this from across the room, without lifting a finger.

Preserve Those Family Memories


Tweed Wolf: Gorgeous custom photo books with someone else taking care of the customizing. (Photo: Tweed Wolf)

If your mom is anything like me, she takes a lot of photos — then leaves them on her phone or piled up in boxes collecting dust. Buy a Tweed Wolf gift card for mom, and let its “do-everything-for-you” ($295) photo album service come to the rescue. Just sign up, upload all your photos and Tweed Wolf designers do the rest. They go through every image, select the best ones, edit everything so it prints perfectly and then send you a link to an online proof. You can ask for any edits, and once you approve, Tweed Wolf prints, binds, and ships your high-quality, hardcover album.

Replace Her Clunky Laptop

Now, time to bring moms digital life up to date. I admit it’s a splurge, but Mom will definitely appreciate the stylish new HP Spectre laptop ($1170). Despite its thin profile — it’s only as thick as a AAA battery — and striking black and copper design, the Spectre isn’t just eye-candy. This laptop is powerful enough to run any apps with top-tier Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and has nine and a half hours of battery life to keep going all day.

Upgrade Her Smartphone

We modern moms are always on the go, and need a speedy smartphone with all-day battery life to keep up with our busy lives. Enter the recently announced HTC 10($700), the newest Android smartphone hitting the market (available for pre-order now, ships in May). It has a vibrant 5″ display, great 12MP camera for catching all those family photos, and a super impressive two days of battery life.

Help Her Capture It All

A smartphone is fantastic for digital photos, but there’s still a certain nostalgic joy to having printed pictures. You can print out your photos at home, of course, but the Polaroid Snap camera ($100) makes getting prints fast and simple by instantly printing 2×3, full-color images to share or scrapbook. (Be sure to order the Zinc paper along with it, it does not come it!)

Let Her Know the Whole Family’s Thinking about Her

Flatterbox ($50 and up) is a new twist on the classic card — instead of sending a flurry of cards from across the country, Flatterbox lets you invite family members to submit thoughts, wishes, and anything else through its website. When the whole family’s chimed in, the company prints the sentiments on brightly colored cards and packages them in a gift box. It’s a great way to tell Mom everyone cares.

Stay Fit and Stylish

The new Fitbit Alta ($130) combines the basic features of a fitness tracker and a smartwatch, tracking activity as well as showing simple smartphone notifications. The sleek Alta won’t scream “gadget” when on Mom’s wrist: there isn’t a single button and interchangeable wristbands come in rubber, leather and stainless steel for a variety of looks.

Give the Latest High Tech Bling

Even though the Alta is a fairly sleek way to stay on top of smartphone notifications, it’s still a noticeable wrist-worn gadget and may not suit her style — but that doesn’t mean staying out of touch. Ringly ($260) is one of my favorite wearables because it doesn’t look like a wearable at all. This chunky ring vibrates and subtly lights up to let you know about smartphone notifications, and it’s likely no one else will even notice. The latest design features an emerald in an 18k gold-plated setting, but there are plenty of styles and colors to suit her taste.

Relax without Leaving the House

InstaShiatsu+ Neck and Back Massager with Heat: gets in there and works the knots out! (Photo: TruMedic)

InstaShiatsu+ Neck and Back Massager with Heat: gets in there and works the knots out! (Photo: TruMedic)

Being a mom is a high-stress, full-time job and taking the afternoon off to hit the spa isn’t always — or even usually — an option. Thank goodness truMedic’s InstaShiatsu heated massager ($140) can give a great massage from anywhere. This cordless “kneading” massager actually gets in and works the knots out of my tired muscles. Ahhh-mazing!

Combine All Her Must-Have Gadgets

I love iHome’s high-tech take on a good ole vanity mirror ($150), which we moms know is a must. This 9″ distortion-free mirror has 7x magnification plus a built-in Bluetooth speaker and speakerphone. Now Mom can easily listen to music, take calls and even charge her phone all while getting ready to go in the morning.

Okay, hopefully this gives you a great place to start and lots of ideas to make her day magical. What’s your favorite Mother’s Day gift – that you’ve either given or received? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted in Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, In The Press, TechNow, TechStyled, Top tech news