What's Hot in Tech - October 18

This issue is a little longer than usual, but there's been a ton of great stuff in the past week so stick with me. You can do it, it's Friday! Also, I'm trying out email subscriptions for notification of when new posts go up. It's hard to catch everything floating by on Twitter and Facebook, so sign up in the right sidebar (or end of page if  you're on a smartphone). If you have suggestions for features you'd like to see, please leave a comment at the end. Thank you! 

 

Finance app Level analyzes net income, paints a picture of spendable balance 

Level finance app

Level finance app

Level, a finance app for iPhone and [coming soon to] Android, links to a user's bank accounts and credit cards to analyze and calculate total income, recurring bills, and recommended savings each month. Based on a savings goal defined by the user, the app provides a spendable balance by day, week, and month to let you know how you're doing.

 

Foursquare pushing real-time recommendations to iPhone users 

Foursquare released an update to their iPhone app which, aside from a redesigned activity feed, will start to send real-time recommendations to users for information of interest—which entrée to try at the restaurant you just walked into or which attraction to check out in the new city you're visiting. The new feature was released to select Android users this summer. 

Simple showcases an easy way to payback friends   

Simple's MoneyDrop feature

Simple's MoneyDrop feature

Simple, an online-only bank focused on excellent user experience through its website and mobile apps, announced a new feature coming soon called MoneyDrop. When released in a few months, MoneyDrop promises to make it easy to send payments to nearby friends by using Bluetooth to wirelessly beam money. The need to be near your recipient sounds like a disadvantage right out of the gate when compared to similar services like Venmo or PayPal which do not require proximity. Simple remains invite only, sending out "thousands" of invites each week. I have three Simple invites available; if you'd like one please leave a comment below. 

Comcast looks to connect Twitter users to NBC TV shows 

Twitter and Comcast signed a deal to place a "see it" button on tweets about NBC shows beginning in November. Engaging the button will provide information on the show and Comcast TV subscribers will be able to start watching the show directly from their device. 

Google Maps brings back multiple destinations to its new-look service

Google Maps released a complete redesign of its service earlier this year and in the process lost one of users' favorite features: multiple destinations for directions. The most-requested feature is back! When getting directions, find the '+' button to add additional stops along your route.

Comedian Louis C.K. is handling his own digital distribution once again  

Louis C.K., Oh My God 

Louis C.K., Oh My God 

Louis C.K. shook up the entertainment distribution model in late 2011 when he started selling his show, Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theatre, directly to fans through his website. The comedian is at it again, this time making his HBO comedy special Oh My God available for download on his website for $5. Fans can download multiple formats of video and audio or stream the content up to two times.

CoverPay lets users pay and split bills at restaurants 

 

CoverPay for iPhone and [coming soon to] Android lets users pay for and split bills with friends at restaurants without ever pulling out a credit card or fumbling with cash. Upon arriving at the restaurant users can either create or join a table in the app, notify their server they're paying with Cover, and the server takes care of the rest. Users can define the tip percentage in the app. Cover is available for use at select restaurants in Manhattan for the time being. 

 

CityMapper app combines maps, transit, bike share, and more for NYC 

CityMapper app for New York City

CityMapper app for New York City

CityMapper started as a travel app for navigating London but has just released an update to include New York City. The app is available for iOS with an Android version coming soon. CityMapper for New York provides subway maps; subway line statuses; and directions via subway, bus, bike, taxi, and even teleporter. No joke, the teleporter is awesomely whacky and features Mayor Mike Bloomberg—check it out. 

The app provides a lot of information in a smart way like showing nearest subway and bus stations based on walking distance, providing the most efficient or most quiet/scenic bike routes, showing nearest CitiBike stations and their availability, and using Foursquare for points of interest if you're looking for directions to a restaurant, etc.

Next Apple event announced, expectations include iPad and iPad Mini   

Apple sent out invites for a press event on Tuesday, October 22nd. Expectations for the event include the announcement of a 5th-generation iPad featuring a thinner and lighter body and improved camera and a 2nd-generation iPad Mini with a retina display and faster technology inside.  We may also see a fingerprint scanner added to iPads much like that on the iPhone 5s (more on iPhone fingerprint scanner). A release date for new iPads is unknown but would likely fall a few weeks later. 

Physical storage market heats up in New York

MakeSpace's rigid plastic bin

MakeSpace's rigid plastic bin

Space in New York City apartments is limited and there are things we don't often need access to, but don't want to throw away. There are the traditional storage companies, which merely provide storage units of varying sizes, but in addition to the monthly cost don't forget to factor in your time moving your stuff and paying for the cab or rental car.

Enter  MakeSpace   and  Boxbee, two companies who have spotted an opportunity to provide what some are calling a "Dropbox for real-life storage". Both companies drop off rigid plastic bins for you to fill with items for storage, this included in the monthly storage cost. When you're ready, each company returns to pick up the bins for free and catalog what's inside so you can browse your bins' contents through their websites. At any time, you may ask for one or more of your bins to be delivered if you need something inside. Bin retrieval costs a flat $29 with MakeSpace and $15 + $2 per bin with Boxbee. These services are aimed at those needing occasional access to things like switching out summer and winter wardrobes, otherwise retrieval can get expensive. MakeSpace's monthly storage cost is $25 / month for 6 bins while Boxbee's monthly cost is unclear.

Nike announces next version of Fuelband

Nike Fuelband SE

Nike Fuelband SE

The fitness/activity tracking gadget space is hot right now and quickly becoming crowded with the likes of the Nike FuelBand, Jawbone UP, FitbitBasis, and more. Nike was on the leading edge of the market when, in early 2012, it released the FuelBand—a bracelet that measures everyday activity, calories burned, distance traveled, provides the time, and features a sexy LED display. Since its release, Jawbone, Fitbit, and Basis have all come on the scene with their own impressive products. 

Nike announced the second version of its Fuelband line, the Fuelband SE, which will come in an array of accent colors (yellow, pink, red) perking up an otherwise black band. Fuelband SE also packs the latest in Bluetooth technology (Bluetooth 4.0), allowing smartphones to be in constant communication with the band without draining battery. The result is real-time tracking of activity throughout your day, periodic reminders via smartphone notification if you haven't moved much recently, and no need to pair your Fuelband with your smartphone to synchronize data. The Fuelband SE also allows the wearer to double-tap its lone button to display the time, something that requires up to four button presses on the original Fuelband. 

In the end, buyers of the Fuelband SE receive fun accent color options, real-time data, and eased access to the time of day. For an owner of the original Fuelband (myself included), I wouldn't say this is worth upgrading. If you haven't owned a Fuelband yet, the SE model is definitely a gadget to look at. The Fuelband SE will be released November 6 for $149.

Flickr adds auto-upload feature to app, will improve photo presentation on Flickr.com 

Flickr continues its rebirth, which started with an all-new website and app design earlier this year, with an update to its iPhone app now featuring automatic photo uploads and, on the Flickr website, a redesign of individual photo pages. Automatic uploads of photos require no interaction from the user as it's done behind the scenes when on wifi, reducing the time it takes to share photos with others when you're ready to do so. The redesign of individual photo pages on Flickr.com increases photo size 25% and will move comments, tags, recommendations, and camera information to the right of the photo. The result will be a greater focus on the image while taking advantage of screen real estate. The app update is available now while the new photo pages will roll out later this year.

 

 

Quick Hits

  • New York Times columnist Nick Bilton's book, Hatching Twitter , set for release November 5th and will cover early days of Twitter including stories of tension among leadership. Pre-order is available now (Amazon).
  • Google and HP announced the Chromebook 11, the latest in a line of inexpensive but fully-capable laptops running Chrome OS. Available for purchase now.
  • One of my favorite games for iPhone and iPad, Dots, added another game mode called Endless Mode available as a $1.99 in-app purchase.
  • Foursquare opened its ad platform to all 1.5 million of its merchants after testing with limited businesses. Platform allows businesses to target relevant customers, set a monthly budget, and track performance.
  • Twitter is rolling out a setting allowing users to receive direct messages from any follower. Currently direct messages between users require the two users to follow each other.

 

 

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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Chris Fohlin

Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA