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The Most Useful Gadgets of the Year

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In the second of a two-part feature on his gadgets of the year,
ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at some of the most useful gadgets of the past year.

There is nothing bright, shiny or glamorous about getting one’s work life organised, or about the gadgets that contribute to this cause.

While the focus of gadget watchers is usually on flashy new consumer devices, practical workhorses and accessories tend to be the unsung heroes of the working world.

These are some of the serious, but often unknown, gadgets that made the biggest impact on me this year:

Productivity Gadget of the Year: Samsung DeX Station

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Out of the box, the DeX looks like a simple, if elegant docking stand for a smartphone. But plug it into a keyboard, mouse and monitor, and it turns the handset into a fully functional Android computer. As opposed to the relatively small screen of a smartphone, only the size of the monitor limits the desktop real estate. From there, one can access apps and work on documents, watch videos on a more comfortable screen, and browse websites in desktop mode.

If preferred, a Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse can also be used. Samsung has had a fold-out keyboard with built-in trackpad designed to go with the DeX. The X-Folding Touch Pro adds a serious cost to the overall price, but is the ultimate in portable productivity.

Samsung also collaborated with Microsoft and Adobe to ensure compatibility with Microsoft Office and Adobe apps, as well as with virtual desktop software makers like Citrix, VMware and Amazon Web Services.

Presentation Gadget of the Year: Logitech Spotlight Presentation Remote

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A standard tool at conferences nowadays, remote clickers allow presenters to move about a stage or room, using a built-in laser pointer to highlight elements on the screen. Now, that is about to look very 20th century.

Logitech has produced a remote control for presentations that is both stylish and highly practical, adding a new dimension to the information on screen, without the content being altered in any way. The Spotlight not only highlights an element on the screen, but also magnifies it, allowing the presenter to zoom in on more interesting or complex content.

It is compatible with all common laptop operating systems, and has a range of 30 metres for the serious pacer.

It has built-in cursor control to activate a video on screen, saving the presenter having to dash back to the laptop computer to press play. The three buttons on the front can all be programmed to perform functions specific to an individual’s presentation content or approach.

Finally, it has one of the most needed features in the world of presenting, namely a timer with vibration alert. Now you’ll know why the audience is fidgeting despite your dazzling presentation style and content.

Projection Gadget of the Year: Sony Xperia Touch

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If smartphones and computers ever vanish into other devices we carry, like earphones, smartwatches and smart-glasses, the Xperia Touch will have played a small role. The second generation interactive projector from Sony, it turns a wall or a desktop into an interactive touch screen.

It is half the size of the first iteration, and we expect the size to keep dropping, even as its functionality increases. That means that any surface – even a writing pad – can be turned into the equivalent of a computer or smartphone. Make it small enough, and it’s all one would need to carry.

Office Decluttering Gadget of the Year: Bluelounge Soba Cable Director

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In busy offices, the bane of everyone’s lives tends to be the clutter of cables that snake, tangle and trip up around most desks where serious technology is in use. Enter the Soba Cable Director from Bluelounge, which promises to “show your cables who’s boss”.

Up to three loose cables can be consolidated into the Soba tube or Vortex, which zips open along its entire 3-metre length. A Y-split allows cables to be routed in several directions, and mounting caps allow the cable to  be fitted along walls or under desks.

This is more than just a conduit for cables, with its innovative zipper allowing for both flexibility and manageability.

The Soba was such a hit for the Accessory Lab last year, it has sold out. However, the rest of the Bluelounge decluttering range can be found at: https://accessorylab.co.za/collections/blue-lounge?utm_source=Gadget.co.za_BlueLounge&utm_medium=Post

Smartphone Accessory of the year: Belkin BOOST UP 

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As more and more smartphones are released with wireless charging as a standard feature – and with the charging technology based on an industry standard – we can expect to see charging pads become as commonplace as portable power banks.

Chances are, the prices will drop as fast, if the Belkin BOOST UP is any indication – it sells at less than R600 at the iStore. It uses the Wireless Power Consortium’s

Qi wireless charging, the standard for most flagship smartphones, meaning that one doesn’t have to dump the pad when one moves to the next handset.

The pad remains plugged into a power supply, and compatible phones begin charging the moment they are placed on the pad. Expect to see them in a coffee shop near you this year.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2geeand on YouTube.

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Now download a bank account

Absa has introduced an end-to-end account opening for new customers, through the Absa Banking App, which can be downloaded from the Android and Apple app stores. This follows the launch of the world first ChatBanking on WhatsApp service.

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This “download your account” feature enables new customers to Absa, to open a Cheque account, order their card and start transacting on the Absa Banking App, all within minutes, from anywhere and at any time, by downloading it from the App stores.

“Overall, this new capability is not only expected to enhance the customer’s digital experience, but we expect to leverage this in our branches, bringing digital experiences to the branch environment and making it easier for our customers to join and bank with us regardless of where they may be,” says Aupa Monyatsi, Managing Executive for Virtual Channels at Absa Retail & Business Banking.

“With this innovation comes the need to ensure that the security of our customers is at the heart of our digital experience, this is why the digital onboarding experience for this feature includes a high-quality facial matching check with the Department of Home Affairs to verify the customer’s identity, ensuring that we have the most up to date information of our clients. Security is supremely important for us.”

The new version of the Absa Banking App is now available in the Apple and Android App stores, and anyone with a South African ID can become an Absa customer, by following these simple steps:

  1. Download the Absa App
  2. Choose the account you would like to open
  3. Tell us who you are
  4. To keep you safe, we will verify your cell phone number
  5. Take a selfie, and we will do facial matching with the Department of Home Affairs to confirm you are who you say you are
  6. Tell us where you live
  7. Let us know what you do for a living and your income
  8. Click Apply.

 

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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