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With Black Friday morphing into Black Thursday, there’s hardly time to swallow your pumpkin pie before you race out to start your holiday shopping. Tech Tuesday looks at the season’s hottest tech gadgets for the youngsters and less-young on your list, and shares some tips on what to think about before you buy.
- David Pogue Tech Columnist, New York Times
- Lisa Guernsey Director of the Early Education Initiative at the New American Foundation; Author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child
David Pogue’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide
New York Times technology columnist David Pogue shares the hottest holiday gadgets for the technophiles among your friends and family.
The Node. It’s a supersensor capsule with various snap-on modules that detect color, gases, ambient temperature, barometric pressure, motion, surface temperature and other qualities — all transmitted wirelessly to your phone for display. Price: $149
Kindle Paperwhite. Finally, a backlit e-book reader so you don’t need a flashlight to read in bed. Price: $120
Roku LT. Lots of people are cancelling their cable service and getting one of these instead. It gives you Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and YouTube right on your TV. Price: $50
Tagg GPS Pet Tracker. If Fido runs away, now you can see where he is on a Web map. It also texts you when he leaves your property and tracks his activity. Price: $100
Sony ActionCam. Clips to your helmet, bike handle, ski pole, skateboard, whatever… It records hi-def, and a Wi-Fi version is also available that lets you see what you’re filming on your phone. Price: $200
PowerSkin SpareOne. The world’s lowest-tech cellphone. One AA battery lasts 15 years in your glove compartment. It dials 911 for free, and needs a SIM card for regular calls (you have to get one). Price: $60
AudiOffice. Charger dock and speakerphone for iPhone or iPad. Have calls on a real handset with better sound! Price: $300
The new Parrot Quadricopter. It’s amazing: it flies, it makes great TV. You drive it with your phone, and the screen shows what the copter is “seeing” from its cameras. There’s a new version this year. Price: $300
Nook HD. It’s Barnes & Noble’s color tablet and it’s REALLY nice. Blows away the Kindle, and about 60 percent the price of an iPad Mini. Price: $200
Jawbone UP band. It’s a bracelet (brand new 2.0 version) that you wear. It measures your activity, food, and sleep, which it displays on your iPhone screen. Makes clever realizations like, “When you eat after 7 p.m., it takes you longer to fall asleep.” Price: $130
Microsoft Surface tablet. Has that super cool fold-out screen and keyboard that magnetically attaches, plus a kickstand. Price: $500
iPod Touch 4th Generation. Exactly like the iPhone now, with an amazing big screen and terrific camera, minus the cellular. Give it to your kid instead of a cellphone to make calls and texts for free. Price: $300
Google ChromeBook. A laptop without hard drive or DVD drive, just for getting online: Web, email, Google Docs, etc. Beautiful, simple, cheap. Price: $250
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Tech Tuesday. You're making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who's got the hot new Nook HD for the very best price. Yes. It's that time of year, time to be overwhelmed by all the electronic gadgets to choose from as you get to work on your holiday gift list or your own wish list. Nook or Kindle? iPad mini or iPad regular?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWhat about the Microsoft Surface? Is the Windows Phone 8 really better than the seven? And what about the kids? Should you be shopping at Toys "R" Us or Best Buy? How do you gift wrap an app? With Black Friday becoming Black Thursday, you'll barely have time to swallow your pumpkin pie before racing out to start your holiday shopping this week.
MR. KOJO NNAMDITo help prevent indigestion and indecision, we've invited two technology experts to share their tips on what's popular this year and what to think about before you buy. Joining us in studio is Lisa Guernsey, director of the early education initiative at the New American Foundation, author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child." Lisa Guernsey, good to see you again.
MS. LISA GUERNSEYHi, Kojo. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd joining us from studios in Connecticut is David Pogue, technology columnist with The New York Times. David, thank you for joining us.
MR. DAVID POGUEMy pleasure.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for us, feel free to call at 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the #TechTuesday. Or you can simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. Davis -- David, can we start with the tablet wars? What's your impression of the iPad mini for Apple loyalists? What are the pros and cons of the mini compared to the full-sized iPad?
POGUEI'd rather have a mini than a full-size iPad. It shows you exactly the same amount, runs the same apps. They've just taken the screen and shrunk it slightly. So you could argue that some buttons are smaller to tap. But meanwhile, you have something that, for the first time, you could conceivably put in a coat pocket, let's say. So the screen isn't as sharp, of course. That will have to wait for next year in terms of the number of dots per inch. But it's fine.
NNAMDIHow's the keyboard?
POGUEThere's no keyboard as on the regular iPad. So I -- on these Apple touchscreen devices, I tend to use the speech recognition anyway. But the keyboard -- when you turn the thing 90 degrees so that it's in landscape mode, the keys are plenty big.
NNAMDIYeah. Oh, OK. You're a fan of the Nook HD from Barnes & Noble. You've said it's far superior to its Android-based competitors, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and Google's Nexus 7. Why do you like the new Nook the best?
POGUEWell, I was looking -- first of all, it is Android, so they're -- all of these things run Android. This one is Barnes & Noble's answer to the Kindle HD. This is the $200, color, touchscreen e-book reader, and these have now morphed into, you know, movie viewers and music players and so on. The Nook HD -- if you're considering the Kindle HD, the Nook is better. It's smaller.
POGUEIt's lighter, which makes a big difference. You know, you're -- an e-book reader, a movie viewer, you're going to be holding in your hand all the time you're using it, so weight is important. And the screen is much sharper. So, in terms of features and specs and design, the Nook is just better.
NNAMDILisa, you've got a report coming out next month on the intersection of reading and technology for kids. Can you give us a hint about your findings?
GUERNSEYYeah. Our main finding is that parents and educators come first and technology comes second, but that certainly doesn't mean that technology isn't part of the conversation of how to help children learn to read. And it's interesting to talk about e-books and e-readers because we're finding that they're reaching down to young -- very young ages. Preschoolers are using things like the Nook Color to be reading children's picture books with their parents. So there's a lot of intersection there that people might not be thinking about.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number. What tech gadget are you hoping to find under the tree this year? Do you buy tech toys for your kids? 800-433-8850. If you're looking for suggestions and advice, you can also go to our website, kojoshow.org, and ask a question or make a comment there. Lisa, what would you tell parents whose kids are begging for an iPad or one of the Android tablets? Kids can certainly read books on them, but they can also watch movies, play games. What's an appropriate age to start a child or a teen on a tablet device?
GUERNSEYThis is a real dilemma for parents actually right now, and I think it comes down to the age of the child...
GUERNSEYAnd grandparents, exactly.
GUERNSEYIt certainly comes down to the age of the child. It comes down to what you want your children to be doing on that device and, of course, what they're asking for, what their friends are using, what would enable them to have social experiences and really good reading experiences. We know that those are two things that kids need, no matter what age they are. But I think with the very young, with children who are maybe not even in kindergarten yet, we should be a bit skeptical about the big push for kind of toy-like tablets for children of those age groups.
NNAMDIWhat are some of the tablet features, however, that you like best for kids, the camera, the microphone?
GUERNSEYYeah. Those are two that, I think, really need to be at the top of the list when parents are looking at these things because what we want is for children to be able to not just interact with the device as if its some sort of, you know, dark black hole but instead think of it as a way to interact with their regular kind of real world surroundings. So there are some interesting apps out there now.
GUERNSEYThere's one called Alien Assignment that was put out by the Fred Rogers Center that enables children to use the camera in those devices to take pictures of the world around them, maybe take a picture of dad with a funny hat on, embed it into the screen and then go on an adventure, solve problems, using those photographs that they've taken.
NNAMDIToys "R" Us sells several tablets for kids that cost about $150. If you decide to get your child a tablet, is it better to get the toy version or the real thing?
GUERNSEYI'm pretty skeptical of these toy tablets, to be quite honest.
GUERNSEYThank you, David. Yes.
NNAMDIDavid couldn't wait. Go ahead.
POGUEFifty dollars more, you've got a real one that you can use too.
GUERNSEYAnd there's so many of them out there. It's very overwhelming right now for parents to try to figure out what makes sense for them. But in a year or more, those kids are going to -- they're going to want -- or maybe right now, even, they want the real one. Certainly, they're learning to share by asking their parents all the time for their real iPhone or their real iPad. And I do think at those younger ages, parents should be thinking about the train set and the dollhouse. Those are, you know, also very expensive items but might be better worth their money.
NNAMDIThe train set, the -- I'm so glad you brought that up because people seem to be forgetting those. But, David, you have the opportunity to give your opinion again by answering a question from Mike in Baltimore, Md. Mike, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MIKEHi, Kojo. The reason I was calling is I'm looking to get a tablet computer, something like maybe, like, $150 or less. I know you all just talked about it, but I'm looking for an adult computer, something that's, you know, going to be reliable. But I don't need, you know, like, a camera or a microphone or GPS. I'm just looking for something kind of cheap but reliable.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, David Pogue?
POGUEIt doesn't exist. One-hundred and fifty dollars, no. The ones -- the cheapest ones are the ones we've been discussing that run Android, and they're $200. So you might have to save up pizza money for a couple weeks and get something real. But, yeah, the...
NNAMDIAt least another 50 bucks, Mike.
POGUEThe ones from Google, like the new Nexus 10 or Nexus 7, those will be real tablets that you can use for years, that can get actual work done, and they're 200 bucks.
NNAMDIGood luck to you, Mike.
NNAMDIThank you for your call. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. If you're a big reader, what's your method of choice, good old-fashioned book, black-and-white e-reader, color tablet? 800-433-8850. We're talking with Lisa Guernsey, director of the early education initiative at the New America Foundation and author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media -- From Baby Videos to Educational Software -- Affects Your Young Child," and David Pogue, technology columnist with The New York Times.
NNAMDIDavid, there's a lot of buzz about Microsoft's sleek new Surface tablet which comes close to acting like a laptop computer because it can run limited versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint. But it sounds like you would recommend waiting at least for the Surface Pro, which should be out early next year. Why?
POGUERight. This is going to be so confusing for people, but the tablet is a beautiful hardware device. The most famous thing about it is that it has a screen cover with a keyboard printed on the inside of it so you can flip it down on a table and type away. But the problem is it doesn't run real Windows. It runs an entirely new operating system. Microsoft doesn't really have a name for it. I call it tile world because it presents a bunch of rectangular little mini dashboard tiles that show the latest weather, the latest stocks and so on. And there are no apps for it. I mean, it's a brand new thing.
POGUEIt doesn't run Windows apps, doesn't run iPhone apps or Android apps. So it's a whole new thing. It does run those limited versions of Microsoft Office. But what's coming in a few months, in the New Year, is something called the Surface Pro. It's thicker, heavier, twice as expensive. It'll be, like, $1,000 instead of $500. But the beauty of it is it's an actual PC. It actually runs Windows software: Quicken, Photoshop, games. I would think that would be a much more compelling proposition.
NNAMDINot everyone wants the bells and whistles of a tablet. For those who just want a device to read books, compare the e-readers like the Kindle Paperwhite and the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, David.
POGUEYeah, these are -- the best e-book readers, in terms of the reading experience simulating black ink on a white page, use a technology called e-ink. But, I mean, the downside is they're not color. So you're not going to be watching movies on these things. But for reading, they're inexpensive. They're light. And both the Kindle one and the Barnes & Noble one now self-illuminate.
POGUEA lot like those Indiglo watches, you can press a button, and the light gray page glows, so you can read it in bed without a flashlight, as people have been doing for four years. And the new Kindle one, the Paperwhite, is the one to get. It's a much more even well-designed backlight.
NNAMDILisa, Amy from Washington, D.C. asks what do you recommend for her daughter who wants to read on a tablet but the backlight hurts her eyes.
GUERNSEYYeah, these e-ink products, I think, would be much better for children who would be reading in bed. And I also think that for parents that are looking for e-readers for their kids, it's very much worth thinking about getting the simpler versions so that children aren't tempted by all the other apps and games and Gmail and everything else they might be able to get on something like a Kindle Fire or something that has a lot of...
NNAMDISo you'd recommend a classic e-reader with a black-and-white screen for children?
GUERNSEYI think so. I mean, when they're at the age that they're starting to read chapter books, that could be a really nice gift. I have two young kids, 8 and 10.
GUERNSEYAnd my 10-year-old, actually, she had a black-and-white e-reader for that -- like that for a while. It was the Borders version, which now doesn't even exist anymore, the Kobo. She's actually now moved on to the Kindle Fire, which has all of the other things, the apps and the games and video. And as much as that's wonderful for her -- and there are some times when we love that she has that -- we worry.
GUERNSEYWhen -- there are nights when we go in, and instead of reading, she's -- instead of reading in bed, she's watching her videos in bed. And we want to kind of keep her at a place where she can feel just the comfort and warmth of just reading a simple book.
NNAMDIIs there a good selection of e-books for kids and teens?
GUERNSEYOh, yes. And I think that it's growing. I would also encourage parents and grandparents to look at what their local public libraries might be offering in terms of downloadable books to check out. So my daughters have checked out books that appear for, say, two weeks and then disappear after their borrowing time period has ended.
NNAMDIHere is Faheem (sp?) in Washington, D.C. Faheem, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
FAHEEMThank you for taking my call. And I want to say hello to you and your guests. My question has nothing to do with reading devices, but it affects the question. What happened to Ericsson -- Sony Ericsson telephones? You can't find them anymore anywhere.
NNAMDII have no idea. David Pogue?
POGUEWhat happened was Apple and Samsung. Basically, the iPhone and Android phones made by Samsung have completely upset the cellphone Apple cart. And all the secondary players have fallen off the map. You know, Nokia used to -- for 14 years, it was the number one cellphone maker, and now, it's number seven.
POGUEI mean, it's dropped way, way, way, way down, and same thing with HTC. HTC, even a couple of years ago, was a huge dominant player. And now Apple and Samsung have pushed them off the map. So it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle, right? Nobody wants to buy a loser phone, so everybody buys the iPhone and the Samsungs. And so it becomes self-fulfilling.
NNAMDIFaheem, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, it's a Tech Tuesday conversation on tech gadgets for the holidays that you can join by calling 800-433-8850. When we get back, we'll be talking music. How do you listen to music and what device or app would improve your audio experience this holiday season? You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, using the #TechTuesday, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our Tech Tuesday conversation on tech gadgets for the holidays. We're talking with David Pogue, technology columnist for The New York Times, and Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New American Foundation. She is author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media -- From Baby Videos to Educational Software -- Affects Your Young Child."
NNAMDIYou can call us at 800-433-8850. Lisa, would you recommend for music -- if you have children or teenagers who just love listening to music, what are the best age-appropriate devices and the best ways to give them their favorite tunes?
GUERNSEYWell, the iPad is right there in the front of the list. And with the -- I focus primarily on younger kids although I know absolutely within the phones and other iPad-like devices, children -- older ages are listening to their own music as well. I would say that I was surprised at first when my husband and I started talking about an iPod for our children when they were in kindergarten.
GUERNSEYAnd it was one of the best things that we did, was to have them have their own music device at 5 or 6 years old. They had a real appreciation for the music they wanted to share with us, with their own kind of playlists. And they also use the video function on the iPod nano to do some really fun things with it as well.
POGUEAnd you know what -- I'm sorry I started to chime in. If they...
NNAMDINo. Do chime in.
POGUEIf they already have some iGadget that plays music and, of course, if they're over six months, I'm sure they already do...
POGUE...a great idea for Christmas presents is a Bluetooth speaker. This is a tiny, little -- how big -- maybe six inches long, two inches tall, two inches deep speaker that connects to the phone or the iPod -- iPad by Bluetooth wirelessly. And this single addition has totally changed our family lives because it takes the music or the soundtrack that's playing from the iPhone and transmits it -- or a Android phone, by the way. This isn't just an iGadget thing. It transmits it wirelessly to a speaker that can fill the room.
POGUESo we now have music when we're cooking and when we're cleaning and when we're doing homework or whatever, all sent wirelessly from the phone. And it's just such a simple thing, the wireless capability. The speaker itself does not need to be plugged in. It runs on battery. So -- and you can take it with you, take it on a vacation, take it to school, whatever. It's a $200 thing. The JAMBOX is the most popular one. And it's 200 bucks and just totally changes the idea of playing music off your phone 'cause now it's not coming out of a tinny speaker.
NNAMDIAnd Lisa can tell you the add-ons that she likes that causes her now to have performances in her household every weekend.
GUERNSEYYes, yes. I was just about to say, thank you, David, for mentioning some of the add-ons. And one that we came across last year was a karaoke-like microphone. It's actually a large microphone that kind of, you know, sits on our stairway, and our younger daughter just loves -- she plugs in her iPod. It brings the music down just to enough of a dull roar that her own voice can be heard over it. And Taylor Swift has just been belted out in our house on a daily basis, yeah...
NNAMDIShe's performing every weekend.
GUERNSEY...or weekend basis.
NNAMDIBetter than the drum set, I'm sure. Here is Margaret in Fort Washington, Md. Margaret, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARGARETHi. Thanks for taking my call. I had a couple of questions about the new Nook that you had talked about. One of them was: Is the Wi-Fi function on that pad better than the old Nooks used to have? 'Cause I -- and can you use something like Skype or really check your email if you have that tablet?
POGUEYou can absolutely do email on it. I'm not sure if Skype is available on it. In general, these Nook and Kindle things are best thought of as consumption devices, that is, playing back TV, movies, music, books, Web. Those are what they're best for. Anything else is clunky, for sure. So video chatting and email and trying to create things is I'd say much more difficult. For those things, you ought to consider a proper Android tablet or an iPad.
MARGARETOK. And two other things: Have they improved the dictionary function on the Nook, and how great is the battery life?
POGUEI don't know anything about the dictionary. I would assume it's the same, and the battery life is really good. I mean, you don't -- it's not like a phone where you're charging it every day. I'd say you charge it once a week.
MARGARETOK. Thanks so much.
NNAMDIMargaret, thank you for your call. On to Tony on the Eastern Shore, Md. Tony, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TONYHi. Good afternoon. Thanks for taking my call. I've got a 6-year-old son, a 2-year-old daughter who dominate my wife's laptop at the house. We want to buy either an iPad or a tablet. We don't know which way to go, but we'd like it to be something for the family. Lisa had mentioned taking photographs, manipulating them.
TONYI like what David said about the iPad mini. My kids are typing now, or my son is, at least. We would need something for something more home-office but also something that gets these kids engaged with the music and the photography, et cetera. What would you recommend, a tablet, iPad, iPad mini?
NNAMDIStarting with you, Lisa.
GUERNSEYWell, I think that the iPad is a very fine choice. But it does not enable really deep kind of creation or manipulation of photographs. So I mentioned earlier that app that enables children to take photos and then they embed them in their games, that is different, I think, than some software that you may want even -- I'm thinking of, you know, just good old laptop computer, where you really can do and manipulate images and build books, create photo albums, et cetera.
GUERNSEYThose sorts of things you might want to do as a family would be harder to do on a tablet device. And I'm curious, too, what David might suggest in that arena.
POGUEWell, I mean, the last couple calls are both -- I agree with you, Lisa. But they're both trying to push a tablet into the role of a laptop, so that kind of stuff -- I mean, there are apps that let you create stuff, and you can get an external keyboard. But you don't have a mouse. How are you going to work in, you know, a Photoshop-like program without a mouse? How can you push pixels around, with a big, fat finger? So the apps are incredible.
POGUEThere's all kinds of stuff you can do, but it really still isn't a full-blown laptop. It's getting closer, but there will be frustrations involved in trying to make it do laptop-like things. But in terms of which tablet to get, I would still say iPad over the Android tablets because of the apps. The apps -- the programs that you can get for the Android tablets are still not nearly as numerous. And the ones there are tend to be phone apps that have been quickly re-jiggered for the bigger screen. They weren't dreamed up from the beginning with the full-size screen in mind, and that's not true of the iPad.
NNAMDITony, thank you very much for your call. We got an email from Rashon, (sp?) who says, "What" -- who asks, "What does your guest think about the NABI tablet?" N-A-B-I. "I'm thinking about getting one for my daughter who is 7." Lisa.
GUERNSEYYeah. If I remember correctly, that's one of the toy-like tablets that are being aimed at the youngest children. And as I said earlier, I really -- I'm not sure that's your best use of money. I would -- especially for a 7-year-old, at that point, they really are able do a lot with something like a Kindle Fire or even, you know, some of the Nooks that we're talking about.
GUERNSEYSo I would talk -- if you have a chance to or without giving it away, you know, find a way to talk to that 7-year-old or your -- or the parents, you know, to find out a little bit more about what they want to do with the device first and then work from there.
POGUEAnd the NABI tablet is $200. It's the same price as a real grown-up, professional tablet, which, by the way, both the Nook and the Kindle have parental control. So you can set your kid up with his or her own accounts. You can control what he or she is doing online and so on.
NNAMDIDavid, the iPod Touch doesn't get as much attention as its iPad and iPhone cousins, but, well, maybe it should. Why is the new iPod Touch 4th Generation on your list of recommended gifts this year?
POGUEYes, it should. Listen, parents of pre-teens and teens, hear me. Hear me.
POGUEYour kid doesn't need a cellphone. My -- now -- my high schooler, now 15, for three years, has had an iPod Touch as his phone. I pay nothing monthly. I bought that iPod Touch for this kid. Anytime he's in a Wi-Fi area, he can make calls. He can send text messages. He can get on the Internet with this thing. And when is a kid not in Wi-Fi these days? There's Wi-Fi at school. There's Wi-Fi at home. There's Wi-Fi at his music center where he takes music lessons. So he's constantly in Wi-Fi. There's no reason for me to get him an expensive phone that makes me pay a monthly fee.
POGUEThe iPod Touch is completely overlooked in that regard as a first cellphone. I say, save yourself $2,000 over the course of two years and get an iPod Touch, or consider it at least. The new one is really spectacular. It's an iPhone 5 without the cellular. I mean, the camera's amazing. The screen is retina display, speech recognition. It does Siri. It does everything, runs all the apps. The only downside is it's very expensive. It's 300 bucks. But, remember, compare that to a cellphone. You're coming out way ahead.
NNAMDIDavid is so convincing, people are now thinking about adopting children to get them the iPhone -- the iPod Touch 4th Generation. Here's Lisa.
GUERNSEYI was just going to jump on that and say that schools use the iPhone Touches quite a bit, and it could be a really interesting conversation for a parent to have with -- say, you have elementary school-aged children. Find out a little bit more from the child's teacher what tool, device might be most useful so that they can kind of have that both at formal -- use it in their formal learning environments in school and in their informal learning environments at home.
NNAMDIRay in Washington, D.C., you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RAYYeah. Good morning. I wanted to ask a question to David Pogue. I read your online subscription all the time and enjoy it very much. I wanted to go back to a comment you made earlier regarding the Surface, particularly the new one that is projected to come out in a few months. Generally, is that device going to kind of bridge the gap, in your opinion, between the tablet and the laptop successfully? And also, what's the future in your mind in terms of apps development for the Microsoft platform?
POGUEOh, wow, two great questions. So, yes, I would say that the Surface Pro tablet, the $1,000 one coming out in January, is the closest thing yet to a best of both worlds. In other words, it's a touch screen, so if you fold the cover behind the tablet, you've got a regular iPad-like tablet. And you can run all the touch screen apps.
POGUEAnd then when you want to plug in a mouse and unfold that cover -- and you have a full keyboard -- you have a full-blown laptop running Windows with high horsepower and Internet, mouse, keyboard, the whole deal, in a package that will weigh, you know, two pounds. So it goes back and forth. There's another way to come at the tablet-laptop hybrid, of course.
POGUEAnd that is something like the Macbook Air, which is as light as a tablet almost, three pounds, but it's a real laptop and has a real keyboard. So these two companies have approached the problem from different directions. One is -- Microsoft's is more tablet. And Apple's is more laptop. So as to the future of apps for Microsoft's new platform, this tile world as I call it, I don't know.
POGUEI think -- I wonder if the software companies of the world, the programmers are getting app platform fatigue. You know, first, they had to write for the iPad. Then they had to write their apps again for the Android. Now, we're asking them to come up with a third flavor for Microsoft's new completely unproven platform. And, you know, Windows Phone is yet another one. That's -- not even talking about that one yet, so...
NNAMDIWe're going to get to Windows Phone 8 in a second. But go ahead, please.
POGUESo it's impossible to know if this will take off. You can't predict the future of technology, and you'll look like a fool if you do. So at this point, I'd say Microsoft is on the razor's edge. It could flop in a big way like the Zune did and the Kin phone did. Or if they put enough -- if the Surface becomes popular enough, it might take off.
NNAMDIWell, since you're on a roll now, David, talk about the new Windows Phone 8 software. Will more phones start running it?
POGUEThere are two amazing new phones that come out just this week. There's the Nokia 920 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X. And both of these are the first to run Microsoft's new phone software, Windows Phone 8. And it's the subject in my column this week in The Times. You can read all about it. But basically, they're incredible phones.
POGUEYou can charge them without plugging them in. You can just set them down on a little pad, magnetic charging. Amazing cameras. The operating system is beautiful and fast and slick and joyous to use. But Windows Phone has a 4 percent market share. Nobody is buying these things.
POGUEAnd until nobody -- until anybody starts buying them, no one will write apps for them. And until there are apps, no one will buy them. I think you see where this is going.
NNAMDIWhich comes first, the chicken or the egg, one wonders.
POGUEYeah. So Microsoft's kind of stuck there. They really hope to push it this season. But, right now, Microsoft has a beautiful, complete, spectacular operating system that runs on great phones, and no one's touching them.
NNAMDIOn to Kathleen in Frederick, Md. Kathleen, your turn.
KATHLEENHi. Thank you for taking my call. I'm shopping for my daughter, even though she's only 5, but we don't have a lot of stuff here. She doesn't play video games or watch TV. So I think it's OK. But -- and she's learning to read. So I want something educational, so she can have educational apps on there and books, maybe a couple extra things. And I'm not sure whether to -- is the Nexus -- is OK, if it's cheaper, or should I go ahead and get the Apple iPad? It's a little more expensive. For a 5-year-old, is it worth it or -- I really don't have a clue.
NNAMDIWhat do you think, Lisa?
GUERNSEYI think that something like even a Kindle Fire could be a decent possibility for a child that's 5 years old. There are apps that you can get through that so that they -- as well as the ability to do just great good old reading but in the color format. So I might look that direction. I mean, the iPad could be a possibility, more expensive, and there's the question of her owning her own at that age.
GUERNSEYI would think another possibility would be to talk about a family iPad and then package it in such a way that she feels like she has her own ability to pick the games that she wants to play on it. And there are a lot of games actually that are family-oriented games that you can play together on the surface of the iPad so that there can be that social interaction for your whole family. So those are just a couple of pieces of advice on that front.
NNAMDIGo ahead, David.
POGUEI'm sorry. And I'd say if you're going to consider one of those color e-readers, don't get the Kindle Fire. The Barnes & Noble Nook HD, as I mentioned, is far more sophisticated from the hardware perspective and has individual accounts for each child. And Barnes & Noble is way ahead in children's books. That's one of their big pushes, their specialty. They can read to you. You can read the book before you go on a trip, and the child can read the book along with your voice reading the story. So they're far more sophisticated in terms of children.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Kathleen. You, too, can call us, 800-433-8850. What tech gadget are you hoping to find under the tree this year? You can send email to email@example.com. Of course it's not all tablets. We got this email from Kim in Washington, D.C. "My 82-year-old father would like a laptop.
NNAMDI"He has little experience in using computers, and we have a limited budget to provide him with this new toy. He is most likely to use it for Internet-related activities such as email, Google searches and Skype-ing with the grandchildren. Could you recommend a good laptop for these uses that would cost under $500?" David?
POGUEOoh, ooh, ooh, my hand's up. Wow. I have the answer. You're going to be so glad you listened today. Google is now selling a beautiful, simple, Internet-based laptop for $250 called the Chromebook.
NNAMDIIt's your grandfather, too, but go ahead.
POGUEThis thing does not have a hard drive. It does not have a DVD player. It is almost exclusively designed for online activities like the ones you mentioned: email, Web browsing, online videos. There are, you know, there are games. There's word processing and spreadsheets and so on that are all online, courtesy of Google.
POGUEBut this is one of the simplest laptops you can buy, and, you know, the -- like, the keyboard, for example, doesn't have all the superfluous keys of a Windows keyboard. It's just basically like a typewriter keyboard, which I have a feeling he'll enjoy. And it's -- it can be set up to run very simply, and wow is the budget right for you.
NNAMDIWill he be able to Skype with his grandchildren?
NNAMDIHe's -- oh, great, Kim. Then that seems like what your father could use. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this Tech Tuesday: Tech Gadgets for the Holidays conversation. If the phone lines are busy, you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, and ask a question or make a comment there. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're talking about tech gadgets that you might think of selecting for the holidays. We're talking with David Pogue. He is technology columnist for The New York Times. And Lisa Guernsey is director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation. She's also the author of "Screen Time: How Electronic Media -- from Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child." Lisa, for people who are still not sure about what tech gadgets to buy for their kids, can you recommend some resources they can turn to, offer some guidance, if you will?
GUERNSEYYeah. There's several websites I wanted to mention that parents especially should maybe take note of. Parents' Choice Foundation, Common Sense Media, Children's Technology Review -- those are great sources, places to go when you're just trying to kind of figure out what are the differences between different kind of tech toys, what seems to be "more educational" than another.
GUERNSEYAnd then I would say, for those parents that are really trying to figure out what apps to download -- and many of you may be trying to figure that out today as you're figuring out how to occupy your children in the car tomorrow, as we are in our house -- there is a new app called YogiPlay, which is an app to help parents find apps, and it does some nice work in helping parents kind of sort through what's available out there.
GUERNSEYAnd then there's another website that I don't know as much about, but I've looked at a few times called KinderTown, which is trying to look at apps as well from an educational point of view. There's a lot of work to do, I would say, among the education world and those who understand how children think to really vet the apps that are out there in a better way to give parents a better sense of what is a high-quality app and game for their child and what isn't. So there's just -- it's a -- there's a lot of chaff out there still that needs to be sorted through.
POGUEYou know, one thing we haven't really talked about -- I would imagine there's a certain number of your listeners who, at this point, are just recoiling at our charging full ahead with this assumption that tech is the way for kids and that -- we haven't really talked about the downsides and the change in brain shape and the loss of ability to focus and so on. I have sort of a story that might be relevant.
POGUEMy own son, who's now 8, starting from the time he was 6, he became literally addicted to the iPad in that, if you would try to take it away because it's dinnertime or bedtime, he would clutch it and cry, and it became a really serious issue. And at the same time, I didn't want to be one of these parents who just said, you know, electronics are automatically bad because of the things he was doing on that tablet.
POGUESo, to this day, when we're in the car, he'll say, Dad, can I play on your phone? We have a deal. It's, yes, as long as you're writing stories. So he opens the notepad, and he writes these long-winded stories with space and aliens and weapons, but he's writing, you know? And even then, he was using an app called Puppet Pals on the iPad where you have on the screen what look like paper cut-outs of cowboys or spacemen or damsels, and you animate them by dragging them around with your finger and record what they're saying with your own mouth.
POGUESo it records a little play that you make, and then you run and show your parent. And he was using logic games like Rush Hour where you -- where it's a thinking strategy game. So I realized I had to back off from my knee-jerk reaction of horror at how much he loved this thing because he was doing creative thinking games. And, I mean, what am I going to say? Stop making little plays on the iPad. Go outside and make up little plays.
POGUEYou know, that just would have sounded like an idiot. So the question is real. The issue is real. Is there too much? Are they getting addicted? Are they changing their brains? On the other hand, we do have to consider what it is they're doing with the electronics. And the ultimate answer, the solution to both sides of this issue, is, of course, moderation. As long as there's also stickball in the streets and running and playing with other kids face to face, then I think we're fine.
NNAMDIGlad you brought that up because, Lisa, when do you recommend skipping technology for little kids and sticking with either the classic toys that don't have a chip or a mic or, as David recommends, going outside and playing stickball?
GUERNSEYOh, absolutely, all of that. I'm so glad, David, that you raised this issue, and I do find that around this time of year, we get a little crazed. And I myself even wonder, you know, in these conversations about tech buying, we really have to kind of pull back and just talk about, well, what do children need, and then what can help them with that? And what they need is a place to create and the ability to kind of express themselves and to have those social interactions.
GUERNSEYAnd so then, from that, you start looking at, OK, where does technology help, and where does it hurt? In my book, "Screen Time," I talk about using the three Cs as a guide for parents. The first, you know, certainly consider the content. Don't just look at the device. Think about what content is coming through that. Secondly, look at context.
GUERNSEYWhat are the interactions that children are having with it, and how does it fit into their day and how is it balanced with all those other activities like playing outside, of course, jumping in the leaves? And then, third, the individual child, because as we know, every child is different, and especially those that have special needs, technology can have a real kind of on-ramp to be -- an on-ramp to them for a lot of new experiences. So it's -- absolutely, it has to be part of this larger conversation, and I'm glad you raised it.
NNAMDIAnd we got an email from Aaron, who asked, "What is the best device for an autistic kid? And what are the best apps? A lot of them are quite expensive." Any suggestions, Lisa?
NNAMDIFor an autistic kid.
GUERNSEYYes. Well, there is -- I would first point you to a service called BridgingApps that is -- of the newsletter service. There's a website. It's built by those who work with children with special needs. There's a lot of material on there for parents of children who are autistic. And one of the most recent things I saw on the BridgingApps site was description of apps that encourage children to talk. So there's this app called Talking Tom, which my kids are crazy about.
GUERNSEYAnd it's really kind of crass in some ways 'cause Tom is a tom cat. And he asks you to -- you know, you talk in the microphone. And then he responds in a funny voice, and he belches or something like that. But kids thinks it's hysterical, and it may be -- and this is, you know, I don't know of research on this yet, but certainly it was noted as a possible -- a good option for children who are autistic or on the autistic spectrum -- autism spectrum, that this kind of app might encourage them to speak.
NNAMDII want to get back, David, to the issue of content and access. Can we talk about television and how to lower the cost of watching our favorite shows? What's a Roku box, and why do you like it?
POGUEA Roku box brings to your television all the online sources of television, like Netflix and Amazon and Hulu and YouTube. It's a tiny little thing, about the size of a drink coaster, maybe an inch and a half tall. That's $50, maybe the biggest, you know, dollars per feature of any electronic you can buy. Much the -- the Apple TV is much the same idea. It's just that the Roku brings a lot more of these services to the TV. This is a big deal in a down economy. I want Americans to know how much television there is for free on the Internet. And essentially you're paying twice, right?
POGUEYou're paying for cable, and then you're paying for Internet that gives you access to television. So many, many people are canceling their cable service and living entirely with, for example, Hulu. Hulu.com is a website that has the last four episodes of every TV show for free. Beautiful quality, really easy to use, and you're asked to watch two 15-second commercials, something like that. And then, you know, Netflix has entire seasons -- "Arrested Development" and "The Office." And, you know, for $8 a month, you have unlimited watching of that stuff.
POGUEI actually called to cancel my cable TV just last week. I get three services from my cable company -- telephone, Internet and television -- and I really don't need the TV anymore. My kids watch only-online TV shows. I watch only-online TV shows. All of my own shows -- I'm a host for "NOVA," the science show on PBS, and those are all free online.
POGUESo I'm like, what am I doing? And the cable company actually said, look, look, look, look. If you'll keep the TV, we'll adjust your plan so that it costs less than you would have pay just for the Internet and the telephone. So they have specialists who are there to stop you from quitting. At the very least, you can drop the price you're paying for your cable service by a lot by threatening to quit.
NNAMDIYou just gave me a great idea. Hello, Comcast? Hold on for a while. We got this email from Terrence in Germantown. "Can I use a Roku or cheaper device to play videos from my laptop on my old TV? The TV only has composite video inputs, one yellow port."
POGUENo. The Roku isn't designed for sending video from your laptop. However, it should be able to play stuff from the Internet, you know, directly. The Roku gets on to your home Wi-Fi network. That's how it works. So the laptop really isn't involved. But, yeah, you should go to Roku, R-O-K-U, .com and check. But I'm pretty sure this thing can hook up even to the most ancient of connections.
NNAMDIHere's Natalie in Washington, D.C. Natalie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NATALIEThank you. I wonder if you have any thoughts or feelings about the BlackBerry and the new -- new whatever it is is going to be coming out. They've been putting off the date. Now, it's supposed to be January. Are you familiar with the phone?
NNAMDIWhat is BlackBerry coming out with, David?
POGUEYes, I am. Yeah. This is BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry, as you know, is a company whose back is to the wall. It's just completely falling off the map. Companies and governments are throwing away their BlackBerrys by the hundreds of thousands. They have shed, you know, tens of thousands of employees. Their stock is in the toilet, so most people think that BlackBerry is dead. BlackBerry doesn't think so.
POGUESo the company itself, RIM, Research In Motion, is putting all of its efforts into one last-ditch phone that, as you say, will be now coming out Jan. 30 called the BlackBerry 10. From what we know, it's going to be sleek and beautiful and a touch screen. It's going to be yet another iPhone clone. Me, I would say it's much too late.
POGUENo matter how good it is, you can't ask the programmers of the world to start over with yet another platform, yet another phone to write for. And there's -- you know, there's safety in numbers. Are people really going to buy a product that is known as the last-ditch Hail Mary pass by a dying company? I think most people won't touch it.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Natalie. We got this email from Lee in Bethesda. "I'm traveling for a two-week period, and I want to put books on my iPad. It's a jungle out there, lots of apps, including Kindle, where the books look expensive. What do you recommend?"
POGUEOh, this is a really great point, almost like a setup for a really great point.
POGUEIt turns out that we should have mentioned long ago that you don't need a Kindle or a Barnes & Noble Nook to read Barnes & Noble Nook and Amazon Kindle books. You can read those books on your computer or on an iPad or on an iPhone or on an Android phone without buying a $200 reading device. It's a really important point. You can get apps that read the same books that you've bought without needing a dedicated reader. So if you already have a laptop or a tablet, you can read those books.
POGUEBut the question is, you know, are they expensive? Yeah. Bestsellers are usually $10 flat, so far less expensive than the hardcover versions. It is a rip-off in the sense that you can never resell them or donate them to a library. But there are, of course, hundreds of thousands of free books. Basically anything by a dead guy whose copyright has expired are available free for these readers. All the, you know, Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns and "Treasure Islands" and Edgar Allan Poe's, all of that stuff is free online. So that's something to keep in mind.
GUERNSEYAnd I would just add quickly that I just don't want...
GUERNSEY...people to forget about their public libraries because the libraries really are trying to -- I mean, I think they're in some ways up -- going on an, you know, an uphill battle here. But they're really trying to make sure that they are not forgotten in the world as people are constantly downloading books. And they have different ways of helping you to get into their card catalogues and download through either a Kindle kind of platform or others, download books that you check out for a couple weeks at a time.
POGUEBut just to be clear, that is up to the publisher to grant permission for libraries to do that. And most of the publishers you care about do not permit that. So in my experience, the selection of books available for e-book downloading from libraries is, you know, it's dregs. It's not really -- not bestsellers, let's put it that way.
NNAMDIDavid, we don't have a lot time less but -- left. But in 20 seconds, can you tell us how the PowerSkin SpareOne works?
POGUEWell, yeah. So here's another great gift idea that's not nearly as expensive as what we were talking about. It's a $60 cellphone that runs on a AA battery. And you still need to supply your own SIM card, account card from a carrier, but it'll dial 911 for free. And the idea is you keep this thing in your glove compartment. One AA battery lithium will last 15 years in this phone, so you could give this to an older person who doesn't have a cell phone, doesn't want to go that route.
NNAMDIIt would last them forever.
NNAMDIDavid Pogue is technology columnist with The New York Times. David, thank you for joining us. Lisa Guernsey is director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation and author of the book "Screen Time: How Electronic Media -- From Baby Videos to Educational Software -- Affects Your Young Child." Lisa, thank you for joining us. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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