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Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Consumer Electronics Show - All posts tagged Consumer Electronics Show

  • Jan 12, 2012
    5:32 PM ET

    Getting Hip To Music, Using Laser Beams

    Kelli B. Grant

    Consumers who never learned to play a musical instrument — well, or at all — can now fake it.

    The new Beamz interactive music system plays the melody line of songs in its library, letting the user add in complementary beats, vocals and instrumental riffs by moving his or her hands through its laser beams.

    A spokeswoman says the $199 device is meant to appeal to “the Guitar Hero” set, as well as wannabe deejays (although mixing your own tunes requires additional equipment). “You can’t really sound bad on this,” she says. The USB-powered device comes with software and 50 songs; others in the 200-plus song library cost $0.99 to $1.99 each.

  • Jan 12, 2012
    3:49 PM ET

    CES: No Gadget Left Behind

    Kelli B. Grant

    Travelers who get that sinking feeling that they have forgotten something often discover later that the something in question is the cable for charging their laptop, smartphone or other devices.

    The mountain of cable cords at Loss Prevention Systems’ booth speaks to the issue: several dozen chargers, all collected from a single Manhattan hotel over the course of several days. The company’s new $10 device, Perch, aims to eliminate the problem.

  • Jan 12, 2012
    2:07 PM ET

    CES: Skip Moisturizer for Technology

    Kelli B. Grant

    A recent UK study found that the average woman spends $164,000 on beauty products over a lifetime. Maybe more, if she buys into some of the new high-tech beauty gadgets.

    Moneual’s “Dr. Soo BH1000″ facial system claims to use a combination of hydrating steam, “anions” (an ionic particle or charged group of atoms for the non-scientists among us) and aromatherapy to moisturizer skin and kill bacteria. “It gives you that alert, fresh feeling, like opening a window,” says a spokeswoman. But more expensive — the device, currently being tested in Asia, it expected to sell for $299 when it arrives in the U.S. sometime during the third quarter. (In comparison, mass-market facial steamers run as cheap as $20.)

  • Jan 12, 2012
    1:03 PM ET

    CES: Gadget Juice-to-Go for Travelers

    Kelli B. Grant

    When we received a pre-CES review unit of RFA Brands’ Powerbag, which contains an in-pack battery and adaptors to simultaneously charge up to four devices, our first question was, “Will this make it through airport security?” Absolutely, said a spokesman, who rattled off a list of airports he’s flown through with the bag and praised the way it unzips to lie flat on an airport security scanner, negating the need to remove a computer from its specialized compartment.

    Fast-forward two days. “You sure have a lot of gadgets and wires in here,” says the TSA agent swabbing our bag for explosive residue. To be fair, we did, and the TSA check took maybe a minute. (Another company spokesman said our story is an aberration, and they haven’t heard of other similar problems.)

  • Jan 12, 2012
    12:50 PM ET

    CES: Smartphone Features For a Home Phone Line

    Having a home phone line may have just gotten hipper.

    VoIP provider Ooma’s new $60 handset, available in March, has a 2″ color LCD screen, and links with Facebook to provide the caller’s picture and name when available. Users can also designate different ringtones for different callers — that way, there’s no need to go racing for the phone when the “Jaws” theme announces it’s an unknown, probably telemarketer’s number. Or worse, your mother.

  • Jan 12, 2012
    10:53 AM ET

    CES: A Tablet for the Kitchen?

    Kelli B. Grant

    A big theme this year at CES features new ways to take gadgets everywhere: Bluetooth speakers in the shower, high-speed Internet in airplanes. Next up, a kitchen-specific tablet.

    The $400 Qooq (pronounced “cook”) will be available stateside in September after debuting in France two years ago. It’s designed especially for kitchen use, with spill- and splash-resistant coatings, four rubbery feet to keep it from sliding off the counter and a built-in kickstand in the back. Continuing the food theme, it comes preloaded with more than 500 recipes and apps to manage weekly menus and grocery shopping lists. (All that content, however, requires a subscription — price to be determined — after the first month.)

  • Jan 12, 2012
    10:37 AM ET

    CES: Smartphone Control Over Video Content

    Getty Images

    Watching movies on the comparably tiny screen of a smartphone doesn’t hold appeal for plenty of consumers, but soon, it may be the equivalent to a universal remote for much of their video content.

    Coming soon: A new app called Shodogg will let users use their smartphones to find their movies or TV show of choice, then send streamable content from their phone to any web-connected device, including computers and televisions. A spokesman says it won’t require any special equipment, and can be used with any product brand — so long as the phone in question is a smartphone and the various devices can connect to the Internet. The smartphone then effectively functions as a control, pulling content from those devices or pushing it to them, and letting users pause and fast-forward from the phone screen.

  • Jan 12, 2012
    9:32 AM ET

    CES: Virtual Credit Cards, Take 2

    iStockphoto

    Remember the craze of temporary credit card numbers? The service, which lets customers create virtual, one-time-use numbers to avoid having their real number stolen while shopping online, made waves a few years back when e-commerce more closely resembled the Wild West than a mall. But they waned in popularity to the point where Discover nixed its program in mid-2011.

    Now, MasterCard is bringing back virtual numbers and a linked app for peace of mind on mobile transactions. The globalVCard consumer offering, which will be out this spring, is a “sexier sister” to the brand’s business-focused offering of the same name, says a spokeswoman. The company also plans to launch a mobile payment option at that time.

  • Jan 11, 2012
    5:11 PM ET

    CES: A Pricey Personal Trainer on Your Wrist

    Kelli B. Grant

    Fitness buffs have been given plenty of options to track their activity in recent years, ranging from low-tech pedometers and free smartphone apps to sensor-laden clothing and body-monitor bands.

    One of the pricier new entrants, the $250 Motoactv from Motorola, uses a square device just slightly smaller than a business card to monitor athletes’ speed, distance, and calories burned while running, biking or other less notable exercise like dashing up and down the stairs with an armful of laundry. (The watch strap bike mount and arm strap each cost $30 extra.) Paired with accessories like a $90 chest band or $130 earbuds, it can also track heart rate.

  • Jan 11, 2012
    4:14 PM ET

    CES: Plugging a Mobile Security Leak

    Kelli B. Grant

    As consumers use their smartphones for a wider range of activities — including shopping and banking — it’s natural to wonder if such activities are really safe. The scary answer: maybe not.

    Experts say hackers are increasingly targeting cellphones, in a variety of ways, to get at the often-vital information stored there. The latest versions of security programs from NQ Mobile claim to protect against a variety of problems. It automatically scans for malicious apps when users are accessing a financial institution via their phone, and also checks for spyware from third-parties that could be eavesdropping on conversations.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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