Ina Fried and Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

CES Notebook: The Constant Search for Power and Vegas’ Worst-Kept Secrets

What we’d really like to see at CES are devices with markedly better battery life.

But since that clearly isn’t happening any time soon, we’re happy to see that this year’s show brings some creative options for recharging on the go.

And, really, what better time to show off your goods than when a bunch of frazzled reporters and producers are scrambling to find power outlets? (We’re writing this from a well-powered press room right now, though just a couple hours ago, we were in separate Vegas casinos, each trying to charge our laptops without attracting hotel security.)

Fortunately, electronics makers are plugged in to our needs. (Get it?!)

While there are lots of options for those willing to tote around an external battery, one of the more intriguing new entries adds charging capability to something we are already carrying — a backpack. Made by RFA, the Powerbag series backpack carries along several hours’ worth of battery life, and the ability to charge up to four devices at once, using micro-USB, mini-USB, full-size USB and Apple’s 30-pin dock connector.

The bags are pretty well padded, too, and have water-resistant bottoms. The Powerbags aren’t cheap — they range from $139.99 to $249.99 — but they do look handy, and several models are already on the market.

Unfortunately, the backpacks don’t charge laptops. But for average consumers, as opposed to reporters filing stories, the included mobile chargers are probably much more useful.

SolarKindle from Solar Focus makes us think of a day at the beach, rather than five days at CES. But it packs two functions that could be useful into one Kindle case. The outside of the case has solar panels that power both an arm light on top of the Kindle screen and an extra battery that lives in the back of the case.

Because it uses comparatively little battery and lasts weeks at a time, the Kindle is a logical device for solar charging. Even hardcore geeks get at least one day of sun, right? However, the same logic suggests that Kindle owners can probably also find time to charge up, every month or so.

To that end, the Solar Focus device doesn’t work with the new Kindle Fire — as the company points out, the tablet has a backlit screen and doesn’t use E-ink, so the arm light isn’t needed — but it does work with a standard Kindle and Kindle Touch.

Still, the Solar Touch could make the Kindle a near-perfect choice for those asked to choose the one gadget they would want on a desert island.

So if you need to fire up your non-Kindle Fire, the SolarKindle launches midmonth, and will cost $79.99.

Lastly, if you really have run out of battery power options, and you’re desperate to write something on your iPad, Targus has partnered with iDevices to create a writing pen that transcribes what you write on plain paper directly to your iPad, using Bluetooth capabilities. Even better is that the pen, called the iNotebook, does have some memory built in and allows you to store your notes if your iPad is dead. Once it’s up and running again, the notes will automatically transfer over. A little bit more than a ballpoint pen, this device is going to cost $149.99.

Of course, plain old pen and paper also work without a battery and cost just a couple bucks. Heck, we each got a free pen and notepad with our Vegas hotel rooms. Although, don’t get us started on what those cost.

Lauren Goode

* * *

Nokia and Samsung are locked in a fierce battle.

No, not the race for the title of world’s largest cellphone maker, though that’s interesting, too. The pair are neck and neck in the battle for worst-kept secret in Vegas.

We’re not sure which unannounced announcement has been more clearly preannounced: Nokia’s LTE Windows Phone for AT&T, or the fact that Samsung’s 5-inch Galaxy Note tabletphone is also coming to AT&T.

Nokia isn’t commenting, but people familiar with the matter have been busy talking up the device, most recently to the New York Times. Coding in AT&T’s Web site also reveals a Nokia device is coming, we’re told.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s Note is also officially yet to be announced. But there are signs for it all over Vegas. Plus, accessory maker Anymode, closely tied to Samsung, announced a line of accessories for the device (an announcement that was also retracted, as if such a thing were possible.)

While Samsung is probably the leakiest of the two, Nokia’s product is a whole lot more important to that company than the Galaxy Note is to Samsung’s future.

For Nokia, the new AT&T device will be its flagship and the centerpiece of the company’s effort to get back into the U.S. smartphone game.

In Samsung’s case, the Galaxy Note just ensures that it has every screen size from 3 inches to 10 inches covered with an Android device of some shape. Dell didn’t find much love for its 5-inch Streak, but we’ll see if a stylus and some other features allow it to carve out a niche.

Ina Fried

* * *

We were going to do a whole big feature story on how smartphones were killing the market for GPS devices, MP3 players and point-and-shoot cameras, but NPD’s holiday sales figures say it all.

MP3 players are down 20.5 percent, point-and-shoot cameras down 20.8 percent and GPS units down 32.6 percent.

The only thing missing are some quotes. So here you go:

“Yup,” said the analyst.

“But just wait,” said the point-and-shoot camera maker. “Our new camera adds Wi-Fi.”

“We’re focusing on value added services,” said the GPS maker, while also asking bystanders for loose change.

“I’m sorry, I was listening to music on my phone,” said the MP3 maker.

Ina Fried

* * *

Our team is on the ground in Vegas looking for the really interesting stuff, the big trends and the fun things that make the long lines, long days and long speeches worth it. Check out the links below for all the latest from the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald