Gadgets to Go
Jamshed Avari | 24 August 2010
Gadgets to Go
YOU HAVE MANY CHOICES TO MAKE BEFORE BUYING AN ENTERTAINMENT DEVICE!
By Jamshed Avari
Entertainment today can be quite a personal thing. There will always be social entertainment, for example concerts, movies, shows and even the family gathering to watch TV, but personal entertainment is still a fairly new frontier. Now, when you're alone on a flight or train ride, you don't have to get bored and you don't have to make do with whatever ancient, recycled fare there is on offer. Expandability and the low cost of memory cards these days mean you can literally haul an entire CD collection and movie library with you in your pocket.
It's actually a bit confusing now, with the multitude of devices available. There just doesn't seem to be one perfect entertainment solution. Some people want to carry only one device around, in which case a multi-functional cellphone is the best bet. Others want to watch vidoes on a large screen, which means a different type of device is called for. Read on to see what the many options are, and get an idea of what should be a suitable fit for you.
Sadly, No Company has yet come out with the perfect entertainment device. Nothing is without compromise, and you'll have to choose the best balance of features and capabilities to suit you. The closest things we have to perfect all-rounders are smartphones which combine various multimedia and entertainment functions, although these can be quite expensive!
The first thing to base a decision on is screen size and type. Handheld devices are great for music and some amount of Web surfing, but videos and ebooks will always benefit from bigger screens. If you want a device for occasional travels rather than everyday commuting, a larger-screened device will serve you better.
Internet connectivity is becoming more and more important, with cloud-based media streaming services and tons of downloadable content available. Again, mobile phones have the edge here, but look out for devices with dedicated cellular data or wireless broadband connections in the very near future.
The one big concern most people have is battery life. The more a single device is used, the faster its battery will run down, and you don't want to be caught without juice just when you're expecting an important call to come in.
The functions you need will determine whether you end up with one device or many.
A few additional purchases can help you get a lot more out of your portable devices. You can add certain features and functions, enhance the battery life, or simply add a touch of your own personality to nearly any gadget. Here are a few essential picks:
Headphones: Nearly every device listed here will require you to have a good pair of headphones. The ones that ship with most devices are not usually of the highest quality, but luckily there’s a huge variety available spanning multiple types, styles, colors and prices. For most people on the go, simple earbuds are the best bet. These are typically quite inexpensive and most importantly, do not seal you off from outside noise. The in-ear variety create a seal which is better for the sound and keeps you from pumping the volume up too high, but can be a big risk while jogging or crossing the road. Those who are uncomfortable with earbuds can choose from headphones with classic over-the-head bands, behind-the-neck bands, and behind-the-ear clips. Headphones are a totally personal choice; see if you can try them out before you buy. Recommended brands include Sony, Philips, Sennheiser, and Koss.
Speakers: You carry multiple gigabytes’ worth of music around with you, so why not share those tunes at a party or any gathering? A personal MP3 player turns into a boombox with the addition of a simple speaker dock. There are dozens available especially for iPods, including even tiny, battery-operated ones that you can take anywhere. Other media players, phones and devices can usually be connected via a simple stereo audio cable, or in a few cases, via Bluetooth. Again, the choice will depend on your personal taste, so carry your own music along to the shop when buying. Recommended brands: Logitech, Altec Lansing
Cases: After spending thousands of rupees, you’ll want to make sure your gadgets are well protected from spills, falls and the natural elements. Even coins in the same pocket can badly scratch a gadget’s screen as you walk. Luckily screen protectors for common products are available at most mobile stores for a nominal cost. iPod and iPhone cases can also be found anywhere these days, in a multitude of designs, colors and materials. Some come with kickstands built in, or wrap around your arm for excercising.
Other functionality: Again, iPods and iPhones have the largest number of accessories available by virtue of their popularity, but other brands make their own as well. You can get FM transmitters for listening to music in your car, chargers, external batteries moulded to the shape of the device, remote controllers, cables, audio and video output adapters… the choices are exhaustive!
What good is the hardware without music and videos to play? Luckily, we have quite a few options for quality entertainment. The biggest and most popular source today is still illegal downloading. Various websites and P2P networks offer thousands of gigabytes’ worth of media to help yourself to, but are now steadily being pushed to extinction due to mounting legal threats. As ingenious as pirates might become, we just can’t recommend illegal downloading.
In India, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment has launched a legal music and video download service which works across computers and cellphones. Anyone can visit www.hungama.com and choose from thousands of songs and videos. You can also pick up wallpapers and ringtones for your cellphone. The site offers three pricing schemes for all content: Rs 10 for one download, Rs 20 for four downloads, or Rs 99 per month for an unlimited subscription (which you have to renew every 30 days, or your files will refuse to play). Purchased songs come in MP3 format and can be copied to your phone or MP3 player, but subscription-based downloads come in DRM-protected WMA format, and your device will need to be compatible with the free Hungama Player application. The site plans to offer legal movies and TV shows, though an exact date isn't known.
There are also websites which offer free music by independent artistes as well as one or two tracks from mainstream acts as promotional giveaways. Chances are some pretty good remixes of your favorite tracks are available for free too. Some great links are:
Streaming music and video when on the move is also going to be possible when 3G services launch (though the data costs could mount quite quickly). Cellphone users will benefit most till cellular data connections in other devices become standard. Some great online streaming resources are Yahoo Music, Live365, Shoutcast, Grooveshark.com, and dozens of others.
For free ebooks, you can search through the Project Gutenberg archives (www.gutenberg.org). They proudly offer over 32,000 free copyright-expired books, which include such popular classics as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the undying works of authors including Charles Dickens, Lewis Caroll, Beatrix Potter, and Agatha Christie.
For easy book reading on your cellphone, visit books.google.com/googlebooks/mobile/ through your phone’s browser. Pages are formatted down to a manageable size and layout. There’s also www.wordds.com, which offers articles from leading world magazines including Business Week, Wired, Time, and The Economist, completely for free.