CTIA Wireless: ShowStoppers highlights some of the latest cutting edge gadgets

CTIA Wireless 2011 has commenced in Orlando, Florida. Here's a look at some of the latest gadgets that were shown off at ShowStoppers on Monday.
By Rachel King, Contributor on
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Gogobeans released a mobile app today that is intended to minimize clicks when sharing information. Like the Bump app, users can share contact info. But Gogobeans goes virtual as one can share information with a contact who is thousands of miles away just by shaking a mobile phone at the same time. Users can also share large files using a digital locker (also free), and share the data by sending a message to friends.  Gogobeans is compatible with both iOS and Android platforms.

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Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) brings HD content from a portable device (i.e. a smartphone) to the TV. MHL technology is promised to work with any existing TV and smartphone. If your TV doesn't come with a built-in, physical MHL chip, there is the adapter that will be available from Best Buy.

This might sound a bit like the new iPad 2 HDMI cable accessory, and it is. But this one is promised to be far cheaper. The price tag hasn't been announced yet, but it will be far under $40 when released within a few months. It will also be bundled for free with select (yet currently unknown) mobile phones.

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Digital maps provider Navteq showed off its latest apps at ShowStoppers in Orlando. Navteq already provides maps in approximately 81 countries around the world. The next stop is destination maps, such as shopping malls, theme parks and convention centers. Navteq is currently in talks with its partners now about implementing the new maps, which we should see implemented in devices within the next few months.

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Belair brought its new 4G LTE compound base station to CTIA Wireless. The small cell product will be placed on electrical poles and wires on city streets. It is intended to offload 3G networks. For example, customers who want to connect to their carrier's respective Wi-Fi networks will be able to do so instead of using basic 3G coverage. The faster speed and connectivity will be incorporated to the normal contract service, so consumers shouldn't see any difference in their phone and data plans.

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Novatel brought some familiar products from CES 2011 to CTIA Wireless. Specifically, there were two MiFi devices on display. First was the LTE 4510L Mobile Hotspot for Verizon Wireless, which is expected in the second quarter of 2011. However, the 4082 WiMax Hotspot for Sprint is expected "any day now" for $100. That one is confirmed to have a $50 mail-in rebate. Each hotspot device is ready to work with up to five devices connected simultaneously.

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SuperTooth displayed an in-car device sporting dual speakers and dual microphones, requiring only five watts of power. The battery-operated accessory, which just clips on to the sun visor, allows drivers to communicate hands-free using Bluetooth. Users can ask for stats such as the battery level or remaining memory with voice commands, as well as talk to the server to send messages via e-mail, texting, Facebook and Twitter. The battery allows for 20 hours of talk time and 1,000 hours of standby time. This gadget will be available in late April for $129.

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Zagg brought a few new gadgets to CTIA Wireless. First up is the ZaggMate, a protective case with a Bluetooth keyboard that adds only a fourth of an inch in width. This case is already available for $99. The keyboard is compatible with the iPad 2, but the sizing will be off a bit. A new version will start shipping later this month.

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Zagg also displayed the ZaggSpark. This universal charger sports dual USB ports to power up a pair of gadgets simultantously. This one is also available now for $99.

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SnapKeys reinvents the virtual keyboard by grouping all of the Western Alphabet into four keys. Intended to be intuitive, users only have to use their thumbs to type out words.

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Sonamba is a roving status monitor with a 7-inch color touch screen geared for senior citizens. Even if seniors don't want to use the device, it still proves helpful as a digital photo frame for seniors and an alert system for respective family members. The system keeps seniors connected to family and caregivers with simple text messages and a built-in GSM system. For example, a senior can send a message saying "Feel good. Need medicine/groceries" within two clicks. I witnessed the transaction first hand and the message is sent to a mobile number with in seconds. The Sonamba costs $549 initially, with a $39 per month data plan.

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Otterbox brought many protective cases for mobile gadgets to CTIA. The premier series is the Defender line, which incorporates three layers of protection: a silicone exterior, a polycarbonite inside and a built-in screen protector. There are also some other touches, such as the felt interior addition to protect the glass casing of the iPhone 4. That case is available now for $49.

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OtterBox is also gearing up accessories for the iPad 2, including one very similar to an existing product for the Motorola Xoom. The casings for tablets are similar to those for smartphones with the three layers of protection. Expect the new case to hover around $89.95.

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OtterBox rounds out its collection of protective cases with the Reflex series, which is based on the crumple zone of a car. Intended for making devices easier to dock when wearing cases, the Reflex design slides apart simply. The iPhone 4 model will retail for $49.95 and will be available for purchase "very soon."

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Conduit is a platform to build mobile applications. The system is free to use and only takes "seconds" to render a native app for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry and Nokia's Symbian operating systems.

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Conduit is touted to be able to build any kind of app, whether it be geo-based, incorporating the camera features, etc. Coders can also make full use of the API, promotion tools and more. If an app is free, there is no cost to the developer. If the developer decides to charge for the app, then there is a revenue share model with Conduit to explore.

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The Endomondo personal trainer app is a motion-based program that takes advantage of the GPS connection to track speed, distance and other stats. There is a free version for "all" platforms that records basic stats, while the $3.99 app for iOS and Android that allows for social connections. For example, friends can track other users data to send pep talk messages that turn into an MP3 file for the ones exercising. Users can also use the data to compete against each other. For example, friends can see who burns the most calories, runs the most miles, etc.

Companies can get involved by motivating employees with special events. For example, Endomondo is launching its first U.S. project with a "Ride Your Bike to Work Event" on May 1 in Wisconsin with other states to follow. Approximately 300 countries are already signed up to take part.

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Cobra Electronics brought several gadgets, starting with the Phone Lynk. Users can make and receive phone calls from a cell phone using a regular cordless phone all thanks to Bluetooth. Users don't need an actual landline number to use this product. The Phone Lynk allows for up to two cell phones to connect to the same stationary, household phone, and caller ID information is still send to the receiving cordless phone. The cell phones can be differniated using separate ringtones. The Phone Lynk costs $59 without any monthly fee.

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Next up is the iRadar, available for Android and iPhone systems. When paired with a free app, drivers can find out speed traps, radar alerts, redlight cameras and more information while driving using the Bluetooth and GPS functions on the respective smartphone. The device plugs into the cigarette lighter but can also power a mobile phone via USB simultaneously. The iRadar costs $129. The app is available for the iPhone now and for Android in April.

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Finally, Cobra displayed the Phone Tag key, a wireless tracking device for smartphones. When the devices are separated, the phone will ring and the key will chime, depending which one you have on hand. If they are completely disconnected, the user should be able to detect where the smartphone was previously as a GPS stamp is recorded to either Facebook, Twittter or e-mail. This helpful gadget will roll out in July for $59.

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