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Business

TECH LAB PLUS

House hunting? Just point and shoot

The HomeSnap app delivers real estate data to iPhones.

HomeSnap

The HomeSnap app delivers real estate data to iPhones.

HomeSnapreal estate shopping app

Free download for iPhone,iPad,and iPod Touchat the Apple App Store

If you’re shopping for a new home, you might want to buy Apple Inc.’s iPad or iPhone first. That way, you can use this remarkable app, which provides vital information about thousands of homes all over the United States.

You launch HomeSnap, point the camera of your portable device at a house that interests you, and shoot a picture of it. Back comes information on the house; estimated value, annual property tax bill, the year the house was built, when it last changed hands, and what the buyer paid. HomeSnap can also direct you to a real estate agent who can get busy trying to purchase the place for you. HomeSnap makes its money by collecting fees from those agents.

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The app doesn’t actually recognize the houses you photograph. It uses the iPhone’s GPS chip and compass to figure out your position, then guesstimates which house is in the picture.

I found it remarkably accurate. And even when it guesses wrong, HomeSnap generates a list of nearby houses so you can pick out the correct one.

Meanwhile, the company plans to turn the users’ snapshots into a photo database of millions of American homes.

HomeSnap is a house-hunter’s delight, and one of the smartest apps I’ve tried this year.

Camileo Air 10pocket video camera with Wi-Fi by Toshiba Corp.

$179.95at HSN.com

The market for pocket video cameras keeps toddling along, despite the death of the beloved Flip. This entry by Toshiba has a lot to offer, but less than I was hoping for.

The Camileo Air 10 shoots full 1080p high-definition video and packs a 16-megapixel still camera. But the feature that sets it apart from the pack is a built-in Wi-Fi chip that lets users wirelessly transmit their images to a home computer or to online services like YouTube.

It works, but not well enough for me.

Turns out you can’t use the Camileo to log onto free public Wi-Fi services, the kind you’ll find at a Starbucks or McDonald’s or at the local public library. That’s because its software doesn’t include a browser for logging on to such hot spots.

As a result, you can use the Wi-Fi feature to connect to your home or office network, but not for uploading videos when you’re on the road - which, for my money, is the main reason you’d want a Wi-Fi-enabled pocket video camera.

You can still use the Camileo to wirelessly transfer images to your personal machine. It even lets you stream live video to other computers in the house. But the lack of a way to transmit videos to public hot spots is a major failing in an otherwise attractive device.

Geneva XS Bluetooth speaker/FM radio/alarm clock, by Geneva Lab

$249.95 at Amazon.com

With so many Bluetooth wireless speakers on the market, how can a company stand out from the crowd? Switzerland’s Geneva Lab has found a way. First, make a speaker that looks and sounds really good. And then charge a small fortune for it.

The Geneva XS is a sleek, white, plastic box that unfolds into a sort of travel clock/radio. Yes, you can tune in FM stations; it even has an old-school telescoping antenna. It’s also got a rechargeable battery that’s supposed to be good for about five hours of listening, although you can also plug the XS right into the wall. You can connect a cellphone, MP3 player, or other portable audio device using a standard phono jack. Or if your phone or laptop has Bluetooth, do a wireless hookup.

I fed the speakers a series of selections from my Android phone and found it to be the best-sounding Bluetooth speaker system I’ve tested. This little speaker can crank out remarkable volume, with a minimum of distortion. Alas, an even more remarkable feature of the XS is its price, far more than I’d ever pay for a portable speaker. But if you’re an audio buff with deep pockets, the Geneva XS is well worth a listen.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.
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