Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit by Goal Zero
$119.95 at Amazon.com
There’s still enough summer left for a good long hike. And with this lightweight solar power system, you can take along a cellphone without worrying about battery life. All you need is sunshine.
The Guide 10 is thin and light, with handy attachment loops; you could easily tie it across your back during a long hike. It features a pair of solar panels that soak up daylight and turn it into watts. You can plug a phone directly into a built-in connector. The company says its panels will recharge a standard cellphone in one to three hours, or a smartphone in two to four hours, assuming you’ve got full, direct sunlight. Obviously, cloudy days are a problem.
But then you can use the Adventure Kit’s backup power source, a pack loaded with four rechargeable batteries. The pack can be charged in advance, and it’s got a USB port, so you can use it to power your phone when the sun goes down. The battery pack also has a small but bright LED flashlight that is supposed to be good for 100 hours.
I try never to be more than 50 feet from a power outlet. But if you’re the adventurous type, the Guide 10 will let you stay charged up all day long.
Pay what you choose; sign up at belon.gs
From Finland, the country that gave us cellphone titan Nokia, here’s a shrewd new way to keep track of your personal possessions.
Sign up at the Belon.gs website, then order a set of plastic stickers, each with a unique bar code and Web address. When they arrive in the mail, attach the stickers to your most valued portable possession — your keys or your wallet, say — then scan the bar code with a smartphone. Now you can register each stickered object at the website. Just type in the object’s name and a brief description.
Now if you lose the item, the finder can scan the bar code with his own phone, or just type the Web address into any browser. The Good Samaritan will be told how to return a lost item to its rightful owner. In addition, Belon.gs lets its members offer financial rewards for returned items. You just transfer the money using a PayPal account.
Belon.gs will sign you up and mail you a set of stickers at no charge, but the company asks for voluntary contributions from consumers. After all, Belon.gs is based on the idea that people are basically decent sorts who’ll do the right thing even when nobody’s looking. If you share that philosophy, slapping a few Belon.gs stickers on your stuff is an inexpensive vote of confidence in your fellow man.
Wireless Home Phone Base from AT&T Inc.
$129.99 or free with a two-year service contract; $19.99 a month for unlimited voice calls at att.com
For millions of us, our cellphone has become our primary home phone. But long conversations on those tiny handsets can get a little uncomfortable. Sometimes you’d rather grab hold of a big, old-fashioned, telephone receiver. This little box from AT&T lets cellular callers do just that, while giving them a new way to cut their phone bills.
You can either purchase the Phone Base for its full price, or get it free with a two-year contract. The box transmits phone calls over the AT&T Wireless cell network, but it doesn’t include a data plan for getting e-mail or other Internet services. If you’re already an AT&T customer, you can pay $9.99 a month and access your existing pool of talk minutes. Or you can sign up for an unlimited calling plan at $19.99 a month, and talk to anyone in the United States, anytime you want.
Compared to standard landline phone rates, that’s a good deal. If you live in an area with a clear AT&T Wireless signal, the Phone Base might tempt you to drop your standard telephone service and go wireless, especially since you can keep your existing phone number. The box works with any standard telephone, corded or cordless. You even get a familiar dial tone when you lift the receiver. And the Phone Base has a backup battery to let it work for a few hours even if the electricity goes out.
The Phone Base lets you plug your old-school phone into the 21st century, and can save you a nice piece of change as well. That’s my idea of progress.