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Smartphone really blends in

OVER the years while covering the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas I've had massages, shaves and just about every other industry gimmick you can think of -- all right on the show floor.

This year I sat in a Lamborghini to listen to an incredible sound system designed by Monster and couldn't pass up the opportunity to destroy a brand new smartphone.

The company ProtectCELL sells annual insurance for your phone, covering just about everything. This includes getting lost, stolen, dropped in a toilet (very common insurance claim) and even if your phone gets caught in a blender.

A week before the show they sent me a brand new smartphone and invited me to come by the booth and destroy it.

After talking with some company representatives, who explained how the insurance policy works, they invited me to toss my new phone in a blender and whip it up.

Without hesitating I accepted.

The blender destroyed the phone, creating millions of pieces from my brand new hardware.

If that was your phone, you would then call ProtectCELL, explain what happened and they would send you a new one immediately, no questions asked.

The company started in 2006 with 91 participants and now has more than 70,000 with a 25 percent renewal rate.

Your phone can be a personal one or company-issued, with plans ranging from $199 for two years of coverage for an iPhone 5s to $59 for simpler phones.

ProtectCELL will even back up your contacts and other data to help restore them in the event a new phone in needed.

Details: www.protectcell.com

Take a hands-free selfie

OVER the past year or so we have all become familiar with the smartphone photography term of "selfie."

A company called Cellfy has designed a hardware kit to help users take quality photos and videos of themselves using smartphones or tablets.

For the smartphone model, the patent-pending Cellfy Stic is a universal mount with suction cups on both sides to work in portrait or landscape modes.

First download a timer for your device. They suggest TimerCam for iOS or CameraZoomFX for Android.

Then attach your phone to the front side and attach the backside to any clean, smooth surface such as mirrors, windows, clean car panels or glass.

Set the timer, choose your pose and photos will now be better composed with the hands-free hardware.

They also have a tablet model ($24.99), which doubles as an accessory to mount on the back of a headrest for back seat viewing. It also has a built-in kick-stand for use on a flat surface in addition to the front and rear suction cups.

Details: Cellfy Stic $9.99, available in orange, pink, gray and white; www.cellfy.co

A Legend is born

I'M a sound junkie, which is very different from a sound expert. I love trying on headphones for comfort as well as great sound in both over-the-ear headphones and earbuds.

Every year at CES sound is a big and never-ending trend. I tried on countless headphones and found a lot of them to be great but the one that caught my attention was the flagship Marley Legend active noise canceling earbuds ($199).

Each of the earbuds comes with five sizes of tips to get the right fit. Each also comes on a tangle-free cord.

In-ear Legends are built with FSC-certified sapele and maple wood and recyclable aluminum, which adds up to a great looking product to compliment the great sound.

In addition to the display of headphones named after the legend Bob Marley, the company had one of the coolest booths, with a contemporary earthy feel and look.

A live DJ kept the tunes flowing -- and without music from any 20-something-former-Disney-star-turned-spoiled-brats, like so many others.

Just an observation on my part.

The comfortable furniture in the Marley booth also didn't hurt since I had walked more than 50,000 steps (thanks iBitz) at the show.

Many of Marley's over-the-ear headphones are designed with exclusive Marley fabric, which is made with organic cotton, reclaimed hemp and recycled plastic bottles, along with other earth-friendly materials.

Other products on display included incredible desktop Bluetooth speakers, some currently out and other sneak peeks at future 2014 Marley products.

Details: www.thehouseofmarley.com

A sound and light show

ANOTHER product to grab my attention was the AwoX Striimlight B-10 light bulb and Bluetooth speaker.

The multi-functional eco-friendly LED light bulb has an integrated Bluetooth speaker to stream wireless music right from the light fixture.

An included IR remote controls the light on and off along with the speaker volume. The setup consists of screwing in the light bulb and then pairing the speaker with any Bluetooth enabled device.

As for the long-lasting LED lighting, it's equivalent to a 40-watt incandescent bulb.

Details: $99, www.awox.com

App spotlight

ANDROID has plenty of ways to make your lock screen more functional and secure, but once that's bypassed, there's no built-in ability to lock individual apps. App Lock (Smart App Protector) is the best app I've seen to fill this void.

It packs an impressive list of features. You can lock apps by password (character or number), pattern or gesture, and use that to lock your whole phone too. There's also an option to set up multiple passwords and assign them to apps, so you can have different passwords for different apps. It's pretty easy to set up.

One of the cool features is that App Lock can fake out someone who is looking to access an app. If a stranger were to tap a locked app, it can fake Android's default prompt "Unfortunately, has stopped working." Tap OK and you'll be returned to the home screen. But hold down OK and you'll be taken to the password window, where you can unlock the app.

Additionally, App Lock also features the ability to take photos of snoops, much like PeeperPeeper -- and does a better job of the fake-out too. You can even lock core settings, like 3G or Wi-Fi toggles. In fact, the only thing App Lock is missing is the ability to unlock with face detection, for which you'll still need to rely on an app like Visidion.

App Lock (Smart App Protector) is free in the Google Play store.

-- Lifehacker.com

Twitter.com/greggellman

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2014 ??65521

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