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Tech Thursday: Top New Smartphones

Top New Smartphones: Samsung Galaxy SIII

Time to upgrade your mobile device? Here, four state-of-the-art models that will keep you connected, wherever you may roam.

Apple iPhone 4S: The iPhone 4S (and the upcoming iPhone 5) is unbeatable when it comes to apps—more than 675,000 at press time—but international perks vary by carrier. AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer roaming plans, and Sprint and Verizon let you use a local SIM card. $199; AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless.

Samsung Galaxy SIII (pictured): This sleek phone operates on networks at home and abroad (though Sprint and Verizon only work in 48 countries). Its technologies are impressive: one tracks your eye so the screen stays on when you look at it; another switches from text message to call mode when you put the phone to your ear. $199; all major carriers.

HTC One S: Slim, light, and with long-lasting battery power (up to a day and a half), this Android avoids roaming charges by automatically switching to an Internet phone setting when you call from a wireless hot spot. Camera functions include a “burst mode” that can take 99 continuous shots. $149; T-Mobile.

Nokia Lumia 800: Travel apps are a breeze on this tiny phone, which uses the new Windows Phone system. The Lumia 800 also lets you use a locally purchased SIM card abroad. When you include data in your prepaid SIM plan, you’ll have access to your apps on the road. $900; amazon.com.

Photo courtesy of Samsung

Tech Thursday: Medium, a New Content-Sharing Site

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Being the social media editor for Travel + Leisure, I like to think I’m pretty plugged in. I’m on Twitter, Pinterest, Foodspotting, Foursquare, and, of course, Facebook—sorry, the last one’s a friends-only profile. But yesterday, yet another social platform was announced, and I’m interested to see where it will go. (Admittedly, the owners of the site aren’t exactly sure of it either, but it could very well end up being, at least in part, a great home for travel-inspiring words and images.)

Medium is the name, and so far, it appears to be a little bit Tumblr and a little bit Blogger. How are the posts curated? Unlike Facebook, the posts are divvied up into a series of themed “collections,” the idea being that everything within that section sticks to the theme. Once the site fully launches—right now it’s just the creators that are able to post—anyone can contribute. And it seems to be, so far, that the contribution can be anything: photos, links, essays, videos. The idea is to post things that are compelling, because other users will be able to vote for the posts that they like. The more votes, the higher up your post will surface in that collection.

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Tech Thursday: App for New Music Recommendations

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I have a problem. When I find a song I really enjoy, I listen to it to death. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. Sometimes I’ll play it two or three times on a single 30-minute commute home. For serious. And then, of course, after a bit of time passes, I inevitably get bored with it and need to give it a rest until it feels like new again. As a result—and my friends can attest—I regularly post, both to my Facebook and Twitter accounts, pleading for my friends to send me new music suggestions.

So I was excited to hear about a new free app called MusicBunk (Android; iOS) Basically, it’s a simple way to get music recommendations from your friends, but without having to bother them. (Or have them send you a bunch of songs you already have.) Not to mention, if you're on the road, you might just not have the time to sit around and wait for responses. So it's a perfect way to time manage while traveling, without having to give up on that desire for new tunes.

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Money-Saving Hotel Booking Sites

Money-Saving Hotel Booking Sites

Priceline’s Name Your Own Price bidding system was once the most novel way to find a discounted hotel room online, but a slew of innovative new booking websites and apps make it easier than ever to prevent buyer’s remorse. The seven-month-old website BackBid turns the Name Your Own Price approach on its head: instead of guests bidding on hotel rooms, hotels bid on guests. After you submit your existing hotel reservation and travel preferences to BackBid, the site invites hotels in the same area to make you offers for less expensive rooms or upgraded ones at the same price. (A five-star hotel was recently offered in place of a three-star property in Washington, D.C.) As long as you have a refundable reservation, you can cancel and book the new room.

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Tech Thursday: How to Avoid Travel Scams

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The first time I ever flew into JFK was during a flight back to NYC from Los Angeles. I hadn't gone to bed until the sun came up earlier that day, was running on just a couple hours of sleep, and I was ready to get home and collapse onto my bed. So when faced with the decision to wait in the long taxi line or take up some guy on his car service option, my foggy brain decided the latter was a sound decision. I followed the guy to his “taxi” which was a rusty old pick-up truck, but thankfully had enough sense to stop, say “Absolutely not,” and turn back around to deal with the line for a legit cab.

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Tech Thursday: Must-Have Apps For the 2012 London Olympics

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If you’re one of the lucky ones to be attending the Olympics this year in London, but are a little nervous about navigating a foreign city—particularly during what will very likely become a rather chaotic time with the huge influx of travelers and athletes—there are a few apps out there that can help you out. (And most of them will still be useful outside of London, after the Games are long over.)

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Tech Thursday: Three New Technologies to Make Travel Easier

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I love to travel. Obviously. I wouldn’t work here if I didn’t. And I love when I hear about advances in technology that can help make traveling easier. So you can imagine how excited I was when I saw our friends over at sister mag Executive Travel reported three new improvements that are underway that’ll help speed things up while you get to your destination, so you have more time to enjoy that beachside mojito.

The first will help you speed through the baggage check a little faster. How? By printing out your baggage tag at home, while you’re checking into your flight online. The technology was created by Unisys Corporation, and is currently being tested at Billund Airport in Denmark. When passengers show up at the airport, they simply drop their bags off at a special counter and head on over to security.

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Free Restaurant Recs on the Go from Google+ Local and Zagat

Google+ Local

Don't you hate it when you get to a new city and have no idea where to find a great restaurant? More often than not, unfortunately, a lack of knowledge leads to mediocre meals and a poor understanding of local cuisine. Google is out to fix that.

Google has added a new feature to their Google+ social network: Local. Like its competitor, Yelp, Google+ Local will show you recommended businesses, museums, and even—yes—restaurants that are nearby.

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Best New Food Apps

food apps

Restaurant guidebooks have been around since Grimod de la Reynière’s Almanach des Gourmands was published in Paris in 1803. The 21st-century version: pioneering mobile-phone apps that intuitively lead travelers to restaurants via user-generated feedback. Foodspotting launched two years ago as a way to share epicurean snapshots and search for geo-tagged dining options, but it has since evolved into a Pandora-for-food that uses previous likes and dislikes to suggest what you might want to try next. In addition, Foodspotting has beefed up its editorial content, including redesigned “picture menus” for every restaurant and a new series of Travel + Leisure guides that highlight can’t-miss items in destinations from Las Vegas to Paris.

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App Lets Kids Explore the Globe with a Flick of the Finger

Barefoot World Atlas App

What's the perfect gift for young, inquisitive, would-be travelers? The Barefoot World Atlas App, available for iPad. The result of a collaboration between Barefoot Books and Touch Press, a popular app developer, the app lets your little one explore the globe with a flick of the finger.

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