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The Best New Accessories for Your Smart Phone

I’m addicted to my iPhone. There, I said it. I feel better. Now that that’s out of the way, I should also admit another addiction: I can’t get enough of cell phone accessories. It doesn’t matter if it’s something like a cool new case, or an addictive—and in many cases, mind-numbing—game that I’ve downloaded to waste time while busing back and forth between NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia, as I’m known to do. (Yes, I do consider an app a cell phone accessory, of sorts.) I just love anything that makes my already cool phone even cooler.

That being said, I want to share my latest favorite cell phone accessories:

201203-b-tripodjpgI just picked up the XSories Mini Deluxe Tripod ($29.99; xsories.com), and am in love. It works with just about any smart phone by gripping it via a spring-operated clasp and is perfect if you, like me, use your phone as your primary camera while out and about. It’s small enough that it can fit in your bag, or even a back pocket. It's super lightweight, and you can even bend the legs for even more flexibility with positioning it. Couple it with the Photo Timer app (free; iOS) and you can make sure the whole gang gets in the shot.

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FAA Reconsiders Takeoff, Landing Policy On E-Readers, Other Devices

PaidContent.org  Welcome news from Nick Bilton: the FAA finally is revisiting the policy that keeps Kindles, iPads and the like turned off during takeoffs and landing.

The FAA told Bilton it will take a “fresh look” at whether some devices can be used safely and how a policy could be framed. Smartphones aren’t included in the review.

The current personal electronics rule dating back to 2006 (described in this FAA circular) canceled one that banned use of personal electronics and shifted responsibility completely to the operators.

It allows airlines to offer fliers the use of certain devices but only if the airline can prove each allowed device won’t interfere with the plane’s performance. As Bilton and the FAA point out, that hasn’t happened.

Why haven’t the airlines stepped up? To challenge the policy, each one has to test each device on each kind of plane it operates. (...)

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Top Video-Sharing Apps

share videos online

Chances are, during your last getaway with the family, you shot a lot of video. Most likely it was taken using a smart phone, but it was probably never edited before it was shared. The recent explosion in video-sharing apps—which promise to do for short clips what picture-sharing apps like Instagram and Path did for still images—means there’s no longer any excuse. These apps let you shoot videos and customize them with a variety of filters to change the clips’ look and feel. Most important, they also allow for one-touch sharing to social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Finding Top Restaurant Deals with Bitehunter

Bitehunter inventor Gil Harel

Innovator Gil Harel

Who He Is: Though he got his start working in the marketing department of Israel’s Isrotel hotel chain and at Expedia, the 39-year-old Cornell MBA now focuses on the restaurant and bar industry with his new website, Bitehunter.

His Big Idea: The Bitehunter site and its iPhone app scour more than 500 online sources including Gilt City, OpenTable, restaurant.com, and even Twitter to locate the best deals in any given area. It’s a Kayak-style approach for dining deals, which Harel acknowledges as inspiration for his food-focused search engine: “Historically, airlines adopt cutting-edge technology first, followed by hotels, then restaurants.” And as foodie deal services such as Groupon and BlackboardEats continue to proliferate, his simple aggregator is a welcome resource.

Photo courtesy of Hila Harel

Best Apps for Managing Frequent Flyer Miles

air travel mileage tracker

Staying on top of your many mileage, hotel, and rental-car programs is one of the biggest headaches for frequent travelers. Ditto figuring out whether or not you’ve accumulated enough points to book a first-class ticket for your next big getaway. But luckily, online mileage trackers have stepped in to help, letting travelers input their various member ID’s and passwords to conveniently consolidate all of their programs in one place. Besides displaying your latest balances, these services also notify you of all upcoming expiration dates, which is essential for keeping (and amassing more!) points.

Each site has its own edge: MileBlaster is particularly good at tracking your miles and alerting you whenever your points are about to expire, while AwardWallet smartly provides users with a convenient wallet-size card listing all of their loyalty numbers. We like TripIt’s iPhone- and iPad-optimized apps, which let you quickly access your details on the fly.

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Announcing the SMITTYs: T+L's Social Media in Travel & Tourism Awards!

201201-b-smittys-header_bgjpg

Let’s face it: social media is taking over. If you’re not at least on Facebook and Twitter, you’re, well, behind on the times. To honor and acknowledge those in the Travel industry who are doing an exceptional job on these new platforms, we’re introducing the first-ever Travel + Leisure Social Media in Travel & Tourism Awards or, as we’ve come to call ‘em, "The SMITTYs." (Clever, right?)

Want to nominate a travel company that's doing something cool? Or has your company launched an innovative/exciting/super-successful social media campaign? If yes, submit one or more nominations for a chance to win one (or more!) of these monumental new awards. Who exactly can enter? We’re looking for submissions from the following:

- Hotels & Resorts
- Cruise Lines
- Airlines
- Airports
- Tour Operators
- Tourism Boards/CVBs
- Travel Agencies/Online Travel Agencies
- Car Rental Agencies
- Attraction

There are three categories you can submit a nomination for:

- Best use of a social media platform.
- Best single social media promotion.
- Best social media promotion of travel deals.

Nominations will be accepted until March 2, 2012, and then the winners will be selected by a panel of social media experts and announced in our July 2012 issue.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s see what you've got!

[Please be sure to read the rules before submitting.]

2010-hs-josh-pramisjpg
Joshua Pramis is the social media editor at Travel + Leisure and resident tech aficionado. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuapramis

Take a Smithsonian Scavenger Hunt

cellphone fantasy coffin

Over the cold MLK weekend, my kids and I headed south to meet some cousins in Washington, D.C. and had the chance to test-drive a Smithsonian Art Adventure mobile-phone-based scavenger hunt from Stray Boots.

On Sunday morning, bundled up and armed with instructions for the hunt (the company’s website calls them “interactive walking tours” and “urban games”), we headed to the designated starting point, the Smithsonian Castle, punched our confirmation code into the phone, and the questions started coming.

Players participate via text message or, by using a smartphone, type answers into a web interface.  Points are awarded for correct answers and hints are available for incorrect ones, and additional interesting trivia is served up with each answer.  The cost to play is about the same as joining a human-hosted walking tour, but the phone-delivered narrative allows for more pausing, food breaks, and general messing-around, which suited our group better.

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Blurb Mobile’s Photography-Sharing App

Jim Lanahan

Innovator Jim Lanahan

Who He Is: When online custom book publisher Blurb wanted to build its mobile division, it tapped Jim Lanahan, a former photojournalist and early adopter of digital photography, for the job. Lanahan had previously helped to develop Apple’s original digital photography strategy in the early 1990’s, playing a big part in making it the go-to company for graphic designers and photographers.

His Big Idea: Blurb Mobile (free) is an app that lets iPhone and iPad users create beautifully packaged picture-and-video slideshows, then instantly share them not only with other Blurb Mobile users, but also on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr—all in just a handful of simple steps. How simple? Lanahan’s 81-year-old father quickly mastered it, so he could share his travel photos on the fly.

Photo courtesy of Jim Lanahan

More Airlines Add Wi-Fi, but Fliers Balk at Paying

USA Today |  Travelers are treating in-flight Wi-Fi like a bag of peanuts: They'll take it, if it's free.

Airlines are spending millions of dollars to equip planes with Wi-Fi capability. But only a small percentage of travelers have used the service since it was introduced in 2008, numbers from providers and analysts indicate.

"It is certainly something everyone recognizes as a value, both to the airlines and the passengers," says Michael Planey, an industry analyst at H&M Planey Consultants. "The question is at what point do airlines or service providers make money or stem losses?"

Airlines and in-flight Wi-Fi providers won't disclose how much the service is used.

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Best Video-on-Demand Services

video on demand service

How do you watch your favorite programs while you’re on the road? Besides iTunes, the vast crop of on-demand services for your laptop, mobile, and tablet should keep you entertained.

Netflix ($7.99 per month) remains the undisputed leader, offering tens of thousands of TV shows (from classics to recently aired series) and movies (a healthy mix of blockbusters, obscure film-festival favorites, and more) for mostly seamless, advertising-free viewing.

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