From music to MacBooks, these gifts will resonate with students. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
You might think college students are tricky to shop for, but in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth. Since they’re constantly swamped with homework and simultaneously managing a busy social life, all they want is stuff that makes their lives easier and more fun.
If you’re stressing about what to get the student in your life this holiday season, never fear. We’ve collected some great gift ideas, handpicked by college students for college students:
The folks at The Orange Chef prepare lunch in their San Francisco offices with smart scale PrepPad. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
This may be the last time you feel good about walking half a mile to get a cronut: a calorie-counting food scale and fitness tracker are on to you.
Smart food scale Prep Pad now synchs with Jawbone Up, keeping track of what you’re eating and how many calories you are burning.
It’s latest buddy system in the quantified self movement, where, as we reported earlier, your car is already conversing with your fitness tracker about how much you should be hoofing it instead of driving. Sales of fitness gadgets like the Jawbone Up, Fitbit and Nike + are over the previous year, leaving us with 19 million trackers and trainers strapped to our wrists.
Brendan Nee, an engineer at Automatic Labs, designed an app to get people out of their cars, even though he doesn’t have one to get into. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — Brendan Nee is a walking contradiction. He’s car guru who doesn’t own one, a 21st-century geek with an 18th-century mustache who has come up with a novel bit of nagware that could help Americans get off their spreading behinds.
An engineer working on “smart car assistant” Automatic, he spends many of his weekends at hackathons and has a coder’s physique to show for it. In January, he won the Clinton Foundation Code4Health Codeathon by developing a working prototype of an app called Walkoff in just a weekend. A few months later, Nee and team rolled out a more polished version that mashes up the data Automatic pulls from cars with info gathered by a Jawbone Up fitness tracker, showing a user how much time they’re spending behind the wheel versus walking.
“Clearly, without an actual car, I’m not the ideal tester,” admits Nee. The closest he comes to owning a set of wheels is a retired public bus dubbed the PlayaPillar that he only rolls out for Burning Man.
As the nation grows more obese yet car culture still rules, here’s the nudge of the hour: your car and your fitness app talking to each other, reminding you that you’re not moving enough.
Automatic’s smart driving assistant can turn your old hunk of junk into a smart car, but the company announced today that it’s teamed up with Jawbone to whip your belly rolls into shape by giving drivers more insight into how your physical activity and driving patterns are connected.
Automatic is one of our favorite iOS car accessories and while we’ve been blown away how easily it can future-proof your dumb car, the smart dongle just got a lot more intelligent thanks to an update that brings IFTTT integration into the car for the first time.
Automatic can already track your trips and tell you where you parked, but with IFTTT recipes you can now let your car Tweet, post to Facebook, or send an email to your mechanic based on a set of triggers Automatic has created.
I drive a 10-year-old Nissan Xterra. When I see new vehicles with technology like Ford Sync and Siri Eyes Free, I get jealous of the ability to send texts and answer phone calls without touching my iPhone. The most advanced thing my car can do is play audio from my iPhone through a stereo jack in the radio console.
Combine the lack of cool tech in my whip and my obsession with the latest gadgets and I was immediately intrigued back in March when I heard about Automatic, a hardware/software startup based in San Francisco that’s pitched as a smart driving assistant. Unlike an expensive add-on that has to be installed by a dealer, the Automatic Link is a $100 dongle (Amazon link) that can plug into the car’s data port found somewhere under the steering wheel. It communicates over low-energy Bluetooth to an iPhone app that records your driving, analyzes your mileage, reads your check engine light, helps you find your parked car and more.
The feature that sold me was the ability to see what was causing my engine light to come on—a problem that has ruthlessly followed me with every vehicle I’ve owned so far. I immediately preordered and my Automatic arrived mid-October.
After using Automatic for about a month now, it’s real usefulness is starting to show. There are features about it I love, and it’s shown me how everyday technology, like an iPhone, can enhance the car experience. The Jetsons-like future of transportation isn’t here yet, but Automatic is a precursor of what’s to come. It gets me excited about how our personal computers will interface with cars in 10 years.
Automatic Link by Automatic Category: Auto Accessories Works With: iPhone & Android Price: $99.99
I’m a horrible driver. Each time a passenger gets behind the wheel with me they’re assaulted by a swirling barrage of sudden lane changes, quick breaking, faster acceleration and more near misses than I care to admit.
I’ve been driving since I was 13 which means I’ve probably picked up a slew of bad driving habits, but a new iPhone accessory, the Automatic Link, promises to help drivers make small changes to their driving habits by providing real-time feedback that can help you increase your fuel efficiency and make you a better driver. Bad habits die hard, so I put the Automatic Link to the test for 3-months to see if it would help improve my driving skills, here’s what I found:
The iPhone is a great travel tool, but making your smartphone travel actually smart isn’t about packing it up with dozens of apps you never use or that won’t get you out of the plane seat next to the loo on a crowded holiday flight.
Enter Cult of Mac Magazine. In time for your holiday travels (or maybe escaping from your loved ones for some beach or ski resort time?), we sounded out dozens of road warriors to learn what they really find necessary for the daily commute or continental flight. These black tees and easy-to-launder socks of the app world, if you will, include some surprising picks, many of them free.
If your travel is mostly of the four-wheel variety, you’ll want to read what happens when reporter Alex Heath took smart-driving app Automatic for a month-long spin. (Can it reform his gas guzzling, donut-making driving style?)
In our exclusive Ask an Apple Genius column, we answer your questions about how to get your Mac repaired on the road and how to handle assistance when you live in a town without an Apple store.
You’ll also find our picks for the best in apps this week and what’s really rocking the iTunes store when it comes to books, movies and music.