Favorite Things

Android Power's 3 favorite things for January 2014

Favorite Things

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It's all too easy to get critical when talking about technology -- but here in the land of Android, there's plenty of good stuff to go around. Some of it's small, like an app, service, or accessory; some of it's bigger, like a device or even an entire company's evolving habits.

Android Power Favorite Things

Whatever it is, there's no shortage of things I love at any given moment -- things that are in some way making my life easier or making the mobile landscape a more pleasant place to live. Since so many of these things get lost in the shuffle of our day-to-day discussion, I thought I'd start taking a moment to shine the light on a few of them from time to time.

So without further ado, here are three of my favorite things right now:

1. Tylt Vu

Tylt Vu

File this one under the "small stuff" category: The Tylt Vu is a simple wireless charger that works with any Qi-compatible device. Its simplicity is what makes it stand out: The charger is just a soft-touch matte plastic stand. You set it on your desk, coffee table, nightstand, or whatever, drop your phone or tablet on it when you're there -- and the stand quietly passes power to your device while keeping it at an easy-to-view 45-degree angle.

I picked up a black one while they were on sale for half off over the holidays. At 35 bucks, it was a no-brainer. The regular price of $70 is a bit steep, as wireless chargers generally tend to be, but this is definitely one Android accessory I'm happy to have.

2. TripIt Pro

While I'm not entirely thrilled with the way TripIt is shutting off access to third-party applications, I've gotta admit that the company's premium TripIt Pro service is pretty damn impressive.

TripIt, for the uninitiated, is a cross-platform travel management service; once you create an account, all you do is forward all travel-related emails -- flight confirmations, hotel reservations, theater ticket receipts, you name it -- to plans@tripit.com and the service organizes them into easily accessible trip-based itineraries. It can automatically sync the pertinent info with your Google Calendar, too, which I find to be quite handy.

TripIt Pro Alternate Flights

TripIt Pro takes things up a notch by monitoring all of your active flights and alerting you of any changes (via push notifications on your phone -- or email or SMS, if you prefer). What won me over during a recent free trial is its ability to find alternate flights with a couple quick taps: The service notified me on my phone that a flight had been cancelled before the airport announced it -- and 10 seconds later, I was armed and ready with a list of every available alternate flight with at least one seat open that afternoon.

Another feature let me set a "Seat Tracker" alert so I'd be notified if/when a more preferable seat became available on any of my flights. For a guy who's claustrophobic in anything other than an aisle, that's a useful option to have.

Some of TripIt Pro's functionality is duplicated in free services like Google Now, but the advanced features like instant push-based alerts, alternate flight search, and seat tracking give it unique value for me. And the whole service is just really well done and pleasant to use; I found myself smiling in surprise several times during my recent travel adventures.

TripIt Pro's asking price of $49 a year (after a 30-day trial) isn't cheap -- that's really the biggest downside, as far as I'm concerned -- but my recent experience with the service has convinced me it's a price worth paying.

3. T-Mobile

Over the years, I've made no secret of the fact that I think American carriers suck, generally speaking. The major players have been screwing us for ages, providing subpar service with ripoff rates and loads of sneaky surcharges.

That's why it's so refreshing to see one company finally starting to get it right. Sure, T-Mobile's whole "Uncarrier" schtick may be 50 percent marketing, but the carrier actually is breaking important new ground in the U.S. mobile market. Ditching contracts and one-sided subsidies is a long overdue move for America -- one that ultimately saves the vast majority of consumers a lot of money in the long run. Getting rid of international roaming is icing on the cake.

And let's be honest: All significant shifts aside, watching John Legere's R-rated antics is just plain entertaining. In an industry filled with stuffy suits and meaningless jargon, it's nice to see someone shaking things up for once.

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And that, my friends, is why T-Mobile is one of my favorite things in the land of Android right now. Stay tuned for more.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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