Mobile technology is hot this holiday season, and you'll find gadgets to fit every interest and budget. I visited AT&T and Verizon to get the latest news.
"We're at a tipping point," says Shawn Glinski, area retail sales manager for AT&T. "People have integrated smartphones into their lives. They want the same experience on all devices."
"There's something for everyone," says Amr Wahba, district manager for Verizon. "Between iOS, Android, and Windows, there's a diversity of choices."
We're entering the world of the device ecosystem, in which your smartphone, tablet, computer, and gaming console all work together in seamless integration.
Tablets are the year's top sellers. Apple recently introduced the new iPad Mini and the upgraded iPad, both running version 6 of the iOS software. With iOS 6 users can sync data without having to dock, or purchase songs on iTunes and have them instantly available everywhere.
The new Windows is making a splash on tablets and smartphones, including the popular Nokia Lumia series. I had a chance to see the Lumia 822 and 920 in action. The 920 comes with built-in wireless charging using NFC, a technology similar to Bluetooth that allows you to connect devices by tapping them together. This saves wear and tear on the dock, notes AT&T's Glinski, and NFC chargers have better battery performance.
Is there concern about the learning curve for Windows 8? "The feedback has been positive," says Verizon's Wahba. "There are only two screens, and Live Tiles keeps everything simple and organized."
Glinski agrees. "There's been an open-arms acceptance of the new Windows. It's easy because it's the same experience across your tablet, your phone, even your Xbox."
If Android's your thing, check out Samsung's flagship Galaxy Note series. The Galaxy Note is somewhere in between a tablet and a smartphone. It has a larger screen and is intended to be your single on-the-go device.
If you're looking for stocking stuffers try app-cessories, or accessories you can control via apps on your mobile devices. AT&T offers the iGrill, an electronic meat thermometer that works with iOS and Android. They also have fitness app-cessories including the fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale. For golfers there's the Swingbyte, which boosts your golf game with realtime data. And for music lovers, they carry Beats By Dre.
Verizon has the Sony Smartwatch, a wristwatch that lets you check notifications from your other devices at a glance. The Moga mobile gaming system turns your smart phone into a handheld gaming console. The Jambox Smart Speaker is great for parties and patios. There's also the AR Drone 2.0, a large model helicopter controlled by your mobile device. For the kids there's the Crayola Color Studio HD for iPad.
These new tablets and smartphones may sound great, but what about learning how to use them? Both AT&T and Verizon offer customer support in store, by phone, and on the Internet. In addition, some Verizon stores offer workshops on how to use your mobile device. The sessions start with a brief overview then move on to individualized training.
No matter what kind of mobile device you choose, you'll find one that's right for you.
• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and IT specialist. Her Tech Tips blog (http://www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips) offers computer help and social media advice. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @trionaguidry.