Parents @ Play: Staying Connected

Tech can bring us together or keep us apart. Here are two very cool new tech devices that focus on the former, and one that will just make your world a little more peaceful.

— Relay (Republic Wireless)

What do you do if you have young children who you know aren’t ready for a cellphone (perhaps because you aren’t ready for the inevitable battles about screen time and social media), but you still want to be able to reach them when they’re not with you? Relay may be just what you’re looking for. Relay is essentially a walkie-talkie, with a few fun twists. For example, since it works over 4G LTE and Wi-Fi, it has they same (essentially unlimited) range as a cellphone, so friends in different states can communicate with each other. And it has GPS tracking, so if you use the free companion app, you can see where all of your Relays are in real time. Relays also come in a variety of friendly colors and with stickers, so your child can personalize his or her device.

We did have a few issues with Relay. First, they didn’t seem to hold a charge for much more than 4-6 hours. Second, the person you’re trying to contact must be there to receive the call. Right now, there’s no way to leave a message. Third, they use a proprietary magnetic charger, which means you’re in real trouble if you lose or misplace yours. That said, we know that Republic Wireless is continually adding features and we’re confident that these issues will be resolved soon.

As you know, we love companies that support their communities, and Relay is doing just that, donating $5 from each of the next 5,000 Relays sold to Common Sense Education, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students harness technology for learning and life by providing teachers and schools with free research-based classroom tools. For ages 5 and up. $99 for one, $149 for two, $199 for three, plus about $6.99 per month per device for unlimited use.

— Udoq 400 (Udoq)

Between yourself, your spouse, your kids, and everyone else who drops in and needs to charge their phones, you probably have a dozen or so devices plugged into outlets all over your house at any given moment. Udoq has a solution. They make a line of multi-device stations that let you charge your phones and tablets at the same time, in the same place, and with one plug — without getting tangled up in a maze of cables. You can also get Apple only, Android only, or hybrid models, which allow a mix. The 400, which we evaluated, included Apple 30-pin and Lightning connectors, a micro USB, and one of the new USB-C connectors, all of which join into a single cable that plugs into your wall. Sizes range from 250 millimeters wide (which accommodates two devices side by side) up to 700 millimeters (which accommodates up to seven devices). Prices range from about $110 to $250.

— Mixcder E7 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

As much as we love our families, sometimes we need a little break, and if a solo trip to Hawaii isn’t in the cards, immersing yourself in your favorite tunes is a great alternative. The Mixcder noise cancelling headphones give you several options. Wireless mode provides about 18 hours of listening time between charges. Or you can use the wired mode and skip the whole charging thing altogether. And you can use either mode with the built-in mic to make or receive calls. The sound quality is excellent, and the pads are very comfortable. Comes with a USB charging cable, 3.5 mm audio cable, carrying case, and a 12-month warranty. About $65.

(Article written by Armin Brott and Samantha Feuss)