[Editor's Note: Andru Edwards of Gear Live and the Ask Andru column joined us on this week's GeekWire radio show and podcast to share his top picks for technology gifts this holiday season. Here's a rundown of his choices, just in time your last-minute shopping.]
Kindle Fire: Amazon's $199 tablet is often compared to the iPad, but in many ways it's more appropriate to compare it to the iPod touch, based on the price and feature set. If you want a cheap tablet that can ship to you by Christmas, the Kindle Fire is it. There are some bugs. In terms of responsiveness and the accuracy of its touch interface, the Kindle Fire doesn't always live up to Apple iOS devices, but for $199 you're not going to find anything else that has this feature set, and many of the bugs will be fixed by software updates.
Crayola ColorStudio HD: This $29.99 accessory is a digital marker for the iPad, turning the Apple tablet into a virtual coloring book when used in conjunction with a companion app, with music and animations. With the digital marker, kids can do more with the iPad than just play games. They can be color, they can make their own coloring book pages. Input styles include crayons, markers and paint. Features include Facebook sharing and printing through Apple AirPrint.
The first ever Ask Andru column featured a question about Apple's iMessage, a proprietary method the company uses to allow owners of iOS devices to send text messages, pictures, and videos to each other through Apple's servers, bypassing the traditional wireless carrier. This allows users to send as many messages as they want without having to pay a text message fee (or being docked against their texting plan if it isn't unlimited.)
We got a couple of follow-up questions from our readers, and we figured we'd address them here. First, from Rob, who had two questions:
Is there a way to force a message to go via the carrier? I was in a text messaging conversation with a friend, they went to Eastern Washington for the weekend and thus no 3G. iMessage doesn't seem to work on EDGE.
I'm a big fan of GeekWire, so when one of my Twitter followers suggested that I start a regular Q&A column for the site, focusing on consumer electronics and gadgets, I figured "Why not?" I talked with the crew, and the result is Ask Andru. In case you're curious about what qualifies me to answer your nagging questions about the devices that have become such an integrated part of our lives, well, I've been running Gear Live for over seven years now. If you're unfamiliar, Gear Live is one of the top gadget news and review sites in the world, and I absolutely love what I do. If you've got a question you'd like me to answer, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll throw it in the queue.
Our very first question deals with iMessage, a new feature introduced to iOS devices with the release of iOS 5:
After upgrading to iOS 5, sometimes I see an iMessage reference in my text-messaging app, and sometimes not, and it doesn't seem to be correlated to whether or not I'm on WiFi or 3G. I also see different colors. I know the idea is to be able to send text messages without going over the wireless carrier's network, but how the heck does this work and what's actually going on?