Signal Flare a beacon for finding lost phones, tablets


Many smart phones and tablets have some kind of tracking software that allows owners to find lost or stolen gear — as long as the device's battery is charged. But it is not an uncommon situation for the battery to die before the device can be found.

A mobile security software suite called Lookout offers a solution to that problem with an app called Signal Flare. When a battery is about to die, Signal Flare sends its location to Lookout. You can go to the web site to find where the phone was when it shut down.

This week Signal Flare is being added to the free Lookout app for Apple products. It has been available for Android devices for some time.

The Apple and free Android versions are similar. They protect devices from attacks, back up contacts, and locate lost phones both through Signal Flare and through an app called Scream, which causes the phone to emit a loud siren sound while the screen flashes.

The product can manage a mix of devices, so a household with both Apple and Android products can manage them from a single account.


Designer headphones, with sound to match high style

V-Moda, an audio company started by a professional musician, Val Kolton, has always made gear — headphones, earphones and amplifiers — that is durable and fashionable. Its latest headphone offering, the Crossfade M-100, is no exception.

The M-100 is built with a steel frame and a strong, flexible headband that can bend flat. The over-the-ear memory foam cushions are comfortable even after several hours of use, and the interchangeable metal shields around the ear cups can be customized in a variety of colors and engraved with a name or logo.

The headphones come with two Kevlar-reinforced cables, one with a microphone for making phone calls and the other with an extra connector for sharing your music. And a hinged mechanism allows the headphones to fold up for easy storage in a sturdy "exoskeleton" case.

All that attention to design does not mean much if the sound is not good, but the sound here is excellent.

The M-100 is not noise-canceling, but its ergonomic design helps isolate noise (this feature is especially beneficial in cacophonous environments, like on the subway).

At $300, the Crossfade M-100 is priced to compete on the high end of the market.


Spiders and scarabs, creeping at your command

Remote-controlled cars, trucks and helicopters are common these days. Insects, on the other hand, are relatively new on the scene.

The Hexbug Scarab XL and Spider XL ($40 each, from are big brother editions of their tiny button-cell counterparts, with many more features. The translucent plastic robots come in several colors. You can observe the fascinating gear-driven mechanics of each leg being activated to create motion.

Of the two, the Spider, which is powered by AAA batteries, is the more sophisticated. It has an LED eye on a head that turns like a gun turret, allowing it to move in a complete circle. But the faster Scarab, which uses AA batteries, can pop from its back to its feet if it is placed upside down.

The remote control, powered by a single nine-volt battery, makes steering easy. It offers three forward speeds (slow, medium and fast) and one reverse speed. Its two channels allow multiple bugs to be operated independently or at the same time. The Scarab XL is in stores now, and the Spider XL is due out at the end of November.


An Android phone steps in where an iPhone does not

Motorola's flagship Droid Razr Maxx has been updated and reissued as the Droid Razr Maxx HD as the Google unit continues to aim for the iPhone's soft spots.

At the top of the list is battery life. The Razr Maxx HD claims 21 hours of talk time. The Maxx HD also has the Google goodies that were banished from the iPhone, like Google Maps and Google Talk, and it uses the speedy Google Chrome as its default browser. It also has the latest YouTube app, which you won't find on the iPhone.

It will be among the first Android phones to upgrade to the Jelly Bean operating system at the end of the year. Jelly Bean will add Google Now, an app that learns how a phone is used and provides alerts based on where the user is and what that person is doing; voice search, which is Google's version of Siri; and actionable notifications, which provide shortcuts for dealing with alerts.

Also unlike the iPhone, it's available only at Verizon, for $300 with a two-year contract.