While there are plenty of high-tech gadgets and gizmos to make your 4th of July spectacular, experts say this year it's all about staying connected while you play.
"The big thing is about interconnectivity today," says Ari Zoldan, CEO of QuantumNetworks, an e-commerce tech retailer in New York City. "Wi-Fi connectivity is huge. If you're outside a WiFi area, a little gizmo called the BearExtender will take your signal and spread it all over your back yard. You can sit by the pool or on the beach and stay connected."
Zoldan says wireless Bluetooth speakers are also flying off the shelves.
"Everything today is about enhancements of your cell phone. You can go swimming with your phone in an Otterbox. Interconnectivity and mobility—wrapped around a waterproof component—that's what's big this summer."
In other words, electronics, once the uninvited guests at the pool party, are now a big part of the fun. Waterproof Bluetooth speakers and waterproof smartphone covers make it possible to chat in the pool while listening to music. And floating pool lights, like the Underwater Light Starship or the Swim Time Solar Underwater Light Show, turn your pool into a floating disco floor. Toss in a few light-up patriotic beach balls and you've got a perfect July 4th party.
Another popular guest for backyard fun this year is a little thing called the iGrill. Monitored by your iPhone, the iGrill system gives new freedom to the long-suffering burger flipper who's spent years behind the barbecue while everyone else enjoys the party.
"The iGrill Mini is a great little gadget for backyard parties because the cook doesn't have to stand by the grill all day while everyone else is playing yard games or in the pool," notes Lianne Kersey, Marketing Manager for iDevices in Avon, Connecticut. "It notifies your iPhone when your meat is ready, and it's perfectly cooked every time."
Taking it one step farther, the iGrill2 Bluetooth Smart thermometer monitors four temperatures at once, to customize the grilling experience. With power like this at your fingertips, a Captain America grilling apron is a no-brainer.
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But remember, you'll need portable battery power to keep the fun going. These days it's available in all shapes and sizes to fit your needs. The tiny MimoPowertube 2600 provides 3-4 hours of continuous power and comes in "hamburger" and "hot dog" designs (a cute touch for a July 4th picnic.) More powerful units like the Jackery Giant can recharge multiple devices simultaneously, while the PowerGorilla provides up to 20 hours of power, and has even been tested to withstand extreme temperatures.
Looking for even more cool stuff to make your 4th of July sizzle? A Homemade Gelato Maker will be a surefire favorite, and the ZVUE Spirit 1 stars-n-stripes MP 3 player, preloaded with 15 patriotic songs, will provide a nice soundtrack to the fireworks. Patriotic cellphone cases, skins and laptop sleeves from Zazzle and Xbox are a fun way to celebrate, too, while outrageous bottle openers from coolmaterial.com will keep everyone laughing.
Perhaps best of all is the remote-controlled eagle from The Sharper Image that, when flying overhead, looks like the real deal.
For the kids (or maybe the kid in you) a pair of Children's Infrared Night Vision Goggles (with video capability) provides serious nighttime spying fun. And anything from the "Uncle Milton"' toyline—from the Dragonfire Night Rocket to the Fireworks Light Show Launcher to the Screamin' Sky Weasel—will make your kid the envy of the neighborhood this 4th of July.