The Treasures of Skymall Tested

One of the guilty pleasures of flying is thumbing through the Skymall magazine to see what funky tech products are featured. But does any of this stuff actually work? We tried eight Skymall specials, from the Magic Wand TV remote to the LED showerhead.

A Closer Look at Skymall Tech Stars

We're often intrigued by the tech items offered via SkyMall, but we find it hard to tell whether they would really work the way we imagine. So we decided to put some to the test. PCWorld editors tried eight pieces of gear out and are happy to give you their honest opinion. Tell us if you agree in the Comments.

iCade Arcade Device for iPad

The iCADE from The Greatest Gift turns your iPad into an old-school gaming machine--no quarters necessary. Just unpack and assemble the pieces and download an iCADE-compatible app (like Atari's Greatest Hits), then pair it with your iPad via Bluetooth. The arcade stick feels solid and the buttons are nice enough, but it doesn't compare to a professional-grade console stick like the MadCatz FightStick TE.

However, $180 for a fancy iPad stand with average-quality arcade parts is too expensive for the casual crowd and not impressive enough for the dedicated gamer. We found the iCADE for only $90 from Sam's Club. And if you jailbreak your iPad, the iCADE plays nicely with the iMAME4All arcade game emulator.

--Patrick Miller

Hidden Camera Spy Sunglasses

The plasticky build and 90s styling of Brickhouse Security's Hidden Camera Spy Sunglasses may not make for the best sungazing experience, but there's a camera hidden inside these shades. Skymall's description calls them "great for extreme sports such as skydiving, snowboarding, and skateboarding." While the fit is secure enough for a bike ride, I'm not sure I'd want to jump out of a plane with them on.

The quality of the video I took while standing still was okay, but once I ambled down a hallway, my video was a blur. Still pictures looked like watercolor paintings. I've cancelled my plans to dip into corporate espionage with these sunglasses, as the pictures of documents and computer screens I took were sadly unreadable.

A camera built into sunglasses is an appealing concept, but for $300, I expect better image quality from spy specs.

--Michelle Mastin

Magic Wand Remote Control

When you take Kymera's Magic Wand Remote--designed to replace your entertainment center's remote control--out of the box, it feels heavy and...well... magical. The wand is motion-sensitive, so I flicked it and then held it up to my Xbox remote control as I pressed "power." The wand recorded the remote's infrared pulses and successfully associated that flick motion with the "power" command. I then moved up to more impressive commands, like "stop" and "pause."

For about $90, this magic remote control, offered by Hammacher Schlemmer, is a little expensive (you can program only 13 motions or remote control options), but it does come with batteries. So if feeling like a wizard is high on your list of priorities, this is a great buy. Harry Potter not included.

--Megan Geuss

Steering Wheel Speakerphone

I was initially skeptical of the Steering Wheel Speakerphone ($100) from Hammacher Schlemmer, but once I got used to seeing the thing rotate around with my wheel, it was actually pretty useful. Connecting it to my Droid X was a breeze, and making calls using my phone's voice commands was very easy. On my end, callers sounded crisp, and nobody had any complaints about the noise from my admittedly loud Mustang. As for whether it's worth $100, I'm not so sure. After all, it's just a headset clipped to your steering wheel, except you can't use it outside of your car without looking like an idiot.

--Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

Magic Showerhead

It's a more gentle diversion than disco ball, and adults will be mildly entertained by this easy-to-install showerhead from the Skymall Collection, which cycles through seven colors as water pumps through it. Young'uns, on the other hand, will be enthralled. My five-year-old’s review: “It’s like a rainbow on my head.” Amazingly, my kids can’t wait to turn out the overhead lights and take an LED-enhanced shower. That’s $50 well spent.

--Steve Fox

Biometric Fingerprint Reader

Gistec's 4GB Fingerprint Flash Drive, about $30, does what you'd expect: Set up the secure partition using the bundled software (which lives on the drive itself) by entering a password and following the onscreen instructions to register a finger, and it'll let you lock down your documents. The software is straightforward, though you have to run the Autorun.exe program whenever you plug it in. Also, I found the sliding cover on the drive to be annoying--it would move when I went to plug in the drive and cover the USB connector.

--Nick Mediati

Peddler Exercise Device

I'm a notorious desk jockey, so I'm always happy to try out anything that promises a chance to exercise. The Peddler is described as a "one-piece, lower-leg exercise device," and it's a solid piece of plastic with a rocker base. You merely put both feet on it, keep your heels on the ground, and push down one foot at a time, back and forth. The idea is to pump some blood into your legs. Of course, the best way to do help your legs is to walk around, but if you can't, the $25 Peddler may be for you. I felt as if I was doing something good for myself while using it but, of course, I can't prove that. And the Peddler's disclaimer (at the bottom of the page) basically says the company can't either.

--Anne B. McDonald

Cell Phone Spy Recon

The Cellphone Spy Recon from Brickhouse Security is designed to help you keep an eye on your kids, stalk your significant other, or spy on your employees, but using it is a bit complicated. First, you'll need to get your target's phone and install the spying application. Then, you need to download an app onto their phone. After the app is installed, you'll need to grab the device's Mobile Equipment ID number (MEID) (which you can find by dialing *#06#) and jot it down.

Then you take the included USB drive and plug it into your PC. The USB drive will automatically take you to the Cell Phone Recon Spy website where you can register for an account and insert the MEID of the phone you wish to spy on. You can't read all the emails or text messages on the device, only the ones that have been sent or have arrived after you installed the spying software. You can also view call logs, but cannot listen in on the actual conversation.

At $169 per spying software license, however, it might just be cheaper, and probably less complicated, to follow them in person.

--Armando Rodriguez

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