My favourite Christmas apps

I love this time of year and putting together my own list of only nice Christmas apps and websites, here’s a few of my favourites:


Send Santa An Email

This site may not be the prettiest site on the web, but the idea is really cute. You can write to Santa Claus and he will respond! Admit to your year of naughtiness and hope that he might forgive you, play trivia games and get in on the countdown to Christmas.


The site is all things Christmas, it covers the festive spirit in abundance. There are games, recipes, music, gifts, and a special kids section and every part of the website Is full of Christmas cheer. If your inner Grinch has come out this year, this site will have you drinking mulled wine singing along in no time at all.

How Christmas Works 

This is hilarious, educational and brilliant. The ever popular site How Stuff Works decided to explain exactly how Christmas works, definitely worth a read.


Elf Yourself

Free for iOS and Android

Guaranteed office ‘bants’ with this Christmas tradition which puts you and your pals’ heads onto singing and dancing elves.

Upload up to five faces and choose from a range of free themes for your elfie.

A Call From Santa!

Free for iOS and Android

Input info into the app and it’ll simulate calls and texts with Santa himself for kids.

One parent writes on the App Store: “The face my 5 year old made when Santa said her name and knew she loved to swim was worth a lot more than £1.49.”

This user had paid the extra to get rid of ads but you can also enjoy this for free.

Christmas Countdown 2016

Free for iOS and Android

Sign up and receive a daily notification of how many day are left until Christmas.

You also get nice festive tunes to get you in the mood and a saying of the day, such as the above.

Christmas Pics Quiz Game

Free for iOS

From the simple examples above you get the general idea of this classic word puzzle given a festive spin.

They do get harder and you can purchase coins and remove ads by paying a few quid if you wish.

Christmas Piano With Free Songs

Free for iOS

Feel like you can play the piano with this idiot-proof instrument.

It’s packed full of classic Christmas carols and also displays the lyrics so you can enjoy some carol karaoke if you wish.

Manage Christmas

Free for iOS

If you need to stick to a budget, this app is ideal. Set a target and it calculates how much you have left after each purchase you add in.

Also has a section with gift ideas if you’re struggling for inspiration buying for a certain person.

Christmas Gift List (Android: Free)

For a free gifts list manager on Android devices, check out the Christmas Gift List app. Users can set up customized gift lists, creating profiles of people they plan to send presents to, as well as jotting down gift ideas and their budget, complete with personalized notes, images or a link to each gift idea. Once the list is done, you can mark items as “bought” and “wrapped,” and the app will keep track of how many more items need to be bought and wrapped, the amount left in your gifts budget and the number of days left before Christmas.

Giftster (Android, iOS: Free)

Part of the problem with holiday gift-shopping is the worry that the gift is something that your friend or family member might not want, need, or find special. Giftster (Android, iOS) gets around that by serving as a gift ideas registry that you can sign up to with friends and family, allowing each user to create a list of items they’d like or prefer, and which friends and contacts can mark as something they’ve already bought. Users can record things like clothing sizes, rank gift ideas, and set the visibility of particular gift lists, and set up a Secret Santa among particular groups of contacts.

NORAD Tracks Santa (Android, iOS, Windows Phone: Free) – this is my perennial favourite

An annual tradition since an errant marketing ploy directed children calling Santa Claus to a military “red phone” in 1955, NORAD’s Santa tracker is now available as a smartphone app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. The free Santa Tracker app displays a countdown to Saint Nick’s flight, a variety of Christmas activities and mini-games, short Christmas-themed videos and tongue-in-cheek intelligence articles on Santa Claus and worldwide Christmas traditions.

Elf Adventure Christmas (Android, iOS: Free)

Elf Adventure Christmas (Android, iOS) is a light-hearted and activity filled Advent calendar. Count down the days until Christmas. Each day, a new mini-game unlocks part of the continuing story that sees the Christmas elves try to wake up the Frost Giant in order to bring everyone a white Christmas. This app is great for parents with young kids, offering some bonding and storytelling time.

Christmas Radio (Android, iOS: Free)

Want an app to get your pumped for the big day? Christmas Radio for Android and iOS allows users to tune in to more than 50 unique Christmas-themed Internet radio stations. Choices include everything from Jazz Radio Christmas and Kristmas Kountry to North Pole Radio.







Reversing the ageing process / ABC Darwin

We may be in the early days of discovering how to reverse the ageing process according to a report from California’s Salk Institute and this prompted ABC Darwin’s Adam Steer to want to chat about what it might be like to live beyond 120, will we work longer, will we be able to sustain marriages and relationships for over 100 years and is this whole Dorian Gray / Fountain of Youth thing even worth pursuing.

Listen to our on-air chat (5 mins 5 seconds) and then let me know your thoughts on living, working and loving longer.


Where do bad ideas go? / radio Hong Kong 3

The end of the straddle bus and the beginning of an uneasy truce between President elect Trump and the entire tech community are the stories du jour as Hong Kong 3’s Phil Whelan and I catch up for our weekly chat on all things future, tech and whatever else.

The straddle bus was a great Chinese innovation that’s been around for a while and in August this year seemed to gain new energy as a prototype hit the streets for a 300 metre journey, but since then its been awfully quiet and we’ve just found out why.

Only a couple of months since its supposed triumph, the bus is sitting in a yard derelict and unloved and its innovators are being accused of illegal crowdfunding, unauthorized road testing, creating a vehicle that was not tall enough to allow anything other than a passenger car to travel under it and building a vehicle that is potentially too heavy to travel safely on any Chinese freeway.

So was it hype, bravado, or stupidity?

I’m not quite sure but although the idea doesn’t have commercial merit (yet), I loved it for its ability to look at a growing “car” problem and instead of taking a same old same old approach to solving it, went radical looking for a possible new solution.

In  our other main story this week we talked about President elect Trump’s impending sit down with America’s tech giants, reminding me of Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus, Trump was in a room of people that he has spent the last two years ridiculing and likewise most of them him and now they are going to sit down and try and play nice – hope they check for knives as they come in, Postscript – after the meeting Trump told them to phone him directly if they have any issues or job creation thoughts – he has no hierarchy they need to work through and remains available to them

Another great chat so have a listen now (14 mins 13 secs)



So how’d my 2016 predictions do? / Perth 6PR

Every year I put out a list of what I think the major tech issues and gadgets are likely to be for the year ahead and this week 6PR’s Chrissy Morrissy took me through last years list to see how we’ve progressed, what’s come about and what hasn’t.

My 3 main thoughts on the tech we’d see in 2016 were:

Augmented (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are set to boom in the first half of next year with all major manufacturers promising new VR products and most under $US400. This may take a while to show its true potential, but it is definitely a new frontier that’s here to stay.

Ambient technology and device consolidation will start its journey next year, as technology becomes as ordinary as electricity and gas, and becomes more about what it can do for me rather than the fact it exists. In this same thought devices will begin to become agnostic with users switching often from one to the other, making choices based on situation and purpose, rather than on wow factor.

Personal Assistants, in the form of robots, that listen to you and talk back will begin their journey to purpose next year with releases like Jibo hitting our retail stores for around the $US2,000 mark. These in the early stages will read emails and texts, announce callers and generally  interact with us, they are not yet the robots of our science fiction dreams, but they are the first line in an evolution that may one day bring us the robot butler, we supposedly can’t live without.

Happy to say I got 3 for 3 they’re all on the scene, all in various stages of usefulness and all still largely untapped.

Listen in as we discuss where each of these and my other predictions are at and how and where they’re being used already as well as a look ahead at what we can expect to see, have and do in 2017 (24 mins 51 seconds)


Amazon Go – but what about the people? / Radio HK3

I’m going to call this out, just like I did back in 2009 when I curated the Retail Store of the Future exhibition , the future of the routine stuff we buy in stores is going to be automated, mechanised and stuffed full of new tech, because it can and because we want it to – I know some of you are going to yell you don’t, but if enough of us truly passionately didn’t want it, then we wouldn’t let it happen.

This morning Amazon Go announced  its newest foray into retail, a fully automated physical bricks and mortar supermarket that allows customers to swipe themselves into the store, shop for items, put them in their basket and then leave the store without having to physically pay.

Behind the scenes the same technology that’s being used in autonomous cars is plying its computer vision and sensor fusion to spy on you (with our permission) to watch and figure out what we’re taking and then debit our account for the cost of it.

Putting the tech to one side, behind this tech laden experience Amazon is moving away from the typical supermarket that stocks on average 50,000 items to a more discreet stocking level of around 20,000 item representing the most purchased items for that local area and also greatly upping the artisan made, fresh, grazing, multi purchase local angle.

The notion is not to do away with people contact where it matters, but rather to create a frictionless store, where finding and buying what you want is as easy and hassle free as the vast majority of shoppers, in survey after survey, say they want.

Will it work, time will tell. But amazon has the logistics, the tech smarts, the brand and the people to make it happen and either way expect lots more store to move into this new retail frontier.

For more thoughts listen in (15 mins 59 secs) as radio Hong Kong 3’s Phil Whelan and I catch up for our weekly chat and this week tackle the brave new world of retail.

2016’s top 10 good, bad and ugly tech / ABC Far North

top-10-tech-2015It’s always fun at this point in the year  look behind us and review the years best and worst tech’s and this week ABC Far North’s Kier Shorey and I explore my top 10 list of good, bad and ugly tech, 2016 style.

1. Headphones disappear – Apple continues to do what it does best, unilaterally decides what we need and then try to convince us their right. This year they decided, that because 48% of all device listening is done through Bluetooth headsets, that it was the right time to get rid of the hole in the phone that lets us plug our headset in and free up the space for something else. This has, as usual, come with huge outcries, 3rd party dongles and Apple temporarily reducing its own peripherals to help existing users overcome, but behind it all Apple stands strong on its decision and we resist change.

2. Fake news becomes the news – hoaxes, scams and false stories been around for ever, but this year they became mainstream when Zuckerberg was blamed for Trump’s win by allowing fake news stories to circulate through Facebook. Interesting because yes fake stories abound and we need to be mindful of where information is coming from, but what fascinates me is that so many people are calling for social media to practice Censorship and decide what should and shouldn’t be seen and read.

3. Samsung Galaxy 7 Note burns – fascinating look at how a big brand copes with a big problem and how enveloped the world becomes when a piece of tech goes bad. Will Samsung lose it reputation and sales moving forward. my guess is not, bring on Samsung 8.

4. Self driving cars are revving up their engines – this year self driving transport moved from science fiction to science fact with lots of media conversations and car and non car brands and everyday people all finally accepting that driverless cars, buses and trucks are coming to a road near us within the decade. Stay tuned in 2017 for more talk, more cars and more debates around “how we make it so”.

5. Hacking our nightmares – Bad people breaking into good people’s premises and stealing their possessions is not new and online this is no exception with cybersecurity becoming the hot topic of the year as we saw the Census site taken down, Government and retailer portals compromised and a recent Mirai botnet targeting the Internet of Things, this story. Unfortunately this story is only set to gain momentum in 2017 and beyond.

6 Facebook goes live – not since the advent of Skype have we seen such an uptake of personal live broadcasting and now Facebook Live lets us easily share with the world what we’re seeing and experiencing. This first person point of view reporting is already becoming the norm and is taking us to places and sharing experiences that we have never had access to before, Voyeurism or Visionary? – you decide

7 No one wants Twitter – Despite its big brand status, Twitter is having difficulty monetising its site and also finding someone to buy it. This unfolding story is a lesson into today’s unicorn corporations, well-known, well used, great on-paper value, but too often not profitable and unsaleable in its current form.

8 VR seen everywhere, but nowhere – Big year for Virtual Reality with lots of brands offering headsets for sale, but as is often the case with new tech it takes a while for it to find its purpose and place. Next year will be a year of conversations of why do we have it and what do we need it for, but behind the scenes the groundswell will continue to rise as this infancy tech slowly begins to find its way and purpose.

9. Uber everything – wherever we turned this year it seems Uber, used both as a noun and a verb, was there, doing it, promoting it, touting it, fighting it or being used as the yardstick for somebody else’s great innovation or thought – is any publicity, still good publicity it seems Uber thinks so.

10 Transport gone Hyperloopy – the story of the year in transport has to be Hyperloop, the vacuum tube train capable of doing speed of 750km per hour, has left the station this year and gone from being a geek dream to a Sheik reality with Dubai and several other countries all vying to be the first to have their own fast train.

As always a great chat, so listen live (15 minutes 03 seconds) and then add your thoughts to the best and worst of this years tech.