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Tablet phones and on-the-go iPhone charging, plus handy apps for traveling

by Yukari Mitsuhashi

Really getting to know local cuisine

KitchHike is a matching platform that connects travelers with local chefs. But in this case, “chef” refers to anyone who can cook local traditional dishes. While dining out at a fancy five-star restaurant is enjoyable, KitchHike provides the priceless experience of eating home-cooked meals prepared by local people.

Users start by choosing their travel destination and desired meal from a given list. The meal is usually served at the cook’s residence, giving visitors an inside peek into the lifestyle of locals. Chefs also set the price for meals, providing them with an extra source of income. KitchHike is currently available in 12 countries including Japan, South Korea, France, India, the United States and Thailand.

kitchhike.com

This summer (actual date yet to be confirmed) Sony is releasing its new “phablet” smartphone, the Xperia Z Ultra. The term “phablet” refers to large-screen devices that aim to fill the gap between smartphones and tablets. The new phone comes with a 6.4-inch touchscreen with full HD, making it bigger than existing players in the oversized smartphone market such as Samsung’s Galaxy Mega, which has a 6.3-inch screen.

The Xperia Z Ultra has 16 gigabytes of onboard storage and 4G LTE for fast performance. Its super-responsive screen is compatible with any stylus pen, meaning this oversized phone is likely to be well suited to business use. The Battery Stamina Mode enables extended daily use, prolonging the standby duration by at least four times. And it’s waterproof as well.

www.sonymobile.co.jp

The case for on-the-go iPhone charging

If you’re worried about your iPhone dying on you too fast, this case may be the solution. XPower Skin for the iPhone 5 has been created by Japan Trust Technology. A sleek 2,000mAh iPhone case, it charges your phone on the go and yet only adds an extra 5 mm to the end of your phone.

Your phone can be charged a full cycle (70 to 80 percent capacity) on demand by giving a long press of the button on the back of the case, and the skin comes with an accompanying microUSB cable to connect it to a computer — so your iPhone can be charged with the case attached.

The case is priced at ¥8,980 and is available in three colors: white, black and red. It’s also accredited as “Made for iPhone” by Apple.

XPower Skin: jtim.es/mRgAU

Mapion gets you within walking distance

Mapion, one of the largest Internet-mapping websites, has added a convenient feature to its iPhone app. By entering your current location and your destination, the app will now find the nearest train station and the best route to get there on foot. Train routes can be filtered by time, fare and the number of transfers. You can also search for the nearest stores and services such as bus stops, convenience stores and public toilets — even baby-friendly toilets.

The Mapion app is available from Apple’s app store and is compatible with iOS 6.0 or later. It’s free to download, but the walking routes search feature costs ¥85 for seven days or ¥350 per month.

Mapion app: jtim.es/mRhJz

Pentax becomes uncrushable

If you have outdoor summer events planned, a robust and waterproof camera like the Pentax WG3 should come in handy. This originally rolled out in March, but Pentax recently added a new white-and-blue version to its lineup. It also added a GPS-enabled Pentax WG3 GPS, though that doesn’t come in the new color.

This tough camera is waterproof down to 14 meters, shockproof if dropped up to 2 meters and is crushproof. It comes with a bright f/2 lens, 4x optical zoom and other features such as auto picture, which automatically detects what kind of scene you are shooting and adjusts appropriately. The WG3 with GPS is available for ¥39,800, and the regular model is about ¥34,800.

shop.pentax.jp/c/c102065