Holiday Quality Time

Android How-To: Use Technology to Unite, Not Separate, the Family this Holiday Season

December 21, 2014 - Written By Phil Bourget

Around the holidays, family time has been getting harder and harder to come by, with so many gift requests and options being just another thing with a screen to block your child, friend, or family member’s face from view for more hours a day during one of the few times when multiple generations gather to bond and reconnect.  But, as with many things, technology is evolving to let us humans stay human while giving us opportunities to enhance and enjoy our lives, online and together.  So, if you have a few tablets, smartwatches, smartphones, and a smart television in the house this holiday season, here are some ways to help make the best use of them to make memories with the family.

First, let’s dispel the old phrase of ‘just put all technology away and do it like the good old times’.  That’s not the way to move forward with the times and with spending time; it relegates you to the past when things were only as good as they could be.  With technology around the house, you have a higher level of ‘as good as it could be’ to achieve, and you can do that easily.

First, on the topic of the avid smartphone users like myself and us here at Android Headlines and especially your likely-addicted teenagers or friends.  If you’ve all got Android (and now some iOS too, just wait and see), you’ll be able to pull aside the classic board game experience, and let everyone relax on the couch and play against each other from the comfort of their own screens.  Scrabble lets you play the classic word-making game across multiple devices against your friends and family, and you don’t have to pass a single device around.  But, better than just remote competition, you can, for certain apps, connect using the newest APIs that game developers can code into their apps that let users from iOS devices compete in a game against an Android user, so there’s no broken compatibility between the same app in two marketplaces.  And that’s not the end of the utility of tech during the holiday season, oh no.

If you happen to be a family with a lot of movies on the Google Play Store, or that loves to show the latest and greatest YouTube clips, get the host a Chromecast so the fun of gathering around a phone can be expanded to their television so you can see the action full-screen and there’s noody left out in the moment.  The same goes with any screen-casting or data-streaming device; it’s great on the phone, but for everyone on the television, so gather round and start sharing.

The latest trend and trouble is smartwatches (and if you have a Google Glass headset, then that fits here too).  They let you see the latest information from your phone, but also pull your eyes down to your wrist, which is no good when trying to take a family photo.  Or is it?  You can set up your phone or connectable camera to take that full family photo you’ve been planning for months, and hit the shutter release button from the comfort of the scene using some of the camera apps on the Play Store that offer the functionality to Android Wear.  And if you have a staring contest with your little cousin, you can silence the watch to make sure you aren’t even tempted to break gazes.  If you happen to have Glass on your head this holiday, or the new RE camera from HTC, use them to catch some holiday shenanigans on film, action-cam style.  Or just hold out until someone tries to slide down the stairs then enjoy rewatching that moment for the rest of the day.

And as with the past few years, the tablet and e-reader is still a popular gift and holiday distraction, but here’s how you can add some community into the experience.  If the kids want to watch the classic Rudolph film, go ahead and send them to watch it elsewhere while you adults stay and enjoy your ‘grown-up eggnog’ in peace.  If you’ve got a tablet, you likely have at least a few books on it.  You can use this season to pick up a classic or two, and read them to the kids and pets on Christmas Eve or to share the traditions of yesteryear.  Either way, kids love bedtime stories, especially during the holiday season.  and you’ll love being able to read in the dimmer light that would make normal storybooks mostly useless so you won’t disturb them when you leave and turn the light out.

Hangouts let you connect with the family member that couldn’t come to visit, and let you see the smile they have when they open your gift, instead of settling for the traditional phone call.  They also let you plan secretly with the other adults or kids to plan to wrap presents and set up the ‘Santa was here’ scene, or to help keep watch for the jolly holiday traveler into the wee hours of the 25th.

The best part about the holidays is the tech you can play with or get as presents, and now you don’t have to let it be the thing that guides people to other rooms.  The family room can truly live up to its name this holiday season, and it’s your plans that make it happen.  How have you used tech to bring family and friends together from holidays past?  What’s the best game to play from device to device so the board games don’t have to live on the coffee table this year?  Let us know down below.