Gadget Review! – Parrot Flower Power

I wish I had a green thumb.

If the phrase “green thumb” is meant to invoke the healthy color of the plants you care for: mine’s often more dry, yellowish, with brown edges.

I love having plants around me, but I’m a pretty busy guy. Like many of us, I have trouble remembering what day it is, let alone whether it’s rained enough or the soil chemistry is right for my garden.

This review wouldn’t be on this page if it wasn’t somehow involving crazy technology, right?

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]

Enter: The Parrot Flower Power.

Flower Power

Here’s the short version for those without patience:

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]


Cool device, great battery, easy setup, helpful reminders.


Still have to be in bluetooth range to check reports.

Overall Verdict:

The device is intuitive and helpful, but isn’t a magic bullet if you’re already terrible at paying attention.

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]

The Flower Power is essentially a small (about 8 inches tall) Bluetooth 4.0 enabled sensor array shaped like a stick, or a sprouting plant. It’s waterproof, indoor/outdoor, and a single AAA battery lasts for at least 6 months.You can press the sharp end into the ground (or pot) set up the Flower Power on your iPhone or Android device. The app is free and is fairly easy to get up and running. Whenever you’re in range of the Flower Power, you can poll it for its readings. The internal memory can hold many days worth of scans, so don’t worry about missing a day… you have to tend to your plants daily anyhow, right?

The main parts of the flower power are the sunlight sensor on the top of the stick, as well as moisture sensors in the stake. There are thermistors in the top for checking surrounding air temperature and in the bottom for checking soil temperature. The Flower Power uses soil electrical conductivity measurements to detect the amount of ions in the soil (More ions, more fertilizer).

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]

Set Up and Grow


I had a tomato plant growing in a large pot in my yard. It’s a Grape Tomato. That’s all I know about it. Well, that and it wasn’t doing very well.

My buddies at VerizonWireless hooked me up with this Flower Power device and I thought I’d give it a go.

Set up was fairly easy, Twist the cap on the sprout, insert one AAA battery, replace the cap. Next I had to download the application on my iPhone.

I followed the easy account creation and setup instructions and paired the device to my phone.

Next, it was time to add the plant.


Easy enough, I selected the details, and chose which Flower Power was monitoring it, apparently you can use several at once.

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]

What’chu know ’bout tomatoes?


Apparently I didn’t know enough. I knew this was a “grape tomato”  from the tag that came with the seedling. However I was lucky that I already had one with fruit on it, I could use the pictures of the hundreds of tomato plants to try to identify it. If you don’t already know the specific scientific name or species (who does, right?) it could be very difficult to find your plant in the database.

We’ll go with Napa Hybrid and try our best.


The plant care details page gave me a general idea of what to expect. It needed to live in significant sunlight, and didn’t need over-fertilized.


The app had me name the plant, and take a picture.

Everyone? Meet Gilbert Grape Tomato. Gilbert? Everyone.

Once it’s fully set up in the app, you’ll see it appear in “My Garden”.

It takes about 24 hours to get a first report on your plant, but you can immediately pull some information from the live feed.

At this point, Gilbert was moderately sad, his leaves were yellowish with brown edges, and his stems were flimsy.

Lets give him some time.

The plant was outside my back door in the yard, so I’d just make it a point to go out every morning and evening when I’m letting my dogs outside to open the app and re-sync the Flower Power to the app.

Occasionally I’d get messages from Gilbert that he needed something.


While you still have to actively pay attention to the plants, this helps remind you what it needs and when. If you’re someone who forgets about plants and they constantly die, this app will only help you if you similarly remember to go and pull reports from the sensor.


I followed my Flower Power recommendations, it was quite easy.

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]

What if I really like graphs and charts?

If you’d like some larger graphs and a big view of the data, you can use the Flower Power’s cloud site.


Here you can see your garden and select the plants on which data you’d like to drill down.




[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]

Ok, we’re dying to know, did this magical robot stick help your plant?

So, my official opinion is that I like the device. I think it provides interesting information on the health of your plants. However, it’s not a silver bullet. You still need to remember to go check the readings, and then act accordingly.

Let’s see how gilbert feels, these photos are a little over two weeks apart.

GilbertBefore GilbertAfter

On the left, the initial photo, he’s yellow and chalky. On the right, he’s darker green, and has more fruit.

I’d say just having the device to remind me he was there helped me care for him.

If you’d like one for yourself or a friend with a less-than-green thumb and an affinity for tech. You can find the device here:

Parrot Flower Power – Verizon Wireless





Gadget Review! – JBL Flip2 Bluetooth Speaker

Hey! It’s summer here, time for vacations and sun.

Anyone who knows me, realizes that I’ve got music in my ears just about every moment I’m able. The folks over at VerizonWireless must have heard through the digital grapevine (or my Spotify data usage on my cell) that this was the case. They were kind enough to supply me with a shiny new JBL Flip2 Wireless (bluetooth) speaker to take on my trip to the beach.

I took the device with me and jotted down my notes and findings and I’ll provide them here. To save you time, here’s the short version:

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]


Loud, clear, full sound with minimal distortion until high volume.


Actual battery life varies between 3.5-5 hours. Charger does not fit in carry case. 

Overall Verdict:

I like it a lot, nice and portable, great sound, and the price is half of the slightly nicer UEBoom.

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]

I’ve broken this review into the main sections of observations on the use and experience when using the JBL Flip2.


About the device:

The JBL Flip2 gets its name from its ability to be used either laying flat (horizontally) or standing on one end (vertically). It has a soft rubber coating on the ends that keeps it nicely secured when in either position, while keeping vibrations under control when the system generates bass. Connecting to the device via bluetooth is easy using either traditional methods of pairing or by using the NFC system. The JBL Flip2 packs 2 40mm drivers and a tuned bass port into a 6.25″ x 2.5″ cylinder (which is smaller than the dimensions mentioned on the sales site). The portable speaker system also functions as a bluetooth speakerphone. The system charges using a standard USB Micro charger and features a 1/8″ auxiliary port for non-wireless audio sources. The end of the device has a bluetooth pair button, a power button, and a speakerphone button.

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]

Sound quality:

If you’re on your computer, you can click on the album covers to listen to the music selections on Amazon Digital Music

For the first test of sound quality, I utilized my nice quiet office to really get a feel for the detail the speaker could provide. My initial thought was that in this small room the volume is massive. It’s very adequately loud for my office which is a 10’x10’x9′ space. Even at near full volume, there was only minimally detectable distortion in sound. The sound is quite full, even when playing something as poorly mixed as Europe – The final countdown at full blast.

My next test was Louis Armstrong’s version of Summertime feat. Ella Fitzgerald, the remastered version of the 1957 recording. The volume was quite loud yet the vocals are incredibly clear. Subtle drum and high hat and vibraphone come through the strings in the mix nicely. The upright bass is also clear, I can hear the buzz on the fingerboard. Awesome.

The next track was Frank Glazer’s rendition of Erik Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies: Gymnopédie No. 1.  The piano sounds full and haunting. The detail in the recording really comes out. I can hear his piano hammers rebounding, also creaks from the piano bench. These are all good things, the amount of sound dimension from such a small device, over wireless no doubt is tough to achieve. At higher volume (80%+) the left hand notes cause a slight distortion, and much of the clarity is lost. However, overall sound quality is still fantastic. 

A major departure from the solemn rainy-day music from Frank Glazer, the next track was The Flaming Lips’ – The Sparrow looks up at the Machine. This song is designed to sound distorted. However it seems to be too much for the flip. The previously clear-ish vocals are buried in the fuzz from the mix. This could be just the nature of pushing so much noise through 2 40mm drivers. The mix is very hard clipped; most definition is lost at high volume.

Outdoors at the beach, the sound was sufficiently loud enough for non-distorted listening even during high wind and surf noise. The range of sound was about 15 feet.

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]


The device had zero charge when I took it from the package, so this was a perfect time to test charge time. It took 1.5 hours to charge from dead to full charge using a 2A USB micro wall charger.

My first battery life test started at 7:05am and ended with a zero battery shutdown at 11:53am – 4.5-5 hour battery life, just like it says on the spec sheet.

At the beach we only had access to a 1A USB micro wall charger, charging time was upwards of 3 hours, and battery life after that charge was only 3.5 hours.

Charging using a laptop USB port made almost no progress at all before we gave up.

Another important thing to note is the very nice hard leather case provided by JBL to protect the speaker, has no space for the factory provided USB micro charger. Making it difficult to carry with the speaker.

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]


Bluetooth range is as advertised, about 25-30 feet. In my house, I could get about 15 paces away from the unit (2 rooms away) before audio degraded and eventually stopped.

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]

Other observations:

The price is decent, I’d say it’s definitely worth it. At the time of posting this review it’s on sale at VerizonWireless for $89.99.

Pairing multiple devices to the unit will cause them to fight for the output, it gets a little weird sometimes when two devices try to send different streams.

It took more to explain to the normal user what NFC was than it was worth. Most users just used the standard bluetooth pairing method.

I personally dislike the lack of play/pause and next track controls on the unit, and feel the speakerphone is useless. If you’re paired and listening to music, you may not have time to think about switching your bluetooth audio source before answering a call. Though, people on the other end said I sounded loud and clear.

[hr top=”0″ bottom=”18″ /]


Alright, this is kinda cool, I’d like one.

The exact model I reviewed is at this link:

VerizonWireless Store: JBL Flip2