Thursday, October 31, 2013

Technology to Love or Loathe



I'm a long-time consumer of new technology, which is unusual since I'm old enough to be the mom of a huge percentage of people on social media!

Many of my peers are befuddled by technology and social media. Some have joined Facebook and Twitter and now blog, and some are now using tablets, smart phones and e-readers. I have been often asked for help and advice.

This year I've had the opportunity to access new products, from portable drives to smart phones, back up batteries and gadgets. 

Some have been amazing and great; others have been okay, and yet others have been disappointing.

I'm writing this recap of some products I've either purchased, funded, or have been given to test this year. I hope you find some of my opinions useful!

Samsung Galaxy S4
photo: Verizon
Smart phones:
I'm a long-time iPhone user (currently using the iPhone5), but recently was given the chance to use the Samsung Galaxy S4. It was my first encounter with the Android operating system. 

Those already familiar with Android will find it to be a terrific phone, and if you are into social media, (FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) the apps are a snap to use.

Our oldest son has one and loves it. The camera shoots photos with clarity and true color, and for viewing media, the screen is huge. I use my phone as my camera, so I was impressed with the quality of images I shot with this device. Also, the Android Play Store has a ton of applications available. But would I recommend it to my friends? Most of my friends are 40 and older. Even though it is a terrific device, it's really for tech- and Android- savvy people. It is less intuitive, and I think many of them would find it challenging to use. 

LG G2
photo: Verizon
The second phone I've been testing is the LG G2. It's another phone based on the Android operating system, but for some weird reason, It is much more user friendly. Part of it is because it offers tips that explain how to do things—usually as you are in the midst of tapping, swiping and otherwise trying to figure out how to do something. You read the tip in context of your actions, and can choose to never see it again, or allow it to pop up again if you find yourself in the same place. There are tons of great features about this phone, including the camera, which is 13 megapixels (MP). Thirteen MP cameras sell for $230 to $1900. Of course a camera phone doesn't have the variable controls of a real camera, but wow—the LG G2 has some pretty amazing features. Would I recommend this to my friends? If they are at all tech-savvy, I would say yes. 

PowerBlock
photo: Griffin
Battery back up:
I'm one of those people who feels nervous as my phone battery approaches the 20 percent mark. So I've been a long-time user of back up batteries.

The first I used is the Griffin PowerBlock, for around $50. The great thing about this battery is, it's TINY. You can keep it in your purse or pocket and attach it to your iPhone when your battery is low. It didn't fully recharge my phone, but got me through some close "calls" (so to speak). It's not a serious battery, but good in a pinch. I can recommend it on that basis.

The second, third and fourth are manufactured by NewTrent. 

iMirror
photo: New Trent
The first New Trent battery was the iMirror (6000mAh) Heavy Duty 2A/1A Dual USB port battery. It's fantastic. So great, in fact, that I purchased several and still use one and gave two to family members. It would fully recharge my iPhone three or more times, and the dual USB ports meant it could also recharge my iPad. It is relatively small (about the size of an iPhone 4S). In terms of power, it can provide you with about 26 hours of video playback (movie) time. I paid around $80 each at the time, but you can now find them on Amazon for $38. Would I recommend this to my friends? Yes, but New Trent has a newer model that is less expensive and has more power. (see below)

iCarrier
photo: New Trent
The second battery pack, the iCarrier Heavy Duty Dual USB 5V/3A (12000mAh)was given to me by New Trent as the random winner for a blog post comment. It's a stronger battery that can recharge your phone up to six times, and also allows recharging of both phones and tablets. The problem I have with it is, it's big. I mean, thicker clunkier and heavier. Plus it has an auto-shut off to prevent overcharging your device—which is good and bad. It means it might recharge to 99 percent instead of 100 before shutting down. Would I recommend it? Sure. But just recognize it is a bigger, fatter battery, so make sure you have a big purse! 
PowerPak 10.0
photo: New Trent

The Powerpak 10.0 Dual USB (10000mAh) is the third New Trent battery I bought. This is a terrific battery priced at $36.95 on Amazon. This battery provides the equivalent of 43 hours of video playback and is slightly thicker than an iPhone 5 in a Speck case. its height and width are smaller than either the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the LG G2 — in other words, highly portable. It can recharge your phone up to 5 times. This has been an amazing battery. 

GADGETS

A couple of cool things I've been given to try include the Belkin NetCam and the Belkin Wemo Switch. Wow. Both of them have been terrific! Both have apps available that you install on your smart phone, and you can control them from wherever you are.

Belkin Netcam HD Wi-fi Camera
Belkin Netcam HD
photo: Terri Nakamura
The Belkin Netcam HD Wi-fi Camera with Night Vision came in really handy recently when I was on vacation in Hawaii. Even though our 26-year-old son was housesitting, he would forget to turn on lights. I was able to check in via the camera and see it was 9 PM and the house was dark. I texted him, "Did you remember to turn the lights on in the dining room?" and he would text back, "Are you watching us on the camera?!" You can set it up to message you if it detects motion. And the night vision is very cool. In pitch-blackness, you can see what is going on from wherever you are. I think this is a really nifty thing to use for home security, or if you're curious to see what your pets are up to while you're at work!  

Belkin Wemo Switch
Belkin Wemo Switch
photo: Terri Nakamura
A terrific adjunct to the Belkin Netcam is the Belkin Wemo Switch. Let me just say, I plugged it in to an upstairs lamp, and seeing the downstairs was dark, was able to at least turn on a light upstairs, all by using my iPhone.

The beauty of both Belkin devices is, you can have multiple devices set up around your home and control them with your phone. I think it's a good value at about $50. 

The Ready Case
Ready Case
photo: Ready Case
The Ready Case is something I funded on Indiegogo. I opted for the 16-gigabyte (GB) version. You're probably wondering why I would need to specify GBs for a phone case? The reason is, the Ready Case offers a lot of features, kind of like a Swiss Army Knife, and it includes a USB flash memory stick that doubles as a stand, several lenses (macro, wide and fisheye), and a combo blade, screwdriver and bottle opener. CRAZY, huh?

I liked the concept of it a LOT, which is why I funded it. But once I had it in my hand, I had problems with it. I loved the memory stick, but had a lot of trouble removing and replacing it. And as far as the multi-purpose blade, I don't know what happened, but it fell off and it's now lost. The case itself leaves an exposed area on the back of the iPhone, which made me feel nervous. It was an opportunity for the phone to be scratched or damaged. The lenses were very cool, though! As much as I love the concept, I don't recommend it. 

3-in-1 Universal USB Charging Cable
3-in-1 Universal Cable
photo: StackSocial
Twice I've been able to buy this nifty 3-in-1 universal USB cable through StackSocial. At $19, it's terrific because it works with iPhone and Android devices, and is even compatible with the older Apple devices requiring the 30-pin connectors. It could be available elsewhere, but I've found some great deals through StackSocial, so check them out for future opportunities to buy this cable! 

I've funded a variety of projects on Kickstarter, too. You can check them out, and feel free to ask me about them!

Do you wait to adopt, or are you on the bleeding edge? What are your favorite new devices and gadgets? I'd love to know what you're using; what works, and what doesn't!

27 comments:

  1. Hello supermom :)

    Loved your journey from Apple to Android (2 Phones) :)
    Which phone are you currently using?

    Regards
    Sunil Jain

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    1. Dear Sunil (Sun or "Son!")

      Currently I'm using both the iPhone5 and the LG G2.

      As an Apple fangirl from way back, the iOS conventions are now part of my DNA. :)

      So far for me, the LG G2 comes closest to bridging the gap between Apple and Android. But there are a ton of phones out there, and perhaps there are others!

      Warm regards,
      Terri

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  2. I'm using the Galaxy S4 and would highly recommend it. Camera is great, screen is large and easy to see...and, data use in Europe was cheap and easily available.

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    1. Hi, Cash Connect.

      Thanks for the comment.

      The problem for me might've been that the S4 was my first encounter with Android.

      All of the things I expected to be able to do, I wasn't able to make happen. It took several phone conversations with a friend, @beingjulz, who walked me through how to do things.

      For example, I couldn't figure out how to delete a photo from my camera roll. I didn't realize I had to turn the phone sideways in order for the garbage can icon to show up!

      Glad you like your Galaxy S4!

      Cheers/Terri

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  3. Do you remember the scene in the Blues Brothers when they finally make it to the County Assessor and 10 seconds after they get out of the car it falls apart on a rather epic scale? That's kind of the way I tend to use my gadgets! hahaha!

    None the less, I'm in the market for a new phone and this laptop I'm typing on is getting ready to recreate that scene with the Blues Mobile. Might you have suggestions for a laptop?

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    1. HA HA, John!

      Actually, it's cool that you really get every mile out of your gadgets! I think the tendency is more and more, people feel the need to have the latest and greatest.

      As far as laptops go, my last two have both been Apple (surprise!) products.

      I liked the 11" MacBookAir because of it's sleekness and lightness. It was comparable to having a tablet. That being said, over time I realized it felt too small.

      So I'm using a 15" Macbook Pro and I LOVE IT!

      Apple products are more expensive, but I've found largely, they work flawlessly.

      Are you using a PC now? I'm sorry I'm not in a position to offer advice on non-Apple laptops!

      Thanks, though, for the comment. And good luck with your new acquisition. I would love to know what you end up buying, and why!

      Cheers/Terri

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    2. Let's just say Windows 8 is doing a fine job of helping people switch to Mac, myself included....

      I've not made the switch yet because I can't take my video editing suite with me to Mac (Sony Vegas user), but yeah, having toyed with a Win 8 briefly, I'm ready to make the switch/investment.

      I'll drop you a line after I've purchased my new toys!

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    3. Can't wait to find out what you do, John. And I haven't had a chance to try a Windows 8 device, but have been really impressed by the Nokia phones! Keep me posted!

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  4. You're way ahead of me. Thanks for the tips--need to shop more.

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    1. Hey, Sharon.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Shop more? Only if you need something!

      Cheers/Terri

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  5. Dear Terri,
    What amazed me, Terri, is your truthfulness and clear cut view about each topic you come along.
    More than the iphone 5 or the LG G2, what fascinates me is your openness and comprehensiveness on each topic.
    Would love to have you get through a series of French desserts such as 'Tarte Tatin', 'Opera', 'macaron au miel' or 'Charlotte aux fraises'...
    Just eating your words...
    :-)

    François

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    1. Dear Francois,

      My gratitude to you for reading and for your reply. I love the way you write!

      In terms of French desserts, my VERY FAVORITE desserts, French or otherwise, are Crème Brûlée and Crème Caramel. OMG. I LOVE THEM!

      Thank you again!
      Avoir un bon week-end!

      Terri

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Terri, great article. As one who could compete with you on the "old enough" platform, I agree that sometimes technology interferes with the real reasons for it. Guess I came from the "if it ain't broke..." generation. Sometime I long for my phone to do just what a phone should, ring. I would probably get a lot more done!

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    1. Dear Phillip,

      Thanks for reading and for leaving a GREAT comment. I had to laugh at "if it ain't broke..." because my husband and I, being surrounded by technology, both feel that way! Reg Saddler (@zaibatsu), often makes fun of me because we've eschewed buying a big flat-screen television because our other TVs are still working!

      And I'm totally with you re: the comment about having a phone that is just a phone. I'm wistful about the days not so long ago, when we would take off for a trip or leave for the weekend, and my only concern would be making sure someone was around to feed the pets!

      Thanks again. Your response really made my day!

      Cheers/Terri

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  8. Thank you Terri for your work on this article-presentation!

    The details given by you are very useful for userspace with no technical abilities - and I think that was one of your intentions.

    In addition, you wrote somewhere that it was your first experience with the android system - what it may be possible for some of your readers -, it might be a little useful a parallel between a system android and the IOS. But that is just my opinion.

    I'm not a passionate about the latest generation of mobile phones... My daughter use hard a Samsung S2 for more than a year and her seems to be satisfied by it, Recently, my wife made me a gift, an Alcatel onetouch X'pop, which is a pleasant surprise for me so far...

    Without question, nowadays such a smart-phone offers a lot of facilities. I'm just a little ironic thinking that, with all this leap of science, the major developers of these technologies have not yet found a viable solution for autonomy - battery life... A phone must recharged at 24-36 hours, a laptop at 3 hours... not too pleasant...

    Thank you again, I'll search more for your writings. All the best!

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    1. Dear Doruman,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. And you are right—this isn't meant to be a technical review. It's more like the way I would try to explain something to a friend who isn't necessarily interested in minute specifications, but just wants to know my impressions.

      I love the idea of drawing a parallel between iOS and Android. Would you be able to do that? I think it would be useful!

      Battery life seems to be a major complaint on all platforms. I think that's why I've spent so much time trying backup batteries. In fact, for me, the backup battery is almost as important as having a phone!

      I just wish there was an external battery for a laptop, because as you point out, they take a while to recharge.

      You make some great points, Doruman, and I'm grateful you took the time to share them.

      Thanks once again!

      Terri

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  9. It seems we are in a similar position, being a mum and a tech geeks, thanks for these reviews, now I need to buy most of those products LOL!

    I am still on the iPhone4 myself, upgrade due anytime now, so I will probably go to the iPhone5 I have tried other phones, when I've been given them to test also but I always come back to iphone. I just hope the lightning adapter is cool because I have so many speakers, chargers, docking stations, clock alarms and other gadgets with the old socket. Anyway I'm going off topic here sorry haha! All the best Michelle

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    1. Dear Michelle,

      Gotta love that we are in similar positions! They say misery loves company, but we aren’t really miserable, are we?

      I thought the 4S was a super solid phone. In fact, when I switched to the 5, I actually liked the color range of the pictures I took with the 4. But having 5 rows of icons was nice!

      Changing operating systems whether iOS to Android, or iOS6 to iOS7, can take some getting used to.

      Regarding cables, there are so many cables for everything now. That’s why I liked the 3-in-1 cable. It seemed to bridge the gap for the myriad iterations of devices around here.

      Thanks for your terrific comment. I feel like it gave me some insight into your personality, so it was a real treat!

      Happy weekend to you,

      Terri

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    1. lol—I knew what you meant!

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  11. It was a nice easy read with some good anecdotes sprinkled in to keep my attention. There are so many products out there and more coming that it's hard to find information on many of them. Some questions and thoughts. For the non-intuitive aspect of Android, could you point to something more specific? Are they a matter of context and philosophy of Android design or feel? Also do the netcam units come with wall mounts or can you buy them? And do the net cam and switching units come in other colors besides the ones in the photos?

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    1. Dear Dave,

      Thanks for reading this novella and sticking with it to the point of leaving a comment!

      The primary difference between Android and Apple boils down to having way more variables to “customize” one’s experience. Android devotees LOVE that aspect, but I believe a new user, or someone switching from an iPhone to Android, could get bogged down customization to the point of not changing anything. The pre-loaded applications and pages made me feel like I was being subjected to ads right out of the gate. (Amazon shopping page, for example)

      Second, for whatever reason, all the sound notifications (at least in the case of the S4) were “on,” so the phone was incessantly beeping and bonging and making sounds, and I didn’t know why or how to turn them off. Thankfully a friend told me I needed to go into each application and change the setting.

      I’m not sure if the above examples are concrete enough, but I can certainly come up with more!

      Regarding the Belkin camera—yes, each camera comes with a wall mount when you buy them. I think they come only in white.

      If you would like to try the phones or camera, let me know!

      Cheers/Tink

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  12. Wow! Very impressive. I love new gadgets once I figure them out but not a fan of the "figuring out process" - ha! I might have to invest the time for that iCarrier Heavy Duty though - I had no idea there was such a thing. Very handy w/such a short batter life on my "smart" phone.

    Thank you for taking the time to post this!!

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    1. Dear Pam,

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment!

      The "figuring out process" can be easy or difficult. Apple products are so easy to figure out, but maybe it's because I've been a Mac user for a long time, and the way they work is simple across all their products.

      I spent the day with the LG G2 today and was so blown away by its ease of use. And the camera really blows me away!

      The external batteries I mentioned are pretty cool. If you've never tried one, once you do, I think you'll be hooked.

      We had a power outage yesterday and the ICarrier was fully charged and really got us through the 16 hours we were "in the dark!"

      Thanks again and it's been great getting to know you!

      Cheers/Terri

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  13. No love for Windows? ;)

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    1. Hi, Prat!

      I haven't had the opportunity to use a Windows phone, but I've read a ton about the Nokias and am dying to try out the cameras!

      Are you a Windows phone user? What's your take on them?

      How's school?

      Cheers and thank you so much for stopping by!

      Terri

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