Things to do before going away for the holidays: Smartphone version

Christmas and New Year’s will soon be here, and I’m sure many will be traveling to spend time with their families. This special time calls for less technology interference and more quality time with loved ones who you may not see as often as you would wish. So, make a vow to keep your phone turned off or on silent as you spend time with family after you wish the ones you will not see a Merry Christmas.

Besides Christmas Day, make a vow to use your phone a lot less the days you are visiting loved ones. Smartphones, with the information overload of constant e-mails, news, etc., can really cause stress, whether it be conscious or subconscious stress. Vacation or personal time away from work should be the one time you are not stressed over even the little things.

Here are some tips on how to fully enjoy quality time with loved ones during the holidays:

1. If you’re not turning your phone off, at least turn your mail off. Frequent e-mails can equal stress when you are trying to get away from stress for awhile. Set your mail notifications to fetch manually so you can check your e-mail at your convenience and not be bothered any other time.

2. Pay your phone bill and take care of other important responsibilities before the holidays. You want to have fewer worries and stress, right? This will help you out a lot. So take care of e-mails you have been procrastinating sending and make sure bills are paid that may be due around the holidays.

3. Get all your Facebook news feed browsing and status updating in before heading out to spend time with family on Christmas. This really gives your loved ones your undivided attention, and if you are like me, you do not get to see your family a lot during the year due to a busy schedule.

4. Read all of your news app(s) Christmas morning before spending time with family if you are a news junkie who checks their phone a couple times a day to read the news. Ditto with checking your e-mail so you will not have to worry about it later. I doubt anyone will be looking for any important e-mails on Christmas Day, but just in case.

5. Keep your smartphone with you to capture Christmas memories with its ever-handy camera. Vow to take a lot of pictures, because the holidays are a special family time that you will always want to remember. Also, when you get back from your trip, back up those pictures through Dropbox or through your USB cord to your personal computer.

Hope these tips come in handy as everyone enjoys the holidays! I will be taking a hiatus from this blog until New Year’s is over, so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Kindle: The best e-reader app for your smartphone

Last week, I had a busy schedule with finals and whatnot, so that is why I have not posted again until now. This blog was created originally for my Digital Journalism class, which ended last week. I plan to continue this blog, because I enjoy sharing my knowledge and insights, along with helping both people who are fairly new to smartphones or have had smartphones for awhile, but enjoy learning new tricks and tips.

Today’s post is about Amazon’s Kindle apps for smartphones. Amazon’s free Kindle app is a must have app that trumps similar apps like iBooks, in terms of book prices and quantity of books available.

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Yesterday on Amazon’s Kindle, I bought two books for my professional project (equivalent of a master’s thesis but more like an internship, not a 100-page paper). I need to read the books over my 5-week winter break to prepare me for the project, so I didn’t want to bother waiting for them to arrive in the mail.

The Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for Android apps are very handy. Let’s face it, the book is a dying breed and the age of e-books is upon us. I have rarely used an actual library while in college and graduate school. For a research paper today, scholarly and online articles are all you really need most of the time.

This was the first time I have ever ordered the Kindle versions of textbooks, but I definitely do not regret it. I can now read my readings anywhere I am, without the hassle of packing textbooks. Below is an example of how your e-book library will look on the iPhone’s Kindle app. So far, I only have the two social media public relations textbooks and two free classic books, “Persuasion” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”

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Looking at prices, Kindle is even more worth downloading. My one textbook cost about $5 more on iBooks. Plus, you do not have to pay shipping and handling if you buy the Kindle version, which saves you a few dollars. Overall, I probably saved about $10 buying the one textbook through Kindle.

Unfortunately, the Kindle app on my iPhone does not let me access the selection of e-books I can buy. I have to get on Amazon through my computer’s Internet or my mobile browser to browse and purchase books. This does give iBooks a clear advantage. Through iBooks, you can browse the e-book selection directly through the app on your phone.

However, Kindle is the better e-book app because it is universal, meaning you can read books you bought on Kindle on your PC or Mac computer, your iPhone or Android phone, iPad or Android tablet, and a Kindle device if you own one. iBooks appears to be only available on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

The future of text messaging: 911 via text

 

Looking through the technology news today on CNN.com, I stumbled across an article about 911 finally being available via text messaging in 2014. Yes, that’s right, by 2014, you will be able to quickly send a text to 911 in an emergency. This really shows how society keeps changing to adapt to the latest technology.

On the other hand, this also shows how slowly parts of society are adapting to modern technology. SMS texting is a 20-year-old technology. 911 is a critical service, and I believe that emergency call centers should have adapted to this technology before now. What about an individual whose house is being broken into, but they do not want to alert the intruder of their whereabouts for fear of violence? Text messaging would be the best quiet solution, not to mention the fastest.

In today’s age of technology, we can text almost anyone because most people have cell phones. Heck, even doctors use their phones to look up medical information. Yet 911 has not been available via text messaging yet? It’s about time access to 911 catches up to the 21st century.

According to the article, ” 911 text messaging service coming in 2014,” writer Heather Kelly says that the top four U.S.wireless carriers have agreed to support text-to-911. This service will not support third-party text messaging apps and will not work when a user is roaming. The top four carriers will make the text-to-911 feature available by May 15, 2014.

Once the carriers have set up this new feature, it will take some additional time for emergency response centers to receive the proper equipment and training before the feature will be up and working. This is definitely another step in the right direction, and I am pleased to see how technology continues to evolve toward a future of limitless possibilities.

To read the full article, go to http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/07/tech/mobile/fcc-carriers-announce-text-to-911/index.html.

 

Safari vs. Google Chrome: Which browser is better for iOS?

 

Having a good mobile Internet browser on your smartphone is a must. Some browsers have more features and work better for some people versus the stock Internet browsers that come with your phone. For iPhone owners, Safari is the primary browser and there is no way of changing the default settings so that internet links sent via text or links in apps can open in another browser.

Despite this somewhat annoying restriction, you can still download a different browser for viewing your favorite Web sites. I personally prefer Google Chrome over Safari.

For starters, Google Chrome syncs with your desktop bookmarks if you have Google Chrome on your personal computer. This is my favorite feature – the ability to access my laptop’s Internet bookmarks anywhere I am.

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Chrome’s ability to sync bookmarks saves you the time and hassle of having to add all your favorites on your mobile browser. Also, if you add more bookmarks on your computer after installing the mobile Chrome browser, those bookmarks will automatically sync to Chrome on your phone (See above picture).

Another feature I like about mobile Chrome is that pages seem to load faster in the Chrome browser than they do in the Safari browser. Nothing is more annoying when you need to look up something quick on the go and the page takes forever to load, which I had happen when I used to solely use Safari. There are still certain pages that take forever to load in Chrome, but those are just large Web sites that lack a mobile version.

The one feature I do prefer in Safari is there are more sharing options for Web sites. Chrome’s sharing options are limited to Google+, E-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.

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With Safari, I have the additional options of text messaging someone the link of a Web site, adding bookmarks directly on one of my home screens for faster access, etc. (See above picture for Safari’s Web site sharing options and actions.) Being able to easily share a link of a news article or Web site with a friend is important to me.

Despite the limited sharing options of Chrome, it is still the better Internet browser on the iPhone, in my opinion. Speed and access to bookmarks anywhere you go are must have features for a good mobile browser.

Instagram: Amazing app or over-hyped app?

 

I’m sure most of you have heard of Instagram. It’s on most “best apps” lists and a lot of people post Instagram photos to Facebook. I had the app for a while, then I later removed it after cleaning up my apps. I have just recently re-installed the app. I removed it because I didn’t use it that much after the initial awe over the photo effects to make my photos prettier. I’m in the middle when it comes to whether it is a truly amazing photography app or just an over-hyped app with limited effects.

Initially, it seemed like a pretty cool app. It turned bland photos into something more special with its several photo effects. But I found the amount of special effects to be quite limited. So, I decided to download another app that people raved about in “best apps” lists: Camera+. Granted, Camera+ cost 99 cents. However, I found Camera+ to have a lot more effects than Instagram, and I felt that the effects it produced gave photos a much better appearance.

I know Instagram is more than just putting special effects on photos. It’s more like a photo-sharing social network that is about browsing, liking, and commenting on other Instagram users’ awe-inspiring photos, which can give others some creative ideas for their own pictures. It helps us find that lost photographer inside of us.

I love taking pictures, and Instagram, along with Camera+, made me want to take more pictures of pretty sights in nature, such as pictures of a lake or a sunset. But the photographer in me comes out more in the summer, which is another reason I didn’t find Instagram to be useful to me right now. Overall, Instagram is a good photography/social media app, but I feel that people who are very interested in photography will find it to be more of a gem of an app than casual picture-takers.

To get an idea of how Instagram can really beautify your pictures, I have included some nature pictures I took last summer that I made look better with Instagram.

creek

mountains

sunset