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!

Creating more free space on your smartphone

 

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When you manage space on your phone effectively and have a good amount of GB space, you can afford to store a lot of photos and songs like me. As you can tell from the above screenshot, I still have 5 GB available for more photos, videos, songs, and applications. From forums I have read, keeping 10 percent of your internal space free seems to be the best rule of thumb to ensure that your phone runs smoothly.

So, are you running out of room for apps and pictures on your phone? Afraid your phone will start working slower with not much space available? I’ve been there with my old Android phone that didn’t come with enough space to begin with. I have a few helpful tips that will make sure that your phone has more available space again.

First of all, music takes up a lot of space on your phone. If you have an Android phone that you use an SD card for, just keep all of your music on your SD card that is at least 8 GB. Don’t add your entire music collection on your phone unless your music collection is small or you can afford to use that much space for your music.

I personally have 574 songs on my 16 GB iPhone 4s. I added my 46 favorite music albums, which I realize is a lot. However, since I manage the space on my phone effectively, I can keep all 46 albums on my phone with a good amount of space still available.

One of the biggest space hogs are videos. Just don’t take super long videos on your phone and you should be okay. I limit my videos to 20-30 seconds max when possible. There’s no need for a 3-minute video of your cat on your phone. Videos really take up a lot of space, which I learned early on when I took a couple 2-minute videos. Also, just minimize how many videos you take. I only have 11 videos on my phone, where the longest video is 1:34.

Another space hog is having a lot photos stored on your phone. If you are like me, you don’t want to delete any photos from your mobile photo library unless they were taken for a temporary project or just to send to a friend to share an interesting sight.

But if it comes down to it, you can always move your photos to your computer and have them saved in the handy application called Dropbox. Luckily, I have mastered the art of keeping enough space available on my phone to not have to worry about my photos. As of right now, I have 164 photos in my camera roll on my iPhone.

As long as you install Dropbox on both your phone and computer, you can still view your photos on your phone. This is thanks to your photos being saved in the “cloud,” which simply means your photos will be there anytime you open your Dropbox app, but they won’t take up internal space on your phone.

Get rid of unnecessary apps to free more space. We have all probably added a lot of apps when we first got our phones because we were excited to have all the best apps available on our phones. But do you really use all of those apps now? Go through your apps and delete the ones you have only used about once or twice a month.

Sometimes deleting apps won’t make much of a difference, but if you have a phone with low memory space, deleting apps can really help. If you have an Android phone, make sure you have all SD-movable apps on your SD card. There are apps out there that will help you discover how much internal space you can free with an SD card, such as App 2 SD.

 

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Look in your usage section in your general settings or storage settings to see how big an app is in MB (see above picture). This gives you a good idea of which apps are taking up the most space and which of those bigger apps can be removed if you are low on internal space.

When I first got my iPhone, I added a lot of apps that I no longer use because I don’t have the time to mess with them and/or they don’t appeal to me anymore. These apps included Instagram, StumbleUpon, FML, Temple Run, along with several others. For me, I rarely have time to mess with games apps on my phone anymore, so I deleted the free ones I downloaded that I no longer play.

Another handy tip is to delete “duplicate” apps. These apps are apps that you have similar apps of on your phone, such as multiple news apps. Flipboard is a great app to view all your favorite news sources in one place. I still keep CNN because I like having one full-featured app of my favorite news source.

Roaming on the go: Tips on how to make the best of it

Worried about going over your carrier’s roaming limit? As someone who has had to roam a lot when I visit family that live in the country, where there are is no Sprint signal, I can offer a few tips to help prevent this from happening. This is especially helpful when you are planning to go away for a few days on vacation to an area where you cannot use your carrier’s network and must roam on another network.

1. Keep Facebook activity to a minimum.  Checking my Facebook twice a day and posting a few pictures did not hurt my roaming limit. Just be careful not to post a lot of pictures when you’re on roaming. This also tends to really drain your phone’s battery.

2. Stay off Netflix and YouTube. I heard that using either can really add a lot to your data, especially since YouTube videos are such big in regards to data size. I made sure not to watch videos while I was visiting my family.

3. Watch calling time. At least with Sprint, there is a cap that is for roaming data, but it also states data maximum or calling minutes maximum, or the majority of either in a given month. With Sprint, the cap is 300MB or 800 minutes for phone calls.

4. Erase phone usage in settings before entering roaming area. This will help you keep track better of how much data you have used while roaming.

5. Know exactly how much roaming you are allowed on your network carrier’s plan by reviewing your contract or plan specifications on their Web site. 1 GB equals 1,024 kb. So on Sprint’s unlimited everything data 450 minutes plan, 307, 200 kb equals 300 MB.

6. Download Onavo Extend or a similar data saving app. Do this only if you are really worried that you will use a lot of data while on vacation. I downloaded it, and said I was saving some data, but it came with a downside. Apparently I missed voice mail while the app was installed, which is a downside to its data saving.

7. Turn off data roaming. If you aren’t planning to text, use Facebook, or other apps that pull from the Internet, just turn off data roaming while you are not using these services.

Making your smartphone battery last a lot longer

The downside to having a smartphone is that the battery doesn’t usually last more than a day with constant use. I wanted to share some pretty good battery conservation tips I have collected since I have owned a smartphone and  share the ones that have worked best for me. Follow these tips, and you should expect to see your smartphone lasting longer than it usually does, even if just by a couple of hours.

1. Turn off Wi-Fi. It really drains your battery because it is constantly searching for wi-fi networks. Just stick with your 3G or 4G network, unless you don’t have much roaming data or other data left on your plan.

2. Turn off Location Services/GPS. This will just drain your battery by tracking your location. Just turn on location services when absolutely necessary  such as when trying to find a nearby place or looking up movie showtimes at the nearest movie theaters. When I turn my location services on, the only apps I have on to be abler to track my location are Facebook, Flixster, Maps, RedLaser, Siri, The Weather Channel, White Pages, Yelp, and Find My iPhone. Okay, maybe I should have less set, because I rarely use Siri to find my location, and only care to have Facebook know my location mainly for check-ins.

3. Make sure your settings are not set to receive any unnecessary notifications from apps. Under my notifications, I have it limited to phone, messages, reminders, Facebook, Mail, TV Guide, calendar, Twitter, and CNN.

4. Turn down the brightness on your phone. Anything more than 50 percent can really drain the battery. I have mine set at about halfway, with auto-brightness turned off at most times.

5. When you are sleeping and really need to conserve your batter from constant mail notifications, missed text messages, and news alerts, just turn Airplane Mode on until you get back up. You will still get those notifications once your turn Airplane Mode back off. This is also helpful when you are taking a long car ride and want to avoid constantly roaming. Roaming really drains a battery fast, as I have found out from visiting family who live in the country where my network carrier is not available.

6. Change your e-mail settings. When your phone is set to push notifications, it constantly is checking for e-mail. Just go in your settings for your mail, set Push to off, and tell your phone to Fetch less frequently, as often as you can afford to miss getting your mail right on time. I have mine set to hourly currently, or you can even just set it to Fetch Manually, where you can just your e-mail by going to the Mail app at your convenience to see if you missed any new mail.

7. It is recommended that you let your phone run down the whole way until it shuts off once a month to keep the battery healthy. It has been said that constantly waiting until your phone is below 20-25 percent, or worse yet, below 10 percent, to charge it tends to run the battery down a lot faster in the long run. So, I try to charge my phone once I see it is at about 25 or 30 percent, sometimes at 50 percent.

Using Your Smartphone for Hurricane Sandy

 

Hurricane Sandy is in our midst here on the East Coast. People are panicking, running into Wal-Mart buying all the flashlights, lamp oil and D batteries, not to mention all the bread and milk. There is a reason to be concerned because this hurricane is supposed to be one of the worst. However, it is not the end of the world. There may be flooding outside your home or apartment, but for the most part, have faith that everything will be okay.

I do suppose most of those people who bought all the flashlights Wal-Mart carried did not have a smartphone with flashlight capability. Being an owner of a smartphone, I easily have a powerful flashlight app on my phone. For those of you with modern smartphones, I highly recommend downloading a flashlight app if you have not already done so. The one on my iPhone is quite powerful and lights up a big portion of a room in the dark. This is going to be extremely helpful if the power goes out and you need to maneuver your way through your house and read a book or something to pass time until the power comes back on.

Another thing I highly recommend is using your smartphone less often than you usually do right now as we await Hurricane Sandy. The power may not be out for hours or days, but it is always best to be prepared. So, use your laptop for Facebook and the news if you are not required to go outside and into work or something very important. Just use your laptop right now for anything you usually do on your phone that you can also do on your laptop, besides texting.

Also, you should keep your phone charged before the storm hits. Me, I’m planning to charge my phone each time it drops below 70-80 percent, just to be on the safe side. Also tonight, I am making sure that my phone is at 100 percent charge before I go to sleep. Because during this storm, your phone is really important.

Until the storm affects cell phone towers, The Weather Channel app is very useful in keeping up to date with the latest alerts for your area and it is always important to keep in touch with loved ones to make sure everyone is staying safe. Another helpful app before and during the hurricane is Hurricane by American Red Cross, or a similar hurricane app. This app will give you the latest hurricane alerts for your area, along with helpful information in regards to what to do before, during, and after a hurricane.

Below is a news clip I found on YouTube that details some helpful Hurricane and severe weather apps.

 

QR Codes: Utilizing the power of your smartphone

QR codes – many have heard of them and scanned them before, but many probably also haven’t. Simply put, they are quite handy in taking you directly to a certain Web site, survey, etc. Just make sure you have a QR reader app installed and have a smartphone that has the ability to scan barcodes and QR codes, such as RedLaser or ShopSavvy.

Most smartphones today have this capability, especially iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy SIII. But older models, like the Samsung Galaxy Precedent I used to have, lack the capability. For those who don’t know much about QR codes and are unsure of how you can scan and find them, this post is for you. The video below will help you out so you can start utilizing your smartphone more.