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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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

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.

Social media and its powerful influence in Election 2012

 

I came across this interesting news piece about how social media has impacted the 2012 presidential election and I thought I would share it. Watch the video below and feel free to leave your thoughts about the role of social media in this election!

 

 

Election 2012 on Twitter and Facebook

 

It’s quite interesting how Twitter and Facebook have played such active roles in this election, especially Twitter. There have been so many popular hashtags that have come out of this election, including #Romnesia, #TheRealRomney, #AreYouBetterOff, #BindersFullOfwomen, and #Horsesandbayonets. And Facebook has created groups based on references in the debates, such as a page in support of Big Bird in regards to Mitt Romney’s defunding PBS comment and a page based off of Mitt Romney’s “Binders of women” comment.

Facebook has been pretty abuzz with political memes and political-related Facebook pages sharing tons of information in support of their chosen candidate and against the opposing candidate. The sad thing is these political pages are very proactive, whereas most Facebook users, at least the ones I am friends with, are more apathetic. I probably have only about five Facebook friends out of 192 who have shown active interest in the election in regards to sharing political posts in support of the candidates.

Could this lack of political posting be a sign of voter apathy? Perhaps. I have seen one or two friends who posted about hating politics. Or maybe it’s because they are afraid to voice their own opinions. Facebook can become a nasty place in regards to politics if you strike a chord with the wrong person. This I have learned from experience. Regardless, I still think it is important to let your voice be heard. Don’t be afraid of what others with opposing views will think. Show them that you are your own person who refuses to let your voice be silenced by them.

Social media can be a wonderful and powerful outlet for sharing opinions. I just think that more users need to learn to respect opposing views and not attack posts that go against their beliefs. And if they must engage in a debate on Facebook, do so in a respectful manner and make sure facts are checked before used in an argument.

Most importantly, don’t delete someone just because they share opposing views. I read an article that mentioned that more people have lost friends on Facebook during this election due to their political postings. Yes, postings that are anti-the candidate I support upset me a little. But I keep it to myself and just scoff at them in my head. We just all need to learn to play nicer on social media in regards to the presidential election.

Presidential elections in the age of social media and smartphones

 

I figured I would do more of a political post today after the social media world is abuzz today after last night’s final presidential debate. No, I will not be espousing my political opinions, since this is not a political blog, even though lately I wish I had a political blog to share more of my views beyond Facebook. No, I wanted to talk in general about how the presidential election process has evolved in regards to the public and how we share and consume information now on social media and our smartphones.

This election and the 2008 election really involved the use of social media, which had been a relatively new venue of spreading the word in political campaigns. I think this election has been the most social media-active thus far. I created a Twitter over the summer to finally see what the hype was about, but I just use it to follow politics and my favorite celebrities. If I don’t check up on my Twitter app on my phone for a few days, I come back to more tweets than I could possibly want or have the time to go through. The presidential candidate I am voting for has been tweeting a lot to help voters become the most informed and up to date on what is going on in the election.

In regards to my personal individual use of social media and my smartphone, I have become very interested and passionate about this election. I have been sharing information I find important on my Facebook and have been making my voice heard. I check my CNN news app every day and have shared election-related news articles on Facebook. I also have had quite a few political conversations with friends via text, and have shared a lot of articles with my boyfriend, who shares the same views as I, via apps and the Internet through text messaging.

I have also viewed several political videos via my phone during this election, whereas I otherwise rarely watch videos on my phone. I even watched part of the beginning of the third debate via the CNN app on my phone because I wasn’t at home for the first 10-15 minutes. This I thought was really handy, especially for individuals who may not have cable.

The ability to watch the debate anywhere if you don’t have immediate access to a TV or laptop is definitely a huge plus in the evolving world of technology. Granted, the video wasn’t the best and the picture went out a few times, leaving me with just the sound, but I think that was due to being in a moving car going through varied signal areas.

This election is definitely the most social media, Internet, and smartphone-connected election thus far. Which I feel says a lot about how much technology has evolved and how there are so many more channels of information out there to keep voters more informed than ever.

Smartphone addiction in today’s society

 

This past weekend, I read this interesting article on CNN about how three smartphone owners kept diaries for a week about their smartphone addiction. The full article, “800 texts in one week? Diaries of 3 smartphone addicts,” can be found at http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/05/tech/mobile/smartphone-addicts/index.html.

In the article, three smartphone addicts kept track of their smartphone usage during one week, which involved tracking their Facebook usage to how many texts they sent in one week. The text usage by these addicts ranged from 399 to 423 messages sent in one week.

This article got me thinking about my own smartphone usage. I decided to keep track of my own usage over just the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). I sent 179 text messages in those two days alone (granted they were mostly to my boyfriend who currently lives an hour and a half away). If that usage was consistent for a week, I’d be looking at about 626 text messages in a week, which is a lot more than even these smartphone addicts said they sent. However, I think that it’s a possibility that they might have kept their numbers down to appear not so addicted.

So, maybe I text my boyfriend a little too much. We do spend a lot more time apart since he graduated and moved back home, so texting helps us stay better connected so we don’t miss each other as much. I am a little shocked that I may possibly text that much in just one week. However, I do text a lot less during weekdays due to schoolwork and classes, so my estimate is probably off quite a bit.

Looking at Facebook usage, I checked my Facebook news feed about eight times during the weekend. I tend to check Facebook frequently out of short boredom since my phone is right by me most of the time. I left three comments on Facebook, liked five posts, and had one status update over the weekend. I also checked my Twitter feed five times over the two days.

Looking at the rest of my smartphone usage over the weekend, I checked my e-mail three times, checked the weather forecast five times, checked CNN three times, checked TV Guide three times, used Google at least five times, and I listened to music for about 30 minutes.

Below is an NBC Network news clip I found on YouTube related to smartphone addiction in regards to social media, that really can make you think about the presence of your smartphone in your life.

 

 

So, what has my keeping track of my smartphone usage over two days shown me in relation to smartphone addiction? I think I text a little too much and I need to use Facebook and Twitter less. Before I had a smartphone, I know I didn’t text as much and I only checked Facebook two times a day at most to just go through some of my news feed from the day.

I know most of the younger generation today have their phones with them wherever they go, even if it’s just to go into another room for awhile. I don’t remember it being like that for me when I had a non-smartphone, or as I like to call it, a “dinosaur phone.” I would use my phone mainly for casual texting and calling, and suffer through a crappy mobile internet to check my e-mail.

I think that with smartphones, we are facing an information overload having so much available to us at all times, and this makes us retreat to our phones constantly. I have a family member who has always been concerned about excessive cell phone usage, especially when guests come over, and I have always thought she was being a bit extreme at times. I believe now that she had a point in some ways.

Maybe we should try to reduce our smartphone usage, especially if it may get in the way of relationships. Especially when you are having dinner with someone and feel the need to check Facebook or the news while waiting for the food to arrive, instead of giving full attention to the other person. I will admit that I have been guilty of this.

I think maybe a “smartphone detox” could be healthy for all of us once in awhile. Just put your phone away, out of sight, for a few hours, and relax and have full concentration on work or the people you are spending time with. It might make a difference and maybe make you less stressed. As I am writing this, I plan to take my own advice tonight as I am working on a project and relaxing before bed.

iOS 6: The best thing to come to the iPhone

In Wednesday’s post, I briefly mentioned iOS 6, the newest operating system on the iPhone. Well, after updating to iOS 6 Wednesday night and exploring the changes since, I thought I would review iOS 6 for those of you who have just updated to it, haven’t gotten around to updating to it yet, or for others who are debating getting an iPhone.

First of all, if you have an iPhone 4s, iPhone 4, or an iPhone 3GS, and haven’t updated to iOS 6 yet, I recommend you do it through iTunes on your computer. The update is fairly quick on the computer versus the slower speeds one may encounter by trying to update directly on their phone via a Wi-Fi network. All you have to do is make sure you update your iTunes to the latest version, restart your computer, hook up your phone adapter to your USB port to sync your phone and it will start the update process. The update shouldn’t take longer than 10-15 minutes.

The first new feature I had heard about and checked out right away was the new Facebook integration. Right in your settings below Twitter will be the new Facebook settings option. From there, you can choose to have your Facebook events and birthdays integrated through your regular calendar app. Your Facebook friends’ birthdays will now appear in your notifications bar and within your calendar app, so you never forget a birthday.

The Facebook photo integration is one of the best new features, in my opinion. Before I bought my iPhone, I had an Android phone from the Samsung Galaxy line. It would let me upload my pictures directly from the picture itself. When I got my iPhone, I saw that I no longer had that option and was disappointed. Now, you can take a picture, go to the picture you want to upload, and upload that picture directly to Facebook from the options button. This is a feature that has probably been long-awaited on the iPhone. Another handy feature of the new Facebook integration is the new option to post a status directly from the pull-down notifications bar. You can also now send a tweet directly from the notifications bar.

 

This is the new options menu for photos, which now includes the option to upload photos directly to Facebook, instead of having to open the Facebook app and upload photos.

 

Another significant change in iOS 6 is the major improvements to Siri. Siri now can do a lot more things than she used to be able to do, including giving you sports scores, telling you who are the main actors in a movie, giving you movie showtimes and movie reviews, opening apps for you, and more. She also will post statuses to Facebook for you and send tweets to Twitter. Siri is still in the Beta stage, so she may not post what you want on the first try, as I have discovered. It took me three tries for her to accurately write what I wanted her to post on my Facebook. It helps if you speak slowly and loudly to ensure that she will correctly interpret what you want posted on hopefully the first try. Regardless, I find it pretty cool that Siri can now post Facebook statuses. She’s becoming a much better virtual assistant.

 

Siri now will give you reviews of a movie you are interested in seeing, which is very handy if you would rather not dig through your IMDb or Flixster apps to see if a movie is worth watching.

 

Another change worth mentioning that I have found handy is the new “Do Not Disturb” option in settings right above the notifications settings. Probably most of you leave your phone on at night after you make sure that it is turned on silent. But that still doesn’t stop your phone from lighting up in the middle of the night due to notifications. If you are like me, you have been almost asleep but you sense a light in the room and look over to see your phone lit up. You reach for your phone, wondering if someone texted you, when you should just be going to sleep and not worrying about your phone until you wake up.

You can now set “quiet hours” during which you do not want to be disturbed, such as from 1 a.m. until 9 a.m. Your phone will then not light up to notify you of any calls, missed texts or other notifications during that time. Also, if you are afraid of missing an important call from a family member, just make sure you have people whose calls you cannot afford to miss listed as favorites in your contacts. Then all you need to do is select the “Allow Calls From” option and set it for “Favorites.”

 

Thanks to the new “Do Not Disturb” option, I will no longer be bothered by my phone lighting up in the middle of the night, even if I forgot to put my phone on silent.

 

There are many more new changes in iOS 6, but the last important one I will highlight is the new “Reply With Message” option. We have probably all been in a situation where someone calls but we don’t have the time to talk and may have either let the call go to voicemail or declined the call. Now you can be more polite about it with the option to respond to the call with a simple text such as, “I’m busy right now, but I’ll call you back later.” You can also set a reminder right on the incoming call to remind yourself to actually call that person back, instead of forgetting to call them back.

 

These are the three default messages I have created to reply to an incoming call with if I am busy at the moment

For the list of the rest of the new iOS 6 features, go to http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/. If you have downloaded iOS 6, what are your favorite features? Where do you think there could still be room for improvement in the next iOS? Feel free to leave your comments!