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.

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

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.

Siri vs. Galaxy: Which virtual assistant does a better job?

 

My boyfriend has the Samsung Galaxy SIII, so a few weeks ago he let me compare his phone’s voice assistant for a future blog post. Galaxy, to the iPhone’s assistant, Siri. I ran a few tests on each to see how they fared compared to each other, wondering if there were any real differences on how “smart” these smartphone virtual assistants really are.

 

Movie showtimes: Siri took me right to the showtimes at the nearest theater when I asked for the movie showtimes of “Silent Hill: Revelation” that night. Galaxy asked if I would like to do a Web search for the showtimes. Winner: Clearly Siri.

Movie ratings and reviews: Curious as to whether movie critics rated “Silent Hill: Revelation” highly or poorly, I asked both virtual assistants how good the movie was. Galaxy replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer. Would you like me to search the Web?” Siri, on the other hand, gave me the Rotten Tomatoes critics’ ratings. Winner: Siri.

App launching: I asked both Siri and Galaxy to open the CNN app for me. They both launched the app right away. Winner: Tie.4

Voice-to-text translation: I asked both virtual assistants to write a text message for me to see if one was less “smart” when it came to accurate translation. They both accurately translated what I wanted to say in a message that was ready to send via text. Winner: Tie.

Facebook posting: I asked both Siri and Galaxy to write a Facebook status for me. Siri immediately composed my status for me and asked if I was ready to post it. Galaxy required permissions from the S Voice app before it could post my status, which was a bit annoying. Winner: Siri.

Simple facts: I know that Siri pulls from Wolfram Alpha for facts, such as presidents and ages of celebrities, but I wasn’t sure how well Galaxy performed with this. So I asked both a random question (“Who was the 40th president?”) and they both answered promptly, pulling information from Wolfram Alpha.

Sports scores: Since sports scores is a new thing Siri can look up, I wondered if Galaxy was up to speed yet. Turns out “she” wasn’t and asked if I wanted “her” to perform a Web search. Siri, on the other hand, gave me the direct score of team I had asked about from the previous weekend’s game.

Weather forecast: When I asked Galaxy about the weather that day, “she” gave me the overall forecast for the day with the lows and highs, along with the current temperature. Siri not only gave me the current temperature, but also the hourly forecast. Siri also answered in a quirky way,” Don’t forget your rain coat.” Winner: Siri. Because who does not love being told by their phone to not forget their rain gear, with the added bonus of a close look at the next few hours.

Response time: When I was doing my tests, I noticed that Galaxy seemed slow on certain tasks. So, I asked both assistants to open an app for me at the same time. It only took Siri a few quick seconds, while there was a definite lag in response from Galaxy.

 

Overall winner: Siri. The Samsung Galaxy SIII may be the iPhone’s stiff competition, but its virtual assistant does not compare to Siri’s speed, abilities, and wit.

 

Samsung Galaxy SIII vs. iPhone 4s

Thanks to my boyfriend, I am able to truly compare the Samsung Galaxy SIII to the iPhone in this post. I only have the iPhone 4s, but with the latest version of iOS installed, my phone’s capabilities are practically the same as the iPhone 5’s, minus the size of the phone.

Is one phone really better than the other by much or are they almost the same minus the size and a few odds and ends? This is what I wanted to find out by comparing the two smartphones, a comparison I hope may help those who are in the market for a new phone but are undecided which would suit them best.

For starters, let’s look at physical appearance. The Galaxy SIII is too big, in my opinion. It just seems quite bulky for a phone and I would not want to have to use a phone that big all the time. It especially seems too big when you browse the Internet on it.

You would think for its size that it would be able to hold more on its home screens, but it doesn’t. It only holds 16 apps or app folders per screen, just like the iPhone 4s. The iPhone 5, on the other hand, holds up to 20 apps or app folders per screen. It just seems like a waste of space, plus I feel the bigger screen on the Galaxy SIII makes the home screens seem a bit pixelated when looking at the app background and apps.

I just think that the iPhone is more user-friendly when it comes to phone and screen size. The size is a much nicer for for one’s back pocket and for everyday use. The only real advantage I see with the Galaxy SIII’s big size is that it makes viewing Netflix and YouTube videos a little easier on the eyes.

I didn’t find much other big differences beyond the basic Android format versus how iOS operates. The internal memory on the iPhone 4s 16 GB version is a little more than 1 GB bigger than the Galaxy SIII’s. 1 GB probably doesn’t matter to a lot of people, unless you are like me and love taking a lot of pictures and having most of your music library on your phone.

Some might also point out that the Samsung Galaxy is 4G LTE capable. Well, so is the iPhone 5. The iPhone 4s may not be 4G LTE capable, but that doesn’t really matter to me, since I do not live in an area that has 4G LTE.

Other than the previously mentioned differences, I found it hard to find anything too special about the Samsung Galaxy SIII that the iPhone didn’t have or that I think a lot of people who prefer a more user-friendly, less-complicated smartphone would want.

Android vs. iPhone: Which performs better?

The good old battle of smartphones begs the question: Which is better – Android or iPhone (iOS)? In my personal opinion, the iPhone is the better of the two mobile operating systems. And no, I am not biased because I have an iPhone. I had an Android phone from the Samsung Galaxy line before I bought my iPhone. So, I’ve experienced the best and worst of both phones.

I will be doing future posts looking at the differences, specifically comparing the Samsung Galaxy SIII to the iPhone, as well as Samsung Galaxy SIII’s voice assistant, Galaxy, to iPhone’s voice assistant, Siri. For now, I just wanted to give my quick thoughts on the two mobile operating systems.

My biggest issue is that Android phones are more complex than the iPhone. There’s too many settings and a lot to learn before using an Android phone. I spent a lot of time in Android forums when I had my Android phone, just to figure out the not so obvious things the phone could do. The iPhone is much easier to use, and requires less reading on how to use it to its potential.

Also, a lot of the Android phones have bigger screens, which I find to be too bulky and not very user-friendly compared to iPhone’s perfect average size. I also prefer the touch of an iPhone because it’s more responsive in ways. With my old Android phone, I had to swipe the lock buttons the whole way across to unlock my phone and to answer and end a call. This was quite frustrating at first. With an iPhone, it just takes a short swipe to unlock the phone, and a call can be answered just by tapping a button, no long swipes required.

These are just a few of the main differences I wanted to point out. If you have used both the Android operating system and an iPhone, tell me about your personal preference and why you think it is the better of the two!

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.