Tag Archives: Smartphones

Looking for a Good Deal on an iPhone? Head to a Retail Store

By now it’s nothing new to see smartphone kiosks throughout Target, Walmart, or any other chain store. To optimize user experience and to make the wait time much shorter, phone companies have teamed up with these moguls to greatly increase the locations in which consumers can purchase their next phone. And considering the shorter lines, the increased customer service (an aspect phone providers are seriously lacking), and cheaper prices, shoppers are seeing the value as well.

For example, Target sells the new iPhone 5C for $50 on-contract, regardless of carrier. The store also offers a trade-in value or store credit for the user’s original phone. The iPhone 4S could net $105 in good condition, leaving more than enough leftover for a case, accessories, or whatever else you need from Target. In comparison, walk into the cell carrier’s store and an iPhone 5C is $99 on top of an $88-ish trade-in value, for the same phone.

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So why would anyone go to a carrier store, especially when they’re likely spending time at retail stores anyway? Users can save money, avoid the lines, and pair it with their regular shopping in the process.

Is There a Catch?

This makes us wonder what the carrier stores are getting out of it (such as Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon). They offer a shamble of a “deal” in comparison, yet they still seem to be thriving, in both corporate status and in company branches. The only real perk is that business phones have to be bought through the carrier no matter what. Are they making enough off these company phones? Or is service so incredibly profitable that it can pay the bills on its own?

Then again, maybe Apple, Motorola, HTC, Samsung, etc. just charges them more, knowing they’ll pay whatever fees they set.

No matter the reality behind these varied prices, it’s safe to say that retail stores offer the better deal for new iPhones and trade-ins. While a traditional contract (and upgrade date) is still needed, it’s a great way to bypass some paperwork while saving a few dollars along the way.

The next time you’re ready to venture into the latest iPhone, remember that a carrier store isn’t the only option. In fact, trying something new just may get you a better deal.

4 Apps to Make Traveling Easier

maps 2 goWhen on the road, even the most routine and everyday events can be made difficult. Internet connections can be hard to find, technology may not work correctly (or at all), and you’re forever searching for a free outlet. With all of these hang ups, it can be hard to check email or even locate your flight information in a timely fashion. But thankfully, there’s an app for everything, even for traveling.

Use these helpful apps to make the traveling process go as smoothly as possible, no matter how far you’re headed.

Apple’s Passbook

Coming standard on iOS devices, Passbook allows users to store all their important flight info in one, easy-to-tap location. This also goes for movie tickets, coupons, rewards cards, etc. Handy while on the go, Passbook is also great for everyday events. Simply load boarding passes, rental car info, or whatever other travel documents you need, and continue about your events paper-free.

Google Flights

Tired of searching around for the best deal? Download Google’s free compare app for a second opinion any day of the week. Use it to compare flight prices, or see which airlines are offering the best deals and when. The platform even offers suggestions and lets you know when to buy for the best deal possible.

City Maps 2Go

Out of your data network area? Try these pre-loaded city maps instead. The app offers easy-to-follow maps without the overage fees or slow data time. (Think of them as paper maps, but in a smaller package.) It even locates restaurants, shopping areas, or other specific types of businesses so you can find your way even when your phone has other ideas.

Packing Pro

Take the stress out of packing with this user-friendly app. Make a list of necessary items, and then check them off as you go. Adjust each list based on location, or email family members reminders of what to bring. For a small fee, packing becomes easier with this organized packing app.

Whether needing directions or expatiating your next flight, these apps are meant to take the hassle out of the traveling process. And considering users are on their electronic devices more often while traveling than any other time, pulling up these helpful screens shouldn’t be a problem. Just remember to charge up and log in for a stress-free traveling experience each time you leave the house.

How to make a DIY smartphone stand for under $1

7816754688_487dd75457_hSmartphone stands are a great way to watch content on your phone without having to hold the phone upright, and there are a ton of different DIY methods for making them. A lot of them are made so that they’ll hold your phone horizontally, but some users want stands that prop up their phones vertically, similar to an iPhone dock from Apple.

If you want to make something similar, I’ve discovered an insanely-cheap method for building a smartphone stand that will prop up your phone vertically. It’s cheap, but it does take a little bit of assembly. Here’s how to do it.

Supplies You’ll Need

  • MiniDV tape case or a regular cassette tape case
  • A handful of pennies
  • Hot glue gun w/ glue sticks
  • Rubber tape
  • Dremel power tool

How to Make It

Technically, just the tape case will do the trick if you want a barebones solution; just open up the case all way and stick your phone in the slot. A MiniDV tape case is the perfect size for most phones, but a regular cassette tape case will do the trick.

However, if you want to take the stand to the next level, you can add a few things to make it perfect:

1. Take your pennies and hot glue gun and glue the pennies inside the case. This adds weight to the stand so that it doesn’t slide around. Pennies aren’t the best option, since they’re currency and all, so if you have any other tiny objects that weigh a lot, you can use those instead.

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2. Next, use the rubber tape to line the stand so that the phone won’t slip around when it’s in the stand. Since my iPhone doesn’t fit perfectly in the slot, I cut out small strips of the rubber tape and glued them into the slot to add a little padding so that my phone would fit perfectly.

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3. Lastly, take your Dremel power tool and use a small drill bit to carve out a small hole on the bottom of the tape case slot so that the phone’s sound can exit through the speaker without it being blocked by the stand.

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Conclusion

It’s a pretty janky-looking smartphone stand, but it’s dirt cheap and it does its job. Plus, it still folds up just like cassette tape does so that you can toss it in your bag and take it with you on the go.

Of course, buying a pre-made smartphone stand may be a good investment if you plan on using it all the time. Good smartphone stands can cost as much as $30, but that’s a small price to pay for something that you’ll use every day into the future.

Will the next iPhone have a fingerprint scanner?

iPhone colorsSince the dawn of the iPhone, users have been creeping, spying, and guessing as to what the latest model will hold. Some hunches were correct, while others were a far cry from reality. However, even the most wrong guesses haven’t kept bloggers and Apple users from scouring for the next big rumor.

This time around, it’s speculation as to whether or not the new iPhone will host a fingerprint scanner.

Likely to be used for security purposes, it’s rumored that the phone will “scan” one’s fingerprint before unlocking the phone. Currently, users can enter a passcode when wanting to lock their iPhones from stranger use. And while the scan would certainly be an improvement from keyed-in numbers, there are concerns as to how well the scanner would work. Is there a possibility of faulty reads? Will it be able to accurately read a swipe/scan the first time around?

Alternate theories toss around the idea of fingerprint scanning for games or identification purposes, similar to software used on crime-based TV shows. Though this is far less likely, more futuristic and less personal is certainly the trend our electronics have been taking on.

Alternative Rumors

Another theory being tossed around is whether or not Apple will release a 5S phone, or jump straight to 6, which would be a plastic, smaller version of the 5. The blogosphere has been predicting a cheaper, smaller iPhone for months, though Apple has yet to confirm whether or not these instances are true. Known as the “iPhone mini” – like its iPad counterpart, this phone would likely be more affordable, much smaller, and host fewer of Apple’s signature features. It’s thought that this move will help iPhones appeal to a larger audience.

Unfortunately, even the scheduled release date is still up for debate (though right now the Internet says September). Until the next iPhone officially hits shelves – or Apple decides to break protocol and give away their secrets – we’re left in the dark, guessing at what new, great features it will hold.

Why are unlocked smartphones so expensive?

locked iphoneWhen signing a new contract plan, users can walk away with a brand new phone for only a couple hundred dollars. With the right options, rebates, and carrier, users may end up with a free, or nearly free version of their favorite smartphone. But it’s the stipulations that provide a good deal. Factor in contract fees and a lack of flexibility, and there’s very little room for wiggling.

Enter the super expensive “unlocked” phone. Phone service providers saw that their customers needed the option to come and go as they pleased, and they decided to let them. By charging them exorbitant amount. Purchasing a new, unlocked iPhone 5 will cost a hefty $649.99 – $600 if buying from a private party. And that doesn’t even include any service to go with it, phone or Internet. In contrast, signing a two-year contract will bring the same phone to $199.99.

What Gives?

A computer can easily be purchased for the price of an unlocked smartphone. It may not be the best or biggest, but it’s still a computer with all its working functions, software, available updates, and whatever else that makes electronics so expensive. Tablets – the fancy ones – even cost less than an unlocked smartphone. Therefore extra fees can’t be chalked up to hardware, parts, or even display.

So why are such large price tags being slapped on our phones? Many argue that users actually pay more over time with their contract deals, as there is a monthly fee built into service agreements. But unless that charge is named “sales tax” or “4G service,” most users would argue against said claim. Others state that the cell phone companies are subsidizing phone company expenses. True or not, this doesn’t account for why phones cost so much more than tablets and computers. If simple cell phones are given away, it can’t be the calling feature racking up the fees, right?

Is it really just about convenience? Even after one’s contract has been fulfilled, the phone belongs to Verizon, or AT&T, or whatever other service provider has stolen the device’s soul. Users aren’t locked into that phone indefinitely, per say, but without some possibly illegal adjustments, the devices are.

While the public may not understand these serious price hikes, it doesn’t look as though they’re going to reduce anytime soon. Fans of the iPhone simply have to decide whether it’s worth paying a few extra dollars, or sitting heavily under someone’s thumb.

Earn rewards for traveling with Ride

rideFor every mile that’s traveled, Ride, a free app, will give you points. Yes, really. Earn 4k points for a free RedBox rental, and up to 80k for $20 at Amazon – and virtually every increment in between.

Simply travel and earn – a program that provides its users something for nothing. No surveys answered, airline tickets purchased, or social media shares required. All you have to do is move, and they keep track of how much distance is traveled. Walking, driving, trains – it’s all covered. So long as you’re moving, Ride is keeping track.

Sound too good to be true?

What’s the Catch?

Even though it doesn’t run off of GPS, Ride is still a bit of a battery drainer. (In order for it to work, the app has to be open in one’s phone background.) It’s also unclear just how it supports itself, since there are no fees or ads. They could be selling location information (though that’s data that sounds like it wouldn’t net much profit), but in a world where smartphones are already on the grid, it’s not exactly a privacy violation.

Another downside is flying, where users could potentially earn a killing in miles. Because airplane mode just doesn’t cut it for air traveling standards, phones have to be completely powered off. This means Ride, along with every other point-earning app, can’t keep track of your location. It’s unsure whether or not Ride calculates the change in location, though that would certainly be a viable solution.

In Use

On average, a little more than two points is earned for each mile traveled. This means, depending on how much one travels, a reward can be earned in as little as a couple of months. Sure this may seem like a bit of a wait (especially vs. reward apps that have a much higher point ratio), but when the miles are already being traveled, why not tack on an added bonus? And considering the only requirement is keeping the app running (shut it off when staying put to save battery life), the decision to use it becomes even easier.

Whether frequent traveler or one who moseys into the grocery store once a week, Ride is a great app for earning outside rewards. Free to use, and virtually maintenance free, consider using Ride today for an added boost to all your errand traveling trips.

Head to TheRideApp.com to get started.

Custom mobile apps made easy with MobileSmith

mobilesmith screensThe difference between those who want to make an app and those who have the skills to write the code for an app is huge – Facebook-numbers huge. And while anyone with a PayPal account can pay a developer to do the job for them, there’s far more efficient ways to create a custom app, such as app-making software. Taking half the time and less than half of the funds (assuming you can’t do it yourself), these programs allow virtually anyone to create their own custom mobile app.

All that’s needed is an idea and the willingness to turn it into something new, and users of all tech experience levels can be on their way to creating a unique program with MobileSmith’s Mobile App Smith software.

How it Works

Through the site’s platform, users take step-by-step instructions, which allow plenty of room for creativity, to create their app. This also includes helpful webinars that offer industry tips, such as what to include on each app page, or how to best streamline user clicks. Utilizing options like these up front can greatly increase the chances that an app will be selected by stores; apps that are created from scratch can often miss key guidelines. The site points these out along the way and offers suggestions to best overcome each potential hurdle.

When getting started, users can take a free strategy session for a better handle on their ideas, then work with MobileSmith professionals – including in-house designers who give each app a custom look – to create a functional, successful app. The site also includes code required by app stores, such as location identification abilities.

The Need

Within the mobile community, programs like MobileSmith allow all types of companies (or individuals) to create an interactive app. Without app creation software, the development, from scratch, is left to the engineers. This method is usually far more time consuming and much more costly. However, this middle ground helps level the field – still allowing for apps to be created while making the logistics far more efficient. App stores are also likely to jump on board as this expansion will bring them more traffic and platforms to offer users.

Whether a smartphone user or app developer (aspiring counts!), platforms like MobileSmith offer a great service to help cut out the middle steps. To create your own custom app today, head to their site and get started.

A society drowning in cords, and how to manage them

power cordsFirst, we got our own cell phones.

They were friendlier than the previous in-car versions, offering the same talking abilities without location restriction. But they also required a charging cord to be carried around, forever nesting in our suitcases and/or purses. Then computers became mobile, and they needed a cord too, lest we be stranded without a way to play Oregon Trail. Then MP3 players became a thing (which needed headphones, another cord), and then tablets, and before we knew it, we were carrying around cords upon cords. A tangled mess of single colored adapters that must stay with us a majority of the time.

For a while we thought our Apple products would feed from a single-shaped device, but even they changed, forcing us to either upgrade all around, or continue with the business of multiple cords.

The same can tangled-ness can be said for our homes; electronics of all kinds require a constant source of power, leaving us with the wake of their lines. TVs, stereos, lamps, and more have us bowing to their needs with their ugly plug in needs.

So where did we go wrong? Now even cars are becoming electric, requiring even a larger cord to be toted while traveling. While some efforts are being made toward wireless charging and hot pad stations, the majority of “wireless” devices still require a standard outlet, and a power cord.

Managing the chaos

Until all our electronics re-juice ET style, all we can hope for is a more controllable mess. Crafty types can bind together toilet paper rolls (with optional paint) for a storage grid – though this isn’t ideal for travel. While messier folks just tote around a knot of coated wire, pulling out what’s needed as items die.

For an in-between, look to cord keepers or rubber stick-ons that “grab” the cords and make them stay put. Best for in-home cords, such as desktops, phones, or power strips, models can be affixed to the wall for semi-permanent keeping. For traveling, stick to wrapping features, such as circular items that hold both ends down during movement. Both items come in various sizes, adaptable for all types of cords.

Whether choosing to organize gadgets with more gadgets or living with the ever-growing mess, it’s safe to say the age of the cord is upon us. Our only option seems to be grinning and bearing the technological whirlwind we’ve created.

Communication Alternatives: Voice vs. Text

tech microphoneForms of communication come in all types of technology. There are computers, cell phones, landlines, “telephones” made of tin cans and twine, and, of course, actual face-to-face talking. While each method holds its own unique traits, they all allow us to talk, listen, and create conversations. But as gadgets continue to advance, these virtual interactions are widening their span, and have become easily accessible by users of all ages and locations. For instance, any computer, connected wireless device, or iPod touch with WiFi can send text messages. Once an act left to cell phones only, texts are growing in frequency and sendability.

Now that a large percentage of emails are sent and read via smartphone, virtually any length of information can be sent. But it’s not just text-based messages that technology is working to advance – it’s voice-based ones as well. Whether the voicemail, the voice memo, or walkie-talkie apps, which allow users to send and store spoken blurbs, our voices are taking on as many locations as our text.

The Voice Memo/Text Disconnect

How many of us actually use these voice memos? Despite coming standard on the iPhone, as well as various other smartphones, few users even know this technology exists, let along implement it on a regular basis.

For many techies, emails and text messages are the preferred method of getting in touch. Sure, we still need to “talk” with others, but that doesn’t mean we actually need to speak. Through an ever-growing intricacy of abbreviations, acronyms, and shortened terms, users are able to convey more information with fewer characters.

But sometimes – let’s face it – talking just makes things easier. Consider the difference between reading an intricate list of instructions and having someone explain them – which is preferred? Spoken works provide pause, emphasis, and other transitions that can’t always be expressed without sound. And it’s easy; phone owners simply hit “send,” and the microphone-clad button transfers specific, sound instructions to the chosen device. All without having to talk on the phone.

Another perk is the recordings are kept on file until a user actually deletes them; voice memos can be kept on hand as long as they’re needed. With abilities like these, who says we’re becoming disconnected? Users can hear the sound of one another’s voice on command.

But no matter a person’s preference, both mediums continue to hold value. Whether we type, record, or text our information, the world is staying more connected than ever.

Buy a smartphone with a “bad ESN” for cheap entertainment

When scouring Craigslist or eBay for a good deal on a used smartphone, a lot of people avoid listings that say “bad ESN.” In the simplest of terms, this means that the phone is banned from being activated with a carrier, so it wouldn’t be able to make calls or send and receive text messages. It also wouldn’t be able to get any kind of 3G or 4G data access.

However, for those looking for a mobile device just to play games, listen to music or surf the web over Wi-Fi, buying a smartphone with a bad ESN actually isn’t a bad way to go.

Every smartphone has its own unique ESN (Electronic Serial Number) and it works just like any other serial number for any product, except that an ESN is embedded into a chip inside the phone and can be deactivated at any time – sort of like a kill switch. When a phone is either reported stolen or the owner doesn’t pay his phone bill, the carrier can ban that phone’s ESN so that it’s unusable on the network.

A device with a bad ESN is pretty much considered useless in some ways. That’s why you can usually find great deals on smartphones with bad ESNs on eBay or Craigslist.

However, for those just wanting an iPod Touch-like device for super cheap, buying a used smartphone that has a bad ESN is the perfect way to go. Just like an iPod Touch, you can still download and install different apps and games, listen to music, surf the web over Wi-Fi, get turn-by-turn navigation using an offline maps app, and even take photos and video. I actually recently snatched an HTC EVO 4G in great condition with a bad ESN for $50. That’s a not a bad price for all the things it can still do. Plus, I can just grab a 32GB microSD card and load it up with all sorts of music, movies, and games.

Image Credit: Miki Yoshihito