Change Is Good


apple-iphone6-silverWhile I despised my time at Ralphs, I must admit that some of their perks were slightly worth the trouble. Slightly.

The major one, of course, was health benefits for myself and Anthony that set me back maybe $7 every week. If I had hung around there long enough to add Ann then they would have gone up to $15 per week. Definitely not a bad cost.

Another equated to cash back for every dollar we spent at the store. At the end of every quarter, I would get a certificate for whatever that amount was. In some cases, it was as high as $80 which could be used on anything in the store.

Then there were the other perks like getting a discount on cell phone plans which, after thinking about it, wasn’t all that spectacular even with the discount. We made the move to AT&T a few months after my start date and were with them ever since but now that I’ve parted ways with Ralphs (or vice-versa it seems), it won’t be long before American Telephone and Telegraph gets word of it and I lose my discount. I don’t even want to know what my bill would be then.

So we had to make a move and that move was going with Sprint’s “Cut Your Bill In Half” plan. It’s definitely a deceptive title all things considered since it only cuts the data portion of your bill in half so don’t expect your $150 bill to be $75 because it won’t. Granted, we are now paying less than we were with AT&T and with insurance on all three lines but as for cutting our bill in half? Oh no. It’s far, far, far from it.

As a stipulation of the plan, we had to get all new phones which was no big deal for Ann and Anthony. They chose the iPhone 6 without hesitation. They knew what they wanted.

Me? That’s another story.

It needs a lot of storage and expandable memory. Must be small enough for an armband when I go running. A good camera would be nice. Stylish would be okay, too. I’d like a nice display as well.

So as the paperwork was being filled out, I made my way around the store looking at a variety of Android phones because that’s all I’ve owned since first getting a smartphone – and I wasn’t about to change that. There was too much I enjoyed about Android, namely complete customization: launchers, the ability to make (free) ringtones from any .mp3 on the phone, widgets, and the fact that it could be treated like a hard drive which made transferring data a breeze.

Then there was the iPhone. I never liked them because everybody had one and their stigma of “sheeple” customers always bothered me. I didn’t like Apple’s proprietary nonsense with cables. I didn’t like that memory could not be expanded. I didn’t like the way Apple controls just about everything on the phone via iTunes. I didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t add widgets to the screen (I’m a big widget fan). I didn’t like much about iPhones even if I had owned and still own a few iPods. Plus, the absence of a Back and Menu button was also a big turn-off. How can I get anything done with one button? There was no way I could get used to this kind of thing even if I had an iPod touch in the past.

Besides, they were always too expensive for me.

But as I made my way around the store looking at different Android models, I discovered that no matter which one I chose, it was just the same experience I’ve had on my previous models only in a different skin. Same turkey, different bread only now the turkey was starting to get a little ripe. And I didn’t want to eat bad turkey for the next two years.

The LG G4, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and even the HTC one M9 (I was using an M7 at the time) weren’t offering anything special. Most had limitations in terms of storage or some other thing I just didn’t like, so I continued my browsing. This was the worse case of beslutfattande* I’d ever had.

And the family had grown weary with all of this, especially Anthony who had to give up his phone and lose all of his Minecraft progress. He was not happy about that. But I still couldn’t decide and continued to make the rounds in the store.

Then it happened. I threw my hands up. I gave in and pointed to the 64GB iPhone 6.

“Oh, just give me that one,” I said to Ann. Both she and Anthony were pretty shocked at my decision with Anthony asking if I was okay. He knows I loved my Android phones and was always talking smack about iPhones and their limitations.

But I didn’t have anything to lose in choosing the iPhone because I could bring it back in 14 days if I didn’t like it. I was so certain that I’d despise the thing that I told the girl at Sprint that I’d see her in a few days.

Well, it’s been a few days and I still have my iPhone. Do I like it? Let’s go over all the things I thought I’d miss.

Widgets: A widget is a live, quick-reference app that can be installed on any of your screens. It’s great for things like weather conditions, sports scores, etc. and they are one of the things that separated Android from Apple. But do I miss them on my Home screen? Nope. Not at all. They were a convenience but definitely not a necessity.

Free Ringtones: Android phones allow you to assign any .mp3 file as a Default or Contact ringtone. All you have to do is point to it and it will play that song as you assigned it. Apple charges for their ringtones through iTunes which kind of annoyed me considering I’ve already paid for my music. However, I found an app that allows you to create your own ringtones from songs in your iPhone’s music library. It’s a little tricky and still involves using iTunes to get them on your phone but it works. Solved that problem.

One Button vs. Several: Having one button isn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I’m getting used to navigating my way around the phone with only one physical button. Naturally there’s a learning curve but being I had an iPod touch, there wasn’t much to learn. I guess just the thought of having only a Home button on a device I’d use more frequently than my iPod bothered me but no, it really doesn’t now that I’m doing it.

Expandable Storage:  As of this post, I have over 2,600 songs, 9 videos, 49 apps, and a whole bunch of pictures on my 64GB iPhone. I’d say that what I have on it is pretty substantial and it gets me by. All of this and I still have over 33GB left. I don’t think I’ll have a problem with storage even if I add more music to it.

So that covers everything that made me so hesitant about the iPhone. What about the rest of it?

Size: I wouldn’t say it’s perfect because nothing really is but I will say that it’s amazing how much technology got crammed into something so thin. Even with a case on it, the iPhone still sports a very thin profile and I like that. It fits right in my pocket and armband for running, but sometimes almost seems a little too thin.

Display: It’s crisp and clear, and the camera seems to produce decent quality pictures but I have yet to shoot videos with it.

Performance: This pretty much seals the deal. With any of my Android phones, it wasn’t uncommon to get the “Unfortunately, [app name] has stopped running” warning telling you that something went funky. But I suppose this is what happens when the phone is basically a computer and treated as such: things break. With Apple having a little more control over their iOS, it seems they’ve gotten a better grip on things like this. No, I can’t say that this will never happen with an iOS device because there are some apps that crash on my iPad but not as often as they have with any Android device. The iPhone’s performance is nowhere near anything I’ve had in the past: it’s fast and fluid, and blows all of my other phones out of the water.

At this point, everything else on the phone is just a bonus. The Touch ID works as expected and I have scanned both thumbs and index fingers to allow access which makes it easier when sitting at my work desk. I also love the Ringer/Vibrate switch on the side of the phone. One flip and the sound is on/off. It’s also nice to adjust the playback speed of podcasts, something I could never do with an Android device. (I listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed so I can cram in more while at the office.)

And oh, I can find cases for it anywhere — even at the dollar store.

And as an added bonus, my Pebble watch works perfectly with the phone. It was kind of glitchy with my HTC one M7 and would sometimes reset but I have yet to experience that with the iPhone. The only thing about the Pebble that’s disappointing is the lack of apps for customization, i.e. ones that allow you to make watchfaces or reply to messages. There are none for the iPhone so that’s definitely a setback.

My earbuds also fall the under It Just Works category. Botton was response very with my unpredictable Android but not so with the iPhone.

The Verdict: I have to admit that despite my initial trepidation, I am beyond satisfied with the iPhone 6. Not only is it a great device but it’s also an entirely new experience for me and change is most definitely a good thing.

The people at Sprint won’t have to worry about seeing me within the next 12 days with phone in hand, ready to return it to them in exchange for a Samsung or LG. But with Apple reportedly announcing new models in a few weeks and our contract being a part of the iPhone Forever plan, I will most definitely be paying them a visit to upgrade to the newest model once it is available.

But I’m not camping outside the store for it. That’s just goofy.

people-are-already-in-line-for-the-iphone-6

*Beslutfattande: Swedish for “decision making.” This is what I got from proofreading several languages in the past.

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How Could You?


36975990If you’re one of those who has a ton of pictures on your phone and is afraid to transfer/delete them, this post is for you.

As we speak (or as I type – your preference), I am backing up the 150+ pictures that currently reside on my phone. The 100-150 mark is my usual limit; more than that is just way too many.

With our phones becoming more of a capture-all-of-life’s-moments device and less of a phone, chances are that you have a lot of pictures stored on yours as well. Go ahead and look. There’s probably more than the 150 I’m transferring right now. But it gets worse.

I’ve seen screencaps posted on various Facebook pages that show the image being Number 1,987 of 2,242. If I get paranoid over a mere 150 images, you can imagine how jittery I get when I see something like that.

An aside: if you know how to screencap and upload to Facebook, why not just upload the original image?

But I digress. Man. Seriously. Why do you have so many on your phone? It’s time to TRANSFER THOSE THINGS! And right now you might be asking yourself why I care so much about the images on your phone.

It’s easy: they are your memories. You thought these moments were important enough to capture and save. I’ve seen Facebook posts from friends who have either lost their phones or had them crash or die, thereby wiping out all of their memories they thought were important enough to save. It’s not a fun thing to deal with, think about, or even have me preach about but the reality is that eventually, it will happen. Not might, but will.

This is why I follow Leo Laporte’s advice of the importance of backing up your stuff – images and otherwise – once a week to at least two devices: one local and one off-site. This ensures that your stuff is saved no matter what happens. And it’s a family thing: I also backup everything on their phones, too.

Owning a smartphone is more than just holding a little status symbol in your hand. It does require a little work, especially when it comes to backing up your stuff. And that work means learning a skill which I guess some might be too lazy to do or just don’t feel like learning, and that’s not good because the skill isn’t hard to learn.

If you are particularly fearful of technology, backing up images is practically a no-brainer with either iOS or Android, both of which offer a system of automatically backing up your pictures as you take them. Google gives you a decent amount of 15GB combined Gmail/Drive storage and 100GB a year can be had for a mere $2/mo. iCloud offers 5GB for free and offers larger capacities for a new lower price.

For the more daring, there’s cloud services like Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive. Both of these require the installation of an app which like Drive and iOS, offer automatic uploading that can be set to WiFi-only to save on excessive data usage. Dropbox starts users off with a mere 2GB of storage but can be increased with referral bonuses or purchasing additional storage. (I’m currently at 59GB through referrals and a 48GB bonus earned with the registration of my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet). OneDrive gives you 15GB, the same as Drive but can also be increased with referrals. I’m one of OneDrive’s early adopters and was using it as SkyDrive, so my storage is set at 28GB.

Once uploaded to the ubiquitous cloud, your images are accessible via your device’s app provided you are connected to your network or WiFi. What that means is that it’s safe to delete them from your device and you will have two copies: on your computer at home and on the cloud storage service of your choice. You will have them. They are safe.

wdfMyCloudAnd if you really want to geek out, you can buy a WD My Cloud device which is your own personal cloud storage system.

It’s stored in your home and through the use of an app on your phone, allows you to send your pictures directly to it no matter where you are. Personally, this is going to be my next choice as they offer a huge amount of storage for the price: they start at $150 for 2TB. That’s a lot of selfies.

And guess what? You can still delete them from your phone after uploading.

Oh hey, look! All of my images are now uploaded and viewable on my phone plus can be downloaded to it if necessary!

Success!

I have them all organized in a Phone Pix folder then in subfolders by Year, Month, and Date Uploaded or Event. Not hard, and I know exactly where to look for things. Most services also allow folder sharing where specific users can add or delete files as needed. This is handy when, you know, you go out for Karaoke Night and your friends shoot incriminating videos of you.

With technology being such a big part of our lives, I can’t think of a reason why anyone should have so many pictures stored on their phone. It just takes a little patience to learn and time to transfer, both of which I’m sure most of us have. You could have uploaded/transferred a bunch just by reading this post like I did.

Don’t fear it any longer and risk losing all your images. Isn’t it worth the time to learn something so simple and have everything saved, or simply do nothing and lose it all?

Now I can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do but this doesn’t seem like a tough decision, does it?

Virgin Mobile to Sell iPhone on June 29


vmiphone1

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all day, you’ve no doubt heard about Virgin Mobile’s earth-shattering yet not entirely unexpected plan to finally bring the iPhone to the U.S. (it’s been in other markets for quite some time now). It will be sold at Virgin Mobile’s site, Radio Shack, Best Buy and “select local retailers” as stated in the official press release.

This comes on the heels of Cricket’s announcement just about a week ago:

cricket

Looks familiar, no?

Let me give you the good news first. Virgin Mobile’s pricing structure remains intact but if you enroll in Auto-Pay, you get a $5 discount on your monthly bill:

vmiphone2

So what could possibly be the bad news? Virgin Mobile will start selling the phones on June 29 at the following unsubsidized prices:

  • iPhone 4 8GB: $549
  • iPhone 4S 16GB: $649

Those prices are $150 more than Cricket’s but Virgin Mobile’s pricing structure has them beat by a little bit in that Cricket only offers a $55 unlimited everything for their iPhone. Of course, “unlimited” data comes that proviso that you will be throttled at 2.5GB of 3G data usage for Virgin Mobile and 2.3GB for Cricket. Still, an iPhone for a little as $30/mo. with 300 minutes and unlimited messaging and web sounds like a good deal. Customers under contract might be paying $30 for data alone.

In the end, is it all worth it? There’s been a lot of buzz about this since Cricket announced their iPhone. Thankfully, the math – never my strong suit – has been done for me via Cult of Mac. They were kind enough to crunch the numbers and come up with this chart of pricing across all iPhone carriers (click to see full article):

cultofmac

It’s pretty clear that Virgin Mobile has them all beat if you are willing to go with less minutes – does anybody still call anyone anymore? – than Sprint and Cricket per month.

And while it really is a phenomenal deal on the surface, coming up with that initial $549 or $649 that might just be a problem for some customers, myself included. It’s one of those things that, if I decided to go that route, I would have to wait for until next tax time when I usually have some extra jingle in my pocket.

Besides, I’m eyeing the Optimus Elite. It’ll bump my monthly plan to $35 (currently $25) but it seems to be all the phone I need at the moment and not only that, I want to upgrade from my Optimus V. It’s still a good phone but I think it’s time to move up to something better and I don’t feel like switching over to T-Mobile nor do I have $600 lying around the house.

Only time will tell if Cricket and Virgin Mobile take a bite out of the other carriers who offer the iPhone under contract and subsidized but after taking all of this in, what do you think? Will you go for it or take a pass on it?

Musical Questions to Ask Siri


apple-siriI wouldn’t know this from personal experience but the word is that iPhone’s Siri function is pretty amazing because it seems to know mostly everything. Kinda scary.

But as an Android user (and someone who refuses to pay a lot of money for a data plan and excessive minutes I’ll never use), I don’t and most likely won’t have the opportunity to ask Siri all of the wonderful questions I’d like to.

Can you do me a solid and ask Siri for me? Come on, don’t be a poopy-pants – it’ll be fun! I’ve been blogging for almost 8 years for your entertainment and for free. It’s the least you can do, right?

Here’s a list of musical questions, linked to their YouTube videos, that have been plaguing mankind for years and that no one has yet to get a definitive answer.

I’m curious. I need to know…

I could go on forever but this is a great starting point. So quit reading and get asking – and post Siri’s reply in the Comments section along with the question it answers.

This post will self-destruct in 10 seconds. Good luck, Mr. Phelps.

Cool iPhone App for Hallowe’en


…or to just chill with.

If you’ve got an iPod Touch or iPhone and are looking for a way to spookify your upcoming Hallowe’en party, annoy your idiot neighbors or scare the bejesus out of unsuspecting trick-or-treaters, you’re in luck this year.

Let me show you Easy Relax, a cool app I found the other day on iTunes. This app does nothing more than play different preloaded sounds such as air, wind, ocean, rain, or just plain old white noise. If you’re the type of person that sometimes finds it difficult to fall asleep without some kind of background noise, and you have a clock radio with an iPod dock, you will dig this app!

Unlike another free app I had downloaded, Easy Relax allows you to combine one background noise with as many as three other ambient sounds. For example, I made one for Hallowe’en that consists of heavy rain and thunder as the background noise, and chimes, strong wind and a corbie/raven as the ambient sounds. (Note: even with the free version you can adjust the level and frequency of each ambient sound for complete personalization.) The result was nothing more than amazing and will be an excellent way to create the mood for that spooky night quickly approaching.

Hallowe’en aside, as it name implies, Easy Relax is a fantastic way to “escape” after a long day at the office or even to use while at the office when you just can’t decide what music you want to listen to next. In fact, I listened to this all day today while at work and didn’t even miss my music collection. Very relaxing.

About the only setback I’ve noticed with this app is that you can sometimes hear a dead air at the end of certain background noises before they loop, which can become annoying if you’re one of those that will notice it while trying to sleep (*raises hand*).

All in all, I really like Easy Relax 2.0 and was interested in buying the Ultimate version. But after reading its reviews, the Ultimate version appears to be more buggy and has less features than the free version, so I think I’ll pass on it.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, go ahead and download it here (link requires iTunes):

So give it a shot, chill for a bit, and let me know what you think!


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