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I Went Back to an Old Phone and Here’s What I Learned

Last month my Motorola Droid Turbo 2 inexplicably died on me. It turned off and back on a few times and then just gave up the ghost. Because of the Independence Day holiday, shipping took some time to get a replacement to me. Luckily I had an old Droid Mini that I could use as a backup for a few days. Here are my thoughts on that experience.

 

1. It was nice to have a backup phone. Trading in an old phone might be a great idea, and many times there are extra incentives to trade in your phone. However, having a backup phone to use while the warranty shipped was nice. If  you are going to keep a phone as a backup, make sure that it is one where the SIM card still fits from your new phone, or buy a SIM card adapter. It was sure easy to just pop the SIM card out of my Turbo and into the Mini, download all my apps, and go. At the very least, do your best to keep a smartphone of some sort if you are going to keep a phone around as a backup. There are some discounts and prices on insurance that might fall off if you move from a smartphone to a basic and then try to go back.

 

2. No, you won’t go back to your old phone. Let’s face it. Your old phone stinks. The screen is too small (and probably scratched up). The camera is low resolution and fuzzy. The processor is slow. Apps don’t work right. If your old phone worked right, you wouldn’t be upgrading anyway. So for me personally, if I were to say “no thanks, I won’t insure my new phone, I’ll just go back to my old phone,” I know I wouldn’t be happy with that solution for more than a few days. I suspect the same holds true for you. And after you’ve had your new phone for a few weeks, the dislike for your old phone is that much more magnified. One possible middle ground solution is to keep the insurance for the first six months or year while the phone is still new. A few things happen once you crest over that 6 months to 1 year mark. First of all, the newness wears off. Nothing is worse (in the life span of your phone) than not having protection on your phone and dropping it in the parking lot as you are walking out of the store (that’s happened). Second, once you have been making payments on a phone for about a year, if something happens to it, it may be cheaper to just buy out the phone and upgrade sooner rather than keep paying the premiums and deductible if something happens to the phone. It might not be, but after a year, it doesn’t hurt to run those numbers.

 

3. I kind of liked a small phone. The phone I switched back to was a Motorola Droid Razr M. Definitely a downgrade in size from the Turbo 2, in addition to its lower resolution cameras and smaller processor. As much as I like my big screen on my Turbo 2, a small phone that could easily slip into a pocket and fit nicely in my hand was a lot more attractive than I thought. Unfortunately on Android, the only option for a small phone is to use an old phone or an entry-level smartphone that is similar to old phones in both functionality and tech specs. Apple has shown with the SE that there is a market for high-end, small-screen phones. Here’s hoping that Android manufacturers catch on.

 

4. Having separate devices might be useful. The hardest hit part of my phone crashing? I lost all my game data from Fallout Shelter, a favorite game my kids and I play. That game in particular was not friendly to play on the miniscule screen of the Droid Mini, and since it was a temporary phone anyway, I didn’t feel inclined to start a new game on it and try and transfer it to my replacement phone.

 

So I installed the game on my iPad. Having a big screen for gaming made more sense, and I find myself more productive at work by removing the temptation to play games when I should be working.

Gear up and Go for Pokemon Go

By now you’ve all probably heard of the Pokemon Go phenomenon. Catching all the Pokemons has become the life quest of phone gamers. Whether you’ve made catching them your quest in life or you are just a casual gamer, you need to get your phone or other devices ready to  spend the day walking around. Here are just a few things you can get that will help you get the most out of your Pokemon experience.

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Ventev Powercell3015c. I recommend this particular portable battery charger for a few reasons. First it is relatively thin. I have a huge power brick that can juice up a pair of tablets, but it sits sin my bicycle saddlebag or a tablet bag. Size isn’t a huge factor there, but if you want something that can easily slide into a pocket or not take up too much space in a purse, these will fit the bill. They also come with the charging cable built in for either micro USB or Lightning/Apple devices. Sorry, no USB type C yet, though I am sure that is coming. Having the cable built into the charging unit means one less cable or device you have to keep track of while chasing those Pokemons.

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Bluetooth Headset. Pokemon Go not only has you moving from place to place to complete your objectives, but it also has audio cues to alert you to game changes. Stereo earbuds are nice, but the game is so immersive anyway that completely isolating your sense of hearing might not be the safest move. The Plantronics Marque 2 is a single earpiece that supports audio streaming so you only have to put it in one ear, while LG makes a Tone Pro series of neck band and wired earbuds coming from the band, so it is quite easy to put only one earbud in so you can hear the outside world with the other ear. When you want to listen to music, just pop both earbuds in and away you go. Of course there are more expensive headsets that would fit the bill, but if you go any cheaper than those, you may not get the audio streaming option.

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Case, screen protector and pouch. Every phone should have a case and screen protector on it. In my opinion, there are two ways to go in that regard. LifeProof has their signature water, dust, shock and snow protection, but lacks in the screen protection regard. Most any case from Impact Gel to Otterbox offers a decent level of impact resistance and is best matched with a tempered glass screen protector, but you’ll miss the water resistance. As of now, unless you put a LifeProof on  a Droid Turbo 2 or a tempered glass on a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, you don’t get the durable screen AND water resistance. So pick the formula that best matches your lifestyle.

 

If you want a pouch, the NiteIze XXL belt pouch has an extra pocket for credit or debit cards, but I found it is large enough to hold my Droid Turbo 2 inside a LifeProof case with a LifeActiv adapter mount, and it still had room to fit the slim Powercell 3015c battery inside the smaller compartment designed for your credit cards. That means it should handle all but the largest phones with a spare battery (the iPhone 6s Plus or Droid Z phones might be a bit of a stretch). In the above picture, the LifeProof case is one for a Galaxy S7, but I tried it with my Turbo and it all fit and was surprisingly light.

 

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MyKronoz ZeFit 2. Say what you will about Pokemon, but unlike other mobile games, this game actually gets you mobile. You might be surprised at how much you are moving while you are chasing your kids around the neighborhood when they are playing (or while you are playing yourself). So put a fitness tracker on your wrist and start racking up those steps!

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Samsung Galaxy Tab E 8.0.  If your kids are always asking for your phone or tablet and you don’t want to share, adding a tablet on so they (or you) can have your own dedicated device. Candy Crush can be largely played without a data connection. Words With Friends can wait until you find a wifi hotspot. But Pokemon Go needs a mobile data connection to play. So adding a Pokemon or other gaming-able device might be a good option.

 

Will the Pokemon craze last forever? Certainly not. But I think the creators of Pokemon Go are onto something, and mobile gaming that gets gamers moving is here to stay. Whatever the next game is, if it gets you moving like Pokemon Go, these tools will make you ready for this one and the next.

LifeProof’s LifeActiv

Once I switched to my Droid Turbo 2 with the Shatter Shield screen, the only thing left to complete its durability was a LifeProof case to make it water resistant. While I don’t mind big phones in big cases, there are times I miss being able to easily drop the setup into a pouch of some sort. And the bigger the phone and case get, the harder it is to find a suitable pouch.  LifeProof has a solution with their LifeActive series of accessories that give you the ability to carry your phone wherever you go, on your person, bike, or in your car. There is a tab that sticks on to the back of your phone, pretty low profile too. That clips in to a belt holster, bicycle mount, vehicle mount, or armband. Read on for my impressions of each.

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Belt Clip. This is my favorite LifeActiv accessory. The belt clip holds pretty steady around the belt and is hard to remove. After a little practice, I can easily attach my phone to the clip and remove it, usually with one hand. The only caveat I have is that this does put the phone on the belt clip with the screen facing out. While it is convenient for quickly checking notifications (just bend the belt clip towards you for a quick peek at the screen), having the screen facing out puts you a bit more at risk for impact damage. I am using the Droid Turbo 2, so on its own it has a durable screen. Most tempered glass screen protectors have a hard time fitting inside a LifeProof case, but there is no reason the LifeActiv accessories can’t fit on other brands of cases if you’d rather have the durable screen and forego waterproofing your phone. Just be aware that you’ve got your glass facing out with this type of carry.

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Bicycle Mount. Given my affinity for cycling, this would be my favorite, but I do use the belt clip more. The bicycle and vehicle mount have a ball at the end of the phone clip that tightens into a holder, allowing you to rotate it in 3 dimensions. It also comes with a few different thickness of shims to accommodate varying diameters of bicycle frames. I found going without any shim at all is the best, your mileage may vary. This setup has held up better than any bicycle system I’ve used to date, and it doesn’t require any extra rubber bands or anything to secure the phone. I expect it to hold firm except in the event of a severe crash, at which point your phone is the least of your worries. My only complaint is that my Droid is big and it blocks out the view of my bike computer, but that is more a limitation of how I have my bike set up, not any fault of the LifeActiv mount. I’m sure there is already an app that would replace my bike computer if it came to that.

 

On a side note, I did have someone ask me if they could use the bicycle mount on their motorcycle. The adhesive that holds on to the back of the phone is strong enough that I think it would hold, but I would try it on other mounts like the belt clip for a while first, just to give the adhesive time to cure.

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Vehicle Mount. Instead of a circular clamp to secure the mount to the bicycle frame, the vehicle mount has an arm attached to a suction cup which secures itself to your vehicle. This works best on smooth surfaces like glass. The suction cup will likely not stick to the textured surface of your dashboard. In South Dakota there is a law that prohibits you from having anything in between you and your windshield that might obstruct your view of the road. So if you use the vehicle mount, be sure to use it both safely and in accordance with laws in your area. As long as there is a workable solution that is safe and legal, the LifeActiv vehicle mount is the perfect solution for the road warrior.

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Arm Band. Included in the arm band setup is the same LifeActive mount, but this time on an arm band.I found this one to be the least useful for two reasons. First, my Droid Turbo 2 is a rather heavy phone. While that isn’t cumbersome in and of itself, It makes arm bands a bit awkward. A lighter phone like the iPhone SE might fare better in an armband. Second, the mere biology and physics of phones in arm bands is a bit odd. Most arms are thicker at the top and narrow at the bottom. And since all phones have at least some mass, gravity is going to pull the armband down. Since your arm is narrower at the bottom, it will tend to fall and not stop until it hits your elbow. On the other hand, there is a segment of users that take advantage of armbands, so LifeProof would not have made this accessory if there wasn’t a use. I would only recommend the arm band if you are a previous arm band user who is moving the rest of their carry accessories to the LifeActiv system.

 

I have also put the LifeActiv system on a few other phone cases with varying degrees of success. It seems to work best on cases that have a flat, untextured back. Otterbox Defenders with their rubber back and Urban Armor Gear with the texture pattern on the back fare the worst, but other cases from Incipio or Speck seem to do well. As long as you clean the case before applying the sticky side to it, you should be fine, but if you are using a case other than LifeProof, you may want to give the adhesive a day or two to cure and test it out before really pushing its performance. If you are looking for a way to carry your phone in a variety of situations that doesn’t count on a generic pouch, the LifeActive series from LifeProof is a great match. Stop in to Wireless World and see if they are a good fit for your phone or even your current case.

Gizmo Pal & Gizmo Gadget

When should you get your children phones and what sort of phone should you get them? A few years ago I thought it was the height of ridiculously spoiling you kids to get young children smartphones (though if you want to spoil yourself or your family with the latest phones or tablets I am always happy to oblige). Now, however, parents have old phones they can give to their kids, low-priced smartphones like the Galaxy Core Prime are almost as cheap as basic phones, and the cost of phones and plans has dropped so that even mid and high-tier smartphones are more affordable. Of course basic flip and texting phones are still an option as well, but the cost of a basic texting phone and an entry-level smartphone is nearly identical.  Bottom line, though, is that if there ever was a definitive answer to “when should I get my kid a phone and what sort should they get?” there is no single right answer now. That only confuses things when you have children that are old enough to start being independent but not quite old enough for a full blown phone.

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LG and Verizon have come up with a new series of products that help fill the need for the child who is too young to have a phone but could use one anyway: the GizmoPal 2 (left) and GizmoGadget (right) watch phones. These watches are cell-phones-lite devices geared towards younger kids, as young as 5-6 all the way up to preteen. Here is what they have in common:

 

Voice calling. Both the GizmoPal 2 and GizmoGadget can make and receive phone calls from a whitelisted set of numbers that the parent sets up with the Gizmo App. The GizmoPal 2 can make and receive calls from up to 4 numbers while the Gadget can have up to ten numbers in its whitelist.

 

GPS Locator. With the Gizmo App parents can locate either watch with the push of a button.  Boundaries can also be set up and parents can get a notification if the watch crosses one of the boundaries set up. That way you know when your child leaves school or comes home or leaves home.

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Size. The picture shows the GizmoPal2 and Gadget, and they are nearly the exact same size. They are a little bit big, for small wrists, but every family I have sold them to has said they are comfortable. For what it’s worth a few tech websites that compare products say the Verizon versions of the watch fit better than their AT&T counterparts. Which, if you are going to give a watch to a kid to keep tabs on him or her, it’s best if it fits comfortably.

 

There are a few things that the GizmoGadget can do that the Pal cannot. They include

 

Text messages. The Gadget can receive text messages from whitelist numbers. It can also send pre-composed messages that the parent sets up on their device. In the event a pre-composed message isn’t sufficient, the child can record a small voice memo and send it as a message.

 

Fitness tracking and games. The GizmoGadget has a step counter and jump rope counter so it can be used as a fitness tracker of sorts.

 

Touch Screen. In order to work with a few of the extra features, the GizmoGadget has a touch screen interface.

 

Pricing. The GizmoPal 2 retails for $79.99 and the GizmoGadget for $149.99. Both can be added on to your More Everything or Verizon voice and data plans for $5 a month on a month-to-month contract.

 

I set up quite a few devices and the only complaint I had with them is the GizmoPal 1, the first generation device, was a little quiet for speaker and ringer quality. However, the Gizmo App does have the ability to set the volume, and as part of the setup process I make sure the volume is maxed out. After that, volume has not been an issue.

 

At $5 a month, you’re obviously not breaking the bank. The devices are limited in their usage, so you simply cannot get overage charges on the bill because of them (I suppose if the parent device was constantly locating the watch, data charges might add up, but I just don’t see that happening in the real world). And since the devices are on a month-to-month contract, if your kid outgrows the device and is ready for their first basic or smart phone, you can make that transition at any time.

 

With the end of school, summer vacation and summer trips approaching, the GizmoPal 2 and GizmoGadget just might be the perfect fit to keep your family in touch and keep everyone safe.

Three Apps That Actually Pay You Money

Most apps are either free to download, or you have to pay for the app or game. But a few apps have emerged that actually give you money back. They are part of the “gig economy,” things like Uber and Lyft, where you do tasks for a small payment amount. However, unlike something like Uber, these apps don’t lock you into any sort of long term employment. I’ve tried a few of these, and here are my impressions:

 

gigwalk1. Gigwalk. This is my favorite app, for two reasons. First, it has a lot of product and price checks at Walmart, and I live and work close to a Walmart, so completing tasks is easy. After you create an account, launch the app, and it shows you jobs in your vicinity. Most of them are product or display checks, asking you to see if a certain type of motor oil is in stock or if a display kit from a potato chip company is set up. Snap the pictures, upload them, and you’re done. Anywhere from a few hours to a day or so and the payment is deposited into your PayPal account.

 

Second, once you reserve a task, it is yours to keep until you either complete it or the time expires. You usually get 1-3 days to complete a task, unless there is a deadline the contractor has set (you’re not going to get 3 days if you’re looking for a Halloween pop kit and it’s October 30). Fail to complete a task you applied for, and it negatively affects your rating, and you probably can’t reapply for the task. The more tasks you complete, the more money you make, and the more likely it is that you’ll be eligible for higher-paying tasks.

 

Typical Payout is $3-5 per gig.

 

google opinion2. Google Opinion Rewards. This app monitors some of what you do on your phone or tablet and asks you survey questions, usually based on your shopping or customer experiences at stores. Questions are usually short, the payout is smaller, and can only be used for Google purchases, but it’s free and relatively easy to use. I have used my Google rewards to fund my $9.99/month music subscription and for in-app and game purchases. I can’t bring myself to spend my actual money to download games or to pay for upgrades within a game, but if it’s Google credits I can’t spend anywhere else, I’m fine.

 

Typical payout is $.10-50 per survey, but surveys are usually quite short.

 

field agent3. Field Agent. I have mixed feelings about this app. They are a relatively new startup, and they have started dispatching more and more gigs. However, they operate almost like an airline that overbooks their flights. Let’s say a contractor needs 500 stores surveyed to see if a display kit has been set up. Field Agent will release the gig to 1,000 agents/users (or so, this could be just an estimation) of the app and take the first 700 who apply. Once the contracted number of surveys are complete, the remaining 200 applicants working on the gig are withdrawn. Then, if, say 100 of those surveys were not done correctly, they will open the gig up again. Also, if the contractor has a deadline to be met, as that deadline approaches, the payouts get bigger. So you might see a gig pop up one day with a $3 payout, disappear, and come back later with a $10 payout.

 

Lastly, you typically only get two hours to complete the gig, and even if you are one of the people accepted for the gig, it can be withdrawn if the quota is met before you complete the gig. I had an experience where I applied for a few gigs in a neighboring town I was going to be traveling through, and by the time I got to the store to complete the tasks, the quota had been met and my job withdrawn. So while the payout can be decent, I would recommend only taking jobs that can be completed immediately.

 

Typical payout is $4-10 per gig. The tasks are actually quite easy compared to other gig apps I’ve used, but they should be completed as quickly as possible since they tend to overbook them.

 

These apps may vary by location, so just because there is an abundance of jobs with one app in my area, it may not in yours and vice versa. They also should be available both on Android and iOS devices. So if you’re out shopping at Walmart or your local grocery store, check out these apps, and you just might make some money too!

iPhone SE Reviewed

 

 

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In a world where phones are getting bigger and bigger, I often hear “can’t you make a smaller phone?” Even the standard sized phones like the iPhone 6s and Droid Turbo are larger than their predecessors—it’s not just the big phones like the 6S Plus that are big.

 

Up until now, if you wanted a smaller phone, you had to compromise on quality. Your options were either to stick with your old iPhone 4 or 5 or go with a phone like the LG Lancet or Samsung Galaxy Core Prime. While there isn’t anything wrong with those phones, the Android phones are on the lower end of the spectrum for specs, with low-resolution cameras and screens and slow processors. For the iPhones, really, how long do you plan on nursing along your old 8GB iPhone 4 just because the 6s is too big?

 

Apple solved this problem with the iPhone SE. It is exactly the same size as the 5s, but it has almost all the brains of the 6s put into it. It is uncanny how Apple can take those two things and mash them together and still manage to make a product that feels new and fresh. There are a few minor differences that you need to be aware of so read on for them.

 

Screen resolution. The SE has a resolution of 1136 x 640 pixels while the 6s clocks in at 1334 x 750. Neither has the 2K and 4K resolutions that some of its competitors are sporting, but at that size, the human eye can hardly tell the difference. And for the tech-savvy person who stores things like their boarding passes and store membership bar codes in their phones, current screen resolutions are sufficient for digital eyes to see and scan those things. In addition to the size of the 5s, the SE uses the same screen resolution as its predecessor.

 

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3D Touch. With the same screen as the 5s placed in the SE, the SE is lacking Apple’s newest phone’s parlor trick. Is it a big deal now? Not really, as only the 6s and 6s Plus have 3D Touch capabilities and there is currently no Android equivalent to 3D touch. But if you want a phone to mature with you and with new apps as 3D Touch becomes more popular and potentially crosses platforms over to the Android side, causing more and more app developers to take advantage of its offerings, it might be.

 

Selfie Camera. The 6s’s camera is 5 MP, the SE retains the original 5s’s 1.2 MP camera. A functional camera for taking selfies, but the world has moved on to higher resolution cameras with more features.

 

imagesBattery. While the 6s has the larger of the two at 1,715 mAh, the SE’s 1,624 mAh battery actually lasts longer due to its smaller, lower-resolution screen.

 

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Storage and colors. The 6s comes in 16, 64, and 128 GB storage options. The SE is only available in 16 and 64GB storage options. Both can be obtained in Space Gray (black), Silver (white), Gold, and Rose Gold. Unless you are going from an 8 GB 4 or 5C, I recommend spending the extra money and getting the 64GB version of either the 6s or SE since Apple devices do not come with expandable storage.

 

What I like about the SE: It’s a quality phone in a small package and the price is nice. Everything from the 5s fits, so there is almost no backorder for cases or screen protectors like you see in a typical iPhone launch. We have some really great Impact Gel cases that only ring in at $19.99, half the average cost of a quality 6s case.

 

What I don’t like about the SE: Did I really type on a screen that small? After using bigger phones, anything from the 6s to 6s Plus and Android big-screen phones like the Note 5, trying to type in things like passwords sure felt tedious. 3D Touch would also have been nice on a smaller screen, and since 3D Touch got its start on the Apple Watch, I was expecting it to be more useful on smaller-screened devices. But I’m sure that the reason it didn’t make its way to the SE was to keep costs down. If I had to choose, I’d rather pay a lower price and jettison 3D Touch. The selfie camera feels a little outdated and underpowered, but I hardly ever take selfies, so I doubt I would miss much there.

 

Who is this phone for? Bargain hunters will appreciate the SE since at the time of this writing, the SE’s device payment amount is right around $17 for the 16 GB or $21 for the 64 (when in doubt, spend the extra money on the 64GB). iPhone users who have been limping along with their old variations of the 4 or 5 series because even the 6s footprint is too big will be right at home here. And of course, anyone looking for a small-screened phone without sacrificing too much quality will enjoy the phone. Just be sure to stop in to Wireless World to try the size before you buy, making sure that smaller screen is really the best fit.

Galaxy S7 Reviewed

 

 

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As you are all well aware, the Samsung Galaxy S7 recently launched. Since I switched to a Motorola Droid Turbo and haven’t had a chance to change phones to the S7, I don’t have a full review. However, a customer bought one and it didn’t activate correctly at first, so I had a little time to play with it and put it through its paces. Here are my impressions.

 

Form: the phone physically feels and looks pretty similar to the Galaxy S6. In Apple-speak, you could almost call the phone the “Galaxy S6-s,” though for obvious reasons Samsung avoided that nomenclature. The screen is a tad bit brighter and it goes farther out to the edges of the phone than before.

 

While it looks nice, it does pose a problem when it comes to screen protectors. Since most cases have a small lip that curves over the sides of the phone onto the screen, screen protectors are inset a fraction of an inch so that a case will not buckle off the screen protector. The S7 Gadget Guard tempered glass, when the inset is factored in, leaves a bit of the edge of the screen unprotected so that other cases can fit around it. So if you don’t need a shatter proof screen protector, the PureGear screen protectors are a bit thinner and accommodate more cases while covering the entire screen.

 

One other design feature that isn’t obvious is that the phone is water-resistant straight out of the package, even without having the charging and headset ports sealed. The training videos demonstrate this by having the training leader submerge the phone in a glass of water while talking about its water resistance, and of course there are multiple commercials with Lil’ Wayne pouring champagne over his phone and dipping it in the fish tank. When the S5 launched with water-resistant seals, I still saw the occasional water-damaged S5. So if you really are serious about water resistance, get a LifeProof case (which isn’t out yet, but should be available soon). If you want something that will probably survive the occasional dunk, the S7 should do fine. But a good case and Total Mobile Protection are still the best ways to protect your phone.

 

Other than water resistance, two major improvements with the S7 are a gaming mode and an improved camera. Gaming mode first. The processor is liquid-cooled, which should keep the phone from feeling too hot in the hand while gaming. The gaming mode software also allows for minimal interruptions while gaming, and gives you the ability to turn off the back and menu buttons during a game. Screen shots are also available. I spent a few minutes playing the Marvel Champions game. Graphics were smooth, sound was nice, the phone felt good. All in all a fun time, though I can’t say how well the interruptions were halted since I was using the phone without any of my accounts tied to it. But the bottom line is if you’re a gamer and you use Android, this is your phone.

 

The phone also can be used with Samsung’s new VR headset. I jokingly tell my guests “if you want to take your phone addiction to a whole new level, now you can literally strap the phone to your face.” But in all seriousness the VR thing is pretty sweet. The graphics of the phone make VR a very immersive experience, and while it’s not truly Virtual Reality in the sense that we have always thought VR to be, but you can do some pretty neat things with it. As you move your head around, what you see moves with you. Apps like Netflix work with it already, and more apps and games will come. The headset retails at $99.99, and is worth checking out at your local Wireless World even just to see what it’s all about.

 

Now onto the camera. Samsung brings their usual bevy of camera options to the table, almost to the point of being a bit overwhelming. My Motorola Droid Turbo 2 has a comparatively minimalist setup, two very different philosophies. Compared to the Turbo 2’s 21 megapixel camera, Samsung dropped a 12 megapixel (down from the S6’s 16MP) but added low light sensitivity. The picture on the left is a picture of our store with the Turbo 2, and the picture on the right is with the S7. The S7 handled the light reflected on the wall a little bit better, but really if I had told you the photos were the other way around, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

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In low light the S7 camera really shines. The first picture again is from my Turbo 2. It is of the inside of our store’s utility closet with the door mostly closed, letting just a bit of light in, though it may as well be of the inside of a purse or pants pocket. The second picture is taken with the S7, and the difference is literally night and day. It is still quite dim, but at least you can make out the inside of the room. Most of the time you will not be taking pictures in lighting as dim as what is presented here, but imagine how much better your everyday pictures will be in situations where lighting is not optimal.

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Samsung also has an edge version of the phone that includes a slightly larger screen, bigger battery, and of course the wraparound edge screen that has been a signature of that line. Samsung is also throwing more features into the edge display, like a quick launch to apps. It is sill compatible with the VR headset, though cases and screen protectors will be different. My opinion of the S7 Edge is similar to Samsung’s other edge phones: cool-looking and fun, but if you need durable cases, both the glass on the edge of the screen and the fewer options for cases and screen protectors might steer you back to the non-edge version. The addition of out-of-the-box water resistance, however, takes some of those concerns away.

Samsung giveth and Samsung taketh away: two other changes that are of interest are the micro SD card slot and the IR blaster. The former was absent in the S6 builds, but returns on the S7 and Edge, with support up to 200GB. While I liked my IR blaster on my S6, I just don’t miss it much when I switch to other phones like the Note 5 or Turbo 2. Samsung took note of this trend and nixed it from the S7. Not that the two features are mutually exclusive, but if I had to choose between the two, I’d take the SD card.

 

So is this phone worth it? If you are still on a device payment plan with an S6 and you’re not eligible for early upgrade, there might not be enough of a difference to make you buy yourself out and start over on the S7. However, if you are ready for upgrade or switching carriers and are looking for one of the best phones out there, the S7 and S7 Edge phones have set the bar for high end Android phones.

Protect Your Phone With Gadget Guard Black Ice

In order to best protect your new, cool, and probably expensive new phone, I always recommend a case and a screen protector of some sort. Even the most durable of phone screens, the Motorola Droid Turbo 2, still ought to have a screen protector on it, just in case.

 

At Wireless World, we recommend the Black Ice screen protectors from Gadget Guard. The tempered glass is easy to install, protects the phone nicely, and has one of the simplest warranty replacement systems around.

 

Installing the screen protector is relatively simple, especially if you have the folks at Wireless World do the install. It comes with a wet and dry cloth to clean the screen in case you already have your fingerprints on it. The dry cloth does a decent job of getting rid of the little dust bunnies that cause air bubbles. Just make sure the screen is free of dust and smudges before doing the install. Peel off the layer to expose the adhesive side, and apply the screen. I like to have the screen lit when doing the install to make sure the screen protector is evenly placed. Most of the Gadget Guards are inset a little from the borders of the phone. This comes in handy when you put a case on. If your screen protector goes all the way out to the edges of the phone, it might buckle off when you put a case around it.

 

The plastic screen protectors and thick gel ones have a gummy feel to it. The Black Ice feels like a regular screen. I didn’t notice any mistakes in tracking, whether typing by hand or using Swype-style tracing programs, browsing Facebook and other apps, or gaming. I didn’t find them to be any more or less scratch and smudge resistant than an unprotected screen.

 

Which brings us to the protection level. Even though I regularly use the Black Ice screens and they have withstood their normal bumps and drops,  I decided to bring down the hammer. Literally. In order to not risk breaking an actual phone, I took a Gadget Guard Black Ice and put it on a dummy Turbo and Turbo 2. I then dropped a hammer from around chest-high onto the phones to see how much damage the screens would absorb.

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On the Turbo 2 dummy, the hammer hit on the side of the screen and phone and it did crack the phone. Perhaps the combination of Motorola’s Shatter Shield system on the actual Turbo 2 and a screen protector would have kept the phone’s screen from breaking, but the side of the phone would still have had a dent in it where the hammer hit.

 

When I dropped the hammer on the Turbo 1 dummy, I got a clean center hit. The screen of the phone had a slight scratch on it, but it wasn’t cracked. Nothing that would be considered warranty-voiding unless you actually told the tech support people you dropped a hammer on the phone. Again, a real phone might have actual Gorilla Glass that could be more durable. The picture on the left shows the dummy phones with the cracked screen protector, the right is after the screen protectors were removed, and the next photo is a zoomed-in shot of the scratch on the screen. It’s right around the percentage sign, if you can’t see it.

 

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Both of these tests were about what I expected, and what I’ve seen in real life. I wasn’t expecting the screen protector to stop the hammer drop without breaking itself, but the chances are good that even if it breaks, the actual phone screen will remain in good condition. I have had customers who dropped their phone on gravel or some other uneven surface, and in accordance with Murphy’s Law, the phone landed in the one spot the screen protector wasn’t covering. Which leads me to conclude that a Black Ice screen protector is not a substitute for putting insurance on a phone, but a good first line of defense so maybe you won’t need to make a claim.

 

If you do manage to break or damage your Black Ice, the replacement process is relatively simple. Go to gadgetguard.com, register your screen protector, and make a claim. $4.99 shipping gets you a warranty replacement that you can either put on yourself or have the folks at Wireless World apply for you.  No need to send the old screen back, so if the damage is minimal, you can keep using the current protector until the replacement arrives.

 

My preferred method of protecting my phone, when LifeProof cases aren’t available, is a Black Ice screen protector and an Urban Armor case. Pick whatever case you want, but no matter what, pair it with a Gadget Guard Black Ice to keep your screen protected. Best of all, you can get Black Ice screen protectors on just about every popular phone and tablet, from the Galaxy Core Prime all the way up to the Droid Turbo 2 and even iPads.

Can you Save Battery Life by Uninstalling Facebook?

A few weeks ago, a popular talk radio host mentioned that you could extend your battery life on your phone by 15-20% by uninstalling the Facebook app. He is an Apple advocate and was recommending this action be taken on iPhones, but since I primarily use Android devices, I decided to try it out on my Droid Turbo 2.

 

Why this might work. When Facebook started, it was mostly a way to share thoughts, photos, and memories, and connect with people in a new way (and via computer, not mobile). That certainly is still the case on our mobile devices, but Facebook has become so much more. Facebook now is the way many games and apps use to log you in to store and track your data. Ever wonder why when you upgrade phones, all your Candy Crush levels come with you? It’s because your game progress was synced through Facebook. My favorite podcast app also allows me an instant login with my Facebook account.

 

Given that so many apps and phone settings can sync with a Facebook account, I can see why it might eat up battery power. After all, if you’ve got a half a dozen apps trying to get into your Facebook account, it is feasible that Facebook could be using battery power even when you’re not using the app since your other apps tie into it.

 

What I did to test this. Obviously in order to test this I had to uninstall Facebook. Since I still wanted to use Facebook on my phone, but I use Chrome for other things I might not have apps for, I installed Firefox browser to use as my Facebook “app.” Other websites or bloggers might have used some fancy battery meter tests to see if they were saving power and measuring consumption and all. Not me, I just used the real world as a test. I figure why bother claiming something like “battery meter app X says you gained 7.9% efficiency” if you can’t see the difference in your day to day usage? I tried to keep my other usage such as gaming, time spent on Facebook and Twitter, emails, etc., the same so that the only difference was whether or not I was using Facebook via the app or via a browser.

 

Did it work? Now there’s the rub. I got a modest boost in battery performance. My Turbo 2 has a pretty fast processor already, so I didn’t notice any change in how the phone operated in terms of speed. But at the end of each day my phone had a few more percentage points of battery left. Not a lot, but a bit.

 

What’s the downside? The browser resolution isn’t quite as nice as the app, but the app and the mobile browser are nearly identical in appearance. So just browsing Facebook and making the occasional comment felt about the same as the app. The left picture is a screenshot using Firefox browser on Facebook’s mobile web page, and the right is the Facebook app. Notice the app is a bit brighter.

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I missed three major things: sharing photos and videos, sharing web links and YouTube videos, and 1-click logins. For sharing things from photos to web links, there is usually the three-dot partial triangle thing that you tap, and then select which app you want to use to share something, be it via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. With Facebook uninstalled, the instant-share option to Facebook is of course missing. You’re left to launch the web browser and upload your photos like you would on  a computer, or copy and paste a link into the status update on the browser. Gaming apps and other apps that instantly log in through your Facebook account on your phone now require you to manually enter your username and password. Not a huge deal, as most of those are once-and-done sort of things, but I still missed the single click login.

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Also, every time I clicked on a link, say to read more about a friend’s status, I had to completely refresh the web page to go back to my news feed, and I usually had to start over at the top of the feed. The app must save some of that progress in a queue, and as soon as you’re done and you tap the back arrow, it returns you to your news feed, usually where you left off, or reasonably close.

 

The verdict: if you spend a fair amount of time on Facebook, especially if you are uploading pictures, reading stories your friends have linked to, or bouncing around between your news feed and your notifications, you will find as I did, that the web browser version of Facebook is not nearly as streamlined as the app. Between keeping in touch with friends, family, customers, and getting a bit of news and current events in Facebook, my feed can get large, and it was cumbersome to have to start over every time I clicked a link and went back. Whatever battery you save by not having Facebook’s digital tentacles pulling at every corner of your OS is going to be negated by the extra time spend loading and realoading pages on your web browser. And since lighting the screen and moving data are pretty big consumers of battery power, the app’s efficiency will keep data transfer and screen time to a minimum.

 

On the other hand, if you use Facebook sparingly, and you rarely upload photos or share web links or YouTube videos, you might not miss the app, and uninstalling it just might give you the battery boost you are looking for. Just make sure you know your username and password. You’ll need it to log into Facebook on your web browser, sync with other apps, and, if you really miss the app, you’ll have to download it again and log in. All in all, not a bad experiment if you wish to try for yourself.

 

One other way to get extra battery life out of your phone would be to use a separate device. Using a tablet like the Samsung Tab E or LG G Tab 8.3x as your primary device for Facebook and gaming would spread your usage out, and since you’re using your phone’s screen and processor less, its battery life would improve. You might even find yourself more productive if you discipline yourself that you don’t get your tablet time until the work is done.

Keeping Safe With Mobile Banking

A few days ago I saw a discussion on a popular technology website centered around keeping yourself safe while doing banking on mobile devices like phones and tablets. Here are a few good takeaways:

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1. Use either well-known apps like Mint, apps that are authored by your bank, like the Wells Fargo banking app, or your bank’s website. Both the Apple and Android app stores are pretty good at weeding out fraudulent apps, but to be on the safe side, don’t use an app you’re not familiar with or that your bank doesn’t recognize. Most of the apps in this screenshot that you don’t recognize are probably legitimate foreign banks, and your account information just won’t work, but don’t chance it.

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2. When using your web browser, make sure you are using the bank’s secure website. In the address bar of the browser, if you see “https://” instead of “http://” then you are on the secure site.

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3. Avoid using free/open wifi networks, use cellular data on your phone or tablet, or use your hotspot on your phone or tablet for any devices not equipped with a cellular data service. Wifi networks with a lock are secured and require a password.

 

4. If your home internet service still is open, it’s time to get with the 21st century and put a password on it. Someone can easily sit in their car outside your house and observe all your traffic.

 

The discussion board, populated mostly by people that know way more about technology than the average person, then began chasing tangents about what levels of encryption are on what types of wifi networks and devices, but in the quest for the most technically secure setup, missed one glaring vulnerability. Stealing people’s banking information by observing data trafficking through an open wifi network while not terribly difficult, is still requires some specialized knowledge and equipment. There is a much simpler vulnerability that the techies miss: harvesting data from a stolen phone or tablet.

 

An unsecured tablet or phone is a treasure trove of data, especially if you do any sort of mobile banking. And other than the sheer will or potential brute force needed to steal your device, a thief really doesn’t need any special equipment. So here’s how you can protect your banking or other personal data in the event that your phone or tablet is stolen.

 

1. Secure it with a fingerprint. If your phone has a fingerprint scanner, consider using that as an unlock mechanism. Most phones’ fingerprint sensors are actually faster than entering in a password. However, in the event the fingerprint system is damaged, you can’t use your finger to unlock, or someone else needs access to your phone, you still need a password, so…

 Screenshot_2016-02-29-11-34-22

 

2. Use a password. Depending on your phone, you can use a 4-digit, 6-digit, a word, or a drawn pattern. Obviously the 4-digit is the least secure, so use the most complex password you are comfortable with entering on a regular basis. And avoid using things like all 1’s or 12345. If you are comfortable with auto-erase, set the phone to wipe itself after a set number of unsuccessful attempts. But, know that your data will be completely lost if the device is wiped, so set up backups for things like phone numbers or pictures.

 

3.  If possible, password-protect your banking app. I do not think this is a feature native to any phone or OS right now, but if you can, lock your banking apps down so that a password is needed to access them. If password-protecting an individual app is not possible, log out of the app when you are done, and require a password to log in.

 

4. If possible, set additional passwords to enable moving money or withdrawing it.

 

5. Avoid “password fatigue.” Using the same password for everything might be easy for you to remember, but if someone figures out one password, they’re likely to try it on other accounts of yours.

 

6. Lastly, but most simply, don’t let your phone or tablet get stolen. All of these steps are designed to keep someone who steals your phone from stealing your identity or banking information. The best thing you can do is keep your phone safe. Don’t leave it sitting on a restaurant table when you go to the bathroom or for another run through the salad bar. Don’t leave it in your car in plain sight, especially if your car is unlocked. Simple things like that will keep both your phone and your data safe.

 

Lots of these things are just common sense, but like our mothers all say, common sense isn’t always as common as you’d think.

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