Category: Android

Technology Appetizers

Welcome to this week’s installment of my Update.  Hope you’ve enjoyed the La Croix seltzer.  My servers will be around with the technology appetizers for you.   Oh, here comes the first one….
1. Samsung’s new S10 smartphones (S10e, S10, S10+) appear to be selling well.  As I mentioned before, if you are sick of the iPhone or want to try a phone of that caliber with a slightly different look and feel — this would be the one to grab.  In general, my clients are iPhone users.  However, there are some Android enthusiasts among us.  Others simply don’t want to get involved with Apple products or prefer an Android phone (like the Galaxy S) for very specific reasons.  The two that I can think of are — better voice dictation (no doubt) and better cameras in some instances.   I am glad Apple has followed their lead by offering promotions (either directly or through carriers) if you buy a new iPhone and trade an old one in. In a mature industry, Apple can’t sit on its hands.
Oh boy, this tray looks a little stale.
2. Password Problems:  I’m still coming across customers who are using weak passwords or who don’t take password security seriously.  It’s really frustrating after I keep bringing up this topic over and over again.  Passwords should be different for EVERY WEBSITE.  Sensitive passwords should be changed at least every 6 months.  If you have trouble coming up with one, start with a secure “base” for each website and add a unique ending to each one.   Think of something that is easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess.  A password manager (whether manual or electronic) is critical.  Some of you use browser based password managers — in Safari, Chrome, or Firefox.  The teacher in me will give you a passing grade for that.  Take advantage of the features offered, such as when they suggest a secure password.  Make sure you know how to look up the passwords in the browser.  Better yet, if passwords really matter to you, use a paid password manager such as 1Password or Last Pass.   If you are at the back of the class, you are using a paper based password manager.  At the very least — keep this organized.  
Look here comes another round of…..
3.  Apple News:  Apple had their event on Monday.  Some analysts have called it a big dud.  One thing is for sure, Apple is getting deeper into the media business.  They are now offering Apple News + on iPhone, iPad and Mac.   It will cost $9.99 / mo after the free 1st month.  You will get access to leading newspapers like the WSJ and LA Times along with a library of major magazines.  Major papers such as the NY Times and Washington Post have declined to participate.   However, the real entree was Apple TV+.   This umbrella service will include Apple’s existing catalog of TV shows and movies for rent, plus original programming (similar to Netflix), plus easy access to cable channels and premium channels.  It will not only be available on Apple TV boxes (overpriced with a terrible remote if you ask me) but also on other streaming boxes like Roku (great) and smart TV’s.   It all sounds very exciting.  It could very well be the ultimate portal for cord cutters.    But — there’s a big but — what is the price?
They didn’t say. What?  That will be mentioned later.   And this was an Apple event?    It seems so half baked.  I think they are still making their content deals with the various channels and content providers.  It wasn’t all ironed out yet.   It will be very interesting to see how competitive they are with You Tube TV and Hulu Live TV — the leaders in the clubhouse that charge $40 to $45 per month.    One thing is certain, Apple wants to make this available to as many people as possible and not only those who own Apple hardware.  Let’s wait and see.
Hope you have a safe drive home.  Thanks for stopping by this little gathering.

Smartphones Premium and Budget

I hope you are having a great week with your technology.


Update to the Ad Blocker Updates

Google made an important announcement this week.  They issued a partial reversal of the planned changes in their Google Chrome browser.  There for it seems that ad blockers uBlock Origin and Ad Block Plus will not be rendered useless as previously thought. While they are in the business of delivering ads, Google made it clear that they are not in the business of restricting content blockers.  Browse on!    I will keep you posted as to further developments.

New Samsung Phones – The Battle is On

The iPhone’s closest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S line of phones, was updated today.  If you like Android or are looking to try something high end but different — these Galaxy S10 phones may be for you.  Just like the 2018 iPhones, Samsung will have three new phones of note:  the Galaxy S10e (think iPhone XR price), the Galaxy S10 (iPhone XS), and the Galaxy S10+ (iPhone XS Max).   These phones will be priced starting at $750, $900, and $1000 – with the familiar interest free payment plans available from your carrier.   Like the iPhone XR, the S10e will be a premium phone.  Think of the larger sized and more expensive siblings as just a higher level trim of an already excellent phone.   That is how I see the iPhone XS and XS Max as well.  For those in the Apple world, the XR is technically a larger phone than the XS.  Pre-orders on the Samsungs start on Friday. 

Lower Cost Smart Phones

If you are interested in lower cost smartphones in the $200’s and $300’s – I have a few models in mind that could work on all of the major carriers.  You don’t have to feel forced to spend iPhone money to have a decent smartphone experience. 

You May Need to Replace Your Verizon Phone

On this train of thought, I also want to let you know that if you or anyone you know is still using an older Verizon flip phone (or even an older smart phone, ie. pre-iPhone 6) you will need a new phone by the end of 2019.  Verizon is retiring their older calling network.  Your old phone will no longer be able to make calls.

Useful Smartphone Utilities

Holiday Help

For years, I have been a Hanukkah and Christmas helper for my clients.   If its within the realm of electronics and computers, let me know how I can help you.  Perhaps you need help selecting, setting up, and putting back in the box.  I’ll be there for you.  I have also helped clients with creating cards that can be printed out and mailed to your loved ones.  It’s not too late.  Photo cards speak 1000’s of words. 

2 Numbers on One Phone

This is really cool! Maybe you have business and personal lines.  Perhaps you always wanted to make your home phone a cell phone number in addition to your regular cell, but dread carrying two phones.  Right now — this option has arrived.   The 2018 iPhone models (Xs, Xs Max, and XR) offer eSIM technology.  This means you could have two numbers on one iPhone.  This capability just became possible with the iOS 12.1.1 update that came out last week.   Verizon, AT&T and other carriers worldwide are on board.  Let me know if you have questions about the power of eSIM. 

WiFi Calling

Some of my clients live in a cellular dead zone.  It’s a brutal existence when you can’t make cell phone calls from you own home, especially when they are work related or there are medical issues involved.  Over the past few years, ATT, Verizon, and TMobile have rolled out WiFi Calling for smartphones.  It’s that simple.  You can make and receive cellular calls over your home WiFi connection even when there is no cellular signal.  It has been a godsend to several clients.  Many smartphones 2 to 3 years old and newer support this feature.  However, if this feature means something to you, you’ll want to buy your phone through “official” channels.  By official, I am talking about your carrier or Apple.  The market for independently purchased phones, such as purchases made through Amazon or direct from the manufacturer (ie. some Motorola models, Nokia [they’re back], and One Plus), is growing.  Unfortunately, I have witnessed that AT&T likes to play games in making WiFi calling an exclusive feature.  If you are their customer, buy your smartphone from them or from Apple.  Note:  visual notification of voicemails will still be a problem in a low cell / no cell signal area. 

Awesome Utilities for Archiving Phone Data

Archiving data like text messages and call logs may be a legal issue, a business issue, or even a personal issue for you.   Here are some tools for your tool box.  With your iPhone, you need to make a full backup to your computer (Windows or Mac) via iTunes.  We have probably done this before, but you will want to get in the habit if this sort of record keeping means something.  While there are many utilities that can parse this data, I prefer iMazing.  It is amazing!.   https://imazing.com   It is $45 and worth every penny.

On the Android side,  I recommend SMS Backup + and SMS Backup and Restore.  The second app has some paid features, but I haven’t found the need for them.  SMS Backup+ actually takes your texts and makes them into a searchable folder in your Gmail account (WOW).  SMS Backup and Restore — exports call logs and text into 2 files on your phone or Google Drive.  They can be downloaded onto your computer or the app itself for your viewing pleasure.  They can also be restored back to a different Android phone. 

Making Sense of New Devices

3 Premium iPhones for 2018 – Understanding the Distinctions
I wrote my 9/12 update to you within 30 minutes of watching Apple’s live event last week.  I realize it was a lot of information, but I wanted to cover it like a true techno journalist as if I were there.  I also tried to include only the deals that were relevant to my client base — typically the age 60+ crowd.
The first thing I want to make clear is that the less expensive XR (10 R) iPhone is by no means a “bastard child” of the 2018 iPhone offerings.   It is a premium phone being offered at $749 with 64 gigabytes of storage.   The XR is the phone that Apple expects to sell the most of this year.  To meet that demand, ordering has been delayed until October 19 so supply can be ramped up.  The two premium priced models — the Xs and Xs Max are being sold starting $999 and $1099 respectively.  They are available now.  The major differences between the XR line and the Xs line are that the Xs models have two cameras which aid in portrait photography and a higher quality screen.   For my typical client, I don’t think these features are tipping point to justify the higher price.  However, as you will read below, other factors come into play.    For most American iPhone users, my clients included, the iPhone is purchased on a 24 month, interest free installment plan with the cell phone carrier.  The cost of the phone is simply added to the bill.  In some cases, the cost of the actual service is slightly less than it was 5+ years ago.  Typical pricing on the 64 GB models would be about $31 / mo on the XR, $41 / mo on the Xs, and $45 / mo on the Xs Max.   These devices are truly computers in your pocket and priced like them, for sure.
Real Life Ordering Decision – Size Matters
I was with a client yesterday who upgraded his 2016 iPhone 7.  The cameras and screen quality were not deciding factors in his choice of the Xs over the XR.  The price difference, though $10 a month, was not seen as unbearable.   Size was the key issue.   The Xs with the screen stretched to the edges is closest in size to his iPhone 7 (6, 6s, and 8 as well).  The iPhone XR would be slightly larger.   The iPhone Xs Max is very close in size to the previous Plus iPhones (6 – 8 Plus).  My client told me — I don’t want to go bigger.  So, the Xs was ordered on a carrier financing plan and should be arriving by the weekend.
Android
If you are of an Android persuasion, keep in mind that Google’s own phone, the Pixel will be getting a refresh in early October.  I certainly think it is the best Android in terms of promised regular updates to the software.  Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones are also terrific.  Motorola G6 Plus is superb for a budget phone that can be purchased for around $230.  The One Plus 6 is a solid choice, competing with the best of Samsung at a lower price (but does not work on Verizon).
iOS
iOS 12 was released on 9/17.  It is a brand new version of Apple’s mobile device software.  Should you have an iPhone 5s or later or an iPad Air or later, you should be installing it within the next few weeks.   Please make sure you have a full backup of your device before installing version 12.   I’m still exploring its features, but so far I think the Measure app is very useful for around the house projects.  If you would like professional help with installing iOS 12, please let me know.
Mac OS
The latest version of mac OS — version 10.14 is coming out next Monday – Sept 24th.  From that point forward, I will be taking upgrade appointments.  Some of my clients choose to upgrade themselves, while others have me do it for them.   I make sure you have a full backup of your system in place and a copy of the install media should the software ever need to be reinstalled.  I also take great care to update your apps if necessary.   These appointments usually last about 2 hours.

State of Android–July 2018

My clients using Android are dwindling and I only have a handful that are really loyal to the Android platform.   I try to do this for you every once in a while.  Here is your State of Android address — as I see it.

Best Android Phones of the Year in My Opinion

Samsung Galaxy S9 / S9+ 

One Plus 6 https://www.oneplus.com/6 (does not work on Verizon – fully compatible with TMobile and ATT). They are an independent brand focused on the US market for the past 5 years.

Budget Phone:   Moto G6  ($240 full price — hard to beat.  Verizon compatible plus the other carriers. )

Comeback Kid

Nokia is coming on strong — they are back in the phone business.  Not all of their phones are US compatible but some are. These phones are also part of the Android One which means they will get mandatory updates per google.   Again they would be an ATT / Tmobile compatible phone.

Updates Matter

I would always tell someone buying an Android phone — buy it within 6 months of its release because even the best phones will get new version updates for only 2 years and security updates for 3 (Moto won’t even promise this but Samsung, Google, LG, One Plus will on their top tier phones)

The Future

Google will be releasing their latest version of the Pixel phone the fall.  It should be a very feature competitive offering on par with the best in the market.  Their phones used to have the Nexus brand but since 2016, they have moved up market with a new brand name. 

What Android Tablets

I think Android tablets (with the exception of Amazon’s Fire tablets) are totally dead.  With Apple pricing the “regular iPad” at $329, they have basically killed the Android tablet market. 

My Final Thoughts

Even though I am a day in and day out iPhone user, there are some things I think that are better on the Android platform.   I think the integration of Google voice search in everything is superb.  I think Google’s voice dictation is far better than Apple’s Siri.  While not particularly applicable (I almost typed Apple-icable) to my clients, Android gives the user the freedom to do whatever they want with the phone.  Do you want a Microsoft “desktop” (home screen launcher) on your phone instead of the default Google or Samsung one?  That’s possible with Android. 

Technology Update for March 20th

Today’s themes are security and privacy. I hope these tips can make a difference for you.

1. Make sure you have a real billing passcode with your cellular provider

For years cellular providers have used the last 4 digits of your Social Security number as your billing passcode.  However, they also allow you to set your own passcode (some sequence of 4 to 8 numbers).  PLEASE set up your own passcode with them if you haven’t already. Do you know who is at the other end of the line when you give the last 4 of your SS# time after time? Of course not.  They might be a rogue employee or an overseas contractor looking to do you harm.  I recently heard two first hand accounts of customers (who happened to be with T-Mobile) who had their cell phone numbers transferred (aka “ported”) to another service without their authorization.  With access to their phone number, the criminal was then able to access their bank account via a code that was text messaged to them on the “new” phone.  You can only imagine the transactions that followed.  This was possible because the bad actor knew the billing passcode on the cellular account with the original provider.  It was the last 4 digits of the Social Security number.  I have been told that you can also set up your own billing passcode with other companies like Comcast.   Stop using the last 4 of your SS#.  Act now.

2. Facebook data collection nightmare

The free service they have provided you for over a decade is not free. Chances are, your data has been mined repeatedly since you signed up for the most used social network.  By no means am I calling for a mass exodus from Facebook.  I have clients who post no content of their own, but use it to stay in touch with family, their community, and organizations they support.  There are practical and very positive uses for Facebook.  However, you’ve likely seen the news over the past few days.  Facebook claims to have been exploited by a data analytics firm that relied heavily on its site for their business model.  Frankly, the practice has been going on for years (with many partners) and Facebook has been a willing provider when it suited their interests.  Think of all of the games, apps, and surveys you have logged into with your Facebook account.  Parts of or all of your entire Facebook profile have been shared with those 3rd parties.   It is time for you to tighten the belt on your Facebook profile and privacy.

3. Net Neutrality:  Bye Bye

Are you worried about the FCC doing away with Net Neutrality protections?  The end is near.  Your internet service provider may not be able to know what you do on secure (https) websites but they will be able to sell the data of which websites you go to and use this info for their own marketing purposes.   If they take their newfound latitude to an extreme, they could even create tiers of internet service based on usage.  Ok, so you want to use You Tube and Netflix?  We will charge you more!  You can block your provider from seeing your traffic, period.  Use a VPN – a virtual private network.  A VPN is a service (think of it at as a small program) that runs in conjunction with your internet service.  It is easy to turn on and off or just leave on automatically.  There are only two VPN’s that I can recommend faithfully.  They are Private Internet Access and Tunnel Bear.  These services work on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.  They cost approximately $4 to $5 a month.  Put the brakes on further exploitation of your data.

Technology Services I Like–February 2018

1.  I found an electrical wizard for you.   I want to tell you about Ryan Eriksson from Eriksson Electric.  He knows his stuff.  Ryan can make sound recommendations but he also believes in respecting the customer’s comfort level.  He has a mind for saving on costs when possible. He believes in embracing modern technologies.  Ryan replaced three ceiling light fixtures in my home over the past few days.   He recommended LED-based fixtures that not only looked great, but are environmentally and budget friendly.   Ryan will let his customers buy their own equipment at Home Depot if they choose.  He even accompanied me on a trip to Home Depot on Friday and did not charge me for the time.   I cannot say enough good things about him.   You can call or text him at 860-236-4352.  You can check out Eriksson on the web at http://erikssonelectric.com/

2. Dropbox — is probably my #1 favorite computer based service of all time.  I have been a user since 2008.  At times I have used the free account and at times I have been a paid customer.   Dropbox gives you 2 GB of storage for free. Through various “bonuses” I have accumulated from them over the years, I have a 7 GB of storage on my free account.  After a quick installation, Dropbox will show up as a folder on your Windows or Mac computer.  Within it you can put multiple sub folders to store your files.   The beauty of Dropbox is that it isn’t really a backup service although you can use it to back up your files.   Dropbox is a file synchronization service.   That means if you put a document titled “Vacation Plans” in your Dropbox folder on your Mac / PC, you can also view that document on your iPhone, Android phone, or iPad where you have the free Dropbox app installed.  You can also easily share files from Dropbox.  Dropbox has never let me down.  Get started at https://www.dropbox.com/

3.  One Drive — Dropbox is not the only game in town for online file storage and synchronization.  One Drive is Microsoft’s answer.   It can work on all of the device types that Dropbox works on (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android).  One Drive does have a key advantage.  At https://onedrive.com you can see your files that you have save, but you can also create and share Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents right there in your web browser.  The online version of Microsoft Office is about 70% as feature rich as the desktop version of Office, but its so convenient.  It probably good enough for most consumer use cases.  And its free.  Maybe you don’t need to buy Office the next time you are required to.  You may be able to get by with https://onedrive.com .

4.  Google Drive — I should also mention Google Drive which is most comparable to One Drive.  If you have a Google / Gmail account, you should check out Google Drive.  It is an online storage and sync service, but that’s not all.  You can also create and share documents using Docs (Word equivalent), Sheets (Excel), and Slides (PowerPoint).  As with One Drive, you can also collaborate on documents live with other people.   If you and I were working on a proposal together, we could both edit using Google Drive.  Google Drive was first to the game with this collaboration technology, but Microsoft is catching up fast.  Put on your jacket and Drive at https://drive.google.com