I don’t have many clients that are really into Android anymore, but I wanted to share this review that is quite positive from an iPhone loyalist who tried Google’s new Pixel 4a. In my opinion, its the no brainer Android phone choice @ $349.
I should add that the 4a supports 2 phone lines (regular SIM + eSIM) should you need that feature.
Published in PC World and Mac World — Sept 8, 2020
Google Pixel 4a
If you are really into Google services, like Gmail and all they offer — you may want to consider their new Pixel 4a Android phone. It has been priced to compete squarely with Apple’s new mid-range iPhone SE. Google even beats the price by $50, coming in at $349. The 4a works on all major carriers. Here is a sneak peek — https://store.google.com/us/product/pixel_4a
The Future Of Movies
Who is going to the movies? I haven’t since last fall. Are 15 cent tickets from AMC going to lure you in? Have you heard of any big summer releases? Crickets are chirping here. Here is what Disney is doing through their Disney + app for the soon to be released Mulan movie. They are going to release it in the app on the same day it hits the theater — for a premium charge of $30. I was wondering when this would happen. I know that even under normal circumstances, it could really crimp the movie theaters’ business, but this day was going to come sooner or later. I think more new movies will come out, but I think Xfinity On Demand, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime should all get in on this cutting edge content delivery model. Instead of 3 people going to a theater, that may or may not be safe, you pay $30 (or $40 or whatever) and watch it at home. You can make yourself an iced tea and skip the diabetic coma soda and $10 popcorn. It’s a win win. Of course, not every app will have every new movie. There are going to be exclusive deals. It would be nice if there is just a “movie theater app” and you don’t have to pay monthly but you can just buy individual movies that interest you. Day 1 new movies — coming soon to a home theater near you!
I don’t send these blasts out very often because about 90% of my clients use iPhones and I am heavily invested in that environment just as a matter of business. I always fondly remember that the Android OS was my first forray into the smartphone world back in Oct 2010. It will always have a special place in my heart.
My wife has been and Android user since 2014 when she got her first smartphone. I’m not calling the 2013 Blackberry a modern smartphone though it was considered one for its day. She was drawn to the smartphone world by two apps BBM (blackberry messenger) and shortly after — Whats App. Her first android phone was a Motorola Droid Ultra. It was a very functional smartphone that we got for “free” in exchange for a 2 year commitment to Verizon (back when they were still doing contracts and things).
In early 2016 Samsung announced it’s S7 line of phones and I knew this was the one for her. Those S phones have always been considered at the top of the Android mountain. She was very satisfied with that model. It took crisp photos and frankly better pics than the iPhone I was using at the time. By early 2018, it began having volume issues with the earpiece / speaker (which could be fixed with headphones, if I recall correctly). Anyway, the two year payment plan (how phones are now usually financed here in the US) was nearly up and Samsung started to make a big deal out of their new S9 lineup of phones. I don’t know if it was a Verizon promotion or something behind offered exclusively by Verizon and Best Buy together, but my wife was offered $300 as a Samsung loyalty trade in for her old phone — the S7. Sammy must have been in on at as well. We jumped on it. The S9+ has been a great phone for her.
Now, that we are two years further down the road, my wife was eager to get a new phone once again. We jumped on the Galaxy S20 5G offering on day 1 of preorders. One thing that we were a little shocked by was how the cost of the phones had gone up. The Galaxy S7 was somewhere in the $700’s price range. With the S9 series, she got the Plus model, so that was $912 @ Verizon prices (I think Samsung was selling it for less directly), but we only paid $612 for due to the trade in. We were going for the regular S20 5G model and now the Plus this time because the + is really a ++ in terms of size at 6.7 inches. Her S9+ was 6.2 inches and the regular S20 5G is also that size. But the price of this “base model” (which is truly anything but basic) is $999. Wow! That is iPhone 11 Pro territory. There are actually two other S20 models this year and the prices go up to about $1400.
Anyway, we have been happy T-Mobile customers since March 2019. They were offering a $500 promo for a trade in on the 2 year old Samsung S9 series phones. About $100 comes in the form of a bill credit and $400 comes in the form of a prepaid Visa card. I confirmed that the prepaid card can be used to pay down the balance of the phone loan. So really, it brought the cost down to the same as the previous Galaxy. Transferring from one Android phone to another is very smooth these days, especially using the Samsung Switch app. It just took me a little longer because I had to back up 37,000 Whats App pictures and 1500 videos on my wife’s old phone that we were not transferring to the new phone.
My wife can be very picky about technology but with all of her old apps loaded on and Whats App working as great as it ever was, she is very happy. I sent the S9+ to the trade in department on Friday. T-Mobile has come through for me on promotions in the past so I don’t worry about being let down this time. I think the S20 5G will be a solid phone.
It’s made it Vietnam, not China, if that means something to you.
Happy President’s Day!
Taking Notes Electronically
I have taken notes on my computer and smartphones for more than a decade. I love making little journal type notes, writing lists, and making agendas with note taking software. I know some of you even keep passwords in Apple’s Notes app on your iPhones (Yikes!). You don’t have to take all of your notes on paper or think you have to create a Word document and save it in a folder. Use a note taking app! Add pictures and attach files. Some examples I am very familiar with —
1. One Note from Microsoft. FREE. iPhone / Android apps, Mac and Windows apps, Via web browser @ Onenote.com
2. Apple’s Notes. FREE. iPhone / iPad apps, Mac app, Can use in Windows via web browser @ iCloud.com
3. Google Keep. FREE. iPhone and Android apps, Via the computer at keep.google.com
4. Evernote. Can use apps for free on 2 devices, Can use for FREE via web browser @ evernote.com, Paid options available for power notetakers
3 Reasons Why I Always Recommend Windows 10 Pro (as Opposed to Windows 10 Home – shipped with most consumer grade PC’s)
– Prompt for Credentials can turned on — This means that your password needs to be typed in whenever new software is installed or major changes are made to the system. This is very secure (just like on the Mac). You need the Pro version of Windows for this feature. The default option is just YES or NO, not good enough. The password prompt makes you stop and think.
– Windows Feature Updates (ie. New Versions) can be delayed by up to 365 days. Don’t be a guinea pig for Microsoft. I like setting a 120 day delay at a minimum.
-Bit Locker can be turned on. Bit Locker is similar to File Vault on the Mac (which is included for Free by the way). It encrypts your hard drive. Therefore if a bad guy steals your computer – they can’t easily get at your files.
* If you get stuck with a computer that has Windows 10 Home, you can still upgrade to Pro. However, it is a $99 charge. Pro can be activated through the Microsoft Store app. It’s a quick process and takes less than 20 minutes. It’s better to order a computer with Windows 10 Pro from the beginning.
Comcast Sticking It To Us
I don’t know if you noticed this with your December Comcast bill, but I wasn’t too pleased to see what they are doing effective 12/20/2019. Although I am under an existing contract for a guaranteed price for my internet and TV through May 2020 — my fees will be going up. I believe they can raise the fees portion of the bill even if you are in a contract. If you are not in a contract, your fees will definitely be going up. So here is the damage — Broadcast TV fee (designed to capture what local stations charge Comcast for transmitting their feeds to us) $10 to $14.95, TV box fee (charge for that 1st cable box) $2.50 to $4.60, and the remote fee is going up from $0.18 to $0.40. So this looks like an additional $7.27 if I did the math correctly. Are the retransmission fees that Comcast is charged by the local stations going up? I don’t know. I also know that prices of most internet packages are going up $3 per month, however, I don’t think this applies to me as I am in a bundled promotion. More and more people are cutting the cord and going with internet only. Comcast is looking to make up for their loss in subscribers one way or another. For a lot of customers in Connecticut, there isn’t much choice outside of areas where Frontier has fiber optic service. The non-Fiber frontier service is pathetic. There really is no alternative but Comcast. Some of you have the ability to choose Go Net Speed. They are available in limited parts of West Hartford and the New Haven area. Hopefully they will be rolling out beyond their existing footprint soon. A great choice for Internet only!
Best of 2019
I used to write this up in more of a newsletter format, but I just wanted to give you a brief sampling of some of the best products and services I worked with all year.
Best Premium Smartphone: iPhone 11 — Apple really got this one right and they lowered the starting price by $50. It’s an easy choice for iPhone owners
Best Mid-Range Smartphone: Google Pixel 3a — Google brought out these phones mid-year that were in the same spirit as their old Nexus phones. They are under $400 with a lot of premium features and they still have a headphone jack. I hope we see a Pixel 4a in 2020. We may also see an iPhone SE 2 or iPhone 9 sold in this price range next year.
Best Laptops: Unfortunately — I can’t say that any Apple laptops are among the best of 2019. However I really like 2 product lines the Lenovo Thinkpads and the Dell Latitudes. Specifically I am a fan of the Thinkpad T490, E490, and X1 Carbon 7. In terms of the Latitudes, I favor the 5000 and 7000 series. They are solid, have great keyboards, and are built for the long haul.
Best Desktops: I still like the 2018 Mac Mini and hope Apple keeps it updated for years to come. I am also partial to Dell’s Optiplex and Lenovo’s Think Centre desktops, properly equipped of course.
Best Backup Service: Keep in mind that iCloud, Dropbox, or One Drive are not true backup services. They are online file synchronization services. This means that if you delete a file it will be deleted in other places. You should have an opportunity to restore the deleted file within a period of time. I still love all of those services but they are not true backups. If you have a lot of data that you can’t afford to lose, I highly recommend Backblaze or Carbonite. Either service is $6 / month for personal use.
4K TV Is Coming
Most of the TV’s you have bought over the past 2 years have been 4K TV’s. However, there hasn’t been much 4K live TV content. Netflix and Amazon Prime offer 4K video as does You Tube. I just saw the ad tonight — Comcast will be offering Notre Dame Football games this year on NBC in 4K. To make this happen with Comcast / Xfinity — you need 2 key components: 1) a 4K TV and 2) a cable box that supports 4K.
The Perils of Buying Used Smartphones
The following write up originally started as an e-mail to a client last week concerning a used smart phone issue we were dealing with. I polished it up a bit and realized it was good to share with all of you.
Used smartphones, especially iPhones and high-end Android devices can be a nightmare unless you know who you are getting them from. Take these 2 lessons to heart
1) Ideally they should be UNLOCKED. Locking is a nasty trick that carriers use on their phones to keep you on their service. After the phone is paid off or a contract is fulfilled –they are not automatically unlocked. A customer has to call up and ask for the unlock code and then go through some motions after the fact which are usually pretty easy. People can buy unlocked phones directly from Apple and that does happen in some instances. ** Verizon has always been the one exception with carrier financed phones, since about 2011 they have not locked their smartphones because they had to make a deal with the FCC. As of July 1 that policy changed with Verizon now locking smartphones for 60 days (to prevent theft they say). They have no power to go back and retroactively lock existing phones. Buying a carrier locked smartphone, with no ability to go back and contact the seller to get in unlocked, could mean that you are unable to use it with the carrier of your choice. FYI, Apple says that most iPhone models purchased through their physical stores or apple.com (with the exception of some ATT models) are unlocked.
2) The second concept I want to introduce to you is the idea of “financial locking” or blacklisting. Most customers finance their iPhones and expensive smartphones these days. On Craigslist, Offer Up, or other known sites for peer to peer sales — there will be many deals for “great phones” that seem way too good to be true. Think of an iPhone XS for $200. It is a totally fake deal. I have a good friend who got burned on the buying end of this a few years back. Let’s say the $900 phone has a couple scuffs on the back but is otherwise very operable. He sells it for $200. The buyer thinks they are the luckiest dude on earth!! The seller had insurance on the phone and puts in a claim for a STOLEN phone. The insurance company has the authority to blacklist the phone with all carriers — basically worldwide. The seller is shipped a new phone and the original is blacklisted — it is rendered in operable and cannot be activated. Maybe just maybe it could be used on WiFi only. Another version of the scam goes like this. A young kid (18+ of course) buys a $1000 phone. A maxed out iPhone 11 Pro Max with monthly payments is about $55 to $60 a month. He decides — Oops I’m over my head can’t make the payments. He does not go through the proper channel of having a buyer legally assume the contract on the phone. He sells it for a steal of a price — $200. The buyer is in heaven or so they think. Wow. 2 months later when the seller’s cellular account gets cancelled for non payment — the phone gets blacklisted under the same process. It is a paperweight.
Oh – the perils of buying used smartphones!
I just wanted to make this announcement one more time because it came up in the past week. Verizon is shutting down their legacy CDMA calling network on 1/1/2020. If you are on the Verizon network (including 3rd party providers) and have an iPhone 5s or older or an old flip phone or an older Android phone — you need to upgrade. Please ask for help if needed. This announcement does not affect ATT or T-Mobile customers
How Old Should I Go?
I had conversations with several clients last week about getting new iPhones or smartphones in general. I get asked, which iPhone should I get? Firstly you have to remember that Apple is really not competing on price. They will claim that their devices are just better and offer a premium user experience. If you buy an iPhone, you are buying a computer for your pocket and a device that is priced like a computer. I knew that some of the major carriers were still selling the iPhone 6s, possibly for a price in the $200s or maybe through some hocus pocus for “FREE”. It came to my attention that there may even be some iPhone 6 models for sale as new. WOW. I think its a shame that they are doing this. Here is the thing, even if an iPhone 6s was produced last year or this year, it is a 2015 era phone. It features 4 year old technology. I know what you might say — well, I don’t need all of the newest features so this will probably work great for me. It might! However, remember that Apple does not support iPhones with feature and security updates after about 5 years. Starting this fall, the iPhone 6 will no longer receive the new version of iOS. The iPhone 6s will still receive the new software. Next year, it may not. So if you buy an iPhone 6s now, you may only be buying an iPhone for 1 year.
If you really want an iPhone — the oldest I would go at this point is an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. That was released in September 2017. It is also the last iPhone that supports the traditional design with the Home Button. All newer iPhones have no home button, you simply swipe on the screen to mimic the home button. Most clients learn this in about 1 day or so. No big deal. So if you buy an iPhone 8 now, you are likely buying an iPhone that will be good for 3 years provided you don’t break it or it doesn’t slow down to a point where you can’t use it enjoyably anymore. In general, I think an iPhone XR would be best (unless you really want the camera superiority of the XS or XS Max and want to pay for it), but an 8 will be just fine. Keep in mind, new models will be coming out in September (based on Apple’s past track record).
There are many great less expensive phones too. I think the new Google Pixel 3a is the best phone you can buy for under $400. https://store.google.com/product/pixel_3a It works on all the major carriers and can also be used on Google’s FI cellular service which starts at $20 per month.
The Moto G7 Power from Motorola is $250 and is also a very powerful phone for the price. If battery life is your thing, this phone is like the Energizer bunny.
The carriers sell several inexpensive Android smartphones between $100 and $200. Some of these phones are OK, while others are not great. It depends on your needs and what you want to do. If its just calling, texting, a little e-mailing, and Google searching — a less expensive Android phone will probably work out just fine. Keep in mind, these Android phones are usually 2 to 3 year phones.
** There is one asterisk I want to put on this conversation** I don’t know if they have changed their policy in the last month or 2, but to the best of my knowledge, ATT has been very nasty about not allowing clients to use all the features of their phones IF THEY DON’T PURCHASE THE PHONE DIRECTLY FROM THEM. iPhones will be fine. But if you buy an Android phone directly from the company that made it or from a 3rd party, they may not be willing to activate LTE calling or WiFi calling. I think that’s just plain wrong. Verizon and T-Mobile customers have less of these issues. A phone is a phone, a network is a network. With that said, I do not have major problems with ATT as a network. Their service is quite adequate across the country.
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.
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.
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.