Untangle Your Charging – More Juice For Your Smartphone

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The more time we spend on our smart phones, the more battery life we need. Do you find yourself  worrying about that dwindling battery percentage or need to charge your phone more than once a day? Or perhaps you didn’t charge your phone overnight and you are running out of the house with a low battery.  We’ve become so dependent upon being connected,  it’s not a bad idea to have a contingency plan for those unexpected times when we need more juice.

There are ways you can extend smart phone phone battery life, and when you’ve exhausted those options,  you can use an on the go charger so you never have to be without power.

First, what can you do to extend your mobile phone’s battery life?

  1. Lower the brightness – the brighter your phone display the more battery you’re consuming.
  2. Close your running apps – apps running in the background will drain your battery.  You can use a search engine or YouTube to find out how to close running apps on your phone.
  3. Update your apps when available, since newer versions should be more energy efficient.
  4. Shut off your phone when possible, to conserve battery life, or at least turn off Bluetooth and WiFi when they are not in use.
  5. If you are not sure why your battery life is short, there are apps you can use which will monitor your battery usage and provide suggestions to improve battery life.  I use Carat which works on both IOS and Android, but I know there are others out there.

Still need more juice?  Here are 2 options for charging on the go (which also make great gifts).  It is always a good idea to read read reviews before you buy!

  1. Power cases hold an extra charge so when your battery is low you can flip a switch on the case and charge your battery without looking for a charger.   The case and the phone charge together when you recharge the phone by plugging into a wall charger.  It could not be easier.
  2. When you’ve exhausted your power case or haven’t charged up, a portable charger will save you.  When shopping, do your homework.  Find out your battery’s capacity and make sure you purchase a charger which will handle it.   

May the charge be with you!  

Be Smart With Your Smartphone

My daughter called me as soon as she arrived at work with the fatal words “my phone is gone”.  She thought she might have lost it that morning while exiting the train.  Not to worry – we installed the Find My iPhone App on our phones which would find the location of the phone for us.  I’ve used it many times before to check on her whereabouts, so I am thinking this will be easy.

I tap on the app on my phone, enter my password and find that her phone is offline!  That is the catch, your phone has to be on.  Since she left her phone on, we are thinking it is either in the hands of someone intent on keeping the phone or hopefully a railroad employee found the phone and shut it off to preserve the battery while it sits in the lost and found.

In desperation, still using the app,  I tap on the device name, and find that I can be notified when the phone is connected to the Internet, and I can also create a message indicating that the phone is lost or stolen as well as provide a phone number to call if found.  This message will pop up on the missing phone when the phone is turned on and best of all, the message works even if you have a passcode on your phone.  I also have options to lock the phone, erase the contents of the phone, or play a locater sound (even if the phone is set on silent).

This story has a happy ending.  That evening I received a call from the person who found the phone.  They did shut off the phone to conserve the battery, and when they turned on the phone my message popped up.  Even better,  I got a message on my phone when the missing phone was turned on complete with a map indicating the location of the phone.   Fortunately the person who found the phone lived within a few miles and I retrieved the phone within minutes of receiving the call.  Since the phone did have a passcode, I don’t think we would have recovered it if not for the Find My iPhone app.

The Find My iPhone app will allow you to find any IOS device including  any iPod touch, iPad, or Mac that you set up on your iCloud account.  You can use any IOS device to find your missing device, you just sign in to the app with your Apple ID and password.

Other smartphone platforms have their own free apps you can download to locate a lost or stolen phone:  Where’s My Droid for Android devices, Find My Phone for Windows devices, and Protect for BlackBerry devices.

If you have a smartphone, it would be wise to install and practice using one of these free apps just in case you need it someday.  If you give or receive a smartphone this year for the holidays, please remember to install or recommend installing one of these free apps.

If you should need to employ one of these apps someday, I hope your story ends happily too, although I think my daughter would have been okay if she received a new iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 in her Christmas stocking this year!

Do you have your own lost phone story?   I’d love to hear it!

Unplugging on Vacation?

I always look forward to vacation time as a time to unwind and unplug.  I leave my laptop at home as I try to stay off my email and the Internet.  I also try to limit the use of my smartphone.  However, I recently discovered this can actually be a disadvantage, as there are useful phone apps that might just come to your rescue, or at least make your vacation planning easier.  I learned this on a Disney vacation earlier this year.  While watching a Disney promotional video, I learned there was a smartphone Disney app.  I downloaded a free version and it changed my vacation experience.  Not only did the app provide park maps and park hours, but it also detailed attraction wait times, and even express pass return times.  The app became our daily navigator and enabled the family to cover more ground.

I used to be judgmental about people on vacation whose eyes were glued to their phone, thinking “what a shame they can’t relax or put their phone away and enjoy their surroundings”.  Hmm… maybe these folks did have an email addiction, but maybe they were doing some on the go vacation planning.  After discovering the Disney app, I felt as if I’d been living under a rock.  I guess you can’t know about every app that’s out there, but it does pay to check the app store because it is likely “there’s an app for that”.  There are new apps being launched every day.

Just in case you are like me, and you’re not taking advantage of the many helpful phone apps, here are a few “helpful on vacation”  free phone apps that you may want to check out.   They are also pretty handy to use on a daily basis.

“Weather” Apps –  in an instant you can see today’s weather, or the weather for the week – quite helpful if you are deciding which day to visit the museums or hit the beaches.

Trip Advisor –  this app is great for finding hotels, attractions, and places to eat in the city of your interest.  All items are reviewed by travelers, some upload photos.  The reviews can really help you make travel decisions.

Google Maps – find out where you are and how to navigate to your next location.  Also helpful are traffic, satellite, and biking views.

GasBuddy –  finds gas stations by city, state or zip, details prices (where available), and provides directions to the station of your choice.

Instagram – when you take photos while in this app, (or you can move pictures to the app) your Instagram friends can see instantly see them.  The advantage is that you don’t have to spend time uploading or emailing, or messaging your pictures.  Snap your pictures while in the Instagram app and you are done, your Instagram friends can enjoy viewing them.

“Search for City” Apps – Wherever you are on vacation (or thinking about going) do a search for that city and see what free apps may be available.  Chambers of Commerce often provide apps or you may find local attraction maps, travel guides, event guides, or transportation guides, etc.

“Airline” Apps – Most airlines have their own apps where you can check your flight status, check in, and make or change flight reservations.

Carat –  While you are on vacation using your phone, you might have a concern about your smartphone battery life.  Yup, you guessed it – there is a new free app to help you monitor your phone battery life, called Carat.  Carat shows you which of your apps are draining your battery, and has an actions folder which tells you what steps you can take to improve your battery life.  Note that it takes a few days to collect data from your phone for some of the reporting to start.

What apps are you plugged into while on vacation (or do you try to stay unplugged)?

QR (Quick Response) Bar Codes

Have you seen these odd looking square shaped bar codes?   They are starting to pop up in print ads, although they could be anywhere – t shirts, coffee cups, emails, television, and the latest seems to be gift tags! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5EjVvvyLRfA

You scan a QR code with your smart phone, iPod, or iPad, which typically results in opening a web page.

First you need to download a QR reader app.  The free one I downloaded to my iPhone was QR Reader.  When I start the app it automatically scans a QR code I place in front of it, and then shows me the decoded content.  In most cases the scanned QR code results in opening a web page, but it could also be a text message, location, or for this holiday season a gift tag recorded message.

I started having fun with it, once I realized I could create my own QR codes.  I just selected create from the QR Reader app and was able to quickly create QR codes for websites, locations, phone numbers, and text messages, and then share the QR codes via email, Twitter, and Facebook, most likely annoying my friends and family.  Saved as a jpg image I can now use the image as I did in this post.

I am not sure how much we will see QR codes on TV (HSN has experimented with it), as once we are plopped down, I can’t see rising off the sofa to scan an image!   Perhaps a novelty for now, QR codes will become increasingly popular, especially for on the go situations where it is easier to scan a QR code than to copy a website name or other information that might be contained in the QR code.  We will also see prettier versions using color and imbedded designs.

I’d love to know what you think about this technology.  Where have you seen it?  Have you used it?

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